INTERVIEW WITH A NEW REVENGE AND NIGHT RANGER GUITARIST KERI KELLI
Date: March 27, 2019
Interviewer: Ruben Mosqueda
Photos: Joe Schaeffer Photography (first photo), Christopher Carroll ROCK Photography (seventh photo)
Keri Kelli has performed with some of the best of the best — Slash, Alice Cooper, Ratt, Adler’s Appetite and currently Night Ranger. Kelli filled in with Night Ranger in 2012-2013, but became a full-fledged member in 2014 when he filled the vacancy left by Joel Hoekstra who went on to join Whitesnake. Sleaze Roxx caught up with Kelli on the phone as he geared up for a show in the Seattle [WA] area. “Sometimes it’s a [record] label, that puts a band of established musicians together. It’s like let’s get this guy and that guy! Then we’ll have them cut some songs, when they have enough of them, we’ll put a record out! That’s the complete opposite of what we did with A New Revenge,” says Kelli. “It’s definitely more natural, it’s a been a long time coming. That’s for sure. I do wish it would have come out a lot sooner, but it wasn’t something that was ‘thrown together,’ within two to three month period or something like that.” A New Revenge features Tim “Ripper” Owens (lead vocals), Rudy Sarzo (bass), James Kottak (drums) and Kelli (guitar). They have a new album titled ‘Enemies & Lovers,’ set for release on March 29th, via Golden Robot Records.
Sleaze Roxx: I chatted with Tim [Owens] a number of times over the years, most recently about a month ago, then a a few months before that. The one thing that stands out from each of the past two conversations is, his enthusiasm about doing something outside of his power metal vocal style. His exact quote the last time I spoke with him was, “I can’t wait for you to hear it, it’s so different from anything that I have ever done, it’s straightforward hard rock.”
Keri Kelli: He’s right [laughs]!
Sleaze Roxx: So who got the ball rolling with A New Revenge? I assume it was James [Kottak] and you?
Keri Kelli: Absolutely, it was roughly about six, seven years ago, not that we actually performed together, but that we spoke about doing something together. The idea was ‘incubated’ — let’s put it that way. We were on a monthly long tour at the time. We spoke about doing something when we had some down time from our respective bands at the time. I knew Tim from some of the various projects and friends who had performed with him in the past. I called him up and he was all about it! I spoke with the guy that had put the tour that we were on at the time and he said, “Hey, if you guys put something together, I’ll bring you to Russia and you can do some shows!” I spoke with Rudy [Sarzo] and he had worked with the promoter before, when he was in Dio. It took about a year after our first initial talk about doing something, that we put the band together and we went back to Russia. It was first a ‘jam band,’ where we performed the songs from the bands that we were all associated with. We did a couple of tours within a couple of years, then we started talking about doing some original material. We all have studios in our homes, so we started writing songs, when we had time. The process took about two years.
Sleaze Roxx: Rudy [Sarzo] was the guy that laid down the bass tracks on the album, but Phil [Soussan] is the guy in the video. We know his work with Ozzy, Vince Neil, Billy Idol and currently Last In Line.
Keri Kelli: Yeah, it’s pretty simple. We’re all doing something else and have other commitments at times. Rudy is in The Guess Who, I’m in Night Ranger, Tim is touring all over the place with his solo stuff and other bands, James was in the Scorpions for 21 years and is now launching Kingdom Come. The director of the video had everything lined up for the shoot and Rudy had a commitment with The Guess Who. We had everything booked. There was nothing [that] we could do. I had worked with Phil in the past, so I called him up to fill in and he was all for it! In fact, depending on what transpires, we could use Phil if Rudy can’t do any shows, due to his commitment with The Guess Who. We’re lucky to have not one, but two solid bass players working with us.
A New Revenge‘s “The Way” video:
A New Revenge – The Way (Single / Video) – Official Release.
Sleaze Roxx: Tim, as I mentioned earlier, is known as a metal vocalist. Was it hard for him to go the hard rock route? It certainly had some songs on his solo album that leaned in that direction, but never an entire album.
Keri Kelli: Yeah, as you said, he’s been known as this ‘metal vocalist,’ and has this powerful ‘Rob Halford Esque’ vocal, but I think a lot of people will be surprised with what he does on A New Revenge. Sure, they are some explosive vocal performances on this record, but there’s hard rock stuff on here [too]. I am so proud of him and his performances on this record.
Sleaze Roxx: ‘Enemies & Lovers’ is being issued by Golden Robot Records. They have also released Dizzy Reed’s album and I think they also have Rose Tattoo signed to the label.
Keri Kelli: Yeah, I’m excited to be on the label. Like you said, they have Dizzy on the roster, they have Skid Row, John Sykes is signed to them and you know how much we’ve been waiting for him to do another record. They’ve also got King’s X! They’re coming on their own. The guy heading up the label is Derek Shulman. He’s been in the industry for decades. He’s worked with AC/DC when they launched the brand with Brian Johnson. He worked with Bon Jovi and he was the president at Roadrunner Records for several years. He helped develop Slipknot and Nickelback. He was also the president of Frontiers’ North American branch. He has spearheaded the Golden Robot Records. This comes full-circle because he signed James’ band Kingdom Come in the late ’80s [laughs]!
Sleaze Roxx: I’ve got a couple more, then I’ll cut you loose.
Keri Kelli: Yeah, man. Not a problem. Let ‘em rip. I’m near you. I’m up in Seattle with Night Ranger. We’ve got a gig tonight. You’ve got a lot of great beer out here in the Northwest. That’s for sure [laughs]!
Sleaze Roxx: Since you brought up beer, you’re a craft beer aficionado. You have your own craft beer business. I have to tell you, craft beer makes the domestic stuff taste like watered down hydrogen peroxide, once you’ve acquired a taste for craft beer.
Keri Kelli: [Laughs] I know up here where you’re at it’s been a hotbed for a couple of decades, but out where I’m from in Northern San Diego and Orange County, it’s been going on for a while. A couple of my buddies, he owns Stone Brewing in San Diego — Greg Koch — he helped found the company in like 1996. I met him in 1991, because he used to own the rehearsal space where my band used to rent at the time. I got to know Greg and a lot of these guys that were immersed in the craft beer scene. I was going to [Las] Vegas a lot and there was no craft beer in Vegas! That was about 11 years ago. I started my own craft beer restaurant and bar, which I named Aces & Ales. We have a second location that has been open for a little over six years! We have a new building going up, which will have the same concept as the original — food made from scratch and it will have its own brewing operation. That’s right! We’ll be brewing our very own beer! That will be open by the end of this year. I’m into it man [laughs]!
Sleaze Roxx: The new location is going up in Vegas?
Keri Kelli: That’s correct. That’s in Vegas as well. So, by the end of 2019, we will have the three Aces & Ales locations in Vegas.
Sleaze Roxx: Be honest, once you’ve acquired a love for craft beer, you can’t drink domestic beer, can you?
Keri Kelli: Not really [laughs]! Listen, no offense to BMC [Bud, Miller and Coors] companies, they’re great operations. They know how to run a business. They’re making millions upon millions of dollars… I don’t think I’ve had a BMC beer in over a decade. That’s the God honest truth [laughs]! I’d rather have a vodka and tonic before I’d drink a Budweiser. I just don’t believe in some of their practices. They’ve squeezed out a lot of the small craft brewers with the shelf space in stores. They’re very powerful. They own their own distributors so it really puts the pressure on the independent brewers. I shy away from them, but that’s just me. Aces & Ales opened at a time when the market was underserved and we capitalized on it. We have gone on to become the craft beer destinations. I say it in plural form because we have two locations.
