KEVIN FOWLER INTERVIEW:
November 22, 2008
You’re probably wondering what a former guitarist for sleaze legends Dangerous Toys is doing singing country music. No, he didn’t sell out to make a quick buck in the lucrative country market and no, he hasn’t lost his mind. Simply put, Kevin Fowler went back home to what he was raised on and realized what he always was, a redneck with a love for rock music. Fear not, he still has a rocker streak in him a mile long. It is not uncommon to catch a Kevin Fowler show and hear his renditions of a Queen or an Aerosmith tune, nor is it uncommon to meet up with Kevin at the merchandise table after a show and see him sporting a Motley Crue, Kiss or Cinderella t-shirt. His country music is pure country, not the Top 40 pop crap we are subjected to day after day by radio programmers. Kevin Fowler’s music is up tempo rockin’ country with lyrics about everyday life with a twist, as his tongue is usually planted firmly in cheek. Last week Justin ‘Crash’ Crafton had the pleasure of interviewing Kevin by phone.
Sleaze Roxx: First off, you said you were heading for a gig. Where are you playing today?
Kevin Fowler: We’re playing in Spring, Texas. Which is a suburb of Houston.
Sleaze Roxx: That’s cool. I’ve got some friends in Houston that have a band called Laidlaw.
Kevin Fowler: Cool. Where are you located at?
Sleaze Roxx: I am in Coldwater, Kansas. Do you know where Dodge City is?
Kevin Fowler: Yes.
Sleaze Roxx: I am about 65-70 miles Southeast of there, out in the boonies.
Kevin Fowler: (Laughs) Ok I see…
Sleaze Roxx: Back in 2005 some friends and I went to see you in Stockton, Kansas along with Jason Boland. After the show you were signing at the merch table and complimented me on my Dimebag Darrell t-shirt and we started talking. That was when you told me of your time in Dangerous Toys and with the band Thunderfoot. I had bought the Thunderfoot CD back in 1995 through Perris Records and here it was ten years later I was catching you live and hadn’t a clue it was the same guy.
Kevin Fowler: (Laughs) Perris Records man. Tom Mathers, gotta love that guy!
Sleaze Roxx: Will you let Sleaze Roxx readers know who you are and what you do?
Kevin Fowler: I’m a singer/songwriter/guitar player from Austin, Texas. Actually, I grew up in Amarillo, Texas but live in Austin. I’ve been here since 1990. For the last ten years I’ve been playing straight-up honky-tonk, dancehall country music amplified. People find it interesting that I have a rock ‘n’ roll past. When I was 20 years old I went to G.I.T. (Guitar Institute of Technology), which is the big shredder school out in L.A. Then I moved to Austin and partied with Dangerous Toys for a year in their heyday. Then I started my own band, the original Thunderfoot, that band was a really good starting point.
From when I was younger my guitar playing was pretty much Megadeth and all the Shrapnel Records artists and all that shredder stuff, you know. I was playing in Dangerous Toys and feel that Thunderfoot was the band that really bridged the gap for me. It was the first band where I was the frontman and I was singing all the songs I was writing. All the songs I ever played for anybody, even Jason McMaster (of Dangerous Toys), I used to take him songs and he was like “Hey, that is a redneck song! You’re a damn redneck!” (Laughs) Sooner or later I figured out if it walks like a duck, talks like a duck and looks like a duck, it must be a duck, you know. I just started doing my own thing and here we are twelve years later. We’ve been on the road since 1998…for ten years on the road without a break. I love being on the road so it works out pretty good for me.
Sleaze Roxx: How did you learn of the Dangerous Toys gig?
Kevin Fowler: I had moved to Austin and got a gig playing in a band there called Rumbletrain. Jason McMaster and my singer were roommates along with Danny Aaron, the guy I replaced. They needed someone else in the band when Danny left. I knew them all and fit their playing style. I just filled the position and hit the road with those guys for about a year. I had a great time and I’m still buddies with those guys, talk to them all the time. I see Jason all the time, he was at my wedding. (Laughs) We’re still buddies and I still see them around. He has got a lot going on. He’s got Broken Teeth and whatever else he is doing.
Sleaze Roxx: Are you going to take part in any of the Dangerous Toys 20th Anniversary festivities? I saw where they just did a gig a last week (Nov. 8th) in Austin.
Kevin Fowler: I don’t know. I’m always gone so that doesn’t help. Plus, I think they’re doing stuff with the original band except for Danny. I was just a hired gun. (Laughs) That is what I was, you know. They started the band, they own the band. I’ve never taken stock in it, it was always their baby. They’ve got Paul Lidel, he is an awesome guitar player. They’ve got him playing guitar with them now. I haven’t got to see the band because I am always on the road. It sucks.
Sleaze Roxx: Did you ever record with Dangerous Toys?
Kevin Fowler: No, I just played on the road with them. They were going through a real transitional stage. They’d just gotten off the tour with Motorhead and Judas Priest. They got off that tour and were flyin’ high. It was a lot of fun playing theatres and big venues. That was my first introduction to the touring life, the bus, the whole nine yards. It was really cool! I learned a lot from those guys.
Sleaze Roxx: That is cool that you have been able to remain friends with them. Jason even appears on your ‘High On The Hog’ album. How did that come about?
Kevin Fowler: Yeah, he did. I was trying to find someone to cover the high parts and my engineer, Darin Fleming, had also worked for Dangerous Toys for a while. I said we need someone who can sing really high and really clear, we both looked at each other and went, “Jason!”. We called him up, he came down and nailed it! It was great. Jason McMaster on a country record, who would have ever thought!?! (Laughs)
Sleaze Roxx: After Dangerous Toys you formed the southern rock band Thunderfoot which is where I first discovered you back in 1995. Who all was in Thunderfoot and can give readers the lowdown on the band?
Kevin Fowler: Thunderfoot was started by me and Kris Robbins. We started the band and he was the drummer. We got a guy on guitar, Mike Dennis, who had just moved to Austin from New Jersey. We were all into the same stuff and put this band together. We had a rotating bass player, our bass player always seemed to blow up on stage or something!
Sleaze Roxx: Kind of the Spinal Tap for bass players huh?
Kevin Fowler: (Laughs) We were the Spinal Tap of bass players. We spent a lot of time touring Texas and the Midwest. We did that for a couple years. I was still writing a lot. I was more into writing and a lot of what I was writing turned out to be on my first two records, ‘One For The Road’ and ‘Beer Bait and Ammo’. I was just writing all this country stuff so I just kind of fired myself from the band. Then I spent time focusing on my writing. In 1996, I took off about a year and a half where I just played two or three shows a month. I was doing a lot of writing. I wished I had the time to do that much writing anymore. I was just doing a ton of writing and getting my country chops down. Then in 1998 we hit the road and started pushing this thing. The first record we recorded at my house, called ‘One For The Road’, that was at my home studio and it got us going. ‘Beer Bait and Ammo’ really took off for us. It has been one helluva ride let me tell ya! It has been interesting if nothing else!
Sleaze Roxx: Is there a chance that you would ever re-issue the Thunderfoot CD so all the Fowler Fanatics could hear it?
Kevin Fowler: We’ve talked about it several times. The guy I started Thunderfoot with, Kris Robbins, passed away a few years ago. I’ve always wanted to re-release that record just for him. Try to do something for his kids. I’ve just never got around to it. Try and find all the masters where we could go back and clean it up a little. We recorded that thing for a couple thousand bucks. As long as I can get back and re-work the masters and re-release it to put it out as a Limited Edition to our fan base. That’d be awesome!
Sleaze Roxx: In your live shows you’re known to cover Queen, Aerosmith and other rock bands. Growing up, was rock your main musical influence or was it country or a mixture of both?
