MARC FERRARI (KEEL) INTERVIEW:
January 29, 2010
I relish each and every time I get the opportunity to interview musicians that I’m a fan of. This particular opportunity came unexpectedly. Skid was contacted by Marc Ferrari who was doing press for the upcoming Keel album Streets of Rock ‘N’ Roll and asked if I was interested. Off course he didn’t have to ask twice. I took it!
Most of you probably know Marc Ferrari not only from his tenure in Keel but also for his work with Cold Sweat, Medicine Wheel and some acting that he’s done in the past. I busted out a call to Marc and threw some questions at him and he answered all of them–it was very casual. Marc is very excited about the new album and he shared a little of how the CD came together and their plans to promote it. As I was writing this I thought what a coincidence that we just had Blackie Lawless do an interview a few weeks back and now we have Marc Ferrari. So what you ask? Well, both of their respective bands were featured in the soundtrack for the cult classic Dudes. Anyway, here’s the interview–I hope you enjoy reading it and look for the album Streets Of Rock ‘N’ Roll on Frontiers Records.
Sleaze Roxx: You left Keel after the touring cycle ended for the self titled album right?
Marc Ferrari: Right, that was the last record I did with them. I left in February of 1988, the self titled album came out in 1987.
Sleaze Roxx: That was a solid album, I liked the song writing. You guys brought in Michael Wagener for that one, what was your experience in the studio like with him?
Marc Ferrari: It was very light and funny. Michael’s a very funny guy, he was always laughing and in a great mood. We, as a band, had been a fan of his work that he had done from Accept to Ozzy Osbourne to the Scorpions. It was a great experience to be with him in the studio. He was the guy we wanted for the Keel record and we were lucky enough to get him.
Sleaze Roxx: I have to ask, because I don’t recall hearing the circumstance behind your departure from the band?
Marc Ferrari: After we had toured behind the record we were about to change labels from MCA to Atlantic Records. We had just come off the Bon Jovi tour and we were getting pressure from the label to get that hit single and everything. Ron Keel had a vision for the band that was much different than mine, I have a real rock background. We started rehearsing with a keyboard player and it just wasn’t feeling right for me anymore.
I also want to add that we were close. If you noticed, there was no mud slinging or lawsuits or blood drawn or any of that. It was all very civil, in fact Ron came out to support Cold Sweat when I launched the band. We continued to stay in touch and we remained friends even after I left the band. It wasn’t one of those acrimonious splits that you’ve read about with other bands, it was a difference of opinion. I had a vision of what I wanted and he had a vision of what he wanted.
Sleaze Roxx: You moved on and formed Cold Sweat. Your singer in the first incarnation of the band was Oni Logan, who went on to sing with Lynch Mob. What lead up to his departure?
Marc Ferrari: George Lynch was obviously a higher profile guitarist than me. Oni was promised the moon by George and it was a decision that he made. Yeah it was rather unfortunate for us because he left our band the day we went into the studio to record the debut album. I can’t say that it was the proper thing or the right thing to do because he put a lot of people’s careers on hold while he made that decision. Things have worked out though, I have spoken with Oni since then and I’ve had the opportunity to hang out with George, so everything’s good between us now. You’re talking about things that happened over 20 years ago, let’s talk about what going on now.
Sleaze Roxx: We’re getting there, I’m making the most of this opportunity.
Marc Ferrari: I discovered Oni, not like Columbus discovered America or anything, but he was putting up dry wall in Florida when he came to my attention. He moved out to California with me and he did his first professional demos with me. We did a handful of shows around here showcasing the band. He felt he needed to make that move for his career, obviously Lynch Mob made a great record. In fact they made another great record–I just bought their new one.
Sleaze Roxx: Cold Sweat obviously had a Thin Lizzy influence, but you went by something else originally didn’t you?
Marc Ferrari: Yeah that’s me, I love Thin Lizzy. Originally the band was called Crying Shame. We had the song “Crying Shame” and we had this cool logo, or at least we thought so, with the C and S intersecting. Then we found out we couldn’t get the name so we were trying to get something where we could keep the C and S and Cold Sweat came out of that.
Sleaze Roxx: Then came Medicine Wheel.
Marc Ferrari: Medicine Wheel was the band that came after the Cold Sweat project. Medicine Wheel recorded three records and we played in Japan. The records were issued on a number of independent labels, from German or Japanese record labels primarily. It was more of a recording project than a touring band, although we did get a chance to head over to Japan. We had three incredible singers on each album. I love those albums, and while we didn’t get a major label release, I’m very proud of that material.
Sleaze Roxx: Will those albums be reissued anytime soon for those of us that haven’t heard the band?
Marc Ferrari: I know the albums are still out there because I saw them on eBay not too long ago. I have no plans to reissue them in the future.
Sleaze Roxx: I also know that you were featured on Pantera’s Power Metal album, how did that come about?
Marc Ferrari: I started working with Pantera back in 1985. They came out to a Keel show in Texas and it was evident back then just how talented these guys were. They recorded the song “Proud To Be Loud” which was originally intended for Keel. I went down there to produce the vocal on that track and I wound up playing rhythm guitar on that and also lead on “We’ll Meet Again”, which is also on the record. I happen to be lucky to have cross paths with those guys. Like I said, even then you knew great things were to come for them.
Sleaze Roxx: Do think that MCA Records did their very best to push Keel?
Marc Ferrari: I think in general MCA were not a hard rock label. Back in those days Atlantic Records and Polygram Records were two that I feel were good at promoting hard rock and metal bands. It seemed like everything on those two labels was gold or platinum and MCA was just not strong in that market. With Keel we weren’t signed to MCA, we were actually signed to Gold Mountain which was distributed by MCA. There was one of the problems because now you were looked upon as a step-child because you weren’t signed to the label. We did a fair amount of tour support, we went out on tours with Bon Jovi and Motley Crue, we did a lot of touring. I can’t blame everything on them, it was just a combination things. There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to putting together an album and its promotion and sometimes things just don’t come together.
Sleaze Roxx: One more question about the past and then we can talk about the new album. How was it for you working with Kiss’ Gene Simmons?
Marc Ferrari: Oh it was wonderful–he’s the “God of Thunder.” You have to imagine that I’m 22 years old, I’ve been out in L.A. for only a few months and now I’m in the studio with Gene Simmons of KISS! He was very helpful with us in the studio and gave us feedback on the songs. Certainly the press we got, just by working with him, didn’t hurt. He’s a great musician and I feel that he did a great job helping us along.
Sleaze Roxx: Moving forward, you got back together with Ron and the rest of Keel for the Back In Action album.
Marc Ferrari: Yeah, I rejoined the guys back in 1998 to finish and complete some of the unfinished tracks that we had lying around in the vault. We all met in Phoenix, Arizona during the course of a weekend, and finished vocals and solos, that kind of thing. We didn’t tour behind that record, but we were together in the studio finishing up these tracks. It’s hard to believe that that was over ten years ago. That was also ten years after I had left the band. That was a great experience and was the last time the original members were in the same room together. We currently have four of the five right now.
Sleaze Roxx: Kenny Chaisson isn’t in the band anymore is he?
Marc Ferrari: Right, Kenny isn’t in the band anymore. He’s raising a family and he feels that all of his attention should be placed on his family at this point in time. I too have a young family, but I can’t speak for Kenny. He really felt that Keel isn’t what he wanted to do and that he didn’t have the time or energy to devote to it. We have a lot of history with him and we do really miss him. He was part of something special. It’s a rare thing when bands can get all five, or four out of five, original members together.
Sleaze Roxx: So tell us about the new music that is coming out?
Marc Ferrari: The album is called The Streets Of Rock ‘N’ Roll and it’s coming out on January 29th. We are very excited about that in light of the reaction to our live shows in the past year. As a result of the reaction we decided to take this yet a step further and make a new album. It was great writing with Ron again as I hadn’t written with him in years–close to twenty years–and we came up with some material that I’m very excited about. It’s a great cross section of material from the hard rockers, to the commercial things, to the blues rock stuff–you have all facets of what you can expect, and have expected, from Keel in the past.
Sleaze Roxx: I don’t imagine we should expect something experimental or modern from Keel on this one?
Marc Ferrari: There’s no grunge, there’s no down-tuned stuff, thrash or keyboard heavy stuff on here.
