INTERVIEW WITH KIX FRONTMAN STEVE WHITEMAN
Date: December 4, 2020
Interviewer: Ruben Mosqueda
Photos: Christopher Carroll ROCK Photography (first, four and fifth photos), Jeff Onorato (sixth photo)
“We’re in the middle of a pandemic! How do you think I’m doing?,” jokes KIX frontman Steve Whiteman during the preamble leading to yet another great interview that took place on December 4th, 2020 with Sleaze Roxx. “There’s no good answer, there’s no good way to start off an interview these days now is there?” Well, KIX released a newly remixed deluxe edition of ‘Midnite Dynamite’ under ‘Midnite Dynamite Re-Lit,’ like they did with ‘Fuse Reblown’ in 2018. If you picked up that deluxe edition ‘Blow My Fuse’, you’re aware that in addition to having the original album remixed by Beau Hill, KIX included pre-production demos that gave us an inside peek at the skeletons of what those classic songs sounded like in their early stages. Those things aren’t for everyone, but for the diehard fans, that kind of stuff is heaven.
‘Midnite Dynamite-Relit’ was released digitally on November 14th, 2020 and the physical release is due on December 18th, 2020. You can pick up a copy at their official website www.kixband.com or stream it on your favorite music platform, if that’s your thing. “We hope that this album will help keep our name out there, so when we do get back out there again people will come out to our shows and have a good time with us,” says Whiteman, Enjoy the interview.
Sleaze Roxx: How soon after ‘Fuse 30’ did you start thinking you could do a remix of ‘Midnite Dynamite?’
Steve Whiteman: It came up one night when we were playing in Texas. Beau Hill came to see us. He lives in Austin. He came to the show and we hung out with him all day. After the show, we were hanging out talking and he said, “You know, I’d like to get another shot at ‘Midnite Dynamite.’” I thought he was joking. He did such a great job with the remix of ‘Blow My Fuse’ but he did produce ‘Midnite Dynamite’ 35 years ago. I think with technology being better now and the fact that he always loved that record, he just wanted another crack at it. We were like “Hell yeah!” Like the last time around, [bassist] Mark Schenker got all of the tapes from Atlantic, he got them all baked, then he got them digitized and off we went. Beau kept on sending us these incredible mixes. I was like “Holy hell!” There was so much clarity to the new mixes. The original version had that ’80s reverb and all these layers of crap that a lot of the time, the performances got lost with the new remix. All that is gone. The vocals are right up front, which I love! We knew he would do a great job this time around too after hearing what he did with ‘Blow My Fuse.’
Sleaze Roxx: With ‘Midnite Dynamite Re-Lit’, do you hope the album will get the attention that it didn’t get back in the day? It’s an underrated record.
Steve Whiteman: It’s definitely underrated. We felt that we had a ‘hit’ record. We had one of the most powerful record companies in the world releasing our records. We had good management at the time and we had Beau Hill coming on board hot off the heels of a Ratt hit record. What could go wrong? We felt strongly about the record. We felt it was a hit, but Atlantic Records didn’t quite know what to do with us. They released “Cold Shower.” It had very little success and little MTV airplay. When the song didn’t take off, they were done with it. The people at the label were like. “Let’s start thinking about the next record.” We were like, “Hold on, you’re out of your minds!”
We were not about to let that record die like that. We took it upon ourselves to use our ‘bar money’ which we had accumulated by playing from Boston to Florida. We would make really good money at these clubs. We would take that money and we would do our own tour support. We would go to Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago, Detroit, then come back home, make some more money then go back out to Milwaukee and then play some shows in Texas. We refused to let that record die and without ample support by the label, we took it upon ourselves promote that album. We feel that is what set up the success of ‘Blow My Fuse.’ We were relentless and going to L.A. was monumental. There we were opening for unsigned bands and we were on a major label. We opened for bands like Guns ‘N Roses!
