KINGDOM COME Bang Your Head 2004 25th of June
Lenny Wolf, the lead singer of the eighties band Kingdom Come, was in a flu in Bang Your Head-festival in Germany this summer. His band still played though, but Lenny was having a hard time speaking afterwards. He almost cancelled this interview, but maybe the tea that he was drinking backstage helped him change his mind and he agreed to it after all. He still kept drinking his tea while doing the interview and his voice was quite low and blocked, but he didn't seem to be too bothered about it.
Lenny - Finland, Finland, Finland, hello Finland !
RockUnited - So, what has Kingdom Come been up to lately ?
Lenny - Today I had fish and rice and it didn't taste very good...writing, we finished our new record. It's coming out August 30th in Europe, I hope in Finland too. Other than that we're just getting ready to do some shows in the summer, going on headlining tour hopefully in the fall. We're gonna be playing wherever we can play. And that's pretty much all there's to it. I've got myself a new pair of underwear, I'm very excited...And I just found out I'm the father of a 12-year old girl in California I'm not excited about.
RockUnited - No !
Lenny - Yes, twelve years later ! "Oh, Lenny, how about you being a daddy ?"..."oh thank you telling me twelve years later !". So I guess that's the only prize I have to pay for my past on doing pretty good.
RockUnited - You finished the album "Perpetual". Please tell us about the album and the songs.
Lenny - It's music, I think there are eleven songs in there. What can I tell you...to me it's a personal achievement since...I mean, I don't know if you've noticed, but Kingdom Come was never a band that was very concerned about being trendy. I don't give a fuck who does what, how you're supposed to look like, blah blah. We do our thing and over the years I've developed a better sense for producing things and my writing ability has become better, so I think "Perpetual" has reached a very mature state, if you know what I mean, level. But what has always until now influenced me is kinda included. I like industrial stuff like Massive Attack and Depeche Mode. I like heavy stuff like the old AC/DC, Soundgarden. I also like old Beatles stuff. I mean we don't sound like them or them or them. Kingdom Come has its own little thing. To explain it you would do a better job than me. But I'm very happy with the outcome. I mean all I can say is I hope we will be able to reach a lot of people who wouldn't know about it, because it's our biggest problem. Still a lot of people don't know of our new stuff, they know about the eighties Kingdom Come, Madonna...but they don't know much about the new mature Kingdom Come. And I hope people are gonna find out. That's our biggest problem, bands like Whitesnake, Aerosmith, they have a very, very big old following. Kingdom Come is not that old. But we are also not very new. We are caught in the middle. We are not very new like "oh, have you heard them" and it's not like all those people coming to concerts for nostalgic reasons. Like when you go to a Scorpions concert, it's like a big nostalgic get-together, "ah, remember the old days". We don't have that, because we were too young to that audience, but we are too old for the eighteen year olds. We're caught in the middle and it's very hard to break out of it. I can only hope that one of these days some big guy is gonna give us our break. We shot two videos in Los Angeles and hopefully they're gonna be shown, you never know because if you're not like a top ten act in the MTV playing all those rap bullshit, it's hard to get airplay. And without airplay it's hard to reach people who don't know you. And you're not selling any records because you're so fucking cute or whatever. It's about music. So we hope to reach a lot of people, that's our biggest concern right now.
RockUnited - It's too bad the metal show Headbanger's Ball in MTV doesn't exist anymore.
Lenny - Yeah, but I mean it may change again. Rock music is kinda experiencing in someways a comeback. A lot of times a record sells, but the rock industry is the only industry who's pulling more and more people on concerts. Techno, rap saying bye bye. Kingdom Come doesn't like to be looked as a band from the old days. It's 2004 and we're here now and we just finished a very happening, new age record. It's not eighties, it's not nineties. It's now. It's not like "Do You Like It" and "Get It On" for the two billionth time.
RockUnited - But you've pretty much stayed the same during the years, is that the main purpose and where do you get your influences from ?
Lenny - Like I said, when I write I don't write with a particular plan. Writing is something very fragile, very honest. There's no financial concept, otherwise I would be sounding...I don't know like who, but this is the only thing I can do. Otherwise I would get sick. This is my output. But I don't agree with sounding the same. If you take the first two Kingdom Come records and then listen to "Independent" or "Perpetual", it's a completely different story.
RockUnited - What about the studio work, is it hard for you ?
