Todd Kerns - Autumn 2018

Granville Street Walk Of Fame

How do artists from the world of rock know when ‘they’ve made it’? It’s an interesting question and you might be surprised to learn that it’s not always an easy one to answer. There are rock stars who consistently sell out arenas who believe ‘they are still making it’ so crossing the finish line of success isn’t always marked by a single event or obvious sign. But there is perhaps one way in which an artist’s impact and recognition can be undisputed: when their native people honour them with a star in their Hall of Fame. Rock Today was absolutely delighted to learn that Todd Kerns is to be honoured by the BC Entertainment Hall of Fame with a star on Granville Street in Vancouver. The BC Entertainment Hall of Fame was created in 1992 to honour those British Columbians who have made an outstanding contribution to the entertainment industry. The Hall's current membership honours over 300 remarkable talents and members are featured on the Granvillle Street sidewalk in downtown Vancouver and in the Starwall photo gallery in the Orpheum lobby. On 20th October 2018 Todd Kerns will inducted. This huge news comes at what is an incredibly busy time for Todd. His recent projects include releasing his TKO record which had been 15 years in the making, releasing the Todd Kerns Live In Toronto DVD, as well as working with other musicians such as fellow Conspirator Brent Fitz in TOQUE, Dizzy Reed and Bruce Kulick. If that wasn’t enough Todd has also launched his own Dammitwear/Anti Star Design clothing line and created a new album with Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators Living The Dream. And there’s a whole lot more! We can’t wait to catch up with Todd to understand what it must be like to be in his shoes. At his home in Las Vegas, we find Todd, as you would expect, in great spirits. Busy preparing for his upcoming show with Bruce Kulick as part of the Kiss Kruise and of course rehearsing for the imminent US tour with Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators, we are especially grateful that he’s taken the time to chat….

SMKC’s new album Living The Dream

I want to come onto the music shortly but the first question I have to ask is about a recent news story. On the 26th of July it was announced that you would be receiving a star along the walk of fame on Granville Street in Vancouver British Columbia. This is in recognition of how you have enhanced the province’s cultural profile both at home and abroad and you will be one of only around 300 people to be on it in this way. You must feel incredibly proud.


It’s a very strange, weird, humbling Canadian feel about it where you’re not really sure how to feel! Pride is obviously step 1!  You can have this bizarre not knowing how to feel. Are you supposed to do a victory lap? It’s really been a bizarre feeling where you just don’t really realise what kind of an impact you make until you know, enough time has gone by and you realise that people pay attention and they recognise you. I really appreciate it! There’s a lot of it, the fact that I’ve been able to step out and do things internationally and yet still fly the Canadian flag as high as I fly is where it comes in. It’s a big thing to be on the streets of Vancouver. When I first went to Vancouver in the early 90s, we were just new to area. We were small town kids and we were in the big city, and to have this happen is an amazing thing! It’s been really difficult to put it into words! My wife was the first to tell me this was happening and I was like ‘Am I dying or something?’ because it feels like something you get at the end of your career. It’s an amazing thing, and to have my parents be both with us and to be able to see it is a great thing.


So it was your wife who gave you the news?


My wife told me right then and there. It was surreal because I happened to be in Vancouver when I was told. Again I didn’t know how to react to it because it’s a very surreal thing. When I first moved to Vancouver, we would walk up and down Granville Street because we were staying down there and the gigs were down there, and now to think that the star will be there on that street is amazing. We are actually doing the unveiling party right there on Granville Street on 20th October. It seems very surreal is the best way to say it!


So as you say, the ceremony will be taking place on 20th October. How do you intend to celebrate?


