Gary James' Interview With Steve Walsh of
Kansas






He's the voice behind the songs that made Kansas famous. We're talking songs like "Carry On Wayward Son", "Dust In The Wind" and "Point Of No Return". Steve Walsh is the person we're referring to. Besides being the group's vocalist, Steve also plays keyboards for a group that has sold 30 million albums.

Q - What keeps you going? What keeps the band together?

A - I have to make money. That's the bottom line. That's the reality of it. If I were rich? No, I wouldn't do it. I like appearing 'live' believe me. That's the reason why we all still make music...to go play it 'live'. We're all 50 plus. Touring is a young man's game. So, it's not like I jump up and down and say "Whup de do" every time we get tour dates, like I used to. It is a job now. I consider myself incredibly fortunate to still be able to do it and to be called on to do it 'cause I can't do anything else.

Q - When a Kansas tour is being put together, what goes into the decisions of what cities you'll perform in? Is it radio airplay?

A - You know, I wish I could say. To tell you the truth, we go where we get paid. We fondly refer to it as our "Dartboard Tour" because it's just close your eyes and throw the dart. It's wherever it lands on the map. If we can get to it and it makes sense money wise, then we're going there.

Q - Do you tour by bus?

A - No. By plane.

Q - Are you able to write on the road?

A - Yeah. A lot of times when we're on an extended tour...yeah. There's all kinds of new devices and new software available that you can sit down and do that. But mainly it's getting from point "A" to point "B". That's what takes up most of the day. It's a pain in the ass to fly anymore. It's not much better if you're going by bus. Yeah, you can travel overnight, but being in a bus bred a lot of bad habits with the guys in the band and especially with me. And those were habits that died real hard and they were no good for anybody. You got a lot of time on your hands just sitting there watching a movie for the 15th time in a row. It's kind of like a box of sardines. It's a lot better than flying, but then flying has gotten so crappy lately.

Q - The equipment goes by truck doesn't it?

A - Yeah. Sometimes if it's a long haul, we have to fly our equipment also and have some of it provided at the site.

Q - That has to be a hassle.

A - Yeah. Plus, they're going to start looking real close at containers now. It's gonna have to make a lot of sense monetarily for us to do that in the coming years.

Q - When you started out, was it your dream to be part of a touring, recording group?

A - Yeah. I figured that was where it was gonna end up. I was completely over the top when it did. The guys that finally ended up being Kansas were very determined and that's all you really need. In life, everybody gets what they really, really want in my opinion. If you really want something, your gonna get it, in America at least.

Q - The Tony Robbins philosophy.

A - Yeah, I suppose.

Q - Before this group was know as Kansas, you used to go by the name of White Clover. It that true?

A - Yes.

Q - And, who came up with that name?

A - Oh, I don't remember. Hell, that was 35, 40 years ago.

Q - According to the Rolling Stone Encyclopedia Of Rock, your first album sold 100,000 copies, which is considered respectable back then. If you were starting out today, would 100,000 album sales have been enough to keep a record label happy?

A - 100,000 sales these days is magnificent! Nobody buys CDs anymore. They copy 'em. The only people who buy CDs anymore are the 35 plus people. Nobody young buys CDs. It's terrible. It's what's happening to the music industry. It's the record company's fault, because who's copying DVDs? There is a software program available on the internet somewhere to copy DVDs, but it's a pain in the ass. Nobody is looking at copyright protection for CDs. What they do have can be busted. You got the people who are all up in arms about personal property and being able to do what they want to do. And, CDs cost too damn much. They're making a fortune for the record companies. So, basically what happens is, the record company takes an act and they put some money into it. If that act takes off...great! They look like heroes, the record company that is. They throw more money into it and promote it even more and it takes off like crazy. But, as far as pushing anybody out the door? Nobody's got balls anymore to do that. If you want success, you're gonna have to get out and work for it really, really hard. The fondest memory I have is a Bell person at a hotel, a young guy who was a musician wanted to know what my advice was. I said "OK, quit your job. Say good-bye to your family and forget every friend you've got except the ones that you're working with. Concentrate on your career and nothing else. You'll see within two years whether or not you're gonna make it at all. But, give it two years. Live like a hermit. Forget everything else." Well, he looked at me like I was crazy. But that's exactly what you have to do. You have to really swallow some crap before you come out the other end and figure out whether it's gonna work or not. There's just no other way to do it. You have got to get into it and stay into it like that. And that's what nobody's willing to do anymore.

Q - Tell me some of the groups Kansas opened for in the mid-70s. Do you recall?

A - Well, yeah. We did Queen, Mott The Hoople. Hell, we did everybody.

Q - How were you treated by these people?

A - Real good. Queen and Mott The Hoople were fantastic. Real nice people, except Freddie, the lead singer for Queen. He was an ass hole. But, everybody else was great. All of the guys in Mott The Hoople were fantastic. They were just great to us.

Q - What was the problem with Freddie Mercury?

A - I don't know. He was a prima donna...diva if you will. That word was not meant to be a compliment, although a lot of people consider it to be. That's bullshit. That's having an ego having bigger than you are talented, bigger than you deserved. That's what being a diva is. That's what a prima donna is and that's what Freddie was.

Q - If you had not been part of a successful Rock group, do you think you would've developed any addictions?

A - Can't say. I have nothing to compare it to. All performing artists are very, very insecure. Why the hell else would we stand up on a stage and spout out and think we deserve the audience's applause at all if there wasn't some sort of insecurity? Trying to satisfy, that is incredibly difficult and boy, does it go away fast.

Q - So, you would say to people - please don't envy me?

A - Yeah. Well, you know it is and it ain't. I'm incredibly fortunate to still be doing this. I'm real fortunate.



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