Interview with Bassist Rik Fox (Steeler, W.A.S.P., Sin)




By Mick  Michaels


COSMIC VIEW: Hello Rik! Welcome to The Cosmic View. Thank you for taking some time out of your day to chat with me, It’s greatly appreciated.
Rik Fox: The honor, pleasure and privilege is all mine, thank you for having me. My answers are probably going to be as long as some of your questions (laughs), so please bear with me, it’s difficult to encapsulate some of this.

CV: 1975 saw your official induction into the music industry with your debut performance on Halloween night in New York City at the legendary club Max‘s Kansas City. What was going through your head as you hit the stage for that very first time?
RF: Right, as I’ve said on so many occasions, that was my introduction to and first step and fall down into the rabbit hole. I never looked back since, except when trying to remember the details (laughs). I’ll have to pre-amble this answer a little to give it context. While still in high school, in 1972, I was a member of the photo club and had access to all the film and developing accessories I could get my hands on, so I was sneaking into a club in Queens (NY), called The Coventry and as a budding photographer I was shooting lots of the early NYC glam bands like The Brats, The Harlot’s of 42nd Street, Spike, etc. I was rubbing shoulders with The New York Dolls and many of the bands there. So it was during that time that I began dating one of the younger sisters of a pre-KISS drummer Peter Criss, whose family lived around the corner from me, in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Peter gave me my first  English “shag” rock n’ roll haircut and was sort of like a big brother that I never had…he was married to Lydia Criss back then, and he put an ad in the NYC papers looking for a gig. He eventually met and began working with both Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, this was before Ace Frehley was in the band. And I and some friends used to go watch them rehearse in their loft in NYC. Eventually Ace joined and we would continue to watch them rehearse from the very beginning…then they became KISS. I got to see most of their early first shows, and I shot a lot of photos of them at their early shows and the infamous Fillmore East promotional Press show. This is all in the NY Times Bestseller book by author Ken Sharp, “Nothing to Lose; The Making of KISS 1972-1975.”

Jumping ahead now to summer of 1975 a year after I graduated from high school, while working in Manhattan, I was introduced to the band

leader of a group called The Martian Rock Band. Sebastian Black (Then known as Seby Castle), he was The Greatest Magician in the Galaxy so to speak, which was one of our songs too. He was looking for a bassist to replace the guy they had and I guess it was kismet or fate, whatever you want to call it, but my path was being guided I believe, and this was the introductory step. I was a green, inexperienced bass player (no pun intended but my stage persona character later WAS green! (laughs). I met Sebastian at the legendary NYC club Max’s Kansas City which was the home to dozens of legendary bands of the early-to-late1970’s bands of the NYC underground rock scene, such as The Ramones, Wayne County, Television, The Dictators, Blondie, The Brats, Tuff Darts, The Motor City Bad Boys, etc., Lots of important bands got signed out of Max’s like Bruce Springsteen, Bob Marley, Link Wray, Alice Cooper, Aerosmith, Iggy Pop, etc., and David Bowie and Mick Jagger hung out there all the time, and so, anyway, we talked. He arranged to have me audition at his bands’ loft in midtown Manhattan, where lots of bands rehearsed the same way. Thankfully Seby was patient with me and taught me their songs, some of which were based on traditional standards and some were almost punk-like, high-energy, almost proto-Metal if you will. Space and Punk equals
“Spunk” (laughs).They didn’t have much of a stage image yet and so, the artist in me, I began to experiment with make-up designs and costuming. Inspired by my favorite Universal monster The Creature from the Black Lagoon, I created a scaled, green, reptilian-alien character which was almost Ziggy Stardust-like in appearance, and, in turn, everyone else in our (3-piece) band began to adopt wearing a more theatrical character to their own presentation, Sebastian was great with theatrical stage magic and shot flames out of the headstock of his guitar, I adapted it to shoot the flame out of my fingertip. Being influenced by KISS I dyed the inside of my mouth green and puked green “blood” onstage. Like a true visionary, I introduced a new form of media onstage like showing classic Sci-Fi films from a film projector on the wall behind us. It was all very novel and nobody was doing it yet. Our debut at Max’s was very exciting and I was of course, nervous. I was playing the same stage as all of these famous legends! We supported The Neon Leon Rainbow Express and I believe we blew the pensive and hard to impress crowd away. We came on with flash and high power. It was fun temporarily living inside the persona while in character onstage. We eventually were booked at the other legendary NYC club, CBGB’s, and did the same there. Once all this had taken place and our ‘status’ was somewhat elevated, I was now becoming a veteran of the NYC underground rock scene and accepted among my peers as a regular at Max’s. I’ve always strived to bring something else over the top to my stage performance. Gene Simmons said “Every show you do, no matter if it’s two or two thousand, it’s always Madison Square Garden.” I’ve always kept and maintained that mindset.

CV: A lot has been said and written about the electrifying energy of the NY music scene of the 70’s. So many bands were pounding the pavements to be the next big thing…you were there, in the thick of it all.  What was it like from your viewpoint? Did you know then that something special was happening?
RF: Oh yes, absolutely. It was very exciting. I had never seen anything like this before. Just a few years before this I was a photographer in high school, sneaking into the clubs watching these influential bands pounding the boards, and just a couple of years later, I was playing the very same legendary stages as my early influences were! And I was now among them and being recognized and acknowledged by them. That’s pretty cool.

