Greg Kihn Band
By: Joseph Suto
Greg Kihn will forever be known for his two big hits “The Breakup Song (They Don’t Write ‘Em)” and “Jeopardy”. He also became a successful DJ at KUFX in San Jose. He rose through the ranks from a night time host to a top-rated morning jock. He is also an author and has written several novels, numerous short stories and two screenplays. We finally had the chance to catch up with Greg to find out what he’s been up to and what his future plans are.
Rock Show Critique: Your first new album in 21 years ReKihndled recently came out.
Greg Kihn: ReKihndled as in in I hope this album rekindles my career.
RSC: Why so long between albums? Fill us in on what have you’ve been doing all this time?
GK: Well you know it’s interesting because I get that all the time. People go where ya been for the last twenty-one years. I’ve been on the radio. I’ve been doing the morning show on KUFX radio in San Francisco. I’ve been doing that for the last nineteen years. They let me go two years ago. Since that time, I’ve written two novels and put them out and recorded one album’s worth of material. Right now, today I’m calling you from the recording studio where we’re working on the next album. We’ve already got two songs recorded.
RSC: Your wasting no time this time.
GK: Well you know after twenty-one years you have to pick up the pace, right? People forgot about me. We were a headliner then I dropped out of sight basically and didn’t tour. I just played once or twice a year at the Kihncerts, the big outdoor concerts but I didn’t go out on the road so people forgot about me. Here we are back again. I walk down the street and people come up to me and say “Greg Kihn, I didn’t know you were still around, I thought you broke up?” That’s a big one. Yes, I broke up but I pieced myself back together again. Anyway, it’s great to be back and playing now. I’ve got a great band now. My son Ry is on lead guitar. He’s a former student of Joe Satriani. He was a Berkeley school of music jazz guitar major. Robert Berry who’s also the producer
of the Greg Kihn Band but he also plays bass and anything else that’s left over in the band. We got drummer Dave Lauser on loan from the Sammy Hagar band. Sammy’s so busy doing other stuff like Chickenfoot and other projects. He says I can use Dave until next year. I’m really loving having Dave on drums. He’s like Keith Moon, a lot of fills, a lot of excitement.
RSC: You mentioned Joe Satriani, now you played with Joe for a while correct?
GK: Yeah for about two years. He was really good. The problem with Joe was he was just too damn good for us. I’m a three-chord guy c’mon. He’s a three thousand chord guy. I told him many times when we were out on the road, I kept on saying “you gotta go solo your too damn good for this band.” The funny thing is I was trying to get Joe in my band forever. Going back to the first album, he was in a band called the Squares. We were all Berkeley bands. We all played at the local clubs. He said “No I’m loyal to my band”. Then I asked him again five or six years later he said no I’m still in The Squares. When I heard, the Squares had broken up, I asked him a third time and that’s when he decided to join the band.
RSC: Back to ReKihndled, how did the writing process go? Were all the songs written recently or were some laying around collecting dust?
GK: No, they were all written within the last six to eight months. It was liberating working with the band in the studio again. The way we work these days, we just go in with a song idea and we just kind of write it on the spot. That keeps it really fresh. That’s what the Beatles and The Stones used to do way back in the day. I wanted to write really good songs. I was writing three kinds of songs. I was writing autobiographical songs like “The Life I Got”, fun songs like fiction like “Pink Flamingos” and “Cassandra” and songs like that. I was also writing topical songs like “Tell Me Something Good” and “Brain Police”. The nice thing was it was all fresh original material and most of the songs wrote themselves. Which is the way you really want to do it because they’re spontaneous. I don’t think any of the songs on the new album took more than a half hour to write. As a songwriter, I learned a major lesson to not force it. Just let the songs organically grow themselves and be what they want to be. That to me is the key to good songwriting. How many albums have I made eighteen, nineteen albums over the years? Now if I’m sweating over a song and it doesn’t work and we get to the third take I say ok shelve it we’ll do it later, let’s move on to something else and we keep it fresh like that.
RSC: How much touring will you be doing for the new album?
GK: As much as we can. We got a bunch of tour dates serving as anchor dates now. Our booking agent is putting some other dates around those dates. You can see all the tour dates at the www.gregkihn.com website. We’re going to be all over the country. The band is raring to go and we can’t wait. To me it’s not work it’s all fun.
RSC: Is there one or two songs in your catalog that you felt should have been as big as “The Breakup Song” and “Jeopardy”?
GK: Yeah there’s a couple. Reunited from Kihntagious I think, was a real great rockin’ track. We did a great video for it, which was a parody of the Wizard of Oz. Everybody that listened to it thought it was a number one record. It looked like our fate was cashed. Our record company at the time had found out we were talking to EMI about future deals. They let the single die and didn’t promote it. They figured they were gonna lose us in a year anyway. That’s kind of what happened. That was a great song and should have been a top ten record. We still do it live and it kicks butt.
RSC: Who came up with putting your name in every album? Who came up with that great idea?
GK: Oh Jesus. You know it wasn’t my idea, I’ll tell you that right now. We made the first album in 75’ and called it Greg Kihn. The second album we said well let’s call it Greg Kihn again. Then we did another album, what are we gonna call this one? Let’s call it Next Of Kihn. By that point, we started a precedent that was never going to end. We had Kihnspiracy, Kihnsolidation there were eighteen albums after that and they all had “Kihn” in them it was crazy. My mother thought it was very amusing by the way. She said it was an early form of branding, that we were branding the Kihn name to all this music. I didn’t think about it at the time. We’re still doing it by the way. We are in the studio today and about a half hour ago somebody said what are we gonna call the next one? I said on no not again (laughs). I said, its bad luck to think about the album title before the album finished. So I said let’s finish the thing first before we come up with a title for it. People come up to me on the street and they give me suggestions. A guy came up to me this morning at Starbuck’s just before I came here today. He comes over and says I got a great album title Kihnetic- Kihnetic Energy. I said that’s not a bad idea, I’ll try to remember it.
I like it because we have a sense of humor. We don’t take ourselves super seriously. We’re musicians and we’re dedicated to the music. A lot of people are in the music business just to make money, just to be famous and just to get chicks. That wasn’t our motivation at all. We always thought we were artists. It was way back in the 70s when it was kind of like art. We never worried about having hit records in fact the less we worried hit records, the more hit records we had. Finally, “The Breakup Song”, which was on our seventh album, think about that, seven albums came out before we had a hit. You couldn’t do that in today’s world. I think you got like one shot and that’s it. We were in the right spot at the right time and I always thought that I was a very lucky guy, I had a great career and it’s still going on man. It’s amazing. I’m writing novels, I did the radio thing for eighteen years, we’re back on the road again playing live, we’re in the studio again. It’s just great, it’s a wonderful time. I feel like I’m really energized.
For more on Greg Kihn check out the links below:
A link to the classic Jeopardy video:
And a link to a live video for The Breakup Song: