April 14, 2005
RNRA: How did you become interested in music? When did you start singing?
RK: I think music is a part of us all, especially when we’re children – I just never grew out of it. What little kid doesn’t like to sing and make noise? My first true epiphany was seeing The Beatles on TV when I was about two years old, that galvanized my goals immediately: I wanted to sing and play from that day on, and did. I have sung all my life, and actually learned to sing well by the time I was in my early twenties…started playing guitar at age six, drums at nine, and a few other instruments along the way.
RNRA: Did you take any music classes in school?
RK: Any and all of them – band, orchestra, jazz band, music theory, guitar class, chorus. I loved every minute of it, learned a lot of invaluable lessons and had some great times.
RNRA: When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
RK: There was never any doubt which path my life would take. I feel fortunate to have always known what I wanted and where I was going. I have sometimes taken the road less traveled, taken some detours along the way to explore some new territory, but the destination has always been the same.
RNRA: Did your family support your decision to become a musician?
RK: My father had been a musician, and my mother was a helluva singer, and in the early years they tried to discourage me because they knew that this business will chew you up and spit you out, and the chances of getting really successful are slim to none. But they put up with a lot; I played very loud, all day every day practicing, and they never complained as long as I stayed out of trouble…which for the most part I did. I always had strange freaky friends coming over to jam with me in various bands. I left home very young – at sixteen – to go on the road and never came back. Then when I made it, and my band was called KEEL, my folks were extremely proud and it was wonderful to share those times with them.
RNRA: Describe your music before joining Steeler.
RK: I loved all kinds of music, and I played all kinds of music. I wrote what I felt, and some of it sounded like The Eagles and some of it sounded like Judas Priest. I’ve always liked songs that I could play by myself, on an acoustic guitar – on the porch, around a campfire. But I also have a deep appreciation for music that can rattle the walls of an arena.
RNRA: Which musicians are most inspiring to you? Why?
RK: Eddie Wilson, from “Eddie & The Cruisers”. I don’t care if he is a fictional character, those two movies had a serious impact on me. Gene Simmons from KISS, who produced my first two major albums, became an inspiration to me after we worked together – he taught me a lot of valuable lessons about both music and business that have become integral parts of my professional philosophy.
RNRA: Is there any certain person that you idolize?
RK: My father. Roy Keel was an incredible man, tough and strong and fearless, hard-working and hard partying. Generous, funny, could play and sing, cook, build houses, fix any mechanical problem with duct tape and baling wire, and drive a two wheel drive truck straight up the side of a mountain with a cigarette in one hand and a beer in the other.
RNRA: Who played the first concert you went to?
RK: KISS, Destroyer tour. Styx was the opening act. I was blown away, down in the front row all covered in Gene’s blood. I caught a Gene Simmons guitar pick that night – I think it’s cool that seven years later I was in the studio working with him on “The Right to Rock” album.
RNRA: What’s in your CD player right now?
RK: The new single from my new project KEEL & WAYNE – the song’s called “I Gave It All To You”, and we’ve just finished the video. I usually listen to stuff I’m working on, and when I’m on the road I listen to sports talk radio. My brain usually has four or five songs going on at any given time, it’s like having an I-pod on my shoulders that I can’t shut off.
RNRA: Do you like to read? Any favorite authors/books?
RK: I am always in the middle of a good book. I spend all my life entertaining, and in return I have an insatiable need to be entertained – mainly by books, movies, sports. My favorite author is Michael Connelly, simply the undisputed master of crime fiction. My favorite book of all time is “The Children Of First Man” by James Alexander Thom – historical fiction.
RNRA: What one thing about you would surprise most people?
RK: If I told you I’d have to kill you. But apparently many people are surprised by the fact that I’m just a down to earth guy who hasn’t been overly affected by either my successes or my failures, just a music man with a lot of stories to tell and a lot of songs to sing. People expect me to be either egotistical about what I’ve accomplished, or bitter about the things in my career that didn’t go my way, but I have managed to stay on an even keel, so to speak.
RNRA: Your favorite IronHorse song is “Haunted Saloon.” Why?
RK: It is very rewarding personally to create such a great piece of work. The lyric is one of the best I’ve ever written – it stands on it’s own, as poetry, as a story, even without music. And the music is brilliant, fusing a blues riff with country and heavy metal, the arrangement, the instrumentation; put it all together and this is one of the few songs of my career that deserves the description ‘epic’. After 25+ albums, I’ve learned to appreciate those magical gems like “Haunted Saloon” and realize how rare and special they are. I just love that song.
RNRA: What direction will IronHorse and Keel & Wayne be headed in for this year?
RK: I rarely make New Year’s resolutions, but this year I vowed to work harder than ever before and stay busier than ever before. What was I thinking – I really have bitten off more than I can chew maintaining both projects. But this is the only life I’ve got, and I plan to spend it singing and playing music. So I’m going to be on the road full time all the time, and going in whatever direction the road takes me.
RNRA: Any words of advice for aspiring musicians?
RK: Don’t skip over the basics of either music or business. I know you want to just strap on the guitar and collect your million bucks and receive all the applause and accolades you feel are coming to you, but you’ve got to at least have the patience to work on your craft and increase your knowledge of the business you’re in. Other than that, just follow your heart and follow your dreams, and let the music be it’s own reward.
RNRA: What are your future plans?
RK: As I said, I’m going to be on the road with Keel & Wayne AND IronHorse this year, and releasing some album projects – a Steeler Anthology is set for release in Europe and Japan on June 27, and the first Keel & Wayne CD is in the works. I am continuing to contribute music to major TV shows, this season has been especially cool with songs in “Desperate Housewives”, “King Of The Hill”, “NCIS”, and several CMT shows. I have spent the last couple of years attempting to release a comprehensive anthology of songs from throughout my career, and I hope to release this in the near future. I’m just going to keep on working, keep on singing and playing, and living the only way I know how.
RNRA: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
RK: Thanks to all those who have made my music a part of their life, and I hope they will continue to listen and enjoy what I do. Hang out with me on line at http://ronkeel.com, http://keelandwayne.com, & http://www.ironhorseband.com. Thanks for having me on Rock N Roll Access…
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