Lenny - No, it's never hard. Sometimes when your vocal chords don't want to function the way you want to, you get mad. But sitting in my studio and writing is a wonderful thing. You sit there with the guitar in your hand and it's like making something out of nothing. And when it turns into something you really like, it's a very rewarding thing. And when you go on stage and the people recognize all the songs and sing along, there's nothing better on planet earth than seing people digging your stuff and moving people. Kingdom Come is not just "hey 3000 people, let's all get drunk, tralalaa". It's about songs, it's about moving people. To put us on a particular category musically, it's about riffs and grooves. It's about goosebumps. It's not about speed, it's not about politicians trying to win election. It's not about being the hippest band on earth. It's just about being us. Either you love us or you hate us. Whatever. It's all about taste basically. There's no right or wrong, it's just taste.
RockUnited - So you like being in the studio ?!
Lenny - I like writing, I like being in the studio for a certain amount of time. I like being on tour. I wouldn't like anything for too long. Everything has its own time. It's like having sex every day, it wouldn't be fun...
RockUnited - Oh yeah ?! (laughs)
Lenny - Or maybe it would, I don't know.
RockUnited - Do you have any guests on the album ?
Lenny - Yes, my grandma, she brought the cake. And the pizza delivery man was very nice too.
RockUnited - Ok...where do you get your ideas to the lyrics then ?
Lenny - It's the big guy upstairs touching my brain. I don't know. It's like, I'm amazed when people build computers. My brother, he's very smart, he builds things and programmes, I don't know what the fuck he's doing, I have no idea. And he looks at me like "I don't know how the fuck you write songs". It's called talent, it's like a God-given thing. You have to find out what you're good at. And then proceed at it, become better and better. It's called finding your calling. I don't wanna sound cosmic now, but you have to find something you enjoy doing. And when you like it, that's when you become good at it. It takes practise and a lot of learning by doing. And you know, if so God wills it's gonna happen.
RockUnited - AC/DC and Led Zeppelin had an impact on you in the 80s. Have your idols stayed the same throughout the years ?
Lenny - I grew up with The Beatles, I was young. After a while it was The Beatles and then came The Beatles. And after a long while came nothing and then Zeppelin, AC/DC, Depeche Mode. I like Radiohead, so I'm like all over the place. I don't like shallow, poppy or senseless hard stuff. I like when music can breathe. I'm into riffs. To me it's like (fast music) I might as well swallow a pill and listen to techno, it's the same bullshit. It's very hard to talk about it, because there's no solution in things being right or wrong. Yet again it's all about the taste, and nobody's to be blamed about having a different taste. My very first girlfriend hated rock, she was listening to John Denver classics. I thought what the hell was wrong with her. I loved her, wonderful person. I was fourteen. But you know what I'm saying, there's life and there's music.
RockUnited - You also played in Sweden Rock this year. Did the show fill your expectations ?
Lenny - Great. We played far too early just like today. Ever again at twelve o'clock. I just got up, had my breakfast and screamed my ass off and my vocal chords just don't like it. And then yesterday I was watching the game Portugal against England, big mistake. I was screaming my ass off, it was a great game. So no soccer for me before a show, because the voice is just bye bye. (Sweden Rock) It was wonderful people, great audience, I loved it.
RockUnited - Do you think the German fans are any different to Swedish ?
Lenny - When you play in the big cities, the audiences are a bit more spoiled, there's more bands coming to big cities, that's normal. Therefore we enjoy doing shows in places where people aren't as spoiled. But in general I don't care where we are playing. To us, when you look at your fans and your friends, it really doesn't matter where you are. Russia, The States, Europe, it really doesn't matter. As long as they love the shit, I'm a very happy man.
RockUnited - You have to be pleased that you didn't have to play here already at ten in the morning like the first bands!
Lenny - I would've never done it. Twelve was already a big mistake. But no complaints, I really enjoyed it, there's nice people out here, we've been treated royally, it's been a great experience. But I really wish we would always sound the best. Today my vocals were the worst in I don't know how many years. Sweden was ok, but today, you heard it yourself. I don't wanna give you all that whining bullshit, but just coming over flu, watching soccer, too early. The voice just don't wanna know about it. I wish I was a bassplayer, I could party all night long, I don't give a fuck and I'm always there. But the vocals are a very sensitive instrument. They're a pain in the ass and I hate to disappoint people who want to hear the songs the way they are. But you saw the audience, they were cool. I could've cancelled and just stand here and be happy to be here. And that's exactly what it is, as long as I can stand up right I will never cancel a show. But if my voice complitely says bye bye, it's gonna be hard to have a great band play the songs and no vocals. So I mean if it gets to a point where it doesn't make any sense..you also have to be really careful not to fuck up your vocal chords, like when I feel I could put my vocals in danger, damaging it, then I'd cancel. But we have nothing to do for the next three weeks, so I said fuck it, let's go.
RockUnited - Can you describe a normal Kingdom Come show ?
Lenny - We're not mean, we're not trying to change the world. I'm one of you guys, I shower in the same water, I eat the same damn food. The only thing that makes us different is the songs we write and perform. We are just a bunch of guys next door. Privately I'm a very sunny, peace-loving kinda guy. I like hanging out with good friends. I don't need to get wasted to have a good time, I like earthly things. Sitting in a boat, eating good, having cappucino, that's what life is all about to me. I don't like to be fucked up in the corner and pretend everything is alright. On stage it's a different thing, I'm performing, I'm on a mission, I'm on a call. It's a very intense, emotional output. But it's hard for me to judge it, because everybody is receiving it differently. I think you could probably explain it better than I could how I'm on stage. I don't like playing during daytime, because Kingdom Come is not a sunny band. It's not poppy. We're happy, but we're also very emotional. We need darkness, I need light. But once again I love being here.
RockUnited - So you're a peaceful kinda guy. What do you think about the rock'n'roll life then, how do they go together ?
Lenny - You know, bankers would do the same thing many rock'n'rollers have done, but they weren't able to. Nowadays things have changed, I know a lot of people in the rock business who don't do drugs, who are not being fucked up all the time, who have families and steady girlfriends. I also know the very extreme opposite. It's like real life. There are different characters in every society. It doesn't matter what you do, if you're a plummer, a musician or whatever. It's all relative. It's what you wanna believe. But when I was young I got into it for the music. When I got older I stayed in to it for the music. And now I'm still in it for the music. Right now financially that's not the main reason. Getting late, I've seen everything too many times. It's not exciting anymore. It's more a mental thing than a physical thing. I have done a lot of growing up and I'm very happy to have reached that level where I'm at right now, which has enabled me to relax. I'm very impatient still. But like ten years ago every woman I was like "gotta have them". My ego was phenomenal. And now I'm relaxed, I can look at you without thinking "how do I get her into bed". I can enjoy the interview for the sake of the interview. Isn't that wonderful, instead of constantly thinking about your butt...it's great, I'm relaxed now, because I've seen it all.
RockUnited - Where can you see yourself in about twenty years or so ?
Lenny - On stage with a stick and maybe a couple of fake teeth, I don't know. But I'm still rocking as long as I can stand up !
RockUnited - The members in the band have changed quite frequently ?
Lenny - I'm not gonna start bullshitting you or myself. I was always dreaming of growing up like The Beatles, living together, conquering the world together. But sometimes destiny, circumstances and reality don't allow you to do certain things. And Kingdom Come was succesful far too fast and going down too fast. And that's why the band broke up, too much pressure, too many unsolved questions. It's healthier to build slowly like AC/DC and Bon Jovi. And ever since I've had bad luck. With my manager, one died, then other guys were unable to do the gigs and then all this techno and Seattle stuff came around. It was very hard for us. I was very hard driven mentally to get my vision across. It has its advantages. But I would never say never, I might start working with a real band again. Right now I've got so much energy, so much creativity so I want to get my point across. And "Perpetual" really showed a lot of depth that was hiding in me which I wasn't able to put out. I don't know what the next project is gonna be. You never know, but that's a good thing about music. I don't ever wanna be predictable. I don't want my next record to sound just like the other ten. How boring could that be ? So many bands I see you know one song, you know them all. I don't want to be part of it. It's about growing, it's about taking people to different places with your songs.
RockUnited - When most people think about Kingdom Come, they only think about you.
Lenny - To be honest, it's not all wrong. Especially the last two records I've done complitely on my own. It's like David Coverdale and Whitesnake, it's a similar thing. I could've named it Lenny Wolf, but I don't want to. Kingdom Come is my baby. It's not like I'm starting a complitely different thing now, then I would've named it something else. But I was Kingdom Come from day one, I wrote all the songs, I was playing with different musicians, they were all Americans. There was like all kinds of nationalities. You can call it whatever you want, you can call us fucking Pink Toilet, I don't care as long as you come to our shows and sing our songs. But it is a very personal thing, that's absolutely true.
RockUnited - You must be a very energetic person then with so much material coming out ?
