KEVIN CHALFANT - The Ignition Interview
G'Day Kevin, Ok mate, here goes with some interview questions.
First up - Two Fires' new album Ignition is due out in a couple of weeks. Here's your chance to pitch to the fans why they need to buy this record!
Ignition sees you team with Josh Ramos again, a long time buddy - you two have a great chemistry together, how has this developed since you first teamed with him on the first Storm album?
Actually, Josh and teamed up before the Storm. We did many recordings together starting with TheVU. Our relationship is like any other band or family. We make great music together, but do not always see eye to eye...he is much taller than I am :^)
At what point did you two decide to start a project again together?
I had been having conversations with Frontiers. They asked me to make a CD for them. I called Josh and asked him if he would play on it. He was as frustrated with The Storm parked in dry dock as I was. We were back in the musical swamp together.
How do you carry out the recording process? I know you have your own studio - does Josh stay with you for the duration of the recording?
Josh flies to Chicago where we pick him up from the airport. We drive him to Grand Ridge. He usually pitches his camp at my studio now. Before I built my new studio, he would be a guest in my home. I would usually wake him every morning with a rousing military wake up call.
Do you enjoy the time spent in the studio crafting out a record, or does it have it's frustrating side?
Yes and no. I love the writing part, you know that Andrew. You have watch Jim and I in action. It flows like a river, or it drips like a leaky faucet. We try to keep good attitudes, but sometimes tempers flair up. When you are cooped up in the studio night and day, the body needs a break, so we go to a show or a club or something.
I know you are a wonderful songwriter - is the writing process more enjoyable than the recording process?
What really makes my day, is when the two come together. You have your ideas - you make them into tones - the marriage together on tape or hard disc-they become your children and you send them out into the world as your personal ambassadors of your musical emotions.
You co-wrote with Jim Peterik on one track for the first album, but on 7 tracks for the new album. You two make a great team - why do you seem to work so well together? Similar aims/beliefs?
Jim would want me to say something like, "Great minds think alike". It is true in a sense. We have been raised on WLS-Chicago. That station was the number one radio station in the country (USA) for decades. Jim's first major hit was broke into hugeness through that station. I used to sleep with the radio playing next to my head every night as a kid.
I think that is how I learned to sing. Jim and I are like neighbors. He lives about an hour away. I love going there, he hates coming here.
I live in the country-far from the cell-phone-mania of Chicago. We jam on gigs together and enjoy the laughs. Keeping it light and not too confining. He respects my musical slants and I his. What more is there to say?
We are cut from the same music cloth.
For those that don't know, I spent some time with you and Josh and Jim in Manchester 2000. I think seeing you two work together was just extraordinary.
It would have been very cool of you to think of bringing a video camera as a documentary. Jim had a little pocket recorder and we just filled tape after tape in Liverpool. There is truly music flowing through the air in that town. No wonder the Beatles are so huge. They just wrote it all down as it came to them. We did the same thing. I know that this CD has some magical moments, at least for me.
It is like visiting old friends that I haven't seen in a while.
Gregg Rolie is there in Rhythm of the World, so is Carlos Santana. In spirit that is.
Even in a taxi-bus on a day trip out, you started things off with one line and a brief melody and before long Jim had his tape recorder out and you two had a song half written in no time!
I have never seen anything like it!!
Andrew, you must get out more often. Don't you have many places to go down under? Here we have the Discovery Channel on television. Takes you to many corners of the world. Just kidding...thank you!!
We just did what we do and didn't really think anything of it.
Did that song make this album?
Rhythm of the World & Man I Want to Be, to name a couple.
On Ignition you have made a gutsy decision to vary the style of the songs more than ever. I think that really worked. Did you set out to do this, or was it a natural thing?
Andrew, I can't spend my life with my undies in a knot worrying about the critics.
I do respect many of them, but most of them just bad mouth for the shock value. I wrote the songs as the moods of the day came to me. I must say to those who have the critical corner, look at the world through your own eyes.
What you see-is what you write. Not everyone likes my work, I can except that.
I did not like everyone's work either. I am a song guy. I find myself searching for the chemistry in a tune. Cause and effect.
That is why I enjoy writing with Jim and Gregg Rolie too. They understand the crafting of the words to cause an effect on people listening. Josh is more of a musical guy, not a lyricist per say. Jim is a good man to bounce lyrics off of.
