Interview with Soleil Moon and Michael Thompson Band frontman Larry King
I think that, as with the music itself, there are many reasons that we are drawn to and enjoy the vocals of a particular singer. For me, when I really love the vocals, they tend to fall into three categories.
One, they are just so damn good. They are so good that no matter what they are singing or whether you like everything they do or not, they just always bring their A-game and never sound anything less than spectacular. For me that would be folks like Johnny Gioeli, Jeff Scott Soto, David Readman and Danny Vaughn to name a few.
Two, they are nostalgic. Something about their voice just sends you right back in time to younger days, perhaps happier days and their voice just connects with you on a completely different level that others simply do not. Jon Bon Jovi and Ted Poley are two such artists for me that reach me on a level that many don’t.
And lastly they connect with you on an emotional level. Something in their voice is able to make you feel every lyric that they sing. They could sing a ballad about opening a can of pickles and have you in tears. Okay, while the can of pickles bit is likely never to happen, I think you catch my meaning, these are the singers that are able to put so much emotion into their performances that regardless of what they are singing about you feel that emotional pull, you feel what they are singing. To me that is a very small group of individuals that fit category, but among them would be Terry Brock.
Larry King falls into the first and last categories for me. The man never sounds less than extraordinary, just listen to him live, he sounds exactly like he does on the record! And he is able to put so much emotion into his delivery that you do indeed feel the song. Just listen to the beautiful and heart-wrenching ‘Goodnight Irene’ if you don’t believe me.
Producer, songwriter, founding member and singer of Soleil Moon and one of the singers for the Michael Thompson Band and frankly just one of my favorite voices out there period, Larry kindly agreed to sit down and have a chat with me about his music.
Interviews are one of, if not my favorite thing, about doing this site. The opportunity to sit and pick the minds of the artists that I admire, look up to, study and listen to for endless hours for years and years is just nothing short of thrilling for this little geek of a music lover. I have been blessed enough to have conducted several interviews since starting this little site and have been able to do several in the past few weeks, all of which will be posted soon and all of which have been a total blast.
I call this an interview but really that is probably giving me too much credit. My role here was actually pretty small. Outside of some very well placed “yeahs” that totally changed the entire dynamic of the conversation, as I am sure you will see, I really just kind of steered the way with where I was wanting the interview to go and Larry just took the reins and went to town, which allowed me the very fun opportunity of just being able to sit back and listen to story after story. As is the case with most interviews where we are actually speaking live, it ended too soon and I could have gone on for a few more hours listening to stories and asking about every single song in his discography, but alas it had to come to an end and below you will find the relevant conversation that took place. I say that because, again, as is the case with anytime you are speaking live, things are discussed and said that are not meant for the interview purpose, but simply chatting between two folks. So after a few minutes of discussion and some talk about the obvious current situation going on worldwide with Covid-19, we got down to business and that is where I pick up in our conversation.
MMR: I know that here they mentioned that it’s going to be end of the summer to the end of the year before we start getting things back on track. (speaking of Covid-19 and the current Stay At Home order that is in place here in North Carolina).
LK: Back to normal, yeah exactly. You know luckily I’ve retired so I’m just concerned about the economy at this point.
MMR: Okay, okay, yeah it’s going to be rough.
LK: Well I haven’t retired like I’ve stopped the music business, I used to have a 22 piece orchestra.
MMR: Oh, so the Larry King Orchestra is no more?
LK: Yeah, yeah, the orchestra is no more. I sold it to a guy.
MMR: Oh wow, that was what? Like how many…like 20 some years for you?
LK: Yeah, like 27 years. An orchestra leader in Chicago and all over the world. We did private events for the world, you know. We were one of the premier private event bands. We backlined just about everybody that came to Chicago as well.
MMR: Yeah I saw that I think like Lionel Richie, Journey, Cheap Trick. I mean wow! What was it like playing with those guys?
LK: Oh they’re fun, man! They’re all really cool. You know musicians are musicians and if you’re good and you’re talented you’re in the club, you know? It doesn’t matter what kind of music you play or what you’re in. Everyone has a similar background. They’re all, you know, including me, geeks that sit in our basement and (mimics playing instruments) for seven, eight hours. “Leave me alone!” (yells back over his shoulder) “Mom, get me a sandwich!” You know, that’s pretty much what our lives were than we all went to college and studied in college and…
MMR: Went right back to doing the same thing (laughs).
LK: Even the guy that you think is the worst musician in the world or is playing like thrash or he’s doing something that’s just really simple, 4-chord songs, most of those guys that are doing that, they’ve got a nice background in music and an education.
MMR: Yeah, I mean I know a lot of musicians and yeah, like you were saying, even the ones that haven’t “made it”, it’s still, you know, they have that background there and they work night and day just to get to where they are, which sometimes is really nowhere.
LK: That’s it. It’s a constant. You’re constantly practicing. Constantly rehearsing you know and if you want to keep your job, it’s like any athletic event, you lose ‘em if you don’t practice and work on them. And musicians in general are pretty obsessed with what it is that we do. I mean we don’t…there’s no other option for us. It’s a blessing and a curse so if you don’t make it, which is completely luck and who you know, you just kind of sit there in a world of misery and you just want to die because whatever else you’re doing is just bullshit to you, you know?
MMR: Right, you’ve got to do what you love to do and what you were made to do.
LK: Absolutely. One of my other interests was in construction. If I didn’t do well in music I would have been probably a finish carpenter.
MMR: Okay, alright, but I’d say you’ve done pretty well for yourself in music.
LK: Oh I’ve done okay, (laughs) I’ve done okay. It’s been fun man. Been a fun life.
So, what’s on your mind man? And thank you for this. This is great. It’s a great departure from what the hell’s going on.
MMR: Oh no, thank you! Yeah, you know I was talking with some other artists and I said you know, I really want to do something during this time for people, I mean interviews are great and I’d like to do something just to maybe get people’s minds off of it all during this time.
LK: Sure, absolutely.
MMR: So thank you very much!
LK: Oh my pleasure. So shoot, what’s on your mind?
MMR: Well let’s see, we’ve already covered some of the first questions I had here so I’ll just go all the way back to the beginning. Well, not the beginning for you but, you were in a band called Human Factor…
LK: Oh wow!
MMR: And you actually had a…you were signed with a label were you not? Caliber?
LK: Caliber Records was a subsidiary of Warner Bros. There’s this guy, Steven Brown, he was one of those big hanging gold bracelets and the watch that didn’t really fit you know, business man type. I think the first act he signed was Iron Butterfly. Remember the song ‘In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida?’ or are you too young?
MMR: No, no, I know the song.
LK: So we did a little touring with them and the guitar player in our band back then, Keith Bernstein, he was the head engineer from the label so we got, and this is back to “it’s all who you know”, we got put into that whole thing because they were looking for a group you know and he was like “Hey man, you have a group, don’t you?” and it was just like the early stages of it. Oddly enough one of the promoters there turned out to become like a lifelong friend of mine and I didn’t realize that he was the promoter at Caliber until like ten years later when he started promoting my record and he was with a group with a guy named Tom Ezetta who does a lot of independent promotions and we were just kinda having dinner and talking and he’s like “oh my God, Steve Brown, Caliber Records! Dude I was the head promoter there” It’s a very small world and you know, you figure that out later. But I loved that band, man, it was more like we were trying to be the next Yes. Very progressive rock. I don’t even have the tracks anymore, I think they’re on cassette, I mean it’s that long ago. They were recorded in California and it was like Beta tape that stuff was on. Keith had a mobile recording studio and like a double wide kind of trailer and we’d go in there. He made another living by recording live shows at concerts, you know, for bigger bands and we ended up making our record and my producer back then was a guy named Bob Margouleff, his claim to fame was some of the work he did mid-interfacing between keyboards. He also was Stevie Wonders live sound guy and then he ended up being the surround sound mixer for Lord Of The Rings.
MMR: Oh wow, okay, big guy!
LK: And I got through…I got to Bob through his niece, Jennifer Firestone, who I dated in college. So you know, it’s like people are always wondering “how do you…how do you get? How do you…?” it’s kinda…
MMR: Kinda luck of the draw.
LK: Well I dated this girl and her uncle happened to be this guy and he happened to work for this guy and you know, you’re just always trying to put out your best foot forward.
Anyhow, what made you think of Human Factor? We had one hit song called “Human Factor” back in the 80’s man, it’s crazy.
MMR: Oh I just…I was, when gathering questions for you trying, you know I was looking you up. Number one, you’re a hard guy to find. I mean, you Google “Larry King Interview” and I’m sorry man, you’re not the first guy to pop up! (laughs).
LK: (Laughs) Well yeah, it’s all that other guy, it’s the other one.
MMR: So anyway I…
LK: For a long time I was L. Mitchell King or Mitch King. During the Human Factor days I was Mitchell King ‘cause there was just too much problem with Larry King. Most people don’t know that. They’re like “who the fuck?” I actually have some old pictures that say Mitch King on it. I had super long hair. Hair down to my butt, no hair on my chest, tight leather pants, swashbuckler shirts with the fucking sleeve that (motions a sleeve hanging low from his arm) you know.
MMR: Very much a child of the times it sounds (laughs).
LK: (Laughs) Yeah, absolutely.
MMR: So yeah, I was looking up stuff ‘cause I love the music but really knew very little about you and I noticed there was a lot about your wedding stuff and you know, The Larry King Orchestra, but there was really very little that I could find about your actual music so I wanted to try and ask some questions about that and get it down for others.
LK: Oh sure, sure. Well it’s either under Soleil Moon or Michael Thompson Band.
MMR: Right, right, very familiar with both.
LK: I’m so glad! I’m sorry, go ahead.
MMR: Oh no, you’re fine. So that…Human Factor disbanded and that was kind of when you started Larry King Orchestra?
LK: Um, I started a rendition of Larry King Orchestra and then I moved. And it was called Mirage back then. I was actually in a society band called Mirage and that was my first experience and we were kinda doing like singles parties you know. I actually have a really funny story about that. There was this one guy that came up to the band and I don’t know, about 65 years old. Bald, super tan, totally wearing that silk pattern 197’0’s shirt with the chains and this is granted, the early 80’s. ’84. And he’s like “Hey man, you know that song by Mr. Mister ‘Broken Wings’?” and I go, hmm “You mean” (sings) “Take these broken wings we’ll learn to fly again” and then I sing the whole fuckin’ song. And he goes “Yeah yeah yeah, that’s it!” and I said “hmm…I don’t know it man” and he walked away and says “oh. Bummer”. (Laughs) I had just sang the whole fucking song! I sang the whole song and then just say I don’t know it and you were like “oh. Bummer”. I loved it man, it was so funny. I got a big kick out of that. Everyone in the band was looking at me going “dude, we don’t know that song” and I was like I do.
Anyhow, the promoter that promoted my record, they also did a lot of stuff with Mr. Mister which I thought was even funnier because that happened two years after. Anyway, I stopped doing that when I went to California. We originally got asked to come out there. Virgin Records was interested in the band and that’s why we came out. We ended up not getting a deal and then Island Records was interested in the band and they were…they had just started working on this little band called U2 (laughs).
MMR: (Laughs) Yeah yeah, little old band.
LK: Yeah, so that kind of diverted their interest and we ended up getting picked up by Caliber about a year later. I stayed out there for about seven years you know and I met a lot of really great people out there. Met the guys from Warrant, um…there was this studio called, I think, Red Zone Studios where like all the metal guys were recording and I think the guy’s name who owned it was Dennis Dager…you know, the memory banks are a little…(waves hand back and forth and laughs).
MMR: A little shot? (laughs).
LK: Yeah, yeah, you know the last song on my new record right?
MMR: (Laugh) oh yeah, I do.
LK: (Laughs) Yeah, the memory is a little 420’d out, you know?
Anyhow, Mark Slaughter was a big…he had just started recording there. It’s funny because I became friends with Mark later when he moved to Nashville. We kinda rekindled our relationship about seven, eight years ago. But he’s, you know, he’s an insanely talented cat.
MMR: Oh definitely, yeah, I’ve always liked him but I know he’s kinda…he kinda has a love or hate kind of voice, but I’ve always liked it.
LK: Oh you know what, he’s got great pitch, he’s got great high chops and actually his timing was perfect because you know that kinda really thin high vocal thing was huge when he was making it.
MMR: Oh absolutely. Yeah I…
LK: You know I never had those chops. I always had that kind of deep, guttural, smoked too many cigars. (Laughs) Noticed how I said cigars that time?
MMR: (Laughs) Yes, Yes I did notice that.
LK: Anyhow, I hope those tangents didn’t…well I hope they answered some of your questions.
MMR: Oh yeah, no no you’re fine.
So I guess what inspired you to move at that time into the private event stuff?
LK: Um, my wife and I…my wife was working for Max Factor in Los Angeles and my deal was up with Warner Bros. and Caliber so I was doing some stuff for Windham Hill. That was back in the new age era. So I had this album called ‘Moonscapes’ that Keith and I…it was kinda guitar, Rhodes-esque, very instrumentally kinda smooth jazz. It was the birth of smooth jazz but they called it new age back then. And A&M Records had just kind of shut their studio down and it all…it seemed like it was a good time to move back to Chicago and become a session musician and have children. I didn’t want to raise my kids in Los Angeles nothing against L.A. you know, you just kind of want to have family support when you have kids. So my wife and I moved back to Chicago and I already had a career as a session musician in Chicago since I’d been a seven year old boy. I’d been doing jingles and singing background vocals for people since I’d been a little kid. So once again, all who you know. My mother was one of the top agents in Chicago, you know, and like back in the era of Dick Marx, Richard Marx…you hip to Richard Marx?
MMR: Oh yeah, love him!
