An Interview with Brian Forsythe of KIX

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Though heavily influenced by southern rock heavyweights ZZ Top, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and The Allman Brothers as a budding guitarist, Brian Forsythe would tap into his musical prowess over the years, most notably with Maryland-based hard rock band KIX.

Forsythe, who spent his teenage years tirelessly working the Maryland club circuit playing cover songs and was eyeing his next gig, ultimately joined forces with guitarist Ronnie Younkins and bassist Donnie Purnell to form the band The Shooze in 1977. Forging their own path by playing original songs, The Shooze eventually recruited vocalist Steve Whiteman and drummer Jimmy Chalfant away from their respective bands and into the fold, forming the classic lineup that would later become known as Kix.

Kix, which cut its teeth as a gritty club band, landed a contract with Atlantic Records in 1981, though it inconceivably took the band seven years to find its footing. Highlighted by 1988’s Blow My Fuse, Kix produced seven studio albums – five with the classic lineup – and remain a fixture as a headlining act at the annual M3 Rock Festival in Columbia, Maryland. The band maintains an active touring schedule and continue to bring their trademark energy and stage presence to various venues across the country.

I recently sat down with guitarist Brian Forsythe for an in-depth conversation regarding all things KIX.

Andrew:
Brian, I appreciate you taking the time. It’s been a weird year, to say the least. How have you navigated through these challenging times?

Brian:
Yeah, it has been weird. KIX has only done maybe a handful of shows, and most of those were spur-of-the-moment pop-up shows. Coming into 2020, our calendar was completely full; it was gonna be a great year. By the time March came around, everything shut down. At first, it was kind of weird; we didn’t know how long it was going to be, and all our shows started to get postponed and pushed further and further out. All of a sudden, I was home, and I wasn’t going anywhere; I was just home. It seemed like endless time. Then, after a while, I sort of settled into it. I have to say; I’ve sort of enjoyed it. [Laughs].

Andrew:
Tell us about your backstory. What first got you hooked on music?

Brian:
Well, my parents were music fans. There was always music around the house, so I was exposed to it very early. My earliest memories were from my mother putting on an Elvis record, Johnny Cash, or something; it always caught my ear. Then, of course, when I was around six – whenever The Beatles were on Ed Sullivan for the first time – that changed it from enjoying listening to music to seeing that and going, “That’s what I want to do.” That motivated me towards wanting to be a musician, be in a band, and that whole thing.

Andrew:
Who do you consider to be your most prominent musical influences?

Brian:
The Beatles were the first thing that really did it. Even before that, I loved Johnny Cash, but as far as playing guitar, the mid-60s is when I started playing. When I first heard Cream on the radio, Eric Clapton struck me and, of course, Jimi Hendrix. But it was weird; before I really knew how to play, Jimi Hendrix just seemed so far out of reach; I couldn’t even comprehend what he was doing. As the 60s progressed into the 70s, Santana came along, and then the Allman Brothers, and the whole southern rock thing happened, then a little later when I was in high school Lynyrd Skynyrd happened, and then Aerosmith. It’s funny because I didn’t really catch on to Aerosmith until their third record; I was making pizzas at a pizza place, and “Sweet Emotion” was on the jukebox. I was like, “That’s cool. Who is that?” How could I forget this – the main one was ZZ Top. When they came along, the first ZZ Top song I heard was “La Grange.” And I was just like, “Man, who is that!?” I’ve been a lifelong Billy Gibbons fan. I just love ZZ Top.

Andrew:
What are your earliest memories from playing the Maryland club circuit?

Brian:
In high school, I wasn’t playing clubs. We played like backyard parties or at a church thing; weird little gigs like that. At one point, I relocated to Alabama with a band. We all went down there and toured around Alabama. We lived right outside of Muscle Shoals, so that was an experience. That was pre-KIX, pre-Shooze, and all that stuff [’75-‘76]. I was only down there for maybe eight months – it seemed like forever – but it was only like eight months, and then the band moved back. That was my first taste of actual club gigs.

But the scene around Baltimore, when we came up, it was really happening; there were a lot of clubs. I mean, we had to play cover songs, too, at the beginning. That was the only way you could get gigs; then we’d sneak our own stuff in. But we’d have to play like three sets a night, sometimes more. There was one club where we had to do like five sets a night, which is crazy. But there were so many clubs; we could play all week long and play a different club around the Baltimore area. Now, it’s gotten to the point where, if we play Baltimore, we usually have to wait a year before we can come back to the same venue. Back then, at least once a month, we’d be at the same venue. Baltimore was happening with the number of clubs they had. Also, further out in our area, like Frederick and Hagerstown, there was the Mountain View [Inn] out there – which was this famous little dump that we used to play – and several clubs out that way. So, there were no shortages of places to play back then.

Andrew:
How did you initially connect with Ronnie [Younkins] and Donnie [Purnell] to form The Shooze?

Brian:
Well, Ronnie and I, we’re both from Frederick, and we played in different bands around the area. So, we were both aware of each other; I would go see his band play – I saw a few different incarnations of his band throughout the years. At one point, he was leaving the band that he was in, and they were just a cover band around the area, but they had gigs. So, his spot became open, and they were holding auditions, so I decided to try out for his spot in his band; I was between bands at this point, and I was running lights for the band that Jimmy [Chalfant] was in. So, one night I got done with Jimmy’s band at the Mountain View in Hagerstown, and I drove back to Frederick. I stopped at a 7-Eleven for a late-night burrito, I’m by the microwave heating my burrito, and out of the corner of my eye, I see Ronnie approaching me. Ronnie walks up and goes, “Hey, I hear you’re trying out for Mama Kin,” which was his old band. I said, “Yeah.

He goes, “You don’t wanna play with those guys. They’ve been playing the same songs for years, and they never wanna rehearse, and they never wanna learn anything new.” He goes, “Donnie Purnell is putting this band together, and we’re looking for another guitar player. Would you be interested in doing that instead? We’re gonna do all originals; we’re gonna get a record deal.” It was so funny because when he first asked me, I thought, “Wow, do I wanna just start over from scratch with a band that’s not established yet, or do I wanna jump into a band that’s already got gigs?” So, I told him, “Well, let me think about it.” I wasn’t really excited about it, to be honest.

Then, the next day, the original drummer that we had called me and talked my ear off; he talked to me for about an hour. He finally convinced me to at least get together with them for a rehearsal and see what I thought. I was still living at my parent’s house at that point, so they came over to my parent’s house, and we went down to the basement. The first song that Donnie showed me was “Atomic Bombs.” I just remember thinking, “Wow, this is really cool for an original.” Back in the cover band days, you’d go see a band, they’d be playing covers, and then they’d go, “Okay, this is one of our originals,” and it would always be the worst song of the night. To play a cool original song, I was like, “Man, this is great.” I was pretty much hooked from that point on. That was it; I became part of the band. Plus, they needed a place to rehearse, so my parent’s basement became the rehearsal space. [Laughs]

Andrew:
So, how did Steve [Whiteman] and Jimmy [Chalfant] eventually enter the picture to complete the band?

Brian:
Well, we played for a couple of years with other singers. Steve was our fourth singer. We had one guy that never made it out of the basement; we never did a gig with him. Then we replaced him and got the first real singer. We had another drummer, but we went to check Steve out. He was a drummer for a band near Cumberland, Maryland. He was the drummer, but he would sing from behind the drums. So, we went and checked out his band, and he was back there playing and singing Led Zeppelin. It was like, “Wow.” So, on his break, we took [Steve] out to the car and played him a demo of some of our original songs and talked him into leaving his band and moving to Hagerstown. So, that’s how we got him.

At first, it was our original drummer, with Steve out front. But our original drummer was also a decent frontman, so he and Steve used to swap; Steve would go back and play drums and our other drummer would come out front for a couple songs. So, it was kind of a weird setup at that point. And then our original drummer had a little bit of an alcohol problem and started becoming unreliable, so Jimmy entered the picture at that point and Steve became the permanent frontman.

Andrew:
Where did the inspiration for the name KIX come from?

Brian:
Well, Shooze was taken. There was another band in the Midwest called Shoes, and they had records out and songs on the radio, so we couldn’t use that name. So, we changed it right before we got signed – maybe it was right around the time they were interested, we changed it to The Generators.  Then, we were signed and went up to New York to record; we recorded the whole record under the name Generators, and right when we were done with the final mixes, and they were submitting the artwork — I remember we were all up at Atlantic — the department in charge of the album cover, the guy comes in there, and he’s going, “We gotta change the name,” because I guess they ran the name The Generators at the last minute to check it and found out that that was taken, too. So, they said, “We have to have something by 5:00 this evening, or it’s gonna delay the whole release date of the record.” Then Donnie blurted out, “How about KIX? Spell it K-I-X.” Just really quick; it was a spur-of-the-moment thing. I remember thinking, “KIX?” But nobody else had any better ideas, so it was, “Eh, I guess so. I guess that’ll do.” [Laughs]

I think the way [Donnie] came up with it was, he played in a band called Kicks, but it was spelled K-I-C-K-S. And he also played in a band called Jax, spelled J-A-X, so he kind of combined those two things; he liked the three-letter thing, so he just made KIX K-I-X. Donnie was pretty quick to come up with stuff, including music.

Andrew:
What is your recollection from recording the self-titled debut album, and how was the initial support from Atlantic?

Brian:
We’d been playing those songs for a couple of years by the time we did that record, so they pretty much just stuck us in there. We got signed on a live tape. We had a cassette recorder by the soundboard, and every night, our sound man would stick a cassette in there and record the show so we could listen to it and see where we needed to fix stuff. Our manager started taking those tapes and sending ‘em; they were just raw tapes from the soundboard. That’s how we got signed. So, Atlantic sort of signed us on the live thing, and they wanted to try to capture that on that first record.

They kind of just let us go; they didn’t really give us a lot of direction. We had Tom Allom as a producer, and it was funny because we did pre-production with him – which is where you break stuff down and put it back together and try to get the best arrangements – and he did that with a few of the songs. Every time he did that, he’d go, “Okay, let’s run the song and see what it would be with this part here.” So, we’d run the song and he’d go, “Nah, just do it like you were doing it.” He’d always go back to our original way of doing it. So, they pretty much let us do what we wanted on that first record. Then it came out, and back then, Atlantic didn’t have a metal department or heavy metal – I don’t consider us heavy metal, but – it was just wide-open, so we were thrown in there with everybody else like Phil Collins and whatever else was going on. So, [Atlantic] didn’t really know what to do with us. They sort of threw the record out there, and that was it. They released “The Itch” as a single, and it didn’t do much.

Andrew:
What’s interesting about KIX, and I wanted to hear your opinion on this, the band has such a distinctly gritty and raw sound and I think it unfairly got grouped in with all the other bands of that era.

Brian:
Yeah, but it’s kind of like everything else; every band is kind of forced into a category. We were really pre-80s, so that’s why we had that sound. Ronnie and I, we’re from the 60s and 70s, so our influences are a little further back. Mine is southern rock, and Ronnie liked Aerosmith and the [Rolling] Stones, so we had those influences. Then at the end of the 70s, Van Halen comes around, and that’s what influenced that whole West Coast 80s thing. Then, there was that Mötley Crüe kind of thing, too, but all those finger-tapping guitar player guys came out of that whole L.A. scene. And we weren’t part of that, definitely; we were different. We associated ourselves with East Coast – more New York, like Ramones and that kind of thing. Especially in the beginning.

Andrew:
The third album, Midnite Dynamite, recaptured the essence of the band, spearheaded by “Cold Shower,” and of course, the title track. Tell us what it was like working on that album, particularly with producer Beau Hill.

Brian:
Cool Kids was the one where the record company tried to sort of push us into the poppy singles kind of thing, so Midnite Dynamite was more getting back on track for us. And Donnie’s songwriting was coming around. Having Beau Hill for that, he was like the hot producer at the time because of Ratt and all that, so that kind of helped things – even though Midnite Dynamite didn’t really do a whole lot, either. “Cold Shower” got onto MTV a little bit, but not really. So, it didn’t really help us that much, but people started to notice us at that point.

But Beau Hill was – it was weird – we’ve had different producers throughout the years; I think Beau Hill was a good fit because he made a good record, we sounded good, and he’s really a cool guy to hang out with. But at that point, there were some problems with Ronnie and me with Beau and the guitars. He ended up bringing in Mike Slamer to play on a couple of things, which didn’t sit well with Ronnie or me. We always considered ourselves a real band, and it was sort of like an insult. I mean, we’ve talked to him since then about it and got over it. In fact, when he did the remix, he reached out to see if we wanted to replace all those parts that Mike Slamer did. It was like, “Now is your chance to make this right!” [Laughs]. So, Ronnie actually went in and re-did the “Scarlet Fever” solo. When we got to the studio to record, there were a couple of songs that weren’t quite done yet, and “Scarlet Fever” was one of them; it was a new song. So, Ronnie and I hadn’t worked out who was gonna do the solo yet. We did the basic tracks, and we were doing solos and overdubs, and Beau puts that song up. So, Ronnie and I are talking it out, going, “Do you wanna do this?” I was sort of looking at the other songs and how many solos I had done, and we would try to keep it balanced between us, so I said, “Yeah, go ahead. Take this one.

So, Ronnie goes in – and we hadn’t had a chance to even think about it before that point – so Ronnie had to sort of just go in there cold and do a solo. So, he was in there trying things – it wasn’t happening for him that night. I remember, he comes out, and he goes, “You wanna try it?” It was right at the end of the night, we had like ten more minutes before they were gonna shut everything down, and I said, “Yeah, I’ll try one.” So, I went in there, and it was the same thing – I didn’t really have enough time to come up with one, so I asked Beau for the rough track. I said, “Can you just run me off a cassette of the basic tracks? I’ll take it back to the room, and I’ll come up with a solo. Tomorrow morning I’ll come in, and I’ll have it.” That’s the way I used to do it. So, I did that; I went back to the room and came up with a solo. The next morning, I go into the studio. I came up the elevator, and I could hear this guitar playing, like finger-tapping, Eddie Van Halen stuff. I’m like, “What is that?” I come out and go to go into the studio, and it’s locked. I can’t even get in there. I’m like, “Ah, man. I didn’t even get a chance to try the solo, and he’s already got somebody playing it.” So, that was a little bit of a sore spot.

Other than that, that record was fun and cool. We did it at Atlantic Studios, the same place we did the first record, which is a legendary studio. Ray Charles used to record there. Also AC/DC: Live From Atlantic Studios was done in the big studio where we did both of those records. It was just a cool place to be.

Andrew:
After slugging it out in clubs, really since 1977, the band seemingly produced a breakthrough with 1988’s Blow My Fuse. What did the success of that album ultimately do for the band?

Brian:
That was definitely our peak. It was just a slow progression; from Midnite Dynamite into Blow My Fuse, Donnie’s songwriting got better and better and better. I remember, when we were finishing up Blow My Fuse, I had this feeling, like “The universe is finally behind us and they’re gonna give us that push that we need.” And it did, but the funny thing is, we were hoping to be on AC/DC level after that and it didn’t happen. We finally got real tours; we got the Ratt tour, we got the Whitesnake tour, we did a Bad Company tour, then we were on the Tesla/Great White tour; that was near the end of the record. The record company was telling us, “Okay, after this, you guys have to start thinking about the next one. This record is done.” And “Don’t Close Your Eyes” hadn’t even been released yet – and they weren’t going to release it. So, that was kind of a fluke, because when we were doing the Tesla/Great White Tour, Alan Niven — who was Great White’s manager at the time, was also Guns N’ Roses manager — so he had a lot of clout. He took our manager aside and he goes, “How come Atlantic didn’t release “Don’t Close Your Eyes?” And I guess our manager had asked Atlantic about it and they just weren’t interested. So, Alan Niven goes, “Do you mind if I talk to them?” And our manager goes, “Be my guest.” Sure enough, they listen to him and they released it and it took off. So, that was really cool to experience. I’ve got a gold record.

You know what’s weird, though? Going into that record, we changed management. So, we had a new manager and he went in and renegotiated our deal and got us a way better deal for that record. The thing was, they set it up so we’d get these bonuses along the way if it sold certain amounts, and when it hit platinum, we were supposed to get some humongous bonus. And the record went platinum ten years after — not until ’98-’99, somewhere around there – right after the renegotiation of the contract expired. So, it went back to the crappy, old 1981 deal. I think they timed it like that; I’m sure it went platinum before that. They just held out until they didn’t have to pay us anything.

Andrew:
Aside from producing your most successful record to date with Blow My Fuse, 1988 was also significant in that it also proved to be the year where the band finally graduated to a tour bus.

Brian:
Yes, the Ratt Tour [Reach for the Sky]. Well, actually, we had one bus before the Ratt Tour because we had to do a couple of dates that took us up into Canada, like really long drives that we couldn’t handle ourselves. Then the Ratt Tour was the first official full-on arena tour.

Andrew:
What had you guys been touring in previously?

Brian:
A van. A van and a 24-foot Ryder truck. That’s what we had.

Andrew:
Talk a little bit about the scheduling contrast between playing the club circuit versus as a supporting act on a full-on arena tour?

Brian:
We went from playing clubs, like a 90-minute set. Like L’Amour in Brooklyn, we’d get done at four in the morning and have to drive all the way to Harrisburg [Pennsylvania] or something like that. Then all of a sudden, on this Ratt Tour, we go on at 7:30, and we’re done by 8:00. Then, we have a tour bus, so you don’t even need to drive; you sort of just hang out. It was a piece of cake. We had a half-hour and we’re a band that’s got all this energy and used to spreading it out over 90 minutes, and to concentrate it down to that half-hour, we could just give them everything we had in that half-hour. So, it was pretty cool to be able to do that. And the other thing was, Ratt was pretty big, so we just decided to give them a run for their money. [Laughs]. Like, “Okay, let’s see how these guys are gonna follow this!” That was kind of the inspiration to the song, “Rock Your Face Off.”

Andrew:
I’ve heard this from several musicians, but the reception that most rock bands get in Japan is unlike anything they’ve ever experienced. Talk about going to Japan for the first time.

Brian:
That was a great experience. The big promoter over there was a guy named Udo, and he would just give you the star treatment. We were still a slimy club band, really. Even though we’d done a few arenas, our roots were in the slimy clubs. Even at that level, we were still sharing hotel rooms and all that stuff on the road. When we got to Japan, they flew us over there – we actually brought our gear, too. Nowadays, it would be Backline Rental and all that, so all you do is bring your guitars. That’s what we do for fly dates; we don’t even have to deal with the gear. But back then, we took everything with us, which is kind of crazy to think about. They gave us the star treatment; they put us in this nice hotel; we all had our own rooms – like, we never had our own rooms. It was just cool. They assigned these two security guys, so they just drove us around. Anytime we wanted to go anywhere, they’d take us.

The other thing about it was, when we flew into the airport and came out the gate, there was this crowd. We’d call it the mini-Beatles crowd; it was maybe 100-150 people, so for us, it was huge. They were holding KIX banners and wanting us to sign stuff and taking pictures. It was a really cool experience. We didn’t know what to expect going over there. There would always be a crowd outside of our hotel waiting for us, so anytime we wanted to go anywhere, we’d try to sneak out. It was so funny because Ronnie and I tried that one day. We wanted to go somewhere close by, and we were like, “Man, I don’t wanna deal with all those people out there.” So, we go down to the lobby, and we look, and it’s like, “The coast is clear!” And as soon as we stepped foot outside the door, it was like cockroaches coming from every crevice. Just swarms of people just all of a sudden we’re there. The thing about the Japanese fans, they’re really polite. So, it was a pleasure, really. They would politely go, “Can I get your picture?” And you’d stand there – and this is before cell phones, so they weren’t selfies – they’d run back around behind you, and then the next person would run-up. It was really funny.

Then we also did a live concert that they filmed for Japanese TV at this really nice theater in Tokyo. That was an experience, having a Japanese crowd because they were way into it, and they’d sing along with every single song. Then you’d get done the song, and there would be this little roar of clapping, and then it would stop, and they’d sit there and wait for the next song. So, it was this little weird burst of clapping and then silence. Then at the end of the show, when the lights came on, and everybody started leaving, they filed out single file, like they’d leave an airplane. They filed out very orderly; it was pretty cool. That whole going to Japan thing was, I think, the highlight of our career. At least for me.

Andrew:
In 1991, Kix released Hot Wire, which I believe to be the strongest record in the band’s catalog. However, two years later, you decided to pursue other interests. What prompted the exit?

Brian:
Yeah. In fact, I felt the same way about Hot Wire. Because Blow my Fuse had done so well, I thought, “Okay, now this is gonna be the one,” and that came and went as well. And that was all because the grunge thing kicked in right there. Right before we released Hot Wire, Nirvana released their record [Nevermind]. It just took the wind out of the sails. That had a lot to do with my decision; it was almost like, all those years working up to that point, and all of a sudden, I just saw the ship was sinking; it’s not gonna go any further; it’s just gonna start going down. I was feeling frustrated, and there were some internal struggles; after years of touring together, things get on your nerves. I remember around that time, Izzy [Stradlin] had left Guns N’ Roses, and he put out his solo record, The Ju Ju Hounds. I just remember hearing that and thinking, “Man, that is so cool.” I loved that whole, him going off on his own and doing his own thing. It just struck me, and I decided I wanted to do something like that, not a solo thing, but I wanted something different. So, that kind of got my mind going.

I ended up hooking up with Eric Stacy from Faster Pussycat. I had so many miles – especially from a couple of trips to Japan and back – I had so many miles saved up that every time Kix had a few days off here and there, I would go out to L.A; it was the fall of ’92. Eric came to my house first for a week, and we wrote a group of songs, then I would fly out to L.A., and we put the band together and started rehearsing. Right at the beginning of ’93, we recorded a demo, and once I heard that demo, it was like, “Okay, now I’m ready to leave Kix,” because I wasn’t sure until I heard the final product. And I go, “Yeah, this is what I wanna do now.” So, I had to go back and tell those guys. The week I left was the week Atlantic released Kix Live.

Image Credit: Marko Syrjala

Andrew:
How acceptant was the band when you broke the news?

Brian:
I’m sure they were bummed. I think they understood because I think they were all feeling that sinking ship feeling, too, but they weren’t quite ready to give up. But they wished me well and invited me back for Show Business. That worked out really well because I was not an official band member at that point, but they paid me to play on the record. It was like, “That’s the most money I’ve gotten from doing something like this for this band. Maybe that’s the ticket — to not be in the band!” [Laughs].

Andrew:
Once the decade turned, and you kind of alluded to this earlier, there was an abrupt shift in the musical landscape. Did you find it difficult to shake the 80s stigma when looking for other gigs?

Brian:
Well, personally, it didn’t take long to get rid of it, because I’ve always had more of a 70s thing myself. Once I got to L.A., I went full-on Stones; that was my thing. But anytime somebody would recognize me, they’d always associate me with [KIX]. So, when I would be out there and meet somebody and they’d say, “What band do you play with?” I never said KIX. I’d always say whatever band I was playing in at the time — Rhythm Slaves or if I was playing with a Blues band – because I played with a Blues band out there called The Purple Gang. So, whatever, I’d say, “Purple Gang!” And they’d just look at me like, “Who’s that?” Or they think they recognize me, and then I wouldn’t say KIX. And then they go, “Okay…” [Laughs].

Andrew:
I spoke with Nöthin’ But a Good Time author Tom Beaujour, who shared with me an anecdote that pertains to my previous question. He mentioned that you auditioned for The Wallflowers but withheld from them that you were in KIX.

Brian:
Yeah. [Laughs]. In fact, Sass Jordan — do you remember her? Kind of a soulful singer but she had a Rock band. She was looking for a guitar player because her guy was leaving. I was interested in that, but I had to submit a bio and all this junk, and I actually did put in there that I played in KIX. But that’s how it was; nobody really knew who KIX was, even at that point.

When it came to The Wallflowers, I was friends with the keyboard player Rami [Jaffee]; Rami was the one who brought me in for the rehearsals. I got together with him first, and he showed me the songs. He kept saying, “Don’t tell those guys how old you are.” It was like this thing where they didn’t want an old guy, but I could play all that stuff. I don’t know if you heard The Wallflowers before they had their hits, but their first record was more Stones or Faces; it had more of a 70s thing. It was right up my alley, and most of those songs are what I learned to audition with. The album with “One Headlight” and all those songs hadn’t been released yet. So, once I did the first rehearsal, they gave me some songs off the new record to learn, and I came back later. I ended up not getting it; the original guy that recorded the record ended up coming back to do the tour. He was leaving the band but agreed to come back and just do the first leg of the tour. Of course, the record exploded at that point, so he ended up being back in the band.

Andrew:
What year was that?

Brian:
Maybe ’96 or ’97 even. I just remember, because the 90s for me, my drug use got kinda out of hand. I remember running into Rami later, and he was apologizing for me not getting that gig. I go, “It’s probably a good thing I didn’t get that gig,” then I told him, “You guys wouldn’t have been able to handle it,” because I was just so outta control at that point. Everything seems to work out the way it’s supposed to.

The whole drug thing came to a head in early ’98. I found myself in jail; I was in L.A. County, and then they transferred me to this place called Wayside. So, that whole experience opened my eyes; it was like, “What am I doing?” My girlfriend at the time hooked me up with a lawyer who got me out of jail if I agreed to go straight into rehab. That was the best thing that could have ever happened.

A week before I wound up in jail, I was already playing with Georg [Dolivo], and Reeve [Downes] from Rhino Bucket, and another thing called Deep Six Holiday, which is basically Rhino Bucket with a different name. But we weren’t doing Rhino Bucket songs; it was all new songs that ended up on that first release that I did with Rhino Bucket. So, I was already playing with them; then I ended up going through that whole jail-rehab; it took a year to get through all that. Then Georg ended up calling me because Riki Rachtman was trying to do the Cathouse thing again, and he wanted Rhino Bucket to play. [Riki] was getting Junkyard to play and wanted Rhino Bucket, so Georg called me and asked if I wanted to do the Rhino Bucket thing. I remember thinking, “Ah, man,” like I associated that with the old thing; Kix and 80s. I was like, “Ah, man. I don’t know,” but I agreed to do the Cathouse gig. Even though I had been playing with those guys, I guess I was resisting doing the full-on Rhino Bucket, but once I learned all the songs and we did the gig, then another gig popped up, and I’m like, “Yeah, well, I already know the songs so I might as well do it.” The next thing I knew, I was in the band. We ended up getting some soundtrack stuff, started writing new music, and ended up putting out that And Then It Got Ugly record, which was the first one I was on. I ended up doing 4 or 5 with them over the years. That was cool. Once I got into the groove with them, I ended up loving it. I loved playing with Rhino Bucket. It’s almost a better fit for my style than Kix. Rhino Bucket, they’ve always been compared to AC/DC, and I’m a huge Angus [Young] fan, too. But if you listen to Angus and Billy Gibbons, there’s a lot of similarities. I just took my full-on Billy Gibbons, applied it to Rhino Bucket, and it just worked.

Andrew:
When you were involved with all these different bands during the 90s, did music remain your full-time focus?

Brian:
I had a day job. After I got out of rehab, I went into this recovery house for another year. The Musician’s Assistance Program paid for my rehab and then they paid for my first couple months at that recovery house. But then after that, I had to get a job so I could pay my own rent. They sent me out every day to look for a job. So, I ended up at a pet clinic, which was another cool thing, and I worked there for 12 years. From ’98 through – I forget when I stopped – I was doing the pet clinic and all these bands at the same time. Not only Rhino Bucket, and eventually Kix, I was also doing this Country band called the Snake Handlers, I was doing the Blues band The Purple Band. I was also in a Skynyrd tribute band for a while.

So, I had all this stuff going on, and I had a day job. I took a lot of Fridays off, especially when Kix started playing a lot. I would take Friday off, take the red-eye on Thursday night, play Friday and Saturday with Kix, fly back on Sunday, and then go back to work on Monday. The Rhino Bucket thing, January and February, we’d take off to Europe and do these tours – Kix was on a downtime during those months – so I would take off with Rhino Bucket and do these extended tours. I had to take time off from work every time, and finally, the last year I had that job, we did eight weeks in Europe, and I had to take a leave of absence to do it. While we’re over there, we get booked on Sweden Rock [Festival] in June. So, as soon as I got back at the end of February, I went into our office manager’s office. We couldn’t just do Sweden Rock by itself; we had to book two weeks of gigs around it so we could pay for expenses. So, as soon as I got back from eight weeks in Europe, I had to ask for another two weeks off in June, and they couldn’t do it. They were so cool with me, and she goes, “There’s just no way because the corporate office wouldn’t go for it.” There’s no way she could let me do that without letting other people do it, so the only way I could go in June was to quit my job. But they kept me on as a relief tech, so I could come back and fill in for other people. So, I did that for the next couple of years after that. So, it was really the Rhino Bucket thing that killed the job, but that was my dream – to finally get back to just playing music and not have a day job. The time at that pet clinic was such a cool experience. I love animals. I wouldn’t have traded that experience for anything.

Andrew:
What eventually sparked the Kix reunion in 2003?

Brian:
Well, Steve had Funny Money going at that time, and Ronnie had Blues Vultures, and they were doing shows together. Steve’s band would headline, and Ronnie’s band would open. The club owners, they would pay those guys an extra little bonus if Ronnie would jump up – because it was Steve with Jimmy playing drums. At the end of the night, Ronnie would jump up with them and do some Kix songs, and the crowd would go crazy for it. So, Steve reached out to me to ask me if I would be interested in coming back and doing a surprise thing, where they do the thing where Ronnie would jump up, and all of a sudden, I come running out, too. He’s like, “We could probably get a good bonus for doing that.” So, I said, “Yeah, that’d be cool,” so he put me in touch with the promoter to talk about what I would need to do that. That first, initial gig did not work out because to cover my expenses, my flight; he would have lost money on the deal. But that opened the door. I ended up talking to Steve again, and he goes, “Well, why don’t we just do some things?” That’s what sparked it. So, the holiday shows in 2003 were when we first got back together.

Andrew:
Kix is still a tremendous live act. In fact, when I made it to the M3 Festival, I found the band’s energy and stage presence to be unmatched. Where does that energy come from after all these years?

Brian:
I think it was ingrained early on from those relentless club shows. In fact, there’s one that I talk about, the one where we did five sets a night. We had this weeklong residency at this club, where we’d do five sets a night for six nights. This was back in the Shooze days – well, I think we made it back there as Kix, too, at some point. But in the really early days, when Steve first started with us, we would play this place. It would be packed on the weekends, but then, on Tuesday night, there would be one guy; some drunk guy passed out at the bar. That club owner would make us go on on-time and do all five sets. So, we had to, and there’s no reason to goof off and pretend, “Eh, there’s nobody here,” and pout and play bad. So, we would just play for ourselves and put everything we had into it, whether there was anybody there or not. It just sort of taught us how to do that. I guess we were lucky that we all had that in us, to be able to put one hundred percent no matter what.

Andrew:
Before we wrap up, I must ask you about the origins of the nickname Damage.

Brian:

That was Beau Hill; he came up with that. When I was in elementary school, this one school bus driver we had, she assigned the seats because I guess people were fighting or something. So, there was a little nametag above each window of the bus seats. When she wrote my name, she misspelled it as “Brain,” and people used to make fun of me. When we started doing Midnite Dynamite, Beau started calling me Brain. That was his pet name for me … “Brain, get in there!” It kind of started with that, then one day, I was hungover really bad. I came in, and in the control room, there’s the big soundboard, and in front of the board was a couch. I just went over there and laid on that couch and was laying there moaning. Beau was doing some kind of mixing, but every time he stopped the tape, he heard me go, “Ughhh.” So, at one point, he gets up, walks around, and looks at me. He goes, “Brain. We should call you brain damage!” So, that’s where that came from.

Andrew:
Lastly, Brian, talk about some of your latest endeavors and what’s ahead for Kix.

Brian:
Well, we’re still waiting to get back to work. We have some shows coming up. In May, there’s this drive-in in Frederick where they do outdoor concerts, and you mentioned Penn’s Peak. Then June, so far, every weekend we have something. We’ll see if that happens. I’ve been here by myself at my house, and people will occasionally reach out to me to do some stuff. So, I’ve been doing some of those video things where you record apart, I’ll film myself playing it, and then I submit it. Like this guy Randy Walker has been doing some stuff; I did a couple for him. Currently, I’m recording some songs for this record Eddie Spaghetti from Supersuckers is putting out. He and this guy named Frank Meyer are doing this project together called Spaghetti and Frank. So, I’m playing some songs on that. They’re doing a cover of “Heartache,” which was fun to re-record with them. I record it here at home, and then I send them the tracks.

I do food videos, too. I’ve got this YouTube channel, and I’ll throw out some cooking videos here and there. So, then I partnered up with this guy, and we do these podcasts, and it’s all about keto, carnivore, that whole low-carb way of eating. We have guests on, and it’s just a fun thing we do. “Keto Rocks” is the name of the podcast. I’m also in the process of writing a book. I did it with this guy here in Nashville; I’d go to his place, and he’d record me, interview style. I’m done all that, and now I’m just going through and making corrections. He put it together, and now I’m just making it right. So, it’s still in the process. We don’t have a publisher; we’re thinking of doing a self-published thing because I don’t really know anything about getting a book deal.

Interested in leaning more about Kix? Check out the video 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.
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6 thoughts on “An Interview with Brian Forsythe of KIX

  1. Another interview with a guitarist I teacher for. I actually did the first Japanese tour. And the 2 security guys he mentioned was myself and Jimmy’s drum tech Jeff. Great interview

    1. Wow, Don! Between teching for Britny Fox and Kix I’m sure you have some fun stories from those days. Really appreciate you giving it a read. Hope you’re well!

  2. So much fun to relive the gritty Baltimore bar days with The Shooze. We lived for those weekend gigs at the Sandbar and Seagull, etc. Thanks for the walk down memory lane!

    1. Brian was an absolute pleasure to speak with. Glad we were able to cover so much ground. Thank YOU for reading, Viki!

      Best,

      Andrew

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