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20 Questions With Ron Keel, 3/13/01



Keel Singer Ronnie Keel

About a month ago, Ronnie Keel dropped us an email and said he’d be interested in doing 20 Questions. Well the rest is history. For you young kids out there, Keel was well known back in the 80s, and if you want their entire history, go to Ronnie’s page and read up.

Ronnie really put some effort into this and went into some good detail, and we always appreciate that. Enjoy!

1. What are you currently up to?

I’m having a great time with my new band IronHorse. It’s an international line-up featuring Robert Marcello from Stockholm Sweden on Lead Guitar, Gaetano Nicolosi from Catania Italy on Drums, and Geno Arce from Phoenix Arizona on Bass. We’ve been playing all over Ohio plus New York and Virginia for the last seven months and have just completed recording our debut CD for Metal Mayhem Records due out in early April. I encourage everyone to check us out at www.ironhorseband.com.

2. Before we start, are we talking to Ron Keel the metal singer or Ronnie Lee Keel the country singer?

You can talk to both of us, two for the price of one. I’m schizo…And so am I. There are definitely many sides to my personality and my music. Most people have always called me Ronnie, but in the KEEL days we went with RON cause it sounded mad and hard and Ronnie sounded too nice and friendly. Nowadays I generally go by Ronnie Keel, and I’ve tied up all the musical loose ends with the new project IronHorse – we call it Cowboy Metal.

3. How come everybody in Keel always looked mad and hard? What were you guys pissed about?

Maybe in pictures, but on stage it was usually five non-stop smiles. Anyone who ever saw a KEEL concert knew without a doubt we were having a hell of a good time. Everybody says I still look mad and hard – I prefer the terms "tough" and "sexy".

4. What hard rock/heavy metal band should give it up and call it a day?

I don’t think anyone should give up if it’s something they love, want and need. Most people who have reached a certain level of success have a strong fire burning inside which is very difficult to extinguish; I myself am a slut for the stage – I’m addicted to singing, feeling a guitar in my hands, the lights in my eyes, the sweat on my face and the sound of my voice filling a room. I don’t care if it’s Madison Square Garden or the local Roadhouse, as long as I get that rush and people are enjoying it I’ll be damned if I’m quitting.

5. Rate a singer, 1 being a joke and 10 being a vocal God.

Kevin DuBrow =
8.Very powerful – Kevin sang with me on our Larger Than Live album and damn near broke the microphone

Vince Neil = 7. Hell of a nice guy -classic example of the "LA Tone"

Stephen Pearcy = 6. Dated any of my ex wives lately?

Don Dokken = 6. Good tone and melody.

Kip Winger = 5. Never heard a whole Winger album but I know it’s tough to play bass and sing lead at the same time.

Sebastian Bach = 9. Never met Bas but he’s got a hell of a throat.

Jani Lane = 6. Just saw Jani in Columbus and really enjoyed the show.

Bret Michaels = 7. Give me personality and entertainment value anyday, I always had nothin’ but a good time at Poison gigs.

Lizzy Borden = The chick who hacked up her parents with an ax? She was a singer?

David Lee Roth = 9. Awesome frontman and originator of the double pitched high scream.

Axl Rose = 2. For the record, the real Vocal Gods were/are Rob Halford, Klaus Meine, Geoff Tate, Ronnie James Dio, Brian Johnson and Bruce Dickinson.

6. Keel had broke up and like any band there was a bit of bad mouthing. Who left first, second and why? Who was the biggest bitch in the band and why?

I honestly never heard any bad-mouthing, and the last time we saw each other during the 1998 "Back In Action" sessions it was a great feeling to hang together again. We were like a football team that had made it to the Super Bowl and we can all take immense pride in the fact that we really competed with the best of the best and held our own. Marc left first, for very viable creative reasons, and when that happened it was really over. We went on to do "Larger Than Live" but by then we had all been replaced by ugly guys in flannel shirts who couldn’t hold a tune. The biggest bitch in the band? Would probably have to be me…I hammered on those guys pretty hard with an iron fist. We listened to the live tapes every night after the show, and whoever fucked up would have to look me in the eye and listen to their mistakes over and over again.

