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.

(Pt 2)
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 getting stressed because my deadline now was only 24 hours away  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 
–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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