That’s interesting because it was told to me that day and that night I happened to be having dinner with my family, a whole extended hang with my family, and it just happened to be that by circumstance, or by happenstance, I happened to be where I was going to be that night, and that’s kind of how we celebrated it. The actual unveiling of it on 20th October is a full show that we’re putting on. It’s myself obviously doing a bit of my acoustic stuff, then I’ll be bringing up people from the entire catalogue of my career. Brent Fitz will be there from the Slash band and Toque, The Age Of Electric guys I’m hoping we can get on stage. My brothers and I had a band called Static In Stereo after Age Of Electric so we’re going to get together and play for the first time in 17 years, the full line up. The guys from my solo band that I had in the early/mid 2000s will be there. So we’re all just going to get up and have this big night of playing the catalogue. It’s funny how you ask how we celebrate it. We celebrate it with music. It all just comes back to music and it starts and ends with music. 

So let’s put a focus on the music, and I would like to start by talking about how in 2017 you reunited with The Age Of Electric to undertake a tour to celebrate the bands 20th anniversary.  How did this reunion come about and how did the experience of this tour compare to when the band was active in the 90s?


It’s funny because, particularly in 1989, that’s when the band started so next year will technically be the 30th anniversary of the band. So in 2017/2018 we were celebrating the 20th anniversary of our last album and last tour as a band. It’s an interesting thing because The Age Of Electric is such a chapter of my life. In the 90s when we were doing our thing it was so much more chaotic. Since then I’ve always made a point, like during the Slash stuff or during whatever I’m doing, to actually take a step back and enjoy what we’re doing. It’s a lesson I learned in the 90s that it was going so fast that after it was all done and I looked back I realised that I really hadn’t made good use of my time, making it the best it could be. We let the little negativities pull that band apart, which is really unfortunate. I’ve never really regretted it because I’ve gone on to do so much more in my life but I really try to make a point of trying to enjoy what I’m doing at that moment, especially musically. It’s funny because we started talking about doing the reunion show initially in 2016. I think the first Age Of Electric Show we did - we’d been asked for years ‘would you guys do this, would you guys do that – and I was like ‘yeah, maybe’ but everyone’s schedules are just never locked up. But in 2016 we just sort of had this moment where we just all happened to be available and just did it. So in 2017 we did that tour because 2017 was the 20th anniversary of the 1997 record (Mak a Pest a Pet). We released an EP in 2017 (The Pretty EP) and we went on the road and did that whole reunion tour which was really wonderful! To be honest it was exactly what we needed it to be. Everybody was thankful to be there, we were all enjoying one another’s company in the same way as it was in the early days of the band. At the end of the band in 98, we weren’t enjoying each other’s company and we didn’t want to be there, as things happened to be. So it really kind of made up for a lot of lost time and it actually made it a really pleasant thing. So in 2019, there is a very good chance that we will be trying to do some sort of 30th anniversary activities, depending on scheduling with Slash and everything else.


You’ve given some examples there of things coming together and how scheduling is a major factor in projects actually being able to happen and we’ve mentioned in this conversation that the last three years have been particularly busy for you. Were there any opportunities you would like to have taken that you simply couldn’t because of scheduling constraints and therefore had to turn down?


I actually do. It seems like ‘Todd’s so busy, does he actually say no to anything?’. I do say no a lot because of my schedule, and I do have my priorities. First and foremost I always want to do my own thing, not selfishly my own thing but my music is my priority and everything else sort of falls in behind that. So I don’t know that there’s anything that I’ve turned down… though I have turned down Trans Siberian Orchestra last Christmas because of getting ready to do the new Slash album. When I say I turned it down, I turned down the opportunity to try out, it wasn’t like it was just handed to me. I don’t regret that either. Of course, if these things can work out, I’m happy to do them but at the same time it’s sort of if things are meant to be we make them happen. If things are just too difficult to fit into the schedule then we just don’t. I feel very lucky and fortunate that I get to play music with the people I care about, and you’ve just got to move onward and upward.


You are of course back with Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators and feature on the new album Living The Dream. When did the activity for this album start?


