October 1, 2014 Interview – Brian Forsythe of Kix
It is never too late to go home and American Rock band Kix proved that with their resurrection back in 2003. Achieving massive success in the 1980’s with chart topping Rock albums including 1988’s platinum selling Blow My Fuse, Kix decided to hang it up in 1996 and pursue other ventures. Low and below, never did they know that the new millennium would breathe new life into the band and a swell of fans were itching to see the rockers on stage. Back together now over a decade, Kix have consistently toured across North America, exciting audiences and reminding everyone that true Rock-N-Roll never dies. Now releasing their first album in nineteen years titled Rock Your Face Off , this Maryland based band look to rattle the Hard Rock scene’s cage once again. Recently we sat down with guitarist Brian Forsythe for an in-depth look at the early years of Kix, reforming, recording a new album, living his musical dreams, and more.
CrypticRock.com – You formed Kix back in 1977 and the band really had a fantastic ride of success in the 1980’s with some great top selling records and most of building a legacy that has stood strong for over three decades. Looking back on it all now, how would you describe the years you have had with the band?
Brian Forsythe – It was a long run; I ended leaving back in 1993, but before that was like seventeen years with the band. There were a lot of ups and downs overall, but it is pretty much my childhood dream come true (laughs). To become a touring musician on Atlantic Records, not too many people get to experience that.
CrypticRock.com – That is truly amazing to get to live your childhood dream and be successful at it, what more could you ask for. The band’s biggest commercial successful was the powerhouse Blow My Fuse in 1988. That album in fact went platinum and is one of the most recognized in the band’s discography. What do you think made the record so magical and reach the level it did?
Brian Forsythe – With Kix it always seemed to be a matter of bad timing when we put a record out and I think that record was the most in-sync with what was going on. Another thing that really helped with that record I think is that we signed with new management right before that; our manager Mark Puma, who also managed Twisted Sister. Before that we had other managers, but they did not really know what to do with us and did not do a whole lot. Mark was really aggressive with putting a plan together that really worked. Other managers just relied on the record company to come up with a plan and the record company really did not know what to do either. They would throw the record out, then maybe put the single out and then think about a video. When we got Mark Puma involved, he knew the importance of having the video ready to go out with the single. Atlantic did a lot of things backwards in that department. They had a lot of records to handle and they did not really treat you as an individual. I think management had a lot to do with it and the timing of the record. Tom Werman did a great job with that record and was just a progression of the songwriting. There were a lot of factors involved.
CrypticRock.com – Timing is everything. You also have to have the right people behind you. As you mentioned you departed from the band back in 1993. The band went on for three more years and then took a break. Then in 2003 you, Steve, Jimmy and Ronnie reformed with Mark joining the fold. What inspired the reunion of the band?
Brian Forsythe – It initially started with Steve calling me and his band Funny Money, Donnie’s band Blues Vultures used to play shows together around the Maryland area, and at the end of the night Ronnie would get up Steve, Jimmy and Mark do a few Kix songs for the crowd. It was a big hit. He called me and said, “Hey, what would you think about making a surprise appearance and jumping up there with us?” I live in L.A. so I would have to fly back east and have to do this whole thing and that never worked out like that, but that got us talking about maybe really doing it instead of making it a thing at the end of the night. Why don’t we actually try and put the band back together and see what happens. That is really what it was, we had no idea it was going to keep on growing; we were going to do a few shows and that was going to be it (laughs).
CrypticRock.com – That is an interesting story. Obviously the reunion has worked out excellent as you have been received very warmly by fans. Now that it has been over a decade since you are back together, how does it feel to be rocking out Kix tunes again?
Brian Forsythe – It is great! I mean that was the thing, when we did those first shows it was right at the end of 2003 and around the holidays, we knew it was going to be some sort of success because we had not played in so long. We knew the Baltimore crowd was going to be there. That was so successful that we decided to do it again in September and that went successful as well. From there it was been steadily growing. Eventually we had to branch out of the Baltimore area and get a booking agent. I am eternally grateful that this has happened because before that I was just living out here in L.A., just playing around in a few bands, and I had a day job. It is nice to be back as a full-time working musician again and playing the songs. It is like riding a bike, as soon as we got back together everything just fell back into place and it was like we had never had broken up.
CrypticRock.com – Everything did fall into place. Obviously the chemistry was there since you played together so long. It seems like it was almost like starting over as you started back in your hometown of Baltimore and it grew bigger and you went abroad again.
Brian Forsythe – Yes because we had no idea. I think Steve was the most skeptical because he thought no one would remember who we were. It took a lot of convincing Steve that this was going to work. It is funny because the booking agent we hooked up with is from the east coast and he is a huge Kix fan. When I called him, he was so excited. I think that was a big factor because he has such an excitement for the band. The thing is people did remember. The first show we did outside the Baltimore area was in 2008 at Rocklahoma and when we did that it was just magical. Doing that show just opened Steve’s eyes that he said, “Oh yea this is pretty cool.” That got the ball rolling in the nationwide touring.
CrypticRock.com – It certainly has worked out great. As mentioned, it has been a decade since the band is active again but you have not put together new material since 1995’s $how Bui$ine$$ until now. The band recently released their new album Rock Your Face Off. What was the writing and recording process like for this new record?
