Word has it that everything Gene Simmons touches turns to gold, but the truth is that Gene has an amazing vision for talent, and many times all they need is a little support. And it was this vision that brought forth one of the most important bands of American Hard/Heavy from 80’s. In 1985 Gene produced “The Right to Rock” and the world got to know KEEL; the group led by Ron Keel (ex-Steeler) became internationally successful.
But the terrible 90’s came and KEEL, as well as other Hard Rock bands, came to their end. Two decades later Keel got back on the road to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of “The Right to Rock” and with a new studio album “Streets Of Rock’n’Roll” (2010). We had the opportunity to interview Ron about Monsters of Rock Cruise and the other projects Ron is working on.
By Edu Lawless
Rock Express – Keel is back again since 2008 and one of the most important points of this reunion was to be part of the Monsters of Rock Cruise. What did it represent to Keel to be on board of this Festival?
Ron Keel – At this point in my career, I celebrate every victory – and to be a part of such an epic event was very special. The opportunity to interact with the fans, play our shows, hang out with our friends in the other bands, and to do it all in such an amazing setting, traveling across the ocean on a luxury cruise ship, was a dream come true. It really is the ultimate rock n roll vacation experience!
Rock Express – You and the guys made one of the greatest concerts on board of Monsters when you invited some friends of the other bands to join you at one of the main stages. It was amazing and historic. What did you think and feel in that moment?
Ron Keel – My job is to create magical memorable moments for the audience – and I’ll do whatever it takes to make that happen. We had a lot of good friends from other bands on that ship, and some of them were in the audience for our big show on deck at the climax of the event, and it only felt right to invite them onto the stage to sing “The Right To Rock” with us and celebrate 3 decades of music and friendship. It was Brian Vollmer from Helix, Jaime St. James from Black N Blue, Oz Fox from Stryper, and Kyle Kruger from “Hair I Go Again” – some of my best friends in the business, and it truly was a special moment for us.
Rock Express – We could see the bands in a big brotherhood on board, being together as a reunion from old friends of the college, high school. Is it a kind of celebration of the rebirth of the good years of Hard’n’Heavy style?
Ron Keel – That’s exactly what it’s like at these events – a family reunion. You gotta realize, a lot of us have been friends for almost 30 years, touring together, doing charity events together, singing on each other’s albums. And as we get older, we’ve watched a lot of our friends die – Jani Lane, Phil Kennemore from Y&T, Robbin Crosby from Ratt, Kevin DuBrow…so I think we treasure these relationships even more as time passes.
Rock Express – Do you think that the musician maturity leaving drugs, alcohol and others excess, and the family factor can give a new breath to Hard’n’Heavy from the 80’s?
Ron Keel – I can definitely state that the quality of the latest KEEL album “Streets Of Rock & Roll” is directly related to our maturity and experience. The music is still wild, loud, and reckless, but our skills as songwriters and musicians have grown through the years. When we were young, we all had balls of steel but it took a couple of decades for our brains to catch up.
Rock Express – Hard Rock was very important to worldwide music scene and we can still hear a hundred of classics playing on radios, broadcast and movies, all the time. What happen along the years? Was this formula of the success lost?
Ron Keel – Music will always be a reflection of our society, our culture, the times we live in. Those things are always changing, and music must change to reflect that. This is the music of the wild and young – the energy and rebellion of hard rock will never go out of style.
Rock Express – Do you think that the Record Companies had a great responsibility for Hard Rock fall?
Ron Keel – The record companies have never cared about bands, musicians, styles or trends. They don’t care about music, they are in business to make money. They will go from one artist to the next, one style of music to the next, bleed it until it’s dead, and then move on to the next artist or style.
Rock Express – One of the great Broadway Shows – Rock of Ages – that talks exactly about Hard Rock from 80’s, has become a movie. Is it one more evidence that Hard Rock is back and it’s the style’s return to mainstream as well as in the old times?
Ron Keel – I didn’t see the Broadway show. The trailer for the movie looks terrible, and I LOVE music movies – I thought “Rock Star” was great. So I’m not really interested in this movie. Face it – the 80’s are never coming back – but this music is alive, and relevant, in 2012. Instead of looking back, we have to look forward to entertaining people here and now.
