Photo by M.A. Baratta
I first became familiar with Kepi’s existence back in the mid 1990’s when I bought the Groovie Ghoulies masterpiece World Contact Day LP on Lookout! Records. I was taken by not only the music, but the whole mood the music created: it was dark, fun, and just had an all around charming atmosphere. It was like watching my favorite Hanna Barbera cartoons if they starred the Ramones. After 2007, when the Groovie Ghoulies broke up, Kepi’s solo material picked up musically pretty much right where his former band left off. Since then he’s kept himself busy not only releasing solo records, but touring relentlessly, creating original artwork, and more I’m sure. Kepi Ghoulie not only inspires with the music that he writes that’s catchier than a hangnail on a knit sweater, but with the sheer longevity of his career. Like his anthem states, the man does in fact “Bleed Rock n’ Roll”!
Interview by J Castro
Can you remember as a child, what or whom inspired to want learn to pick up an instrument and play/write music?
KEPI: I think I always liked music... It kind of went Johnny Cash, Elvis, Beatles, Stones, etc. I took a few lessons in high school and finally started a band. The Ramones were really the ones to inspire that "DIY/anyone can do it" thing, but they still had their own magic!
Tell me a bit about the Kepi for Kids LP you put out a couple of years ago? What led to the decision to do a kids record?
KEPI: Well, Mike Park just asked me to make a kids record saying: "your songs are already pretty kid friendly" so I did and he was right! I just tried to write songs that wouldn't drive parents crazy with insipidness and I think I did all right.
You always seem to have such a positive attitude. Did you always have an optimistic outlook on life? If not did something happen in your life that changed your disposition?
KEPI: So.... my positive attitude... I don't really know what to say... I think I've always been a fairly happy person, and somehow I seemed to have gotten happier! Think I am just grateful for my friends, that my parts all work, and that the rent is paid this month! I also feel that anybody who gets to be an artist for a living should be pretty thankful!
Another project you have coming up with a band called The Accelerators. Can you tell me a bit about that?
KEPI: Yes, The Accelerators are big fans of "Fun in the Dark" by the Groovie Ghoulies, so they re-recorded their own version of it, and I threw vocals on top! We are going to do that with the Copyrights and "Re-Animation Festival" and then who knows what else? More, I bet! I will re-issue the old records too, so you don't HAVE to listen to these re-imaginations, but you CAN, if you like music and friends and fun!
When writing lyrics, what kinds of things typically inspire you? Are there any subjects you try to steer away from?
KEPI; I don't have a certain way of writing lyrics. It used to be I just wanted to avoid cliché. I just scribble all kinds of things down and hope to be able to find it when the time is right!
I hear so many musicians say that writing and playing music is therapeutic to them? Do you feel this way?
KEPI: I love to play music and I guess there is a therapeutic aspect to it, but it can also be stressful and challenging on occasion! Therefore I run and meditate too and then it doesn't have to be all about the music!!!
We’ve come to the lightening round segment of the interview: You may elaborate on the following 4 questions as much or as little as you see fit. Lets begin:
1. What’s the first concert you attended without your parents?
KEPI: the Cars/Marshall Tucker Band/Thin Lizzy/Journey! It SO rocked! I love the Cars and Thin Lizzy still.
2. What’s the first band T-shirt you ever wore?
KEPI: probably Kiss... my freshman year photo has a Ted Nugent shirt on it, and sophomore year Aerosmith!
3. What was the first band picture or band poster you had pinned up on your childhood bedroom wall?
KEPI: most likely Kiss but maybe Bob Dylan too!
4. What was the first record you purchased with your own money?
KEPI: The first record I ever picked out myself was the Monster Mash, which I find wildly amusing considering my path, but my Mom bought that for me. My parents also got me Johnny Cash at San Quentin for my third grade birthday upon my request: HIGHLY influential in my life, but the first record I bought with my OWN money was Paul McCartney: Wings over America, 3 LPs, gatefold magic!
You have played with so many people in your career. If you could hand pick an ultimate Kepi Ghoulie band from musicians throughout rock n’ roll history, who would it be and why?
KEPI: What's funny is, I am CURRENTLY playing with some of my favorite musicians of all time! At a recent Aquabats show my backing band was Lucy and Gwen from Dog Party on drums and guitar, Kevin Preston from Prima Donna on guitar, and Eaglebones from Aquabats on bass! I just toured backed by Mean Jeans and have also done this with Sons of Buddha, Accelerators, Copyrights and Miss Chain from Italy! I just played acoustic backed by PETS and David Houston on Percussion, Lucy Dog Party on drums and vocals, Dan Potthast (MU330) on lap steel, and Brendan Thompson on stand up bass! You really can't beat these folks! RIGHT NOW is the place to be! I am the luckiest person in the world! (and they all love my music... BONUS)
What lies ahead for you in 2015?
KEPI: I already have shows booked in Idaho; have a Euro tour offer, working on Hawaii and more surprises! Two records on the way, more Groovie Ghoulie re-issues, new shirt designs and merch; go, go, go, go, go!! Happy 2015!