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INTERVIEW: KERI KELLI of A NEW REVENGE – April 2019

| 20 April 2019 | Reply

According to a recent press release: “Supergroup is a term that has been diluted over time. Throwing a bunch of people from other bands into a new project doesn’t automatically make them Super, but their bio’s will tell you otherwise. It’s time to seek revenge and reclaim that word! A New Revenge is the very definition of a supergroup. One who’s members have more than earned their legendary statuses but also remain humble enough to let the music do the talking and not actually rely on the term. So who is out for A New Revenge? Featuring one of the finest voices in metal of all time, Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens (who’s voice is all over albums from Judas Priest, Iced Earthand Yngwie Malmsteen), one of the most versatile and name checked guitarists in rock Keri Kelli (Slash’s Snake Pit, Alice Cooper, Vince Neil Band and a hundred more) the most iconic bass player in heavy metal history, Rudy Sarzo (who’s work with Ozzy Osbourne, Dio, Whitesnake and many more has earned him an almost revered status in heavy music) and long time Scorpions drummer James Kottak (also from Montrose, Warrant, Kingdom Come & more).” We get guitarist / songwriter Keri Kelli to discuss new music, influences, and much more…

Toddstar: Keri, thanks so much for taking time out, man. As a fan of you and everything you’ve done in the past, this is a big honor for me.

Keri: Alright, well, hey, thank you, man. I’m just a kid just trying his best, man, I appreciate it.

Toddstar: Well, let’s start with the most recent news, A New Revenge. What can you tell us about the album that your fans might not grab the first or second time they listen through this thing?

Keri: Well, Enemies and Lovers is what it is, and it’s out today [March 29]. It came out worldwide this morning, and I think it’s a great record. I think everybody involved – the guys in the band, the guys that have mixed it and helped us co-produce it, Tommy Hendrickson – everybody did an exceptional job, and it’s some cool kind of catchy rock and roll, with cool guitar riffs, and Tim’s singing is amazing, and it’s a cool collection of songs, man. We really worked hard on it. We spent our time on it. We did it, actually, over a couple year period. It wasn’t something that we just kind of threw together in a month or two, like, “Hey, we got to write all these songs to do a record.” And we’re proud of it, and we’re happy it’s out, man!

Toddstar: This thing goes back to around the beginning of 2013 when you started doing stuff with James Kottak of the Scorpions. I think it was called Project Rock?

Keri: Yep, that’s it. I mean, that’s kind of how it started, around ’13, ’14, we kind of did a few shows with that band, and it was pretty much the same band. But at that time, you know, we just had an idea to have some fun, get some guys together that we’re all friends and stuff, and we were just playing kind of covers of the bands we were associated with – Scorpions, Alice [Cooper], Priest, Ozzy, et cetera. Everybody has home studios these days, so we kind of just started writing some demos here and there – or I kind of did, and I would send them over to Tim, and he would kind of do this thing with them, and we ended up writing 20-something songs; you know, a couple here, a couple every few months or whatever, and finally had enough that we really liked 12. We actually recorded 12 for the record; there’s a couple of bonus songs that are on iTunes and things like that. So it came out of the formation of that jam band, into now a real original project.

Toddstar: Well, and the thing that I love about these projects – you guys continue on with your “day jobs” while you’re going out and doing these collective things with friends of yours. These guys aren’t just your peers, they’re your friends as well. When it comes to a project like this, how do you guys delineate what songs are more fit for this than, say, you saying, “Oh, this is a Night Ranger riff?” Or James saying, “This is a Scorpions fill.” How do you guys delineate what belongs to what?