Lenny - Yes. I'm very impatient which isn't always good. I'm a very hard driving machine, which gets things done. But it's sometimes very hard to deal with other people, because I hate wasting time. But I'm also a very peace loving person, I need nice people around me and like a sense that everything is ok. I don't like negative energy. I don't run away from problems, but I solve them right now, because later today I wanna know it's peace again. I'm a very emotional fuck, as you can tell when you listen to my songs. If I wouldn't have a core in me I wouldn't write that stuff. But I also have this sement wall in front of me, which was building up over the years by something called living life.
RockUnited - You also did an album in german language.
Lenny - I had an urge to do something in my hometown language. No regrets. It was something I had to do. It wasn't very succesful, but no regrets. It's something I've done and it's ok.
RockUnited - Germans love humour so what about your german album, has it got humour in it ? I haven't heard it myself, but I've heard that it's in the vein of AC/DC ?
Lenny - I don't see anything humourous about it. I think I have a very great sense of humour and I certainly don't take myself too seriously, which is very important, but I do take my music very seriously. And there's nothing humorous about the cd. If you're looking hard enough, you will always find influences, comparisons. There's no music out there without any influences. Every musician has been influenced by somebody and is building a making of his own out of it. Kingdom Come has a thing of its own now, but it took a lot of time to reach that point. When you start out you're leaning towards your idols, but that's normal. If some people say there are AC/DC characteristics, I think I could do worse. You could've said Madonna, so I'm happy.
RockUnited - Do you think you'll ever do side projects that diverge from Kingdom Come ?
Lenny - Never say never. I've done it too many times and I was wrong too many times. You never know what will happen, life may change radically tomorrow. So you gotta stay open and make the best out of it. The hardest part is enjoying life while you're living it. And don't always live for tomorrow, you gotta be able to enjoy the now. And it's very hard to do.
RockUnited - Of all your studio albums which was the most fun working with ?
Lenny - The first record, 'cos the vibe was just unbelievable. Bob Rock was a great guy, he and I got along perfectly. I was very young, free hearted, free spirited, no worries, no past to be compared by. Nobody pointing fingers at me. So it was a very light hearted, trallallaa experience. But my favourite record now is "Perpetual".
RockUnited - What is the fondest memory from your career, after all you've been to Japan, played in Monsters Of Rock and with bands such as Bon Jovi, Van Halen, Metallica and Ratt. You've achieved a lot ?
Lenny - I've been asked this question so many times. There's no particular moment, there are a lot of funny moments that I recall. There are a lot of sad moments, lot of pain in the ass moments. That's what this business is all about, it's a rollercoaster. (If) you want safety, don't become a musician. They may shit on you, they may celebrate you. You gotta be able to take all that. When you're on top, you're on top. If not, then not. And it's not always easy, all those tomatoes flying at you. But I'm beyond that now. People have realized this thing is to be taken serious. It's not a one day wonder and the music proves itself. So that's why I don't have to do much talking. I also don't like talking about my music, because if you wanna know about my music, listen to my music. You wanna know what I'm talking about, read the lyrics, visit my website. Like people are asking "what were you thinking when you wrote "Dragonfly" ?". I don't know, I was sitting on my toilet or brushing my teeth, what do I fucking know. When I wrote it I wrote it and what I wanted to say I said.
RockUnited - When you first started out you were playing some shows in schools. Did you ever think you'd make it big ?
Lenny - Well my first instrument was an accordion. I was thirteen or fourteen and I thought I'm gonna be a star with accordion...and then I met this teacher with the guitar. And a year later I never touched the accordion again and I discovered The Beatles and then I knew I'm gonna be a musician. Period. Determination is the key to success. And you gotta be able to be honest with yourself.
RockUnited - At the beginning you toured Europe together with Magnum. Then you played shows with Gotthard. How does it feel like playing in Bang Your Head now when both bands are also on the bill ?
Lenny - It's another gig. It's nice seing Gotthard again, they're good people and I'm talking on a personal level. It's like seing old friends again. You hang backstage, you eat, drink, you talk about what's going on. But it's not like "wow, I'm peing in my pants !".
And then my recorder did the old trick, turned the tape around without say and the rest of the interview got lost in space... Lenny decided we left to the part where he was saying I had nice feet...I thanked him and decided to call it quits, I had enough material to let Lenny rest his voice, which seemed like a mission impossible, since he had the backstage full of friends.
Interview: Satu Reunanen, satu(at)rockunited.com
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