LK: His father was one of the biggest jingle producers and writers in Chicago and then eventually moved to Los Angeles. So anyway, I had a huge career with Universal Studios in Chicago and Dick Marx’s company as a child singer. So I just went back to Chicago and immediately got picked up again because there’s very few cats here, or there, I’m in Texas now, that have, you know, real good rock voices. So I got every beer commercial known to mankind. (Laughs). And Enterprise rental car and Coke and Kohls. And I actually made more money doing that than being with the label and then I started The Society Band by the way. I re-started The Society Band because I wanted to play live but I didn’t want to play bars. I just was not into doing the bar scene. And the live gig thing, if you own the band, it’s very lucrative, extremely lucrative. People don’t understand, you can make a seven figure income off of the private event business, especially if you’re goo. And I knew all the stars so I was able to backline and contract all of the big entertainment acts to come into Chicago. So I got a lot of those calls.
MMR: Yeah, ‘cause you actually had several big names within The Larry King Orchestra itself. It was, you know…it wasn’t just put together by a bunch of nobodies, there were some names in there.
LK: Oh yeah, yeah. And once again that had to do with my studio career. Within Los Angeles and pretty much every major city…Atlanta, L.A., New York, Chicago…there’s a big private event business and everyone makes fun of it because it’s usually the weekend warriors. It’s people that are an accountant during the day and they play the saxophone at night. Chicago is one of the few places, and New York and Los Angeles, where you could be a full-time musician and actually make a decent living going from session work to shows to private event shows on the weekends. And once again, people don’t understand, that’s only a weekend business so to be able to pull in a seven figure net profit on a weekend and then still have your other career, you know…it’s pretty amazing.
MMR: Uh yeah, that’s not too bad for a weekend.
LK: And you know, as a husband and having children, any kind of security (laughs).
MMR: Yes, I’d have to agree. I’d…
LK: And I love doing the records. Love doing the records. I’ve been working on people’s records for…well forever. But you know, that steady flow, that steady paycheck. You gotta find that next gig man, it’s essential.
MMR: The bills don’t stop coming.
LK: And halfway through one gig you gotta go out and find that next gig.
MMR: You gotta be lookin’ ahead always, that’s exactly right.
Well let’s see…so Soleil Moon. Obviously most people, well I’d say most people in melodic rock, are gonna know you from that band. I think you were originally called Chalice, is that right?
LK: Wow, okay. The record was called ‘Chalice’, ‘The Chalice’. The original band was called The Eyes, which…you gotta be “in the know” to know about The Eyes (laughs). We came out with our first single, John Blasucci and I, without a band name and it was just King & Blasucci ‘cause we were like “I don’t know’ because we weren’t on the marketing side, we were just creating material and that’s when I met Jack Ashton, the guy I was talking about that’s the promoter with Tom Ezetta, ‘cause we just wanted to test market the material on the radio and see if people would dig it. That’s when we pulled out the song ‘World’s Apart’. So we made like a little EP and we pushed some of the material and didn’t really know what to do with it and they were very helpful, Tom Ezetta and Jack Ashton, were very helpful in creating kinda a marketing tool for us to become an actual band. You know, I’d been using the Larry King Orchestra musicians because they’re great studio musicians. Khari Parker, Lamar Jones, John Blasucci, Lenny Castro, Michael Thompson, Chris Siebold, Dave Hiltebrand. You know these guys are all very talented, affective…Alan Berliant who was in Cupcakes, that was an offshoot of The Smashing Pumpkins with Matt Walker, who was the drummer for The Smashing Pumpkins. Anyhow all these guys are all Chicago guys except for Lenny Castro on percussions and Michael Thompson, those were my L.A. contingency. Which actually cultivated my relationship with him. I first…I was signed with River North Records back in Chicago as a producer doing a country act. There were two bands, one from I think South Carolina, Bogus Charlie, and the other was The Mississippi Mudcats and they took like the lead singer and the guitar player from the Carolina band and then they took me as a keyboard player and a singer and I was the main producer and then they had the drummer and the bass player from The Mississippi Mudcats and River North Records kinda assembled…kinda put this band together and we went into the studio for literally 71 hours straight and made three tunes you know and Brent Rowan, who was the guitar player that was kind of playing some of the Nashvilley parts, you know, and Kirk was a little more rockin’ and they were all great. We put a thing together and the music never took off, the deal never really got penned but I met Pete Cetera and Dann Huff ‘cause they were recording in the next studio and that’s once again…it’s kinda that…
MMR: Right, it’s…you just happened to be in the right place at the right time.
