Interview with KIX Bassist Mark Schenker

Photo by Ted Van Pelt

By Mick Michaels

COSMICK VIEW: Hello, Mark! Welcome to The Cosmick View. Thank you for taking some time out of your day to chat with me, it’s greatly appreciated.

CV: Was the decision to have "Blow My Fuse" remixed for its 30th Anniversary release something the band did as a result of any contention with the album's original sound or sonic direction?

Mark Schenker: No it was something I came up with to help enable a sort of victory lap for those guys. They aren’t the type of guys to go around patting themselves on the back or being overly nostalgic about past professional accomplishments. They are very nostalgic about people, situations and anything even remotely funny or crazy but these album anniversaries come and go and they are like “eh yeah that’s cool” but not much more fanfare from the guys. I thought since Fuse was such an important record for them, I wanted to create ways for those guys to pause for a moment and really step back and indulge in their own accomplishment with Fuse. There is definitely a common thread in the band about this not being the best sounding KIX album. It’s ironic that it was the best selling record and not even close to the bands favorite as far as sound and production goes, in fact, it’s far down on the list. So some of my motivation with the Beau Hill remix was to just finally bring that record up to where it should have been and deserves to be sonically.

CV: Does the album's remix offer something more or different than what the original did for fans 30 plus years ago?
MS: Oh yeah for sure. Fans and band members have always noticed the obvious…that compared to other records of that era, it’s really quiet. It wasn’t mastered properly. In fact, Jimmy and Ronnie have a story; they went up to sort of “supervise” the mastering process and they said the guy who mastered it put the reels on and left the room, didn’t come back one time until the end. Didn’t check shit and was just like ok next! Jimmy and Ronnie have always expressed being mystified by that…the guy clearly did not give a fuck and there wasn’t anything the band could do about it. And of course it wasn’t crystal clear until later…the mastering job wasn’t up to par with the contemporaries at the time until it came out and could be heard side by side with other records. Additionally, with a Beau Hill mix put on this record, the true power of each band members’ performance comes to light. Beau put a hard hitting mix on this thing and it’s quite astonishing.

CV: "Fuse 30 Reblown" is a two disc set, with the second disc showcasing original demo recordings of all 10 "Blow My Fuse" album tracks.  Does having 'demo to fully produced' tracks give fans more of an inside look into the band's inter-workings and writing process in your opinion? Do you find fans appreciate this sort of "behind the curtain" view? Is it something they really want as opposed to more brand new material?
MS: When I came up with the idea I wasn’t sure what the fans would think but I wanted to include the demos because I thought it would be cool. I was friends with Ronnie Younkins way back then and he had given me a demo tape of most of the songs that would end up on Fuse. So I had listened to and worn out the tape well before Fuse was released. I remember feeling slightly disappointed in the sound quality of the record when it came out because I was used to the demos and they sounded spectacular, in some cases way better (IMHO) than what came out on the final product. Those guys were so good in their own studio and Donnie and Jimmy were great engineers. Nobody in the band really had input on including the demos or not in the Fuse 30 product…I just brought it up one day and everybody said “yeah that would be cool” and that was the end of the discussion. Ronnie found the tapes abut 10 years ago in his barn and asked me if I wanted them and even back then I thought “ya know, I better take these, we may have use for them at some point” so I have ALL the 2, 8 and 16 track demo tapes for almost all the KIX songs in my basement. Luckily Donnie and Jimmy were fairly meticulous at record keeping so everything is labeled and fairly easy to find. But it’s a BIG pile and it did take some time to find the “latest” versions of all the songs as most songs have several mixes and several versions. So I sent the demos up to a facility in NJ…they baked the tapes and sent me digitals and I worked on the two track masters to bring the loudness up and the center channel vocal up and made them sound a bit better. So that’s what you get on the demo disk.

CV: Many artists, who have garnered a string of hits during their career, sometimes hold a level of resentment towards those more successful songs, often feeling critics and fans define them solely by one or two tracks. Has the release of "Fuse 30 Reblown" given the band a new perspective on the album? Has their relationship to the songs changed in any way over the years?

MS: I think their relationship to the songs changed when we decided to play the whole album front to back for an entire year at every show. Gems like “Boomerang” were largely forgotten and I could tell those guys were really enjoying getting back in touch musically with the songs they hadn’t played in 30 years or so. We already had more than half of Fuse in regular rotation in the setlist, some songs in, some out…we change our setlists a lot before we did the Fuse 30 set so I think we had to learn four or five songs. Nobody in the band gives a shit about what critics think and all this defining a band thing…who cares. What we know is that we go out and play and the fans continue to show up and we put on an experience for THEM…that is the absolute best we can do. All that other stuff doesn’t matter and nobody in the band really thinks about that junk. It’s all about us performing live right now for the fans who keep coming to the shows.

CV: More than just Rock and more than just Metal, KIX were the original cool kids. What is it like for you, Mark, to be playing with such an iconic band?
MS: It’s a blessing for sure on several fronts. For me it’s all about my relationship to the guys, playing in an iconic band is awesome but if they were all assholes and being in KIX was a hassle I’d be staying home on my couch playing with my dogs! Honestly, the thing about this band internally is we all love each other dearly and admire each others’ talents and respect each other. That is what it really is about for me. My relationship to those guys is paramount. Sure, we all have our little quirks and we bust each others’ balls, but the more comedy the better! It is truly about our own relationships with each other.

CV: Tell us how you came to play bass for KIX?
MS: As I mentioned before I was friends with Ronnie way back when they were doing Midnite Dynamite and the cover bands I was in during those years would often warm up for KIX so I knew Steve and Ronnie well…Jimmy a little less and Brian I didn’t know at all. Which is funny cuz when we travel I spend most of my time with Brian, we are on the same eating and sleeping schedule lol… anyhow, I distinctly remember this one particular moment, one cover band I was in…we put out a record on our own and Steve somehow got a hold of it and liked this one song on it we had called “Bump and Grind”. We were at a club called Gatsbys in Martinsburg WV one night, late 80’s and Steve said “man these songs are great, if KIX ever ends I want to play with you two guys” referring to my band mate and song writing partner Rob Galpin and I. Many years go by and Rob and I actually got together with Donnie Purnell at one point after KIX broke up to form a new project with Donnie playing guitar and singing lead, me on bass, Rob on lead guitar and our friend Billy Jones (RIP) on drums. We recorded five songs in Donnie’s studio and a lot of it sounded like Steve Miller Band which was different for all of us. Donnie knew that Rob and I were song writers so he had reached out to us through Billy to try and form a new project. Not that Donnie needed any help writing songs, his track record speaks for itself but it seemed like a good idea all the way around. The project ended not long after when discussions about performing live came up. I won’t be specific or negative but the script about how it ended is the same script as most others would read regarding their experiences working with Donnie. Unfortunate but true. After that, Steve had formed a band called Funny Money that was playing half original music and half KIX songs. They did a couple self-released records and played around the area a lot and eventually the bass player, one guitar player and their drummer decided to leave all at the same time, amicable, all good, nothing negative, but their bass player Ned Meloni recommended me as his replacement and Steve remembered me from back in the day. Steve and I had a phone conversation and he basically said I remember you…I remember you’re a great bass player and the job is yours if you want it…you don’t even have to audition. I was in Funny Money for about two years and offers came in for KIX reunion shows. At this point Jimmy Chalfant was also in Funny Money too. When the first KIX shows came up nobody asked me or really said anything to me at all about playing bass, they all just assumed I would be the guy. Brian had said he wouldn’t do the shows if Donnie was involved and Donnie had already created a public rift with Steve by unnecessarily and quite rudely slamming Steve’s band Funny Money in a popular local music paper at the time. The script surfaces yet again. So ultimately nobody asked me, nobody said anything to me it was very matter of fact and expected like show up at the gig and do not suck!

CV: With any band that has a 35 plus year history of making music and connecting with fans, there is definitely a balance between legacy and the here and now.  How does KIX maintain that balance and still keep the fans wanting more and not have them tied just to legacy alone?
MS: The whole reason we did “Rock Your Face Off” was because the fans were asking for new music. We heard it a million times and decided to do it, the pressure was real! It was great because Taylor Rhodes who had written/co-written 13 KIX songs in the heyday wanted to produce the record, so both he and Brian were instrumental in being the gate keepers on what was and what wasn’t a KIX song. Taylor knows what a KIX song is. We represent RYFO well in our live set and those songs stand up strong next to the KIX classics. I think that is where the balance is.

CV: KIX fans are tried and true... dedicated doesn't even begin to describe them. This was evident as the band stepped back into the limelight at Rocklohoma 2008 in front of 20,000 fans and again in 2014 when "Rock Your Face Off" debuted at #1 on Amazon's Hard Rock and Metal Chart as well as entering the Top 50 in Billboard's Top 200 Albums.  Was "Fuse 30 Reblown" an album more for the fans' celebration than for the band alone?

MS: I think Rocklahoma was more like 50,000 fans but who is counting! Fuse 30 was something I personally wanted to do for those guys. They would never take a victory lap on their own, they are way too humble, so I felt like Fuse 30 would be the one thing that absolutely deserved a redo and a year-long celebration. It kind of forced those guys, however reluctantly, to celebrate this one major accomplishment in their career. It put KIX on the big map and it is a noteworthy record in the grand scheme of those times and a pivotal, crucial record for the guys in the band. It got them out of the clubs and into the arenas. Plus I knew Beau Hill could really bring that record to life and I wanted that record to shine in the way I knew it could with a smashing remix by a true master with his own signature sound like Beau Hill. My intent with the idea and the plan I hatched in my brain for Fuse 30 was for the band, but I knew the fans would be all in on the celebration too. And it worked out great for both the band and the fans. And I feel like I did something special for my dear friends that nobody else would have done.

CV: Essentially, for the fans, KIX is all about the live experience...the energy and intensity is second to none. Do you see the live performance as a shared experience between band and audience or is it just all for the ticket holders' enjoyment?
MS: Shared experience for sure…Steve is very interactive with the crowd, getting everybody involved…they are part of the show just a as much as we are. But their philosophy (and mine has always been this as well before I was in KIX) is that you perform and play the same for 40 people or 40,000 people. No matter what size the venue, it’s ALWAYS an arena to you as a performer, no matter what.

CV: Mark, how do you see the newer KIX fans sharing in the legacy with the more veteran fans? Is there a difference or is it all about the music's individual connection regardless of when fans come aboard?
MS: We do see a lot of younger people at our shows. I think younger hard rock fans have a tough time these days filling their need for our type of straight up hard rock and they eventually find us somehow. Sometimes its parents bringing their kids and their kids are exposed to our songs through their parents but more and more you see 20 somethings at our shows and at meet and greets…whole groups of them, and they just figured us out and came on their own. It’s really quite amazing to me.

CV: Does the band have plans for a new album in the near future?
MS: Yes of course. For me I’m always writing songs, I don’t write for a record or a project, I’m just always creating. Most of what I write doesn’t sound like KIX but I always seem to dumb my way into a KIX sounding song when I’m trying to write something else. So for me, when the time comes, I’ll have plenty of material ready. But it’s not on our hot list at the moment. We will get to it for sure…Taylor Rhodes has to be on board first and foremost (which he has said he is when the time comes) and then we just have to have the time and all feel like the time has come to do a new record. There’s no solid plan other than YES we will definitely get to it.

CV: With any future new releases in consideration, does the band concern themselves at all about the declining album sales epidemic when deciding on writing and recording new material?
MS: Nope. You can’t think about that stuff. If you’re an artist and a songwriter as I am, it’s natural for you create and have a desire to put material out in the context of a band. We don’t care if five people buy the record, we would put it out anyhow as long as it can stand up to our back catalog and be a collection of true KIX songs. That industry stuff just doesn’t matter at this point.

CV: What do you see keeps the band ticking? Is it pure passion?
MS: Well, the gigs keep coming, and the fans keep showing up so it’s hard to argue with demand. We are surprised as anyone when we go to some venue in the middle of nowhere and 2-5000 people show up and way more for big festivals. The passion for music and performing… sure, but I think the major thing that keeps the band ticking is that we like each other a lot. We truly enjoy each others’ company and we all know nobody else in the band is going to let the other guys down, if it wasn’t like that and we had internal personality conflicts I’m sure we’d not play as much or we’d have a revolving door of band members like some of our contemporaries out there doing the same circuit.

CV: What next for KIX?
MS: For now we will just keep gigging and changing our setlist around for the fans. A new album will come in time. We’ve talked about doing a setlist of only deep cuts (no hits) at places where we have two nighters or maybe on Monsters of Rock Cruise since we do two shows there. Since doing Fuse 30 was so successful, we’ve talked about maybe doing Midnite Dynamite front to back if we can get around the Scarlet Fever issue! We will find ways to keep it interesting for the fans and for ourselves as we move forward, you can be assured of that!

I also would like to tell people to check out my RUSH tribute band Sun Dogs. I do all the Geddy Lee stuff…bass, lead vox, keyboards, foot pedals,etc. We are a true tribute in terms of we are a power trio. We give a truly kickass total RUSH experience. We have a ton of crossover KIX fans coming to our shows but I’d like to invite people who don’t know about my other band to come to a show and check out our videos on our website
or better yet on YouTube at, FB /TheSunDogsBand and on Instagram and Twitter @SunDogsBand.

CV: Thank you again Mark for spending some time talking and sharing with our readers. I wish you all the best and continued success.

Check out Mark and KIX at:

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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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