INTERVIEW WITH STEELER AND EX-W.A.S.P. BASSIST RIK FOX
Date: April 30, 2019
THIRTY FIVE YEARS IS A LONG TIME BETWEEN GIGS BUT STEELER OR A PARTIAL STEELER LINE-UP WILL BE GETTING BACK TOGETHER TO PLAY LIVE FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE 1984 DURING THE FIRST EVER KEELFEST, WHICH WILL BE HELD AT THE ALROSA VILLA IN COLUMBUS, OHIO, USA ON MAY 10, 2019. STEELER ALUMNI RON KEEL (LEAD VOCALS), RIK FOX (BASS) AND MITCH PERRY (GUITAR) WILL BE PLAYING A SPECIAL SET AT KEELFEST, WHICH WILL ALSO INCLUDE KEEL AND THE RON KEEL BAND. SLEAZE ROXX CAUGHT UP WITH ‘THE WINGED KNIGHT OF HEAVY METAL’ RIK FOX TO TALK ABOUT THE STEELER REUNION, HIS RECENT DEPARTURE FROM THE BAND ANGELES, HIS FOOTPRINT IN W.A.S.P.’S HISTORY AND WHAT HE IS UP TO IN THE FUTURE.
Sleaze Roxx: The Steeler reunion or part-reunion is finally happening. How did it materialize and how come this time is the right time?
Rik Fox: Ron and I have been discussing this on and off over the last several years, and he said, “If the opportunity ever presented itself, would you be interested?” And I jokingly said, “Hang on a second. Let me think about it.” [Laughs] You know? And I said, “Yes! Definitely! Of course! Anytime, anywhere.” So with that in mind, I guess that the opportunity has finally presented itself. It took a few years but here we are. He put a feeler out on Facebook by way of a piece of photoshopped artwork. It was teaser and it said, ‘Keel. The Ron Keel Band. Steeler. X amount millions of miles. X amount of songs. One more show.’ And all of a sudden, there was this groundswell of activity and people were contacting me and saying, “Rik, what is this?” I said, “I don’t know.” So I contacted Ron and I said, “What’s going on here?” He said, “I want to put something out and see what kind of feedback we were going to get on it.” Apparently, it’s been a lot of positive activity. People are very interested in learning more about it. And we finally talked and he said, “I’m putting together something and I’ll be in touch with you with more of the information.” I said, “Okay. Great!” Ultimately, it led to where we are now to him putting on the KEELFest in Columbus, Ohio at the Alrosa Villa on May 10th.
Sleaze Roxx: Cool! Obviously, in terms of the Steeler line-up, there’s you. There’s Ron. You’ve both played on the debut album but the big question of course is where is Yngwie [J. Malmsteen] in all this?
Rik Fox: He doesn’t [laughs].
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Rik Fox: You know, even back in the day in the ’80s when he was with us, [being a] team player was not really in his wheelhouse. It wasn’t really part of his agenda I guess I’d have to say. It was begrudgingly done in my memory, as far as I recall back then. Ron and Yngwie were butting heads from day one over the music. The music was all written by Ron anyway. It was written before I was in there you know. I just had to learn the songs. You know, it was simple stuff. The album is a testimonial to the test of time. It wasn’t rocket science — three chords, straight ahead rock. I took heat and criticism from people saying that I wasn’t a very good bass player because of the Steeler album and I said, “Look. It’s Steeler music. I can play other stuff. If I came in there playing like Gary Thain of Uriah Heep or some great bass player, it wouldn’t be Steeler music. It would totally alter the sound.
So I played what I was requested to play and that’s that, you know? And I am the first bassist on US soil to go toe to toe with Malmsteen on a daily basis. He didn’t scare me. I wasn’t intimidated by him. He was impressive. We were all impressed because up until that point, everything was Eddie Van Halen. Yngwie was breaking new ground more or less. So he took raising the bar to the next level so to speak. But to answer your question, he wasn’t really that much of a team player. He went along with it until he could establish himself and move on as soon as possible. You know, the writing was on the wall pretty early on. It was just a matter of time.