Brian Forsythe – It was a long process actually. Again, when we had gotten back together we had no intentions of doing another record. We were just going to play the old songs, have some fun and make a little bit of money. For the longest time we did not even think about it and then people started asking us about it. What really brought it about was when they released the Frontiers Records DVD Live from Baltimore (2012); part of the contract was that we had to deliver a studio record. We signed the contract because we really wanted to get the DVD out. After we signed it we thought, “Oh wow, we have to actually do a record.” That is what got us really thinking about it. From there it was another year before we got the songs together. Everybody had ideas because a long time had gone by and everyone had songs lying around. We just threw everything into a big pile. I would fly into town a week early or stay a week later when we had a show in the Maryland area. I would stay at Mark Schenker’s house and we took this pile of songs, went through them, sorted them out, and narrowed it down to the ones that were most Kix-like.
Once we had got to that point, I reached out to Taylor Rhodes, I had reconnected with him on Facebook, and we all agreed that it would be really helpful to have an outside ear produce the thing and have his name associated with it. Taylor did the Hot Wire record and was also a songwriting partner. Taylor had an inside look at the way Donnie approached writing and that was one of the things we were most afraid of was doing this thing without Donnie. Donnie was the main songwriter; all of the old songs are Donnie’s except for a handful. It was a scary thing to take this on ourselves for once in the history of the band that it was the band writing the songs. Once we got the ball rolling like that, we started working on it and we went into this room with little amps and pounded out these songs and got the arrangements. Little by little it started to develop into something and the fear subsided. Then we realized that these songs are pretty good. Now looking back, now that it is done, I downloaded all these songs, put them on a CD, put it in my car, drove around and listened to them in the running order. I am really proud of this record and it turned out better than I thought it would.
CrypticRock.com – The record is very good. It is straight-ahead Rock-N-Roll classic Kix material. As you said, it had to be intimidating to go into the studio without Donnie for the very first time and write these songs on your own without him. You guys did a phenomenal job. How important was it for the band to stay true to those roots and not fall victim to current trends in Rock-N-Roll?
Brian Forsythe – That was very important. In fact that was one of my fears because everyone has their own influences and a lot has happened since the last Kix record. Mark Schenker, our bass player, comes from more of a Heavy Metal background so he loves all of that new stuff; we had to keep that out of there. There were a few song ideas thrown in there that were not Kix songs at all; songs that were tuned down to Drop D and all that kind of stuff, and that is just not Kix. Before Taylor even got involved, I was the filter that everything had to go through; my job was to keep it on the Kix track. Then when Taylor came in, he just focused me even more and it became Kix-like at that point.
CrypticRock.com – Te record captures that Kix-like sound. It is important to stay true to who you are. You see a lot of bands, when they come back and do a new record after a long hiatus; maybe sometimes it lacks something because they are trying to be something they are not. It is good to see that Kix did not do that.
Brian Forsythe – I think that would be a disappointment to fans if we came out with that modern sound; you cannot do that. My philosophy is once you start following the trend, you are dead. It is like you lost your identity. You have to do what is true to you.
CrypticRock.com – That is definitely the best approach to have. What are some of your musical influences?
Brian Forsythe – As a guitar player I was big into Southern Rock. I came up in the 60’s and 70’s; that is when I started playing guitar. There were a lot of musical changes in my lifetime so I have many influences. The first time I realized I wanted to be a musician was when The Beatles came around and that was way back in the early 60’s. The Beatles and then The Stones. Then it got a little heavier and I got into Cream, Eric Clapton, I like early Santana, The Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, ZZ Top, Humble Pie, and Steve Marriott; there is just so many. I mean that is how I learned to play guitar.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, all the Classic Rock now. That is some great music. It seems a lot of that music came from the soul as really sincere, gritty rock-N-Roll. Speaking about your influences, that is how Kix stood apart in the 80s; you did not follow the Hair metal trend. Kix stayed true to that straight-ahead Rock-N-Roll sound.
Brian Forsythe – Yes and I think the reason is both Ronnie and I are around the same age. We both came before all that stuff happened so our style was already set before Eddie Van Halen showed up. A lot of that 80s Hair Metal was kind of based on that Van Halen guitar style. Someone had asked me if I thought we would have made it further if we were located in Los Angeles. I think the fact that we were in Maryland. That kind of kept us in our own little bubble and not blend in with all the other 80s bands (laughs).
CrypticRock.com – That is a very good point because you look back at the Hollywood scene; the Sunset Strip had many talented bands, but a lot of them get lost in the shuffle over the decades. There is a distinct quality coming from the east coast really helps. My last question for you is pertaining to movies. CrypticRock.com covers music and horror films. If you are a fan of horror films what are some of your favorite horror films?
Brian Forsythe – (laughs) Oh yeah, I love Horror films. Some of my favorites are Dawn of the Dead (1978), Night of the Living Dead (1969); that movie was so low budget it made it feel like it was really happening, like somebody’s home movie. I think that was the cool thing but there have been so many good Horror movies. Even some of the bigger budget movies like when Alien (1979) came out; that movie scared me (laughs). I remember watching that in the theatre. I think I like the cheesier ones like the The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). I actually have a friend of mine; he does all the horror movies. He was in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986), he was in that Rob Zombie movie; Bill Moseley, he is a friend of mine. It was so funny because when I first met him I did not even know he was an actor. This guy Bill, he was a funny guy and he told me he was in Chainsaw Massacre 2 and I asked him which character, and then he says Chop Pop. To me that was the most memorable character from that movie; with the clothes hanger and he scratches it across the metal plate on his skull. I love that character that he played. It is cool to know Bill. I am going to have to go back and watch some of the other movies he was in.