It’s a fascinating thing because as you know the Guns n Roses reunion certainly hasn’t been a quiet affair (laughs!). And it’s funny how the time just sneaks away on you: just the other day we were talking about how the first Slash solo album was 2010, 2012 was Apocalyptic Love and 2014 was World On Fire. So there’s a 4 year gap between World On Fire and Living The Dream, so it’s kind of fascinating to think that that time really passed by, even though we were out on the road until January 2016 when we wrapped up that tour. We’ve been working on music, as we’ve always worked on music, at soundchecks during the tour. So Slash comes in, he does riffs, and every riff he plays is just a classic Slash riff. It’s far out the craziest thing. The man will never lose the ability to just come up with a classic riff. So we jammed them out. I would say probably 3 or 4 of the songs on the record started like that, maybe more than that – my memories a little rusty on that – but 3, 4 or 5 songs had already been sketched out. And then of course the Guns n Roses reunion happened and Myles went off and did an entire Alter Bridge run, I did all the things that you just mentioned (laughs!) and it’s exhausting to look back and say ‘God, I’ve done a lot of things the last couple of years!’. And then we reconvened somewhere during the end of 2017 when Slash was coming off the road, and we’d been talking about it the entire time. The funny thing is that over the course of the 2 year hiatus there had always been contact and talk about reconvening. I had no idea what the expectation was and people seemed to be almost mildly surprised Slash was going to do this Conspirators record rather than something with Guns n Roses but to his credit, it had always been a priority to him. Just as I have my own priorities, he has his priorities as well which being in Guns n Roses is a pretty sweet gig obviously. But I think for him he really very much enjoys steering his own ship and being in charge of his own thing. We’re all really very supportive of one another that way and we’ve always had to treat SMKC as a project essentially. It’s one of those things where Myles Kennedy has always been the lead singer in Alter Bridge. That’s always been the case. It’s just always something we’ve sort of flip-flopped on where he does that, then we do this, then he does that and then we do this and then you throw in the Guns n Roses factor. Then when were all available we get together and make a record and it just so happened to be "Is everyone available at the end of 2017? Let’s get together" and Slash is on a break from the Guns n Roses tour and we just buckled down and made a record. 


Were you surprised that the album and tour is happening so soon after Slash rejoined Guns n Roses for the Not In This Lifetime Tour? As a fan I almost felt blindsided by it. It was something I just never expected to be happening now.


Not surprised at all actually because from my inside position it was sort of like always going to happen. I’m never surprised by Slash. He is a machine. He is almost chronically continuously moving. If you know him, he will literally say ‘Hey, do you guys want to get together on this day?’ And I’ll go ‘let me check my schedule’, and I’ll realise that he’s literally landing from somewhere in Europe or wherever he’s been with Guns n Roses, and he’s literally talking about getting together to jam or rehearse or record or whatever the next day. That’s just sort of how he operates. He’s not keen on days off and I think that’s a very inspiring thing about him: that he’s always moving. So I think that if any of us are surprised that this is happening, it’s almost as if we don’t know Slash as well as we probably should. It’s very likely that upon wrapping up all the tours in 2019, he will be sliding right in to something else – as we all will. Everybody will be sliding into a new Alter Bridge record or whatever the hell we have going on. I think that the unfinished business of Living The Dream for Slash is something that he’s not going to move on without having finished that record or cementing it in stone that this is something we feel strongly about. And then when there’s time sometime in the future, maybe we’ll try and get together again and do another one. Who knows! That’s the beauty of it. 


How did recording this album compare to that of World On Fire and Apocalyptic Love?


Well this record was done with Elvis again - Michael Baskette. We call him Elvis because he looks like Elvis – but we did it in a very similar fashion to World On Fire. This time we rehearsed at Slash’s place. Slash has his own facility now called the Snakepit and we rehearsed and did pre-production there. Then we went over to a place called NRG in North Hollywood to do drums and bass, and we went back to the Snakepit to record guitars and vocals. The previous record World On Fire was done similar in that we did drums and bass at NRG but we went to Florida, to Elvis’ studio to do vocals and guitars there. It was a similar idea but this one was completely Los Angeles which I think is fitting actually. Slash’s albums should always be Hollywood adjacent if you ask me. Slash wanted to make sure the album was succinct this time. He wanted to do a 10 song album at one point which I thought was very interesting, kind of like the old vinyl that we all grew up on. I think the last album was 17 songs, pushing 20 songs, which I think was kind of a very vast amount of music, and I just think he thought ‘let’s make a succinct 70s or 80s arranged vinyl kind of record’. It ended up at 12 because I think it just ballooned out to be more and more music. It was relatively stress free. The  recording of the album, the writing of the album, the rehearsing and the pre-production came together quite quickly. The other side to it too is that there might have been a giant question mark ‘can we get back together? Do we have chemistry together? Do we have the ability to put all this together?’. All of those things were answered with a big ‘yes’. We knocked out a record and it happens to be very strong and I think people are going to enjoy it. 

Have you been involved in the songwriting?


Not this time so much. Because Slash has so much time he and Myles are largely just throwing things back and forth, and then they came in with a lot of, you know, fairly sketched out ideas and my job as always is to kind of help flesh those things out. And that’s pretty much what we do, Brent and I. And Frank this time which is one about the record is that Frank is actually on it. Frank Sidoris wasn’t on the previous one and wasn’t even around for Apocalyptic Love. He came in for the Apocalyptic Love tour, so the new guy’s been in there for 6 years, going on 7 years in April. So he’s not really that new any more is he? 




One of the real highlights of the SMKC live shows is whet you take lead vocals. Do you take any lead vocals on the new album?


I’ve not. It’s funny because that kind of thing rarely even crosses my mind. When I started playing with this group gentlemen, it was like we have a lead singer. It just so happens to be a very successful and very beloved individual, and I’m a singer and songwriter and all that kind of stuff, but within this group of guys my job is not the lead singer. The fact that they have that kind of trust in me to go ‘Hey, Man, will you sing this, will you sing that?’ and I’m like ‘Sure! I’ll do whatever you want me to do!’ But I just love playing music. That’s why in some instances I’m playing guitar, some I’m singing and in some instances I’m playing bass and being the backup singer for Slash. Obviously if it was put to me I’d be like ‘Sure! I’d love to sing a song’. I watched an interview with Dave Grohl when somebody asked ‘Did you ever think about writing any songs for Nirvana?’ and he just said ‘No! I was the drummer for Nirvana and that never crossed our minds. We happened to have one of the greatest songwriters of our generation in the band so it wasn’t ever really a consideration’. There’s a similar thing where I think, sure, I like to do other things, I like to do this and that, but in this group of guys I think that my particular skill set is more ‘this is what I do’ and I’m perfectly content doing what I do here supporting Myles and supporting the group in general. 


You will of course soon be commencing a US tour with Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators. Sticking with the subject of vocals, as I said, one of the highlights from previous tours was of course when you took over lead vocals for a few songs including Dr Alibi, originally sung by Lemmy on Slash’s debut album. Lemmy sadly passed away at the end of 2015 just as the world on fire toll was wrapping up. Will you be singing this song on the forthcoming US tour if so will the song have a special poignancy to it ? 