Keri: Well, it was kind of pretty simple, to be honest with you. I mean, when I was writing songs for the new Night Ranger, or the last Night Ranger record, let’s put it that way, you’re obviously thinking in that mindset or that world, like, what would fit Night Ranger, or what would Jack sing, or something like that. But with this project, for instance or even Alice, like on the Alice stuff that I wrote, you’re thinking, you know you’re in the Alice world or that mindset. How we did it was I would just write usually I’d write two or three little demo ideas, just music, sometimes some vocals and melodies, but some music ideas, et cetera and that I thought just sounded cool! It was just, “Wow, I think these are kind of cool.” I’d send them over to Tim, and then Tim would go, “Hey, I like that number song two was cool. I want to work on that.” So then he’d work on that particular one, send it back to me, then I would develop it more, and then James would usually come over, play some drums on it at my house – and like I said, we wrote 20-something songs and we narrowed it down to 12 that we recorded. But it was pretty easy, it was just riffs that I put together, and then Tim would kind of sift through them, and then we’d develop them further from there; so it was pretty easy and pretty free-flowing. There was no mindset on “We need heavy songs,” or “We need slow songs,” or anything. It was just ideas that were cool. It was just art, man. We were just creating music, and then everybody kind of put their two cents in.

Toddstar: Very cool. Well, you mentioned Enemies and Lovers, the album; there’s a title track on there. But the first couple of songs you guys kind of hit the ground running with were “The Way” and “Never Let You Go.” Was that a label decision to lead with those two tracks, or was that you guys collectively saying, “This is how we want to put our best foot forward.”

Keri: It was kind of like a collaboration with both of us, to be honest. I think those tracks are very strong, and I think we had about four songs that we were all kind of discussing or talking about for the lead tracks, I guess they kind of call them these days; you know, you don’t really have singles unless you’re Imagine Dragons or Beyoncé these days, but lead tracks, what tracks are you going to lead with. And so there was, like, four songs we were all talking about, and then it just turned out to be those two. And I think they’re two really cool tracks; “The Way” is edgier and then “Never Let You Go” obviously adds a little bit more of a catchy chorus, but I think they’re both cool tracks, man.

Toddstar: I love both of them. Actually, I love all the tracks that I’ve heard. And one thing that I thought was kind of cool in this day and age, especially, is you guys returning to that kind of 3:30 mode of a song.

Keri: Yeah, oh, I love it.

Toddstar: You guys are hitting the 3:30 per track. It’s not a full blown out opus; it’s also not a punk, jam-it-down-your-throat-in-two-minutes song either. Is that how you guys collectively decided to do this? Was it something you guys just laid it down the way it was, or that’s how the demos came out and you guys just rolled with it when you started recording?

Keri: Yeah, I mean, that’s pretty much how the demos came, you know. I mean, these days, like I said, everybody has home studios, most people. Pro Tools is usually the software platform of choice. I’ve been into recording for decades, and I was the always the guy in the band in the old days that had, like, the four track recorder, then an eight track, then 16, blah blah blah. So, you can edit things very easily these days. I like all kinds of rock music, but most songs that I grew up with and that I personally love and like, whether they’re heavier or softer, they are like three minute or three and a half minute rock songs. I mean, whether that goes back to Thin Lizzy or the Rolling Stones, you know? And that’s not to say you can’t have a longer song, but it’ just kind of how it came out, man. Intro, verse, three chord chorus – you know, hit it, man. Just cut out the crap.

Toddstar: I’d agree with that. Let’s go to day jobs for a minute. You’ve got your day job with Night Ranger, everybody’s got their thing. I know James is out there with the reboot of Kingdom Come. So it’s going to really impede the touring on this; is there anything in the works? Even throw some select dates where you’re going to hit where I am – Detroit – for us to be able to wrap our hands around this in a live situation.

Keri: Yeah, I mean, that’s one of the hardest parts when you get guys together, or friends together, that have so much other crap going on, is really trying to carve the time out to make something happen. And it is hard, honestly – the logistics and carving that time out; but we have been talking about, you know, the last month or so trying to get some things going for the fourth quarter, so it’s a ways away. And usually, I mean, even promoters in America – usually, you’re booking things three or four months out, but in Europe, which is where we primarily have played before – we’ve done European shows, Scandinavian shows, we’ve done a few different Russian tours and stuff, they usually book that stuff six or seven months out. So that’s why the fourth quarter is possibly what we’re looking at, to be honest with you.

