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KIX – Are For Kids
Dave Shaw
Metal Forces, Issue 15 (1985)

Kix (l-r): Donnie Purnell, Jimmy Chalfant, Steve Whiteman, Ronnie Younkins
and Brian Forsythe

1985 hasn’t really been a good year for classic releases; maybe five or so LPs stand out in my mind, including Icon, Illusion, Aerosmith and Kix. Those who read my Kix review in Metal Forces issue #14, will know that I think that Midnite Dynamite will be the one to break the band from Maryland into the big time. And recently I spoke to bassist Donnie Purnell, with Kix having just played the Bayou Club in Washington DC, where by all accounts “they had a hell of a show”.

I first asked Donnie to give me a brief history of the band? “I started the band with Ronnie (Younkins), our guitar player. We borrowed a $100, found out about Brain (Forsythe; guitar), then got a drummer by the name of Donnie Spence who lived in Hagerstown. We also started the band with a different singer than we have now. We played like that for two or three months, before we got rid of the first singer because he was dumb. Then we heard about Steve (Whiteman); he was a drummer at the time but he sang a lot of stuff, so we stole him from the band he was in and made him our singer. Finally, we got rid of our drummer and got Jimmy Chalfant. After about a year with this new line-up we got our deal with Atlantic.”

Which leads me to my next question, how did the deal with Atlantic come about? “We made lots of demo tapes and sent them to different record companies, and the first company to see us was Atlantic. The guy liked us, but didn’t have the power to sign us, so he arranged for us to fly to New York and do an audition for all the big wheels at the record company. So we set up all out gear and played for 50 minutes, and after the third song the President and Vice President of the record company took our manager outside. At first we thought they weren’t interested, but we didn’t give a fuck. We kept on looking at each other and I was telling Jimmy, they’re eating this shit up; I thought we totally bombed. At the end of the whole thing the guy said ‘Do you want to be on Atlantic Records? We’ll
be happy to sign you!’”

You’ve just released a new LP, Midnite Dynamite. What’s the response been from the fans? “This has been our most successful LP. I’m most proud of this record out of all of them. I think it’s real consistent and there are no questions when you listen to it about what we do and where we’re coming from. We learned a lot from the first two LPs because none of us had any studio experience. Also, we had a good producer on this one. We’re getting fan letters and everyone is real positive about the album.”

Midnite Dynamite sees you go back to more straight ahead rock’n’roll, like on your the first self-titled LP. Your last LP, Cool Kids, seemed more pop than hard rock; was this anything to do with the producer, or did you want to go for a more sleazier sound? “When we made that record we had a different manager and the songs on the album really rocked out. But when we were done recording and it was time to mix, our old manager came down and he thought it had to be lightened up because he thought it was too heavy to get played on the radio. Between him and the producer they brought the guitars down and added keyboards to it – it burnt me up. We can do those songs on the second album now and they sound so much better live than on record because we don’t have a keyboard player. We make it much more powerful. Those songs were originally powerful, but they took some of that power away by trying to get it on the radio.”

Was it producer Beau Hill’s idea to bring in guitarist Mike Slamer and drummer Anton Fig to work on the album? “Mike Slamer was a friend of Beau’s because he had just done the Street’s album. The reason we had Anton come in was because Jimmy had a pinched nerve in his arm and he had to have an operation before we recorded the last two songs. Before we sent Jimmy off to the hospital, we had him do all the drum parts on a drum machine. Then Anton came in for one day and played a real drum track to those two songs. It was pretty strange but it worked out really good.”

You’re an East Coast band with a West Coast image; have you ever thought about moving to LA? “I don’t know. We’re going out there to see how everything goes, but we do so well over in Maryland, Baltimore and New York – it keeps us alive. We probably have that opportunity to come here, to make big bucks, be rock stars and have lots of fans. But we have considered maybe going to more of a music hub, like LA or New York, just so that we have daily contact with the music world.”

How important is the image to you? “It’s fun; I would never want to have no image. Some people say that image shit is just bullshit, and it doesn’t make the music any better or any worse. Which is true, but it makes it more fun for us and more fun to a lot of people to look at a band that is a little different than everybody else.”

Do you pay much attention to bands like Ratt and Mötley Crüe? “I like Ratt’s two LPs. Of all the bands like Ratt, Mötley Crüe, Twisted Sister and Quiet Riot, I like Ratt the best.”

What are your influences besides beer, women and pizza (much laughter)? “I like AC/DC, Rolling Stones and Aerosmith. We’ve toured with Aerosmith a lot; they’re real easy to work with, they don’t screw us around like some bands. I like some punk too… the real fast stuff.”

Are you getting much airplay, and what do you think of these people who want to put stickers on the records warning people about the lyrics? Wouldn’t that stop some of your songs being played on the radio? “I hope that moral shit dies down, because I can’t take much more. Like these religious heavy metal bands; I can’t stomach that stuff (Kix have just played a few dates with Stryper). For a rock’n’roll band to get up and say we got a new scheme and play God for an hour… I can’t handle it. Rock’n’roll to me is the same from the day it started ’til today. It still has the same reason. It’s meant for youthful people with a youthful message, like going out and having a good time. It shouldn’t be a podium for people to express their political and religious views. If I want to hear someone make a point, I’ll watch 20/20.”

The LP was delayed for some months; why was that? “We were going to do the first half of the record with Beau and then find another producer to do the second half, because Beau had to do the Ratt LP. But while recording the first half of our record, we were trying to talk him into doing the whole album because he is really good and he knew what we wanted. Anyway, he then went to do the Ratt record and we convinced him to finish our album rather than turn it over to another producer. It was worth it for us to wait until the Ratt record was done, and then he come back and finished our LP.”

Finally Donnie, what are your plans for the future? “We’re going to do this LA thing. We’ve just come back from New England, where we played with Soft White Underbelly (Blue Öyster Cult) and Heaven. Then we did a lot of our own shows and every one we did was a success. Our live show is really happening; we picked out all the best songs from the three LPs and put them in a nice order, and we did little things to make our stage show visually exciting. We’re dying to get in the game, and so far It’s working real good.”

I for one really hope Kix can break out and make it big, and that they play England one day. One thing’s for sure, this kid will be there.

Interview taken from Metal Forces, Issue 15 (1985)

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