CV: During that iconic time, was the competition fierce among the bands…was it a kill or be killed state so to speak? Or was there a certain level of camaraderie among the bands, knowing everyone was sort of in the same boat?
RF: Well, like any scene where there’s performing artists, there’s going to be some modicum of competition. However, in my opinion, this was a bit friendlier, or so it seemed to me. I didn’t notice any specific ‘kill or be killed’ attitudes. The viewpoint was that we were all sort of one huge extended family. At Christmas time the owners of Max’s, Mike an Laura, would put on a free dinner for all the bands who played there, and Peter Crowley who was the booking agent there, was sort of the master of ceremonies. Hilly Kristal over at CBGB’s was equally kind to the bands playing his club too. We “were” all in the same boat so to speak….All starving, young, up-an-coming bands. It didn’t matter what genre you were we were all in it together.

CV: An all too common story unfortunately, that some bands never have their day. But in your opinion Rik, was there a band back then that you personally felt had what it took to go big but never seemed to get their shot?
RF: Good question. There were SO many great bands. Even bands that later played a club just a few doors down from CBGB’s; The Great Gildersleeves. That was a huge and great club for up-and-coming bands and bands who were just signed and breaking in on their first tours. When I wasn’t performing, I worked with a lot of just-signed and almost-signed bands doing concert lighting there; Face Dancer, Trigger, Dina Regine, Lover, Thor, Sterling, etc. I was a regular at most of the NYC clubs’ Trax, Privates, Copperfields, and so on, constantly networking with all the connections I was friends with in the music business. I even bartended at The Nursery, a well-known and very hot after-hours club, where everyone from every other club came after their clubs closed at 4 AM. In my opinion, I think one of the bands who should have gotten a better bigger shot was The Brats. They were heavily influenced by a cross between Rod Stewart and the Faces and The Sweet. Great band, great, tight songs…great stage presentation, but for whatever reason(s), they never were able to break out of the NYC circuit.


CV: What did you see, that separated the good bands from the great bands of that era? Was it a certain type of charisma or a hefty amount of gall?
RF: I’d have to say it was a little of both. You HAD to have something special, something extra, because you were competing against so many other bands congested into one small circuit. Now out on Long Island and in Jersey there was a completely different scene, for cover bands, bar bands honing their craft every night every week 4-5 sets a night. After the Martian Rock Band folded, I transferred to the Jersey circuit in 1976 with the original Virgin who eventually became the first version of SIN in 1977. That’s where bands like Phantom’s Opera, Twisted Sister, Rat Race Choir, Salty Dog, The Good Rats, etc, were packing the bars night after night. I was in one of them, The E. Walker Band, playing six nights a week from 1980 through 1981, playing everything from Joe Jackson to Judas Priest, the Doors, Zeppelin, New Wave and Classic rock, and then we toured in Toronto, Canada as Spitfire doing original material we recorded, and then came back to Jersey.

CV: Let’s fast forward now from the NY and New Jersey club circuit to 1982, and you make the move to Los Angeles. What prompted that decision to change coastlines? Were prospects changing?
RF: Well, actually, after I left the E. Walker Band, I hooked up with one of the guitarists on Mike Varney’s U.S. Metal series (Vol. IV), Davyd Ferrara and we formed a band called Aggressor, doing all the best Heavy Metal radio bands, like Iron Maiden, Scorpions, Van Halen, Saxon, lots of the NWoBHM (New Wave of British Heavy Metal), and were doing pretty well. That’s when I received a phone call from this guy named Blackie Lawless who was out in California. He heard about me and got my phone number and a picture of me and was interested in having me come to Los Angeles and audition for his band Sister. I didn’t know anything about him except that he was also an ex-New Yorker. He sent me a demo of his material which was pretty cool and very Heavy Metal. It reminded me a little of KISS but heavier, lots of energy. Being in cover bands, I didn’t have a demo, so I sent him some advertising of the bands I was in. He convinced me that it was a good opportunity to come to Los Angeles where there was a big music scene developing in the clubs. So he flew me out to L.A. which was an accomplishment, because he was broke at the time and didn’t spend much money on anything. So, I guess, yes, prospects (and fate) were changing once again.

CV: Rik, describe for us the L.A. music scene in 1982...Did your experience any amount of culture shock being on the West Coast? How different was it for you initially?
RF: I guess you could say that, yes (laughs). In New York the attitude, vibe and mentality is much different than Los Angeles.  In New York it’s very ‘tough, sarcastic, street level’. In L.A. it’s very plastic, two-faced, back-stabbing, competitive “crabs-in-a-barrel-mentality, (meaning, everyone climbing over each other, pulling each other down over and over in a repeating pattern)…everyone smiling to your face, complimenting you, but then, as soon as you turn around, they’re talking shit about you, because you represent some sort of inferred territorial threat, because the scene was packed with SO many bands per square capita. It was definitely every band and man for themselves, and there was no such
thing as loyalty; musicians changed bands as easily and as fast as you changed your shirt. When I arrived and Blackie took me out to the clubs like The Troubadour and The Rainbow, heads turned. Maybe it was my NY vibe, maybe what I looked like, I don’t know but I know that I didn’t look like everyone else. I had a black motorcycle jacket and these black leather gloves that I studded, that looked like the gloves from the film Rollerball. I’d stand at the packed bar at the Troub and people would move away and give me space (laughs). I had this hairstyle that looked like Punky Meadows from Angel and at that time he and I were the only two guys in rock that had that same look.  Blackie said people were kinda scared because New York had this tough mystique and Los Angelenos were intimidated by it because they’d only hear stories about NY, so it sort of created a mystique for me as well. But soon after, I began to fit right in, and everyone was curious as to who I was and where I came from, because I literally dropped right out of the sky onto the scene and stood out like a sore thumb (laughs). First night I went to the clubs with Blackie, I was meeting and hanging out with David Lee Roth and the guys from Legs Diamond and I even saw Punky who was surprised to see me in L.A. Everyone was looking at the both of us, looking like twins (laughs).

