Interviewed by David Felix
Date: February 9, 2007
Back in the mid 90’s, in a time where “grunge” ruled the airwaves and basically killed the mighty metal giants of the 80’s, there was one little band from Jersey who defied the odds and refused to let metal die quietly. That band is ROCK KANDY!
Still alive and kickin’ today, not ONLY did ROCK KANDY survive and flourish in an age where most metal bands called it quits, they survived as a cover band and were able to preserve the experience of a “live 80’s metal show” for anyone who ever wanted to experience it. Doing covers of everyone from BON JOVI to MOTLEY CRUE, this band has proven they can rock with the best of them.
I recently had the pleasure of speaking with lead vocalist Ian Chris about the band and their history. Here’s what he had to say:
David Felix: First of all, I would just like to thank you for being a part of our event next Saturday night at The Cup in Linden.
Ian Chris: Thanks for having us! We’re looking forward to rockin’ out with ya!
David Felix: So tell me a little bit about the band. How was it formed and how did it first get started?
Ian Chris: Well, ROCK KANDY was formed about eleven years ago on the limb of both myself and our manager Christie. It was during the height of the “grunge” era and we just wanted to do “80’s hair rock,” which everybody kinda shoved out the door. So we just figured we were going to try and bring it back and we had approached several club owners who basically laughed us out of the room and gave the band six months! But here we are! Eleven years later and still kickin’ ass!
David Felix: Eleven years is a pretty long time… even for bands that aren’t cover bands. How do you keep all the relationships within’ the band fresh?
Ian Chris: Well, obviously, over an eleven year period there’ve been changes just due to life in general. Marriages, job changes, etc… but the people we do have in the band now is the best line-up we’ve ever had, in my opinion. It’s for the love of the music, actually. I mean we all love what we’re doing and we always kept the ideal that it had to be 100% authentic and do an 80’s hair band tribute right to the letter… just as it was back then.
David Felix: As you mentioned, it had to be tough when you guys first started. Are you finding it a little bit easier nowadays and are people a little more accepting to your kind of music?
Ian Chris: Oh a LOT more now! It’s taken a lot of time. In the beginning, it was brutal! But we did have the opportunity to open for such bands as GREAT WHITE and Eddie Ojeda of TWISTED SISTER and ended up being his back-up band for about a year. It wasn’t easy but we just kept our nose to the grindstone.
David Felix: Obviously after spending all this time together, you’re all a group of talented musicians. Have you ever considered or attempted to write your own music?
Ian Chris: Well, if we did it would probably be more of a hobby aspect because the current market is still hard to break into with any kind of an 80’s sound. It’s still tough on the “original” end of it. But if we did it, I guess we could just market it ourselves and just enjoy ourselves with it.
David Felix: How do you decide on which songs you want to cover?
Ian Chris: We basically take a look at what was popular during that time period and how it charted. We generally found that to be the best route because it’s the most familiar to the audiences we have now. If they play it on the radio, they’ll know it. To get into a little more of the obscure can be dangerous. (laughs) People’ll be like, “We don’t know that! Is that an original?” So we just try to stick with what was popular and watch the charts.
David Felix: How often do you change songs in your set or
incorporate new ones?
Ian Chris: At least once a month. We’ll sit down and start kicking around ideas and see what fits well into the set list.
David Felix: Do you have a favorite song you like to perform?
Ian Chris: The WHITESNAKE medley we do, AEROSMITH… those are always my favorites.
David Felix: When not performing in ROCK KANDY, what does everyone in the band do to make a living?
Ian Chris: We all have real day jobs… but we look damned good doing it! (laughs)
David Felix: Is there a cover that you’ve always wanted to do that you just haven’t gotten around to yet?
Ian Chris: I’m gonna throw one way out of left field here with “The First Cut Is The Deepest.”
David Felix: And why is that?
Ian Chris: It’s just a great song and I think we could put a nice little twist on it.
David Felix: So why haven’t you done it yet?
Ian Chris: We’re breaking in a new drummer presently. You guys will be getting his debut!
David Felix: How’s he working out in the band?
Ian Chris: Excellent! He is the perfect replacement for who we had.
David Felix: What’s his name and how did you hook up with him?
Ian Chris: His name’s L.A. Chris and… he’s my son!
David Felix: Wow! That’s really cool. Congrats on having him in the band! Even though you’ve been very successful over the years and have maintained a strong fan base, do you find it difficult to gain respect from your fellow musicians since you are a cover band?
Ian Chris: I don’t know. You’d probably have to ask them on that one. I would tend to believe some didn’t like it but most do.
David Felix: You guys have opened for numerous national acts over the years. What was the best experience you’ve ever had opening up for one of them?
Ian Chris: They were all great experiences! We were treated very well and they liked what we were doing. I was told, openly, by a few of them, “Thank you for keeping us alive!”
David Felix: Is there any show in particular that sticks out in your mind for any reason?
Ian Chris: I think all of the shows we did with Eddie were very special and probably the first show we did with GREAT WHITE. That was the first time we’d ever opened for a national. Then there was BRITNY FOX… I was actually supposed to be the lead singer for them at one time. Steven Pearcy was great… they all had their special moments.
David Felix: In contrast, what was your worst?
Ian Chris: I don’t think we’ve had one with a national… they were all great experiences. We’ve had some “Spinal Tap” moments of our own (laughs), but I think the national end of it always went well.
David Felix: Ok, so tell me about one of your “Spinal Tap” moments then.
Ian Chris: We had just finished our sound check at this one place and this is back when we use to have pyrotechnics in our show… before it was illegal! But the pyrotechnic guy let loose with everything we had just as we finished our sound check. So that was it! The whole show was blown during the sound check. All I could do was stand there and watch all the explosions go off!
David Felix: Has anyone you’ve ever covered shown up at one of your shows?
Ian Chris: Lets see… QUIET RIOT, members of BRITNY FOX, Eddie Ojeda… that’s all that comes to mind right now.
David Felix: Some people say that covering another artist’s song is the biggest compliment you can give the artist. How do you feel about that statement?
Ian Chris: I agree 100%. I mean if you felt something so much about a song that you wanted to do it yourself, that IS a tribute.
David Felix: Speaking as a musician and NOT a musician in a cover band, would you rather be a musician in a successful cover band or a musician in a lesser know band with a record contract?
Ian Chris: I’ve done both, actually. I think they both have artistic value but even when I was in an original band with a contract, I didn’t have anything to do with the writing. So, in essence, I was still in a cover band.
David Felix: And what band was that?
Ian Chris: I was in a band called BABY JANE and that was way back in ‘91/’92 just as “Mr. Cobain came in and… that was the end of BABY JANE!
David Felix: How long do you think you can keep ROCK KANDY going and what would you most like to accomplish?
Ian Chris: The accomplishment part would be to give the people 100% of what an 80’s show was like… right down to the clothes and I think we’re doing that. As far as how long we can keep it going? As long as the audience will have us!
David Felix: Well that about wraps things up! Is there anything you’d like to say in conclusion to your fans?
Ian Chris: BE AT THE CUP! It’s gonna be a GREAT show!
David Felix: Thanks again, Ian and we can’t wait to see ya next week!
Don’t miss ROCK KANDY at THE CUP in Linden, NJ on Saturday February 17, 2007 for Ted Poley’s CD release party for “Collateral Damage.” Along with Vic Rivera, the return of Bill Farley’s RITUAL and CONSECUTION. With very special guest Jim Santos and Joe Slattery from MTM Recording artists NORWAY and John Macaluso (ARK/TNT/Yngwie Malmsteen/SPREAD EAGLE). It’s gonna be a HELL of a show!!!