Many Different Hearts Beating
Kingdom Come are one of the most unique bands in heavy music. Their works defy classification – neither critics nor musicians themselves are able to put them in a specific genre. The one to blame for that is, of course, Lenny Wolf, the band’s founder, main songwriter and irreplaceable frontman. It’s been two years since the last Kingdom Come album saw the light of (or even four years, if we do not count a compilation, even with a few new songs). And now Lenny is back with “Outlier”, a record that is as out of range as any other Kingdom Come album. Our conversation took place in the beginning of March, when the album was still upcoming and Russia was celebrating International Women’s Day. It’s only natural we could not avoid talking about women, human relations and music itself. Enjoy!
Wow! Where did you get my name?
It’s what is stated on the paper, “Beautiful Ekaterina from Russia”, shaba-laba. (everybody laughs)
Thanks. So we are supposed to talk about your new album - why did it take you so long to make it?
Well, it’s been a year and a half, it’s not too long. I was not in a hurry, so I just decided to take my time. Sometimes I worked for two weeks in a row and sometimes I didn’t want to look at my studio for three weeks because I was burned out. An advantage of having my own studio is that I can work any time I want which makes the process very comfortable. Especially when I search for my own sound, it takes a long, long time. It isn’t too difficult to write a simple straight rock song, but if you listen to songs like “Rough Ride Ralleye” or “When Colors Break the Grey”, these atmospheric elements can take a very long time to develop. You need some time to work and then step away from it and then come back to it… You know, it just takes time. I’m not in a rush, right?
I think so. Did you do it all by yourself?
Yes, once again Lenny had to complete this mission all by himself. That doesn’t mean that I would not enjoy working with, like, a real team, be part of something which would be much easier because I wouldn’t have to carry all the weight on my shoulders and would just have to worry about my singing. But sometimes I think it’s better to do everything on my own. Do you know the saying, “Too many cooks can spoil the soup”? That’s basically what it is. Sometimes it’s better to do what you have to do if you know exactly where you want to go. It’s basically what I did.
You know, everything you do is right and everything you do is wrong, so nobody really knows. It’s just something I had to do and I didn’t have a particular master plan, I didn’t think about what I should sound like or what I should be doing. I don’t care. I don’t have to prove myself anymore I just like to jump right into the endless audio cosmos, the audio universe and start digging around and hopefully I find some unexplored new star, grab it and make something new out of it. I need an adventure. Just repeating myself and doing a cliché, rock blah-blah-blah stuff, always bores me. At least I’m trying.
Don’t you need any kind of fresh eye for your music sometimes?
Yes, yes, that’s why I work in the studio for, like, two or three weeks and then all of a sudden I step away. For example last summer I didn’t work too much alone, I mean I just spent time playing around, goofing around and then I fired up studio, I worked for a few days and then, like, “Ahh, I need a break”. So I think I didn’t have enough time to reflect endlessly about if I did something good or something wrong.
What does the name of the album mean?
The title “Outlier” actually came when I was driving from Germany to Austria. My driver was visiting me with his girlfriend and we spent, like, 6 hours on an autobahn, a German freeway, when I said, “Listen, guys, I need a title for the record”. I’ve already had three titles which I liked very much. They said, “Lenny, it sucks”. So I was like, “Ok, let’s come up with a better idea”. And then two hours later my driver’s girlfriend said, “Outlier”. I didn’t know what it meant, so I tried googling and once I translated it I really liked it very, very much because “outlier” is exactly what my childhood was all about. I was always an outlier when I was young and my music is kind of outlier because it’s not just rock, not just metal, not just industrial spacey stuff, it’s all over the place. So basically all my existence is the one of an outlier. It just fits perfectly and I’m more than happy that we’ve found it.
I really was surprised that you didn’t come up with the name years ago because I’ve always seen you as some kind of stranger, observing our world from outside…
You know, everything just takes the time. Things happen when they are meant to happen. And sometimes it just takes a little longer, you know, whatever. It’s just the cosmic plan, I have no idea. But I’m very happy that you said what you said because that means you kind of understand where I’m coming from. It’s great. I mean there’s always been this little special something about the relationship of Kingdom Come and Russia. I’m more than happy about it. You know, just talking to you with your Russian accent… I’m happy, it’s cool.
Thank you. (laughs)
I’m not trying to be friendly. I’m just telling you what it is.
Thanks. Can you tell me about the music of the “Outlier”. The press-release says that you put your voice “between traditional rock structures and modern sound elements”. What is it supposed to mean?
Oh, did you listen to the songs, honey?
No, I didn’t have a chance.
Ah, ok. Because when you do, you’ll understand exactly what it means. You know, Kingdom Come has always been, like, between the 70 bluesy kind of vibe and the one of the new age or some very heavy songs, whatever you call it. And the new record has… How can I put it?.. There are two or three songs on the album which I could have written in 1988. But then there are also two or three other songs which sound like, “What the hell is this now? Lenny might take some strange pills”. (laughs) I mean I’ve done a lot of interviews lately and many people who had heard the songs already told me that these styles of the record are very different but they all fit together. That’s what I wanted to hear and I’m very happy about it. But I’m very subjective because everybody is hearing and feeling the songs differently than I do because I’m the one who did them. That’s why it’s a question you should probably ask the people who have listened to the songs and who are not me.
I will. There’s another question for you. Do you plan any kind of a tour for the future?
We are talking to a touring agency right now. We’re gonna see what plans they have. Also I talk to my former record company from New York, which has some ideas we are thinking about but I can’t talk about them right now. Kingdom Come doesn’t need to play anywhere any time just because we have to play. It doesn’t make sense. I mean, we’ve got an offer, for example, from a big beer company. And we thought, “Oh, maybe we should accept that because we’ll play in front of, I don’t know, 30 thousand people and blah-blah-blah”. But we cancelled it finally because Kingdom Come is not a poppy band. It doesn’t make sense to play in front of so many drunk people. That’s not what Kingdom Come is made for. A show has to make sense club-wise, time-wise and so on. We’ll see. Nothing is set in stone yet.
So, you prefer to play in front of less people who came to listen to you, not any other band, don’t you?
Exactly. I don’t mind to play in front of too many people, I don’t care, but I want them to come for us only. I mean, when we played the Monsters on Rock in 1988, it was a big stage with Metallica and Scorpions and blah-blah-blah. It was a great time, we had a lot of fun, but musically it wasn’t exciting for me because I couldn’t see anybody and we were playing into, like, this non-definable big hall with a lot of heads… It was very impersonal. I mean it was a great experience, don’t get me wrong. But I prefer smaller placer, yeah.
In my opinion, you are playing a very unique style of music so it’s really difficult to find a band to organize a tour with a band that would match you enough to play in the same venue with you.
I’m very happy that you brought it up because that’s exactly one of our problems. The thing is Kingdom Come is not an old band like Scorpions or whatever, they’ve been around before us. But Kingdom Come isn’t a new band either, so we are right in the middle. That’s our problem and that’s also a problem for the record company especially with the new record now which has a lot of different styles within one product. It’s very hard to market it. For example if Motorhead are releasing a new record, you know exactly what’s gonna happen. It’s the same cover, it’s the same style, blah-blah-blah. It’s ok. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t wanna judge it, I’m just saying it’s very predictable, isn’t it? In our case it’s hard to put us in a drawer marketing-wise as well as stylistically. So it makes it harder, but it is what it is. Maybe it’s my destiny not be able to take the easy way, but… I can’t change, I don’t wanna change, that is Kingdom Come.
You know, I think every kind of music has a right mood to be in when listening to it. There’s music for pensive mood and there’s music for being cheerful and full of energy. What do you think is the right mood to listen to you music?
It’s for every mood. For breakfast you can listen to some acoustic songs, like, “Free Bird” or other stuff. Or you may sit in the car at 2 a.m. and just work your brains out, you know, listening to "Riding High Distortion" or “Outlier”, it’s perfect for that. It’s made for the car. Kingdom Come are supporting every possible mood you can imagine being in, but then again obviously if somebody loves country music he should not listen to Kingdom Come. If somebody likes rap he shouldn’t listen to Kingdom Come. But as I said before you can’t put us in just one drawer, it’s not just industrial, it’s not just metal, it’s not just ballads… We are all over the place. I have many different hearts beating in me. That’s what I’m trying to deliver when I’m sitting in the studio talking to the almighty upstairs just like, “Give me some new ideas, give me some creativity”. I mean, some songs have a simple structure and some are completely bananas.
That’s exactly what Lenny is all about. He’s a dreamer, he’s an idiot, he’s Donald Duck, he is a very deep thinker… Sometimes he likes parties, sometimes he likes to cruise on cloud, whatever. I’m all over the place and all those different facets are, like, surfacing through my songs. That’s why the music is so personal for me because it is 100% reflecting Lenny from the inside. That’s why I hate talking about the music. Music is something you have to live through, it’s a universal language. You can’t explain why the song is making you happy or sad or strong or whatever… And why not. They didn’t scientifically figure that out. And I’m very happy with it. Sometimes I wish we didn’t know so much about the universe because the less we know, the more we can dream. I mean, knowledge is not everything. Sometimes it’s great not knowing. I don’t wanna know why people fall in love, I don’t wanna know this chemical process, I don’t give a fuck. I just want to fall in love, that’s it.
You know, I’ve never found a song about breaking the law of fighting against the system or something like this on your records. At the same time, it’s a very popular topic for rock musicians, and I suppose it fits you very well. Don’t you care about it or are you ok with the system?