He is honest too. If something sucks...it sucks. No sugar pills. Just change it now! I like that. I am like that as well. Not chocolate covered manure.
Tracks like More Than A Mystery are pure 80's...then I See Red is quite aggressive, through to the wonderful sentimental ballad The Man I Want To Be....
Did the songs themselves turn out better than hoped?
When we are writing, we start building a schematic for each song. Sometimes that changes as parts begin falling place on tape. It is much like cooking. You can follow the age old recipe or you can experiment. We did a little of both here. That is why some songs are a bit less reverbed as others. Thus making the tracks sound more honest-as if you are sitting in the room with the band verse in an auditorium. I think that can get a little over done. My motto for this CD was and is...
Less Reverb-More Talent!
What are your favorite songs on the album?
Not a fair question to ask a parent. Which one of your children do you like the best...they all know how to read???? No comment. What is more important is What songs do you like Andrew???
Well, Iike Ignition, Man I Want To Be, I See Red
I noticed you have a different set of players on the lead title track Ignition. How did that come about?
This is a touchy situation. Frontiers asked me what the title of the CD should be. I wrote down several titles in the next few day. When I spoke to Serafino on the phone, he asked me again.
I told him "Ignition" AHHH! I heard him gasp, that's it! He ran it by Mario and Giulio and Luigi and Carmello and Vido and....all the rest of those Italian names and they said...Ignition it is!
Well, now knowing the name of the CD, I started looking at the songs closer. How can I tie the name of the CD in with the existing music? I thought to myself, I need a title track. But Josh had left already for the west coast. He was working with Mr. Fleishman on his CD. I started searching. I asked Jim to collaborate, but he was committed to another project, Mecca.
So I asked my other co-writer of My Love Will Be There-Chuck Giacinto if he had any ideas. He played me a rough track. I liked it. He burned me a copy and I took it back to my studio and began rewriting it. Chuck came to the studio and we rewrote it again. Then Jim Peterik came to the studio and loved it as well, but we re-wrote some parts again. Jim took it home and called me the next morning with yet another rewrite. We ended up with what you hear. I pulled the players together and bang...we knocked it out. This is the music business, what ever it takes. Michael Garnder played the solo, Alby Odum (collaborator on the Debut Two Fires CD and bassist at the gods 1999) came in and played rhythm guitar on the tune. Kenny Aronoff pounds the beat, Rick Powell played the bass, Chuck Giacinto played the keys, Michael Higgins and Tony DiLucianno and myself did the background vocals and Josh was a little pissed.
I sometimes must do what it takes to complete the project. I am sure that Josh would have preferred being the solo man on the tune, but the situation did not lend itself that way. Frontiers loved the track and did not see it as a problem that Josh did not play on the tune.
What are the worst aspects and biggest frustrations of working in the melodic rock scene these days?
The budgets or the lack of them.
And the biggest rewards?
Fans sending emails directly to me disagreeing with "The Critics"
..you asked.... :^) !
I rate the Two Fires show at the Gods 2000 as one of the best shows I have ever seen - it was just electrifying. Does crowd reaction like that make any frustrations worthwhile?
Those moments were brief. I was in a world of pain with my neck injury just days before. There was a chance that I may not make the trip. Frontiers called me 50 times. Every website said Two Fires will not appear. I call my doctor, we met, he said no.
I said I must, give me pain medication and muscle relaxers. He was not pleased with my decision, but help me make the trip.
So, with ice packs on the planes and meds in the bag...we started off. I did not even rehearse with the band. They had all met in a Chicago soundstage for several days, checking in with me daily. I could not do it. The day came to leave, my wife Judy and my children took me to the airport. You should have seen the look on the bands face when I walked into the International ticket area. They said, "We didn't think you were coming". The show must go on. I didn't want Serafino and Mark Ashton to have to get up in front of thousands of people and have to tap dance with hats and canes to make up for my loss. I couldn't do that to them. With much prayer support and some very powerful medication...we made the trip and it was well worth it.
We saw the faces of that crowd and some even from Chicago and it was like being home. It was truly magical with all of the talent on that stage.
I am hoping for a repeat performance this year?!!
I just played a show last weekend with Jim Peterik's World Stage. I spoke to Kelly Keagy about doing a tour of that line up. He is up for it, if it is done properly. Gods-fest, I don't know. I surely do not want to burn that out year after year. I would much rather tour to more cities and visit fans where they are-instead of making them travel half way across the sky to see me.