A New Revenge‘s “Never Let You Go” video:
A New Revenge – Never Let You Go (Single / Video) – Official Release Golden Robot Records A New Revenge Featuring one of the finest voices in metal of all time, Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens (who’s voice is all over albums from Judas Priest, Iced Earth and Yngwie Malmsteen), Keri Kelli
Sleaze Roxx: You joined Slash’s Snakepit. You weren’t on the ‘Ain’t Life Grand’ album because the album was already cut when you joined. You did the AC/DC tour. That must have been an amazing experience.
Keri Kelli: It was pretty wild, man! You’re correct. I didn’t play on the records. When I joined, they were in the process of mixing the album. In a nutshell, I had known Slash and the guys for a while. I had come over to the house. They were having some beers. They had a recording studio there and a rehearsal space. I was over at the house, having a few beers and shooting pool. I didn’t think anything of it. In fact, I was still in Ratt at the time. I remember I was out on the road. From Slash and the guys, they were like, “Hey, where are you at?” It was totally out of the blue. I remember I was in Alabama. I let them know that I was on tour, but I’d be home in a couple of weeks. I was asked to give them a call when I got back. I get back. I call Slash and he’s like, “Okay dude. Hey, come over to the house. We want to talk with you.” I went over and they told me that they were looking for a guitar player [laughs]! Slash says, “Are you interested?” I’m like, “Dude, of course!”
Slash gives me this cassette with some songs that he wanted me to learn and asked me to come back in a couple of days. I came back in a couple of days with my amp into his studio, we jammed for a couple of hours, we took a break and were having some beers and shooting some pool. It was getting late and I went to load my amp back in the car. I was told to just leave it. I went back home to San Diego and it was either that night or early the next morning that I got a call asking if I’d like to be in the band. So I left Ratt to join Slash, two to three months later, we got the news that we got the tour opening for AC/DC! It was like three to four months worth of dates. I couldn’t have asked for anything more. I’m jamming with Slash and then we’re opening for AC/DC on an arena tour! That was just insane [laughs]!
Full concert of Slash’s Snakepit opening for AC/DC in St. Louis, Missouri, USA on 05/09/2000:
Slash’s Snakepit – St Louis, USA 05/09/2000 (FULL CONCERT) – RARE www.slashfrance.net AC/DC support. Setlist : 01 Life’s Sweet Drug 02 Been There Lately 03 Just Like Anything 04 Shine 05 Mean Bone 06 Mr. Brownstone 07 Speed Parade
Sleaze Roxx: At the time you were in Ratt. Was that during the Jizzy [Pearl] era?
Keri Kelli: No, it was right after the release of the ‘Ratt’ album which was released in 1999. They were working with John Kolodner. They were a one guitar band at the time and they needed another guitarist for the tour. I was going to say the only reason that I left the band, it was the end of the ’90s and they had reformed the band. It was Warren [DeMartini], Bob [Blotzer], Stephen [Pearcy] and Robbie Crane. That was the band! Ratt was always a two guitar band. They had those huge guitar harmonies. They needed another guy to do that live. So, that’s how I joined the band. I was in the band for about a year to a year and a half. Something happened. I don’t know what. It’s their band. It’s their business but Stephen quit the band. It was none of my business. It was their partnership. The band was then in flux. They had a deal but Stephen had quit the band! So the band went through a period of about six months with no singer. It was in that six month period that the Slash gig came up and I took it.
Ratt‘s set at The Metropol in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA on October 15, 1999:
Ratt performing in Pittsburgh, PA., at “The Metropol” on October 15, 1999.
Sleaze Roxx: You were also part of Saints of the Underground, with Robbie Crane, Jani Lane and Bobby Blotzer. Give me the lowdown on that.
Keri Kelli: Yeah, to be honest with you, it’s basically the same as how this [A New Revenge] started. This was in the mid-2000s. We started another ‘jam band.’ It was me and Bob, Crane and Jani. We’d play regionally in L.A., San Diego and the surrounding areas like Phoenix, Arizona and Las Vegas — basically anything that we could get to within a couple hours drive. We’d play covers along with some Ratt and Warrant songs. We were having fun. We did that for a few years and like this, we recorded some songs. I have a great home studio with all the gear and drum set in there. Jani and I wrote some songs and we recorded them, and that’s what you hear on that Saints of the Underground record. So in short, we were like, “Dude, we’ve been fucking around for the past couple of years, playing these covers, let’s just make a record [laughs]!”
Sleaze Roxx: Was that a ‘one and done,’ type project or was there an intention on making that a thing that you’d do consistently as time permitted?
Keri Kelli: Yeah, with Saints of the Underground, we never spoke about what happened after. I’m sure we would have all liked to have played some shows to support it and maybe even keep it going. Bob and Robbie were still in Ratt. I was playing with Alice [Cooper] and he tours a lot. He tours like seven months out of the year. Jani was getting back into the swing of things, having then rejoined Warrant. We didn’t have much time, but I’m really glad he had a chance to record [that] album. What fun we had performing and recording that album.
Sleaze Roxx: Any cool Jani stories?
Keri Kelli: Oh man! All of them [bursts into laughter]! We shared so many good times together. I remember he lived by the beach near me. I went over to his place because he had finally gotten some pro tools setup in his room that I was helping him with. He would come to my place and he’d stay two to three days. We would write songs, go get some sushi and just have a fucking blast! In fact, I still have a lot of songs we wrote that are unreleased. There are about a dozen or so of unfinished pieces that didn’t evolve into songs. Nothing is probably ever going to happen with them. I miss spending time with him, writing songs, going out to eat and barbequing in my backyard. I miss the guy man.
Saints of the Underground‘s ‘Behind The Scenes, Part 1’ video:
Saints Of The Underground “Love The Sin, Hate The Sinner” Download: http://flyt.it/saints?ID=wryt-btsp1 Stream: https://open.spotify.com/artist/3s7nrAMhTbYle…
Sleaze Roxx: How surreal was it for you to be part of the Alice Cooper band, because I’m sure you were a huge fan?
Keri Kelli: You’re absolutely right, Alice is a legend in theatrical hard rock. He’s a professional. He’s got a great catalog of songs. What a time! I got the call to come down to jam with them. Similar to the Slash thing, I had known Alice for a few years. I was asked to fly out to a show and watch them play as one guitarist might have to leave the tour for a period of two to three weeks. They called me to bring me up to speed on things in the event they needed me. So I was given a cassette of the entire show. I was asked to learn the songs and wait for the phone call [laughs]! The phone call never came during that time period, but two years later, the call came in. I rehearsed with the band and I was in! I never even rehearsed with Alice! They gave me, like a week or two to learn the new set. I came down rehearsed with the band for a day and we flew out to Canada for the first show! That first show was the first time that I performed with Alice! Like you said, it was surreal and fucking awesome!
Alice Cooper performing “Halo of Flies” at Live at B’Estival in Bucharest, Romania on July 1, 2007:
“Halo of Flies” (with great Drum solo) Eric Singer, Keri Kelli & Jason Hook – Amazing Drum Battle! – ProShot Video. Crue: Alice Cooper — vocal Eric Singer — drums Keri Kelli — guitar Jason Hook — guitar Chuck Garrick – bass
Sleaze Roxx: And the Night Ranger gig, when you were announced as the new guitarist, I wondered how that was going to work? I mean that you’re a gritty player, not polished like some of the guys that have been in that band.
Keri Kelli: Right. I hear what you’re saying. I was friends with Jack [Blades] for a few years. They had played a few shows with Alice Cooper. We’d bump into each other between our sets and we would always wind up talking. We hit it off from our first meeting. The situation lended itself that they needed a guitarist and Jack called me up! And like before, you just never know who’s going to be calling you [laughs]! It’s like the story of my life! If you don’t know the area code, answer it because it could be good news [laughs]!
Night Ranger‘s “Day And Night” video (from Don’t Let Up album):
Subscribe To Be Alerted When We Add New Videos – http://radi.al/SubscribeFrontiers From the album DON’T LET UP.