"The Strange World of the Baghdaddios"

by Geoff Wilbur
Sponsored In Part By
Try Me?



NOTE: This is the full text of an interview that was edited to fit into the Feb.-Apr. 2001 Industry Edition of Geoff Wilbur's Renegade Newsletter.  (Articles in the Industry Edition do not usually also appear in the Online Edition.)

Enigmatic. Charistmatic. Catchy, punkish rock. The Baghdaddios.

Of course, as frontman Kenn Rowell says, "Letís see......hmmmm......where do I start? OK, how about at the top? We released a 4-song EP in September (sort of a Ďteaserí for the new full-length CD that weíre recording now) with four of our 'harder' tunes on it. To date, about 95 stations across the U.S. and Canada have ordered it and we havenít even pitched it overseas yet, but some stations in Eastern Europe and Russia have actually stumbled across our web site and ordered a copy from us. Weíve scaled back on our live shows for now -- occasionally if thereís a venue too good to pass up weíll do it -- while we finish the recording. The video for one of the songs ('This Job Sucks') is in post production and already somebody from the College Television Network has promised us that theyíll air it, sight unseen. Someone from Much Music South America has expressed interest in it, and thereís some interest by 'Channel 5,' a music video station that features indie bands in the UK. We just got done with our 4th annual Blank-Fest. Thatís the benefit show that we organize and MC every year; itís held in Nyack, New York... the town where I grew up and still have family there... to raise blankets for New York Cityís homeless. This year was our best one yet -- we raised 200 blankets! And weíve been invited to play at two music festivals in Europe! Thereís this one show in Macedonia -- but Iím not sure weíll be done recording by March, which is when itís set to go off. However thereís this other 'event' in Scotland... and we have a promotor whoís been dying to book us at a really nice club in South London... it would be in the late fall and if we do go over we would work a mini-tour around the festival. Thereís also the possibility of a few shows in Sweden... but more on that later. And, of course, as always, weíll be playing at the New York City Marathon. We just love that gig!!!

When asked about the beginnings of his performing career, Kenn stammers a little, "Oh, geez, man... uh... as my Mom once said, 'You were performing when you came out of the womb' What can I say? Iíve always needed the attention, I guess. Pretty pathetic when you think about it. But seriously? Music? I was about 17 and I was tired of watching my older cousin get girls with his music. I said, 'Well that beats sitting on the soccer teamís bench...' Really, I wanted to be the next centerfielder for the Mets until I wrote my first song -- now my goal is to do a punk version of the National Anthem the next time the Mets are in the World Series... I think.

"And how has that lead me to where I am today? Absolutely by accident. I mean, I really donít know. I was out on a date last night and I got the same kinda question -- I had no problem answering it for her... then again, she was cute. No disrespect intended, man. I told her that itís really strange. What started out, innocently, as me sitting on my bed and writing a song for some girl I had a 'thing' for evolves eventually into me writing a bunch of songs, showing them to some friends who also play music, working out an arrangement, playing out for some people. But then the club owners are like 'Do you know any Bon Jovi?' and Iím like 'You gotta be kidding, right man?' So then I started hanginí in the Village and the booking guys are going 'Hey your band is pretty good, but unless you start bringing people in we canít book you.' Oh, so how do we get people to come out and see us? Well, having your stuff played on the radio or reviewed in the papers wouldnít hurt. Oh, OK. So then we start recording. But no one is playing tapes anymore so now we have to put it out as a CD. And, hell, we canít put out a CD without a series of shows to promote it, and a video, and dudes in the press to review it. Next thing you know, what started as me banging out a few chords on my older sisí accoustic guitar has become this lifetime cycle of writing, recording, and playing tons of shows. Iíve learned tons of things I never wanted to learn about this business -- radio, bookings, promotions, touring, production, photography, lighting, web design, merchandising -- God, you name it. But oddly enough I wouldnít trade a second of it for anything in the world.

"OK, Iíll get off the cross. Honestly there are tons of hassles involved but when you have a good show or when you get a really supportive e-mail from some Music Director out in Milwaukee or someone stops you in the street to tell you that they really like your CD then, oh big surprise here, all that petty stuff doesnít seem so annoying any more."

