Metal Sludge’s Rewind with Ron Keel of Keel.
Recently KEEL announced a big reunion for 2009 so we tracked down lead screamer Ron Keel for a rewind. We originally interviewed Ron in March of 2001 his 20 Questions is >HERE< We’ll cut the intro short – Ron has plenty to say, read on and enjoy.
1. Metal Sludge interviewed you back at the start of the new millineum. You were wearing chaps and boots balls deep in cow shit and country music. Now the word is out the KEEL re-union is a go.
Tell us about what’s happened in recent years, how did the re-union come to be and will there be a twang in your voice when you scream “You’ve got the right to rock!” or will it be full metal jacket?
First of all, thanks for bringing me back for a rewind, let’s have some fun.
The KEEL songs have always been a major part of my rock gigs all these years – whether doing my acoustic tours opening for Y&T, Quiet Riot, etc., or with my bands IronHorse & K2, I’ve never stopped singing those songs, so there won’t be any problem singing them with KEEL; and without twang. Even though I have freely wandered the musical landscape exploring other genres, I’ve always keep my rock n roll fires burning – in ’01, as you say, when we did the first Sludge interview, I was actually in IronHorse, which went on for 6 years, released two killer albums, did over 800 gigs nationwide, and opened for a variety of acts from ZZ Top to Ratt & Skid Row.
I bowed out of IronHorse in ’06, relocated to Las Vegas and began building my empire under the moniker of KEEL Entertainment. We produce shows, manage and book a variety of acts from tribute artists to original and classic rock. My last rock band was called K2 – we did a string of great shows last summer in Nevada and Utah, and appeared at Rocklahoma as well, performing the KEEL music and other favorites from throughout my career. I’ve had to put that on the shelf and shift my entire focus on the KEEL Reunion – the only rock gigs I’ll do in ’09 will be with KEEL.
Marc, Bryan, Dwain and I have remained good friends through the years, talking often and jamming whenever possible, and we have been interested in reuniting on stage for a long time. Each year, we talked about it – but we were united in our stand that we’d only do it if we could do it right. By that I mean with a strong business team around us and performing at high-profile events such as the summer festivals and major showcase dates. I’ve got no problem playing bars and clubs – I’ve done over a thousand of them since the turn of the century – but for KEEL to reunite it’s gotta be on the next level. I’m very proud of the fact that although it’s my last name, I’ve refused to go out and tour as KEEL without Marc, Bryan, and Dwain. 2009 will mark the band’s 25th anniversary, and 20 years since we’ve been on stage together, so the time is right.
2. We see the re-union is officially only 4 of the 5 original members. Why no Kenny Chaisson on bass?
Personal differences. We all wish Kenny the best with his life and his family, he will always be a part of KEEL – but now we’re joined by my long-time bassist Geno Arce. Geno has been with me now for over ten years, and we have been playing the KEEL tunes together during that time. When IronHorse was passing through L.A. a few years ago, Marc & Bryan joined us on stage for a KEEL set, Geno was on bass, and it was a special moment that we plan to recapture on stage many times in 2009.
KEEL’s combined age is over 200 years old, but still they look tough & sexy.
3. We asked you about the mad and angry look that KEEL seemed to have back in the heyday, your reply was: “Everybody says I still look mad and hard – I prefer the terms "tough" and "sexy.” Considering you are only a few years from 50, do you still feel sexy or is that term better reserved for young woman or male models?
I believe I’ve finally outgrown the mad & angry thing – during the recent KEEL Reunion photo session, it was very hard to keep a smile off my face. It was a blast getting back together, a great vibe between the guys and a lot of fun. I do believe I’m one tough son of a bitch – you don’t go through what I’ve experienced without thick skin and big balls – but as far as sexy goes, I’ll leave that up to someone who can be more objective. I still feel good about myself, my voice, my performance, and my ability to entertain an audience, and I certainly don’t feel – or act – my age.
