Jimmy Kay from Canada’ s The Metal Voice spoke with singer, songwriter Ron Keel (Keel, Steeler, The Ron Keel Band). Keel spoke about his new Southern Rock covers album South X South Dakota, joining Black Sabbath, working with Gene Simmons and time with Yngwie Malmsteen in Steeler. The video zoom interview took place May 7 2020.
Tell me about your new southern rock covers album ‘South X South Dakota’
“We didn’t choose the songs the songs chose us. The process was entirely different from anything I have ever been through. We went in the studio last year to record the ‘Fight Like a Band’ record and we would warm up in the morning by jamming on some of our favorite Southern Rock cover songs. At the end of the day when our sessions were done we would have a couple of cocktails and we would unwind by jamming more of these great cover songs. These songs were part of our lives, part of the fabric of our culture and part of the Ron Keel song list in the last 5 years as well. After 3-5 days I started listening back because my producer was recording everything we did without us knowing. I realized we have got something really special here, it was natural and organic. The songs sounded like a bunch of guys in the studio having a good time. So after 4-5 songs I realized we had the foundation for a great record so we started to add more songs at that point and figured it would by cool to create an album of these classic songs that have been part of our lives and our shows. It was all accidental and that was part of the charm.”
Do you think you are going to alienate your Metal fan following by putting out a southern rock album?
“You are always going to have to win over new fans, that is part of our job as artists, to evolve to create, to record and release new music. People are going to come and go throughout your lives and we are building new fans as we go. I am really pleased and thankful that so many of the Steeler and Keel fans have embraced this new record and they are enjoying it, it’s good solid heavy arena rock. There are stylistic differences but at the end of the day, it’s all great powerful classic rock tunes with big big guitars, thundering drums, screaming vocals and great songs. ”
Will you be releasing any new music?
“I am always writing and recording new music. In fact this year I am going to release a solo acoustic album on my Patreon platform. One new solo acoustic song per month for members only. Then in December they get the autographed signed CD with all the songs on it. ”
What was it like working with Gene Simmons during the Keel years?
“So may things about Gene that people don’t understand, Gene is rock and Roll to the core. He has a deep appreciation for Rock and Roll history. He taught us how to make great records and how to write songs. His influence has been there for me for over 35 years. Also as a friend and a mentor and he taught me a lot about business and about life, he is a great guy.”
Tell me about your time with Black Sabbath after Ian Gillan left the band
“It was an amazing experience. I was in the studio recording the Keel demos at Pasha Studios where producer Spencer Proffer had recorded the Quiet Riot Metal Health Album. Spencer was hot in Hollywood at the time and was signed on to produce the new Black Sabbath album after Ian Gillan left. So Spencer had chosen me for the vocal position in Sabbath and we cut a demo of some songs. Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler heard the demo, I signed a contract, I met with their management I spent days with Tony and Geezer. Spencer for whatever reason, ego probably was trying to turn Black Sabbath into an 80’s Hair band. He was trying to push outside songs on them and make them into an MTV type band. That is not Sabbath, Sabbath is who they are they iconic founding fathers of Heavy Metal, you don’t take Sabbath and turn them into 80’s metal band like Ratt or Motley Crue. Spencer wanted to do this with Sabbath at the time, not necessarily with me but I would have been a good fit. My time with the band was very short. I am very thankful Keel survived cause that was when we first put Keel together and I had to tell the guys in the band I was joining Black Sabbath and I can’t turn this opportunity down. So the Black Sabbath Deal fell apart, Spencer Proffer was fired, Sabbath said screw you we are not having any of this musical outlook and I got caught in the crossfire. You can hear my Sabbath demos on my Patreon page if you are a member (https://www.patreon.com/ronkeel).”
Any chance with for a Steeler reunion with Yngwie Malmsteen?
“No he wouldn’t do that, I would do it in a heartbeat be he wouldn’t do that. I think it would be fantastic for us to come together and do a song for charity. I respect his contribution to music and how that Steeler record became one of the iconic foundations of metal and how the album got both our careers started. But we are different animals and we don’t belong in the same zoo. ”
Did Yngwie Malmsteen speak English back in the 80’s when you first met him?
“Yes he spoke English, the first thing he said when he got off the plane was, now I am here, I do what I want. Then he said I am the Antichrist and it was downhill from there.”
RON KEEL BAND led by the legendary front-man Ron Keel (Steeler, Keel) new album ‘South X South Dakota’ was released via HighVolMusic. The new album is a collection of 11 tracks of some of the best southern rock music ever recorded.
Track listing:Train Train
Rockin’ Into The Night
Don’t Misunderstand Me (featuring Jasmine Cain)
Red White & Blue
Flirtin’ With Disaster
Fire On The Mountain
Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys
Ghost Riders In The Sky (produced by Henry Paul)
Creedence Medley LIVE