Sleaze Roxx: Did you guys ask Yngwie whether he would be interested in taking part in the Steeler reunion that’s going to happen soon?
Rik Fox: Errr. I think that would have been handled by Ron. I don’t remember if Ron said that he contacted him. I think Yngwie was a definite no. He owns his own stage now. Everybody seen the seven or eight Marshall stacks, the seven or eight Marshall heads, and the band is over eight square, ten square feet to the side of the stage. You know, if Yngwie were to say, “Hey guys, I want to be part of it.” We’d definitely welcome him into doing it but you know, he doesn’t want to be any part of it and that’s a shame. That’s just too bad. He’s burned a lot of bridges starting with us. We wouldn’t say “no” if he was interested.
Sleaze Roxx: Okay. But you’re not sure whether Ron asked him or not.
Rik Fox: Errr. I don’t think there’s much communication to be honest with you between Yngwie and Ron.
Sleaze Roxx: Okay.
Rik Fox: We’ve kind of heard about and read about the things that Yngwie has said in his book about Steeler and Ron. I’ve had fans ask me to sign their Steeler album and there’s tales of Yngwie autographing his name across Ron’s face. Disrespectful things like that you know. I mean, the guy should have at least a modicum of gratitude for us getting him his green card. Getting him over here in America. I didn’t see any kind of thank you or gratitude wherever on that. So, it’s gestures like that show he just… There would be no dialogue or communication between Ron and Yngwie, and it’s just sad that it has to be like that. Well you know, we’ve got Mitch Perry and Mitch was Yngwie’s replacement. Mitch has played with pretty much everybody in the business so I mean, he’s a team player. He’s a really nice guy. He’s really low key. He’s not like… There’s no great star ego in your face or anything about it you know. Mitch is real easy to work with.
Sleaze Roxx: So who’s handling the drums since I don’t think that Mark [Edwards] is part of the reunion, right?
Rik Fox: That’s correct that I know of. Well, Mark also had a side interest back in the ’80s of motocross riding and he had an accident while motocross biking and broke his back. He’s a very successful businessman to this day but he just can’t play drums. I’m going to miss that. That’s a shame. You know, because Mark and I put in many, many hours of just woodshedding — just bass and drums rhythm section. And he taught me a lot. I was pretty experienced by the time I got into Steeler. I was the oldest guy in the band at the time but I learned a lot from Mark. I learned how to listen to what the rhythm is actually doing. I am indebted to him for that. For the drums, we are using — another great drummer — Dwain Miller from Keel. Dwain auditioned. Dwain auditioned for Steeler at one point but he was a little too young at the time I guess. And that was before I came along. He auditioned before Mark Edwards got into the band.
Sleaze Roxx: Oh cool! In terms of the Steeler set, how long is it going to be at KeelFest?
Rik Fox: Well, some of it is kind of sworn to secrecy.
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Rik Fox: I have to keep quiet on some of it but we’re looking at — let’s see — one, two, three, four, five, six, seven… There’s about seven songs. We’re not doing the entire Steeler album. There’s a couple of songs that we’re not gonna do. Kind of hit the high points. Ron has some surprises up his sleeve that we’ve been rehearsing. We rehearsed the other night and it came out really well so he said the setlist is classified [laughs] up until the time we hit the stage [laughs]. There’s going to be some really, really cool Steeler songs to this set.
Sleaze Roxx: Cool. Is this going to be an one off thing or are you guys going to be doing some more shows after that?
Rik Fox: Well, it’s starting to look at this point — maybe it’s a beta test because at this point as well with the caveat that if this proves to be as excitingly successful as it looks like it’s turning into. Obviously, if the right promoters come along that want to do this again. See what we’ve done and say, “I want you to do this at my venue, at my venue, at my venue. Of course, we would do it. You know, I believe that would be an honest evaluation. Personally, I have never played in Ohio so that’s going to be a kick for me. The home of The Godz and all the great bands that came out of Ohio, Columbus. This is going to be great. But yeah, if we can get offers to do this. I think there’s some people right now trying to see if they can get something going for Los Angeles and maybe one or two other cities. That would be great if we can do this so if it happens, great! I’m looking forward to it.
Steeler‘s “Hot On Your Heels” song:
Steeler was an early 1980s American heavy metal band from Nashville. Band members included: Ron Keel on vocals and guitar, Michael Dunigan on lead guitar, Bo…
Steeler‘s “Serenade” song:
Steeler was an early 1980s American heavy metal band from Nashville. Band members included: Ron Keel on vocals and guitar, Michael Dunigan on lead guitar, Bo…
Sleaze Roxx: Now, at the time of the KeelFest announcement, you were part of the band called Angeles but I understand that you’re not in the band anymore so what happened there?
Rik Fox: Oh boy [laughs]! Ambush [laughs]!
Sleaze Roxx: It’s not an ambush [laughs].
Rik Fox: I’m kidding. It just didn’t work out. It was something that at the outset, looked like it could be promising. I really didn’t do any proper background research. I knew that the name Angeles had been around from the time that I arrived in Los Angeles. I remember seeing the name in newspaper ads, in clubs and stuff. I never saw them. I never knew their music or anything about them. I came to find out that by the time I joined them, I was number 17 out of 18 bass players.
Sleaze Roxx: Oh wow!
Rik Fox: Or members that have been in that band. I didn’t know I guess you would have to say some turbulent history in the consistency of the line-ups. Musically, it was fine. The songs were fun to play. I like to believe and other people have agreed that I have breathed a new kind of life into the songs that were on the album and they expressed wanting me to go into the studio and re-record all of the bass tracks because I just gave the songs a whole new transfusion. That’s kind of how it was intimated to me. By the time I finally got to play with them, they were like “Holy crap! Wow! You know, that felt good because you don’t get that that often. It came down to a personal chemistry thing and there was just a little too much drama and out of control ego stuff to deal with. I don’t want to be involved in something like that. I want something positive and constructive. I bring something to the table and it’s either appreciated or it’s not. You find yourself in a position where the very thing that you brought to the table that was appreciated is actually the very same thing that’s becoming a rejection issue or perceived as a territorial threat. It’s just not going to be a good combination. I had to move on.
In your Sleaze Roxx press release that you guys picked up from my page, I had to mention and say what I said in order to put oil on the stormy waters just because when I mentioned that I was going to do the KeelFest / Steeler reunion, that was met initially with hostility. Like, “Oh! You’re going to leave the band now and go off and do a Steeler tour? How come no one stays with the band?” There’s a mentality that’s out of touch with reality. A lot of players, as we all know, play in a lot of different projects to keep yourself alive out there in the press and in the public eye. So it’s not uncommon that a lot of musicians jam with a lot of different bands here and there. You know, loyalty to one band is a great thing but it’s kind of an outdated archaic concept. Like I said, to keep your name out there, you’ve got to play with different projects. That’s just the way it is and the fact that I said, “Yes. I’m going to do this Steeler reunion” was automatically reinterpreted into something that wasn’t going to be… It wasn’t going to be to the advantage of Angeles. It was best for me to get out of there as soon as possible. It was just a tough and dysfunctional thing for me.
Sleaze Roxx: Rik — you mentioned that what brought you to the table ended up getting you out of the band. So what exactly are you talking about?
Rik Fox: [Long pause] I don’t like to perpetuate drama. There’s enough of that out there you know? If somebody likes a certain musician for what they represent and what they can bring to a project, and then turns out that those very same ingredients that were being attractive — the magnetism that made it work — turn into the very same reasons that were… It creates an animosity behind your back. So in other words, let’s just say you know how to create gold out of your fingertips, and somebody wants that in their project. By the very virtue of you being able to do that, it turns into, “You know what? I don’t think I like the fact that you do that because I can’t do that. And if I can’t do that, why should you be able to do that?” It becomes that animosity. There are people who want to get close to you for a certain reason — whatever their personal reason is — and by you opening up and dropping your guard, allowing those people to be closer to you in your orbit, they turn into an enemy because they like something about you, and then that ‘like’ terms into a hate. I don’t know if that makes sense.
Sleaze Roxx: Are you talking about your history going into the band — Steeler and W.A.S.P. and stuff like that?
Rik Fox: [Long pause] Well, errr, let’s put it this way you know. that band had been around for 34 years ams they’ve only attained a certain level of wherever they’ve gotten to. They never were able to get to any upper levels. I have done… You know what? I have done a lot more than most people. Not as much as some. I have certainly never attained a certain upper level of touring multiple arenas around the world but from what little I have brought to the table, that’s recognized by some people. I certainly abhor the term “legend.” I don’t deserve to be called a “legend.” I’ve never attained anything “legend” you know. I am okay with “icon” or “iconic” but “legendary”, no. People call me that and that bristles some people. I am uncomfortable with that term. You know, I don’t deserve “legend.” Certainly not. I haven’t done enough to deserve being a “legend.” You know, Billy Sheehan is a legend. I look up at that guy. It’s people like that are legends and deservedly so. I am at the level that I am at. If I play with somebody that’s not at the level that I’ve gotten to, then they tend to look at that as a territorial or perceived territorial threat. I guess we could say. It certainly as not something that I overtly exhumed. I don’t do it on purpose but you know, if say Rudy Sarzo as an example. He’s a bass player and friend of mine. If he was asked to play in a band that had never reached his level, and then they began to treat it like, “You know what? Your name is bigger than ours and that’s a threat.” Or it bothers them that Rudy has that kind of a name. I guess that it’s something like that to kind of search for this and be politically correct if you will. I don’t want to dish any dirt. Sometimes, things work and sometimes, they don’t.
You know, there’s different reasons. Look at W.A.S.P.. I came from New Jersey in February of ’82 on a phone call from Blackie Lawless and I brought what I brought to the table. I passed the audition. I was with the band for four months. I came up with the name. I recorded the first demo with them. Six songs that wound up on the first album or five songs that ended up on the first album. Sixth one didn’t. And I did the photo session. Nobody had any problems with that whatsoever before social media was created. Not so much Myspace but as soon as Facebook was created, every keyboard troller / warrior who could attack from behind a computer screen came out of the woodwork saying “No. You weren’t. No. You Weren’t. No. You Weren’t.” And it’s like, “Why do I have to prove this?” People know. I mean it’s been validated by the band members. Chris Holmes said, “Yeah. Rik was in the band before me.” Randy Piper said, “Yeah. Rik was in the band. Rik came up with the name W.A.S.P.”. I mean, the stuff’s on YouTube. It’s out there. It’s valid.
Sleaze Roxx: You know what? I don’t think that I am going to challenge you on that. I think those are facts. One question I have for you about W.A.S.P. and I recently saw Dave Evans play live. You know, he’s the original singer for AC/DC. And what I thought when I saw Dave is that it’s fantastic that he’s out there playing the small clubs but at the same time, he was so close to making it so big with AC/DC. And same thing for you, you were so close being in the initial version of W.A.S.P. and then soon after you left, they released their debut album that took off. How do you look at that when that happens? Are you just happy for them or are you like I wish I could be there? What are your feelings?