CV: Without much delay though, you found yourself mingling amongst the scene’s most vibrant musical pulse; Hellion, Warlord Ratt, Motley Crue and what would soon become W.A.S.P., teaming up with the likes of Blackie Lawless and Randy Piper. What was it like working with them?
RF: Well, like I said, in the previous answer, I was mingling all right (laughs). I was hanging out with the guys in Motley Crue, Ratt, Sarge, Kevin DuBrow, etc. The Starwood had “just” closed right before I arrived from the east coast, so I missed that entire legendary scene, but it lived on in the rest of the other clubs. Now it was time to get down to work. Once again, for the record, I arrived on February 4th, 1982. After getting over the jet lag, Blackie brought me to the audition at Randy Piper’s rehearsal space studio in Buena Park, Magnum Opus on February 6th. They went through their set of about five songs; On Your Knees, Hellion, B.A.D., Sleeping in the Fire and School Daze. Holy Shit! These guys sounded like THUNDER. There was definitely something different about this band. I was about to step into my dream once again. I listened twice and then he called me up to plug in and try out. Not only did I pass the audition, but by February 8th, I was co-writing Master of Disaster with Blackie. We continued rehearsing as often as Blackie could arrange a ride from Mike Solon (brother to Eddie Solon, Ace Frehley’s guitar tech and early KISS soundman- Mike is the bartender in the W.A.S.P. video Blind in Texas). Because Blackie was so broke, we built fog machines and stage
monitors to get a few bucks to live and eat on. It was the first time in my life that I was forced to steal food from the grocery store to survive; it was “that” bad. Blackie used to open his electric meter and dial it back so he wouldn’t have to pay his DWP (electric bill). I had a day job set up for me, transferring from another company in NYC, but they reneged at the last minute and said there was no openings at that time, which REALLY fucked me hard. Otherwise Blackie would have been living off of my paycheck, making me more valuable to the band. Blackie said he wanted to change the name of the band because there were other bands using the name Sister (White Sister, Twisted Sister, etc.). So, It’s now March of 1982, and while I was on his phone outside his Hollywood rental cottage, I was kicking over some leaves and stepped on a hornet under one of the leaves. It wasn’t dead yet, but dying. It looked like the curled-up logo from the 60’s TV show The Green Hornet. So I went in to the house and he’s watching the ballgame on TV slumped in the chair, and I said “You said you were looking for a new band name; I have a great name for the band.”  Blackie looks up at me and says “what?” And I said “Wasp. I just stepped on one outside, and I thought it’s a cool name.” Blackie looks away thoughtfully, and says “That’s a great band name, keep thinking like that.”  I drew up a logo of the curled up Wasp, and a few days later at rehearsal it’s announced that the new band name is WASP (no periods yet). So, technically, since all four of us, (Randy, me, Tony and Blackie), are standing there at the birth of the new band name, that makes all four of us original, co-founding members of the band that was now WASP. On April 12, 1982, we recorded the first (live, 3-track) WASP demo at Randy’s studio, and it sounded like THUNDER!  (and NO, it was NOT called “Face the Attack“- that was the name I had drawn on my copy of the cassette which was stolen and tape traded all over the world)…Blackie looks at me and says he’s glad that I worked out, and that I was the missing piece they were looking for. Three days later, on April 15th, Blackie had booked our first (and only) photo session with local scene photographer Don Adkins, whose infamous photos are all over the internet, and which had caused a firestorm of controversy, because some 30 years later Blackie has censored and denied that I was ever in the band, despite that all the other members have gone on record admitting that I not only was in the band, but that I created the band’s name. I had contacted some of my friends in the record industry and they listened to the demo and liked it, but said it had no ‘hits’ on it, and they passed. I think that bugged Blackie. I was outliving my usefulness perhaps? After seeing the first promo photo of Mel Gibson in the newly released film ‘The Road Warrior’, I suggested to Blackie that as a band, we should look like
that. Ironically, he said “No, we’ll scare away the record people.” Little did I know, he was keeping notes on all my suggestions. Blackie was a big fan of Hitler’s Nazi generals and said “If you’re going to lie, lie BIG--the bigger the lie, the more outrageous it is for people to believe it.” How prophetic that would be…By the end of May, 1982 Blackie suddenly stopped talking to me, which was awkward because I was still staying at his place. I would occasionally bring a date back to his place and I believe that it was beginning to annoy him, which Randy later confirmed, saying that Blackie is extremely jealous. Out of nowhere Blackie says “you’re out of the band--it’s not working out, and you are to surrender all your copies of the band photos.” I was stunned, shocked. Why? What did I do? The band sounded great, listen to how tight that demo sounded. So by the end of May, about four months -- sixteen weeks later, I was out of the band. Welcome to Hollywood. That’s when I was staying with various friends, and trying out for bands. I didn’t know that many people and didn’t know who to trust. I eventually auditioned for Warlord and played with them for about four months until they said they weren’t going to be a live band, I walked out. I auditioned for Ratt, and The Greg Leon Invasion, I hosted a couple of Rock n’ Roll BBQ’s, networking with various bands, and jammed a couple of times with Hellion and then put an ad in The Music Connection Magazine. That story has been so misquoted and twisted over the years by bad gossip, that it should look like a pretzel.

CV: But as prospects do, things changes, you move on and landed a spot as the bass player with Ron Keel in Steeler. Tell us a little of how it came together.
RF: Well, as I said, I put an ad in The Music Connection Magazine, and got a call from a guy named Ron Keel, who fronted one of THE HOTTEST L.A. bands, Steeler…and me and my friend, KISS drummer Eric Carr, had just seen them not long before that at the Roxy. Now my recollection, is that Ron said he saw my bassist available ad and it looked the most pro out of all the other ads, and that he’d heard my name around and said that he was looking for someone that looked like a rock star, and that’s what
everyone was saying about me” (laughs). He invited me to the “Steeler mansion” which was an inside joke, because it was in one of the worst parts of Los Angeles, in a dangerous part of mid-city L.A., and was the most roach infested place you’d ever seen; thoroughly Spartan, no modern amenities or conveniences anywhere, three, peeling, gutted storefronts all joined together inside. Now Steeler was a self-contained band; equipment truck, PA, lights, amps, road crew, all the effects. When I walked in, and was (culture) shocked, Ron said that his then-line-up couldn’t compete with the rest of the bigger bands, so he took what I call a HUGE leap of faith, and fired the entire band, there went ALL the gear, and he needed something to meet or surpass the competition, and that’s where I came in. He said that I had “the look” whatever that was, and he hands me a demo and says “no promises; learn the songs and we’ll talk from there.” I learned the songs and we began rehearsing together just the two of us, until his new drummer Mark Edwards came back into town and we rehearsed three-piece and got so tight you couldn’t slip a piece of paper between us. That was late summer/early fall of 1982. On my birthday, December 28, 1982, Ron had me meet him at The Rainbow Bar & Grill and we sat down and he got a drink and said “Welcome to Steeler, you got the gig, you’re the new bassist.” What an awesome birthday present that was. That was about the same time that Angel keyboardist Gregg Giuffria offered me the bass position in Angel and it was ‘what do I do now?“ And so then, Ron thought we were ready, so, he put in a phone call to Shrapnel Records producer Mike Varney, looking for guitar recommendations. (oddly enough, drummer Mark Edwards was good friends with later Steeler guitarist Mitch Perry, but, for some reason, never mentioned it to us). Mike Varney sent us a tape of a young, new, Swedish pistolero guitarist named Yngwie Malmsteen and we had a three-way conference call and Yngwie said he very much wanted to come to the U.S. and join Steeler. Ron’s then-girlfriend, and Roxy/Whisky booking agent, Dee Dee (Keel), arranged to fly Malmsteen to America. Like me, he too, was culture shocked beyond belief once he was at the Steeler ‘mansion’. He stood in the doorway with his jaw on the floor.

CV: The classic Steeler line-up was completed with the addition of guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen. Malmsteen has received a multitude of criticism over the years for being difficult to work with. Was this your experience? How was it working with the Swedish guitar maestro?
RF: Actually, yes, absolutely. The nice, enthusiastic guy we talked to over the phone, disappeared somewhere during the flight over to Los Angeles. Ironically, he arrived about the same time I did the year before in 1982, but one year later in February of 1983. He comes down the ramp and it’s like “the Viking has arrived man.” Total attitude… We‘re all looking at each other, like, "is this the SAME guy?!” He was into all things paranormal, black magic, UFO’s witchcraft, whatever was shocking, the more the better. Once we started rehearsing, the integrity of the etiquette and manners filter between the brain and mouth went south, and this guy was saying the most unbelievable things…like, looking at Ron, Malmsteen says “hey man these songs are really quite BORING…can you do something to make them more interesting man?” Mark and I look at each other thinking did we just hear what we thought we heard? This ‘new guy’ just insulted the boss’s songs, and Ron was PISSED. We started auditioning other guitarists in front of Yngwie and he eventually said “OK, I’ll do it your way.” So we get down to business and by March 11th, we were opening for Hughes/Thrall at The Country Club, debuting the new ‘classic’ line up of Steeler and every mouth in the house dropped on the floor (laughs). The guys in Ratt are going “WHERE  the FUCK did THESE guys come from?!” (laughing). They didn’t remember me auditioning for them. And guitarist Pat Thrall is standing behind my amp line with his jaw on the floor watching Malmsteen rip Los Angeles a new ass. (laughing). It was pretty much the same way with each successive gig, blowing away everyone. We played with Vandenberg, Quiet Riot and almost played with Judas Priest, but we were selling out, and headlining every other gig we did up until May 30th of 1982, when, for reasons unknown, Ron decided to fold the deck and start over, which, unfortunately, and not knowing why, was my exit. I pushed on with two line-ups of my own extremely successful, and internationally-known band SIN, becoming almost-signed in 1984, under Jerry Weintraub’s Beverly Hills Management 3, and putting out one KILLER album master demo that was turning heads in the industry…when we were one of the biggest Heavy Metal bands in Los Angeles, headlining everywhere and selling out the packed houses. I was now freely able to flex my vision and creativity,

CV: Now in 2019, Steeler is coming full circle. It’s definitely evident how much of an impact the band’s album has had on the Metal community; laying the framework of what soon followed in the years after its release. It was part of the turning point within the genre, defining not only the L.A. scene but essentially, the 80’s Metal craze. How does it look to you now so many years later? Were you aware then that the album would have such long term staying power?
RF: You know, at the time, you‘re too close to it to be objective about it. You’re enthusiastic and you think you’re going to conquer the world, to paraphrase a line from the film Apocalypse Now, like “Jolly Green Giants walking the earth.” You feel like Superman and Batman all rolled into one. But, yes, we did lay some extensive framework, and we definitely were an active part of defining the Heavy Metal genre, no doubt about it. At least, in my opinion, I never knew that the Steeler album would have the stamina and non-stop going power that it did and does to this day. It was, the largest-selling, independently released Heavy Metal record in the world, and I’m extremely proud to be a part of that legacy. I still hear from fans who consider the Steeler album to be in the Top-Five-out-of-ten, of their “stranded on a desert island” albums. THAT’S Staying Power. Steeler was a pivotal, cornerstone of the Los Angeles rock scene. Nobody can touch that or take that away from us. I, for one, was certainly very blessed and in the right place at the right time. Conversely, however, and very sadly, today, there’s still a LOT of jealous people, mostly, in my personal experience, some other Los Angeles and Hollywood performers, (and even some ‘talent handlers’), who seem to hang on to childish sand-box bias and grudges, and willfully choose to keep me as a footnote, and ignore and forget about that aspect of what I brought to the table, which is really sad and very unprofessional. I’ve always had this abrasive, love-hate relationship with Hollywood, because I don’t network in the circles that get high, which really narrows down my opportunities, nor do I kiss ass and, (without being an asshole), I play the game on my own terms and that pisses people off, but that‘s clearly their problem. On a personal note, not to get off the subject, but, don’t be fooled, disrespect is still alive and well in Los Angeles. There’s a nepotistic crew of virtually unknown players (and the talent handlers), who, just because they played with somebody else’s bigger name band, have this self-entitled, arrogant attitude, thinking they’re some kind of famous star, but outside of L.A., nobody really knows who they are. They act like the whole world knows them and it’s really sad when somebody that they don’t know walks in and would like to participate, and the blow-off disrespect just flows everywhere. And there are plenty of people who agree and back me on that assessment. People easily misunderstand what Passion is all about. HOWEVER, “outside” of Los Angeles, across our great nation and around the world, internationally, it’s a VERY different picture and it’s the FANS who never forgot about the legacy of Steeler and their outstanding enthusiasm has not waned one iota. And for THAT, I am eternally grateful. It’s the FANS that are keeping us alive and with a bow of gratitude, I salute them, they’re the GREATEST!

CV: Steeler recently made a long-overdue reunion appearance at the Keelfest in May at the Alrosa Villa Club in Columbus, Ohio. What a highlight for the event and for the fans. Rik, what led to the reunion, and who was instrumental in making it happen?
RF: Well, Ron Keel and I have kept in touch over the years and he began discussing the idea of a Steeler reunion going as far back as 2005 I believe, but for whatever unknown reasons, it just remained on the back burner until the right opportunity could present itself.  Obviously all things Steeler begin and end with Ron. It’s always been his baby and rightfully so. Without Ron Keel there IS NO Steeler. Bottom line. I’ve toyed with the idea of possibly getting together with another Steeler guitarist, Kurt James and throwing something together, but, our schedules were
preventing that. There was talk of a thirty-year anniversary get-together but that didn’t happen and there were several false starts. The dots just didn’t connect up properly for whatever reason. Ron had asked me if I would be interested in a reunion and I said “anytime, anywhere.” This time around, about a year ago in 2018, Ron brainstormed with the idea of selling the KEELFEST concept, delivering several bands spanning his career, with, naturally, Steeler being one of them. He discussed this with Columbus, Ohio promoter Missie Tong, and once everything was in place, Ron contacted me and said “I’m putting KEELFEST into play…are you in?” Contracts were passed back and forth and everything was signed, sealed and delivered, but this time, without Malmsteen who seems to have outgrown the gratitude of being a part of the Steeler legacy with a vehement abhorrence. This time, we were going to ace the day with one of the greatest team-players in the business; legendary guitarist Mitch Perry who’s played almost literally with EVERYONE, from Edgar Winter, Talas, Montrose, Michael Schenker, Cher, etc., and a huge laundry list of who’s-who, yet, one of the most humblest, down-to-earth guys you’ll ever meet. Ron arranged everything, and, after the KEEL rehearsal, (with Keel drummer Dwain Miller), we entered the rehearsal room, looked around at each other, and launched into the Steeler set, like it was 1983 all over again, which included Heaven and Hell due to Ron’s involvement with Black Sabbath and a tribute to Ronnie James Dio’s influence on all of us. (I’d performed twice onstage with Ronnie for two live versions of “We’re Stars” in 1987 while I was a member of Surgical Steel). We ran thru the set twice and Ron looked at us and said “This sounded
surprisingly better than I expected it to…See you all in Ohio boys.”

CV: Did you have any reservations about signing on for the reunion? Or is it like riding a bike, where there are some things you never forget?
RF: None whatsoever. It was not only like riding a bike but like getting on a hot-rodded jet-ski (laughs). Personally, I pull out the Steeler album and jam along to it just because, and I’m a much better player now than I was back then, so I’ve updated and improved lots of parts that I wish I could have thought of back then when we recorded the album. I’ve played with a lot of different people and styles, and every once in a while I’ll pull out the old Cactus,  Humble Pie, Uriah Heep and Steppenwolf albums and listen and play along to those great bass lines of Tim Bogart, Greg Ridley, Gary Thain and George Biondo respectively, and I keep learning something new every time. Steeler drummer Mark Edwards taught me to LISTEN to what the drummer is saying, and I can lock in pretty fast now with pretty much any drummer and anticipate what he’s going to do and be there when he does something cool, which is the sign of a good rhythm section performer. I’ve got much more melodic runs and patterns and even Ron turned around at rehearsal and gave me the thumbs up, he said ‘You haven’t missed a beat and it sounds even better now.” So playing the Steeler material is like just like sliding right back into that comfortable groove and laying it down, bottom style.

CV: Can fans expect to see something more from Steeler down the road…maybe some new material?
RF: Who knows? It would be great if it happens, Ron always says “never say never.” But right now, for obvious reasons and the release of his new Ron Keel Band album Fight Like a Band (which is one AWESOME piece of kick ass rock and roll), that’s his priority and rightfully so. However, there might be something coming up the pike next year for KEELFEST 2020, but I can’t reveal anything just yet, you’ll have to live with that teaser. (nudge, nudge, wink, wink).

CV: Speaking of projects, you also did some recording with Hair Nation vocalist Jim Crean for his new album The London Fog. How did that come about?
RF: Thanks for asking. Here’s what happened. You know, I think Jim reached out and contacted me back some time in 2017 or 2018, and we talked on the phone. He’s from Buffalo, NY and I’m from Greenpoint, Brooklyn, so immediately, we hit it off because we have that same regional mindset and upbringing. I really didn’t have any idea who he was because I’d never heard of him. He explained that he has an 80’s tribute band called Hair Nation and they support all the national touring acts that come through Buffalo, and he’s made friends with all these performers. He records albums with all these big A-list industry recording stars, like, really huge stars. We’re talking Carmine and Vinny Appice (Jim is the vocalist for all the Appice Brother’s projects), Tony Franklin, Rudy Sarzo, Mike Tramp, Phil Lewis, Frank DiMino, Rowan Robertson, Steph Honde, Jimmy Bain, and like that. So, in true, typical, sarcastic, New York smart-
ass fashion, I jokingly asked him “why are you calling me…what, did you run out of big stars and now you’re scraping the barrel?” (Laughing). And we laughed, Jimmy says “no, I know exactly who you are and what bands and people you’ve played and recorded with, I really like your work and I’ve been watching you on Facebook, and I’m really sick and tired of seeing you getting dismissed, disrespected and bashed on social media and Facebook…I would really like you to record on my next album because, well, basically, because you’re Rik Fox and most of all, you DESERVE it.” Well, that really stunned me. I’ve never been told that
before. Nobody ever said that to me. Despite whatever project I’ve recorded on, You should hear my bass tracks on the 2014 Spiders and Snakes release Year of the Snake, on the Rascals/Angel cut “Ain’t Gonna Eat Out my Heart Anymore.”  I’ve never really been acknowledged or recognized for my playing, quite honestly. And one person, a complete stranger stood out and respected me for that. I was humbled and crushed. I didn’t know what to say. I looked around the room and said “are you SURE you mean ME?” and Jim was serious as a heart attack and said “absolutely, I want you on my next record.” So, I ‘met’ Hollywood Monsters guitarist Steph Honde over Facebook and he asked me if I was going to record on the song with Chris Holmes (W.A.S.P.) and I said ‘No I didn’t know Chris was going to be on the album.” So Steph said we should ask Jim, and Jim thought it would be a great idea to have two former members of WASP on the same song, plus Jim totally honored me by telling me that he wanted me on the album’s first single, “Broken.” He sent me a rough mix of both songs and Vinny Appice is on it, along with Jack Russell’s Great White guitarist Robby Lochner. So I immediately went to work creating my bass lines. When I heard Broken, I immediately thought “this is a Bob Daisley style song and needs a Bob Daisley style bass line.” Now, I’m a HUGE fan of Bob’s body of work, but I didn’t outright try to copy him. I just listened and let it flow and worked on it every day for months, perfecting what I was going to lay down in the studio. I just hope I do the song justice and the fans can decide when they hear it. Jim said he and producer Steve Majors said they loved my bass tracks on the song. I also worked on the song with Chris Holmes, which I also recorded a pretty cool bass track to, but there was a technical problem with the song before I got to it, and Jim took it back and had to re-record it again from scratch using his own band members of Hair Nation. So, us both being huge fans of Angel, Jim knew that I had been friends with the guys in the band for many years, and I had several near-misses in playing with them, so then sent me a rough mix of a song by Angel that is going to be covered on the new album, and, again, Jim honored me by having me record on the Angel cover with Steph Honde and Angel vocalist Frank DiMino! How COOL is THAT!

I think he tried to get Punky Meadows to play a guest spot on the song too, but Steph Honde did a fantastic job on it. In the meantime, I was contacting every major star in my book whose phone numbers I had and sent them to Jim to see if we could get them interested in doing some guest performance tracks. Jim was doing so much to help re-launch my standing in the business that I set him up with some of my contacts and, as a sort of way of showing my gratitude for his generosity, I hooked Jim up with Anthony Esola and Sola Custom Guitars (Thank You London guitarist Ronee Peña!), who I recently signed with for endorsement deals, as well as Angela Gambino of Pro Player Art Custom Amp screens, again with Chris Gale of MyStringKing (dot com), and we have string endorsements, and now I‘m using some of the best strings in the business; DR Bass Strings. And recently, we’re both now using the new Nexxus Airbridge Wireless Guitar Systems. Although that’s what I do, and have helped dozens of people in this business over the years, and gotten walked over again and again, I still believed that there was some good people out there and when someone gets behind me and believes in me, I

do whatever I can to return the favor, you know? "Quid Pro Quo.”  That’s my way of saying Thank You to Jim Crean for believing in me and helping to return my long overdue street cred. He said “when people see you on this album and hear you playing with all these huge stars, a lot of that shit talk that you’ve been getting, is going to stop, I want to see it stop and see people give you the respect you deserve, because you’ve earned it.” The album “The London Fog” on Visionary Noise Records, should be dropping in July of 2019, and there’s already a headlining show booked for The Whisky a Go-Go in Hollywood on August 2nd. Jim said “Riki” (he’s the only one who calls me Riki), he says “Riki, I want you to be my touring bassist for the live dates.” I was again blown away. He’s been announcing it on all his radio press interviews so I’m pretty excited about that. On top of which, (yes, it gets even BETTER), Jim said "we’re shooting a video for the single “Broken” and I want you in it.” I think we’ll be doing that right before the Whisky show right near where I live in Santa Clarita. I’m telling you, Jim Crean is one of THE NICEST guys and performers in the business who hasn’t let all the B.S. and drama affect him negatively. His showing up was, again, I firmly believe, some kind of kismet or fate. Maybe my father’s spirit is watching over me and set it up. I don’t know but it’s weird how this all came about. I can’t explain it, but I’m really blessed for it. Right around the time Jim contacted me, it’s like a window opened and all these blessings started coming in. So I’ll be looking forward to seeing everyone at the Jim Crean concerts and THANK YOU to all the media in advance for covering all the promotion for Jim‘s album…

CV: It goes without saying, you keep and remain busy. What do you think is the one key to keeping an artist working and relevant with both peers and fans?
RF: Luck...Lots of Luck (laughs). And interaction with the fans, most definitely. The market’s completely changed since the 80’s and it goes the same with many of the people in the business. It’s not as easy anymore to get people behind you and to believe in you so that they invest in and
support you in some way. If you have a kick ass product and lots of really cool merch (merchandise), CD’s, T-shirts, swag, etc.) that really helps, but many of the attitudes have changed over the years. Like, for instance, when you’re at the NAMM show music merchants convention, and you’re trying to talk to one of the merchants, if you’re not a fully recognized Tier One artist, with a gazillion hits on all these media platforms like Twitter, Instagram, You Tube and Face book, then they’re not looking you in the eye, but past you, over your shoulder for someone more important to talk to. That kind of mentality and it’s really sad. Any really busy fully touring performer doesn’t have the time to be spending all that time on all those platforms, they just post their tour dates and that’s pretty much it from what I’ve seen. If you’re a fan, you’re lucky if they even respond to you. But that’s what they’re looking at now, numbers of media hits. That’s really ridiculous, in my opinion…that proves nothing except a popularity contest. You get true artists like bassist Billy Sheehan who recognizes and actually replies to the fans. That’s what’s important; artist/fan interaction. Badlands bassist Greg Chaisson is the same way. So am I. So is Jim. Fans NEED that accessibility, they appreciate it.

CV: If you had to choose one single pivotal moment in your career where what had happened made you change direction, take on a new perspective or gave you clarity, what would that moment be?
RF: That can’t be answered that simply; it’s too complex and it’s actually a combination of things. If you follow the trail of events that have happened to me from the beginning, from one to the next, you’ll start to notice key events that connect the dots and all tie-in to one another. There’s several high points, such as performing with the late Sam Kinison who had Randy Castillo, Jean Beauvoir, Little Steven Van Zant, Randy Hansen and John Goodman in the band at Hollywood’s China Club in the 90’s, And also performing the live version of “We’re Stars” twice in 1987 as I said earlier with Ronnie James Dio, jamming with KISS guitarist Mark St. John, joining Warrant, Guns ’n Roses and others onstage at Santa Monica Civic
Auditorium, Being in a national television commercial for Western Union, destroying a stage smashing a bass into the amps, Being the founder of an award-winning, historical re-enactment group and first officially-recognized representation of my noble, ancestral Polish Winged Hussar knights in the United States, making U.S. History in the 2002 NYC Pulaski Parade, and being featured in a cable television documentary Museum Secrets, about the Winged Hussars in the English language for the mainstream public, (Hence: “The Winged Knight of Heavy Metal”)…meeting my wife, being there for the passing of my father, these are all definitive, life-altering pivotal events that have had some kind of profound impact on my life. Each one is an integral and connected pivotal moment in and of itself. It’s the sum of the parts. I’ve had some pretty traumatic things happen to me as a child that left some pretty deep scars that made me who I am today. Those were some pretty horrific pivotal moments. I’ve had to work myself through all that, some of which I haven’t been properly debriefed on yet. But the clarity is there, you just have to be ‘tuned in’ to recognize and see it. We’re bombarded every day with so much crap that it takes a lot to clear your mind and look within to see the reality. It’s said that “The measure of success is the ability to bring value to another person’s life.” In the film Kingdom of Heaven, the character Balian says “What man is a man who does not make the world a better place.” That’s absolutely true. If you can make a positive difference in the life of someone else, then you’ve done your job. That’s what really matters, and, in using my talents, everything at my disposal, if I can make that happen, then, at the end of the day, I’ve done my job, and nobody can take that away from me. I think I turned out OK, so far.

CV: Rik, with now some 45 years into the music business, how differently do you view the industry now compared to back then? Have things changed?
RF: Obviously. Absolutely. The only thing that changes is change, nothing remains constant except change, and, we’re forced to change with it. You need to grow and learn from everything that life throws at you. You have to or you die.  In the film “Decline of Western Civilization, The Metal Years”, I said “The minute you doubt is the moment you lose it. “ The business is essentially made up of agents who recognize that if you have the talent to generate the potential to create a cash flow, if it’s guided properly, then you can advance. Some people can’t handle all the
peripherals that come with success and go off the deep end. Some people are greedy sharks who want everything they can, pimp off you and bleed you dry and spit you out. I’ve experienced that first hand with the Vinnie Vincent breach-of-trust /song theft issue and his then-bassist / producer who plays with Slaughter and Vince Neil. You need to develop some kind of inner tenacity ability to pick yourself up, and get back on the horse and get back in the melee, or you’re going to get run over. My problem, has been, after taking a decade-long hiatus to do other things away from the music business during the 90’s, and around 2012, when I started to try to get back into business, I found myself running into all kinds of weird opposition and obstacles. Like the wagons were circled tighter and refusing to let me back in. Lots of confusing residual bias and disrespect. I really don’t understand what kind of mentality expects to progress from that. It’s juvenile really. It’s like people suddenly developed this personal attitude and ‘selective amnesia’ and forgot that, at one point, I was the first bassist on US soil to go toe-to-toe with Malmsteen on a daily basis and survive. It’s a badge of honor that I’ve EARNED; you can’t take that away from me. Don’t open a can of worms that you’re going to have to eat. I’ll crawl all over you and eat your lunch (laughs). It’s like some people create this imaginary perceived territorial threat about me, and I really don‘t understand why. Maybe they’re intimidated by me? Maybe it‘s my smart-ass NY attitude? (laughs). People need to step out of their egos and reach out and be cool to, and with me. They’ll find that I’m not some kind of demon that bad gossip has made out of me. I’m pretty good at what I do, and bring to the table. I’ve proven that time and again, but if somebody is going to adversely try to stand in my way and prevent me, then at some point, they’re going to get run over. And it’s going to get pretty embarrassing for them. It’s better that people just render me my due respect and we’ll get along just fine. But, It’s a choice, just make sure that you make the right one. Once I’m onstage, delivering the goods, then, suddenly, they’re going “oh wow!, that‘s pretty cool!”

CV: How differently do you see yourself? Have you changed?
RF: Again, obviously. That’s a foregone conclusion. Everybody changes. You have to or you become stagnant. You (hopefully) live and learn and grow. I’m probably funnier (laughs). If you get my sense of humor which is right out of the Golden Age of Comedy, then you’ll get me. If not, you’ll probably feel insulted if you can’t keep up with me, like Groucho Marx. I’m like a cross between Jack Nicolson and Groucho (laughs), with a little Rodney Dangerfield (laughs)… My wife got me on this great Health and Wellness program and it helped me rebalance my nutrition and I lost a LOT of weight, so now, the only losers who are still fat-shaming me in Facebook are the ones who are still fat losers themselves (laughs). They’ve got nothing better to do than keep trying to dismiss my

achievements because they don’t really have any themselves (laughs). And I’ve really tried to keep learning my craft and improving my playing, which I think has really come along over the years. I probably drive my wife nuts (laughs). But anybody who’s got the tenacity and patience and fortitude to put up with me has GOT to win some kind of longevity award. If not for her, I wouldn’t even BE here; despite having been diagnosed with breast cancer herself, and survived…she’s saved me on numerous occasions. But TWO alpha personalities under one roof…stand back! It can be like Blackhawk Down, (laughs)…She’s my rock and I love her dearly for it. Everything I’ve learned about equestrian natural horsemanship, I’ve learned through her. Getting close to, and connected with, nature’s powerful creatures certainly has its advantages.

CV: What else can fans expect to be seeing from you this year and into the next? Where do you go from here?
RF: Let’s look forward and project ahead. Everything starts with gratitude each day, then there’s tomorrow. I’ve certainly wasted a few brief moments with some real dysfunctional Doozies (laughs), everyone knows about that (laughs). So, I’d like to look forward to working with REAL positive professionals and hopefully some more KEELFEST concerts with Ron Keel and his family and crew, and continuing more projects with Jim Crean. There are a few projects I’m looking at working with friends on, like actor/metal head, Ed Gage.

I really love working with cool people, it really brings out the creativity in me and allows me to share what I bring to the table into their lives. Again, there’s that bringing value to another person’s life advantage. Doing it thru music is definitely a blessing. Just make good use of your talents. I’d REALLY like to finally get all my past musical contributions properly mixed and mastered and released. The fans have been after me to please do this and so, I’d really like the opportunity to finally release my SIN and Thunderball material for the fans. I hope these people will still be around (laughs). I certainly have a huge box of gratitude bows to pass out to those who’ve done so much for me. My sciatica back is going to be killing me in the process (laughs). But there’s a few people that I do have to acknowledge, before we conclude this scenic journey; the Memory of my Father, Chevalier Leonard J. Suligowski, Tamara Fox / Business Mgt., Tommy Armstrong-Leavitt @ EMG pickups, Anthony Esola @ Sola Custom Guitars, Jeffrey Dbury graphics, and  Rock Casserole / Digital Radio, Christina Avila Artists Promotion, Stephen Talbott @ Lids, Graphics, Angela Gambino @ Pro Player Art / Kick Lidz, Chris Gale @ MyStringKing (dot com) /  DR Strings, Dunlop Picks, Nickle Pierce @ Studs & Spikes, Jeff Carano @ Babicz/Full Contact Hardware, Mark Bass and Ampeg Amplifiers, Loren Molinare @ Blackstar Amps, Robert & Lisa Linthicum @ Sew Perfect, Daniel @ Mono Cases, George Contreras, Zizi Friesen and Don Adkins photos, Jim Crean, Ron Keel and the KEELFEST family, Missie Tong,  Winged Knight Stage Fashions, Jake Perry @ The Whisky a Go-Go, and The Polish Winged Hussars…Niech Zyjie Rzeczpospolita. (I hope I didn’t forget anyone, sorry).



CV: Thank you again Rik, for spending some time talking and sharing with our readers. I wish you all the best and continued success.
RF: It’s been a pleasure, privilege and an honor, thanks again, so much for having me as a guest on The Cosmick View! I salute you, everyone who’s kept the faith and support, and all the fans! (Gratitude Bow).
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My name is Mick Michaels...I'm an artist, music fan, songwriter, producer, dreamer and guitarist for the traditional Heavy Metal band Corners of Sanctuary. Writing has always been a creative outlet for me; what I couldn't say in speech, I was able to do with the written word.  Writing has given me a voice and a way for me to create on a multitude of platforms including music and song, articles, independent screenplays, books and now, artist interviews. The Cosmick View is an opportunity to raise the bar and showcase artists in a positive and inspirational light. For me, it's another out-of-this-world adventure.










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