Interview: Todd Kerns

Todd Kernsphoto credit: Andrew Treadwell
Hang Me On Your Wall Photography

Todd Kerns epitomises the term “Have Guitar Will Travel”, but you can also replace that guitar for Bass and or Vocals at any second. The Lanigan, Saskatchewan (Canada) born multi-instrumentalists first major band “Age of Electric” started in 1989 and have had 6 releases and were nominated for a Juno award in 1998. From there, he formed Static in Stereo along with brothers John and Ryan. Moving to Las Vegas over 10 years ago saw Todd form his own band The Sin City Sinners, who won many awards throughout Vegas. 2010 Kerns got the call up to come and jam with Slash, which quickly turned into becoming the bassist/vocalist for the guitar players touring band. That band became The Conspirators (named by Kerns) and along with Brent Fitz on Drums, and Frank Sidoris on Guitar, they have toured the world and recorded 2 full length albums, with a 3rd coming soon along with Slash and vocalist Myles Kennedy.

Does it end there? No, Todd stands as a solo artist in his own right. His albums “Near Life Experience” and “Borrowing Trouble” take the listener on a stripped-down journey where Kerns proudly shows his love for varying styles of music and wears his heart on his sleeve. Add to that his Canadian “Tribute Band” of sorts called “Toque” (pronounced To-ok) with fellow Slash band mate Fitz, Cory Churko from Shania Twain, and Shane Gaalaas from Japanese mega group B’z

Done yet?? Nope! Kerns also is part of The Kulick Brothers band, featuring the music of Bruce and Bob Kulick. Bruce being a member of Kiss for 12 years, Bob ghosting on Kiss albums, and also releasing solo albums, and a Grammy award winning producer. Add to that playing with Dizzy Reed from Guns N Roses in his side band Hookers and Blow and being a part of the Las Vegas production “Raiding the Rock Vault”, it’s surprising Todd has any time to sleep, let alone chat with us, but we caught up with him from his home in Las Vegas, so here is, in my opinion, the hardest working man in rock, Todd Kerns!

TK: Yo! Yo!
H2Z: Hey! Hey!

H2Z: So, what’s been happening with you?
TK: I’ve been running around, as you know, doing a tonne of stuff. Lots of shows. To everyone else, it seemed like we were really quiet, like we were on some sort of break, though really, we were recording the SMKC album, then all of a sudden Boom! Go and do some shows with Hookers N Blow, Toque, Raiding the Rock Vault, and whatever else, oh yeah, The Anti-Stars, just running like the devil here.

I’m lucky I have a few days breather here in Vegas before I head to Montreal for my daughter’s college graduation, then I come back and do a corporate show with Eric Dover and some other guys out in L.A. Then Toque is doing some gigs in Vancouver for Canada Day. It just keeps going and going and going. It’s like the Toque bone is connected to the Anti-Stars bone, connected to the Original Sin bone, it all becomes just one big thing. Every time I go to play a gig, I’m like “Which one is this? Am I playing bass or guitar in this?” “Oh, we are singing these songs?”. But it keeps things fresh.

Todd Kerns

H2Z: It would be fun though
TK: Yeah, exactly. For me, it keeps things interesting. Challenging, but interesting.

H2Z: So, to add more to it, how far have you progressed with your solo record?
TK: I am probably like, half way. I kinda had to check out of it because the Slash thing came up, and that sort of put everything on hold. So, what I am going to do is, in July, I will try and get onto that again and get more done, but it was hard to know a timeline, then everything just all came crashing down. So, I am thinking that sometime in the latter part of the Slash run, I might release something, or I might wait until directly after the entire tour, so it doesn’t get lost. I was actually thinking of releasing it during the tour, while the heat is still on. It’s kind of weird how the profile goes, it just kind of explodes once the Slash stuff fires up.

H2Z: That’s true, maybe you could split it up into EP’s, one before, and one after?
TK: Yeah! that’s true, it could be a smart idea, to change it up like that could be an interesting idea

H2Z: Well Skid Row did it for their last two releases and I really enjoyed that idea
TK: Yeah! it helps stretch it out over 6 months, or a year, or really however long you wanna do it. It’s great because you put something out, then in a few months you put something else out, rather than just releasing something and you are kind of done with it, until you make a new record.