It’s funny that you mention that because we were just talking about that the other day. I never make any assumptions about anything but Alibi gets spoken about as soon we talk about rehearsals or putting anything together. It had gathered a lot of poignancy even towards the end of the World On Fire tour because of Lemmy’s passing. At the time we started doing Ace Of Spades in the show as a tribute, like a 2 song tribute to Lemmy, and his passing still carries a massive amount of resonance. It’s been a really great honour to be the guy that went from just kind of like covering the song to paying homage to the man on a nightly basis, if I can. If we do end up playing the song live, for me it carries so much more weight just by the fact of his passing but I think that’s part of the beauty of whether it’s John Lennon or Kurt Cobain or Lemmy, the music lives on and for me my great joy is being able to continue to share his music, be it 1 song he co-wrote with Slash, nonetheless to me it’s a very important part of both of those gentlemen’s journey. So for me it’s a great responsibility, and it’s very kind of you to say that people look forward to me singing in the show. I never really think a whole lot of it to be honest. When they ask me to sing songs I go ‘Sure, I’ll sing a song!’ And I never really think about the fact that ‘Okay, are people going to go and get pop corn now and wait till Myles comes back?’ (laughs!). I guess I’m hopeful that people look forward to that part of the show for what it is, whether it’s Alibi or another song that gets thrown my way, it’s my pleasure to do so and my pleasure to entertain the people.


Are there any plans to visit the UK?


Of course! I assure you we will be over there. The UK is one of the most important places for this band. The UK has been incredibly good to us and continues to be. I know we plan to tour from now until hopefully late summer next September 2019, so around a year’s worth. So I assure you we will be over there.


We’ve covered throughout this conversation how incredibly busy you are so it seems a little greedy to ask a question do you have any plans for any more solo material?


I’m actually working on a follow up to the Borrowing Trouble record. I’ve had quite a few people tell me that that record made them pick up the old guitar again, write a few songs and get out and play and that means more to me than record sales and millions of dollars. To me the whole purpose of that record really was to kind of inspire. There’s a great Bob Dylan quote that says something like ‘the true meaning of art is to inspire’ and I think that, without being too heavy about it, it really does mean the world to me to be able to come up with a  song in your living room on an acoustic guitar and then be able to inspire. Just this morning I woke up to a girl in France driving around listening to Nothing Personal and filming herself just driving round! It’s fascinating to me to think that a little song that was probably cobbled together in either Vegas or Vancouver is out there having a whole new experience with somebody else. You become kind of a curator: the music is out there and it belongs to other people. So the idea of doing another one, and I don’t mean to sound like I’m being humble on purpose about it, I’m thrilled that anybody gives a damn and I’m thrilled that people seem to know the words and that they’re getting something out of it. That to me means that I guess it means I should do another one. So I think probably next year when things start to wind down a bit with Slash there will definitely be a follow up. I had every intention at some point of doing an electric record as well, a rock record, be it solo or some sort of project. I’m not sure yet. But the acoustic one is like half way through, 6 songs in or something like that. I’m kind of taking it very casually because of how crazy my schedule is, frankly. If I went in and made a record and said to myself ‘I’m going to go in for a month, 6 weeks – I could probably do it in 2 weeks really’ and just kind of go in and bang out a record I would, but because of my schedule I come in and I do a song here and then 3 months later I do another song, and it kind of makes it more fun because when I have moment I will put it out and I’ll grab an acoustic guitar. The other thing I’m hoping to do is, whether I’m in Europe or the US or wherever I am, I’m hoping that on a day off I can go to Manchester or Leeds, just wherever I happen to be on a day off, go and find a place to play the Borrowing Trouble stuff and the acoustic stuff. It would be amazingly rewarding for me. I’d have no idea what to expect. Maybe book a little coffee shop and hope that 20 people turn up! If a large group of people show up then that’s awesome! It has been my intention the entire time to at some point get my ass over there and play for you guys, for Europe and wherever else I can go with an acoustic guitar and see if anybody gives a shit. So probably when the next record is done I’ll make that a priority and get my ass over there!

As our conversation draws to a close we reflect on Todd’s incredible achievements over 30 years and how exciting the next chapter will. It is with incredible pride that the Rock Today team would like to say a huge congratulations to Todd on his induction to the BC Walk of Fame and we wish him all the best for the celebration event on 20th October!


To find out more, visit www.toddkerns.com, and check out the Todd’s performance of Dr Alibi in New York City below.