Ron Keel has been around for a very long time in the entertainment business and a person can learn multitudes from him and his experiences. He has the ability to set his visions in motion and conquers everything that he sets his sights on. The list of his ever growing achievements in the music/radio/entertainment business is impressive and includes; hit records, soundtrack inclusions, music videos that had heavy rotation not only on MTV but video outlets around the world, has toured with some of the biggest acts in the business and entertained millions worldwide, playing his music as both an opening act and as a headliner. Ron is a successful author and has had his writings included in other publishing as well. He is one of those friends I refer to about becoming a great friend of mine on the home page of this website. Ron took some very precious time out of his very busy schedule to share with TEN about his past, his present project and something very personal and very important to him in his life.
TEN– Tell me about the Ron Keel Band and what the Metal Cowboy has been into these days. The band looks awesome!
RK– Well, thank you. It’s a dream come true for me to be able to assemble these guys and call it the Ron Keel Band after what we’ve been through the last couple of years as the Badlands House Band. There was obviously a next step to be taken and it just seems right to put my name on it. I mean it’s been my band since day one anyway. I was able to assemble my group of guys that I’ve known and loved for years. The band is El Diablo on the bass, DC Cothern on guitar, Dakota Scott on keyboards and The Rev on drums. I’ve had pretty much a free reign with this project for the last two years. Now that it was time to change the name of the band, I couldn’t think of anything else that would fit as well as the Ron Keel Band. It’s a lot of pressure to put my name on it but it’s a lot of pleasure as well.
TEN– What made you decide to change the name from the Badlands Band?
RK– Well, Badlands is no longer operating here in Sioux Falls, S.D. and it was the right business decision at the time. I tell ya man, it reminds me of the time back in the day in 1984, when I had a band called Steeler and the best course of business at the time was to change that name or to form a new band and to call it Keel. That was the last thing that I ever intended to do but once I did that…everything started workin’ out and within 6 months we were in the studio workin’ with Gene Simmons on the “Right To Rock” album, we were signed to a major label and the rest is history so I kinda draw those parallels to what I’m doin now. I’ve put my name on it and like I said, it puts the pleasure on but it puts the pressure on as well.
TEN– You’ve always been able to handle pressure, brother…
RK– Well, I do the best that I can. It’s been a blessing to have so many dreams come true in my life and in my career. Yeah, there’s pressure but it’s only because there’s so many people depending on you…the guys in the band and their families, our fans and the audience. I came to the conclusion a long time ago that I’m gonna make music/create/record/ perform/tour…do what I do, no matter what the consequences. I feel comfortable knowing that even though I’ve sold a few million records, there’s billions of people that don’t like it or want it and I’m ok with that. My mission in life is to be myself and to deliver the goods as I see fit.
TEN– Will there be new music from the Ron Keel Band?
RK– There’s always new music, man. The day that I stop creating, writing and recording…will be the day that I die so yes, there is always new music in the pipeline. The most recent is my single “Dead Man Rockin” which I’m extremely proud of. It’s a song that really puts into words and music how I feel and where I’m at at this point in my career.
TEN– I like what I’ve heard and it’s like being kicked in the teeth. It’s right up there in your face and to the point.
RK– I appreciate that. Ya know, on the surface the lyrics to that song sound simple…”I got one more show, 400 miles to go, another one night stand out in no man’s land, with the boys in the band, I’ll do the best I can” and yeah, on the surface it sounds trite. But, there’s no better way to say it. That’s exactly what I do every day. It’s an anthem for the working men and women who get up every day, dog ass tired and go to work and kick ass anyway.
TEN– Will that song be part of a new album or just a one off release?
RK– I have no idea man. I really don’t have a plan. I do wanna create a new album and record with these guys and get something out there as soon as possible. Will that song will be included in that line up, probably not. It’s a single that’s meant to establish a bridge between the Badlands House Band and the Ron Keel Band. Some of the guys in the band did play on the track so it is a bridge between where we’ve been the last couple of years and where we’re going in the future.
TEN– Any chance of having Gene Simmons produce the new album?
RK– Oh, wouldn’t that be fantastic!
TEN– I get the vibe that you still have a connection with KISS pretty well my friend…
RK– Well, yeah, Gene has always remained a strong supporter of mine and I’m extremely thankful for that. My dream was if there were ever to be a final Keel album with Bryan Jay, Marc Ferrari, Dwain Miller and myself, that maybe Gene would produce it. I’m at the stage of my career where I keep all my doors open and just do the best that I can every day to rock hard, party hard and work hard.