So what's behind the music? Kenn quips, "We used to say that weíre one of the few bands that have been influenced more by Comedy Central than MTV. I mean, címon, what the hell do we have in common with Britney Spears or NSync? Hopefully not much. Really man, I grew up on my parentsí Beatles and Stones records. Know all that old stuff; even visited where Buddy Hollyís plane went down -- Clearlake, Iowa -- while we were doiní a few things in the Midwest. Itís all interconnected, you know? I mean, I listen to old Les Paul stuff and I wouldnít necessarily go overboard on it, but I can still respect someone who started playing guitar before there were electric instruments and then pioneered the whole multi-tracking studio technique. Itís like, without Les Paul there is no Buddy Holly; without Buddy Holly or Chuck Berry there is no Beatles or Rolling Stones; .without the Beatles or the Stones there is no Zepplin or Sabbath; and then the Pistols, DK or the Clash... or Cheap Trick for that matter. And without them you have no Nirvana, Pearl Jam, STP or Green Day. And finally without those guys you donít get Coal Chamber, Lit or Limp F**king Bizkit!

"All those bands -- at one point or another -- have influenced us, and there are even more... the fact that Iíve always been interested in history and have read up on it creeps in every now and then. For instance, we did a song for a real super, super independent film -- that youíll never see, even on cable... at 4 in the morning -- called Everyoneís A King. Basically I wrote it while working a real B.S. temp job, where every little supervisor or office assistant acted like they were sovereigns over their five square feet of space: 'Kneel, knave, I am lord ruler of this cubicle'... I mean, come on, no one is really in control. But they think they are. Thatís the rub. Everyone thinks theyíre a king... or a queen, whatever. But anyway I wrote this one line 'Bigger kings with bigger plans can bend their little finger and youíre gone...' and eveyone is like 'Oh, you writing about shooting someone?' No. It was a direct reference to Josef Stalin saying about Marshall Tito: 'I will bend my little finger and Tito will be no more' (or something like that). I was out driving around with this girl from Yugoslavia and when I told her that it was like her mind was blown, she was like 'How does an American know about Tito?' Hey, I told her, itís not like weíre only into game shows and getting high. I mean, on occasion we do pick up a book, you know? I mean, Iím a punker but I do have a brain. And a conscience.

"My olí man, believe it or not, has also had a profound influence on me. Itís not like he ever played an instrument or was in a band, but he was a thinker. And heís also one of the hippest cats Iíve ever met. Totally into that jazz hep-speak way of putting things. He used to tell me when Iíd call home 'Be cool... but donít freeze.' How hip is that? Thereís a line in 'Everyone Breaks The Rules,' which is on our first CD, where I say 'Saw some guilty mutha get put back out on the street... because of some jive technicality.' Man thatís got my olí man all over it."

So... an eclectic set of influences? "Try schizophrenic," corrects Kenn.

Any big gigs on the Baghdaddios' resume? Says Kenn, "Actually, weíve been quite lucky in the respect that weíve rubbed elbows with some mighty fine talent. Remeber that itsy-bitsy indie film that I was telling you about? Well, there was another band on that soundtrack that we ended up getting to know quite well when we both played at the screening party, down at this little Goth club on Houston Street. Yeah, yeah, I know... us at a Goth Club? What a joke; but, hey, most of the film people werenít into that scene either and it did provide a cool backdrop for our kind of stuff. Anyway, right after we did that show they were signed by Epic. Ever hear of emmet swimming? [Read some back issues of GWRN and you'll see some reviews of at least one PMC gig and a recording or two -- they're one of our favorite bands. -GW] Great band... and great guys too. Got all their CDs. Itís too bad theyíre not more widely known. I was hanginí out on a beach with my girlfriend in North Carolina, and I saw this guy jogging along the surf with an emmet swimming t-shirt and I was like 'Homeboy!' The guy mustíve thought I was nuts.

