'Rock Your Face Off': Kix Guitarists Ronnie Younkins and Brian Forsythe Talk New Album
Two decades can be a long time to wait for a new studio album, but Kix prove the wait was certainly worth it.
Since reuniting in 2003 and adding bassist Mark Schenker to the lineup, Kix have experienced a resurgence in popularity—as well as a passion to create new music. Rock Your Face Off, which was released today, August 5, is the band’s first new studio album in nearly 20 years. It also continues in the band's high-energy tradition.
Produced by Taylor Rhodes, Rock Your Face Off is a collection of blues-inspired rock that combines catchy hooks and tasty riffs with the inspired musicianship and party atmosphere Kix are known for.
Kix consists of Steve Whiteman (vocals), Ronnie Younkins (guitar), Brian Forsythe (guitar), Jimmy Chalfant (drums) and Mark Schenker (bass).
I recently caught up with Younkins and Forsythe to discuss the new album, gear and more.
GUITAR WORLD: How would you describe Rock Your Face Off?
Younkins: It's high-energy rock and roll with hard-driving guitars and bluesy rock solos. Every instrument is present and in your face, and Steve's vocals are better than ever. I'm so proud of this album.
This is the first new studio album from Kix in nearly 20 years. What sparked this project?
Forsythe: When we first reformed at the end of 2003, our intention was to just have fun. We never realized it would take off like it did. But after several years of doing shows around the Baltimore area and expanding out into the country, people started asking us about a record. We knew it was time.
What was the writing and recording process like?
Younkins: It was a different kind of writing environment. Everyone had an input and a say in the music for this album. It was also great having Taylor Rhodes back again. He had worked with us in the past and has a vision for how the band works.
Forsythe: Taylor produced the Hot Wire record and co-wrote a few songs for that album as well as for Blow My Fuse. He really has an inside view of Kix. He’s super easy to work with and a really nice guy. We had a lot of fun working with him.
What can you tell me about the song “Love Me With Your Top Down”?
Younkins: When I first heard the demo, I wasn't sure if it would work, but after we played it and I heard Steve sing it, it turned all around. It sounds just like Kix.
Forsythe: “Love Me With Your Top Down” was one of Mark’s ideas that he put together with Taylor. We had nine or 10 initial songs recorded but needed a few more. That was one of the last songs we worked on.
How about “Rock Your Face Off”?
Forsythe: That was one I brought in. I originally wrote that song for my band, Rhino Bucket. It was going to be on the last record but never got finished. I’m really glad it ended up on this album because it sounds more like a Kix song.
Seeing Kix live is like going to a party. What can you tell me about the atmosphere at a show?
Forsythe: We figured out how to do it early on. Right around the time we got signed, we were playing at this club in southern Maryland. I remember we would sometimes play six nights a week, five sets a night. That was our training ground, and it really taught us to put 100 percent into every performance. No matter what, we always deliver the same show.
What inspired you to start playing guitar?
Younkins: When I was growing up, my dad always had a lot of country music playing, so I’ve always been attracted to the sound of stringed instruments. Then when I was 7, I saw the Beatles on Ed Sullivan. It was February 9, 1964. When I first heard that sound, those two guitars and those songs, it just blew me away. I soon got an acoustic guitar and started taking lessons.
Forsythe: My parents were also huge music fans. We would listen to guys like Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Miles Davis. But once the Beatles came along, it changed everything. I was just a 6-year-old kid but from that point on, guitar was all I thought about.
Who were some of your other influences?
Forsythe: Early on, it was Chuck Berry and then there was Santana and Jimi Hendrix. I also really connected with southern rock. Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top was another guitarist who was a huge influence for me.
Younkins: The Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix were a few of my other original influences. Then there’s Johnny Winter, Joe Perry and Brad Whitford from Aerosmith and the three Kings — Albert, B.B. and Freddie.
One of my favorite Kix songs is “Cold Blood." What can you tell me about it?
Forsythe: That was one of the songs Taylor co-wrote. I remember when I first heard the demo. I loved it right off the bat. In fact, if you asked me what my favorite song to play live is, I would have to say “Cold Blood." There’s just something about it. It always sounds good every night. I feel comfortable playing that song.
What can you tell me about your live setup?
Younkins: I still use my '71 black Les Paul custom as my main guitar. I also use a 1986 Goldtop and a '59 re-issue from 2005. For amps, I use a '79 Marshall 100 Superlead along with a 4x12 Marshall cabinet.
Forsythe: I have a 1972 straight standard 50-watt Marshall I use for indoor shows. It’s the same one I used on the new record. For outdoor shows, I’ll use a JCM900. My main guitar is a ’71 Fender Telecaster with Joe Barden pickups. I also have a 1961 single cutaway, two-pickup Melody Maker. I’ll also bring along a Strat in case we do “Cold Shower” or one of those songs where I’ll need a whammy bar.
What excites you the most about the next chapter of Kix?
Younkins: Getting this new music out and performing for the fans. I like being in the studio and making records but playing live is really what it’s all about. I love playing new songs like "Can't Stop the Show" and "Love Me With Your Top Down". For me, it’s all about the continuous cycle of love and learning and keeping the passion for the music alive.
James Wood is a writer, musician and self-proclaimed metalhead who maintains his own website, GoJimmyGo.net. His articles and interviews are written on a variety of topics with passion and humor. You can follow him on Twitter @JimEWood.
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