4. In the recent few years some 80s bands have re-united (Black n’ Blue, Ratt & Motley Crue) and some already fell apart again (Warrant, Love/Hate & Pretty Boy Floyd) what will be the fate of KEEL one year from now?
I’m taking this a year at a time, focusing now on 2009. I’d like to possibly release a reunion CD, do some kick ass shows, have a great time celebrating the music and the friendships surrounding KEEL, and then we will see. I do believe that it’s going to go well and there will be subsequent offers for 2010, and we will evaluate our situation as a band when the time comes.
Keel back in the hey day on an arena stage
5. Rate a vocalist Part II with Ron Keel. Rate these vocalist’s on a scale of 1-10. 1 being someone who blows chunks and a 10 being someone who blows up PA Systems with power!
Jamie St. James = 7 – One of my best friends in the business, so I’m biased. One thing I like about The Saint’s voice is that he always sounds young, he’s really held on to that 18-year-old tone. Plus he’s an ace with cool lyrics and melodies. One of my favorite things he’s ever done was the Freight Train Jane album, incredible stuff.
Michael Sweet = 7 – Haven’t heard him lately, but they say he is still belting it out. I like the classic connected clean tones, and Michael’s power and delivery were (and probably still are) excellent.
Phil Lewis = Never heard enough of his music to form an opinion. Sorry Phil – I hear he’s a really nice guy.
Rob Halford = 10 – One of the primary inspirations behind many 80’s metal vocalists, including myself. Halford is a legend, and as far as I’m concerned, the standard by which all metal vocalists will be forever measured.
Paul Stanley =8 – Very underrated, his showmanship and image have overshadowed his true talent. Another big influence on all of us who grew up in that era.
Taime Downe = 3 – I only ever heard their radio songs, but I am good friends with Brent Muscat and I enjoy singing “House Of Pain” with his band “Sin City Sinners.”
Phil Anselmo = 6 – Not my cup of tea, but you gotta admire this guy’s energy and power. And from what I’ve seen and read, I respect his character as well.
Ronnie James Dio =10 – One of the true masters of the craft, I toured with Ronnie for months in Europe and not once did he ever falter.
Udo Dierkschneider =5 – I love Udo. We did the “Metal Heart” tour with them for six months and it was a blast. I prefer a more melodic approach, but admire his style.
Dee Snider = 8 – I saw their performance from Rocklahoma ’07 and Dee sounded as good as ever. We hosted Headbanger’s Ball together; helluva dude.
Ron’s project K2.
6. If you could fight a legitimate UFC style fight with any musician who would it be and why?
I like musicians – without them, lead singers like me would have a tough time doing gigs. I’m way too happy and having way too much fun to want to kick the shit out of anybody. But it might be fun getting into the ring with an all-girl band like Jaded…
7. It’s obviously big news in the press and will be for some time. What is Ron Keel’s take on “Chinese Democracy”? Give us an Axl story if you got one.
Sorry, I have no take on “Chinese Democracy.” I haven’t heard any of it. Axl was always a nice, intelligent well-spoken guy back in the day; we did a few Party Ninjas gigs together. One of my brilliant career moves: before GnR got their record deal, my manager sent me to meet with them, suggesting that I might be interested in producing some recording sessions. I met them at their apartment in Hollywood, and passed on the project, went back and told my manager “They’ll never make it.” Brilliant.
Ron Keel with Yngwie Malmsteen live – Steeler gig early 80s.
8. Going back to your original interview you said this about Yngwie Malmsteen, “He could have been one of the legends, like Van Halen, Randy, Clapton, but he just pissed and shit on everything and everyone until there was nothing left but stench. It’s really sad.”
Well it does appear that he has definitely established himself on the guitar totem pole with industry, critics and fans alike even well into the new millennium. So, as the years have passed, have you ever had any communication with him at all, or has your opinion changed on the super shredder?
That comment was true at the time I said it. He was cancelling a high percentage of his shows, was having difficulty keeping musicians, and going ballistic on airline stewardesses. Perhaps he’s done some damage control in the years since, but I’ve been too busy to keep up with his progress.
9. You are about to be dropped on a deserted island for 6 months. You get to pick 1 cd, 1 tv show, 1 drink, 1 food item, and 1 famous woman to accompany you, who do you pick – ready go?
CD: Don’t need one. I have a permanent Ipod implanted in my skull – there’s always three or four songs playing up there at once. I’ll be singing the whole time I’m on that island.
TV Show: Sportscenter
Food Item: 6 month supply of White Castle cheeseburgers
Famous Woman: The future Mrs. Keel, my lovely fiancé Renee…well, she’s kinda famous because she’s about to marry Ron Keel. I know that’s cheesy, but she’s the only female companion I’ll ever want or need. But if you insist on me choosing someone with true celebrity status, I’ll take that Jillian girl from the FOX NFL Sunday pre-game show – she’s easy on the eyes, she can predict the weather, and we could talk about sports for six months.
The modern day Ron Keel looks a little Bob Segar-esque
10. In our 1st interview we asked you about touring with superstars like Motley Crue and Bon Jovi. Now that you spent a decade playing country, tell us about what country stars you shared the stage with tell us the good, bad and the ugly?
In other words give us the tumble weeds and dirt on the southern folk.
I was just as much an outcast in Nashville as I was in rock…while I toured extensively as a country artist in the 90’s, much of it was working for the Department Of Defense traveling the world and entertaining our military personnel, not as an opening act for established artists. It was either that, or grinding it out for five or more nights a week on the honky-tonk circuit, or playing rodeos and county fairs.
I can tell you that country artists and fans are much like our rock n roll crowd – they like to have a good time, enjoy their beer and whisky and enjoy their music.
One of my coolest Nashville stories actually comes from 1985, when they flew KEEL to Nashville to participate in “Hands Across America,” a charity event that consisted of a human chain of people holding hands from coast to coast. Big names like Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton. Anyway, KEEL was on a celebrity tour bus from Nashville, full of all these famous Country singers and songwriters, and we had about a four hour ride to where we were supposed to be a part of the chain. After having partied all night long the previous evening, we climbed on the bus, put our leather jackets over our heads, and passed out – I’m sure we were frowned upon by the Country folk. Four hours later, they woke us up, dragged us off the bus…we held hands in the big human chain, took pictures for the news and media, and climbed back on the bus. By now, we were awake…and they started passing around an acoustic guitar, as is the custom in Nashville – everybody would sing a song, and then pass the guitar on to the next guy. Finally, after everybody had a turn, they reluctantly passed the guitar to me, deathly afraid of what hellish metal noise might follow. I wasn’t sure what to sing, but a few seats down from me was a man named Dobie Gray, who had the huge hit with “Drift Away”…so I started playing and singing “Drift Away,” you should have seen his eyes get big, and a smile come across his face, and everybody on the bus started singing. What a magical moment.
An old skool looking KEEL Hollywood flyer style photo shoot.
11. Memory lane in the LA circuit with Ron Keel, what do you recall about the following Los Angeles venues from back in the day.
Troubadour = One of the first bookings we got with Steeler upon moving to L.A., this was one of my favorite places to play and to go see bands. I liked the big open feel of the room, and the sound was good – they would give up-and-coming bands an opportunity to play, even it if might be a midnight time slot on a Monday night.
The Waters Club =This one came after the heyday, I played there with Fair Game. Had some good gigs, and the landscaped waterfall behind the stage was kind of cool.
Whisky-A-Go-Go = The Holy Grail of gigs. I remember the first time I stood on that stage, knowing that thousands of legendary singers and performers had also stood in that very spot, and man you could feel the magic and the history. The road to success for many of us went through that venue – sell out the Whisky, get a record deal. I have a picture of the marquee when Steeler was headlining, with a new unknown band called Metallica opening up for us…
The Palace = I don’t think I ever played there, but damn near got into a fist fight with Don Dokken in the alley out back.
