INTERVIEW WITH KINGS OF DUST BASSIST GREG CHAISSON
Date: April 5, 2021
Photos: Courtesy of Greg Chaisson
LESS THAN A MONTH AGO, KINGS OF DUST MADE THE SHOCK ANNOUNCEMENT THAT THEY HAD PARTED WAYS WITH THEIR LEAD VOCALIST, MICHAEL BECK, ABOUT ONE YEAR AFTER THE RELEASE OF THE BAND’S VERY GOOD ’70S SOUNDING SELF-TITLED DEBUT ALBUM. KINGS OF DUST’S REMAINING MEMBERS — BASSIST GREG CHAISSON (BADLANDS, RED DRAGON CARTEL), GUITARIST RYAN MCKAY AND DRUMMER JIMI TAFT — DIDN’T WASTE ANY TIME IN FINDING A REPLACEMENT AS THEY ANNOUNCED THEIR NEW SINGER KEN RONK ABOUT A WEEK AGO. SLEAZE ROXX CAUGHT UP WITH CHAISSON TO FIND OUT ABOUT THE SURPRISE LINE-UP CHANGE, THE STATUS OF THE GROUP’S SOPHOMORE ALBUM AND MUCH MORE!
Sleaze Roxx: I have to say that I was shocked when I found out that Michael Beck was no longer in Kings of Dust. What led to his departure from the band? Was it an amicable split?
Greg Chaisson: First off, let me say that I will never have anything negative to say about Michael. There would probably never have been a first Kings of Dust record without him. He is a great singer, lyricist, engineer, producer and an all around groovy guy. We’ve been friends for almost 10 years. However, it came to our attention that he was looking to join another original band. We had always had the understanding that we would all just play in one original band at a time, in this case that is Kings of Dust. There would never have been an issue with someone playing on a song or two on someone else’s record. We have all done that. But as far as joining another band, we had an understanding. For whatever reason, and you’ll have to ask Michael, he felt the need, desire, whatever to join another band. So we had a meeting and just decided it would be better for Michael to explore his other options and for us to go on as Kings of Dust. I’m sure whatever he does, it will be great and it will be successful. Michael is that kind of person.
Sleaze Roxx: How long did you know that things weren’t going in the right direction with Michael?
Greg Chaisson: Like I said, we found out that he was interested in joining another band and pretty quickly we had a meeting with him, then decided that he and Kings of Dust should go their separate ways.
Sleaze Roxx: Not only was Michael an awesome lead vocalist but he has his own studio and I think that Kings of Dust reaped the benefits in that regard. Will that change for the next Kings of Dust album?
Greg Chaisson: Well obviously, we won’t be recording in Michael’s studio. But yes, it was very much to the advantage of the band to have the access to Michael’s studio. But that was not an advantage to any one of us but to all four of us. It allowed us time to experiment with recording and how we wanted to mix it. You can never under value unlimited time in the studio, that’s for sure. For this next record, we will have to be more prepared and I think we will be. Instead of doing our pre-production in the studio, we will do it in rehearsal and have everything pretty well mapped out before we go in. We are really looking forward to recording the next record and the challenges that it will bring.
Sleaze Roxx: It seems that Kings of Dust found a new singer in record time, and especially when you think that we are still in the midst of a Covid pandemic. What was the search for a new singer like? Did you audition a lot of people?
Greg Chaisson: Well, because we made our decision to go our separate ways pretty quickly, we immediately started thinking about who we would get to sing in Kings of Dust. Once we posted online that we were looking for a singer, we received many excellent video and audio tapes. But the caveat was that we wanted someone local. I know the thing these days is to have your band members all over the country and to just send files back and forth but to me personally, that’s not my idea of the kind of band I would want to be in. Nothing against that, but it just doesn’t work for us. To us, a band is four guys rehearsing and writing together and slugging it out as a team and making the best record we can. There are a number of excellent singers here in Phoenix and there are a number excellent musicians as well. But we had something specific in mind and because of the strength of the first record, we did not want to settle until we found exactly what we were looking for.
Sleaze Roxx: How did you end up connecting with and choosing Ken Ronk to be the new singer?
Greg Chaisson: I had worked with Ken for a short time in a Bad Company / Free tribute band and Jimi had played in an original band with him some years ago. Ken was always our first choice. He came down to his first rehearsal and we just jammed on some ideas to hear what his voice sounded like and it was exactly what we were looking for. He is a very organic singer, very bluesy and soulful and he sings with a lot of feeling — very visceral if you will. He wrote some melody lines and lyrics for two of the new songs and we knew we had our man! Besides his voice, Ken is an excellent frontman and one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met, a local legend if you will. We couldn’t be happier. His voice will fit the direction that the new music is going to a “T”.
Sleaze Roxx: I feel that Kings of Dust’s debut self-titled album did not get the attention that it deserved as it came out just at the beginning of the Covid pandemic shutdown. What are your thoughts in that regard?