LK: Yeah, and Pete came in and he said “man, you sound great” and I said “thanks man!” And oddly enough I ended up hiring Peter for a private event later down the road and trying to get him to remember me from that session. He totally didn’t remember who the fuck I was. (Laughs). I knew his acoustic guitar player ‘cause he was a Chicago guy. Anyhow, I think Pete lives in Taos, New Mexico now…no, he lives in Sun Valley, Idaho. I think he lives in Sun Valley. Anyhow, umm, so I called Dann Huff, I don’t know if you know who Dann Huff is…
MMR: Oh yes! Giant, Whiteheart…
LK: Yeah, exactly. So I call Dann and I say “Hey man, will you play guitar on this record I’m doing?” and he says “I’m producing Megadeath right now” and I was like what! ‘Cause you know, he had done all of that Christian rock stuff with…was it Michael W. Smith? Jack Wagner ‘All I Need’, you know and I was like dude, that’s what I want, all that super melodic…so I called Dann and he said “look, I’m busy, why don’t you call Michael Thompson, he’ll play on anybody’s shit” (laughs) So it was kinda like a total dig, like “fuck you…I mean thank you! Thank you” (laughing) Hopefully we’re not recording this shit, Dann I’m kidding man, I’m kidding!
But uh, he doesn’t know me from Adam now. He knows my name, that’s about it. But he’s, Dann Huff, is good friends with Joie Scott, the gal that writes most of my lyric content, so umm, that was kind of another rekindling. There’s been all of these weird relationships that I’ve had with these people that started like in the 80’s that have been rekindled through the ‘90s and then the millennium and as we have been progressing I’ve still had these kind of loose relationships and they’ve gotten stronger and stronger as we’re getting older and older ‘cause now we’re all in our fifties and sixties so it’s like crazy, and we’re still kickin’, so you know. Anyhow he’s the one that got Michael (Thompson) on my stuff and then Michael totally …I did that ‘Worlds Apart’ EP ‘The Chalice’ with him and it was magic, there was no other guitar player until I found Chris Sielbold, who plays most of the live suff and he plays a little bit…Chris likes to play the Prog. Rock, kinda Incubus riffs (mimics playing a guitar riff) where Michael, he likes to play that stuff but I have Chris do that. It’s a lot of masturbation, you know (laughs, mimics playing up and down the neck of a guitar). So he likes to record that stuff so I give it to him. Not that Michael couldn’t do it, trust me, that guy can play anything.
MMR: Oh amazing player, and he’s played with just about…well pretty much everybody.
LK: Everyone, yeah. My relationship with Michael is just unprecedented and the fact that I was allowed to sing on the Michael Thompson Band stuff, I was like….and that happened…kinda weird happenstance. He was signed with Frontiers Records. They had used ‘I’d Die For You’ off of that record I did with Michael. And I think they knew Soleil Moon because Michael played on that record and they wanted to know what he was doing with Soleil Moon because they’re huge fans of Michael. But they were listening to one of the songs we had demoed, I think it was the song ‘Future Past’, and Mario and Serafino, the guys who kind of run the label and I think Serafino actually owns the label.
MMR: Yeah, he’s the founder.
LK: And they were like “is that Larry King from Soleil Moon?” and Michael goes “yeah!” and I was like really? And then I found out that Michael Kiske had redone ‘I’d Die For You’ on his Place Vendome record, so it was kind of a natural move for me to go to Frontiers.
MMR: Okay, so that’s when they took over the second albums distribution?
LK: Exactly. So they said “Why don’t you just use Larry?” so Michael called me and said “hey, the label wants you to be the lead singer on this, are you okay with it?” and I was like “are you kidding me!” And then, you know, they put out the rest of the Soleil Moon records. And I still write stuff for some of their other artists so…
MMR: Yeah, I was going to ask about that because on the newest one you have ‘Nothing Matters’ and that was actually on Bryan Cole’s ‘Sands Of Time’ album around I think 2017-2018.
LK: Yes! Yes, well, I originally wrote that song for Michael Kiske. Crazy. So they call me and say “Michael needs a new tune, can you write him something?” and then he didn’t want it, he turned it down. And then Bryan heard it and was like “oh my god, I love this tune!” and then Bryan cut it and I was like well, it’s already been cut so why don’t I put it out. And dude, that’s the demo. What you’re listening to is the old demo that I did for Michael Kiske.
MMR: Really? Wow, yeah I didn’t know that. I noticed there was some…
LK: ‘cause I don’t really do demos, I do record…I make it so it’s usuable.
MMR: Right right. So I noticed there were some differences between Bryan’s version and the one you did…
LK: Yeah he redid it. He completely redid the song.
MMR: Oh okay, so it was originally written the way it is on ‘Warrior’ you’re saying?
LK: Yeah, the way you heard it is the way I presented it to Michael Kiske. Bryan Cole got ahold of it and he redid it and then I just decided to release it. I actually wanted to put it on Michael record but he didn’t want to put it on his record. But his latest record where I’ve only got ‘Starting Over’ and I’m singing on a couple of other songs, but the other Larry, the bass player, he did a lot of the writing. He is also an amazing musician, a great bass player, great guy and great singer. Um, Guy Allison wrote a song, which I think became their single which I actually sang the leads on. ‘Future Past’ was kinda just Michael and I where ‘Love And Beyond’ was kinda more of friend, friends of Michael Thompson. Which was really cool, you know I love all the camaraderie. And I like that he did his record that way, it’s got a little more history to it. It’s got some of the old original writers, Gwen Davis mixed the songs, so you know…
MMR: So your newest Soleil Moon, ‘Warrior’, just released last year man and wow! I think it is your best one yet. As a full record I think it is the strongest all aaround.
LK: Thank you, thank you. I do too. I think it is the best material personally and I think it’s the most rockin’ too so you know, it’s actually me getting to be who I really am. I’ve had to do a lot of adult contemporary stuff in the past and I’m a rocker at heart.
MMR: Oh yeah, well ‘Worlds Apart’ was very much adult contemporary, for the most part.
LK: Well that’s what we were doing back then.
MMR: Right, it’s very much of its time for sure, fantastic, but of its time. Well, other than a couple of tracks like ‘I’d Die For You’ which don’t really fit that mold. Which is one of my favorite songs also. I just love that one.
LK: Right on. It’s one of my favorites too.
MMR: Now all of that orchestral stuff there, is that stuff that you arrange and write yourself or do you have somebody…
LK: Yeah. Well me and John, yeah.
MMR: Okay, alright. Wow.
Okay, well I know that first record was adult contemporary but now you are known more as like AOR, west coast, melodic rock style but you really fit into several genres…I mean your records are very diverse in sound. Do you just pull from stuff that you currently like when you write, like various…
LK: No, I just, you know…once again I’m just one of the few musicians, kinda like The Moody Blues, Bryan Adams, Kansas, Genesis. You know there’s bands that…Michael Kiske (laughs) which is why he liked ‘I’d Die For You’. Um, I like to use what I know and there’s no style that isn’t acceptable in my book. You know I…once again my voice kind of lends itself to, because it is raspy, to being that Sammy Hagar style scream your ass off. And oddly enough that’s mostly what I got in the jingle business. Except for Enterprise rental cars. That was (sings jingle). You know it was kinda old school jongle singing. But you know I’ve done everything from opera to heavy, heavy rock so it’s like I could do the fuckin’ Metallica, Megadeath things too, I just…I like my music to have little bits of it. And interestingly enough in ‘Warrior’ you know we go straight metal in one of the instrumental sections where it goes (vocalizes part) you know and it’s like, it fits. It’s kind of like a demonic section and during that, the visual in my head, in that little metal section, was another rider, ‘cause the song’s about like in 1912 there was a great 777 mile motorcycle race that happened in Europe and there was a scene where the motorcycle riders are next to each other and one’s kinda kicking the other one out. And you know that’s, that sound is him (mimics pushing the other rider out of the way). There’s always a video in my head otherwise the song is useless to me. I mean I get dance music and trap and house and EDM and it’s cool and I put pieces of that in my music all of the time, especially when I’m working with other artists, or young artists, they want that element of EDM, trap, house, maybe a little Brazilian, something to kinda make it a little cool, a little hip, a little different when in actuality it’s just the history of what it is that we’ve learned as musicians. So yeah, I like to include it all man. There’s no reason you can’t. And Soleil Moon was never really a profit scenario for me, it was my songs for me.
MMR: So does that have anything to do with why the records are released so far apart?
LK: Oh entirely, yeah.
MMR: Okay, ‘cause I know that…
LK: I rarely get the chance to write for myself, I’m always writing for other people.
MMR: Yeah, yeah. I know people that I’ve played your music for that don’t even like the music but are always like “my god though, his voice! it’s great!” and I’m like “yeah! We don’t ever get to hear him though” (laughs).
LK: (Laughs) Well I’m not usually the lead singer on everything, I’m just the producer you know. I do a lot of record production. And like right now, I’m writing a new musical so it’s like…it takes all of your time, when you work on a new project it takes all of your time and you got to back burner the stuff you do just for the love of it. I’d love to be in a situation where Soleil Moon could release project after project after project but you know, it’s a select group of cats that like the tunes you know, ‘cause there’s so much involved in it. I mean nothing against anyone else’s ears, but you gotta have a little bit more of a sophisticated ear to appreciate it.
MMR: Sure, sure, you know it’s a little different for sure but it’s wonderful and I just love it.
LK: Ah, thank you!
MMR: I mean it’s gotta…’Warrior has probably moved into being my most listened to album of 2019 now.
LK: Wow! Wow (claps). Thank you!
MMR: Which was originally held by Michael Sweet’s last album and Pretty Wild.
LK: Good people to be in a category with.
MMR: Yeah, it was them and Magnus Karlsson’s…I don’t know if you know who he is…
LK: I don’t know Magnus Karlsson.
MMR: Oh well, Primal Fear…I mean my goodness, he’s played all over the place. European, like most of melodic rock is.
LK: There’s a lot of great melodic rock, especially in the guitar world in like Sweden and Switzerland.
MMR: Oh yeah, absolutely, and the vocalists over there! You know, I’m friends with a lot of the musicians over three and the crazy thing is it’s still an underground scene.
LK: And will be forever.
MMR: Yeah, I mean 99% of melodic rock I think comes out of Europe, and I talk to them and they’re like “yeah, we’re still underground…”
LK: And I don’t know why…it’s odd. When I did that Milan concert with Michael…
MMR: Great concert by the way.
LK: It blew my mind how many people knew the material, you know? I was like (mimics head exploding).
MMR: (Laughs) You weren’t expecting that?
LK: No, not at all. Not at all.
MMR: I know, it’s crazy. It’s crazy. It’s sad but…you know. Well I know you need to go so…
LK: Yeah but you know it’s kinda cool that we have a little group, you know?
MMR: We do. It is, and I am a member of a few different boards and groups on this music and you do kind of just…it’s kinda like a small family because it is such a small niche genre and you start to see the same guys around.
LK: Well yeah, and the songs are great! I’ve listened to a bunch of the material and it’s great. The musicianship is great and you can’t suck and pull this material off. That’s what I like about it. Have you ever heard of Alan Holdsworth the guitar player?
MMR: Oh yes.
LK: You know he’s like (mimics playing quickly up and down the neck of the guitar) like the whole fuckin’ song and a lot of people listen to it and they’re like “oh my god, too much, I can’t deal with it”. And the truth of the matter is, if you could actually sit and examine what he was doing from bar one to bar 12 to bar 32…
MMR: It’d fuckin’ blow your mind.
LK: It’d fuckin’ blow your mind away! And the fact that the guy’s able to…listening to what Michael does and how melodic he is, and I’ve watched that guy work man. He sits and…it’s not like he labors it’s just “ah!” and he just plays something and the first time it’s it! That’s the take. And after working with him I’m like damn, we should really write together. And then that happened and the glory of that is it’s no demos. From the time he gets it to the time I finish it’s like everyone’s first takes on everything, you know? And it comes out magical and I love the process man.
MMR: So basically what we hear is pretty much what come up with first take almost?
LK: Pretty much.
MMR: Pretty much. That’s amazing!
LK: John Blasucci’s a talented mother fucker too, and Khari Parker.
MMR: Yeah, you mentioned Richard Marx earlier, he’s written for him, or worked with him, hasn’t he?
LK: Yeah, yeah, John’s worked with Rich.
MMR: Well a lot of the lyrics…I know you mentioned you have someone that writes, do they write all of the lyrics for you?
LK: No, no…
MMR: ‘Cause I know with Soleil Moon a lot of the lyrics are on the heavier side. I mean in ‘Freedom’ you’re dealing with child abuse and in…
LK: Yeah, I come up with the concept and the idea and a lot of times I’ll write the chorus.
MMR: Alright, okay.
LK: And then I’ll bring that to the table, you know, Joie is great man, she’s one of the best. She used to work for Leo Burnett, she was an add girl, and then she got a bunch of hit songs with Helen Reddy and Colin Raye and you know, she kills it. You should look up Joie Scott and see what her discography is ‘cause it’s pretty intense. And I gotta say, I’ve gone to other lyricists and you know, I write and I do a lot of the writing. ‘Worlds Apart’ was actually John Blasucci and I. We wrote the lyrics to that. You know, I just found that when you’re working with Michael Thompson, Lenny Castro, all these amazing…John Blasucci, Khari Parker, Lamar Jones, it puts you in these scenarios because you have all of these one take guys. To have a lyricist who is like that, it’s really tough. So Joie’s that person. I’ll go to her house in Nashville, I’ll stay there for 24 hours and we’ll write two full fuckin’ songs. And like…granted I come there with ideas, it’s never just…
MMR: You aren’t just starting from scratch.
LK: Right, and I’m pretty good at trying to paint a picture musically before I ever…you know, so you can kind of listen to the music and say oh this is a landscape, this is rolling, this definitely shouldn’t be about this, it should be about this because it totally doesn’t fit. So there’s a concept that starts out first and it’s usually something to do with my life. Which is one of the reasons ’72 Camaro’ went from Michael Thompson’s record to mine, ‘cause it was actually about my car. I had a ’72 Camaro when I was a teenager.
MMR: Nice! And once again man, it’s a great song, I love it.
LK: Well thank you. And that was once again supposed to be on Michael’s record so we recorded it with Vinny Kaliuda and Leland Scar and Ricky Peterson on organ and I changed out the drummer to Khari and I kept Leland’s bass and kept Michael Thompson on guitar so that it had that Soleil Moon vibe to it. But I actually played piano on that one.
MMR: Yeah I’d actually seen a video on YouTube of it being recorded with Michael Thompson.
LK: Yeah, originally that was the plan.
MMR: So how many end up on his records that were written for you?
MMR: ‘Here I Am’ and…
LK: ‘Here I Am’ and ‘Starting Over’. Wow dude, your research is insane! You know more about this shit than I do! (laughs).
MMR: (Laughs) Oh man it’s just listening to the music.
Well since I mentioned ‘Here I Am’, one I also love, that video, I’ve always loved that video. I think it’s memorable because it’s just different.
LK: Of ‘Here I Am’?
LK: Oh right on. I always wanted to be a cartoon. And oddly enough how about it, with all that is going on? It’s a post-apocalyptic…you know? Where we all get hit by a terrible bio…that’s exactly what that’s about.
MMR: Yeah, yeah. I liked it because it does have a story to it, it’s more than just a band playing or some half naked girl dancing.
LK: Well its todays story. That was completely incidental.
MMR: So did you come up with the concept for that video?
LK: Yeah, yeah, yeah. We originally wrote that for the Olympics but we missed our pitch date by two days.
MMR: Oh damn!
LK: I was like “mother fucker!” So I decided to put it on the Soleil Moon record and then before the Soleil Moon record came out Mario and Serafino loved it so they said “we need you to put that on Michael Thompson’s record”.
MMR: Great song, it is a great song.
LK: Thank you.
MMR: Well I mentioned the heavy lyrics there and there’s one…you know, and I’m sure you’ve heard it many times, but there is one song that is just really powerful man. It’s powerful, it’s so emotional, so emotive, it just speaks to you on a level, you know…ways other songs usually don’t. Um, you probably know what I’m talking about already…obviously ‘420’.
MMR: (Laughs) No, no, ‘Goodnight Irene’ of course.
LK: Um, “smokin’ pot in the parking lot. Everybody knows the time and spot” (laughs). I just wanted to, on ‘420’ just real quick, I just wanted the world to know that I completely disagree with the government and I’m thrilled that they’re coming along as quickly as they are.
Anyhow, ‘Goodnight Irene’ was about my wife. When she was four years old she had open heart surgery and uh, she survived obviously, but in this story I took it through the point of the majority of kids that didn’t survive. She was AB Negative blood so she had to have people come in and donate their blood for transfusions because back then they didn’t have a supply of AB Negative ‘cause it’s such a rare blood. But you know, I talked to her parents and said “what was going through your mind?” (Pauses to call wife over to say hello). Anyhow it was uh…she survived the open heart surgery and the whole song is based on their feelings and what they went through…and once again I’m a guy that likes to write stories so…
MMR: Well I mean I love the song, my favorite. I love emotional songs like that. My wife hates it (laughs). She thinks it’s absolutely depressing and is like “why do you like that!”
LK: Well when I finished writing it all of a sudden my wife, not knowing it was about her, I heard from the bedroom upstairs “why would you write that? That’s terrible!” ‘cause you know you think no one’s listening and they are. And I was like “oh that? That’s about you” and she’s like “What! That’s terrible. Don’t put that on a record, no one wants to hear that!” Now I’m like (holds hand out towards screen in an offering gesture) mission accomplished! (laughs).
MMR: (Laughs). That sorta reminds me, kind of opposite of that, of…I remember Richard Marx talking about his song ‘Hazard’ and he said he was in his studio at house going “this is a terrible song, nobody’s gonna like it. I’m just going to scratch it” and his wife at the time came in and…
MMR: Yeah, yeah. And she comes in and says “what is that song? That’s a hit” and he said “you know what, I’m a musician, I know music, this is what I do and that’s not a hit. So just to prove it to her I’m gonna cut it and bury it way down there at like track number nine where no one will ever find it” and then of course, huge hit for him.
LK: Yeah, it becomes a huge hit of course. Well Cynthia is also…Animotion I think’s the name of the band. Lead singer of a band called Animotion. You know she was in all that ‘Stayin’ Alive’ shit with John Travolta and…
MMR: ‘Dirty Dancing’.
LK: Yeah, Patrick Swayze, ‘Dirty Dancing’ and all that stuff. I mean an amazing, gorgeous, talented…she’s got an ear, I mean she knows her ass from a hole in the ground.
MMR: Right right. Well I know that you need to go so I really appreciate you taking the time to do this man, it’s been fun!
LK: Thank you so much. Thank you for everything.
MMR: Yes sir, thank you for the music.
LK: Thank you. Stay healthy, stay safe. Take care man.