This year will go down as a banner year for Killinger, who released a hard-rocking debut album and shared stages with the likes of Lynch Mob and Stryper.
The Canadian foursome have brought their '80s-infused rock/metal sound to audiences in the US and plan to go abroad next year.
Killinger singer David Williams and guitarist Kevin Morin recently told Guitar World about their band that could ... and did.
"Kevin and I were kind of working together here and there in bars," Williams said. "When I wasn't playing, I would DJ, and his band would come in every once in a while to do a song. Kevin said to me, 'One day we're going to work together.' I never really thought much of it. Then I get a call one day and surprisingly it's Kevin asking if I wanted to meet and talk business. So Kevin told me what his plan was, and everything he said was exactly what I wanted to do. And then what I said was exactly everything he wanted to do. So we shook hands. Then it was just a matter of recruiting some people."
Soon after, the singer and guitarist found their drummer, Chris Challice.
"He's a great drummer," Williams said, "and he's got personality for days. Chris is great. Plus, looking like Steven Tyler, it gets us a lot of free stuff."
Killinger took its name from original member RJ Killinger, who was the band's bassist before Justin Craig.
"What happened was RJ just had a baby," Morin said. "His wife was going to deliver right at the time the tour was scheduled, so he had to bow out. As of now, Justin's still playing with us. I think RJ's been busy with his new-father role, so we haven't planned any new gigs with him. Justin's now -- to put it bluntly -- the bass player in the band. And there are certainly no hard feelings about it, and RJ is cool with the fact that we're carrying on with his name. It's a good name for a band. It has a bit of a ring to it."
Williams, Killinger's exuberant frontman, sings with a voice and range like that of Stryper's Michael Sweet. Aptly, Williams and his bandmates' first outing in the States was with the Christian metal pioneers this last September.
"That's a damn fine compliment, sir," Williams said upon hearing my Sweet comparison. "That's actually where I started singing. At about 18, I had moved from Edmonton to Vancouver to chase a girl. It happened to be the first girl I fell in love with. She had met another guy named Dave, and I'm trying to woo her back, and it just wasn't happening. This other Dave actually had a vehicle and at 18, I don't have anything.
"I got a pair of running shoes. I was down in the dumps, I'm in Vancouver, and I got a couple of roommates. Other than that, I have no idea of what I'm going do. Just feeling really down in the dumps and discovered this band, Stryper. I wouldn't say it was necessarily the God factor, it was just what was in the lyrics that kind of made me feel better about the situation I was in, and that there was a light at the end of the tunnel. So that whole uplifting thing they brought to their music really helped me out of the bad situation and I ended up just naturally singing along with the songs until I had to sing all of Yellow and Black Attack, I had to sing all of Soldiers (Under Command) and all of In God We Trust. That's basically where my voice kind of stems from, is Michael Sweet. After that it would be a little Sebastian Bach and Klaus Mein."
It was Morin who got in touch with Stryper's management to make the tour happen.
"I always enjoyed Oz Fox's playing," Morin says. "And Michael Sweet's voice and his guitar playing is great. I took a chance and got in touch with their manger, and things just took off from there. We managed to get a spot opening for them. We drove like 10,000 kilometers from Canada down to Tampa. I guess the most Northern part of the tour was Pennsylvania, and ended up back in Georgia. It was a great tour. We're not a Christian band by any means, but we're very much into connecting with the audience, and they, I think, sensed that. It was a great experience. We got to know the guys from Stryper. And despite the fact that we're not a "Christian" band, per se, we came off good friends after it all."
Killinger, the band's debut album, was released in August 2011.
Morin recalls, "Working with Dave, I said, 'This sounds great.' Not to sound arrogant, you know, narcissistic or anything, but I was really happy with the sound of the CD at the end of day. It sounds huge, and we wanted to do our best to get it out there to the people and let them hear it. Yeah, it was kind of surprising. I didn't think it was going to turn out as well as it did."
The album features guitar phenom George Lynch (Dokken, Lynch Mob) on the track "Never Change." Morin tells of how getting Lynch to play on the album came about.
"It really came about because of our producer, Rick Plester, who is an outstanding guitar player in his own right. He's touring right now with Blaze Bayley, formerly of Iron Maiden, who used to be the vocalist when Bruce Dickinson exited there for a while. Rick had done some work with George, also with Michael Schenker. He put us in contact with George, so he was a key player in getting that relationship going with him. We recorded "Never Change" in the studio and he said, 'You know, that song would be perfect to have George play on.' And I thought, "That would totally blow me away if he really would." And he goes, 'Well, why don't we ask him?' It was like a dream come true," Morin says.
"We're just big fans of George, so to have him on the album is a really surreal thing," Williams adds. "I could not believe it; since 14 years old, I was a huge Dokken fan. It's a great solo. George doesn't put everything on the beat. It's a beat behind, so you're waiting to see where he's going to go next. I never get tired of listening to it. It's really special when I get to hear my voice and right after it's George playing. It's special for the whole band. It's like winning the World Series and wearing that World Series ring," the singer says proudly.
"George has always been one of my faves too," Morin says. "Forever. He and Eddie Van Halen were the first two guitar players that inspired me to pick up the guitar and practice for hours on end. I always loved George's tone. I still do. It's one of the reasons I use, exclusively, Randall now. It was, once again, a bunch of fortunate circumstances that resulted in us working together. He's a great guy and a really nice guy to talk to. We were able to do a little tour with Lynch Mob a while back, and it was a fantastic experience. We really enjoyed it."
Morin's guitar playing is vibrant, teeming with influences of rock's finest axe-men, both past and present.
"Kevin's unbelievable, Williams declares. "He's got so many influences. When I watch him warm-up all that stuff just flows out of him.
He's a monster player. He's got a monstrous presence onstage too. He's very much the "axe-wielder." It goes right with Killinger. Axe-wielding: Killinger. Sounds about right (laughs). Actually, If you punch Kevin in the nose, blood doesn't come out. Actually, metal comes out. Rock and roll metal. Every guitar riff in metal comes pouring out of his nose (laughs)."
"I got my first Kiss record at 6 years old," Williams says. "I went to see my first Kiss concert at 8. By 12 or 13 I got my first Motley Crue record. With everything else that was sprinkled in between that my brother would throw at me. When I got my first Kiss record I knew there was something going on but it wasn't until I was 14 or 16 that there was a path that was set out for me. And I come from a hockey family. I got permanent dents in my shins from hockey sticks and stuff. So I'm like the only musician in the hockey family."
"That's the thing about this band: in order to connect to our fans we have to connect well with amongst ourselves," Morin says soberly. "I think we have a really good working relationship. When you go on a tour with a band over ten-thousand kilometers [laughs], you really find out how everybody ticks. It can either be something that works out or a complete disaster. Or, somewhere in between. But it worked out very well, and I think we have a tight unit that works very well together.
"I think during the recording process, though Chris [Challice] wasn't with us, when we recorded the album, we had Black n' Blue and Michael Schenker drummer, Pete Holmes, playing with us at that time. Chris came on later because Pete was busy. We needed someone who could tour with us. We wanted someone who would work well with us and Justin's the same way. We're all pretty laid back and we enjoy the music, and we enjoy connecting with the fans. That's what it comes down to.
"We're going to start touring in spring and we're going to start working on our second album," he continues. "Playing live -- we enjoy that so much. I think that's what we want to focus on in the new year, is playing more. Hopefully we'll have that opportunity. There is a definitely a need for melodic music out there that offers energy to a listener's ear. That's what we try and do and create songs that are certainly more memorable, I suppose. That's reflected in some of the reaction that we get at our shows. People like the melodies. We're going to keep doing that. It's the type of music that at the end of it you don't want to go out and blow up a car (laughs)."
"Most of the songs on there are arena songs," Williams affirms of the Killinger album. "That's pretty much with any band, but it really is something different with the way we execute the songs live. We do, very much, celebrate our influences through our music and through our writing. It's mainly because we don't have enough cab fare to get out of the '80s (laughs)."
Photo: Kori Deby