TEN– I saw a video of you jamming with Paul Stanley too.
RK– That’s correct. In my career…I mean how many guys have gotten to sing “Cold Gin” with Gene Simmons and “Rock and Roll All Nite” with Paul Stanley? I don’t know anybody else who’s had those kinds of dreams come true and I was able to do that and call those guys my friends and supporters and be a very small part of the KISS history or KISS tapestry. It’s been a huge dream come true and a big benefit to my career as well. Yea, we backed up Paul on four songs at our debut gig…our first gig ever. We did “Love Gun” “Rock and Roll All Nite,” and a couple of other songs and just to be able to be on stage with Paul and sing those songs and to play them and have him give his stamp of approval was a huge kick start to this project.
TEN–Speaking of your career, what was it like living in LA during “The Strip Days” of the 80s?
RK– It was the best of times and it was the best of times. (Laughs) I get asked that question a lot in interviews and there’s really no way to verbalize it. Unless you were walkin’ the streets of L.A. in your leather jacket in 1982-83…you’ll never know. You’ll never know the same thing as goin’ over Niagara Falls in a barrel, ya gotta be there to experience it and know what it felt like. There was so much electricity in the air and so much excitement about music and about rock n roll. This was a time when there were no boundaries. There were no restrictions. There were no rules. It was before AIDS. The world was a different place back then and the music reflected that. Hollywood was the epicenter and I was right there in the middle of it and will always be thankful for being a part of that musical and cultural revolution. It started with Edward Van Halen in 78 when their first album came out and then was followed by Randy Rhoads, Tommy Lee, Jake E Lee…I mean the list of incredible musicians that flourished in that scene. It’s not about the hair or about the chicks. Those things come and go but the music will last forever.
TEN– How do you feel about the resurgence of the 80s rock bands? Within the last 5 to 10 years, festivals and tours featuring those bands have increased in size and frequency.
RK– Well it started with Rocklahoma in what was it, 07-08? These festivals and events, especially the Monsters of Rock Cruise for me it’s an annual and epic celebration of that lifestyle and that music. The fact that those events have been able to keep that kind of music alive, I think is fantastic. A resurgence? I’d like to temper that word with some reality because nobody is selling 10 million records anymore. Quiet Riot or Bon Jovi or any of those bands, nobody’s selling 10 million records… nobody’s getting rich. Nobody is expecting history to repeat itself, however, I am constantly inspired by the fact this type or the style of music continues to live on in the new acts that are up-and-coming and continuing to go out there, create new music, beat the streets and to try to get played on the radio and all that now. Whether they’ll survive and go on for the long haul and be remembered in 20 years or 30 years remains to be seen. But, there are some great new bands out there that are continuing to keep this type of music alive. I’ve tried to support them on my radio show and in my interviews as well. The ones on the mainstream side of things, bands like Halestorm or whoever. They are still creating really great kick ass hard rock/metal music with melody and doing good business. I think that we’ve established the fact that hard rock/melodic hard rock/commercial melodic hard rock has stood the test of time and will survive and I was glad to be a part of that history and culture that spawned that style of music.
TEN– Who are some of the other newer bands that you like these days?
RK– Gabbie Rae. This young lady is going to be the voice of the future of hard rock. She’s had some amazing singles, tour dates and accomplishments so far for an 18-year-old girl. She is to be the future of this type of music. A lot of female acts like I mentioned: Halestorm, Gabbie Rae, The Pretty Reckless. There are bands that have been around for, gosh, maybe 10 years now that are just now getting the exposure and the recognition they deserve in the states because of radio stations like KBAD, the station where I am the daily host of my show on KBAD 94.5 FM in Sioux Falls and online at 94.5.com. We’re playing these bands and are really proud to be at the forefront of stations that are showcasing the next generation of hard rock.
TEN– You’ve been involved in a lot of different projects in your career and you were also asked to audition for Black Sabbath if I remember right. Can you touch on that briefly?
RK– That’s correct and there’s not a day goes by that I don’t get asked that question. I’m very proud of it. I had a very brief encounter with Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler in 1984 when I was putting Keel together. Who knows what would’ve happened if we would have taken the next steps in terms of recording, writing and touring. It is a pretty well documented fact in my book and several other books that have been written about Sabbath’s history. The number one Black Sabbath fan site Black-Sabbath.com. I’m included in the timeline as one of the singers. It’s an honor and a pleasure to be even mentioned in the same sentence as the most iconic heavy metal band as all-time. Who knows what would’ve happened but everything happens the way it’s supposed to and I’m proud to not even be a thread in that tapestry but just to have the Black Sabbath needle prick me in the ass at one point when I got to sit with Tony and Geezer and go over the set list, talk about the band and the plans for the future. It’s a complicated story that we don’t want to get into right now but people who are interested can find out my take on it at Black-Sabbath.com or in my book: “Even Keel: Life On The Streets Of Rock & Roll.”
TEN– They (Black Sabbath) recently finished up their final show ever.
RK– We’ll see about that. If they do plan on getting back together, I’m waiting on a phone call, I’m in! (Laughs)
TEN– Since you’ve been extremely successful in both country and rock, if you were asked to do a CMT crossroads show, who would you want to play with, especially since you’re the Metal Cowboy?
RK– Aw man, wow, I think they’ve all been done. But, yeah, Garth Brooks. Garth Brooks is the guy that convinced me in 1992 that country rocks. That you could play country music and put on a show and kick ass, scream and smash guitars. Once I saw Garth, I realized that it wasn’t a far stretch from what I wanted to do. In terms of the old-school country, Merle Haggard, George Strait…I love that. I grew up listening to that stuff but Garth was a guy who taught country how to rock. I mean he would never do it but that would be the crossroads of my country career because Garth was the guy who convinced me that country can rock. That crossroads thing is very cool. You see Bon Jovi with Jennifer Nettles or Skynyrd or some of these other bands that have shown people there are really no barrier, no fence, and no barricade between the styles of music. When I was growing up T Roy, I’m telling you man, I was oblivious to it because when I was a kid in 1972, I heard the Eagles and Black Sabbath back to back on the same radio station. They called it rock ‘n roll back then. Nobody called it metal. Nobody called it country. It was the Eagles, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, and Deep Purple. It was such a diverse array of music in the top 30. These were hits. “Smoke on the Water” was a hit song and so was “Take it Easy” by the Eagles. We listened to them and grew up with them. We didn’t know that you had to put up these barricades and dividing lines between metal or country. It was all music. I know that some of it is cultural. Rap music is not my cup of tea. I don’t belong to that culture but the rest of it, classical music; jazz… it was all music to me. I played it all I loved it all. I still do. Of course I gravitated to whatever resonated within me, whether it was a song about partying or chasing women or drinking or life & love, heartbreak or going to jail. Both rock ‘n roll and country music have that lyrical content in common. I mean were fighting for the right to rock. The right to rock itself…the freedom of expression. I’m fighting to save what I feel. It’s the right to rock. It doesn’t mean that it’s the right metal. It’s the right to express yourself creatively; however the hell you want to express yourself. So that’s what the “Right to Rock” means to me, my signature song of my career. That’s what I’ve built everything upon. I got the right to rock which means I got the right to do whatever the hell I want to do, as long as I don’t get in anybody’s way or hurt anyone or offend anyone. And in my defense, from time to time, your political commentary or sexual innuendos are just part of the right to express yourself. So I will keep doing that and writing songs that mean something to me, that resonate within me and hopefully don’t touch a nerve or strike a chord in the listener or the audience and they’ll enjoy what I do.
TEN– I think you can handle that.
RK– I think so. I think I’ve proven that.
TEN– Ok, I’m going to switch gears on you. Tell me something disturbing about yourself that you have never shared to anyone in an interview before.
RK– Disturbing about myself? Nothing about me disturbs me. If something about me disturbs me about myself, I would change it. I’m extremely comfortable in my own skin and very happy that I’ve always try to do the right thing, be a good man, be a good friend, be a good husband, be a good father, a good bandmate, a good leader. Being disturbed is a foreign emotion to me. The fact that there’s not enough time in a day and the thought of what I need to get done disturbs me. But that’s because I’m on the phone with guys like you doing these interviews all day long. But no there’s nothing about me that disturbs me because if there was, I’d fix it.
TEN– What about something that you do that would be disturbing to someone else, like your friends or your fans?
RK– Going country man. I mean still, that country backlash is incredible. The fact” Oh, that’s Ronnie Lee Keel… big country singer.” I mean everybody’s done it since. James Hatfield, Jon Bon Jovi, Steven Tyler…the list goes on. But however, I’m still the bad guy because I sing country music. Are you kidding me? I play jazz too! That disturbs people and I’m proud to have blazed that trail back in 1993-1994, before any of the aforementioned singers would’ve touched country music with a 10 foot pole. I embraced the art form and learned that skill and became the Metal Cowboy through the course of it. You know it all started with that “Rock ‘n Roll Outlaw” video back in 87, man. With Keel doing “Rock ‘n Roll Outlaw”, shooting guns, riding horses, wearing cowboy hats. That cowboy thing felt really good to me… always has. I grew up in Phoenix, Arizona in the southwest and that western/cowboy life style always appealed to me and still does. A cowboy is a state of mind, it’s a way life. It’s opening doors for your woman when you walk in a building. It’s just that all American John Wayne spirit. I want to be that guy; I want to be John Wayne. I don’t want to be Blackie Lawless. I want to be John Wayne. That’s not a musical statement that the life/character statement. I would be the good guy. The guy who when it’s all said and done T-Roy, when this is all done, what are they going to say about me? “He was a great player? He was a great singer? He was in ass hole? He was a good man?” Whatever, I want them to say he was a good man and I liked him. The fans, the music, they may forget about it and in fact, a lot of them have. My biggest fans and I get this every day from dozens of people: “Man, I’m your biggest fan. I’ve got the Steeler album!” Dude that was 34 years ago! 34 years ago you bought my album! 34 years ago and you claim to be my biggest fan but you have not come along for the ride. Give my “Metal Cowboy” album listen. You can do that at www.ronkeel.com Go on the website and check it out. Just listen to it. I’m not asking you buy it. Just listen to it, listen to it, and come along for the ride. You’re not the same person you were 34 years ago, why do you expect me to be the same person I was 34 years ago? I love metal. I love rock, I love the “Right to Rock”, “Speed Demon” and all the songs that we do in Keel and we still do em. But, to say you’re my biggest fan and the fact that you haven’t bought anything I’ve done in 34 years it’s… it’s not true, you’re not my biggest fan. I know who my biggest fans are and we generate excitement and energy from those people every day. The people who are coming to the shows and buying tickets to see the Ron Keel Band band in concert this year, that are buying the “Metal Cowboy” album, that are reading the book, that are enjoying my work now and what I do. That’s not discounting the “Steeler” album or the “Right to Rock” album but man that was 34 years ago. Every actor, every celebrity, every musician has great stuff that they did decades ago whether it’s Tom Cruise or Harrison Ford or whoever. But, you just can’t go see Star Wars in 1978 and say that your Han Solo’s biggest fan! Keep up with it and nowadays, it’s not hard to do. It’s not expensive because you can hear and see everything we do for free. We’re not even charging you anymore! It’s free, just go to YouTube! Go to my website and listen to the record. We can’t even charge for this stuff anymore. It doesn’t even have a price tag. All you gotta do is give me four minutes of your time and check out the new “Dead Man Rocking” video at www.ronkeel.com .You don’t like it, don’t buy it. You’ve already seen it, you already heard it.
TEN– And, when you check out the video, you also get the lyrics to the song at the same time.
RK– Well that’s why we caught the lyric video. (Laughs) We are working on a full on music video for that at song as well. We’ve been doing the song live and it’s been going over great and it resonates with everybody. That’s a real personal statement for me. That new single, if it’s the last song I ever do…then I’m proud to leave that as my legacy. There’s more where that came from and I’m not gonna quit recording/writing/performing/touring/creating and hopefully somebody will listen and come along for the ride.
TEN– I’ve always thought of you as being a mountain climber. You climb one mountain, you get the top, you look around and then “Oh, I’d like to do that over there.” You start the bottom and climb that mountain until reaching the top again. You’ll always, in my mind the amount climber, man.
RK– That’s a great analogy man! There are different landscapes that I’ve wondered. I’m a musical nomad, wondering the landscapes, looking for the next mountain to climb, the next challenge, the next adventure. I want to be entertained as well. None of my moves or reinventions of myself, whether it was Ron Keel or Ronnie Lee Keel or the Metal Cowboy or now the new image/ band vision that I’ve created with the Ron Keel Band…none of this was really calculated. Of course I’ll think about it, but once I come upon a plan, hey that’s what I really want to do, see a mountain in the distance, I want to climb it and I’m going for it. So, that’s the inspiration that drives me a lot. I think the audiences feed off that whether it’s social media or at a concert. They understand how I feel and what I think what I’m doing. It’s infectious, the energy and the attitude that I bring to everything that I do. Whether, it’s a song or recording, Facebook post or concert or whatever. I think people pick up on that and appreciate it. Not everybody but I don’t expect to entertain everybody or please everybody, you cannot please everyone. There’s a lot of people that get it. Those people keep my motor runnin’.
TEN– I’ve never, not seen you give 110% during the show.
RK– Oh you’re going to get everything that I got. I walk off the stage and there’s going to be nothing left of me. If you can still carry on a conversation or walk upright after, you have done your job. We do a long show. At our headlining gig next week will do two 75 minute shows, with a meet and greet in between and after the show, we will still be partying with our people and celebrating the victory. I leave it all on the stage or at the venue or at my radio show as well. I give it all I’ve got and that’s what hard work is all about. What hard-working American man or woman doesn’t come home at the end of the day beat up and dog tired? I’m a “Dead Man Rockin” because that’s what I do. I don’t save anything for later. I had no idea that I was going to live to be in my 40s, T-Roy. I’m 56 years old now. I’m playin’ on borrowed time. I never expected to live this long, much less be still kicking ass at this age. So, with that being said I’m going to enjoy it, embrace it and share it with anybody who wants to listen and sing-along.
TEN– Thank you bro I really appreciate your time!
RK– Thank you man, I appreciate you having me on the site and good luck with it and let’s do a follow-up soon!
(Editor’s note: At this time, I told Ron that I was shutting off the recorder to talk about some personal things in his life. He said that it was a very important subject in his life and wanted to talk about it and for me to turn the recorder back on.)
TEN– So, I see your rocking a new hairstyle these days.
RK– Well lack of hairstyle actually. I did shave my head in support of my wife Renee who is going through stage III breast cancer. It’s a big deal for me or anybody who’s grown up in quote “Hair Metal” to shave their head. But now realizing what she’s going through and what we’re going through together, it’s very insignificant compared to that. In fact, it’s a gesture to show her my support because she is going through chemo and has lost her hair. She is my inspiration, my partner, my wife, my soulmate. I wouldn’t even be talking to you, I wouldn’t be singing, I wouldn’t be playin, there would be no Keel reunion. There would be no Metal Cowboy. There would be no Ron Keel Band if it weren’t for Renee. All of my proceeds from all of my shows, my merchandise sales and everything…it’s all going to make sure she’s healthy and taken care of. A lot of fans and audience members might think that I am financially secure and you know, I have been able to make a good living and I’m very thankful for that but this is a million-dollar expense, this cancer treatment. If I get out of it with a healthy wife, keep my house, keep the rights to my music, my copyrights and so forth…I’ll consider that a victory. It’s gonna take everything I got and so I appreciate everybody who has contributed emotionally, spiritually, financially to the “Rockers for Renee Cancer Fund”, which is on line at www.ronkeel.com and helps us during this time. I’m doing some benefit concerts as well, starting in Chicago on March 9 with Kip Winger, Joe Hester from Whitesnake, Brandon Gibbs from Devil City Angels and me. We’re all doing an acoustic show to benefit Renee and her cancer fund and breast cancer awareness in general. So I’ve appreciated that they are contributing and helping out. That’s why I’m still doing this. I have a renewed energy and faith and desire to work hard and take care of her. Everything I do is for her. It’s tough to leave to go on the road and do the shows but the reason behind it is the fact that she is my inspiration. If I’m not doing what I was born to do, it affects her as well. It makes me happy and it keeps me fired up and that in turn keeps her fired up. We’ll keep generating as much excitement as we can throughout the year with the shows with the Ron Keel Band, the solo acoustic shows and whatever else comes up on the horizon.
TEN– You’re a fighter and I know that she is too.
RK– Oh yeah we got this. We got this. We’re going to fight hard and rise hard to stay strong through the entire process. So much of that is from the support from the people that are out there cheering for us. We appreciate that!
I want to thank Ron for takin the time to share the happenings in his life, both personal and in his career.
For more information about Ron and the Rockers for Renee Cancer Fund please visit www.ronkeel.com
For exclusive photos of Ron, please visit the Showin Some Love For T.E.N. Gallery.