Sunday, October 21, 2012

LOST INTERVIEWS PT. 2: Cinderella’s Tom Keifer


As I mentioned in Pt. 1 of this series, I recently discovered an old, dusty
 file in my office. The manila folder contained Xerox copies of several
arena rock star interviews that I had conducted a decade ago and
 appeared in old school print publications. I look forward to finally
 sharing them all with blog readers in the upcoming days, but I was
 excited to post these particular excerpts from my 2002 interview with
 Cinderella's Tom Keifer ASAP.

Cinderella's Tom Keifer

Drawing immediate comparisons to such iconic heavyweights as AC/DC, Nazareth  and Aerosmith, the blues-based  rock band Cinderella  became an overnight sensation on the international music scene with the release of  its 1986 platinum-selling debut album, Night Songs. Defying the dreaded sophomore jinx, the Pennsylvania band's 1988 album Long Cold Winter also reached platinum status.  Achieving an  impressive  hat-trick, 1990's  Heartbreak Station hit the million mark as well. Then came the grunge movement and Cinderella was forced on hiatus. But after  experiencing a series of setbacks, the band returned to the road in the late '90s. And in the 2000s the guys  are  once again filling arenas and amphitheaters, coast-to-coast.

There is no doubt that people still want to be served rock and roll. It just hasn't been on the menu for the last ten years.
– Tom Keifer (2002)
In  2002, Cinderella is preparing to embark on another major U.S. summer concert tour. But I was becoming a bit frustrated recently as I put together  this story  to promote their upcoming date in West Palm Beach.
Communication with Cinderella’s organization was proving to be a challenge. Numerous messages left with the band's handlers went unanswered and I was getting nowhere fast. Then, just two days before my deadline, the call finally came through. An interview with founding frontman / guitarist Tom Keifer was scheduled for the following day at 4PM. Unfortunately, the next day came and went with no call from Keifer. I had learned early in my writing career that when it comes to interviewing rock stars, Monday usually means Tuesday, 4PM means 6PM and so on. This time, however, I was really getting stressed because my deadline now was only  24 hours away and I needed to get this story.
I was sleeping-in late on the morning of my deadline after having been out ‘til the wee hours DJ-ing at a club the night before. Suddenly the phone rang. I couldn’t imagine who on earth would be so rude as to disturb me at the crack of noon on a Saturday. As I fumbled for the phone, I glanced down at the Caller ID and to my surprise (and relief), Tom Keifer was on the line!

Rock and roll is like primal instincts.
It appeals to everybody.
– Tom Keifer (2002)

For an hour or more, we discussed various phases of Keifer’s amazing career, going all the way back to his teenage years when he made what was to be a life-changing discovery rock and roll.

“What is this music?” Keifer asked himself upon seeing his first live rock band performing at a school dance. “This is just amazing!”

"I listened to everything growing up," Keifer continued. "I grew up listening to all of the American rock and roll and all of the music that influenced it — from blues to country to gospel."

While discussing his own records released over the years, Keifer chuckled in agreement when I confessed that I thought Cinderella’s third record, 1990’s Heartbreak Station was the best of his career. “There was a magic going on when we recorded that record,” Keifer recalled. “It’s my favorite of the ones we’ve made. We really had a good time making that record.”
Plagued by throat problems while in the studio, Keifer described Cinderella’s fourth album, Still Climbing, as a “torturous” album to make. However, he still considers “Bad Attitude Shuffle” and “Through the Rain” to be a couple of their all-time best songs.
Of course at some point, I had to ask him about the short-lived, yet lethal Seattle grunge movement of the early ‘90s that exterminated the arena rock scene seemingly overnight. 

“What happened in the ‘90s was not as much of a musical change as it was a fashion change. A lot of people listen to music with their eyes. Soundgarden and Nirvana it’s loud guitars cranked up through Marshalls with screaming vocals. It all sounded like rock and roll to me. I never got what the difference really was other than the look.”
I loved Nirvana.
I thought they were a great rock and roll band.
– Tom Keifer (2002)
I found Keifer's easy-going openness to be quite  refreshing and he proved to be as engaging throughout our one-on-one conversion as he's appeared to be over the years performing onstage in front of thousands. I appreciated his time, and the experience remains one of my all-time favorite writing ops. I just wish that after all these years I could relocate the cassette tape with the entire interview!
-Christopher Long
(April 2002)
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