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INTERVIEWS KING KARMA
INTO THE EVERLASTJust when you thought that good old-fashioned balls-to-the-wall blues-based hard rock was no more, along comes KING KARMA to prove you wrong. They may be slightly under the radar but thats got nothing to do with the raw power of this hard rock foursome. Their self-titled debut( KING KARMA, CENTURION RECORDS), produced by the legendary JIMMY JOHNSON (LYNYRD SKYNYRD, BOB SEGER) is the perfect introduction. It's been a while since we've heard rock n roll served up with this much gusto and passion (vocals by SHAUN WILLIAMSON). Ax-man MARKUS WOLFE gives us one of the great guitar performances in recent years while TODD RONNING on bass and RICK FEDYK on drums provide us with that never failing, thunderous, LED ZEPPELIN-ESQUE rhythm section. KIN KARMA are definitely one of the tightest rock n roll packages around (get it out of the gutter!!!). Just give the tracks BREATHE, DEVIL'S ROAD, and I'M LISTENING a spin. This stuff is addicting!
MARKUS WOLFE OF KING KARMA
TALKS TO ROCKWIRED ABOUT
GETTING THE MUSIC OUT THERE
GOIN' SOUTH (TO FIND A LEAD SINGER, THAT IS)
AND THE SOUND OF 5000 MOTORCYCLES GETTING REVVED UP
INTERVIEWED BY BRIAN LUSH
ROCKWIRED had a chance to talk with lead guitarist MARKUS WOLFE over the phone. Here is how it went?
Are you guys on down time at the moment? What's up with the band right now?
Well, there's never any down time with KING KARMA. We've been writing for a new album and thats all that we've been concentrating on for the past few months.
Since the KING KARMA CD is the one that I'm going to be showcasing - How do you guys feel about it. Do you think that it's the perfect introduction to you as a band?
The album was written over a period of a couple of months. In fact, it wasn't the first bunch of songs written for that particular album. We wrote a lot of songs in early 2002 and had a change of singers. When we brought in the new singer (SHAUN WILLIAMSON) we decided to write all new songs. I think thats a collective works of all four guys. Everyone is involved with the writing process so I think it's pretty good indication of what KING KARMA is.
Why the name? What brought about the name?
Well, that's a TODD RONNING question. He came up with it. We'd been searching for a name for some time. We wanted something that was catchy and had a bit of meaning to it. KING KARMA is nothing personal or close to us, but it could mean a whole bunch of things to different people and that's why the name appeals to everybody in the band. So, I can't give you a real definitive answer on that.
You and TODD seem to go back quite a ways.
We do go back quite a ways. Actually we crossed paths in the mid nineties in different bands that we had been playing in. We'd see each other once in a while but we never had any ideas of playing together or writing together. A mutual friend brought us together and found that we both enjoyed the same kind of music and had the same ideals.
I read that you guys had a songwriting partnership in the beginning. Who did you write for? Yourselves or other people?
We wrote for ourselves but we did write for other people. There were a few songs that went over to Europe that other bands had picked up but the main idea was writing for ourselves. It wasn't really a band project. It was more of a songwriting project. Both of us had toured extensively at that point and we both figured that we could use a break from that by hanging out, writing some songs and seeing how that would go.
What drew you to playing guitar?
That's a great question. We're going back a few years now. Probably JIMI HENDRIX, JIMMY PAGE, those kind of guys listening to music in th earl days. There also bands like FREE and BAD COMPANY. Things like that got the blood going for me to play guitar.
WHAT is this GIT that I keep hearing about?
GIT is a guitar school in LA. People from all over the country and all over the world come to LA to study at this school. It's very exclusive and very technical and theory oriented. The beautiful thing about this school is that you're going to school with a thousand other guitar players, and that's where the real learning is, not just sitting in a class room and taking notes on theory.
How did you guys happen upon SHAUN WILLIAMSON as the lead singer?
Actually me and TODD both moved to Nashville in 2000. We had been looking for a rock-bluesy singer and we couldn't find one on the west coast so we decided to move south to see if we could pick up anybody there. We wanted someone with a natural blues background and SHAUN came about through STEVE MELTON who was the engineer and co-producer of the album along with JIM JOHNSON. STEVE had worked with SHAUN in th e past and suggested him.
And you recorded this CD at MUSCLE SHOALS? What was that like?
