FMQB Retro-Active: KISS Goes Unplugged and Unmasked; Ken Sharp Chats With David Crosby About His New Solo LP
March 13, 2014

KISS STRIPPEDÖ With their forthcoming induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the impending publication of Paul Stanley's autobiography, Face the Music: A Life Exposed, KISS is back in the news in a big way. Now the band, in celebration of the season opening of the LA Kiss (the group's Arena Football League team co-owned by Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley), will be taking part in a special one-off, non-makeup acoustic show on April 3 at the San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino in Highland, CA. Schuyler Hoversten, President of LA KISS, states: "San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino is the premiere casino in Southern California and the closest to Honda Center. This unique event is also a great way for us to celebrate the launch of our season with our fans and the KISS Army."

No smoke, no fire, no bombs, no spectacle, this rare stripped down evening with KISS will shine the focus on their 40-year body of work. In addition to reworked renditions of the band's classic catalog and lesser known gems, the intimate performance promises to mirror the approach of VH1's Storytellers show with the artists sharing the back story behind the music. Whether playing live in front of hundreds of thousands of fans at an outdoor stadium or to a smaller, more intimate audience, Gene Simmons notes, "You can't help but have a good time at one of our shows when everybody is going nuts onstage. That kind of a good time is infectious. You can't fake it. You can't fool the audience. The people will see right through you if you put on a fake smile or you're not putting out your best." For more information on this special show: www.sanmanuel.com

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HARMONIC CONVERGENCEÖ Solo albums from David Crosby are as rare as a solar eclipse, but when they do come around they're pretty spectacular. Croz, Crosby's first solo album in two decades, is no exception, finding the two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee (The Byrds, CSNY) mining expansive jazz/rock terrain tinged with surprising and seductive melodies, evocative lyrics and sumptuous harmonies. Crosby's son, James Raymond, who previously worked with his father in the group CPR, is a vital creative collaborator on the album, co-writing a cache of songs ("Radio", "Morning FallingĒ, ďDangerous NightĒ) as well as contributing a few outstanding tunes on his own ("What's Broken," "The Clearing"). Having faced and ultimately survived his own series of struggles with substance abuse, Crosby, at age 72, is exactly where he wants to be: clear headed, committed and navigating his own musical journey.

In regard to your new CD Croz, you recently tweeted: "Can't believe how nervous I am about this record now that it's about to actually come out..." Having released records since the mid '60s with The Byrds, that was surprising to hear.

It's a little like having a baby. I've been working on this album for a couple of years because we didnít sign with a record company. We were doing it in my son Jamesí studio and with the generosity of a bunch of friends helping out on the record, great musicians and singers. Itís been a very emotional and very satisfying ride. For it to actually come to fruition is a big deal. Yeah, Iím nervous of course, I donít know if anybody is gonna like it. But so far everybody does, which is very exciting for me.

It's been 20 years since your last solo album, Thousand Roads. What made this the right time to release a new solo album?

Youíve got to remember two years ago (Graham) Nash and I did a double album together, and before that we were working on what was supposed to be a CSN covers album with Rick Rubin. Itís not that I havenít been recording, but I hadnít done a solo album for quite some time. But thatís just mostly about having a lot of other options. I started writing with my son a while ago when we started CPR, and itís a very very good chemistry that we have together. "Radio" is the first song we wrote for this record and we thought, ďGod, we canít stay out of the studio, we love recording,Ē so we started doing it any way we could. James has a studio and I sleep on his couch. He makes me an omelet in the morning and we go down into the studio and start working.

Is there a short hand between the both of you where each of you can finish the otherís musical thoughts?

Oh yeah. It works just the way you think it would. I know where heís going; he knows where Iím going. He wrote, he produced, he engineered, he played and he sang; he did a whole lot on this album. Our communication with each other is amazing.

The musical break in "The Clearing" is extraordinary.

Isnít it? (laughs) Thatís a wonderful part. It really pulls you in and gets you.

Obviously, youíre proud of all the songs on the album.

Yes, of course, or we wouldnít have put them on. (laughs)

What are the songs on the record that best tell the story of where you are in your life and where you want to be today?

God, thatís a tough one. Theyíre not about me so much so I donít know if they tell my story except there is a certain joy to the record. Thereís a certain eagerness to it that is how I feel. All I can do is thank my lucky stars that I didnít run out of steam because most people do. They either think theyíve said everything theyíve got to say or they just get lazy. If you want the muse to walk in the door, you have to open the door. You have to pick up the guitar or sit down at the piano or pick up a pencil and paper; you have to want it.

Like the song ďSet That Baggage DownĒ on the new CD.

Well, ďSet That Baggage DownĒ is more about letting go of your past, thatís a different thing. But finding new music at this stage of the game in my life is a blessing that you cannot believe. Itís just wonderful; a lot of it has to do with chemistry with other writers. I wrote primarily with James on the record but also worked with other talented writers like Marcus Easton, Sterling Price and Shane Fontanye. I really do like bouncing off another person when writing a song. I like writing by myself and Iím very happy with the songs I wrote on the record but I do like that spark that happens when you go, ďHey, wait a minute, what did you just say? What if we took that and put that here?Ē I love that process.

Whatís the first good song you wrote for this project?

It was probably ďRadio.Ē That was a good one. It went really well and itís extremely positive. What itís saying, even though itís using a nautical metaphor, is you can reach out into another personís life and you can help them and you can make a difference. If youíre willing you can and should make a difference in someoneís life and that is very positive. You donít always get to write something that positive.

I recently interviewed Graham Nash who said about you: "Davidís a jazz musician and always has been and thatís where heís uniqueness comes from." Can you discuss how your love of jazz and understanding that sensibility has impacted you as a writer/singer?

It made me love complex chords and complex chord structures. I love James Taylor just as much as I love jazz. But I do love and always have loved the things that jazz keyboard players can play. They play these dense, rich, thick chords that are scrumptious. As a matter of a fact thatís one of the reasons I used other tunings on the guitar so I could get those kinds of chords. Iím not a great guitar player. Iím not a lead player. I canít play like a jazz guy; I canít play those closed chord positions. I do think thereís a whole very rich chemistry in those kinds of chord structures and that kind of approach to music. Jazz is very strong stuff and Nash is right about that. But Iím not a jazz musician; heís wrong about that! I will never be that good.

Your father Floyd was a renowned cinematographer. In essence he painted with visuals and you as a songwriter paint with words and sound. Do you think you were inspired by his work in manner of writing evocative and visual lyrics?

Wait until you really listen to ďMorning FallingĒ on my new record. Thatís a movie. Of course the government is not gonna like it because itís about a drone strike. My father inspired me more by being a stand up guy, and that he was. He was a brave and strong and good human being. Warm and fuzzy? No. He was very stoic. He came through the great depression and was in a B-24 bomber the entire war. He was shooting photographs so it wasnít like he was going on bombing missions and got to do 35 and out. He did five years in a B-24, which is really a lot. So I was inspired by him but more as a man than artistically. Artistically he did something I canít do. I canít take pictures for beans except underwater. I can take a pretty good picture underwater.

What's the latest on the CSNY live box set?

You can expect now that itís gonna have a DVD in it as well. We found some video stuff. You can also expect the music to be at a very high resolution because Neil (Young) insisted we go all the way to 24 bit, 192(kHz). And God bless him, heís right. MP3s do suck, heís not wrong.

Graham told me he changed his mind about the Ď74 tour while listening to the live tracks for the new box set. Before he went in to work on the live box, he recalled that tour being sub par. Did you share that impression?

Yeah, that tour was tainted by other things, business and emotional stuff and outside world crap that had nothing to do with the music, and it left a bad taste in my mouth. But the truth is when you listen to the actual music, the thing that we most loved about that musical combination was really there. Itís incredibly adventuresome and very very brave. It takes a lot of chances.

Your love of the water and sailing is well documented. Can you explain how the act of sailing and being on the water works to lift your spirit?

I started sailing when I was 11 so Iíve been doing it 61 years. I think being a water man affects you very strongly. If youíre a surfer or if youíre a sailor or if you are a diver, which I also am, any of those things affect you. The ocean is the real world and it couldnít care less who you are. You have to respect it but it will give you great joyógreat, real world scrumptiousness and it will teach you too. For me it was a centering device. If you live in Los Angeles and you hang out in the show business world, which I certainly did back then, they tend to think itís the center of the universe and itís really not. And the ocean was a great balance for that. It was a great balance to pull me away from drugs and away from fame and away from money and away from show biz, stuff thatís much shallower. The oceanís deep in every sense of the word. 

Retro-Active is written by Ken Sharp, who can be reached directly at sharpk@aol.com or 818-986-9715. © 2014. All rights reserved.




 
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