"Then there was the time that we opened for Fates Warning, but only because the club owner needed big bin speakers and our drummer had a set that he would let them use. That was a pretty good experience. Here they are, this national act, out on tour and yet they were really complimentary to us and our tunes. They were like 'I like that one about the 'stupidest guy'' and all we could do was stammer out a 'thank you.' And the crowd? All these little girls in their cutoff heavy metal t-shirts chain smoking and getting into all these heavy, heavy bands, and then here comes this goofy little punk band from Nyack; it was really pretty comical. But hey, we made a good buck or two, opened for F.W. and didnít get stomped. All in all, I would say it was a good night.

"And we canít forget Patti Rothberg. Long before she signed with EMI-Capitol, long before she toured with the Black Crowes in Japan or appeared on Letterman, Leno or MTV, she was with this all-girl group called Thrust. During one of The Baghdaddios' first shows at C.B.'s we were on the same bill with her and, I have to admit, I fell for her from the start. I mean, sheís the consumate artist -- gentle, mega-intelligent, as great a songwriter as she is a guitarist and vocalist. And despite all her successes, she never got full of herself for one instant. Ever. I called her right after she got signed and we talked for hours. And here it is, five years later and weíve been lucky enough to have her play at the Blank-Fest; her and Freddy -- her boyfriend and producer -- have been up to my place in lower Manhattan. We watched The Fly -- the original one with that 'help me... help me' thing going on -- and drank some white zinf and talked about the 'good olí days' -- the early í90s. I just got her new CD' and I canít understand why some 'suit' out there in record-company land doesnít just scoop her up and put her back in the mainstream where she belongs. Iíve always felt honored to have shared the stage with her.

"Then there are some great bands that you might not have heard of but are pretty awesome just the same. Mary Ann Farley is a singer-songwriter who self-produces her own CDs, a la Ani DiFranco. She got a great write-up in Billboard a few years back and is still going strong. We played at a music festival at Marywood University in Scranton, and I invited her, immediately, to the very next Blank-Fest. Thereís Joe DíUrso and Stone Caravan, who sells shows out all over Europe and Asia, but you may never hear of him here because everyoneís trying to find the next Korn or Backstreet Boys. Man, Iím telling you the guy is rock 'n roll. We used to gig with another band called "The Good Fall," who would end up changing their name, like, every other week, it seemed. One night the bouncer at this local club ended up picking a fight with the lead singer. I know he didnít do anything -- I was there. The first thing the promoter does is turn to us and say "Can you guys do two sets tonight?" So here we are, helping these guys carry their equipment back to the car -- kind of awkward, you know? Well, they start playing clubs down in the Village and who walks in one night to check Ďem out? Ric Ocasek. Next thing you know "The Good Fall" is now "Johnny Bravo," and their debut CD is out on Arista. The same night I saw Patti on the Tonight Show I see Johnny Bravo on Conan. Man, that was wild! Thereís also this pretty tight power-pop band with us here in NYC called Box of Birds. They were signed to Hilfiger Records last year, and weíre waiting on their first CD. They put on a spectacular show. Thereís the band that Iím going to see tonight called Mighty Joe -- theyíve got the power-pop thing down, too. Been scouted -- so far -- by Geffen Records, so you know theyíve got it going on. At one point or another Iíve been able to rope in nearly all of the above to play at one or more of the Blank-Fest shows. Oh, yeah, almost forgot -- I used to work with this guy who was in the band White Trash. They were out on A&M, and he had his own band called Cosmic Box. They were pretty cool -- got them to do the Blank-Fest too. Same with Mike McGinnis, another guy I worked with who is one of the best young jazz arrangers, writers and saxophonists in the City. Heís toured with the Dorsey Orchestra and hung with Ravi Coltrane, whom I met. What a blast that was.

"We even had a bassist who used to live with Kenneth Keith Kallenbach of Howard Stern infamy. Met him a couple of times too. (Does the Kenneth Keith voice) 'Yeah... hey man, you wanna get me a beer?' Her name is Rebecca, and she was super cool to hang with. Too bad she didnít like living in NYC -- if youíre listening, 'Becks, we still love yaí!

"The club where we have the Blank-Fest, Bruxelles in Nyack, is co-owned by a guy named Chuck DeBruyn. He was the lead singer for a band that was voted the best unsigned band in New York in 1989. They were called "The Horse You Rode In On" and they used to kick ass. Used to sneak into the clubs to see them play. Never seen a bad show by 'em. We were lucky enough to share some stage time with them as well. I mean, God, got a few hours... it seems like every time I think Iíve told you everything I remember another heavy hitter that I gotta tell you about. I guess, in this biz, if you hang around long enough, you will meet your share of talented people. My feeling is 'Hey, not bad for a mailmanís son from Nyack.'"

Enough about the notable people -- whew! How about notable events? Says Kenn, "Well, for openers we wrote and recorded a song for the Westwood One nationally-syndicated radio program, Ferrall On The Bench. I couldnít believe it when I started getting calls from, like, relatives in Arizona, saying 'We heard your song, man.' It was unreal. Never talked to Scotty directly, but his producer Max was super-cool. Getting our music into a film -- no matter how small-scale -- is quite a kick, too. Recently we had, if you can believe this, uh, are you ready? -- a gay, public access, cable soap opera called Strange Fruit use our songs on their show, plus they used two of them to make some pretty funky music videos for their network. They also just got sponsored for a film by, I believe, Time Warner, and they want our music for that as well. Just recently BestBuys.com sponsored us for playing at the New York City Marathon. We were approached, out of the blue, by the NYC Roadrunners Club, and we practically leaped at the chance to play for something like that. The best part about being in this band is that we all love playing for playingís sake -- it didnít matter that we didnít get paid for it. We never expected to be either -- thatís why itís so cool that now weíre getting a few bucks from Best Buys for what we do.

"A few years back someone used us in a local Zima adverisement -- you know, "Bold New Taste/Bold New Band"? I remember at the time that the person who set that up told me that none of the bands down in The Village wanted to let Zima sponsor them because it was perceived to be a "trendy, yuppie drink." My feeling was like 'Yuppie, Schmuppie -- itís a malt beverage, got a higher alcohol content than most beers, it tastes good, and itís undetectable on a breathalyzer -- kids, donít try this at home.' Plus, I dated a girl with the same last name -- I havenít seen her to talk to in years, but Iím still drinking this stuff. Weíve also been one of the 'featured' acts on The Village Voiceís 'Best Bets' where they highlight our bandís name and tell their readers to check us out. That kind of stuff. Not to mention the tons of interviews weíve done with foreign radio stations; sometimes they end up calling me while Iím at work! And it never hurts when we get invited to all these foreign music festivals and shows. A couple of years ago I was sitting in a bar in New Haven, and I struck up a conversation with a Swedish professor who was staying at Yale for the year. He really liked our music and bought a couple of CDs off me and asked for my e-mail address. Well, it took him two years, but he just e-mailed me the other day and asked me if Iíd like to bring the band over to Sweden to do some shows for their university. Theyíre talking about paying all our expenses and then really taking care of us for our time and effort. What amazes me is that weíve done all this without any effective management or organization. Hey, cool with me. If the 'suits' donít want to catch on, thatís fine -- we just get to keep all the money."

So, without any suits involved, The Baghdaddios have handled the release of their material, as Kenn puts it, "out of the trunk of my Neon?"

"Seriously," he continues, "when youíre working with a limited budget you can only afford to press a thousand or two of your release. Mostly we attack through college radio. I really wish I had this system down for our first CD (Willie Horton Hears A Who, 1997). Back then I would be tooling about on the Ďnetí after a rehearsal and if I found a college radio stationís site I would just slip an e-mail to Ďem and see what happens. No game plan, no set way of asking. Sometimes they would respond, sometimes they wouldnít. Look, we would love to have a nice big label say 'Kids, weíre going to make you rich and famous' I mean, who wouldnít? But letís be real. Iíve worked at a couple of major labels. Iím 29 -- most A&R guys will tell you that they really stop looking at you when youíre about 28.