Toddstar: Another cool day job you have, and you mentioned you just landed in Vegas… let’s talk about Aces and Ales for a minute. I think you’re on a second, working on third location now?

Keri: That is exactly right, yeah. I mean, Aces and Ales… the number one craft beer destination of Las Vegas, man. We’ve been doing it for over 10 years, we opened our first location, and second location’s been about six and a half years and we are building a brand new location now that’s going to be awesome. It’s going to be the same concept, so it’s going to have a scratch kitchen, which means all the foods are made from scratch every single day, every sauce. The only things we’re not making from scratch are the cows, but everything else is made from scratch. No freezers, and then obviously very craft beer-focused. It’s just something I’m passionate about – we have no BMC beer. BMC beer is an industry term for Bud/Miller/Coors, it’s easier to just say BMC. And our new operation, though, is going to encompass a brewery, as well; so we’ll be brewing our own beer and supplying that to Vegas, so very excited about that. It’s something, like I said, I’ve been doing for… it’s been about 11 or 12 years since we actually started the project, but we’ve been open 10+ years, and it’s awesome, man. Aces and Ales, if you’re ever out in Las Vegas and you want some great food and great craft beer, come on down.

Toddstar: Let’s talk about your catalog for a second, Keri, here personally – because again, with A New Revenge, you’ve got the one disc, so we can wrap our hands around that. You, hands down, played on one of my favorite CDs of all time. I still spin it, it never got the appreciation it should have, in my opinion – Saints of the Underground. That album, was above and beyond anything else coming out at the time. You played with guys like Jani Lane , Bobby Blotzer, and Robbie Crane. You’ve got this band. What’s it about your catalog, where you’re able to blend and jump in and out with so many of these guys, and still like yourself album after album after album? You don’t seem to morph into another sound.

Keri:  don’t know, to be honest with you. I just kind of do what I do, and that’s what I’ve been doing for all these decades, you know, especially the last, say, 20+ years that I’ve been playing. I guess, professionally, is what they call it. But I’ve just been doing the same thing I always do, and that album as well… it kind of formed exactly the way that A New Revenge came together. Myself and Bob Blotz on drums, and Robbie and Jani had a jam band; we just call them jam bands, because we would just go out and play on the West Coast, or Phoenix and Vegas and San Diego, and things like that, and play songs that we liked. I mean, we’d play some Warrant songs. We’d play a couple of Ratt songs, and we’d play Thin Lizzy, you know, Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, whatever it may be… and it was just all about having fun, getting together with friends, and then it started to just develop the same way a couple of years later. “Hey, let’s write some songs.” So Jani and I just got together, same thing, at my house – the same studio that we recorded most of the A New Revenge record, and just banging out ideas. But that’s really what it’s all about; I just do what I do, those guys do what they do, and we were just friends hanging out and just creating music, you know? It’s not hard; it’s just fun, man, and so it’s kind of the same way A New Revenge came about.

Toddstar: Very cool. I’ve seen you with Night Ranger. I’ve seen you with Alice, and I can pick your pings and squeals. You put your own stamp on everything, which is kind of cool.

Keri: Yeah, I don’t even know what I’m doing. I’m just doing it. I just do what I do, my man.

Toddstar: Building on that, who influenced you from a live perspective, because it’s cool to watch you on stage. You’re not just a stand there kind of guy. Who kind of influenced your live performance?

Keri: Again, I don’t know what I’m doing, but I mean, guys that I really like… Keith Richards, I think, is the one of the coolest guys of all time; obviously, he doesn’t get around as great as he used to, but man, he is just one of the coolest. You know, obviously, I’ve played with Slash, as well, and he was a great… besides a peer, I mean, incredible influence on me… just coming into that literally 20 years ago, and he has a cool presence, and he rocks the house. But I mean, all those kind of guys, you know… like I said, I don’t know if they were necessarily as energetic as I am, and I don’t even know why I do it, but dudes like Joe Perry obviously; Slash was awesome; Keith Richards is the ultimate; and again, I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m just doing it, man. And other people that are entertainers, because I want to entertain the people, man; I mean, I want people to have a good time. They paid for tickets. They’ve driven there. They paid for dinner, beers, whatever it may be. You know, I want to have fun when I’m playing, and I want the people to have fun, you know. I mean, one of the greatest entertainment groups there are, and I think they have great music as well, is, of course, you know, the legendary KISS. They put on a great show, I mean, all the guys in the band, man. So, I think it’s just a combination of entertaining people and all those people that I just spoke of … and then when the house lights go off, I just do it; whatever it is, I do.

Toddstar: You’ve mentioned so many names that you played with, and we could go on and on, and talk about the names, but I’d like to know: when’s the last time you felt like you were starstruck, Keri?

Keri: It’s weird, I’ve never really been; I was just trying to think of, like, in the old days or something. When I was a kid, when I met some people – I cannot remember the exact instance right now – but, you know, when I was like a teenager, they have this show called the Nam Show in Orange County, so I would always go to that, and I would see these guys, like, “Oh my, there’s Eddie Van Halen!” You know, at 15 years old, you were kind of like, “Wow, that’s cool.” But once I kind of got into it, and you start playing or meeting guys in other bands, it’s strange, you kind of just realize they’re just regular dudes, of course, that just play music and they like to have a good time playing and hanging out… drink some beers, or whatever. I mean, it’s the weirdest things have happened over the last 25 or 30 years. I mean, one weird thing, it was just by chance we were jamming, and we were getting ready to do this Alice show and Johnny Depp was jamming with us, and we went over to Johnny’s house to rehearse, and then while we were in his little room, it’s kind of like a bedroom, it’s a cool studio, but it was a small little room, it wasn’t like some big studio. And then we were jamming for a while, and somebody was like knocking on the door. They opened up the door, I think Tommy opened the door, I can’t remember who it was, but at the door was Joe Perry! I had never met him before at that point, and this is probably about 10 years ago. He just had stopped by for the hell of it, and so then he was just sitting there on the couch right where we were jamming, and then he wanted to jam! So it’s like weirdo things like that you never think are going to happen! Or, at Slash’s house, we were just hanging out, and the phone rings, and Keith Richards is calling! Back then, they had a switchboard operator, and they would call, and they’d go, “Hey, Line 1 is whoever!” And it was like, “Hey, Slash on Line 1, Keith Richards!” And you’re like, “This is kooky, man.” It’s weird, you know?

Toddstar: On the opposite of that coin, what’s it like for you when you get a fan … and I’m not above it, but … when you get a fan coming up saying, “Oh, my God. I love you. I love what you do,” and they’re kind of starstruck by you?

Keri: I just thank them, you know what I mean? Maybe they have something they want signed, or I may have some guitar picks in my pocket. Or take a picture – these days everybody has a phone, of course. I just try to treat them great; I mean, I don’t even think of it. I think it’s cool, you know? Again, I’m happy that they like what I do, and I just try to accommodate them.

Toddstar: You’ve been in so many projects, and again, A New Revenge is a killer new project. What’s it about this project that, in your opinion, feels different – not necessarily better – than other projects you’ve been in, to where you want to push this to the next level?