Ron Keel – Hosting a radio show is something I’ve always wanted to do. I am always working on music, so when I listen to radio, I listen to a lot of sports, news, and talk shows – I wanted to combine the best elements of both and create a “Rock Talk” show that features a wide variety of hard rock music, news, comments, and conversations with rock personalities. The show has been a huge success and is growing all the time – fans can find out more about it at www.ronkeel.com/radioshow
Rock Express – You have many projects nowadays, including a country music project. Tell us a little more about them.
Ron Keel – Two things I’m focusing on now are completing my autobiography – “Even Keel: Life On The Streets Of Rock & Roll” – and writing a new “Ron Keel: Metal Cowboy” solo album. I would like to have both of these released by January 2013 if not sooner. We’ve also begun the process of creating a KEEL 30th Anniversary album for 2014 release. I am still performing in “Country Superstars” our Las Vegas show, gigging occasionally with my “Cowboy Band” project, and doing solo acoustic shows in addition to hosting and producing the radio program. So I stay very busy!
Rock Express – With all your history, I think that sounds a little different, to see you ahead of a Country Music Tribute Band. How does it work for you?
Ron Keel – The Ronnie Dunn Tribute is an acting role – I absolutely love the challenge, and the opportunity to star in a Las Vegas show. I studied a long time – and still work very hard at it – to re-create his voice, his character, his mannerisms. I am now very comfortable with it and enjoy it very much. The hardest part is cutting my hair to do this show!
Rock Express – After a hiatus of 10 years you are back with the guys to record a new album. What could you tell us about what you felt in that moment? How did everything work?
Ron Keel – The hiatus was actually 20 years – of course we got together for a couple of days in 1998 to add some vocals and guitars to the “Back In Action” tracks, but until 2009 we had not played together as a band for over twenty years.
When we reunited for our 25th Anniversary, we just wanted to play some shows and celebrate 25 years of friendship, good times, and music with each other and with our fans. We had no intention of working on new music together – it just started pouring out of us, it was electric to create the songs on that album together and it felt very natural. We did not discuss a direction or style, we just let the music come out and when we hear a KEEL song, we know it…the writing and recording of “Streets Of Rock & Roll” was extremely fun and exciting, and I think you can hear that when you listen to the album.
Rock Express – Recently Keel was announced in the next edition of Monsters of Rock Cruise, in March of 2013. It was made to happen by the fans. What does it represent for the band?
Ron Keel – We thank you for the great review and the support – hell yes! We are just excited to be back on board, it’s the rock n roll experience of a lifetime. I think next year will be even better for us and for the fans because we know what to expect and how to make the most of the opportunities to play, hang out with the people, and have a good time.
Rock Express – But it’s not just Keel playing on board on the next edition. You’ll be playing a solo acoustic session too. What can the fans expect? Do you have something in your mind already?
Ron Keel – I’ve been doing the solo “Alone At Last” acoustic show for eight years now. It’s a challenge to take the audience on a journey through my entire career, with just my voice, my guitar, and the songs – I play music from KEEL, Steeler, Fair Game, IronHorse, my solo projects – and tell some of the stories behind the songs and my experiences. By then my new solo album will be out so I will include material from that also. I really appreciate the opportunity to kick the major ass with KEEL on the big stage, and then to strip it down and do my acoustic gig also.
Rock Express – In your opinion, what will we see on Hard’n’Heavy scene in the future?
Ron Keel – There are some new young bands that I like, that could possibly help keep this music alive. But the world is changing, and it has become much more difficult to succeed – very few real “Rock Stars” are being developed, and the rockers from the 80’s are getting older, many are already dead. My advice to the fans is to experience this phenomenon while we still can – go see the concerts, listen to the music, meet these artists and get an autograph and a photo with them, because nobody’s gonna live forever and we gotta live the rock while we can! Please stay in touch with me at www.ronkeel.com and thank you all for enjoying what we love to do! – ROCK.