MINEFIELD Featuring TODD KERNS – “It Didn’t Start Off As Any Committed Plan”

May 4, 2021, a year ago

By Aaron Small

feature hard rock minefield todd kerns

MINEFIELD Featuring TODD KERNS – “It Didn’t Start Off As Any Committed Plan”

Todd Kerns is usually a very busy musician, having played with The Age Of Electric, Static In Stereo, Original Sin, Slash Featuring Myles Kennedy And The Conspirators, Bruce Kulick, Toque, and don’t forget abut his own solo career. However, the pandemic provided plenty of unexpected down time, thereby allowing the vocalist (and in this case bassist), to join another band; a brand new outfit called Minefield. 

“Well, I think COVID is the big culprit in that one,” begins Todd. “As awful as this whole experience could have been… I’m really good friends with (guitarist) Jeremy Asbrock, from Ace Frehley and Gene Simmons, and I’ve played with (drummer) Matt Starr in Raiding The Rock Vault; he’s played with Mr. Big, and also Ace Frehley. They’re really well versed and well respected in that world. Jeremy called me one day and said, ‘We’re working on this thing with this kid, Brandon Fields.’ He’s a young guy that’s been friends with Jeremy for a while. It was really funny cause it started as, ‘Would you like to sing a song?’ I was literally in that mode of – the first couple of weeks in lockdown I felt twitchy and weird like I’m supposed to be somewhere, I’ve got to call somebody. Once you realize that’s not the case, there’s actually this really comforting feeling of, no one’s looking for me, I’m not late for anything, I’m not expected to be anywhere. So, I got into that mode, and it was amazing being home with my wife; we spent 365 days together, until I finally had to go to Nashville for a project. We managed to spend every single day together, with a travelling musician like me, that’s never happened! We’ve never been able to spend that long together.” 

“But anyway, Jeremy calls and he vouched for Brandon. I literally was not doing anything; it would be fun to do something. Brandon and I connected; he’s an amazing dude! He started sending over this music, which was great. It started with two or three songs, then it turned into a bunch. There are other people on the record – Alex Kane is on a song, Brandon sings a couple of songs, Jeremy sings a song. It really started as just this fun COVID project. When you use the word project, everybody wonders, is that a demeaning title to put on a band? Well, no, not really. The funniest part about this whole thing, doing the entire record – I’ve never been in the same room with Brandon Fields. We wrote six songs together, yet we’ve never actually shaken hands and said hello. We’ve spent hours together over the Internet and on the phone; the technology is such that this can be done. That was the other thing about it. I was like, who’s playing bass? They said, ‘We’re not sure yet.’ Well, I’ll just play bass on it. They’re like, ‘Okay, cool.’ It just sort of presented itself to become kind of a band. But it’s really, honestly, Brandon’s baby. We all just jumped on it, and it turned out so great. I honestly feel things like ‘Alone Together’… I was really thrilled. If that call had never came, if COVID had never happened, we never would have been able to do this. It’s just a timing thing mostly. It’s kind of funny how that happens.”

That explains the labelling of, “a musical collective as opposed to a band or solo project.” “I like that. It sounds like a very good excuse for the fact that as soon as one of us isn’t available to do something, he will be immediately replaced,” chuckles Todd. “Matt’s got to go do something, well now we’ve got Brian Tichy, or someone like that. It didn’t start off as any committed plan, it was literally like, let’s just make some music cause nobody’s doing anything. The fact that it turned out as strong as it did, was nothing other than we’re a bunch of dudes who love rock ‘n roll music, and we had a whole lot of fun.”

