The Metal Minute Awarded 2009 Best Personal Blog By Metal Hammer Magazine

Monday, April 04, 2011

Take 5 With Lenny Wolf of Kingdom Come

The Metal Minute: I was at the Monsters of Rock in 1988 when Kingdom Come opened the festival with Dokken, Metallica, Scorpions and Van Halen. One of my favorite concerts ever. I remember you guys having a solid set, but as the festival began in the late morning, people were still milling in as Kingdom Come was playing. As you recall that festival, what are some of your memories, good or bad? I can imagine there being great camaraderie with the Scorps, whom I thought ruled that tour.

Lenny Wolf: Sometimes or rather often it takes awhile before one realizes what a great thing just happened. That explains my situation. What a groovy experience it was being part of such a traveling fun circus. Life at its peak, coming from Europe and seeing all of the United States from the best point-of-view imaginable. Besides that great moment on stage, it was mainly all those little things on the side which still make me think back with a huge smile on my face. I remember meeting lots of great, warm-hearted and overly-nice folks throughout the tour. All the barbecuing and jet skiing with locals while the circus was traveling to the next city. Not forgetting to mention the sheriff taking us backstage with his helicopter after having had a fantastic meal with his sweet family. I don't wanna bore you with those cliché remarks like "the babes" were fantastic, blah blah blah. Thanks God for letting me live through it. (laughs) The only "bad" thing I can think of was, having to open our set at 2 pm in the morning (for me at least). That was a real pain having to torture my vocal right after breakfast. Being the opening band, no complaint from my end, but we would have enjoyed playing longer, especially as you correctly mentioned, with the people still coming in while we were already playing. Regarding the other bands, I remember Metallica and Dokken being the more relaxed guys in terms of hanging out. Not that we did it a lot, due to the very different traveling itineries.

MM: Tell me about working with Bob Rock on Kingdom Come's debut album. He certainly had the Midas touch in getting the band launched worldwide as he has for many breakout bands of the day, but do you feel in retrospect he helped give Kingdom Come a fighting chance in a market that chewed you guys up as much as it initially welcomed you?

LW: Funny how well you put it into words, but very true. (laughs) Bob was heaven- sent to us. He did not wanna change any of us or try to squeeze us into any particular style. He just knew how to get the most out of each player without any struggling going on. Also privately, a great guy. I will never forget him asking me "Are you sure we can go to a strip joint in the middle of the recording?" We were his first band which he "produced," not just being the guy throwing the switches, and therefore not having to ask anybody for permission anymore. (laughs) Bob's definitely got the Midas touch, not just for us, but as many of us know, he "made Metallica." I do regret not having waited for Bob with the second record. He was busy doing Metallica and after all that Zep blah blah blah, we wanted to prove our point as soon as possible by making the second record fast and therefore, we settled for Keith Olson, who did a great job for Whitesnake. He did not have the Midas touch for us--or mainly my modest self.

MM: (laughs) With Rendered Waters, this is your 13th album as Kingdom Come, though most people are unaware of the fact you've kept plugging along over the years. In your time keeping Kingdom Come afloat, what has been your hardest and your easiest tasks in raising awareness to the band?

LW: There is only so much an artist can do. A lot has to do with timing, the right demand, being at the right place surrounded with the right people. Or maybe in a short cut, destiny. The days where a "good song" always got a fair chance are over. There are those lucky breakthroughs, which are very rare nowadays. With the new technology around--speaking of home recording--soon we have more new releases than we have citizens on this planet. That makes it harder to get noticed unless you're already mega-big. Success to me is a relative thing to look at. I don't think that several million dollars more would make me any happier than I am right now. Without wanting to sound too cosmic now, true happiness and experiencing fulfillment truly lies within yourself, not in your wallet! Or how do you explain so many rich people being so fucked up and miserable?

Of course from an artist's point of view, it is always nicer to play in front of packed houses, but as my manager used to say, you gotta roll with the punches, and keep going! We were unable to build a massive following since the band just took off two years before the Seattle sound killed everything coming from the eighties or even the seventies. That did not make it any easier to continue, but who am I to complain after having achieved what I did already? Life is good. I can only continue my mission which is called Kingdom Come, or maybe other routes which I may not be aware of right now. I will hold up the flag, as long as I can get some sensible sounds out of my vocal chords. Whether it may remind people more into Zep, Madonna or Santa Claus, I'll do my thing, minding my own business and hoping for more fans to come around the corner. Hallelujah.

MM: Right on! Rendered Waters is built upon eight re-recordings of past material and three new tracks. You especially took a heavy slice out of 1990's Hands of Time and the lesser-known tracks from Kingdom Come instead of redoing the obvious choices such as "Get it On" and "Can You Feel It." I think the re-recordings of "Can't Deny," "I've Been Trying," "Seventeen" and particularly "Should I" came out great, as if you really wanted your audience to give these tunes a second chance. What was your core logic in choosing songs from your back catalog to re-interpret on Rendered Waters?

LW: This is something I have been thinking about over the last 3-4 years already. Especially since the band has played them with a different attitude throughout the years, which is something I wanted to capture. Also, the hearing habits have changed quite a lot over the last years. I wanted to give some of my favorite songs a second chance to see the light at the end of the tunnel without ruining the red threat of the old versions. I'm just carrying them into the year 2011. I purposely stayed away from our hits to avoid another blaming phase from the smart press people saying, "Now Lenny wants to cash in on his past." I proved my point with the last 12 records, which unfortunately many of you Americans are not so well-aware of, but the days of having to justify anything are certainly over. This is my calling and not a job.

MM: The new songs on Rendered Waters give us a broader scope of what you're up to songwriting-wise, such as the cheery swing of "It is Fair Enough," the heavy melancholia on "Don't Remember" and the stamping blues rawk of "Blue Trees." For the omnipresent gauntlet of critics razzing Zeppelin over your head throughout the years, what do you want these new cuts to say about Kingdom Come's approach in 2011? Also, why is it so many bands over the years are embraced for cloning AC/DC, yet your band was chastised over your Zep affinity? Do you feel that's gross misconduct?

LW: Thanks for the cool descriptions of the first three songs. When I write, I don't have any "concepts" or "master plan" in mind. During the writing and recording process I'm in a very fragile but frantic frame of mind, having a hotline to the big guy upstairs guiding me more or less through that creating process. It is a very pure and innocent phase. A CHILD AT WORK! Not more and not less.
Being compared to the almighty Zep at first was a compliment, even though I never saw such huge similarities as many have said. I'd rather be compared to them than two million bands trying to sound like Metallica or Nirvana, but hey, every artist, whether you're a painter or a musician, has been influenced by someone in his or her early stages in life.

That's were you (we) start off and hopefully someday being able to make progress into maturing your style and it finally having found your own sound, or at least vibe. Especially as a vocalist, I can only sound like Lenny. I hate when critics look at records like we're running for a political party. Art should always be commented upon as: "Not my cup of tea," not in right or wrong categories, since every human being is perceiving sounds and pictures differently than others. There are so many bands which I think should have never released a ton. That shows that whatever we think we know, may just be the opposite to others.

Copyright 2011 Ray Van Horn, Jr./The Metal Minute

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