Some of you might know Ken from his podcast Glambone but he started rock’n’roll activism at a very young age and later became a musician. Ken has just released “Rock’n’Roll Will Only Break Your Heart”, a great book in which he gives us a lot of details about his various adventures, his personal life and his passion for rock’n’roll.
When did you get the idea of writing your book and how much time did it take?
Ever since being a teenager, the idea of writing an autobiography is something I imagined I would do one day. I just thought I’d be in a different position telling my story, but sometimes the perfect picture of how you think your life would be isn’t always how it adds up. When the pandemic hit in early 2020, that’s when I started reflecting and writing the book. It was a two-year process.
You started being involved at a very young age being the editor of a Sunset Strip publication. Can you tell us more about it?
Yes. In my teens I started a music magazine from my bedroom. A fanzine, basically. After the first couple of issues, record companies began calling to buy advertisements in the publication, full page ads to promote their new releases. Once that started to happen, we were able to upgrade the design and printing quality. So with doing that, it became a prominent paper on the Los Angeles streets and eventually distributed in other music cities around the globe.
How were the musicians’ reactions when seeing that you were so young? Any anecdotes to share with us?
Mostly surprised, but they thought it was cool. I remember before the family uprooted to Los Angeles, I had an interview with the band Dirty Looks that Atlantic Records set up for me to meet them at a night club in Las Vegas they were playing at. Keep in mind, Vegas has a strict age limit of being 21 years or older. Well, the club owner saw me with my tape recorder interviewing the drummer outside the venue, and he says to me, as long as your dad is here with you, you can come inside and watch the show from the sound board, just don’t go anywhere near the bar ! So, there I was at 14 years old getting into my first night club to watch a rock n roll band. It was great !
Then you started playing in bands. Can you tell us about them?
Yeah, two years later I had my first band with my high school buddy Ashley Hamilton. We’re great friends to this day. We basically ditched school one day to go to Guitar Center on Sunset Blvd. That’s the first time we played guitar for each other, and said right there let’s form a band. Funny enough, one of the record companies that gave us recording time to make demos was Atlantic Records. It was a thrill to have been in their office interviewing bands, and then soon thereafter playing our demo in the CEO’s office. Stylistically we were all over the place, a bit of pop, hard rock, ballads, and hip-hop. You hear some bands say that the record companies didn’t know what to do with them, well, that was us, we were trying to find ourselves and which direction to go in. After that, I pursued it on my own, and later on a project with my ex-wife which was called This Episode.
At times, it seems like the book is a story written for a TV series, there are so many ingredients for it, like your different travels (London, Paris, New York…), your bad luck as a musician and heartbreak stories….
Thanks, yeah, it’s quite a visual read and certainly could be adapted for the screen.
The book comes out with a 16 song CD companion in which we can hear a big Britpop influence. Was it your favourite 90s style after the 80s glam metal wave?
Definitely. In America, the 90s obviously was about the Seattle sound. It wasn’t my thing. For me, all the great new music was happening in the UK.
Suede, Pulp, My Life Story, Elastica, David Devant & His Spirit Wife, Oasis. It was fantastic.
Can you tell us about the recording of these songs and the people involved?
It’s a compilation from over the years, various sessions and projects. The majority of it was recorded and produced by Rick Parker. One of the more recent songs is a co-write I did with Michael Lockwood. A lot of guest musicians are on it who’ve played with artists like Beck, Madonna and others.
I first got to know you because of your Glambone podcast. Can you tell us a bit about it, how you started it, etc.?
The first Glambone podcast debuted in late 2008. All I knew about podcasts back then was that it was like an underground way of having a radio show. There weren’t many at that time like there is today. I was living in Nashville then, and in between playing the writer-rounds which songwriters do, I had extra time on my hands. All the tapes of bands from my Rockstar Magazine days were in boxes, and instead of keeping it boxed up, I thought a podcast would be a great way to share this stuff with people.
You’ve never thought about starting an online magazine?
Well, I simultaneously had the Glambone blog up as well. But no, who needs an online magazine from me when you got Veglam ?!
Without spoiling the book too much, did you get your rights back for your song that was “stolen”?
I always had the rights to my song. Even though mine was infringed upon, I could still use it as I pleased. But in terms of royalties from the stolen version, no, I only received compensation from a settlement for it.
Music business has changed a lot. Do you think that things are easier for self-produced artists/bands nowadays?
Yes and no. It’s expensive to solely do on your own. If you’re talking about touring costs, promotion, manufacturing vinyl and merch, this is all out-of-pocket expenses if you don’t have support from another company helping you out and lifting some of the financial burden. In terms of recording and releasing music online, sure, anyone can do that.
Do you still own any demos from the Sunset Strip days? Which bands should have made it but haven’t according to you?
Some stuff, although, each time I move around it gets less and less. I’ve gotten rid of so much. The bands that should’ve made it, Tomorrow’s Child, Rattlesnake Shake, Pharoah from the east coast. Honestly, many of the bands that had records out should’ve made it, Lions & Ghosts, Candy, The Zeros, Dear Mr. President, Vain.
You’ve spent a lot of time in France. Any French bands or artists you like?
Serge Gainsbourg, Raphael, Les Rita Mitsouko, Carla Bruni. Everytime I go back I discover something great there.
You lived in Nashville. It seems like many rockers from California are moving there. Do you think that it’s only a money issue?
Not just from California anymore, musicians from everywhere have been moving there. I don’t think it’s only a money concern, because prices and cost of living in Nashville has certainly gone up since the time I lived there. Not as high as L.A, but it’s climbing. I think for industry it continues to be a place where creativity is alive and well, and that’s a big part of the appeal. I’ll tell you though, if they’re not moving to Nashville, many of the L.A. people are moving to Las Vegas.
Which place would you choose if you could live anywhere you’ve been?
It’s a toss up between Paris and New York. Unless I fall in love with a Swedish girl, then I’m moving to Stockholm !
Looking back at all these musical adventures. Would you change anything if you could?
If I had a voice in my head back at the beginning of 2002 telling me to stay in Vegas just a little while longer, I think I would like to have listened to it, being that the city spawned a few successful bands after I left. But the voices took me somewhere else instead. Luck of the draw.