KIX‘s “Cold Shower” video (from Midnite Dynamite album):
Sleaze Roxx: You had a lot of different sounds happening on ‘Midnite Dynamite.’ There were elements of pop hard rock and some bluesy guitar licks and solos. How much of an influence was Beau Hill?
Steve Whiteman: He was a big influence on that album but you also have to take in account that we were coming off a second ‘limp’ record that we were forced to make by the label, by management and the producer of the ‘Cool Kids’ record. We felt like on the next record, we needed to make the record that we wanted to make. We wanted melodies. Bands like Aerosmith, The Rolling Stones and AC/DC were huge influences for us. That was in the vein of what we wanted. That’s how we wanted to be known for and recognized for. It was intentional to get away from that ‘pop sound’ and get a lot harder.
Sleaze Roxx: So it was Beau that suggested this remix?
Steve Whiteman: Yeah, back when we made this record, we called him ‘Silly Bits,’ because he did all these weird effects, and all of these backwards vocals in there was all Beau. He has his name all over that record because he’s not just a producer, he’s also a songwriter and a singer. It was easy for him to tear these songs apart, then put them back together then put his stamp on them. He was such a huge part of the record. Beau did such a great job with ‘Blow My Fuse.’ He’s a friend of the band and we’re such good friends… I think he wanted something nice for the band. He really enjoys sitting down and mixing music. It was good for him, it was good for us and hopefully it will be good for the fans.
Sleaze Roxx: Beau has brought in sessions guys or people from other bands to be part of the records he’s produced. How did Anton Fig [Frehley’s Comet] wind up on “Lie Like A Rug” and “Sex” on the original album?
Steve Whiteman: Jimmy Chaflant had a couple of ruptured discs in his neck. We were going to leave the studio and get back on the road. For us to be able to do that, Jimmy had to take leave from recording and have this operation on his neck. So Beau brought Anton to play on “Sex” and “Lie Like A Rug.” When it came time to do this remix, Jimmy wanted to go back and put his drums on those two songs. So, on the remix, that’s Jimmy playing drums on those songs now. Well, when Ronnie Yonkins got wind of that, there was some guitar stuff that he wanted to redo that Mike Slamer played on. When we got people playing on the original record, it came down to budget. We were coming to the end of the recording and we had to get things done because we were going over budget. We brought in people that could do it in a snap.
Sleaze Roxx: You mentioned Mike Slamer who was featured on “Walkin’ Away” and “Scarlet Fever.” What’s the story behind him playing lead on those songs?
Steve Whiteman: The honest truth is that Donnie Purnell was such a controlling guy that, when those guys went into the studio, he was just ‘hovering’ over them and telling them where to place their fingers and how to play things. He would stymie their creativity. We were going over budget and we were running out of time. Beau felt the pressure to bring in Mike Slamer, because he has faith that Mike could come in and knock it out. In fairness to the guys, they were ready to go in and record the solos that you heard in the demos, but for whatever reason, Donnie being Donnie stymied their creativity.
Sleaze Roxx: Do you keep the falling out with Donnie similarly as the end of a marriage in that it went south but you got some kids out of it? In this case, you got the songs and the records.
Steve Whiteman: Yeah, I think that’s a great analogy. Listen, we had some good times. It wasn’t all bad. We were proud of the music. We were proud of the fans base that we gained. We were proud of the live shows that we put on. We did a lot of things right, but when the music changed, there was a new party in town and we got kicked out. When it came time to put it [KIX] down, I thought it was over. I didn’t think we would ever put it back together again. Nobody wanted to work with Donnie anymore and I started my own band Funny Money and I started teaching vocals. I did that for 18 years until little by little, there was more interest in a KIX reunion, which happened locally. We played a couple of shows locally and the fans flocked to the shows and we did that locally in Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, all within our comfort zone. We would do on average 8-10 shows a year.
