Chalfant, Kevin (Two Fires) (April 2002)

Igniting A Firestorm - An Interview With Kevin Chalfant

Two Fires (© Clique Records) l to r: Jerry Lee Gingery (b, v), Timmy Higgins (d, v), Josh Ramos (ld g, v), Chalfont (v), Michael Higgins (ac g, perc, v), and Michael Gardner (g, v)It's always a pleasure to interview polite and hilarious musicians like Kevin Chalfant, who talked with us about his new Two Fires album, Ignition. You know, AOR is not a favourite anymore among television and radio, but who knows ... maybe this melodic "explosion" will be the rocket that sparks the return of the genre to paradise. And you? Are you ready to take off if the thing happens? 3...2...1...

Kevin Chalfant: Hi, can I talk to Igor, please?

Igor Italiani: Hi Kevin! How are you doing? You're a little early!

KC: Fine, thanks. 'Scuse me if I'm calling you a little earlier, I think I've just messed up with calculating the time zone ... but I was fortunate enough to find you at home.

II: OK, there's no problem. So let's start the interview. I would like to begin from the new album of yours, Ignition. Can you explain why you choose this title for the album?

Two Fires - IgnitionKC: Well, I just felt that with the first record we were still experimenting with what we wanted to do; we wanted to pick up from where The Storm left off, but we also wanted to do other things as well. So I really thought that with this record it was time to really take off, we wanted to take off like a rocket ship, and Serafino [one of the two owners of Frontiers - II] kept asking me: "What will be the name of the album?". So I wrote down several names and when I said Ignition Serafino just flew out of his chair, screaming: "That's it!". [Laughs]

II: Looking back in retrospect, are you pleased with how it turned out with your Two Fires [self-titled] debut?

KC: Yeah ... I mean, we always see things afterwards, things that we would probably change after a closer look, but given the time and the budget that we had I think that the first Two Fires record came out really good. You know, I think we sold quite a few records and so I constantly bother Serafino: "Hey, I still have to receive money from the record. Go back and look again in your book, are you sure that's all we sold?" [Laughs]

Two Fires - Two Fires (2000)II: But do you think there are some differences between your first Two Fires album and this one, or not?

KC: Oh yeah, sure there are some differences. We did change the music scheme slightly, because like you said, music is so different today, rock music has become very diverse. I really thought that we needed to bring songs to a lot of different people, to make the sales even better, why not? Unfortunately that's some sort of motivation that you have to have at the moment, because the more records I can sell the more money I can get for the next one, to improve the quality a little bit at a time. And also ... I didn't mix the record the way I did the first time, because I wanted to make the record sound more personal, 'cause I was listening to a lot of rock records and they were sounding all the same. I think that this sound will be a thing that will shock people at first, but when they'll get past the initial impact, I think they'll listen to the songs, and maybe like them. In fact the first e-mails I'm getting state exactly this type of feeling ... it's a different type of sound, but everybody loves the songs.

II: One of the songs that really impressed me is "I See Red." Can you tell me something else about this one? And what about the eleventh track, which isn't listed, but seems like a Santana-meets-melodic-rock type of thing?

KC: Yes, I co-wrote "I See Red" with Jim Peterik, and the day I was going into the studio to record the song, I had a completely diverse idea in my head. But when I arrived I saw that Jim was very upset about some kind of a business deal that was bothering him. I just felt how angry he was, he couldn't let the thing go off his mind! So I said to him that, even if I came in with another song in my mind, I wanted to record something that caught the mood of the moment, and so we began to work on the subject, which is jealousy. I wanted Jim to portray all of his momentary anger in the song, to just let it all out. I also took the title "I See Red" out, because I was looking at him and he was really upset, he almost had blood in his eyes. Instead, talking about the other track you mentioned, that's a song I and Jim started writing while we were in London, during the Gods 2000 [festival]. We started to write the song and I said to him that I wanted a song with a Latin feel, something I had never done in all my life. However that song is really a dedication to my friend Gregg Rolie, as we shared some great times together in The Storm ... and you know what? Of all the people I've ever been partners with, Gregg was always the smartest, the nicest, the most generous ... and probably he will be angry at me for telling you this, because he wants to be known as a tough guy. But his music has always influenced me, so that's why this song is a sort of tribute to him.

II: Kevin, do you think you will be able to do a complete tour of Europe following the release of Ignition?

KC: Oh, we are working on it right now. I've been e-mailing with some promoters, and I already put a live band together for the first time since The Storm, an actual touring band. A lot of the musicians of this band come from the Chicago area, from other groups that I've produced. Friends, good friends of mine with whom I feel comfortable with, and that I know I can turn my back and not be stabbed, Laughs]

[The band consists of: Jerry Lee Gingery on bass & vocals, Timmy Higgins on drums & vocals, Josh Ramos on lead guitar & vocals, Michael Higgins on acoustic guitar, percussion, & vocals, and Michael Gardner on electric guitars & vocals with Chalfant on lead vocals -ed.]

II: Kevin, going on to other things ... I've read that you have your own studio. Can you tell me more about it?

KC: Well, I've combined some new technologies; for example, I have things like Pro Tools, and I also have older technology, like my mixing board, my console, which is a British board from the eighties, the one that confers "that" rock sound to the record. I have a lot of good equipment, and I also have a lot of friends that come in and out often, people like Jim Peterik, so when we work collectively we put all of our equipment together, [Chuckles] ... you know, I've purchased an old restaurant that had been closed for a couple of years, and we went in, completely emptied the building and built the studio from scratch ... a professional one. I also have two apartments above the studio, and I rent the apartments right now, but I can eventually keep them free so that when people come here to record I can offer them apartments to stay in, too. Then I also have another building at the back of that one which I still haven't developed ... at the moment it's like my warehouse, where I store things from my constructions, but at the end of next summer I'm gonna have another apartment out of that, too.

II: So maybe I'll come to visit you someday?

KC: Yes, do it!

II: Kevin, you live in Chicago, quite a singular choice considering that a lot of other musicians are based in LA or NY. How about that?

KC: Well, I tell you, I'm not just a musician, I'm also a family man, and I grew up on the West Coast ... I mean, I've never lived in New York; it's a great place but I've never lived there. So I'm from the Midwest, even if I moved to California some years ago. I lived there for about 14 years, but I just felt that once I had my family, once I had a daughter, that we should move back here because we wanted my daughter to know all the relatives. You know, my other sons where young when we moved (to California), but they already knew the entire family, so it was just a matter of coming back and visiting, but I wanted my daughter to know the family without difficulties. In fact, here in Chicago I have a beautiful home, a great studio, a lot of family support, and if anyone wants to come and record with me I have apartments now!

II: Kevin, just the other day I interviewed Joe Lynn Turner for his new project with Glenn Hughes ... if you could do an album with another great vocalist, who would it be?

KC: Oh, you know, that's a great question. Very, very good question. You know, they never asked me something like that! Well, let me think about it ... it's difficult, because there are a lot of singers that I like, a lot of which are the ones whom I modelled myself after. Well, to name only one I should think about it some more, but I can tell you some of my favourites ... the first that comes to my mind is Paul McCartney, our styles are so diverse that I think we could do wonders. For example like when he sang with Michael Jackson. Another one is Paul Rogers [Free, The Firm], I really love his style. But I could look also at female singers. There is Pat Benatar, Melissa Etheridge, Bonnie Tyler ... a lot of names ... well, sometimes I wonder why there aren't more female/male duets, because I think they could be great...

II: Well, you can do one for your next record, for example. I think it should work just fine...

KC: Well, I'll thank you to remind me of that, [laughs]...

II: OK, Kevin, your career spans over two decades, so what would be your advice to some young kid who wants to start playing and singing the music you do?

KC: Mmh, the first advice would be to sleep with your radio (or stereo) turned on. You know, it might sound crazy, but this is what I did in the beginning, and I think it helped me a lot. The reason is that while I was sleeping my subconscious was probably tracing down some characteristics of the singers, and that helped me when it was my turn behind the microphone. However, remember to keep the volume low, because when you sleep your ears tend to relax, so you could run into ear damage. And watch out for the electricity bills, maybe your parents won't like them! Chuckles] ... OK, another piece of advice I would like to give is to follow your desire, never give it up. Try to be smart, too, and surround yourself with talent ... that's a key thing, it's like a game of poker, you win only if you have the aces, if you have only one or two good cards you won't go too far...

II: Anything left to say to the fans of melodic rock, Kevin?

KC: Oh, yes. Tell the fans that I have a great desire to come over to Europe and especially to play live, whatever - big rooms or small pubs. I also want to come to Italy, because my grandparents come from your country, and I finally want to visit someday. Maybe I'll have a difficult time with the language, but I'll try to do my best, and so we'll have a great time. Bye.

Kevin Chalfant - Running With The Wind (1997)
Two Fires (2000)
Ignition (2002)
Kevin Chalfant - Back To Square One (2004)
Kevin Chalfant - Fly 2 Freedom (2007)
Burning Bright (2010)

Added: April 6th 2002
Interviewer: Igor Italiani

Artist website:
Hits: 1666
Language: english

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