7. It seems some members of Keel have fallen into a black hole. Have Bryan Jay, Kenny Chaisson, or Dwain Miller done anything musically since Keel or are they working in warehouses now?

They all have wonderful families, and I’m happy for them. Dwain did a couple of signed projects after KEEL, Outlaw Blood, Rox Diamond…He and Bryan had a cool band called Dogbone…everybody had a band or two or three. Bryan’s now working to get his degree in Film Composing and raising two lovely daughters, Kenny and Dwain are working in the "Real World" and spending quality time with their wives and children.

8. You also played in Steeler with Yngwie Malmsteen before forming Keel. Do you have anything good to say about Yngwie because it seems like nobody else does.

He had the opportunity of a lifetime, and all the talent in the world…He could have been one of the legends, like Van Halen, Randy, Clapton, but he just pissed and shit on everything and everyone until there was nothing left but stench. It’s really sad. That’s where IronHorse guitarist Robert Marcello, also from Sweden, comes in: Robert has the same talent and ability but he plays with soul and feeling, doesn’t repeat the same damn guitar solo on everysong, and most important he’s got a good heart.

9. You also played in a band called Fair Game and were backed up by an all female band. Who were the chicks and did you fuck any of them?

Tina Listo and Eva Marie on Lead Guitar, Janna James on Bass and Stephanie Leigh on drums. I’m very proud of that project, and the girls were all hot, talented, and very attractive – but I regret to say I never partook of their offstage talents and abilities. My band was and always is the most important thing, and there are lines better left uncrossed.

10. Which do you prefer and why?

LeAnn Rimes or Britney Spears =
LeAnn – she’s got the voice of an angel and bigger hooters.

Vikki Foxx or Rik Fox = I don’t know who Vikki Foxx is, but I assume she’s a chick, and that puts her way ahead of Richard on the evolutionary scale.

Skid Row or Limp Bizkit = Skid Row kicks ass, Limp Bizkit can kiss mine.

Cowboy hats or Headband wraps = Cowboy hats – you can get up in the middle of the night naked, put your hat over your dick, and walk down the hotel corridor to get a soda. Plus I really am a shitkicker at heart, and wearing a cowboy hat gives you a certain vibe – I call it a Hatitude.

Heavy Metal or Country Western = Each genre has its crap and its classics. I prefer great Metal to shitty Country, and vice versa.

A red Ferrari in the driveway or Marc Ferrari on guitar = Marc Ferrari on guitar. No shit. He’s the only Ferrari I’ve ever liked. But if it was a black Ford F-350 with chrome roll bars and a four inch lift kit…

Metallica opening for Steeler or Ratt opening for Steeler = Definitely Ratt. Metallica brought in sweaty guys with stringy hair and leather jackets, and Ratt brought in the babes.

A stiff boob Job or Soggy sacks of fat = ANY boob job wins hands down over ANY fat.

Dwain Miller or Gerri Miller = I gotta hang with my bro Dwain. Gerri helped us a lot, but without Dwain KEEL would have been a very different band.

Bands who re-unite for a quick buck or Bands who retire for good = Bands who re-unite for a quick buck, ’cause I can go to their gigs and pick up on their groupies.

11. Was Rik Fox’s hair for real or what?

Absolutely real. He didn’t get the gig because of his bass playing, and with Yngwie in the band I had to have somebody who was good looking.