Delving into individual songs on the self-titled, self-released debut album from Minefield, Kerns commences with “Seventh Heaven”. “That was a blast because it was such an AC/DC rock song, yet people keep telling me I sound like Mark Slaughter (from Slaughter) on that one, which is interesting cause I was actually going for more of a Brian Johnson. Most people say, ‘I had no idea you could sing like that.’ Well, I sang in a million clubs doing AC/DC songs, so that’s where that comes from. ‘Home’ is another one that I sang. A lot of people have said that it’s kind of Mother Love Bone sounding. I’m like, wow! It’s so weird to hear that, but I suppose a little bit. I was actually in a real Paul Rodgers / Bad Company rabbit hole during that. I started to get less and less hung up on the idea that songs have to have deep meaning; just sing from your heart. Things like ‘Alone Together’ and ‘Home’ really speak to the idea of a person who is actually going through the whole experience of being, like my wife and I were, literally alone together.” 

“Even the idea of Minefield being the band playing and recording this record, but doing it all separately, we had this weird, alone together vibe that created itself. Then ‘Home’ being, stuck at home; although that’s not really what the song’s saying. ‘Rockstar’ is definitely Brandon; his father wrote that song, believe it or not; which I think is really cool. His dad used to be in a rock and roll band. ‘All American Man’ is me, but it’s not written by me, it’s by KISS. It’s funny cause Brandon was really trying to get Sebastian Bach (formerly of Skid Row) to sing that, and it just kind of fell through. So I said, I’ll sing it! I know that song inside and out, I love that song. ‘So Help Me’ is Jeremy, that was a lot of fun cause it has this Thin Lizzy harmony solo thing going on. ‘Lady Danger’ was supposed to be a little bit Gene and Paul, the ‘Shout It Out Loud’ type of thing. ‘Day By Day’ I did with Brandon, it was like this cool, old ‘70s KISS song that he came up with.”

“All American Man” – “Sung by a Canadian,” as Todd ironically points out – is one of those controversial KISS songs with Bob Kulick as “ghost” Ace Frehley. Sadly, Bob passed away last year at the age of 70. “Yeah, that was tragic. Honestly, it’s been surreal. To be able to play the KISS Kruise with Bob was huge for KISS fans, and it was huge for Bob. Bob had been off stage for so long, to be a part of that metamorphosis was great. And it was really sad to watch it… it was very sudden. There was no expectation at all of his passing; one day he was gone. But he had a hell of a life, and he did a lot of great stuff. It was really hard.”

Besides the seemingly unavoidable KISS influence, a bit of Guns N’ Roses can be heard on the Minefield album as well. Obviously, Todd plays with Slash, but “So Help Me” could be a Gilby Clarke song through and through. “It really could. You’re absolutely not wrong. Brandon’s a massive Slash and Guns N’ Roses fan. That’s in my DNA and I think the other guys’ as well. It’s a pretty good touchstone reference.” Even the beginning of “Alone Together”, those introductory drums are similar to Matt Sorum’s on “You Could Be Mine”; then it turns into something completely different. “Absolutely. It’s so funny cause I had that conversation. When the demos are made, that’s not the intro to the song. But I said, ‘Dude, that’s so great! Who would have even thought to do that? Matt goes, ‘Well, as a drummer, I always learn that if you can come up with a great drum intro, you should absolutely do it because it really ramps things up and gets people excited.’ I said, ‘I think your instincts are correct there, sir.’ He’s a great drummer!”

The lyrical gem of the record is “Day By Day”, specifically the line, “They chased me out of there like a discontinued model, found my new home at the bottom of a bottle.” After the laughter subsides, Todd recalls, “That was a fun one because Brandon had this riff, and we needed another song. It was one of those last minute things that you come up with. It has this old, Dressed To Kill-era KISS vibe to it for me. There’s a line in there that mentions a place called Nothing, Arizona – ‘I’m going to the desert they won’t find me anymore, maybe Nothing, Arizona, population four.’ I had seen some film and it had the sign as they were pulling into Nothing, Arizona, and it just said four. If you Google it now, it’s population zero. There’s a whole series of these cities, it’s such a sad story really – seniors living in vans and Winnebagos because they’ve had tragedies and lost their homes. There’s a place up in northeast Nevada called Empire. In January, the mill that was the main industry in that town closed. By June, it no longer had a zip code. Holy cow! It’s weird to imagine towns just being gone. I just came across Nothing, Arizona. The town was so small it was called Nothing; it’s a real place. So much of my life is ‘autobiographical.’ When you look at songs like, ‘It’s Not You It’s Me’, I can tell you pretty much exactly what was going on. Or, ‘Goin’ To Vegas’ is a classic! I was literally going to Vegas. I was going off to the desert and you won’t find me anymore; that’s basically what I did with my life. Unfortunately – or fortunately – trying to disappear in the desert didn’t happen; it was quite the opposite.”

