An Interview with Bob Paré of KIX

4 0
Read Time:27 Minute, 10 Second
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is thumbnail_Image-1.jpg

Image credit: Jeff Arnhart Photography

By the time he received the inevitable phone call in May, Bob Paré was prepared to put everything on hold for an opportunity of a lifetime.

The veteran guitarist had been hand-picked to become the newest member of Maryland’s treasured Hard Rock act, KIX, albeit in a temporary capacity. With revered axeman and founding member Ronnie ‘10/10’ Younkins on the mend for the foreseeable future, Paré was deemed a worthy replacement.

Paré had been down this road with KIX before.

The Maryland native received a similar phone call four years earlier, influencing him to learn 40 songs from the band’s catalog over a three-month period. While his services were ultimately not required, Paré was primed to pounce if circumstances aligned a second time.

Though his resume is largely comprised of extensive session work and a seemingly endless list of bands, Paré’s portfolio also includes a stint at The Music Institute in Los Angeles as well as teaching music theory at Western Maryland College and Maryland Institute of Music. Those deep-rooted learnings would become increasingly prevalent as he transitioned to his latest endeavor.

If you happened to catch KIX at any point since its highly anticipated return to a stage near you, you predictably observed an inherently cohesive unit firing on all cylinders. Paré has graciously accepted his role and remains steadfast in emulating the signature sound that Younkins has produced for over four decades. Sure, the ride could end for Paré at any moment. But for now, he is just savoring the moment and taking nothing for granted.

I recently caught up with KIX’s newest member to discuss his path to prominence.

Andrew:
First off, Bob, I appreciate you making some time amid KIX’s hectic touring schedule. Before we get into the heart of your musical journey, tell us about your earliest introduction to music.

Bob:
Well, I think like a lot of musicians, it just runs in my family. My mom played music; my grandfather played; all my uncles played either guitar or drums. So, it just runs deep in the family, mainly on my mom’s side. We’re Canadian, so a lot of the music was French Canadian-Cajun sort of music. Stuff you’d hear down in Louisiana and stuff. Growing up, like many families, we had the old Philco stereo system upstairs; there was always country music blaring on the weekends. [Music] was instilled in my DNA early on. Then, I guess when I was like six or seven, my grandfather and my dad had a guitar – it just sat in the corner and I’d just pluck away at it once in a while – and it was impossible to play. I still learned a little bit, and then lo and behold, my mom stopped at a yard sale on the side of the road one day and there was a Teisco Del Ray guitar with a homemade amp. I believed she paid twenty bucks for everything. I was maybe 10 or somewhere in there, brought it home, and that was the end of that. I’ll be 52 this September, so I’ve been playing pretty much straight guitar for 42 years.

Andrew:
As a budding guitarist, who were some of your most prominent influences?

Bob:
Listening to FM radio, especially during summers – and I was one of those kids who had the FM radio that I would sleep with – I was listening to everything from Wolfman Jack to the local FM stations. Those guitarists in bands like The James Gang, KISS, Electric Light Orchestra, Boston, so it wasn’t too much guitar-oriented music. But I didn’t really realize until later in my life, how much those influences made up what I am today. During the 80s, going and playing in middle school and high school bands, doing talent shows, playing in cover bands doing the 80s stuff – Twister Sister, Iron Maiden, Black N’ Blue, Grim Reaper, all that stuff – it really wasn’t a good reflection of what was my true influences. And it wasn’t until I turned about 40 that I would gravitate to open mics or just jams with people I didn’t even know. All of the sudden, I realized how little the music I was playing in high school – I mean, it was part of the building blocks – but I always gravitated back towards the Joe Walsh’s, David Gilmour’s, and Eric Clapton’s. Although, I still have a tweak of Wolf Hoffmann from Accept; I still use a little bit of his influence. He’s incredible and he’s so tasteful. But with that being said, he’s just the German Metal version of what I consider a David Gilmour; where he just plays all the right notes, at the right time, at the right speed and it suits the song.

It’s just one of those things where I learned to slow down. I lived in Hollywood in ’87-’88 during that heyday and got caught up in that whole flurry of guitar gymnastics for a little while. But the truth of the matter is, I always seem to come back and gravitate towards the Richie Blackmore’s. And again, Joe Walsh is just one of those guys that doesn’t play a lot, but what he plays he is right on.