Well, the majority of the album was recorded in Vancouver at MUSHROOM STUDIOS which also has a lot of history. We did record at the original MUSCLE SHOALS SOUND and that was a fantastic experience. They still had pictures of every one who recorded there on the walls. We're talking LYNYRD SKYNYRD, BOB SEGER, ARETHA FRANKLIN, ROD STEWART, and THE ROLLING STONES. These were the people that JIM JOHNSON had actually worked with over his career. The vibe was tremendous.
How did you guys get JIMMY JOHNSON to produce?
We were in Nashville working with our first singer. The were a few people that were diggin what we were doing. Our demo got passed on to JOHN BRIGGS, the VP of ASCAP, and JOHN in turn sent our CD over to JIMMY in Alabama. He called us and said "Hey guys, I really like your stuff. Come down to my studio and lets have a meeting." It goes without saying that this was huge deal for us.
Who is KING KARMA now and who brings what to the band?
We've got SHAUN WILLIAMSON as the lead singer. He's really got a rock n roll soul as far as we're concerned. You can play all of the heavy riffs that you have but if you don;t have some soulful vocals behind it, it goes nowhere. TODD RONNING on bass and RICK FEDYK on drums create a thunderous rhythm section. They're great players and a real tight group. Everybody brings a lot to the band. It's not just one or two people. Everybody's got an input and that's why I think it works.
Explain if it's explainable the creative process. How do the songs come about?
Usually I'll come up with a guitar riff or TODD will come up with a riff and we'll play it to each other first and then we bring it to the band and. It's me TODD and RICK who will get together first. If it works right a way we'll bring SHAUN in on it. Everybody is really proficient on their instruments and things come together quickly as far as parts and stuff like that. Once we've got the basics down, SHAUN will just start writing lyrics and melodies and we all work on it from there.
What's life on the road like for the band?
It's all about getting the music out to the people. I think we're all really low key. We're not big partiers. We like to have a good time - don't get me wrong- but it's all about the music. We play our show, pack up our gear and we're gone tot he next town and we're on the bus talking about the show and how we can make it better. There is some writing that happens on the road.
You've opened for quite a few people, who was your favorite person to open up for.
That's a difficult one. I would have to say PAUL RODGERS. It think he's the greatest rock vocalist./ He and I have become quite good friends over the years. In fact, the way I met PAUL - I got a call one night to come down to a local bar and bring my guitar. I had no idea what was going on. I was asked if I remembered any of the old BAD COMPANY/FREE songs and I was like Of course. I grew up on this stuff. I walk into he bar and in walks PAUL RODGERS. He hands me a set list and says "you know these songs?" and I said absolutely. That was how we first met. We played a gig together.
Is there anyone that you'd like work with?
LED ZEPPELIN. Not gonna happen. I enjoy all things music. It doesn;t have to be a certain style. We're based around this seventies bluesy-rock style but I don't mind playing with just about anybody.
You guys are pretty much the only blue based hard rock out there. How does it feel? Do you feel isolated by it or do you find it advantageous because it makes you stick out?
Oddly enough, we get that question quite often- maybe not in those exact words- for us it was never a style or genre to chase. This is who we are. It's the kind of music that was grew up on. When we all came together we realized that we all had that in common. We never tried to be that. We are that. It feels natural. If it puts us in a category different from everyone else, then that's a bonus too.
How hard or easy is it to get the music out there?
These days it's a little easier cause there are more forms of media as opposed to ten years ago. You've got playing live which is number one but now you've got the internet, internet radio stations.
Your label CENTURION RECORDS really seems to have you back there. How is that bands relationship with the label?
It's great CENTURION is an Indie label but they spend more time developing their acts. They're all very involved in what we are doing and more importantly, we're all on the same page. Everything that we do, they always seem to wan to work with us, so I think that it's a really good relationship.
How is the new CD coming along?
As you know, these things can take some time. It's gonna be a KING KARMA CD no doubt but I think people will be surprised by the growth of some of the writing. I'm kind of excited about it.
You played STURGIS a few times.
Playing STURGIS is an experience. They don't cheer or clap. Instead they rev up their motorcycles. So you've got to imagine 5000 motorcycles being revved up after every song. That's your applause. It's great.
How much is a KING KARMA T-shirt?
I think we can send you one
What's your size?
XL. Oh by the way, are you touring this summer?
I hope that we'll be doing a good string of shows. Check the website (www.kingkarma.com) for dates that are coming up.