"Does that mean we have to pack it in? Hell no! There are plenty of niches that we can fill. The one thing that Iíve learned by working at a major label is that thereís stupid money to be made in this biz. Is money the be all and end all? No, man, of course not! If I really wanted to make some coin I wouldíve learned 'Feelings' or 'Copacabana' and joined a wedding band. My sister got married a few years back, and my parents priced wedding bands -- whoa, man, some of Ďlower rentí ones were getting 1-K per musician. For a couple of hours? Some of these bands do two or more weddings a day. Letís do some math here -- you could end up making well into six figures if you really bust your ass. But why bother? Hey, I have an MBA in Finance; I could also get loaded down on Wall Street if I so chose... well, maybe not anymore. Guess since Iíve concentrated on music for so long Iím sure all these yuppies donít consider me 'fast-tracked' anymore.

"No, man, itís not about the money. But letís face it, I got to eat, right? Someday Iíd love to share my life with the right woman, maybe bring a few kids into this world. Canít raise kids on free beer and chips. So, yeah, truth be told, I -- just like every other posturing, pain-in-the-ass local musician -- would love to get a Ďdeal.í But at what price? I had a couple of people approach me in the last few years and start in with 'You know, I can make you a lot of money if youíll change your music around' or 'If you get rid of this guy or that guy we can talk,' and Iím like 'Beat it.' You know what? The Baghdaddios are my family. I love these guys. I ainít goiní anywhere without them and they ainít goiní anywhere without me.

"As far as the music is concerned, sure Iíll change my music, but the change has to come naturally... sort of an evolution. Someone Iím kinda interested in (dating-wise) told me that 'the punk thing has been done to death.' Oh really? So thereís no more disenfranchised people out there? No more teenage kids who feel that everyoneís trying to get up in their grill? No more people who feel like everything sucks so why bother? Hey, just because you donít feel angry anymore doesnít mean there isnít anger out there. Thatís where Iím at right now. Hey, Iím stuck in traffic, my girl just left me for some fluff with an Ivy League crest on his cardigan and the Giants lost the Super Bowl. Sorry to rain on everyoneís parade, but, sometimes, life sucks! And thatís what I write about. Donít worry, folks, there will be a time when I step back from the body of my work and say 'OK, Iím just writing angry because this is my profession.' At that point Iíll either find a new way to express myself or stop writing. But punk rock isnít some trendy fashion that you just discard when it isnít on the cover of Spin anymore, like a passe grunge flannel shirt. There will always be an outlet for true, unbridled emotion. We need that cathartic release. And, eventually, with that release comes acceptance or some way of looking inward; then we start embellishing our style. Hey, Iíve actually written some of my favorite stuff outside of the whole 'three chords and punt' style, and Iíve left it off Willie Horton on purpose because we just felt that it wouldnít Ďfit.í But already the next CD is getting a little less Ďfunnyí and a little more 'OK, how did a former alter boy end up writing this angry stuff?' The CD that I can hardly wait to do is the one after the one that weíre recording now. Thatís the one that will end up tying up a lot of loose ends. But to just sell out and put something out that everyone thinks will sell because of some damned marketing focus group or some listener survey is just pure ca-ca. Hey, how many focus groups could forsee the whole Seattle thing? That came completely out of left field. MTV did everything it could not to play 'Teen Spirit'... until they premiered it on something like 120 Minutes and the public went 'Ah ha!' Thirteen million copies later, a revolution was forged. Cleared out a lot of corporate-generated Ďpapí and made way for a whole new generation of corporate-generated, grunge-flavored Ďpapí, sure, but it was nice for awhile.

"Again, letís face it, weíre not tall, handsome, our parents don't work in the Ďbizí and we have our collective ages working against us. At this point if we did get signed it would be a long-shot, and even if we did 'make it' our window wouldnít be that big."

Sure, there are older rockers, but Kenn continues his rant, "Yeah, look at the Stones. Never forget that they all were about, what, 21, 22, when they made it. We all grew up with the Stones as already established 'rock stars.' There was already name recognition and every record exec on the planet knew that if they put out a disc by the Stones that somewhere there is an already strong and loyal core market thatís going to pick it up even if it were just Mick and Keith farting the National Anthem. You can't lose. And that's the secret. Everything is so predicated on the bottom line that most record companies canít afford to take too many chances. Each new revolution always spawns its share of knock-offs. Some are pretty good, too, but you can see that the 'suits' are checking their formulas very carefully. At this point, unless Iíve made a terribly shallow assumption, no matter how good this band or our material is, weíve got a better chance of hitting the lotto than getting, say, Atlantic Records to take a flier on us. Hey, I really wish I were wrong. But itís OK. Indie is the way for us to go. The Internet has provided us with an effective means of reaching an international audience without leaving the Lower East Side. Iíve seen some pretty cool developments in the last few years. Where it takes us, who knows? But I know that, in one capacity or another, we will be writing and recording music for the next 15 to 20 years, minimally. We will grow with what loyal following we have gotten so far, and when itís all said and done we will have a ton of songs on several CDs, music videos and live recordings to look back on. With any luck at all some may find their way into the mainstream via a Hollywood soundtrack, or some future contribution to a compilation disc. Never underestimate the power of the foreign market. Iíve seen a boat-load of good performers blow the doors off venues all over Europe and elsewhere overseas, but they canít get arrested here because theyíre not Justin Timberlake. But Iíve seen some of the 'stars' overseas. For every Fabio-looking type there are these short, ethnic-looking guys with honkers that wonít quit. In short, guys like me! Even the American success stories are insane. Look how long it took Metallica to throw off that 'cult band' rep and finally emerge as a powerhouse mega-group. They did it the hard way -- tons of shows; work, work, work. And -- some may argue with this -- they never compromised. At least I donít think they compromised. All my high school friends who bitch about them selling out donít seem to get it. Thereís only so many times you can write 'Master of Puppets.' As great as it was (and still is) itís time to move on -- you know: been there, done that. 'Load' was the inevitable next step. Hey I love 'Until It Sleeps' or 'It Ainít My Bitch.' Please, sooner or later we have to try something new.

"So, in answer to you question? Sure, weíre looking for a record deal, but if one never comes along, so what? In the end we will be known as a fun band with catchy songs, fine production, damn good packaging with an energetic, power-packed show. Other than the stretch limos, trophy wives and the zillions of dollars, what more could you want from being in a band?"

When looking to the future, Kenn says, "Well, first and foremost I want to go over the 100-station mark in North America for our EP. While I know thatís a only a drop in the bucket I would still feel better going into the spring knowing that we had 100 stations under out belt. Next up? Finish the new CD. Hey, we would then have 100 stations here that are already spinning our tunes. Itís sort of like a softball lob to the plate -- 'Hey guys, want a follow up?' 'Duh... sure.' Then we just have to do the same with overseas radio, get that music vid out to whoever will air it and start booking tons of shows. We love colleges because there you donít have to have an intense pedigree to get them to listen to you. If youíre good, theyíll rock with you. If you suck, donít worry, theyíll let you know it. It keeps you very real. Finally, we may have a few mini-tours in the offing -- you know, England/Scotland, Sweden. Recently Diego Martinez of www.labelrecord.com was in from his native Buenos Aires to scout some New York City bands for the hell of it. He took a real fine liking to us and went back to Argentina with a cache of our CD. Just yesterday I got an e-mail saying that there might be some interest in bringing The Baghdaddios down to South America. And, of course, my feeling is 'Bring it on!' Hey, where else can a guy who knows three chords get a chance to travel and meet interesting people for free and not have to kill them? Damn straight it beats being in the army."

