Rich Williams | Kansas Carries On

prof_kansas-cd.jpgThere’s definitely a much younger crowd in the front row now; that’s largely due to Guitar Hero. It really boosted a lot more young teens.






Kansas may be best known to most for their iconic hits like "Carry on Wayward Son" and "Dust in the Wind," but those who have listened further have been rewarded with a rich tapestry of imaginative and inspiring music. Their heavy rocking sound is fused with a blend of subtle musical influences into complex and epic arrangements that have helped to define progressive rock; this was perhaps best captured with their live album from 1978. Kansas is now on tour in support of the recently released remastered 30th anniversary edition of Two for the Show (Kirshner/Epic/Legacy). Come out to see with high energy performance, and amazing musicianship of this team of seasoned virtuosos, the perfect time to sing along to all the tunes you know and jam out with one of the truly great American rock bands of our time.


You have a rigorous tour schedule again this year. How has your approach to touring changed over the years?

Basically what we do is we do it all year, but we don’t kill ourselves. We try to do it as much as we can to leave Friday morning and come home Sunday.

In the summer we wound up doing a lot more; this year we went to Europe, so that changes that schedule a little bit. It keeps everybody fresh. Then there’s always something and the weekend to look forward to; nobody gets burned out. We fly everywhere; we stay in nice hotels, just take all the pain out of it.

How does the band keep up with such complex arrangements? Is there still a lot of rehearsal time involved, or is it more second nature at this point?

It’s second nature. Even rehearsals, if we’re changing something or adding a song, it’s so often done via the internet. Just do your homework, and sit at the computer and work out all your parts, play along with it. If there are any arrangement changes to be added, then you send it back and forth, then do it at soundcheck a couple of time and you’re ready to go.

Do you still use any of your old gear, or do you update your rig with new technology?

Actually, I’ve been finding that I’m going backward constantly. I’m using an old ADA preamp that I used 20 years ago.

Has the inclusion of your material on Guitar Hero had an impact on sales and concert attendance?

There’s definitely a much younger crowd in the front row now; that’s largely due to Guitar Hero. It really boosted a lot more young teens.

In a town like St. Louis, you have a huge following of dedicated fans, despite not getting too much press or airplay on your new material. What do you see as the legacy of your music?

We’ve definitely put in a footprint. This will be our 34th year, so there’s not really any concern about "Have we made it?" The Leftoverture, Point of No Return era will probably be what we’re most remembered for.

Does the newly released remastered anniversary edition of Two for the Show capture the experience of your live shows in the way you intended?

Oh yeah; it just was raw, as happened. That was what we wanted to do. The original was that: no over-dubs. So when we did Part Two of it, we wanted to do it exactly the same way; it was just, "Here’s what happened that night." We did no overdubs, no sweetening of any kind. Even when Jeff Lisbon mixed it, it was done on old analog — you know, super high-quality analog gear, as was the original.

How was the material selected for the second disc of the re-release?

Disc one is the original Two for the Show, and that’s just a remaster. Disc two is the remainder of stuff that was recorded, but there wasn’t room to put it on at the time since it was vinyl. You were limited to 18 minutes a side, and so this was an opportunity to put the rest of it out.

In the 2000 release of Somewhere to Elsewhere, you have the song "Icarus II," a continuation of the previous "Icarus: Born on Wings of Steel." Some of the lyrics seem strangely prescient of the events of 9/11 and the war that followed. What was the concept behind that song?

It was written about actual events that happened in World War II, when one plane had to sacrifice itself so that the other of them could get away.

What is your take on the current state of the music industry? Do you have any thoughts about some of your newer material not getting as much radio play as your classic material?

That was the case 20 years ago, 15 years ago, 10 years ago. I stopped caring about that a long time ago. At some point, I just came to the realization that there is a great big world out there that has nothing to do with what’s playing on pop radio right now, and it’s much bigger than that small little trend that is pop radio. What happens on pop radio has so little to do with anything we have ever done.

Is playing the live shows an energizing thing that keeps you going?

That’s what I love to do! You know, we all started doing this because we were musicians and we enjoyed playing the instrument, playing in a band. That’s what musicians do. To sit back and look at your picture in the paper and count your money, that’s all fine I guess, but I like to strap the thing on and play it.

What other upcoming project do you have to follow up on the remastered live discs?

What we’re looking at now, and we’re in meeting trying to get all the details worked out, but we started this year with symphony dates, and we’re going to look to release something with that.

Kansas music with the full symphony?

Yeah, we did an album with the London Symphony Orchestra, so a lot of it is already scored, and we’ve done it before. If we get it off the ground, we’re going to film it and put out a DVD

What are some of your most memorable moments of St. Louis?

One of the first times I played there was with a band called Trapeze with Glen Hughes, a tremendous singer, bass player, wound up singing with Deep Purple. They were so good. We played with them at the old Kiel Auditorium. I can’t even think of how many different places we played in that town. | Derek Lauer

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