With a week off from pre-production rehearsals for the new SLASH album, TODD KERNS graciously spoke with BraveWords.com as he sipped his morning coffee, requisite guitar on lap. Instead of relaxing or going on a brief vacation during this rare time off, Todd has booked a series of shows in Canada. The first two – on November 22nd in Regina, SK at The Artful Dodger, and November 23rd in Calgary, AB at Marquee – see Todd joining forces with Slash drummer Brent Fitz, as well as professional wrestler and FOZZY singer Chris Jericho in a Canadian classic rock covers group named COVERBOY.
“Coverboy is new, but not that new, that’s the funniest thing about it,” remarks Todd. “Fitz and Jericho did this once a long time ago… they called it Coverboy and it was the same thing – KIM MITCHELL and APRIL WINE – a bizarre group of Canadian cover tunes. It was either a Junos thing or a Grey Cup thing several years ago. Fitz and I have done several since; we brought in (guitarist) Reed from ZUCKERBABY, he’s playing the Calgary show with us. Rik Emmett (from TRIUMPH) got up, and Billy Duffy from THE CULT, and we just played Canadian stuff. Then we started doing these yearly Cancer benefit things in Winnipeg; me and Fitz with (guitarist) Cory Churko from SHANIA TWAIN and KELLY CLARKSON, and (bassist) Spider from STREETHEART and LOVERBOY - just the four of us. One year we had John-Angus from THE TREWS play guitar cause Cory couldn’t make it. We always threw it out to Jericho, but of course Jericho is a proper celebrity; he’s got shit going on. These dates came up, and we wanted to do a string of them. Jericho was only available for two; but it’s going to be awesome. It’s five transplanted Canadian guys, except for Spider who still lives in Winnipeg; and Reed still lives in Calgary, but the rest of us are all living in The States and worldwide with our careers. It’s fun to be very specific about it like, ‘Are you guys going to do any AC/DC?’ No, we’re going to play TROOPER and ALDO NOVA. When you get the right setting, like a Grey Cup party, which is a very, very Canadian experience, it should be celebrated with Canadian music.”
Following the Coverboy gigs, Todd will play three solo acoustic shows in Canada: November 24th in Calgary, AB at The Trop, November 27th in Winnipeg, MB at Palamino Club, and November 28th in Vancouver, BC at The Roxy. “I love doing the acoustic thing. My plan was to put the solo band together and go across the country, but the Slash pre-production and recording schedule amped up a lot quicker than we expected. Actually, it should have been exactly as I expected, ‘cause that’s the way things work in that camp. Things get rocking before you’re ready for them. So we just threw some acoustic shows in there while we were at it, ‘cause they’re fun. I’m always happy to make my way to Calgary, Winnipeg and Vancouver, which were a big part of my history. The cool thing about being in Canada is it opens up the entire catalogue even more. Regardless of how accepted I am in The States, it’s like there’s an entire chapter of my career that’s a little bit under the wire down here. In Canada, there’s THE AGE OF ELECTRIC and STATIC IN STEREO that I can draw from, which in the past, was a giant part of my acoustic set. I know the biggest pleasure people are going to get out of it is going to be trying to stump me – successfully I guarantee you. There was a time where I prided myself on being able to play pretty much anything anybody yelled at me, within reason. If it was ‘Madhouse’ by ANTHRAX, you’re not going to hear that. But if they shouted anything from Age Of Electric, I could pretty much get through it. Now, the gamut has grown exponentially with Slash and THE SIN CITY SINNERS records.”
Back in September, Todd played a solo acoustic show at Count’s Vamp’d in Las Vegas, NV which was recorded for the forthcoming live album, Confessional: Live In Vegas. Initially this was scheduled for a late 2013 release. “I’m hoping to. As you know, the Slash thing just bumped up. We’re trying to get it edited together. The thing with a live album is, I really had every intention of leaving it 100% warts and all. But I want to edit around a lot of the nonsense – in between song dead air, people coming on and off stage. I’m trying to make it as pseudo-professional as possible. I’m not even sure if we can get away with releasing ‘Stairway To Heaven’ (by LED ZEPPELIN) or ‘We Are The Champions’ (by QUEEN) that we did. So we’re going through all that right now. The intention was to have it out before the end of the year. If not, it’ll come out very early next year. On top of the fact that we’re already looking at a whole other solo record that will be released next year, hopefully before the Slash record; just because I don’t want it to be some sort of weird confliction. It’s a record called TKO, that me and Reed from Zuckerbaby worked on for about ten years’ worth of writing and recording. It’s one of those things where we’ve got this music we feel really strongly about, let’s just get it out. So that will be coming next year as well. And the Slash record will probably be out in the Spring. It’s going to be a fucking crazy year again.”
The newest release to feature Todd’s talents is the Dive Bar Days Revisited album by Sin City Sinners. On it, he sings THE STOOGES classic ‘Search And Destroy’, alongside Cheetah Chrome from THE DEAD BOYS. “Which is something we actually did at The Dive Bar (in Las Vegas). The Dive Bar thing is sort of a loose interpretation of what The Dive Bar days were. A lot of the songs that the guys ended up doing weren’t played in The Dive Bar, but it doesn’t matter. The theme of it is what’s important; the nod to a time where we were the house band at a punk rock bar on Tuesday nights. It’s always funny to us because people build up the CBGB legend, when in reality it was a dodgy, beat-up place. It’s the same as the first time I stepped into the Whisky A Go Go, I was shocked how small it was. The legend of those rooms is built up so much, but when you walk in you realize it’s just four walls and a stage. So The Dive Bar is a legend that The Sin City Sinners just kept propelling, building and creating. I mention it in the song ‘Goin To Vegas’; it became our CBGBs. And really, honestly, it was a little bar stuck in a strip mall; and that was part of the charm of it. Vegas isn’t really set up to build and create original music, at least not obviously.
There is an underground scene that exists with THE KILLERS and PANIC! AT THE DISCO.”
“But there’s a lot of working musicians in this city; you can play at lounges and showrooms doing other people’s music. To us, The Dive Bar was this oasis where you can do pretty much whatever you want. Here we are, six years later, and its shadow is much bigger than it’ll ever be. Like I said, some of the songs on the CD we never played at The Dive Bar ‘cause the lineup now, with Zach (Throne) in there. He joined in the last couple years, so he wasn’t there for The Dive Bar. It’s funny because there’s a whole thing about the weirdness of – Zach is one of my best friends. He comes over to my house more than any of the other guys, ‘cause he’s single mostly. But it’s one of those things I always think is entertaining, people propel an image of competition or these people don’t get along; we just giggle about it. Those guys realize I got really busy with other stuff (namely Slash). I want the band to continue being as strong as it can be. Zach Throne is the first name I mentioned when I got busy. Zach was living in Vancouver oddly enough at the time. It sort of wasn’t going to happen; then through a weird turn of events he suddenly was available. Now it’s exactly as it should have been the second I walked out the door. Even though my walking out the door wasn’t really walking out the door, it was sort of like I’ll be right back. Four years later, apparently I’m still busy.”
On New Year’s Eve, Todd will be taking the stage with The Sinners in Las Vegas at The Lounge at The Palms as part of a free show! Nobody throws a free party on New Year’s Eve, but Sin City Sinners are. “Yeah, it’s sort of The Sinners way. It’s always been a free show since the beginning, and it continues that way ‘til this day. New Year’s Eve is… sometimes I don’t enjoy playing special events as much as just a regular fucking gig. Sometimes a random gig is way more fun because on New Year’s or Halloween or Christmas, it’s more about that than it is the music, and the band becomes some sort of background to people’s enjoyment. But The Sinners have a very solid fan base that’s been with them for a long time; so we make it quite an event. Recently I’ve randomly appeared with the band, and mostly that was based on this thing that went around saying, ‘Todd’s never going to play with those guys again. He’s too busy doing other things.’ It felt really awesome to walk in and say, I’m here. That makes people realize that, ‘he does come back and play sometimes.’ I don’t come back to try and disrupt everything. The Sinners are as strong as ever, they’ve got a great thing going; I think it’s fantastic.”
In closing, Todd provides an update on the forthcoming new Slash album, which will serve as the follow-up to Apocalyptic Love. “We have been rehearsing four days a week for three to four weeks now. There are 17 complete songs, and we honestly aren’t probably going into the studio until the New Year. So, there’s going to be 17 more… I don’t know? The guy’s a machine! People ask what it’s like working with Slash? It’s fucking exhausting dude. I’ve never seen anything like it; and (vocalist) Myles Kennedy is right behind him. If he’s not doing something with us, he’s out with ALTER BRIDGE. He is a complete anomaly unto himself. But Slash is fascinating. He’s tireless, we’re seven hours in and he’s wanting to go over that solo section. I’m right there with him because when music is your focus, and music is what you love and enjoy… the rehearsing aspect is as much fun as playing live. People ask me if the new record is heavier? Oddly, it’s exactly what you expect in a funny way. There’s really cool classic riffs on a couple of occasions; the one thing I like about Slash is it’s never about trying to be anything other than who he is. When Slash plays a riff, you know it’s Slash. As far as I’m concerned, the music has to come from Slash. It starts and ends there; it has to be about him.”