A minefield is an area of land or sea loaded with bombs, but that’s not what the band name alludes to, as Todd explains. “Well, his name’s Brandon Fields, so he threw around a bunch of ideas and I thought Minefield was pretty clever. I said, ‘Look Brandon, this is your band. The day I get sucked into the Slash thing, I’m gone for a year and a half. So, you need to have something like MSG – Michael Schenker Group. That way, you can carry on.’ Hopefully we can reconvene, but it’s just the nature of… he’s very young. I have children his age! But that’s been happening to me a lot. Frank Sidoris in The Conspirators was the first guy I was playing with where he’s 19 years younger than me, or something like that. Now I’m becoming Obi Wan Kenobi, and there’s all these young Jedis coming up. But I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I just can’t imagine being, even in my 30s, how lost I was. You feel like a sense of scrambling. Then you get to be a grown ass man, you’ve seen it all, been through it all. Things are in flames around you and you’re like, ‘No big deal, I’ve been through worse We’ll survive this.’ It’s just the nature of having been through a lot, like the Samurai who’s been through a million wars.”

“Those guys are so talented. The other funny thing about it was Jeremy’s in Nashville, I’m in Vegas, Brandon’s in Kentucky somewhere, and Matt’s in Los Angeles. Literally, not at any given point were any of these people in the same room together. But it doesn’t sound like that. Even when we did the video for ‘Alone Together’, my partner here, Jimmie Romero, who is singing backups on this because he was recording me, and I made him sing along. He said, ‘We’ll get some green screens and we’ll cut it together.’ Okay, that’s where we’re at it in 2020? So, we shot that video, he put us all together, and it looked really comfortable.”

When writing his parts for Minefield, whether it was lyrics or bass lines, Todd admittedly approached it differently than he would a solo album. “Oh yeah, I would have to because I obsess a lot more about my own stuff. Even though I don’t think obsessing is the right word, I just want it to be right. When you’re doing your own stuff, you’re responsible for 100% of it, outside of the recording engineer’s mic placement, even though we all have a hand in that as well. When it comes to something like this, a collective, I don’t have to worry about… I might have an opinion about, is this better than that? All that gets lost cause Matt’s recording his drums in Los Angeles and sending them around. If you had any suggestions, it’s too much of a hassle to go, ‘Can you do this?’ If you’re in the room with the guy, you can have conversations. That wasn’t even a consideration, but it was literally like, ‘Here’s the drum track.’ Great, let’s do it. Anything to do with arrangement type stuff was pretty much, just go with it. This is going to be fun.” 

“We’re not worrying about, is this going to get on the radio? Who cares? It’s rock and roll. We live in a day and age where you can make music and get it out to the people. You hope you’ll make it back in one way or another, but that certainly wasn’t my consideration on this, with it largely being Brandon’s baby. I was like, I will give you 100% of what I do. I’m not the kind of person who’s going to phone anything in anyway. If I’m going to be part of something, I’m going to do my best. I wouldn’t be like, ‘Here’s a song,’ that’s a bunch of nonsense. I want to make sure that at the end of the day, if someone was to talk about my career, they’ say, ‘Have you heard “Alone Together”? That thing he did with these guys.’ And I think they probably will. When someone makes that mix tape, Minefield will end up in the pile too.”

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