Interview by Danny Coleman
“REKIHNDLED,” as in, I’m hoping it rekindles my career,” said long time rocker Greg Kihn with a laugh as he discussed his recent release, his past, present and future. “I think it’s a good album and not just because I made it but because it’s really something I’m proud of and the guys in my band are so good and that helps.”
A native of Baltimore, MD, Kihn began playing and singing in local coffee houses while still in high school.
Like many, Kihn was heavily influenced by the Beatles and their appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. Legend has it that his mother submitted a recording of one of his original songs to a local radio station contest and it took first place. Kihn garnered a typewriter (he’s written multiple novels), records and an electric guitar for his efforts; three prizes which would alter his life’s path.
By the early ’70’s, Kihn had moved to the west coast to test the waters of the Pacific, the San Francisco Bay area in particular. “Growing up in Baltimore, I always had an audience. No matter where I played, if it was within a hundred miles of home, Philly, Washington DC or anywhere they could drive, my friends and family were there. I went west and took a chance and it worked out for me. I needed to test my material on different audiences other than friends and family.
The move out west proved to be the right one as Kihn became one of the first artists signed to Beserkley Records. Starting in 1976, he would produce about a record a year, culminating with his first big hit, “The Breakup Song (They Don’t Write’em )” in 1981 which reached #15 on Billboard’s Hot 100. Kihn quickly became Beserkley’s number one selling artist and with great titles such as, “Rockihnroll,” “Kihntinued,” “Kihnspiracy” (which spawned the #2 Billboard hit, “Jeopardy”), “Kihntageous” and “Citizen Kihn,” he soon became a darling of the MTV set as his video for “Jeopardy” was considered to be, “Groundbreaking.” The song did so well that master parody maker “Weird Al” Yankovic asked and received permission to put his spin on things and had nearly as much success as Kihn in the process. “I was totally flattered he did that,” he said with a laugh. “He’s a great guy and he and I are friends. I made a cameo appearance in the video, it was very cool and fun to do it. He said that he was turned down only once up to that point by anyone and that was by Prince. Here’s the kicker, I still get mailbox money from it! Every now and then I go to the mailbox and there’s a check (laughs).”
“REKIHNDLED” is album number 17 for this long time rocker who has opened for such peers as Journey, The Grateful Dead and the Rolling Stones and has made TV appearances on American Bandstand, Solid Gold and Saturday Night Live. “As I said before, I think it’s a good album. One day I got the urge to write music again; have you ever gotten the urge to write and you don’t know where it came from? That’s what happened here and then the creative muscle kicked in and the next thing I knew, I had an entire album. I always liked tunes like Fleetwood Mac’s, “Oh well,” or Led Zeppelin‘s, “Black Dog” and one morning my son came to me with his guitar and played this riff and I said, “Big Pink Flamingo!” It’s really cool and the best part is that my son and I wrote it in about 15 minutes and Robert Barry plays bass on it. I’m very proud of my son, he’s a great guitar player and to be performing with him on stage is great; he’ll probably move on after this is all done.”
Kihn says that pre-orders for the cd, ( released on March 17 and his first new music in 21 years) are going well and that he has not altered his style at all. “So far the sales are doing really well. I’ve received multiple orders from countries all around the world and I think that’s because it sounds like the Greg Kihn Band. We stayed true to our sound, truth is, I haven’t changed.”
Kihn had made changes though, one of which was putting his job as a full time musician on a back burner so to speak and delving into radio where he was a morning show host on KFOX FM Radio in the Bay area for 18 years. Another was becoming a novelist and writer where he has been nominated for and won various literary awards. “Yeah my radio career finally ended three years ago. I had a good run and between that and the six novels, I kept busy. The music keeps calling me back. Once it’s in you, you can never get rid of it. Oh it may lie dormant but eventually, if you’re a musician, that’s where you always return.”
So with a new CD, will there be a tour? A resounding affirmation came quickly from this now veteran rocker. “There is,” he stated excitedly. “It’s been weekends so far. I guess we’ve been weekend warriors, kind of getting our mojo back. This summer we will be going on the road, not a big tour, only several months but we’ll be all over the country.”
When asked about the state of today’s music and the industry in general, he is one of the rare artists who is in the proverbial driver’s seat due to some smart moves and good fortune. “The music industry has changed a lot over the last 20 years and especially from the old MTV days. During those times, I was putting out an album a year and the ASCAP checks were coming in. Today it’s not that way for most artists, or at least those checks aren’t as big but I’m going to tell you something, I may be the only rock star you may ever meet that owns his entire music catalog; How lucky is that? I wasn’t a sell out, I chose the frugal route and began to buy back what little I had turned over a little bit at a time. Eventually I got everything back and get this; are you ready? I even own the masters! I get requests all of the time for “Break Up Song” and “Jeopardy” from TV and movie people and I own it so I have the control.”
When speaking with Greg Kihn, one gets a sense of a man who has had a fulfilling career, is quite at ease and he recognizes that his fan base has played a huge part in his success. “Can I just say one more thing? I need to say this to all of my fans, thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for hanging in there through my music, then 18 years of radio. I can’t thank you enough. Not many guys can say they’ve had success in three different careers and I have say thank you to everyone and I’m looking forward to getting back out there!”
To discover more about Greg Kihn, the tour and his careers; please go to www.gregkihn.com.
Danny Coleman (Danny Coleman is a veteran musician and writer from central New Jersey. He hosts a weekly radio program entitled “Rock On Radio” airing Sunday evenings at 10 p.m. EST on multiple internet radio outlets where he features indie/original bands and solo artists.)