Kevin Fowler: I’ve always been really weird, like a channel surfer. When I was growing up my Dad was really into country so all I heard was like Merle Haggard, George Jones and all that. All my buddies were into Queen, then when Van Halen came out, they were all on it, AC/DC and all that stuff. Like I say today, Merle and Metallica are right next to each other on my iPod. I still love all that rock stuff. I got to see Heaven & Hell last month when they were touring with Judas Priest. That was a big deal to me. I was acting like a little kid all over again. Then I got to meet Ronnie James Dio, I was in heaven! I still love that metal stuff. When I’m in my truck, most of the time it is gonna be rock.
I’m always curious as to why the songs I write are always country songs? I think it is because I was brought up in that environment and living that life. Guess when it comes down to it, I’m just an ol’ redneck from Amarillo, Texas. All that rock stuff really comes through in our live show, especially in the last few years we’ve really progressed into this big…it is almost a rock show! For a long time I tried to keep all these rock influences out of my country stuff. I thought it would make it un-pure or dirty or something. I don’t know what I was thinking? The last few years I’ve just let it be what it is and just been who I am and just rock out. Let it flow! It has helped create our style and I don’t think there are too many of us doing it!
Sleaze Roxx: Judging from your shows that I have seen since 2005, I don’t think your fans mind the Rock n’ Roll influence, plus you have one of the more loyal fan bases of any genre. I’m like you, whereas I’ll listen to you then Motley Crue or Waylon to Rob Zombie, old Delta Blues and I’m a huge fan of Richie Kotzen. My friends and family always joke that I have ‘musical ADD’!
Kevin Fowler: (Laughs) That’s what I have, musical ADD!
Sleaze Roxx: Have you gotten any grief from the ‘Nashville Establishment’ due to your high energy shows and the attitude as well as some of the songs you write and the tongue-in-cheek humor that comes across?
Kevin Fowler: No, not at all. A lot of country guys, they just pretty much want to rock! I don’t even raise an eyebrow. I’m not the mainstream country, I am kind of the alternative country or underground artist. We don’t have to deal with a lot of the industries’ system like the Top 40 type guys do. The guys that just tune into Top 40 Country radio. I don’t really give a damn what they have to say, you know! All I’m really interested in is the fans. My fans are people like you and I. The people that come to our shows, they probably came to the show crankin’ Lynyrd Skynyrd and AC/DC. Those are the same people who listen to me, Merle, Waylon and Billy Joe Shaver! Country is kind of the catch all genre right now, a lot of people who are disgruntled by rock and everything they wind up in the country world. Guys that grew up around it and for some years were really into the rock have now discovered that, “Wow, that music (country) ain’t so bad after all!!”. They’d been waiting for a new sound in country that is pretty edgy!
Sleaze Roxx: Such as artists like yourself, Cross Canadian Ragweed, Stoney LaRue and Jason Boland?
Kevin Fowler: Everybody you mentioned, all of us started out doing rock. Hell, Ragweed still are pretty damn rock!
Sleaze Roxx: On your latest release, ‘Bring It On’. I feel that it really captures the essence of your live show. Was that the goal?
Kevin Fowler: That was the whole jest of the album. To capture the spirit of the live show on a record with a rock ‘n’ roll edge. Blake Chancey, who has produced everyone from Montgomery Gentry to the Dixie Chicks, you name it, he is a big hit maker and the first thing he asked me was, “What kind of album do you want to make?” I said, “I’d like to make a record more like our live show and less like our previous records”, because up until then the records had a much more traditional feeling, what I call ‘Dancehall Country’. Our live shows are crazy and they have gotten crazier everyday!
First off, lets do it like a live band. Lets not track this thing, lets do all the tracks with a band in a room jamming together. He also said don’t do a song because you think it is too rockin, if you wrote it and if you like the song. There is a song on there called ‘Feels Good Don’t It’. I wrote it but before I would have never put it on a record. He was really good about saying, “Hey man, just be who you are and if you want to write a rock ‘n’ roll song, put that son of a bitch on there!!” My goal with the record is I wanted it to sound more like the live show and not to avoid songs because they were too rockin’ or too this or too that. There is a song on there called ‘Best Mistake I Ever Made’, which is really a sappy sappy ballad. I wrote it with a buddy of mine but the fans made it the biggest success we’ve had. Before I wouldn’t have put something that lovey-dovey on a record, but you never know. One lesson I have learned is just close your eyes, go for it, don’t have any pre-conceived notions on what it should be, just rock and let it flow!