Kenn has a bit more difficulty describing what has given him the most satisfaction. "Oh God, thatís a tough one," he says. "You see, I get so much satisfaction out of the little things that I could fill an entire edition with the answer to that one. 'Firsts' are really nice -- you know, the first time they played one of my songs on a radio station. I remember I was still living at home at the time, and even my parents got off on that. That was a good feeling. Any time we connect with a crowd is cool. Once we appeared on some local cable program and I remember being out with this girl, and somebody came up to me and said 'Saw you on television last night,' and I got to go, 'Oh, that...' Playing Penn State was a trip. The time we played the BMG Talent Show at The Hammerstein in New York was a great thrill. Paul, our drummer, turned to me -- right before we went on -- and said 'I just want you to know that Iím going to remember this moment for the rest of my life.' Considering that he had toured England with his last band, that meant a lot to me. Overall, I think Iím happiest with the whole notion that I followed through on most of what I wanted to do, albeit on a much smaller scale than most people would determine as being 'successful,' but I never quit. So many people talk a good game -- 'Music is the most important thing in my life' -- yeah, yeah, until you play your fifth show and donít get paid, and then the next thing you know Thursday afternoon softball league is more interesting to you. There are so many people that are way more talented than I who have dropped by the wayside simply because they just couldnít follow through. Hey, ever see Ed Wood? That guy did everything to get his movies made; heíd cast some benefactorís son in a key role; heíd baptize his entire production company at some born-again church just to get the church to put up the money to fund the production. I used to say, angorra sweators not withstanding, that I was the 'Ed Wood of alternative music.' I always said that I would rather sell a kidney to get my next CD produced rather than quit. Still feel that way. You wonít find me eating my corn flakes with scotch when Iím in my 30ís saying 'I should have... I should have.'

"As far as a special accomplishment or moment, well, Iíll leave you with one of each. Since Iíve been 17 I couldnít picture anything else I would rather do with my life other than to bang on a guitar and scream into a microphone. Then, about four years ago, while staying at my girlfriendís apartment I came up with the idea for the first Blank-Fest. Really simple when you think of it -- have a concert, get a bunch of your music friends to play for free, the price of admission is one blanket. Thatís it. And on Christmas Eve I drive around with some friends and hand out the blankets to the homeless in New York City. Simple, easy, direct -- from those who have to those who have not. I told my therapist at the time -- is this sounding too 'Hollywood' for you? -- I remember telling him that, for the first time in my life, I finally have seen proof positive of a life after rock Ďn roll. Hey, if I could figure out a way of helping the homeless as a lifetime gig that would be just fine with me. Then, one day, when I feel retarded doiní this whole up-on-the-stage thing I could just fade into the woodwork and make sure that people who were freezing got blankets, or people who were starving got something to eat. Why not? Iím always bitching about things. For the first time in my life I have the chance to actually affect some sort of change. You may not read about it in Rolling Stone, but Iíll be living it. And thatís good enough for me.

"As far as 'special moments' is concerned, I remember it was a few years back, we were playing C.B.G.B.'s on a Thursday night. Now anytime you play C.B.'s is a special moment in itself. The place oozes history. And I just like the place, pure and simple. But this night in particular I had just gotten back from vacation. We were going on after this really hot band fronted by some really talented chicks. Man, they had the moves down -- the whole feedback at the end of their songs routine, the hair whipping... in short, they were everything that we werenít. And I remember sliding into a small funk about it. And let me tell you there is nothing as unforgiving as one of those 'too-cool-to-clap' Village crowds. We take the stage, I take a swig of beer, and we lurch into our set. I have this show on tape so I go back every now and then and listen to it. The first song ends, and it sounds like only the sound guy is clapping. Same with the second... and the third... but somewhere around the fifth song we notice that people start to really get into the music. One thing I also forgot to point out is, because I was away on vacation up until 18 hours before the show, I didnít have a chance to beat the bushes, so to speak; you know, call up my friends and get them out to the club. I believe we brought in a negative amount of people, if you know what I mean. In other words, anybody there doesnít know who we are, and -- up until midway through our set -- could give two hoots in hell about us. But by the end of the set, we could hear Ďem whistling and stompiní their feet -- we had won over an apathetic too-cool crowd with just sheer boundless enthusiasm and some beer-soaked rock Ďn roll. And that, my friend, was one of the best moments Iíve ever had. Period."

After all that, the only thing Kenn felt he left out was, "Weíre all chemists. And maybe the addresses for our web site and the Blank-Fest -- www.bestweb.net/~bagthis and www.blankfest.org. Seriously, though, after all this babbling do you really want to open this can of worms?"

Good point, of course, but I was being polite. And in closing?

Adds Ken, "No prob, man. Itís all good. So, does that mean youíll renew my subscription to the Renegade for free?"

Always the comedian, Kenn is. Plays good ol' fun rock 'n roll music, though. Worth checking out if you like to enjoy yourself.


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