Andrew:
Wolf Hoffmann is an interesting one. He happens to be a personal favorite of mine as well, but not a name you typically hear listed as a primary influence. I had a chance to watch him play up close at Penn’s Peak last month and was absolutely blown away.

Bob:
Yeah, they were at M3. I didn’t see them at the show, but of course, everybody had videos online. They just never disappoint. They’re cutting edge; they’re right on-point. The band is great; of course, being led by Wolf Hoffmann. Their setlist, their catalog – a lot of people forgot about those guys during what we consider the dark era of 1994-2002. And to hear those songs again and see those guys out there really performing well, that’s just a testament to Accept in general. I spoke to [Wolf] years and years ago back in the 80s. I had a band that opened for his band, and they were definitely on their way up; I don’t think they hit all the milestones that they were hoping for. We talked and geeked out about guitars, amps, and all that good stuff. Then we had a conversation more recently, I think he had moved to Nashville and was doing some painting or artwork, and we got to talking again about guitars and gear; just geeking out on stuff.

He’s just such a well-rounded player and I’m proud to say he’s one of my influences. Because honestly, I don’t hear many players today reference him as an influence. It’s the usual Jimmy Page’s and all of that — which they’re all amazing icons — but for some reason, Wolf Hoffmann struck a chord in me because he played the right notes in the right places. And that’s so hard to find these days, where you can find a melodic player; a Dave Murray or even an Adrian Smith, the Iron Maiden guys, where they play true, melodic guitar solos. Now, I’m also a huge Christopher Cross, Steely Dan, and Progressive music fan, but for some reason when people ask me who my influences are, [Wolf’s] right there in the top five.

Andrew:
Going back to something you mentioned earlier, you were in Los Angeles at the peak of the shredder scene. Were you influenced by that playing style at all?

Bob:
Yeah, Shrapnel Records was doing their thing with Mike Varney. Growing up in Maryland, our hometown hero guy was Marty Friedman, and this is pre-Megadeth, but when he teamed up with Jason Becker those things all of the sudden – I guess because it was different from what was popular – it was interesting to me and it was a challenge. So, working with some of the people I was working with out there, some of those challenges presented themselves. I got myself into a mindset where, “I’m gonna work, I’m gonna play nine hours a day, and I’m gonna really try to figure out what’s making these people so much better than me.”

During that time — the Varney scene — everyone was trying to get into the Shrapnel label deal because everything was hogged up, mostly in the Rock avenue; obviously, the Glam stuff, the “Poser-Metal,” then before there was any Swedish Death Metal that was popular, it was Thrash; the Metallica’s and Flotsam and Jetsam’s. I have an appreciation for each and every one of those, but the challenge was that guitar shredder thing. Taking some classes with Rik Emmett at the Guitar Institute, I learned about structuring guitar solos, songwriting, crescendo – basically teaching me everything I think I already knew later in life – but I just couldn’t grasp it at that young age.

That shredder scene was a real distraction for a lot of people. It made me technically a better player, but it made me a much less passionate songwriter. Again, it took away from what my true influences were. It definitely took me on a little side road. I’m glad I did it, but at the same time, it took a couple of years for me to get back.

Image credit: Bobbi Devine of Rock Solid Images

Andrew:
You taught music theory at Western Maryland College and the Maryland Institute of Music. In what ways have those deep-rooted learnings shaped you as a musician?

Bob:
Well, of course in the 80s, the Neo-Classical influence was well-rooted. I studied the Baroque period of music, which opened up several doors. And I started to discover the mathematics of music, particularly guitar; a little bit in piano. But transposing melodies and learning music theory that wasn’t guitar-oriented music from the Baroque period – or even the Romantic period – that was one of those challenges where I was like, “I’m gonna figure this out.” So, I started to learn the nucleus of the music theory and sit with other musicians and learning the mathematics of music theory, why things are the way they are, what makes things different when you get into technical things like modal-playing and things like that. I got really deep-rooted in that, and part of the reason why that interest’s me is that it’s related to all of music, and you didn’t have to practice nine hours a day to be able to understand it. I thought it helped me a lot in terms of songwriting and proper transitional skills. And being able to discover what made Paul McCartney and John Lennon absolute geniuses. It took the understanding of music theory to fully grasp what it was they were doing. Even though they didn’t know, I understand the combination, the mathematics, the DNA, and the forensics of music.