Keri: Well, I just think all of the things I’ve been involved in – you know, you mentioned Saints, or the other bigger acts, the Alice and whatever – when you’re in that Alice world, man, it’s like you’re in your own big Alice bubble. It’s awesome. So, I mean, every big project’s been rad, you know? But I mean, this is really cool; like I said, we just started this out as buddies, just like the Saints, as I told you jamming some cool music, having some fun times, sharing some cool meals, drinking some beers, playing cool music and then we just developed these songs over time for fun! We didn’t have a record deal, or we didn’t have any money thing. We were just doing it for the love of creating music, and here we are. So that’s really what it’s all about, and I think it’s cool that the album is out now today, and seeing the light of day, and hopefully people like what we put together! You know? It’s really that simple.

Toddstar: If they listen to it front to back, and they’re like me, they’re like going to every track on the disc. That’s the best part of this disc, is there’s no filler, in my opinion. How hard is it for you guys to go through the 20+ tracks that you put together and decide on the 12 that you did record? And kind of put the rest aside and say, “Eh, they just didn’t cut it.”

Keri: That is tough, because you know, when you write them and then some tracks you kind of know, or you go, “Man, this track is frickin’ killer,” you know, and everybody’s on board. You know, some tracks you still think are cool, because you worked on them; you put a lot of time into it, and like, “Oh, hey, let’s rewrite the chorus,” or this or that; so you feel connected to them. But it’s good to have a little influence, you know, and I don’t know how we really narrowed it down. I mean, Tim has a really good year, and he was really helpful in putting some things aside. But I worked on the tracks a lot, because I kind of started them as little demos, and with drum loops and shit like that, so to me, it’s kind of like they’re all your little kids and you worked on them so much, you kind of like them all. But I think Tim really did a great job at weeding them out, and I think we came up with a good chunk of tunes, and that doesn’t say that maybe some of these other tunes, we might rework and come on the next record. I just keep writing tunes and keep developing things; but Tim really had a part in kind of weeding them through, weeding them down.

Toddstar: Well, I know you’re busy, I know you’ve got stuff to do, so I’ve got a couple more for you if you don’t mind. Looking back over your career, is there a situation or a moment that you wish you could redo? Not that it would necessarily change the outcome, but you just would like another crack at it?

Keri: No regrets, man. I think that I’ve been very fortunate, man. I mean, I don’t think I’ve done anything too crazy! Honestly, in all the things I’ve done in music, and different projects or bands or whatever you want to call them, I just try my best, you know. I want to do the job that I’m there to do, and have a good time doing it, especially after all these years. That’s really more of what it’s about, you know. Obviously, in the early days, I’m still hungry and I still want to strive for things, but when you’re a kid, you’re really, “Oh, my God, we got to do this, do that. I got to get better,” or whatever it may be. But now, after doing this for, like I said, over two decades, you know, it’s a job. Of course, music business, music and entertainment business – but I just want to have fun playing, and I want to have a good time with the people that I’m doing it with. And that’s what we did with A New Revenge, and also what we do with Night Ranger; all those guys are friggin’ incredible. They love playing together still after all these years, 35+ plus years – Kelly, Brad, and Jack, now myself, and Eric – it’s fun, man. They love creating music, as well, man; so those are the kind of guys that I want to be around… the guys in A New Revenge, the guys in Night Ranger… you know, that aren’t bitter or doing it for ulterior reasons, monetary excuses or whatever. Like I said, of course, it is a job, but I want to have fun, and they want to have fun, as well; so that’s really what it’s all about for me.

Toddstar: Keri, I know you’ve got so much going on. And again, I, as a fan of you, cannot wait to grace the stage with Night Ranger here in Detroit in May. I can’t wait ’til you guys pull A New Revenge dates together and hit some live dates hopefully here in Detroit.

Keri: Awesome!

Toddstar: And I can’t wait ’til just the world is able to embrace A New Revenge’s Enemies and Lovers, which came out today.

Keri: Thank you, man! Hey, I appreciate you doing this, and I hope to see you out there with the Sammy Hagar, man, look for me! I’ll throw you a pick!

Toddstar: Sounds good, brother.

Keri: Alright, man, take it easy, brother. Have a good day out there.

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Todd ‘ToddStar’ Jolicoeur

Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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