Greg Chaisson: Well, we had the incredible timing to release our record on the day that they declared a pandemic. So like every other band, all of our touring and live plans were completely put on the back burner. We have not actually done a live show and I think that the kind of band and the kind of music that we play would really go over well live. We have some shows booked for the summer so we’ll get right back on our bicycle and see if we remember how to ride it [laughs]!
Kings of Dust‘s “Ya, That’s Me” lyric video:
Sleaze Roxx: How far along are you for album number two?
Greg Chaisson: We have 11 songs written and we will probably write four more. But like I said, since we have some live shows coming up, we are going to hold off on writing until we get our live set together. We will obviously be playing some live songs from the record as well as playing at least two of the new songs. Our plan is to record in the fall.
Sleaze Roxx: How does the new material compare to the songs off the debut album?
Greg Chaisson: I would say the songs sound like Kings of Dust but just a natural progression forward. We are expanding our musical ideas and on this second record, all of the songs will be written by myself, Ryan McKay, Jimi Taft and Ken Ronk. If it’s possible, we are going even further into the ’70s. There’s a little bit of everything. We still kind of write the same way. I’ll bring in some ideas and then we will all make it into a song, or Ryan will bring in some ideas and then the same thing. Mine and Ryan’s ideas come from two completely different places so when we put them together with Jimi and Ken’s ideas, it makes for some interesting, cool songs.
Sleaze Roxx: I see that Kings of Dust have some exciting plans for this summer with a tour that also includes Of Gods And Monsters and DC4. How did that come about and which areas are you targeting?
Greg Chaisson: The guy that manages those two bands is Eddie Cantu and he is going to end up being our manager as well. We are just finalizing the details for that. So it’s kind of natural to have all three bands together. I’m really good friends with all the guys in DC4 going all the way back to my days in LA. Bjorn Englen, the bass player from Of Gods and Monsters, is also a very good friend of mine. Both of those bands are loaded with great musicians and I think with all three of us on the bill, you can’t go wrong. We have three dates booked already and once we get together with Eddie, we will figure out which other ones we can fit into our schedules. We are looking forward to finally getting to play live.
Sleaze Roxx: I find the tour package quite interesting in that there are a lot of what I will call late ’80s / early ’90s era rock veterans such as yourself, Simon Wright (Of Gods And Monsters), Rowan Robertson (DC4) and Jeff Duncan (DC4) but you are all playing in either newer bands or groups that aren’t that established just yet. I would think that for such a tour, you could market certain individual band members’ names and that might have a stronger marketing appeal than the three bands’ names. What do you think?
Greg Chaisson: I’m sure some promoters will be using the names of the bands that some of us are associated with. But for me personally, to do it would seem a little disingenuous. I mean, we are not going to be playing any Badlands or Red Dragon Cartel [songs] in our set and while I am truly proud of my association with those bands, I really just want to focus on what we do in Kings of Dust.
Sleaze Roxx: I don’t know what it’s like in Arizona but things up where I live [Toronto, Ontario, Canada], things are still terrible shutdown wise due to the continuing Covid pandemic and now the various variants. I haven’t seen a concert in more than a year and the one concert that I bought a ticket for — Killer Dwarfs frontman Russ Dwarf playing to a limited capacity seating — keeps getting postponed [laughs]. So how are things in Arizona due to Covid and what makes you think that you’ll be able to proceed with a tour this summer?
Greg Chaisson: Things here in Phoenix are opening up daily. I’m pretty sure that there is no limitation on audience size or anything like that at the moment. As far as anything else goes, we will book the shows and as long as the venue is open, we will show up and play. We can only control what we can. Hopefully as the pandemic decreases, people will be able to get back to their normal lives. By the way, I love Killer Dwarfs!
Sleaze Roxx: Yes. They are awesome [laughs]! Has the Covid pandemic made you reassess certain things in your life?
Greg Chaisson: Not really. I mean obviously Covid is bad and has some devastating effects on people worldwide. Having dealt with stage four cancer, I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about what would happen. I just worry about what I can control right now. I’ve known a lot of people who have had Covid and almost all of them have recovered. I also know a lot more people who haven’t had it. I’m sure as more and more people get the vaccine, it will allow us to get a handle on everything. I just put everything into God’s hands and pray for the best.
Sleaze Roxx: I agree that the best way to handle things. Is there anything that we haven’t covered that you’d like to mention?
Greg Chaisson: If you get a chance and Kings of Dust is playing anywhere near you, check us out. Ken Ronk is an amazing singer, Ryan McKay is a brilliant guitarist and Jimi Taft is one of the best drummers I have ever played with, and that says a lot! I’m proud of what we do and I think if you come and see us, you will more than get your money’s worth. Also, I would like to say thanks to all the fans who have supported us and to people like you who have promoted us. It means everything! If you see us on the road, come up and say ‘Hey.’ We look forward to meeting each and every one of you!
Kings of Dust‘s “Like An Ocean” lyric video: