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Greg Kihn

By John Jeffrey

Greg Kihn is an 80's music icon, mostly known for his two catchy, chart-topping hits, “The Breakup Song (They Don’t Write ‘Em)" in 1981 and the 1983 smash single, “Jeopardy,” which charted at #2 on the Billboard Top 100.  First signed in 1973 to the now legendary record label, Beserkley Records, Greg was the focal point of a roster at that time, which included Jonathan Richman, Earthquake and The Rubinoos - artists who all performed and recorded melodic pop music with a strong 60's pop sensibility.  In 1976, after his debut on the compilation 'Beserkley Chartbusters,' he recorded his first album with his own ensemble - The Greg Kihn Band - comprising Robbie Dunbar (guitar), Steve Wright (bass), and Larry Lynch (drums).
Throughout the 1970s, Kihn released an album each year and built a strong cult following through constant touring, becoming Beserkley's biggest seller.   Kihn scored his biggest hit with "Jeopardy" (1983), from the 'Kihnspiracy' album.  Greg’s groundbreaking video for “Jeopardy” became one of the first concept videos and was played extensively on MTV during the early days of the then fledging video channel.  The Greg Kihn Band also spent much of the 80's touring with the likes of Journey, The Rolling Stones and the Grateful Dead, and also appearing on popular TV shows including Solid Gold, American Bandstand and Saturday Night Live.
Kihn also carved out a very successful 16 year career as a top rated DJ on KFOX in San Jose, California, rising from a late night host, to becoming one of the top-rated morning jocks in his area - the nation’s fourth largest market - before leaving the station in 2012.
Just releasing his first album of all new material in 21 years, entitled 'ReKihndled,' Kihn is now doing some touring, featuring his son, Ry Kihn, on lead guitar.  The Greg Kihn Band will be performing in the WNY area when they perform a free show at the Canal Side Concert Series on July 29th.
Rock Music Star recently had the opportunity to speak one-on-one with Greg Kihn, discussing his latest CD release, having his son performing by his side onstage, and reflecting back on his 40+ year music career.
Rock Music Star:  After listening to your latest release, 'ReKihndled,' I was pleasantly surprised to learn that this was your first album of brand new material in over 2 decades.
Greg Kihn:  Is that unbelievable or what?  21 years, and people say, "Where were you Greg?"  The simple answer is, I was on the radio.  I was doing the morning show, on KFOX radio, for the last 20 years.  I just stopped doing it about 2 or 3 years ago, and then suddenly, I had all this time on my hands.  So I decided to go back into the (recording) studio, which was about the time the band underwent a little renovation.  I got my son Ry on lead guitar, which is wonderful when you have your son on lead guitar.  He's REALLY good, as he's a former student of Joe Satriani, and he also graduated from the Berklee school of music, so this guy can really play.  Plus we got a new drummer, Dave Lauser, who comes to us from the Sammy Hagar band - he was from the Waboritas - and we got a new bass player by the name of Robert Berry.  He's not only the bass player, but also the producer of the Greg Kihn Band.  So it's four guys, who couldn't possibly be a tighter musical unit, and it's so much fun to be back in the studio again.  When we did this album, we had so much fun doing it, after we cut the tracks that made it on 'ReKihndled,' we just kept on going.  In fact, last week I was in the studio and we already have 3 songs completed towards the next studio record.  So we're already working on the next album.
RMS:  You mentioned your son Ry had joined the band and that he had taken lessons from Joe Satriani in the past.  Joe Satriani was once a member of the Greg Kihn Band as well.  How did that connection take place?
GK:  Way back in the early days, Joe used to give guitar lessons to local (California based) guitar guys, like Kirk Hammet from Metallica and guys from Night Ranger.  He tutored a lot of these young guitar players.  My son, who had a good background in lead guitar, idolized Joe.  So when he started taking lessons from Joe, he wanted to become Joe in the band.  And he did.  He had some big shoes to fill, but he just stepped right in 'em.  He (Ry) and Joe are still good friends and they still get together - they jam every once in awhile.  It's inspirational to see your kid jamming with Joe Satriani man.  Like, I'm a well known "lame guitar player," I'm like a 3 chord guy. and they're like 3 million chord guys (laughs).
RMS:  What seems to be a common trend these days, is when a artist from a certain genre of music is going to release a new album, it seems like there's pressure on the artist to almost re-write or recreate the exact vibe of the songs which made them famous or that they are most known for.  Was there any pressure like that for you, when working on 'ReKihndled?'  Were they wanting you to try to write another "Breakup Song" or another "Jeopardy?"
GK:  Back in the day, when "Breakup Song" and "Jeopardy" were big, around 83/84, the powers that be were constantly saying, "Hey, why don't you write like 5 more 'Jeopardy's and we'll just call it, right here."  I was on Berserkley Records at the time, and Berserkley were a fiercely independent label.  They never told us what to do musically, and of course, we moved on.  As soon as "Jeopardy" was done, I think a lot of people at the record company were saying, "Let's do about 5 more 'Jeopardy's and then we can retire."  But of course I followed up "Jeopardy" with a hard rockin' song, "Reunited," which wasn't anything like "Jeopardy," and a lot of guys at the record company tried to figure out what the hell was wrong.  They felt that we had been given the opportunity to get 5 #1 hit songs in a row, and then we decided to move on musically.  But we always did.  We were always marching to the beat of a different drummer, and that was kind of the way we were.  You either just followed your heart or you didn't.  In those days we followed our hearts.  When I look back, I know we could have had way more success if we would've 'played ball' with the record company, but in those days it was nice to just do what we wanted to do.  It was just as nice that this time around that there was no pressure either.
RMS:  How did Weird Al's parody of "Jeopardy" affect your career?
GK:  Well, when we were thinking about trying to come up with a follow up song to "Jeopardy," Weird Al calls me out of the clear blue sky one day, while we were on tour in the summer, with Journey.  "Jeopardy" was initially a huge hit in the spring time, and then that following fall, Weird Al puts out his version of "Jeopardy," "I Lost on Jeopardy" - which was brilliant - and it was like the whole thing was a major hit all over again.
RMS:  It seemed like a lot of artists are/were ambivalent about Weird Al's parodies of their songs, but you were one of the few who really seemed to have embraced his cover of your music.

GK:  When Weird Al called me, I was flattered.  First of all, he had a great parody for the song, and I also got the chance to come down to LA to do a cameo in the video for the song, and I got the opportunity to meet Weird Al and Don Pardo (the Jeopardy! TV show announcer who also appeared in the video).  I had a great positive vibe from the experience.   I loved the video and I loved his version of "Jeopardy."  God bless 'em.
RMS:  Now that the new record 'ReKihnled' has been released, I noticed some advertisements for some live shows, including a stop in Buffalo, NY on July 29th.  Will this be a full tour or mostly one off shows?
GK:  We're doing a lot of one-off shows around the country, a lot of outdoor shows.  Buffalo is special for me because my second wife was from Buffalo.  She was one of the "Rock Angels" from 97 Rock.  So I wound being in Buffalo a lot.  I even wound up rooting for the Buffalo Bills for a while, while I was married to her.  I had a lot of buddies in Buffalo, who I'm still friends with.  I'm looking forward to seeing a lot of my old friends at the Buffalo show.  I'll always love Buffalo, it's a great place to be from, it's a great place to grow up in, and then of course, you have the (Niagara) Falls right down the street.  I'm really looking forward to coming back and playing in Buffalo.
RMS:  Speaking of touring, looking back at your career, who were some of your favorite artists that you had the opportunity the share the bill with?
GK:  I've played A LOT of gigs over the years.  Obviously, we played with some of the biggest bands like Journey, the Rolling Stones, Steve Miller, the Grateful Dead - we've opened for all these bands.  It's kind of nice because I know these people, because we all come from the same area.  Mostly all Bay area bands.
RMS:  On the opposite end of the spectrum, were there any bands that were a nightmare to tour with?  Like as soon as the tour started, you wanted it to end?
GK:  Most of the bands that we played with were great.  And they were really nice to us.  Guys like Cheap Trick and the Romantics were really great to tour with.  I think the only band that was somewhat stiff with us was the Cars.  They were very modern at the time and they all refused talk to us.  In fact, I did a lot of interviews and press for that tour - the summer we were on the road with the Cars - because they blew off all these interviews.  The camera guys were all set up and they're going, "Who can we do?"  And then someone would say, "Well, Greg Kihn's here, why don't you do him?  He'll talk to you."  So I did a million interviews that were blown off by the Cars, just so I'd have something to do.
But you know, I can't really speak bad of anybody because every good rock and roll band in the land has something special that they're doing.  I just love being there.  I love being part of rock and roll history.  The fact that we were kind of a heritage band, because we went all the way back to the 70's, I just love it.
Now I go and play now and see three generations of fans.  We see the Moms and Dads that used to come see us, back when we were playing in clubs.  We see their kids, and now we see their teenagers - out discovering The Greg Kihn Band.  So it really is three generations of fans out there and I'm loving it!       

For more on Greg Kihn, please visit

Special Thanks to John Lappen for arranging the interview.