So, when I came back from L.A., I never forgot it. It wasn’t something I worked on daily, but I continued to use it when I was just noodling on the guitar. It’s a good thing; it’s a common language that musicians can use outside of the normal conversations you have with musicians when you talk about clubs, dates, bars, strings, guitars, amps, and all that stuff. It’s a cool language that doesn’t involve sitting around for nine hours a day. I can just sit there and read and discover how it applied to the guitar.

And I guess there’s a shortage of people that know that stuff, or at least there’s a shortage of people that are willing to educate other people. So, working in Carroll County at Western Maryland College at that time, and even more recently at the Maryland Institute of Music, there are just not many people out there instructing music theory. It’s a difficult thing to teach because not everybody will get it. It’s a mathematics thing. It’s not music memory like playing in a cover band. Unfortunately, some folks just wanna go out there and be a rocker. But it takes a strong will to be able to accept the challenge and learn, from the beginning, the basics of the circle of fifths and then all the way through. Music theory is such a deep wormhole, and I was fortunate enough to have students that challenged me because they just kept pushing and pushing and pushing. I was like, “Man, I’m almost out of things to teach ‘em after a couple of years.” Again, that stems from the Hollywood thing, and it all revolved around the Neo-Classical, shredder scene that had that kind of peripheral thing of music theory.

Andrew:
Whenever I hear the term “session work,” I can’t help but think back to the phenomenal documentary Hired Guns, which shined a much-needed spotlight on various session musicians. Since it’s such a unique profession that isn’t discussed nearly enough, could you take me through the life of a session musician?

Bob:
Well, I mean, I don’t have the deep portfolio like a lot of these guys out there. But I’ll tell ya, when an artist with a record label is on the road or they’re doing their thing, the record labels hire the producers to create music, hits, and generate money. So, during the time the artist is out doing peripheral things, the producer will hire scratch guitar players and they’ll say, “Hey, I want you to come in here. I got a song I wanna write and it goes like this…” And some of these producers, they hear it in their head and they have engineers that can translate that in terms of sound, but they need a player that can put the ink on the paper. And as a guitar player, you listen to what the producer is trying to describe, or what the song is about, what the inspiration of the song is about, what the timbre of the song is about. You try to translate that as a guitarist as best you can by using a couple of different varieties and flavors of tones and phrasing; the way I use my hand and how I dial the pick in for certain things. I guess people say, “Hey, I know a guy who is a pretty good player. You should check this guy out.” Then once your name gets out there, everybody is like, “I could use you!” SIR Studios or some of the record labels out there that have producers that just say, “Hey, I only need you for three days. Are you interested?”“Yeah, okay!” Then that turns into three months and the next thing you know, you’re kind of getting passed around — until the industry obviously imploded.

Andrew:
You played in a number of bands over the years, including Forcer and Euphoria. What was your most recent endeavor before joining KIX?

Bob:
I have a band called Ever Rise; a local band here in central Maryland. We primarily did covers, like everybody else. We built up a really good following and were blessed enough to open for KIX and really get exposed. We started recording at Recording Arts in Fairfax with a very well-known producer named Marco Delmar. Started to kind of explore the original side of things, really get into the songwriting, and commit to that project. We recorded a double record; we’re gonna be releasing that later this summer. During the pandemic, we recorded for about a year-and-a-half; during the whole pandemic. Eric Bazilian, from The Hooters, I’ve known him for years. We talked, we had some dialogue and I told him I wanted to rewrite “All You Zombies.” And of course, he wanted to hear it first, so I rewrote the words and redid the arrangement a little bit, sent it to him, and he was absolutely pleased with that. So, we went ahead and released that. We kind of did a leak towards the end of the pandemic. Of course, that single is on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, and all that. It’ll be on the full-length record that will come out later this year. That was my full-time thing; that was my baby until the KIX thing. It’s still way on the radar because we all know I’m just temporarily filling in for Ronnie now until he gets back. Hopefully, Brad Divens is gonna mix and finish producing the record for Ever Rise. And hopefully, that will all happen by the end of this year and hopefully, everybody likes it.

Forcer was in the 80s. That was a great, all-original band that had a tremendous following. Worked out of Pasha Records in L.A. We did really well; we even opened for KIX back in the 80s. It was a great time to be playing live. I learned a lot about street smarts, gigs, played all the cool clubs with all the cool bands and met a lot of great people. It’s like hitting a good golf shot; it’s one of those things that always makes you want to come back.

I am also currently playing with Mark Schenker in Sun Dogs, the best Rush Tribute Band on the East Coast.

Image credit: Elliot Gordon of All Music Magazine

Andrew:
Between Forcer opening for KIX in the 80s and the local ties, did that connection carry over throughout the years?

Bob:
Yeah, I think so. I mean, Forcer was on the radar. It was a hectic time, but there was a venue called Wilbur’s Park which was similar to Shiley Acres — a really popular outdoor summer venue — and we would do these festivals with bands like KIX and countless others. Just chit-chatting or whatever, but we’re also from the same area. So, of course, everything gets forgotten and things changed during the 90s and even further in the early 2000s. But through the grace of evolution, we were able to reconnect with the help of mutual friends. There’s a lot less saturation in terms of music and artists. And with Ever Rise opening for KIX, it kind of rekindled some things. My relationship with Mark Schenker really stemmed from things outside of music; it was more computers, gear, the love of astrology and the stars, and photography. We just got to be kind of close. Mark’s a great guy and I’m blessed to call him my friend.

Andrew:
When exactly did you find out that you would be temporarily replacing Ronnie ’10/10’ Younkins in KIX?

Bob:
In May of 2017 was about the first time it had become known that Ronnie was struggling. And it was around that time that I received a phone call from them that said, “Hey, we may need ya. We’re not sure what’s going on. A, is it something you’d be interested in? And B, is it something that we can count on you for?” I guess at that point – obviously, musically I was ready – but I was so committed to everything else. I also own a commercial construction business. I have a family and I guess I’m pretty comfortable in my life, so I was like, “Wow, I don’t know if I can just jump into that.” Pre-pandemic, they were touring like crazy. And I was like, “I don’t know. But I’ll go ahead and get ready anyway.” So, I went ahead and learned about 40 songs over about a three-month period. And of course, Ronnie pulled through. Ronnie’s a friend of mine, so we talked. We’d talk about addiction, we’d talk about life, we’d talk about guitars and things like that. We try to help each other, and I think he pulled through. I think it’s been documented by Steve that he’d always managed to kind of right the ship and get back on the right path for a while. Then he’d slip and I’d be put on-call again.

It wasn’t until early this spring where it had become apparent that — and speaking to Ronnie during that time — it had become apparent that it wasn’t in his best interest to come back right away. And of course, still being during the shutdown, not knowing how much time they had before things would start to rev back up musically, it just made sense for him to go ahead and commit to his program and try to focus on him, his family, and his mental health. So, it was early this spring where it really materialized and they said, “Okay, this is what we’re doing, and this is where we’re at. So, let’s go.” It was a soft start and then all of the sudden in May, it was like, “Okay, let’s go.” So, no rehearsals; no nothing. We did our first show at the Drive-In in Frederick and the next night we were in Fallston. And ever since then it’s been full throttle. I’m having a blast.

Andrew:
I was at the York State Fair and you guys started off the night with a bang. From a sound and image standpoint, you fit right in from the get-go.

Bob:
[Laughs]. Well, that’s my job. Part of what I do, and it may be why Mark felt so strongly about having me get involved was, I was trustworthy, I could be on time, and I have some credibility. My job is to play the songs as they were recorded the best I can. Really one of the first conversations that I had with Steve about this was, “Listen, I know my role. My job is to play the music that people love, the way that they heard it, and the way that it’s gonna make them feel like they did when they heard it the first time. I don’t wanna deviate from that.” That’s my job. So, understanding that is half the battle, and the other half is just execution. If you just do your job, it’ll work out just fine. Again, I know my role and I’m really happy that people are accepting it. I can’t thank the fans enough for accepting me for being the outsider guy. Unfortunately, these are the circumstances we’re given, and in order for the music to be heard and performed, they had to make some extremely difficult decisions. And believe me, I don’t envy those guys; that’s a very difficult position to be in. Fortunately for me, I was there at the right place at the right time.

Andrew:
KIX remains one the most active Rock bands around and the band is revered for its seemingly endless supply of energy and captivating stage presence. How big of an adjustment has it been since taking the plunge into that world?

Bob:
The most difficult thing was just being mentally prepared to commit and know that people are counting on you. Once you get past that, I’m surrounded by the most amazing support group in terms of my business, my family – I’ve been married 25 years – my son will be 20, so he’s in college. I’m at that point in my life, and I’ve discussed it with my wife that, “Hey, this opportunity probably will never present itself again. So, rather than wait ‘til it’s too late, I’m gonna go ahead and take it, run with the ball, and do my absolute best.” I think the adjustment was just letting everybody know what maybe a lot of these folks already knew was inevitable, that something was gonna happen and it was gonna involve me making some changes. Quite honestly, it hasn’t been that bad. I enjoy traveling and obviously seeing new fans and new cities. So, it’s a lot of fun. I did it years and years ago and I don’t think I enjoyed it as much because I didn’t have the appreciation that I do as an older person.

Andrew:
Where does the band’s energy come from all these years later?

Bob:
When you look at the history of the band, the personalities, the richness of the songs, and the timing, it’s just one of those things where all the planets aligned musically. And as a byproduct, the live situation – those guys playing covers in the local scene in the late 70s and early 80s – you had to kick ass to stick out. It’s in their DNA. Steve’s personality, I mean, I sit with him on an airplane all the time; he’s never not tapping his feet. Jimmy’s always tapping on something, either a laptop or a tray table in front of him. Those guys are just built-in, high-energy, natural, gifted, explosive guys. And for them to maintain that energy at their age is phenomenal. It’s incredible. And Brian is one of the most gifted, underrated guitarists on the planet. Take that away from him, and he’s still one of the most beautiful human beings you will ever meet. When the switch turns on and the songs kick in, for me personally, I’m inspired to go out there and kick ass just because the songs are good. So, we’re all on the same page there. Even though these guys have changed over the years, they’re so proud to go out there and do their best. They are definitely not mailing it in. It’s been documented before where some of the bands are out there just kind of going through the motions. I can honestly tell you, being on the inside, that is not the case with the KIX band.

Andrew:
In my opinion, it was a mistake to have KIX open at the York State Fair, as the band is renowned for revving the crowd up and building momentum throughout their set. A vast majority of the crowd felt the same way.

Bob:
Things are what they are. I talk to those guys about a lot of life things, and one of the common conclusions that I come up with is, “Things happen for a reason.” We go through life changes and if it’s supposed to happen, it’s gonna happen. First of all, the KIX band will be headlining that York show next year on a Wednesday. So, that’s awesome. They deserve it. It’s a great band; a great bunch of guys. There are no egos. If it was something where I had to deal with one egomaniac or one high maintenance problem, I probably would not have been as anxious to jump right in as I did because I just don’t need drama in my life. I can assure you, there’s no drama with these guys. They’re fantastic to work with and I feel so appreciated. And I’m blessed that I’m able to kind of make it very seamless for them. They’re a machine, so for a speed bump to enter the KIX machine, that would have disrupted things for them. And again, I think that’s what was happening with Ronnie. And as the speed bumps get taller, it starts to affect everybody else. I think that morale is good right now.

Andrew:
Obviously, it is one of those touch-and-go situations and impossible to foresee, but has the band given you any sort of an expected timeline?

Bob:
No. We’ve had the discussions where we just say, “Hey, let’s just see where the cards fall and we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.” I honestly believe I’m gonna be finishing the year out and then we’ll reassess. But as things continue to progress, we’re just kind of happy. We’ve had a string of great shows. It’s kind of one of those superstitious things where we’re just not gonna mess with it. We’re just gonna keep going until Ronnie’s ready to come back. For right now, it’s not something we talk about. We just say, “Hey, let’s just do it, man.” When it happens it happens, and when it’s time to make the transition again, then we’ll do that.

Andrew:
How have you learned to play off of Brian over the past few months?

Bob:
Again, he’s such a phenomenal player. I’ve studied the forensics of the songwriting of Donnie Purnell for a few years. And that helped me in my personal songwriting, using his songwriting skills as an influence as well as his songwriting partners. With Brian, he is definitely the lead guitar player in the KIX band. After the May of 2017 initial call, I began to then study the forensics of Ronnie’s playing. Completely different styles. With Brian, he’s such a great player, with great timing and phrasing. I don’t know if most people realize, but he’s changed a lot as a guitarist. He’s matured a lot. A lot of his influences are starting to creep in, and have been for years now, where he’s a fan of some of the Southern Rock stuff and the Country players. His hybrid picking skills have gotten so much better over the years. He’s so much better of a guitarist today than he was 30 years ago. He’s very tasteful. My job is to emulate what Ronnie or Brad did on the records, depending on which song we’re playing, and just stay within those boundaries and try to emulate the tone, phrasing, sounds, and notes that made those songs what they are. And hopefully, people don’t recognize anything too different.

Andrew:
Do you have a favorite song to play live?

Bob:

Well, there’s a bunch of my favorite songs that I like to play that we haven’t played live yet, but I can tell ya that we probably will be later on this year. I mean, you can’t go wrong with “Midnite Dynamite” and you definitely can’t go wrong with “Cold Blood.” That’s a lot of fun to play. I like ‘em all, but if I were to have one favorite so far, man, I like playing “The Kid.” That’s just such a cool song. But right now in the current setlist, coming out with “Midnite Dynamite” is such so much fun to play.

Andrew:
Before I let you go, is there anything you would like to say to those fantastic KIX fans out there?

Bob:
When this whole temporary thing is over, I’ve thought about what it is that I’m gonna say or publish, either on my personal social media or KIX’s social media. That [the fan’s] understanding is so important. That this change is necessary, and how much I’ve just appreciated the acceptance. Everywhere I’ve gone, countless people come up to me and tell me how great of a job I’m doing and how much they enjoy it. And that just means I’m doing my job properly. I guess the message I have is, just hang in there, and that the band that they know and love is still making music. Regardless of what they look like, the goal is to make sure they sound good. It doesn’t matter who’s playing it, if they’re still celebrating the beauty and the era of the songs, man, just embrace it. Most importantly, I appreciate the acceptance. I’m having a fuckin’ blast.

Image credit: Elliot Gordon of All Music Magazine

Interested in learning more about Kix? Check out the link below:

Dig this article? Check out the full archives of Shredful Compositions, by Andrew DiCecco, here: https://vinylwritermusic.com/shredful-compositions-archives/

About Post Author

Andrew DiCecco

Predominantly known for his NFL coverage, Andrew DiCecco is a Pennsylvania-based journalist with a profound passion for Rock music and its illustrious history. What initially began as a childhood hobby collecting CDs eventually evolved into a full-blown absorption into the world of Rock and Roll. An aspiring rock historian, Andrew seeks out every autobiography and documentary on Rock artists imaginable to further his knowledge to go along with a growing collection of vintage albums and magazines. Andrew’s musical preferences include, but are not limited to, Def Leppard, Van Halen, AC/DC, Guns N Roses, Metallica, Iron Maiden, Ozzy Osbourne, Scorpions, Foreigner, and Journey. An innate appreciation for guitar heroes, Andrew cites Vito Bratta, Eddie Van Halen, John Sykes, George Lynch, Dave Meniketti, and Neal Schon as some of his personal favorite players. Andrew is also a regular listener to SiriusXM’s <i>Trunk Nation</i> with Eddie Trunk, his primary source of inspiration.
Happy
Happy
100 %
Sad
Sad
0 %
Excited
Excited
0 %
Sleepy
Sleepy
0 %
Angry
Angry
0 %
Surprise
Surprise
0 %

Average Rating

5 Star
0%
4 Star
0%
3 Star
0%
2 Star
0%
1 Star
0%

Leave a Reply

Social profiles
%d bloggers like this: