Legendary Vocalist RON KEEL of (Keel, Steeler, and The RKB) - Interview
Legendary sunset strip vocalist Ron Keel recently chatted with hairbandheaven.rocks about all things rock n roll including Keelfest, Steeler, Keel, The Ron Keel Band and much more.
HBH: The new album "Fight Like A Band" is fantastic! There are some really great songs on there. Can you talk about the album and what people can expect when picking up a copy?
RK: Thank you…we consider that a huge compliment, because our number one goal was to create a collection of timeless songs. In this crazy business, that’s the one thing that we can still control – the music. Whether people think it’s great, or whether they think it’s crap, that’s all out of our hands.
People can expect to hear songs that come straight from the heart, songs that tell stories, all written, sung and played with a lot of fire and passion. The musical landscape covers everything from heavy metal anthems like the opener “Road Ready” to classic-style commercial rockers like the title track and “Hearts Gone Wild,” and songs with a southern-style edge like “Fire In The Rain” and “Hey Man.” And there are some new versions of Keel songs which I’m really proud of, it was great for songs like “The Right To Rock” and “Tears Of Fire” to get a new lease on life.
HBH: Tell us about the guys in The Ron Keel Band?
RK: While I’m a loner and a pretty private man, I’ve also always been a ‘band’ guy – there’s something very powerful about the collective, an almost tribal mentality, that comes with being in a good band. Some entertainers never find that perfect combination of chemistry, talent and character – I found it twice: once, and still, with my band Keel, and now again with RKB.
A little over four years ago, I assembled my dream team of friends and musicians and that connection really comes to life in these new songs. Bassist Geno “El Diablo” Arce has been with me for over 20 years, in other bands like Keel and IronHorse; and we’ve got two South Dakota Rock N Roll Hall of Famers with Jeff “The Rev” Koller on drums and Dakota Scott Schmitt on keyboards. I’ve always been blessed with some of the best guitarists in the business, and with Dave “DC Cothern I finally have that singer-guitarist relationship that some of my favorite bands were built around – Page/Plant, Tyler/Perry…I think that’s a key element to our success on stage, in the studio, and in life as friends.
HBH: I think the title track is one of my favorite songs off the new album, very autobiographical. I love how you reference a little bit of everything from Steeler, Keel, The Ron Keel Band and your wife Renée. Can you talk about that song a bit?
RK: The struggle to survive and succeed is a common theme in my lyrics, from 80’s anthems like “Cold Day In Hell” and “The Right To Rock” to new songs like “Fight Like A Band.” When Renée was diagnosed with cancer, that term “Fight Like A Girl” took on a whole new meaning in our life…and the transformation of the band from Badlands House Band to Ron Keel Band happened against the backdrop of her battle with the disease so these lyrics just poured out of me.
When I went into the studio to cut the vocal, I had never sung the song before, no rehearsal or demo or anything…and it was a very emotional experience for me. I did the first verse and then just broke down crying…my co-producer Mike Dresch asked if I needed a break, and I said no, let’s just keep carving out the vocal. So there’s a lot of raw emotion on that vocal track. That’s as real as it gets, man.
HBH: You have a new video set for release "Girls Like Me" can you tell us about the video and when can we expect to see it?
RK: There are some serious songs on this album – and “Girls Like Me” isn’t one of them! This is a fun summertime video with a lot of sexy ladies – on stage and off! Las Vegas’ premier female rocker Carol-Lyn portrays the Metal Cowgirl, backed up by her gorgeous bandmates…and the Ron Keel Band scenes were filmed at our local Sioux Falls gentlemen’s club, Scarlett O’Hara’s…you get the idea. That clip is going to be unleashed on the public any day now at http://ronkeelband.com.
HBH: You recently held KEELFEST 2019 at The Alrosa Villa in Columbus, Ohio. I think KEELFEST is an amazing idea - can you tell us about the show and are there plans for additional dates?
RK: Keel, Ron Keel Band and my 80’s metal band Steeler all on the same bill…it started as just another one of my crazy ideas, and we actually pulled it off! The show was over three hours long, 38 songs nonstop, and it was a dream come true for me. I love all the guys in all three bands, we really are friends and to have them all on the same stage with me made for a very special night. And fans came from coast to coast, from all over to be there and celebrate with us, that really moved me – not just the $30 concert ticket, but the road trips, airfare, hotels, it was just incredible - the Keelhaolics were the real rock stars that night.
As far as additional dates, I do hope to announce the 2020 KEELFEST date and location very soon!
HBH: The show was great! There were a lot of smiles in the crowd that night. Did you record the KEELFEST show for possible release via cd/vinyl or dvd?
RK: Fans can enjoy the video of the entire show, cam’d by my friend Randy Gill, on my membership site http://patreon.com/ronkeel. That page is where I’m releasing all of my exclusive content now, hundreds of vintage and new video clips, audio, music, my radio show, songwriting workshops, live online chat, so many cool interactive features for less than .25 cents per day.
HBH: Can you talk about your new collaboration with EMP Outlaw / EMP Label Group?
RK: The ‘E’ in EMP is Ellefson – David Ellefson from Megadeth, who is building an incredible empire founded upon a great musical catalog and artist roster which I really proud to be a part of. David and I have known each other for a long time, but have really become friends in recent years, and as an artist I was really admiring what he was doing with the label. When I made the decision to create a Ron Keel Band album, I thought EMP would be the perfect home for it – and David and his partner Thom Hazaert created EMP Outlaw for our particular brand of cowboy metal. It’s great having that personal connection with the record company and the mega-muscle that comes with being signed to EMP.
HBH: The first time we mer was in Columbus, OH back in the Iron Horse days, at a club called Breezers. I thought that band put out two really great albums. Have you ever thought about reissuing those albums on vinyl?
RK: I have released those two albums digitally, again for my members at http://patreon.com/ronkeel. I’m always interested in the possibilities of re-issuing my work in various mediums and formats, but the truth is I’m insanely busy with multiple projects that demand all my attention and focus. I’m glad you like those Iron Horse albums, I’m really proud of them too…the musical traditions forged on those albums are alive and well on the new album “Fight Like A Band.”
HBH: Are there any plans for KEEL to release another album in the future?
RK: I’ve had a strong bond with Marc Ferrari, Bryan Jay and Dwain Miller for 35 years now and I love those guys – and recent gigs at KEELFEST and the Frontiers Festival in Milan prove we still have some gas left in the tank. There are some Keel shows next year, including the 2020 Monsters Of Rock Cruise, but no plans for another album. Ron Keel Band is my business, and business is good right now.
HBH: Can you tell us a little more about Ron Keel's Patreon? Maybe explain what Patreon is for people who maybe unaware?
RK: Patreon is a subscription platform where creators like me can share exclusive content. I suggest checking out my 3-minute video tour on the page – http://patreon.com/ronkeel - and let me show you around. The future of our business is online, and I work really hard to make sure my members are getting a lot of entertainment value and personal attention.
HBH: What does the remainder of 2019 look like for Ron Keel?
RK: Of course a lot of shows with Ron Keel Band, including opening for Night Ranger at Hot Harley Nights, a huge 3 day bike event in Sioux Falls, we’re doing the Sturgis Rally again this year, gigs in 12 states…additional album releases like the “Emerald Sabbath” Black Sabbath tribute which is now available, the Steeler “Come Hell Or Hollywood: 1981-82” compilation on FnA Records, the Ron Keel Band “South X South Dakota” Southern Rock Celebration album and shows, solo acoustic gigs, and the release of another book – “Anything But Pink: On Becoming A Cancer Survivor” by Renée Keel which I contributed some reflections to. I plan to spend this winter holed up in my studio recording “Alone At Last…Again,” a new solo acoustic album.
HBH: Congratulations on the new album Ron, it has some amazing songs. On behalf of everyone here at hairbandheaven.rocks I'd like to wish you all the best for the future.
RK: Thank you – we appreciate your help spreading the word, and wish you all the best as well – live the rock!
Exclusive Audio/Video/Fan Experiences only at patreon.com/RonKeel
Listen to the STREETS OF ROCK N ROLL Radio Show on Sunny Radio 93.3 FM Sioux Falls & major online affiliates at http://ronkeel.com/radio_show
UPCOMING EVENTS - Details/Links at RonKeel.com:
Lake Madison SD – July 5 (RK solo) & July 6 (RKB Acoustic) – HILLSIDE RESORT
Sioux Falls SD – July 13 – HOT HARLEY NIGHTS (RKB with Night Ranger)
Redwood Falls MN – July 18 – REDWOOD COUNTY FAIR (RKB)
Sturgis SD - August 4 & 6 - ROCKIN' THE RALLY at GLENCOE CAMP RESORT
Devil’s Lake ND – Aug 10 – ROCKIN’ THE COVE (RKB)
Sioux Falls SD – Aug 16 – BIKE NIGHT J&L HARLEY-DAVIDSON (RKB)
Lake Madison SD – Aug 17 - HILLSIDE RESORT (RK Solo)
Kansas City MO - Aug 23 - THE SCENE (RKB)
High Ridge MO - Aug 24 - THE HOT SPOT (RK Solo
Lake Madison SD – August 31 - HILLSIDE RESORT (RKB Acoustic)
Lake Madison SD – Sept 1 - HILLSIDE RESORT (RK Solo)
Green Bay WI – Sept 7 – WISCONSIN HARLEY-DAVIDSON (RKB)
Pine Island MN - Sept 13 - OLDE PINE THEATRE - (RK Solo)
Worthington SD – Sept 14 – KING TURKEY DAY (RK Solo)
Denver CO – Sept 20 – THE VENUE (RKB)
Ogallala, NE - Sept 21 - INDIAN SUMMER RENDEZVOUS (RKB)