Rik Fox: Well, it’s kind of pointless to be bitter about it. That’s not going to serve any purpose. Over time, you get to look at things more retrospectively. You kind of look for the zen in it. If you can, look at that silver lining in the darkness. Look at the track record of W.A.S.P.’s membership. It wasn’t long after that first album came out that everybody started to get replaced. Tony [Richards] got replaced after me. Randy [Piper] was let go. Chris Holmes came in. It likes becomes this revolving door. You know there’s a pattern there, a track record of who’s in charge. The problem so much is not the other band members as it is the guys pulling all the strings and driving the vehicle. That kind of speaks for itself.
I know that people have heard my bass tracks on those W.A.S.P demos and they said, “Wow! This is different. It’s a lot more melodic than what we hear on the first W.A.S.P. album.” I said, “Yeah, because I am a melodic bass player.” And I was asked by Blackie [Lawless] to play simple. “Play it simpler. Play it simpler.” I mean, how simple can I play it? Years later, you run into people that go, “Well, you can’t play because it’s simply played.” They weren’t there. They were not in the room when that was happening. They don’t know what was requested of me. So unless you’re in my shoes, shut the hell up! W.A.S.P. has its own track record. The validations are out there. People know where to find it. I don’t really have to prove it. When I got contacted by Darren Upton, who is the author of the book ‘W.A.S.P.: Sting In The Tale’, he called me up from the UK and we were on the phone for three hours. What he said to me was, “Rik, you represent a very integral and important puzzle piece in the history of early W.A.S.P. we didn’t know about. So I appreciate having your input on it because it fills in that missing piece and that made it a little bit better.” It’s just a matter of time before the truth comes out. It takes forever on social media. I’ve still got haters out there dismissing it and saying, “No. He got fired.” Bla bla bla bla bla. Okay, whatever.
W.A.S.P.‘s “Master of Disaster” demo with Rik Fox:
http://LeatherRebel.comhttp://LeatherRebelBlog.com …………. Read Description BelowThis is a demo from the first incarnation of WASP. I believe the compl…
Sleaze Roxx: Fair enough. Thank you so much for doing the interview. I am really looking forward to hopefully seeing some footage of the [Steeler] reunion.
Rik Fox: Well, Ron has already shot some video of us in rehearsal. I think that he may be putting together some kind of documentaries. This is too big not to document. Actually, when I am done with the KeelFest, I don’t know if you know. I recorded some tracks on the upcoming Jim Crean album. You’re familiar with Jim Crean? Yes?
Sleaze Roxx: Yes. He was supposed to be the Vinnie Vincent singer.
Rik Fox: Well, before Vinnie Vincent, Jim is essentially the lead singer for the Appice brothers. He’s been working with them for years. Jim’s solo albums are packed with upper level A talent, A list rockstars. He contacted me a year ago and he said, “Would yo like to play on my album.” I didn’t even know who he was. [Fox to Crean] “Why do you want me on your album if you don’t mind me asking?” [Crean to Fox] “Just because I am sick and tired of seeing you get bashed on Facebook and you deserve it and I want you on my album.” That was pretty much it. So we agreed on it. I am going to be on the upcoming album. I am on the single which is “Broken.” I’m playing with Vinny Appice and Robby Lochner from Jack Russell’s Great White. And there’s another song that I am on with Frank DiMino from Angel and Steph Honde from Hollywood Monsters.
Sleaze Roxx: Cool!
Rik Fox: So this is going to do a lot to re-establish a lot of missing years of street credibility. There’s already shows being booked. I know Steve Susman at Visionary Noise Records has a show that he’s headlining at the Whisky in Los Angeles in August so I hope to be part of that. Jim did say something about me being his touring bassist so we’ll see how that unfolds. You know, it’s great working with Jim. He’s not like your Los Angeles / west coast musician. He’s east coast. I am east coast. So we have a different mentality like that and I recently got signed to Sola Custom Guitars. I kind of opened the door to get Jim in. Jim is now signed with Sola Custom Guitars and that’s how it works. That’s how it is supposed to work. You look out for each other. You take care of each other. You don’t try to cut each other down. And that’s the kind of great relationship that I have with Jim Crean.