I got a call one day from an agent, a guy named Sullian Bigg, he had me on the phone for hours. He was telling me that he could help get the band booked nationwide. I laughed at him! I really thought he was out of his mind! I never felt that we received that much success outside of the ‘Blow My Fuse’ album nationally. We never did a headline tour, [we] played arenas supporting other bands, but nothing that big on our own. We didn’t have that kind of fame where people would care about us. He proved me wrong! The first thing that he booked us for was Rocklahoma. We went in front of 20,000 people and they went ape shit! So we stuck with him to this day and he’s been able to book us as much as we’re willing to play.
Sleaze Roxx: How the hell was “Walkin’ Away” not released as a single by Atlantic Records.? That’s a hit.
Steve Whiteman: We agree. That’s a question to Doug Morris at Atlantic Records. They just didn’t know what to do with us. It’s incredible that they would release one single and then they were done with us. We were fortunate that we had a loyal fanbase that would buy 80,000 to 100,000 records which would afford us another opportunity to make another record. I always thought they sucked [laughs]!
KIX‘s “Walkin’ Away” track (from Midnite Dynamite album):
Sleaze Roxx: Will you be going forward or backwards when the next anniversary of another one of your records roll around? ‘Hot Wire’ is a great record that will be 30 next year…
Steve Whiteman: I can’t see that happening. We did that with ‘Blow My Fuse’ because that has been the biggest record of our lives, We toured on that album for 18 months and took us to different countries. We were a part of three national tours. We wanted to celebrate that record and the success that the record brought us. ‘Midnite Dynamite’ was out of the blue when Beau mentioned that he’d like to remix that. That was an opportunity that Beau threw out at us and we went for it. I think during this
pandemic it was the right thing to do because it keeps our name out there and keeps us relevant.
Sleaze Roxx: Have you ever performed an album top to bottom? How interested are you in doing something like that?
Steve Whiteman: We have done ‘Blow My Fuse.’ It was fun and special for us.
Sleaze Roxx: So when you performed ‘Blow My Fuse’ top to bottom, was there a particular song or songs that were harder than the others?
Steve Whiteman: Yeah, I think “Piece of The Pie” was hard to relearn that song. We hadn’t performed that in like 30 years. Going back and singing some of that stuff was tough. People have asked if we are going to do the same with ‘Midnite Dynamite’ and play that top to bottom. There’s some songs on that album that I just can’t do vocally. I know the idea of doing an album top to bottom sounds great but sometimes, it just is not feasible if you’re the singer [laughs]!
Sleaze Roxx: You released a new album ‘Rock Your Face Off’ back in 2014. Then you followed it up with your documentary ‘Can’t Stop The Show [:The Return of Kix]’ and a disc of live tunes in 2016. How close are you guys to recording some new music?
Steve Whiteman: Before we did the ‘Blow My Fuse’ remix album, I was starting to talk to the guys about doing another record. Well, then we had the idea of doing the ‘Blow My Fuse’ remix came along and then there was the campaign for that album, and new music was placed on the back burner. So I started writing. I have a dozen songs and I have shared them with the guys in the band. There’s just no interest in doing a new KIX album at this time so I’m going to use the material that I have written and I’m going to put out my own album. I’ll be releasing it in the next several months. It will give KIX fans something to listen to. I would like that stuff to be part of a new KIX album, but right now I don’t think the guys in the band are interested in putting that kind of time and work into a new album at this point. It takes time, it takes money to make these records and there’s not much pay back. With this solo record, I’m going to my friend’s studio. We’re laying down all of these tracks. I think I’ll just put the album out digitally and the fans that want to hear it can buy it. The ones that don’t give a shit won’t [laughs]!
Sleaze Roxx: How do you handle being the guy that is ready to go with new material and the rest of the band isn’t having it.
Steve Whiteman: Well, I kind of got used to it when we were working with Donnie. He was such a great songwriter that it was hard to get a song in edge wise. I got used to the rejection! I guess I’m still used to it [laughs]! I don’t want to sit on these songs and keep them on a shelf somewhere I want these out. I want people to hear them.
KIX‘s “Blow My Fuse” video (from Blow My Fuse album):