Sleaze Roxx: You mentioned that you hadn’t written with Ron in years, was it like old times when you did reconvene for the new album?
Marc Ferrari: I wrote things by myself, other times I’d write with Ron. I’d come up with a riff and hand it off to Ron and say, “There you go man.” I didn’t write a single lyric on this album, I came up with the music and riffs. In years past I have written lyrics along with the music to songs but this time it was like playing catch with someone. I’d throw the ball out and then it would get thrown back for me to listen too. I like the way it worked.
Sleaze Roxx: What are your touring plans? Obviously bands must do something that is profitable and that can mean scaling back and being very selective.
Marc Ferrari: The reality of the matter is this, we all work outside of the band. I for one work for Universal and so I can’t go out on the road for six to eight weeks at a time on a tour. That can’t happen with us, and frankly there are so few of those opportunities anyway–that’s reality. Bands of our ilk have become accustomed to doing these fly in shows, where we do these weekend shows. These festival shows that we’ve done have all been fly in shows. You fly in on a Friday, and you play on a Friday night or Saturday night, then you fly back home. There are a fair amount of those opportunities for us out there and you’re right, there are select shows that make better financial sense for us to do.
Sleaze Roxx: I recently read that Keel is on a Swedish rock festival this spring.
Marc Ferrari: We’re on the line-up for the festival on April 30th in Sweden, I believe the name of the festival is called Stockholm Rocks. We’re headlining one day and Jani Lane is headlining the other. That’s the first show that has been officially announced in 2010.
Sleaze Roxx: There’s definitely a rock scene there from what I have heard from other fans. It’s not just power metal and death metal anymore.
Marc Ferrari: We haven’t been there since 1986 when we opened up for Dio. We’re very excited to head over there.
Sleaze Roxx: Keel is one of those bands from the 80’s that fit in nicely with different acts. Like you mentioned you toured with Motley and Bon Jovi, obviously you’d fit in with those bands, but you also toured with Ronnie James Dio which was on the heavier side. What do you think made you guys fit in so well with various acts?
Marc Ferrari: I think that we weren’t strictly a metal band, we weren’t a pop band, but we had elements of both. I think that is why we were a good choice for Bon Jovi and a good choice for Dio and a good choice for Queensyche, because we had elements of all of those bands in us. Obviously you wouldn’t put Slayer on tour with Bon Jovi. That would be like oil and water.
Sleaze Roxx: Not a good idea.
Marc Ferrari: Not a good idea at all, there would be no appeal to the fans of the headlining act.
Sleaze Roxx: Was Keel treated well by the bands which you opened for?
Marc Ferrari: Oh absolutely. I really can’t think of an incident during our career where we had words or issues with the headline act. I think there were a few incidents with some of the crew members of the headliners, which were a little bit overzealous in the protection of their employers, but not the bands themselves. In fact I’m still in touch with most of the bands that we toured with.
Sleaze Roxx: I know that you’ve been pretty busy since leaving Keel and disbanding Cold Sweat and Medicine Wheel. You’re currently working for Universal, can you tell us more about that?
Marc Ferrari: About 15 years ago I started getting some of my songs placed in films and on TV. I developed a business called Master Source which is a music catalog company that puts their music primarily in films and on TV shows, that’s been my main thing for the past 15 years or so. It is the perfect job for me because it allows me to keep one foot in the film world and one in the music world.
Sleaze Roxx: That’s great. It must be lucrative?
Marc Ferrari: I’m a lucky guy! I happened to hit on something a long time ago that just happened to be a good idea.
Sleaze Roxx: You have done some writing too. You did a column for Metal Edge and you’re written a book right?
Marc Ferrari: Right, I wrote the Power Tracks column for Metal Edge for a while. I’ve been a busy boy, I’ve been in both of the Wayne’s World movies, I did a number of TV sideline things and like you mentioned I wrote a book called Rock Star 101. It’s not like I’ve been sitting idle, I have been out there being active most of the time, just low key. I haven’t been sitting by the phone waiting for things to happen.
Sleaze Roxx: Rather than waiting for things to happen you’ve made things happen. Thanks so much for the interview Marc. Best of luck for you and Keel in 2010 and also hope the new album does well for you guys.
Marc Ferrari: Thank you so much for the interest in Keel.