Did the band Kansas ever break up?
Kansas interviews in two parts: Steve Walsh & Rich Williams
to the new CD: Somewhere to Elsewhere (SPV, summer 2000)
[Steve Walsh, who released his solo album "Schemer Dreamer" in March 1980, left the group in January 1981 and formed Streets for two unsuccessful LPs with Tim Gebert (dr), Billy Greer (b) and Mike Slamer (g). Even with the heavy rock album "Points On The Curve", he hardly attracted any attention in 1984.]
Solo CD: "Glossolalia" (Magna Carta, in autumn)
What do you think of the new album?
I would say everyone worked very hard on it. I was never in the studio with the others because I'm releasing my solo album in September and therefore didn't have time for more. I told the others that, and that I could not contribute any material and therefore could not. That meant that Kerry Livgren wrote everything by herself and I only recorded the vocals at my place in Georgia, Atlanta. The others finished producing the music in Topeca, Kansas, then burned the songs to me on CD, sent them, and I burned my vocal parts on another CD and sent them back again.
But the others were in the studio together?
Yes, only I contributed my part in this way.
And what do you think about the musical side of the album?
I would say that Kerry worked really hard on it. I think everyone loved that, but to be honest, I was a bit confused about the sentimentality of the lyrics in some of the pieces. Seemed a little melancholy and something very evocative of the past ... not so much reflective of the present.
You mean if you had been involved the songs would have been a little different?
Yeah, and I think a few other composers in the band feel the same way.
So Kerry wrote all the songs and all the lyrics by herself? That sounds more like a Livgren solo album under the name Kansas ...
Yes, to be fair, it should be called that.
There is a very balanced mix of “progressive” pieces and the “mainstream rock songs” on the album - so you like the rockier things more?
I don't know exactly ... I don't know if I can identify with any of the pieces. I don't come from this direction enough now, as you will see on my solo CD.
So are you not satisfied with what came out?
No! But how could I I am a musician, an artist, i.e. that I am always aiming to always do something different and better, that's why I'm never really satisfied with what I've finished, otherwise I wouldn't have to go on anymore. That even applies to my solo album.
Alternatively, it could have been sold as a new Kansas album, right?
No, I've worked with other musicians - Virgil Donati (dr) and Trent Gardner (key), both Magna Carta musicians, Mike Slamer (g, formerly in Steve Walsh's band Streets) and Billy Greer (bs, Streets, Kansas).
But how could the others allow Kerry Livgren to take the wheel so much into their own hands, since he hasn't been part of the band for 17 years ...
Well ... I don't know how to answer the question because I wasn't part of that decision.
The last album "Freaks of Nature" was 1995 and the first after seven years, now again for 5 years, how come you only record albums so sporadically?
Well times have changed I think. We just need longer today to get enough material together and to get back in the right mood to say, yes !, let's make a new album.
In the 17 years of absence from Kansas, Kerry has also made solo albums, it would have been quite possible to make such a CD earlier ...
It's easy to say, but I think the way this album came about was just a chain of more or less lucky coincidences.
Do you know Kerry's solo albums?
No, in the last few years I haven't had much time to take care of things like that. I wish him the best, but at the moment I'm more of a pursuit of my own.
So now there is your first solo album - it took you quite a while ...
Almost 20 years.
Were there any other projects besides touring with Kansas?
Well, I wrote “Freaks of Nature” almost alone, co-wrote “Power” and “The Spirit of Things”, plus all the concerts - that takes a lot of time. But I've also had too many problems to do more.
Would you rather not go into more detail?
Oh, it was just drugs and alcohol. I've been arrested twice in three years for driving under the influence and for cocaine possession, and I'm not particularly proud of it, and I'm really sorry for what I have done to my fellow human beings, including them, because of these problems I've had Band did. But I've been clean for 2 ½ years now, and I'm proud of that, I feel really good, my voice and my physical condition are great, I have a nine-month-old daughter and she helps me feel young. I'm busy, too busy to find time for drugs and alcohol. I've just made a four-minute film that comes up on our homepage, I've finished my solo CD, I've sung the Kansas CD, I'm an enthusiastic runner and I spend a lot of time with my family. Life is Beautiful. After thirty years of “shit” I can really enjoy it! And the Kansas CD and the solo CD are the first albums I made without being under the influence of drugs.
And if I summarize your statements so far, your solo album should have been a bit harder ...
Yes, part of it is ragged. Other parts are also rather sparse. It is difficult to bring all of this under one roof, because things have in some cases accumulated and developed over a long period of time. The lyrics are also very different - one is about a big fire in a circus in 1944, two others are about the defeat of the Native Americans in 1870, one is about "vehicular manslaughter", what it would be like to be drunk Child would have run over. For example, several songs are about the loneliness you feel when you are separated from your family or whoever you are.
Today it is easier for me to write about such things because I was really aware of such things for the first time and was able to analyze them without resorting to drugs. So the album is really a release for me.
How about touring?
We're currently supporting Yes in the States, followed by a solo tour, and what comes next remains to be seen. We would love to come to Europe, but the tax situation makes it impossible for us to earn anything. That's why I don't know for sure whether we will play for you or not.
Is that also the reason why you last played in Germany in 1984?
Yes, actually. And that is certainly one of the reasons why we are not so successful in Europe. How should the fans be able to follow us when we are not playing? We are often accused of arrogance, but as I said, we would really like to come play if it wasn't such a negative business for us. Taxes eat up practically all earnings and we have families to support.
So there won't be a tour for your solo CD either?
No, I think we're going to be too busy with Kansas.
[Williams (git) joined the band White Clover (Ehart, Hope, Steinhardt, Walsh) in 1972. When Livgren came back, they renamed themselves Kansas ...]
How did you come up with the idea to record this album with Kerry?
We've been toying with the idea for about a year. We were on tour playing a show in Kansas City and Kerry came over to us. He said he had a lot of material that would be a lot more suitable for a Kansas CD than a Livgren solo CD, and last December Phil (Ehart, dr) and I flew to Topeca and heard this Material. We picked ten of them and the rest was just a matter of form, how we would coordinate the recordings - with the band, with Steve's vocals, because he said he was actually too busy, etc. Kerry wrote a few more Songs, so we even swapped a few more songs in the end. That's how it was.
Kerry wasn't in the band for 17 years, how did you come to record a Kansas album composed entirely by him?
That wasn't that unusual for us. We were in contact the whole time, he had already contributed songs to the last few records, he had played with us at “Live at the Whiskeys”, so he was always there unofficially. And Steve had written a lot of what just wasn't Kansas material, and he was a little frustrated that we didn't want to use it. So he started turning it into a solo album. And at the same time Kerry came along with his songs, and we thought that was more suitable.
So you are completely satisfied with the album?
Yes I love it! We wanted a mix of the old Kansas “Leftoverture” times and a modern sound, and I think we succeeded completely.
Yes, to be honest, I was very positively surprised - a well-rounded mix of more progressive songs and rock pieces in an absolutely contemporary sound!
Many Thanks! I mean, we've always been a kind of US prog rock band. But I also think that if every song had turned out like “Myriad” it might have been a little monotonous.
Did you leave Kerry songs as they were?
Kerry's keyboard parts, probably, but the rest has already been changed. And when you work on things, you start to move or modify individual parts, and that's why you can say that the songs are very different from Kerry's demos.
You recorded the album with a seven-person line-up, the biggest ever - was that harder to coordinate?
No, it happened like this: Dave (Hope, the original bassist) only plays two songs. He's a full-time pastor and only took a weekend off to come to Kansas and record the two songs. We thought it was nice that he participated.
Are you still in contact with John Elefante (Kansas singer 1982-83) or David Ragsdale?
No not at all. But I know that David and his brother have a studio in Nashville - supposed to be very nice, and John has had his solo career with Christian music, which I heard is supposed to be going very well. They were just connections between where we started and who we are now.
There have been some line-up changes - were they responsible for the temporary styles in the eighties?
Absolutely, I mean we sound a lot more like ourselves today than we did with John or Steve Morse. I mean, with Morse we didn't have a violin either.
Yes, but you all had to answer for the albums anyway
You always like what you're working on. And we had two pretty big hits with John - “Play the Game tonight” and “Fight fire with fire”, so that was quite successful. In retrospect, musically this is definitely not my favorite time with Kansas - although there were some really good songs with Steve Morse.
And where is the new album in the discography?
At the top together with “Leftoverture” and “Point if Know Return”.
In the last decade you haven't been overly productive when it comes to new studio albums - is that going to stay that way?
No, I think we'll tour the rest of this year and early next year, and do a new album at the end of next year.
If you tour so much, what are the chances of seeing you in Europe ...
It's hard to say, it won't be much. First it's Japan, then we go to Moscow, and from there to Germany - I think 2 to 3 cities - Hamburg (“Reeperbahn”!) Could be there. We're negotiating this right now. But the problem is that we have to leave all the money we will earn in taxes! You have strange tax regulations! If that changed, Germany would see a lot more live bands. All the musicians I've spoken to say that.
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