Gazzarri’s = My very first night in Hollywood, I was 20 years old. We were club-hopping, checking out all the action. I met a young and beautiful girl there – she claimed her father was Bill Gazzarri, so of course I was extremely nice to her, catering to her every need and whim for the remainder of the evening, on into the following morning… of course it turned out that she was full of shit. Welcome to Hollywood, young man.
The Roxy Theater = So many memories, great gigs. We were opening for Crue there the day Tommy Lee got his first tattoo; he came to soundcheck showing it off. One night after a show there, our road manager brought Ronnie James Dio backstage to meet us. Ronnie shook my hand, said “Good show”…well, I’m a couple feet taller than Ronnie is, so I just shook his hand and said, “Ronnie James Dio! I’ve always looked up to you!” He ended up taking us to Europe to open for him on his “Sacred Heart” tour.
The Palladium =The very first show after our major label debut “The Right To Rock” was released, was here opening for Dokken. This was the big time, not a club but a real concert venue, and we tore it up that night.
Madame Wong’s = I remember seeing Black N Blue there for the first time, what a great fucking band. I also remember Steeler playing there once – only once. After the gig, I went upstairs to the office to get paid, they made me wait about an hour and then finally handed me six dollars. Six dollars. Of course I took it, we bought bologna and bread that night.
Country Club =The site of many killer KEEL shows. This was a great place to video the gig from the balcony, hence the plethora of bootleg videos shot in this venue during that era. A real concert feel with big time lights and sound. We would do the KEEL Kristmas show here every December, two shows in one night. In my collection of marquee photos, I have one that says “Steeler” with “Tammy Wynette” – no, we weren’t on the bill together, playing there on separate nights, but still that’s pretty cool. The live photos from “The Final Frontier” album cover were shot here. I hear it’s a supermarket now, not sure.
Santa Monica Civic Center = I lived in Santa Monica in those days, so this was my neighborhood concert venue, held a couple thousand people. Saw some great gigs there, Poison was one of the best – played there on the Queensryche tour we did, and also played there on New Year’s Eve with Ratt (don’t ask me what year). Perhaps my favorite memories of the Civic are those early mornings when we’d depart for a road trip – the entire band and crew would meet in that parking lot, and there would be our Silver Eagle tour bus. It was usually a different bus and driver for each tour, so those departure mornings were when you’d meet your driver and take a tour of the bus that would be your home for the next few months. You’d stow your bags, pick your bunk. Then you’d hug your loved ones and say goodbye, the bus door would close, and you’d be off on tour.
12. Reality TV has taken over the world. Including music related shows. Metal Sludge just approved your own reality series with Ron Keel and we’ve named it “The Right to Rock of Love”? Vh1 need a 1 paragraph description of this ASAP.
VH1 & Metal Sludge present – “The Right to Rock of Love”. True-life rock n roll dreams come true! Experience the exploits of rock star/country singer Ron Keel as he relocates to Las Vegas in search of new adventures in music, love, and life. Follow Keel’s efforts to build an entertainment empire, producing and managing such shows as “Country Superstars Tribute” and “Spirit Of Rock n Roll” – performing at Sin City’s most prestigious venues from Caesar’s Palace to “The Dive Bar” and every place in between – experiencing heartbreak and betrayal, only to find and marry the true love of his life as the show climaxes with the ultimate rock n roll wedding.
Ron says no to fronting Vixen, but he once fronted the all female Fair Game.
13. Ron Keel sang for Steeler, Keel, and almost Black Sabbath. Then you went and did your country thing as Ronnie Lee Keel. It seems that many 80s bands at one point had to replace key players, including their singer (Motley Crue, Van Halen, Skid Row, Warrant, Ratt, Danger Danger, Accept & Anthrax).
Given the chance what would your answer be to possibly sing in a reformed or new version of the following bands. Your answer is either yes, no or maybe – a short explanation would be great too.
Great White = Maybe. Jack’s a killer singer, big shoes to fill.
Loudness =If Munetaka Higuchi were still with us, hell yeah. Toured with these guys for many months, much love to them and their friends and families, and our condolences on Munetaka’s passing.
Helix = Yes. Love these guys, toured extensively with them.
Slave Raider = No. Never heard of them. What does the gig pay?
KISS =YES. I am highly qualified – check out my vocal on “Lick It Up: A Millennium Tribute To KISS” – sign me up.
Trixter = No. Not my style. What does the gig pay?
King Kobra =Yes. I like the songs but I am unwilling to change my gender, hope that’s not a dealbreaker.
Nitro = Pass. What does the gig pay?
Scorpions =YES. One of my all time favorite bands, I would rock this gig like a hurricane.
Vixen =I did front Fair Game, which had all female musicians. That’s why I will definitely have to pass on this gig.
14. If you had to pick any 2 rap artists to record a song with who would you pick and why. (we’ll make it a little harder, you can’t choose Kid Rock either).
Man, I can’t name 2 rap artists besides Kid Rock. No disrespect, it’s just not my culture. The only other one I know is Cool Herc, the cat who started it all by reciting poetry over music tracks on the streets of New York. I would record with that guy.
15. Let’s get serious for a moment. In light of these tragedies, 9/11, Katrina & the recent terrorism in Mumbai India. What are your thoughts on these events, our country, the War & our Government?
I’m a singer, an entertainer. Yes, I care – and yes, I have feelings and opinions about such serious subjects as our government and the state of our civilization. Not only are these issues way too complicated to address in an interview like this, I don’t feel it’s appropriate to subject your readers to my viewpoints. People come to Sludge – and to KEEL concerts – for a temporary escape from the harsh realities that bombard us all on a daily basis, and my job is to entertain them to the best of my ability.
Ron live @ "Al Rosa Villa" Metal Sludge X-travaganza Tour August ’05
16. Tell us a fond memory of yours about these fallen rock n’ roll brothers.
Kevin DuBrow = One of my all-time best friends in this business. When KEEL toured with Quiet Riot, sometimes Kevin and I would room together on the road – that’s got to be a rarity, for two lead singers to get along that well. He sang with me on the “Larger Than Live” album, and we remained close in recent years. The last time we worked together, I was opening for QR in Pittsburgh a couple years ago. We both lived in Vegas, and shortly before he passed we made dinner plans which will have to wait until we meet in Rock n Roll heaven. I miss him.
Cliff Burton = We were actually booked to open for Metallica on the tour which was cancelled due to Cliff’s passing, so unfortunately I never got to know him. I only met Cliff briefly in the very early 80’s.
Ray Gillen = I don’t recall ever meeting Ray. Great singer.
Eric Carr = Eric was the sweetest of dudes – what a nice guy. He used to come in to the studio when Gene was producing our albums and offer support and encouragement. An incredible drummer, also – a master of incorporating melody into a drum solo.
Randy Rhoads = I never got to meet Randy – when we were struggling to survive on the streets of Hollywood, Randy was already a star with Ozzy and our paths never crossed.
Dimebag =Super nice guy, awesome attitude and talent. When they were still a cover band, they would send us tapes of them doing songs like “Speed Demon”…there are a few YouTube videos out there. And whenever we’d be passing through Dallas, Dime and Vinnie were always there hanging with us. They recorded one of Marc’s songs, “Proud To Be Loud.” We are actually discussing booking the KEEL Reunion into the Alrosa in Columbus, where Dime was murdered, and if it happens that will be a strange and bittersweet experience. I recall performing at a Metal Sludge event there a few years back, and it was weird being on that stage where it happened.
Robin Crosby = As I continue down this list, at least with the guys I knew well, it’s starting to dawn on me that one thing they all had in common is that they were really nice guys. Rob was no exception, just a big teddy bear of a man. We used to talk about putting a band together where one of the requirements would be a minimum height of 6’ 4”.
Joey Ramone =Didn’t know him.
Steve Clark =Didn’t know him.
Randy Castillo = Another really nice guy with a ton of talent – never knew him well, but sure would have liked to have been in a band with him.
17. Will we see KEEL at Rocklahoma, Rock The Bayou or any of the big festivals in the summer of 2009?
That’s the plan. We are not reuniting to play at the VFW fish-fry. We’re in negotiations with the festivals now and everything looks good – looking forward to making some big announcements in the next couple of months.
18. We asked Jani Lane in his re-wind (January 2002) the following:
“Have you ever considered a career in country western music = “No, I am not Ron Keel.”
We then asked Mathew Nelson in his 20?s (August 2002) to answer our word association, his reply was: Ron Keel = Do you mean Ronnie LEE Keel?!?
We also added you to rate a singer (1-10) for Dennis Duncan (former Sister Whiskey singer) his reply was: Ronnie Lee Keel = 2
It seems that your country career has definitely made news, and many have heard about it, saw you play and kind of poked fun at it too. Any response to this from Mr. Keel to Jani Lane, Dennis Duncan or Mathew Nelson?
No, not at all. Part of the deal with a Sludge interview is poking some fun at each other. As far as singing country music, ironically it all leads back to “The Right To Rock” – that songs screams about freedom of expression, the right to say what I feel and do what I want to do – and that’s just what I’ve done. Having fun, singing songs, entertaining people – that’s what life is all about for me.
The country thing is old news, anyway – Bon Jovi’s had a couple of #1 songs on the country charts, James Hetfield’s been on CMT singing a Waylon Jennings song, Dee Snider and Sebastian Bach have both starred in a country music reality show. My only claim to fame was that I did it first, before it was cool.
Marc Ferrari a& Ron Keel honky tonkin’ it up live a few years back.
19. We also asked Danny Dangerous the former Zeroes bassist what bands were the biggest jackasses and he replied with: “I grew up in So Cal..in high school I loved the band STEELER I once asked Ron Keel (innocently) why all the local L.A. metal bands copied each others image, why didn’t they didn’t try to look different from each other? WOW? Did He Lose It!!!! I am just a dumb kid asking a innocent question, trying to make conversation from a local I looked up to. It is funny when I look back at it now…”
It appears you hurt the purple haired kids feelings. We’re sure he’s over it by now, but is there any truth to you being a hot head back in the day?
Definitely not. I have always gone out of my way to try to be a nice guy and do the right thing, and more often than not it has backfired on me. I certainly don’t remember this guy or this conversation, but there had to be more to it. You are going to take a guy named “Danny Dangerous” seriously?
Ron with his then boss, Gene Simmons of KISS
20. The Last of Ron Keel.
The last fast food you ate was = homecooked burger topped with homemade chili, cheese, and onions.
The last concert you watched from the crowd = Trans-Siberian Orchestra, MGM Grand, Las Vegas Nov 20 2008.
The last person you talked to on the phone = Renee, my fiancé.
The last CD you purchased = AC/DC “Black Ice,” love it.
The last time you rode an actual horse = couple of years ago, not since I’ve been in Vegas.
The last famous person you shook hands with =Carrot Top.
The last time you cried =Don’t remember. But it happens from time to time, I’m not insecure about showing my sensitive side – I always cry at sappy movies.
The last time you hung out with Gene Simmons =Last year, when he played at the Hard Rock in Vegas. We had a nice talk before he went on stage, catching up about the good old days and talking about our kids.
The last publishing check you got bought what = Paid bills. Sorry, I wish I had a more glamorous answer, but just about everybody uses their income to pay their bills.
The last time you looked at Metal Sludge =Just before this interview. Sludge rocks, it’s always great to be on the site – thanks for publicizing my exploits, and especially for promoting the KEEL Reunion.
Thanks to all the KEELaholics for keeping the music & dreams alive, see you on-line at http://keelreunion.com
We’d like to thank Ron for a killer and in depth interview.
Make sure to check the band online and go see some shows in 2009.
The Right to Sludge