Steve Whiteman (Kix) Interview
By: Kris Engelhart
Saturday, October 6, 2012
The eighties music scene brought us a lot more than just hairspray, makeup, and spandex. It also gave birth to some pretty terrific blues-based rock and roll. In recent years there has been a renewed interest in the genre as more fans appreciate the timelessness of the music. At the forefront of this resurgence is the hard rock band from Hagerstown, MD, Kix. With a brand new live CD/DVD just released and a new studio album slated for 2013, Kix is alive and kicking. I had the chance to chat with lead vocalist Steve Whiteman and get the inside scoop.
KE: Hi Steve! Thank you for taking the time to chat with us today.
SW: Oh you're very welcome.
KE: Kix has a new live CD/DVD out "Live In Baltimore." Can you tell us how this project came about?
SW: It was never really a conscious effort on our parts to put out a live anything. We were just kind of playing all over the country and we had these guys approach us and say they wanted to come out and shoot a show. I guess they were trying to get their name out there as well. So we decided to have them come down to a Baltimore show. You know we always kill in Baltimore so they came to a venue called the Ram's Head and they shot the show and we didn't really think much about it. Then several months later, they started sending clips and we we're looking at it. We were really blown away at how good this was. We just thought it was gonna be a bunch of amateurs but it turned out to be really, really good. So Mark, our bass player, kind of put this whole thing together and started working with them. They were mixing it and when it was all said and done it was something that we were all pretty damn proud of and thought we should get this out to the fans. So the next step was to find somebody that would distribute it. So we got lucky with Frontiers records. They came out and said they would put it out as a live dvd and live cd, which we didn't even think about that part of it. So you get two products in one package.
KE: The CD has a real raw, live feel to it. It's not overdone. I have never had the chance to see Kix live but got a really great feel from the CD. Was this intentional, to really capture the essence of your live show?
SW: Well, if you watched the DVD then you can say that you have seen Kix live. It really does capture what we do. It's got all the energy. It's got all the music that the fans love. It's got the camera that we like to use. We're not a bunch of old, fat, bald guys going through the motions just to collect a check. It's a heartfelt effort and people who haven't seen us in a long time, I think are going to be pretty impressed.
KE: What about the possibility of new Kix material?
SW: Well Frontiers said what they'd really love to have is a new Kix studio album. So that kind of put a bug in our ear and we're at this point trying to put a bunch of new music together, about twenty five, thirty songs into a pot and get them out and work with them. See if we can't get ten or twelve really strong tracks that we were proud of to call Kix stuff.
KE: How is the writing going for the new record and has it changed since 1995's "Show Business?"
SW: Well, yeah it has because the main songwriter is no longer in the band. When Kix broke up I had another project called Funny Money and for the first time in my life, I was given a vehicle that I had the freedom to write for. In Kix, everything was pretty much controlled by Donnie Purnell our bass player. So it was hard to get any of my stuff on a record. So when Kix broke up I started to write a lot of songs and I wrote four albums worth of music. And so I've been writing and Mark our bass player writes and we've got some contributions from Brian and so we thought, I think we've got some really strong material. Let's get somebody in here and do some pre-production and see if we can't make something that we'll all be proud of.
KE: Are there plans for a tour once the new record comes out?
SW: You know I have no clue. I don't make bold statements like that. Everything that you do is in stages. It's like I don't know what this live DVD is gonna do. I have no clue. If it gets us some more recognition, if it generates more fans and gets us gigs, that would be great. If it doesn't, we'll just keep going and we'll be happy. So if the new live CD will come out and do well, I just don't see it getting a lot of radio airplay. Because I know the boys in Ratt put one out and it's great for the fans that want to hear a new record but the industry really doesn't pay much attention.
KE: Well, we can sure hope for the best and we'd love to come and see you.
SW: Yeah, oh yeah, you always hope for the best but you know it's a reality check too.
KE: I see that Kix does have some live shows coming up. You will be at the Rock'n for a Cure breast cancer benefit in October. How did Kix become involved in that?
SW: Really, it's our agent. We can't take any credit for it. I didn't even know what the foundation was but we were offered to play it and our agent has been booking us all over the country. He's the one that really helped kick this thing into high gear. Before, we were just pretty much local regional shows in the East Coast area. He started getting us these big festivals all over the country and that's what's really helped propel this thing and now we're playing like thirty dates a year.
KE: I also see Kix is slated to do the Monsters of Rock cruise next spring. Are you looking forward to that?
SW: We did the one last year for the first time. It was the first time I was ever on a cruise ship last February. It went so well and everyone had such a great time we didn't even get off the ship and they invited us to come back and do it again.
KE: When Kix broke up, you had other projects like Funny Money going on, but you were also teaching music lessons back then. How did you get started doing that?
SW: Kix did our last show with all the original members in 1996. It was at a point where we put out "Hot Wire" on Atlantic records and the whole industry changed. Radio stopped playing our kind of music. We tried to put out an album on a smaller label and hit the same problem. We realized that we wanted to go out with our heads held high. We did not want to scrape the bottom of the barrel and continue pushing it if people didn't want it. So we decided to call it quits in '96 and didn't do anything for about ten years so I needed to do something. That's when I started teaching vocal lessons in the Baltimore and Harrisburg areas. And I started Funny Money. That's what I did to survive and provide for my family basically.
KE: Is teaching something that you enjoyed? Are you still involved in that?
SW: I still do it. It's something that I've been doing since '96. I got into it not knowing if I could really help people because I'm just going on experience. But over a period of time, I've learned how to translate what I do and show it to other people. A lot of the people I've helped and some people don't get it, but I had to do something and it was just a natural extension for me to do that. That's what I knew how to do.
KE: Kix has been on some really great tours over the years. Is there an act or experience that stands out among the rest?
SW: Oh, there's a lot. We've had a lot of opportunities to play with a lot of great bands. When Aerosmith was getting back together, when Joe and Steven kissed and made up and they came back out, they were traveling in station wagons. They were poor! We got to do like five dates with Aerosmith and that was a huge thrill for all of us. We were all huge Aerosmith fans. But I would say probably the Ratt/Britny Fox tour because that was the one that finally got us out of the closet and into the arenas. And on a real tour bus and on a real tour and we got to really feel what it felt like to be doing well. Just being in front of all those fans and being on MTV, at that point in our lives it was like we made it to that next level.
KE: At your live shows, Kix performs all the classics that the fans want to hear. But is there one song that you love to perform the most?
SW: You know we've played every single song on every single album and we tend to lean toward the ones that get over live. I mean some songs just don't come across live and some of them do. And playing them all in front of people, we get that real feel if a song is really gonna grab them. So we've always gone for the ones that we feel are fan favorites. As far as a personal favorite, I don't have one. Whatever the people like, what they want to hear is what's important.
KE: Now that Kix is back together, does this feel like the old days or is it more of a new beginning for Kix?
SW: It's a new beginning because in the old days all we did was play. Play, play, play so I was never home. I would never want to go back to that lifestyle. I would not want to get on a tour bus and play five, six nights a week. I love the fact that we can fly out before a show, do a show and fly home. I love that we can drive to the shows on the East Coast and go home and it's no pressure. It's so much easier. We're making more money than we ever did. We're more popular than we ever were. I don't get it, but I love it!
KE: Sounds great! There seems to be a real resurgence of bands from that era and I am all for it.
SW: I agree. We just did a couple shows with Cinderella and those guys feel the same way. It's like, are we lucky or what? We get to go back out and do this and have a chance to get back out and say hey they're cool again.
KE: (Laughter) Thanks again Steve and best of luck with the live CD. I look forward to hearing some new Kix songs next year.
SW: Absolutely Kris, thank you.
We would like to thank Dustin Hardman from Frontier Records for setting up the interview with Steve. For more formation on the new live record "Live In Baltimore," please go to: Kix .