Sleaze Roxx: You recently released the song ‘Cheaper To Keep Her’ to radio. How is the single doing and how are sales of the album doing?
Kevin Fowler: It is doing ok. We are not like mainstream acts where we have huge sales around a single then don’t have any sales till our next single. We consistently sell 50,000 units a year. We’ve never really banked our career or anything on radio. We are not a radio driven band, we are a fan based act. It is all about the fans, the internet, word of mouth and people coming to the shows. We’re trying to model this after the Grateful Dead or Jimmy Buffett, but for country. Not many country acts go out and try and build a fan base. They go out and don’t make any fans. I learned a lot while in Dangerous Toys. When the label was done with them, it was time to go back home. I’m really trying to build a career. It is about one-on-one, making fans one at a time, not making fans through radio but gain like-minded people who like what we are trying to do and go out and tour and tour and tour! It is a slow climb up there and I sometimes wished we did have a big ol’ ass hit! (Laughs)
Sleaze Roxx: True, but it has to be more rewarding in the long run to know you did things your way and didn’t compromise or sell out.
Kevin Fowler: Yeah, any of the guys who have ever had longevity have always done it that way. Look at Jimmy Buffett, he will sell out any arena in the world and he has never had huge commercial success, he’s never sold huge numbers of records but he is all about asses in the seats. He does huge merchandise and huge touring and that is really what it is about! He is just phenomenal. We try and use that business format and bring it to the country format.
Sleaze Roxx: You were recently touring here in Kansas. Any plans to come back to Kansas in the near future?
Kevin Fowler: We played Kansas City on Halloween and were in Wichita a few weeks ago. We’ve really been focusing our last year on stepping up playing more of the Midwest…Kansas, Arkansas, Northern Oklahoma, all the way up to Chicago. We’ll just be touring our asses off so we will be seeing more of you!
Sleaze Roxx: Any chance of doing a live DVD maybe with some behind-the-scenes stuff on it? Not only for the Fowler Fanatics but also those that have your albums but haven’t been able to catch you live or for those that may be reading this and hearing about you for the first time and would like to check you out.
Kevin Fowler: Actually, Tuesday night (November 18th), we’re recording audio and video. Doing “Live From The Party Barn”. The thing is we’re doing this where you can’t buy it anywhere, you can only get it from us by being a part of the Fan Club, which is free to join. It will be a scaled down acoustic and we are calling it “Live From The Party Barn”. I got a little party barn at my house so we’re doing it there so it will be really cool. That will be available after the first of the year. Sign up for it and get your own copy!!
Sleaze Roxx: Have you ever entertained the idea of doing a covers album of all your influences be it rock, metal or country?
Kevin Fowler: Never say never! I hadn’t entertained the idea. That is a good idea though. Hearing some country band doing Metallica or Van Halen. (Laughs) That’d be cool huh!?!?!
Sleaze Roxx: Is there anything you would like to say to the Fowler Fanatics or to anyone who may be hearing about you for the first time?
Kevin Fowler: Check out www.kevinfowler.com or www.myspace.com/kevinfowler and chances are we will probably be in a town near you real soon, so come out and check us out! We have a lot of rock fans. We get a lot of people at our shows that come up to me and say, “Man, I’m not a big fan of country music but I fucking love you guys, you rocked!” That is the greatest compliment to me. It is not your Grandpa’s country. I’m trying to show the world that country music doesn’t have to be all sappy boring music, it can have an edge but still have that down-home flavor and kick ya square it the ass!
Sleaze Roxx: Thanks again for your time and good luck with the gig tonight!
Kevin Fowler: Cool, next time we’re around, holler at me and come out and see us!