You know, it’s really funny. I know so many rock or metal musicians personally, right? When they are at home they put on these little house shoes and very comfortable sweatpants, make themselves a cup of tea and sit on a sofa with their sweethearts watching TV. And there’s other guy saying, “Let’s break the law, let’s kill them all!” It’s like, “Hello, is anybody home?” It’s ridiculous. Some of those musicians are using their music simply to make money, to make a living, to be, I don’t know, a fucking star, I have no idea. It’s their cup of tea, but it’s not what I can do. I can’t goof myself, I can’t fool myself. Eevery time when I get up and look in the mirror in the morning, I have to feel good about myself. And I can’t sing about things I don’t mean. There are some bands which sing, “Let’s kill each other, let’s kill everybody” and all this stuff. I can’t hear this shit anymore. It’s a cliché, it’s 99% bullshit and it’s just silly to me. It’s a business, but believe me, no matter how weird they look or how angry they behave, they’re most likely very gentle and nice people. I mean, the mass murderers don’t look like heavy metal dudes. They look like your nice neighbor from next door. I know a lot of bakers who take more drugs than any heavy metal musician. So these are clichés and lots of people like to live up to clichés. I don’t wanna say it’s all bad, it’s a free world, they can do whatever they wanna do, but I personally don’t like it. And I certainly don’t like singing about killing each other and breaking the law because when the street light is red I have to wait for the other car to pass. That’s just the way it is.
Does freedom always mean loneliness?
Ah, that’s a very delicate question. Let’s put it this way, there’s a phenomenon called melancholy. To me it’s, like, a very, very positive energy. Like, sitting in the car and listening to a perfect tune and being very melancholic. This is giving me unbelievable energy. I love it. And that’s exactly when I feel the closest to the almighty. This is actually what I sing about in my new song called “Let the Silence Talk”. That’s what I’m talking about, when I’m all by myself in the darkness and I’m the closest to myself. You know what I mean?
I think so.
And I know so many people who are together with somebody but still lonely, if you know what I mean. I think the assumption is that the people try so hard to find the perfect match so that they will be all happy forever after and halleluiah, and shala-la… People should realize that, first of all, they have to let themselves be happy within themselves and then they find somebody else to be the cherry on the cake. That would be wonderful. They should not look for somebody to be the cake itself. I mean, there’s nothing bad in loneliness. Loneliness can be a good thing, it depends on what you make out of it.
Don’t you think relations can bind you somehow?
Absolutely. Whether it’s in private life, in business or wherever, the wrong person can really fuck you up. There are people who recognize that that’s a wrong person very fast and there are people who never do it. What’s really funny is that sometimes when people feel being rejected all of a sudden they find the other person much more attractive. It’s really kind of sickness, it’s bullshit. I mean something like that woman, she was waiting for me for 12 years. I told her ф million times, “Honey, I ain’t it. I’m not your man, I’ll never be your man. Do yourself a favor and just step out of my life. Be happy again.” And the more I told her to leave, the more attractive she found me. This is so bizarre. Maybe she just needed the pain, I have no idea. Everybody has their own desires and dreams…
What happened to her finally?
She finally got over me, met somebody else. For some time she was very angry at me because she wasted a long time for me, but you know, I’ve never asked her to wait. Then she was angry at herself, but she reflected this towards me. But it’s not my fault. Nobody’s perfect, I’m just a human. I went through all this heartaches, I made a million mistakes, I was an uncontrolled idiot, this is called growing up. Who’s perfect? But if you don’t learn what is right and what is wrong for you, you shouldn’t be surprised if one day you’re gonna fall on your face big time. And you won’t be able to get up. Some people can learn from their mistakes and some people don’t, you know?
Talking about women, do you know it’s a holiday in Russia today?
Honestly, I don’t.
It’s called Women's Day and all the men are supposed to give some presents to their women or express their love somehow. Do you want to say something nice to the girls among your fans?
I’m so superficial, I’m terribly sorry. Though, all this is like, “Oh, it’s the day when I have to celebrate this or that”. It’s not my cup of tea. I make gifts when I feel like it and not when the calendar’s telling me to do so. All I can tell you is that there’s a very, very special little thing beating in my little German heart especially for the Russian ladies and I hope to see you all again and to exchange some serious energy of love.
Maybe it’s not a good idea to wish you happy birthday 3 days before it comes… So I’d ask instead, how do you manage to keep yourself looking so cool?
Maybe I just have a lucky gene. I have no idea. I never smoked, maybe it helped. I was drunk, I don’t know, maybe 20 times in my life. My luxury of being a musician is that I can sleep enough every day and I don’t have to get up at 6 or 7 in the morning, it’s important for me. I try to eat good, I used to have good sex. Singing is very healthy itself, because you scream all this shit out of your system, you know what I mean? But other than that I have no idea.
Kingdom Come on the Internet: http://www.lennywolf.com
Special thanks to Maxim Bylkin (Soyuz Music) for arranging this interview
March 8, 2013