12. Gene Simmons produced Keel’s first two records. How was he to work with and do you have any good Gene stories?

Gene was brilliant. He taught me so much about songs, production, the business, and much more. There are so many great stories, not sex and drugs stuff but good times and friendship, walking the streets of New York and talking, or riding around in the limo in Manhattan while he pointed out all the buildings that he owned. He was totally appreciative of every fan, I saw him get mobbed more than once and stand there and sign every autograph. I remember the day we met at the Beverly Hills Hotel, and I played him a tape of "The Right To Rock" without vocals and stood there screaming in his face, and he shut off the tape player and said – "I’m going to produce this record. And we’re going to start Tuesday." And when we were over budget on "The Final Frontier", Gene just told the record company: "I’ll write you a check for the amount we’ve spent so far. Then Tomorrow I’ll take this record to another label and sell it for twice the budget." The record company didn’t hassle us any more after that. And I remember the night he met Shannon Tweed, he was like a high school kid…he just kept saying "God has been very good to me." Shannon was very cool also, she used to come to the studio and bring home cooked food and give me big hugs which were very inspiring.

13. What rock star deserves a kick in the balls and why?

Any of those stupid dead fuckers who killed themselves at the peak of their success. "Well, I sold ten million records, I’m rich and everybody loves me, I think I’ll blow my fucking head off or stick a needle in my arm or drown in my own puke, anything just please let me die!"

14. Keel also toured with Motley Crue and Bon Jovi. What was the difference between touring with both those bands?

With KEEL, there was no difference. To us, it was always a KEEL show and the headliner was our cleanup act. Both Crue and Bon Jovi were very good to us though; I had been friends with Motley through the years and they treated us real well. With them we got to play The Coliseum in my hometown of Phoenix, the place where I saw all the concerts when I was growing up. I used to fight my way to the front of the stage and then turn around and watch the audience so I could know what it felt like being in front of that many people, and then to finally be on that stage was a very powerful charge. With Bon Jovi, on the "Slippery When Wet" tour, they were so huge that we were playing three and four nights in each town. When it came time to play three nights at a sold-out Madison Square Garden, the first night was like "Oh Shit, we’re at the Garden!". The second night it was "Yeah, this is cool, we’re playing the Garden." By the third night I was skateboarding through the backstage hallways high-fiving the security guards.

15. What do you remember about the following years:

1977 =
A.R.C.H. – the Arizona Retarded Children’s Home. My band Dedlok played the Halloween dance there in front of a couple thousand mentally challenged kids dressed up like witches and vampires, and we sucked – we were out of tune, sloppy, just a bunch of noise. But they loved us. After the show I was surrounded, and this one retarded girl was crying and stroking my arm. She said "Most people ignore us, but you came here and played music for us, thank you so much." No matter what I’ve done since, that was the night I became successful.

1980 = Nashville. A band called Lust, winning the battle of the bands, and doing my first record. Hearing myself on the radio for the first time.

1984 = The birth of my beautiful daughter Kelly Lee Keel. The end of Steeler and the beginning of KEEL. My brief tenure with Black Sabbath. Recording "Lay Down The Law", the first KEEL album. Signing my first major label recording contract and meeting Gene Simmons. Recording "The Right To Rock". This was a whirlwind year; by the time KEEL had been together seven months we had recorded our first two albums and all that other stuff. Whew.

1987 = Recording the self-titled album with Michael Wagener. Touring with Crue and Bon Jovi. Playing basketball in our rehearsal room, band against crew.

1990 = Autographing pictures of my penis. Fair Game had spent eight months rehearsing, writing, and recording before we did our first gig, and then at our very first show I split the crotch out of my pants. Now this has happened several times during my career, and usually you can feel a breeze and just cover it up with your guitar. But at this gig I didn’t feel the breeze and had no clue. All of a sudden there were tons of cameras going off, and I thought "Cool, they must really like us." I never knew until after the gig that I had been hanging out (I don’t wear underwear). A couple of months later, all these female fans were coming up to me with pictures of Little Ronnie wanting my John HandCock.

1993 = Starting over as Ronnie Lee Keel, playing Country songs in a bar called the Dodge City Saloon for $32.50 a night.

1995 = The release of my first Country album "Western Country". I know there are some fans that still don’t understand "the Country Years", but that music was pouring out of me, it saved me in a big way. I did two CD’s which I’m very proud of, a ton of TV and movie stuff and toured Europe twice. I continued to play 250 shows a year, never cut my hair, put on my leather and a cowboy hat and kicked ass with some brilliant musicians. I’m sorry I dissapointed those people who wanted me to work construction or commit suicide.

1997 = Returning to Japan and Heavy Metal to record the Saber Tiger "Project One" CD. The first day of the session they just kicked my ass, making me belt it out for about ten hours straight on just one song (and that was the easy song). When I got back to the hotel that night I was a wreck, high fever, puking my guts out all night. I was freaking, because I had been paid quite a bit of money for the session, and I was thinking "I can’t do this anymore…" I didn’t sleep at all that night. I called my contact at the label early in the morning and told him I did not feel well, and could we postpone the session that day. They said no problem, we’ll come by and pick up your wife and kids at 11:00 and take them sightseeing. When they called from the hotel lobby at 11:00 I still hadn’t slept, hadn’t showered, I was covered in sweat and vomit and felt not even half alive, but something inside me said it’s now or never. I told them, "I’ll be right down." When the elevator doors opened and I stumbled into the lobby in my sweats I must have looked like hell – their eyes got real wide and I said, "Let’s go." They said "You want to go studio? You okay?" I said no problem. I went into the studio that day and screamed out a song called "Ride Like The Wind" and just kicked total ass, and everything was okay after that.

2000 = The birth of my new band IronHorse and marrying the girl of my dreams Lindsey. Hey what happened to ’86 and ’88? They were good years. Next time…

Marc Ferrari, Ron Keel, Jamie St. James, and Bret Michaels
16. At one time you were going to be the lead singer of Black Sabbath, then it all turned to shit. What happened?

I had been doing the KEEL demos at Pasha in Hollowood, which was owned by Quiet Riot producer Spencer Proffer. Quiet Riot had just sold ten million records and Spencer was the hot producer, and he was set to do the next Sabbath album. Ian Gillian had just quit and Spencer heard the KEEL demos, hooked me up with Tony and Geezer, and I demoed some of the material that Spencer wanted them to record and we hung out for a few days plotting the future (basically Tony and Geezer wishing they could get Ozzy back). MTV, radio, everybody announced that Ron Keel was the new singer in Sabbath, but something went sour in their deal with Spencer Proffer and I went with it. They went through a bunch of other singers, but all they really wanted was Ozzy. I know for a fact that no singer, including me, was ever "in" Black Sabbath except Ozzy Osbourne.

17. After several releases and touring for years, which band or bands gave Keel the worst time?

Surprisingly, I don’t recall anyone ever really jerking us around. We always got a pretty fair shake as far as opening acts go. But the first day of the Bon Jovi tour, Jon wanted to see a set list and I showed it to him. At the time, we were really trying to push the current album and the only song in the show that wasn’t on that record was of course "The Right To Rock". Jon looked at the set list and told me – "Put ‘Because The Night’ into your show or you’re off the tour." I guess he really liked that song. Needless to say, "Because The Night" was in the show from then on.

18. Give us a tour memory from the following cities:

Chicago =
Touring with Accept and Helix, we were snowed in at the hotel. The gig was canceled so we walked through the blizzard to get to the nearest topless bar.

New York = IronHorse was just there a couple of months ago at the Voodoo Lounge in Queens. Gaetano had just done this spectacular drum solo, and the crowd was roaring. He stands up at the end of his solo, throws his drumsticks out into the crowd, and when he went to sit down missed the drum stool completely and fell flat on his ass.

Miami = Going to see my 90-something year old grandmother the day after the show. I hadn’t seen her in years, and wanted to surprise her. I went through the door and said "Hey Grandma!". She looked at me and said "Who the hell are you?"

Dallas = Opening for Van Halen at the Texxas Jam in ’86. Lotta memories from that day…BTO was opening for US, and I thought that was really cool ’cause I grew up on their music. It was 110 degrees, just brutal, and we played during the hottest part of the day. I was so excited to be in front of 86,000 people that I shot my load the first song and was gasping for breath the rest of the show. It got to the point where I said to hell with my tone, to hell with the choreographed moves, fuck everything, just DON’T PASS OUT. I didn’t pass out, but the bass player in Loverboy, who played after us, did. Just fell flat on his face in the middle of a song. End of show.

Seattle = Blonde in the white dress. I don’t remember her name.

Memphis = Well I’ve never played in Memphis. But I kinda like the music.

London = Three sold-out nights in a row opening for DIO on the "Sacred Heart" tour. It was the "Garden" of London, beautiful venue and the shows were great. I remember one night in the upstairs VIP bar, Lemmy from Motorhead ousted the bartender and took over. The drink flowed freely and a good time was had by all.

Tokyo = Our first big sold-out headline show at Shibuya Kokaido, one of the pinnacles of my achievements. It was worth 20 years of paying dues; the fans, the production, the music, it all came together in one magic unforgettable night.

Boston = Sullivan Stadium, opening Aerosmith’s big hometown reunion show on the "Done With Mirrors" tour. My manager called and said "I’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is you’re opening for Aerosmith at their big comeback gig in their hometown. The bad news is you’re third on the bill and you have to open for Yngwie." So we played our show and it went very well, and then they announce "Yngwie Malmsteen and Rising Force". Well, Yngwie was having trouble with his wireless, and without it he couldn’t do the guitar twirls behind his back and he refused to go on. I sat backstage laughing my ass off while he was cussing out his roadie and the audience starting throwing things.

Denver = My first hit off an oxygen tank. The altitude really makes it difficult to hit and hold the notes. I’ve always been a Denver Broncos fan, and that day I learned what they mean by "home field advantage".

19. Do you really think your horse is a Harley?

That song is a metaphor for being born a hundred years too late. Did Gene Roddenberry really think he was Captain Kirk?

20. Rumors have circulated that you have had some serious battles with Crystal Meth. Is this true and could you tell us why your well over six foot but only weigh about a buck o’ five?

If I had a dollar for every bullshit rumor I’d take a long vacation. I haven’t any battles with that substance, but I’ve seen it fry a lot of good friend’s brains. And I’m six four two hundred pounds; the lightest I’ve weighed as an adult was 162 the day after filming the "Somebody’s Waiting" video. They would wring the sweat out of my clothes and make me put them back on.

21. Time for Metal Sludge’s Word Association. We mention a name and you give us your thoughts.

Gene Simmons =
Mentor. Friend. Zillionaire.

David Lee Roth = One of the greatest rock frontmen of all time.

Vince Neil = Great guy. He’s been through hell and back and I wish him all the best.

Garth Brooks = Best show I saw in the 90’s.

Kid Rock = I actually put a quarter in a jukebox once so I could hear that "Cowboy" song.

Lars Ulrich = Great drummer, killer double-kick patterns.

Poison = The Steeler Mansion. It was the now infamous shitty warehouse in downtown LA where I lived for three years; Poison came in to rent it after we got signed. I was worried about ‘em, I used to stop by and check on them from time to time. I like those guys, both as people and as entertainers and I still dig their songs.

Autograph = Best lap dance I ever had was to "Turn Up The Radio".

Shania Twain = Mutt’s a lucky dog.

Marc Ferrari = Great songwiter, player, businessman, and my friend for seventeen years.


Now that was cool. Plenty of old school stories. Thanks to Ronnie for putting in the effort.

For more info on Ronnie and his many bands, you can check out his website at http://ronniekeel.tripod.com/index.htm.

And for info on Ironhorse, you can go to www.ironhorseband.com.

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