You covered a few of Jim's Survivor songs with gusto that night - including anything like that, what are your favourite songs to perform live?
On a good night.....Show Me The Way, You Keep Me Waiting, My Love Will Be There.
What off the new album will you look forward to performing?
I am now rehearsing the touring band. "I See Red" is smoking, "Ignition" is hot, Man I Want To Be, More Than A Mystery.
Are there any live dates planned for the release of Ignition?
We are collecting dates at this time. Some offers have been entertained in Europe as well. Japan is a focus for me personally. We have been working hard to make Japan the next stop.
The Storm was of course another chapter of your long career - was it frustrating again to see the second album sit in limbo for a few years?
Andrew, Limbo is way nicer than HELL. I have been in hell at times in my life. Being limbo is not as bad. I can live with that as long as I am busy. I learned that you can't sit on your butt waiting for the world to come to you. Your heart only gets so many beats, then it's over. What you make of yourself in life is what you leave as your legacy. It can be the size of a thimble or as vast as a fortress.
I know you get asked this a lot - but do you see any chance of a re-union anytime for a third record? After all, you and Josh work together and Gregg and Ron Wikso still work together also...
You are asking the wrong person. You are in a sense...singing to the choir. Ask Gregg why were not making records together. Ron wants to, Josh wants to, Kevin wants to, even Ross would most likely. Gregg Is doing his own thing, but we can't work the name without him. Do you want his number???
I thought it was great to see the VU (The View) album finally released last year. Was that a rewarding thing to see happen (finally!!)
Yes, I hadn't listened to any of those songs in years. Then one day, I got a package from Steven Jarvis (our partner and engineer co producer) He has mastered the tracks and man it rocked. I was excited to see that come together. The artwork was some uncommissioned Journey artwork that Ross was holding on to.
Are there any other Chalfant masterpieces sitting in the vaults, yet to be released?
Is there anything you would like to see happen to the melodic scene in the coming years?
Radio visibility just a little more independent, not so many consultants and mega programmers. They control the purse strings.
What can the average fan / record buyer do to help raise the profile of this scene?
Pool your money and start buying radio stations. Program them yourself with plenty of Two Fires and Kevin Chalfant music. Then, pool more money and build a string of concert venues and hire me and other great bands to do endless shows worldwide in those rock palaces :) or just be relentless when you make requests to your local stations.
Is there anyone Kevin, that you would really like to work with in the future?
Yeah, Steve Smith, Ross Valory, Gregg Rolie, Neal Schon, Pat Morrow, Ted Field, Mutt Lange, and Herbie Herbert.
And I guess I should ask what is next up for you? In 2002 and ahead to 2003 even...
Andrew, I will keep making records/CD's or whatever they call them tomorrow as long as I have air in my lungs. I am doing benefits with the Rainbow Foundation in Chicago, Festival dates, A solo project soon, produce many new artists, who knows.... keep busy is all.
And is there anything you would like to add - anything you would like to say to the Kevin Chalfant/Two Fires/The Storm/VU/707 fans out there?
Thank you Andrew. Even your honesty is appreciated. People, we need to make less of an effort of creating stars and more of an effort helping those around us. Too many people are driven by money and not by love. Gregg Rolie said it best for me. He made a reference once to me that if there was a huge earth quake and a big chunk of the land broke off and began sinking into the ocean and a rescue chopper was sent out to safe as many lives as it could. They pilot would not say, "Hey look, there is baby floating in a basket, but wait...over there....isn't that Gregg Rolie the famous singer keyboardist? Forget the baby, save him! I don't think so. Priorities are a natural thing. The baby must come first. We must be more sensitive to the needs of those less fortunate around us, but not be taken advantage of. Volunteer privately in your own heart to helping someone that you know needs your help.
Looking at that - that's quite an impressive body of work. Looking back, is there one period that you favor over any other?
I wish that I could erase the painful experiences that I have caused others in my life. At times when my ego got out line or I thought that I was someone that I really wasn't. We can sure hurt those close to us. I have done this and have spent years rebuilding relationships. Wouldn't it be great if we could just live and let live? Thanks for caring enough to ask Andrew.
Ok Kevin, thanks again for taking the time to do this interview. I do appreciate it.
God bless you...