Todd Kerns

H2Z: You could do it either way, you are very lucky to have some of the most supportive fans I have ever seen.
TK: That’s right! I do feel very fortunate, and I sometimes I still don’t get it. Like last night we played (Todd Dammit & The Anti-Stars) and people came from all over the f@#kin’ place, its mind blowing. It’s never lost on me, just how insane that is, it’s amazing.

H2Z: And the upcoming Toque shows, is it the original line up or will it be with Zach Throne lending a hand?
TK: Well the main line up will always be (Brent) Fitz plays Bass, I play guitar and sing, and I always kind of laugh at that, that the bass player for Slash plays guitar and sings in Toque, and the Drummer is Slash, plays Bass in Toque. And that keeps it interesting. Then you have Shane (Gaalaas) who plays with a Japanese band called “B’z”, even though he is Canadian as well. And you also have Cory Churko who plays with Shania Twain, and produces everything. The second record is done, it’s in the can and ready to be released. We are just trying to find a window to release it, which at this stage, and as always it could change is November. This always happens when you have people doing different projects. But for the upcoming shows, Zach will be involved, even though he isn’t Canadian, he is our go to guy. Though he did live there for 5 years (laughs) and has a huge knowledge of Canadian music, so that also helps.

H2Z: Well he is also super talented too!
TK: Exactly, and he is part of the family. I have known Zach along time. We tried to do the math on this, because we actually met in ’91 or ’92, he was recording in the same studio as us (Age of Electric), so all these years later when we reconnected, we were like “Hey were you that guy?” (laughs). It makes sense for him to be there. He is a great singer, and can play guitar, play bass, whatever you need.

H2Z: So, what is happening with Age of Electric?
TK: Well next year will be the 30th Anniversary of Age of Electric, so I am definitely working towards having some sort of celebration next year. I don’t know what that will be as yet as a big chunk of next year will be taken up playing with Slash and the guys. But I would like to have some kind of event to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the band, which is mind blowing by the way, that 30 years can go by like that, but I guess when you take 16 years of that off it can happen (laughs), as we did split up for a long time, and only just got it all together a couple of years ago.

But that is part of the beauty of this whole thing, playing music. If you had have told me 15 years ago, “You will be doing this, doing that, going here, going there”, I would have replied back “Wow, sign me up, that sounds like fun”. Don’t get me wrong, there are times where I am mildly overwhelmed with how much I have on my plate. Like, I just played a show last night, and then I say to myself “maybe I should get ready for that event next week in LA”. It’s sort of funny that I immediately finish one thing and then its timed to go straight into starting something else, but it keeps you sharp, keeps the barnacles off the hull so to speak. It’s not like I just want to sit down and do nothing, but then sometimes I would like to sit down and do nothing, and I do get plenty of opportunities to just chill, but then I realised that I just climbed a mountain, and there is also another mountain over there to climb.

H2Z: It’s a good feeling to be wanted.
TK: Yeah it is, we have all been in those positions where the phone isn’t ringing, and that’s naturally part of the swing of things. But when the phone does ring, it’s great to be able to say, “Sure I would love to do that”. I am grateful to be in the position I am in now. Before I joined Slash’s band I pretty much said yes to everything, if I could make it work schedule wise and geographically. I was always down for pretty much anything. And this time, when SMKC went on a hiatus, I really focused on my own things. But as time went on, I had people reach out, like Dizzy Reed (Guns N Roses) wanted me to do a run of “Hookers N Blow” shows and I was “Yeah, sounds like fun”, or the Toque thing we put together, and a few other things that came my way, if they sounded fun, I was down for it.

H2Z: So, I know the SMKC record is done, has any scheduling been put in place for it yet?TK: Its coming out in the fall, I would say probably September. There should be a single out in the summer at some point. Of course, anything and everything can change, as no one has been given anything specific as yet. I believe we are having it mastered, so it has been recorded and mixed, and we are starting to deal with artwork and all those kinds of things, it’s definitely in the pipe line, and it’s great, it’s really great. I am so excited about it, in fact I listen to it quite regularly in my car.

H2Z: So, has a single been picked yet?
TK: Oh yeah, sure has. It’s great. It has a certain classic rock vibe to it, which I think is really cool. It has a really great singalong chorus, and such a great riff, one of the best riffs on the album. It’s so strong. It’s one of those songs where you will go “Oh yeah!” (laughs)

H2Z: And we now have more and more tour dates popping up
TK: We are doing a quick run of about a month of dates in the fall of 2018. We have discussed whether we bother going back out in December, but that may or may not happen, and then in the new year is pretty much the biggest run. There will always be a lot of stuff bubbling that isn’t confirmed yet. And if we do a big run that’s great, but if we don’t, I have never had any trouble finding things to keep myself busy. That’s the one great thing about the Conspirators, is while it’s a band, we also view it as a project. We have these bunch of guys and we get together and we make a record and we go tour. But also, that bunch of guys also has many other things going on, be it solo stuff, Alter Bridge, Toque, and now Guns N Roses, so we always have so much to do. But I will say this, the one thing people may not have noticed, is that Snakepit only did 2 albums. Velvet Revolver only did two albums. The Conspirators have now done 3 albums, and I personally take that as a huge step in the right direction, and whether we make a 4th or we don’t, it’s really not the point. To me, it’s a great achievement that we have done just that, and beyond that, who knows. No one knows anything as far as the future goes. I know as far as 2019 goes, I’m going to be busy, and then probably just be doing my own thing again. And that never feels like a consolation prize to me. Doing my own thing, is something that I want to do.

Todd KernsH2Z: That’s the thing, all 5 of you have so many other things you can go to at any time.
TK: That’s right, and doing the Anti Stars gig last night was a huge reminder of how I have all these different connections, with those guys, and Zachary Throne was on the bill, and also our friend Jimmy Romero was also on the bill. All the guys in both of their bands were a big reminder of the fact I am part of this really great community that I have a really great connection with. I feel so fortunate. Of course, with Slash, Fitz, Myles and Frank in many ways the biggest connection that I have. People get so consumed about when a band splits or breaks up, and I have never seen anything as a break up or split up. If Slash and Axl are playing together, that shows that anything is possible, and I don’t mean that as a slight in any way, it just means that there once was a time, where those guys couldn’t have imagined playing together, and they are. Age of Electric was the same way. While we got back together 16 years later it was probably more like 5 years later that we talked about doing something together, but it wasn’t until a long time later that we could actually wrap our head around what that could be. That’s the beautiful thing about music. One day you are playing with some guys, then you start playing with some other guys, and then things move forward, but all of a sudden you are back to playing with the first guys again. And to me it’s great, it’s this big, constant flowing river of music.

H2Z: In saying all that, the good thing about Guns N Roses getting back together, and while some people out there may not see it, it’s a really good way of keeping you all in the spotlight in some way because of that connection.
TK: I have said that too! It’s a funny thing, being in The Conspirators, in our world, it’s almost like the Kiss world. Like when I am doing something with The Kulick Brothers, the Kiss fans don’t know who I am, which is a really refreshing thing. In my world and the Guns N Roses world they understand my connection to Slash, but in the Kiss world they don’t know who you are (laughs). But you know, even in saying that, the Guns N Roses connection now changes things a bit. There were times when I was out on the road with Slash, or doing something with Slash, and you will meet somebody, and they will say ‘So, who do you play with?’, and I reply, “I play with Slash”, and they reply, ‘What the Snakepit?’ and I am like “Dude, that broke up almost 20 years ago”. So, if people are not really plugged in they really just don’t know. So, the Guns N Roses thing, with them getting back together has really bough a spotlight to what everyone is doing, whether its Duff, or Richard, or anybody. I think that it is all very positive. I have always, very much treated The Conspirators as a priority. But I have also known that Myles Kennedy is the lead singer for Alter Bridge, and that’s never going to change. I have always looked at it as, when everyone is available, we get together, and when we aren’t available, we don’t. And we go and do other things. And that’s why when people go ‘Oh No! What are you going to do?’, I am just like “Dude, look at my Facebook”. I am always doing something. Even during the upcoming tour, I am already planning things in the breaks, and that’s just how I roll. So yeah, I do believe that the Guns N Roses reunion, really helps shine a light on The Conspirators, just by the heightened profile.

Todd Kerns

H2Z: So, what’s going on with The Kulick Brothers? Anything in the pipeline?
TK: Well we are doing the next Kiss Kruise. We also did it last year, and the 20th Anniversary Kiss Indy Expo this year. It has been really fun, because like I said, having a zero profile in the eyes of the Kiss fans, it’s been really interesting for me, as they see me as the guy who sings and plays Bass in The Kulick Brothers Band. That has been a liberating thing as well. I did this 12 years ago. I moved to Las Vegas, and I got to completely rebuild my profile again, because I had a whole thing going on in Canada for 100 years (laughs). Then I came down to the states, and then I was just this “Todd Guy”. Here is this “Todd Guy” and he sings, and he plays and does whatever he does (laughs). It’s a very liberating feeling to walk onto a stage and have no one have any preconceived notions of who you are and what you are, and you just play. And it’s nice after all these years, again, to be doing the highest profile thing in my career with Slash, and then walk on stage in front of a bunch of Kiss fans and they go “Who is this guy?” The fact they have accepted me so positively is overwhelming for me.

H2Z: And you got to play with Ace!
TK: I got to play with Ace Frehley. At one point I was onstage with 3 different chapters of the Kiss Family. Eric Singer on Drums, Bruce Kulick on 1 Guitar, and Ace Frehley on the other Guitar. It was really fascinating to realise that everywhere I turned there was another chapter of the Kiss story.

H2Z: Well Gene is in Vegas a lot lately, maybe you will get to jam with him too.
TK: I have been lucky to get to hang with Gene a bunch of times when he does these events, and it’s always been great. He also has the solo thing going on now too, which I think is really healthy for him. His band is absolutely great. They are great guys, great players, and soon Kiss will fire up again and he will go and do that.

H2Z: Back to The Kulick Brothers, will there be any new songs worked up for The Kiss Kruise?
TK: Hopefully, that something I am always interested in doing. Would love to do more, not sure what as there is so much to choose from, but I would love to dive into the Bruce catalogue a lot more, and we have a lot in the Bob catalogue we have yet to try.

H2Z: Any bucket list songs?
TK: I think “Naked City” (From Kiss’ Unmasked album, co-written by Bob Kulick). I had a conversation not long ago with Bob about how the demo version was way heavier, and I thought that was a great idea to put that new spin on it. Its already a great song, but most songs come across heavier live anyway, so that would be pretty fun. The Bruce list is pretty endless, because of all the records he was a part of.

H2Z: Would love to see you try “In the Mirror” from Carnival of Souls”
TK: Oh WOW! Yeah that would be cool. Anything from Carnival of Souls and Revenge would be really cool to do. Most of the time when we are playing things like Kruise’s and Expos, you are playing to a baited audience. Your audience is already invested. They know every single song, from every single album, and that Is half the battle. Like if The Kulick Brothers opened for someone like The Foo Fighters (laughs) you would be like “Hey here is a whole bunch of ultra-rare Kiss deep cuts, enjoy” (laughs). With the right audience you can play stuff from any album, like with the Bob stuff doing “Legend Tonight”, “Down on Your Knees” from Killers. We have talked about stuff off Bobs solo album or Bruce’s BK3 album.

H2Z: See if you can convince Bruce to do “King of Hearts” from Hot in The Shade.
TK: Oh, wow that would be rad. That’s another album that gets overlooked. I would really love to try “Rise to It” from that album.

H2Z: So, Todd, we have covered a lot today, thanks so much for your time today, we look forward to talking to you again soon and seeing you out on tour soon.
TK: Thanks buddy, I’ll talk to you soon.

We would like to thank Todd for his time, and make sure you all follow Todd online. He is very active online, so you can always see what he is up to.

www.toddkerns.com

www.facebook.com/todddammitkerns

www.twitter.com/todddammitkerns

www.instagram.com/toddkerns

 

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