By Michael Yanko
Rock Legends Photographers
Hosted by the Magic City Casino in Miami, the Classic Rock Legends Festival was a huge success and one of the best-run festivals we have ever been to. Special thanks to Kansas management and Phil Ehart for making time for a fun interview.
Q: You’ve been touring for about 40 years, who is your favorite band to tour with?
A: Well, that’s a good question. The band that we enjoyed the most touring with was Queen. That was the “Sheer Heart Attack” tour and we did 40 gigs with them, and then we came back and toured with them a year or so later and toured with them again. That was really enjoyable because our band was just starting to come into its own as far as being able to play with a headliner, and Queen was just starting to explode, and it was really exciting to watch them. It really helped us a lot because of the exposure that they were bringing in. Every night we would stand on the side of the stage and watch them play. That was really cool.
Q: What musician past or present would you like to jam with?
A: Hmmm. I don’t know why I’ve thought this in the past, but I’ve always wanted to play drums on a Foreigner song. I really like Foreigner and I really thought it would be cool to play drums on one of their songs. I’m not much or a jam guy, but Foreigner has great drumming songs, and they’ve always — out of their plethora of a million drummers — had great drummers, and the drum parts are always cool and the songs really rock. I always thought it would be fun to play with Foreigner.
Q: What was your funniest or most embarrassing moment on stage?
A: Wow, there’s a number of them (laughs), I think without a doubt at the end of song called “Miracles Out of Nowhere” I would reach around for my drum tech and a beater — a mallet for a gong — and swing it around and try and hit this gong and this bomb would go off behind the gong. Ya’ know, a real dramatic thing. This was back in the heyday with 20,000 people or whatever, and I reached around and grabbed it and as I turned the beater got caught in a glockenspiel that I had. It got caught, and I thought he was still holding on to it. I didn’t know it got caught, so I’m yankin’ on this thing as hard as I can thinking he’s holding on to it. The glockenspiel is going back and forth, and of course the song ended and I looked over and Steve Walsh, he was on his back from laughing so hard and I didn’t know what it had gotten caught on. Of course I’ve got like 6 super-troopers on me, every light in the house is on me and I’m sittin’ there jerkin’ on this thing. That was very very embarrassing. (laughs again)
Q: I understand you guys have a new album?
A: We do not. We have a documentary coming out. We have our 40th anniversary documentary that Sony is doing, but nothing new.
Q: Do you have a favorite band or artist that has come out in the last 10 years?
A: Foo Fighters! Love them!
Q: You guys were a big hit on the Rock Legends Cruise, did the band enjoy playing on the boat and mingling with the fans and everything?
A: (nods head) Yeah, we didn’t know what to expect. I’m not sure anybody did, but we really enjoyed it, we really enjoyed it, it was great! The way it was organized blew us away. It was so organized and so together. It was really windy so it was tough playing on the outside deck but other than that it was excellent! I’d recommend that to any band out there!
Q: Other than yourself, who’s your favorite drummer?
A: (laughs) I’m definitely not my favorite drummer. I have quite a few favorites, ya’ know, I really like Ian Paice of Deep Purple. I really Like Phil Collins. I like Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins from Foo Fighters, they’re great. I like Todd Sucherman from Styx; a lot of great drummers out there!
Q: What about back in the old days — the old drummers?
A: That was Ian Paice, he was “my guy”!
Q: We’ve been seeing a huge resurgence of the popularity of classic rock, and I’m sure that you guys have seen that too! How much of that would you attribute to social media?
A: Oh wow. I think the biggest resurgence of classic rock is classic rock radio. I think because until just a number of years ago that didn’t exist. It was kind of a time when bands like Kansas were fading out, then like MTV started stuff like that and some of our bands started coming back. Us, and Heart, and Foreigner, and Journey, and REO, ya’ know, Rush, and Styx. All of us that came up at the same time kind of went quiet there for a few years while radio tried to figure things out, then all the classic rock radio came out and we had a place for our songs to go, and we have been there ever since. YouTube has been great, that really helps us to get our live show out there too! Then you have things like movies, video games, commercials and stuff. That all helps, too.
Q: What is your favorite venue to play in?
A: Oh boy, good question, um, I don’t know. There’s so many that I like to play in, I don’t pay that much attention, um, Red Rocks, probably in Colorado, yeah, it’s an incredible place to play, but most of the time the audience is dark, the hall is dark, lit stage, so all I can see is the stage. As a matter-of-fact, many times I’ve gone to places we’ve played and sat out in the audience and said “wow, this is such a cool place” (laughs). We played Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. recently and that was a really cool place. Red Rocks is a natural amphitheater, it has two great big natural valley type things, ya’ know, red rock walls on either side and behind you, it’s just a natural amphitheater. It’s, it’s, it’s almost, um, it, it’s almost disconcerting to play there because you get so caught up in where you are that sometimes you forget what you’re actually doing. “Oh yeah, I’m playing!” God, for a second I was enjoying the sunset or something.
Q: And the last question I have is what advice would you give to a young drummer that wants a career in music?
A: Ehhhh. There really is no advice, it’s a, I would say, if you want to play any instrument and have a career in music, make sure you have fun. Make sure you have fun because there’s a pretty good chance you won’t be successful. And if you are not successful, that’s OK, you can always look back and say “I really had a good time, I really enjoyed playing in the band, and it was a lot of fun.” You don’t want to take it so seriously that, if by chance, you don’t make it that you become really bummed, and really disgruntled with the world, really down on yourself, you know, just have fun! If you make it, great, if not, you had fun!
Q: When did you know you were going to make it?
A: (smiles) I always knew. I always knew. Isn’t that weird? I, I, I knew! I knew! I don’t know why, but like, I wasn’t anything special. It’s not like we were in a music Mecca, we were out in the middle of nowhere. But I knew that if I could just get somebody to see this band, if I could just get somebody to see it, I knew that we’d have a chance.
This interview was reproduced as close as possible to the audio pulled from the video. Special thanks to JR and Kansas management, Phil Ehart, and everybody else that made this interview and concert possible.