Tom Keifer “I think he’s brilliant. I love Axl Rose and Guns N’ Roses”
SHAKE ME ALL NIGHT
A Metal Sludge exclusive with Cinderella singer Tom Keifer
By Gerry Gittelson
Metal Sludge Editor at Large
HOLLYWOOD — In Metal Sludge’s continuing quest to track down the world’s biggest rock stars and ask ‘em questions no one else would, we caught a whale in Tom Keifer, the star lead singer for legendary hair-metal band Cinderella.
The great vocalist behind such hits as “Gypsy Road” and “Nobody’s Fool” is touring behind a solo release, “The Way Life Goes,” and we found him in a great mood.
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METAL SLUDGE: What’s the biggest music-related check you ever received, and what did you spend the money on?
TOM KEIFER: Oh god, I don’t remember. I can tell you about the very first check. I don’t remember the exact amount, but I can tell you what I did. I had my eye on vintage guitars for years. In Manhattan, in the window, I used to look at these guitars and say, “One day, that will be mine.”
Then I got my first big check, a publishing check or a writing check, and first I wanted a car, so I bought a used Jaguar XJS, then I drove it straight to the airport and went to New York and bought a ‘59 Sunburst, a ’53 Telecaster and a ’59 Strat. I got back on the plane, and that was the start. Those guitars were actually fairly affordable. I think I spent six grand but now they’re worth a quarter million or more. I dropped like $20,000 but I forgot what the car cost.
SLUDGE: Of all the bands you went on tour with, who treated you the best, and who treated you like shit?
KEIFER: Let’s see. I would have to say – and we toured with a lot of bands – that everyone treated us well, but I would have to say Bon Jovi was the best back in the day. In recent days, we’ve done a few tours with Poison, and they treated us incredibly well, too. We’re all great friends with Poison. Also, AC/DC, everything was first class with those guys.
SLUDGE: What about the bad?
KEIFER: It did come back around. The first David Lee Roth tour, he was a little rough on us. But we later did a co-headline tour together, and I got to know him better, and it was all cool.
SLUDGE: Describe in three words what it feels like to play in an arena with 20,000 people cheering like crazy.
KEIFER: Three words? Aboslutely. Fuckin. Awesome.
SLUDGE: You’ve had the endless comparisons to Steven Tyler throughout your career, Tom. My question is, when you actually met him face to face, what’s the first thing Steven Tyler ever said to you?
KEIFER: The first time we met?
KEIFER: I do remember the very very first time we met. We were playing at Boston Garden, up in Boston, and I don’t remember who the support act was, but I remember my manager running into the dressing room and saying that Steven Tyler was at the back door – but he couldn’t get in. The idiot security guard was like, “Who the fuck are you?” Eventually, Steven walked in, and the first thing he said to me was, “Damn, you’re tall.” I probably had my boots on, but yeah, that was the exact phrasing he used. I don’t think he even knew who the fuck I was!
Bret Michaels & Tom Keifer
SLUEGE: You’re from Philadelphia, and you mentioned once before that your young son is a good basketball player. Were you a fan of Julius Erving, the great Doctor J?
KEIFER: Honestly, basketball was not my favorite sport. I was much more into hockey. I fuckin’ loved the Philadelphia Flyers with Dave Schultz and all those guys. I remember they won the Stanley Cup two years in a row, and they were all the rage at that time. I used to play hockey in the streets all the time. One of the guys from the Flyers lived two blocks away. I loved the whole spirit of the Flyers at the time. They were so tough, such scrappers, not all finesse. For them, winning was more about guts. That’s why they won the Stanley Cup two years in a row.
SLUDGE: I just did a story with Mike Tramp from White Lion, kind of looking back, and he says that White Lion might have been bigger or gained more notice if the guys in the band did things like getting arrested, like some of the other big bands, the bad-boy bands. Cinderella was kind of the same way. How come you guys weren’t getting arrested by the police more?
KEIFER: Well, since we’re on the record, I have to handle this delicately, but let’s just say that with Cinderella, that wasn’t necessarily true. I don’t want to speak for the other members, so I’ll put it like this: With rock bands, most of the stories, the dynamics are all the same, but whether you try to put it on the front page or not, that’s another thing. In Cinderella, we always wanted to put the music forward and not the personal problems. It’s not something we tried to capitalize on.
SLUDGE: Good stuff. Switching gears a little bit, is “Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone)” – great song, great lyrics by the way – is that a true statement? Do you believe it ‘till this day?
KEIFER: Well yeah, I think it’s a true statement. The heart of that song is about not appreciating what you have, about taking things for granted, and you see that in lives every day. I have, many times over, so the song, I use it for inspiration.
SLUDGE: What a great opening line in a pick-up bar ….
KEIFER: (laughs) I don’t know. Possibly. I’ve never used it that way.
SLUDGE: Loved the guitar twirling, by the way, when you guys spun the guitars around your backs. You’re the only ones who did that.
KEIFER: Yeah, there was a lot of misfiring, too. Eric (Brittingham) and Jeff (LaBar) could get hurt. That’s a dangerous spot. I saw it first on the South Jersey club scene. Also, my understanding, true or not, but I was told that Richie Blackmore used to do it. I tried it a couple of times. I can do it, but I have enough trouble just playing it.
SLUDGE: By Sludge standards, Cinderella is a pretty loud band. You rocked pretty hard, very loud. So the question is, did your mother ever tell you to turn it down?
KEIFER: Yeah, I actually feel bad about it now. My first real Marshall in the ‘70s, a 100-watt with a super lead, I think it was in high school, and that amp was like the sound of heaven. I can only imagine how much I tortured my parents, plus it was in the basement with concrete, and that makes it ten times louder. It used to rattle the stuff on the walls, the prizes and little collectible figurines, all that stuff on the shelf. I felt bad. I mean, I’m in my parents’ house, and they’re the boss, but sometimes I would just have to do it. I couldn’t resist cranking it all the way.
SLUDGE: You also had the coolest clothes. Jacqui King was your designer, right?
KEIFER: She was our main designer who did most of my stuff, and there were a few others.
SLUDGE: Was she a key figure behind the success of the band?
KEIFER: I always liked her creativity. I still use Jacqui. Pretty much, there is nothing store-bought. Sometimes she is more creative than I want, but she has learned what I like.
SLUDGE: Flashy image.
KEIFER: Of course. In rock and roll, the image is all part of it, and it was flashy when we were coming up in the 1980s, taking it up a level, all part of the visual thing.
Tom Keifer says “Jon Bon Jovi is the X Factor for Cinderella”
SLUDGE: OK, word association.
SLUDGE: The Liberty Bell.
KEIFER: It represents freedom, freedom of our country, and that means a lot to me.
SLUDGE: Jon Bon Jovi.
KEIFER: I will say he was the X-factor for Cinderella.
KEIFER: I’ve always been for makeup on stage but not lipstick. More classic eyeliner and cover foundation.
SLUDGE: Axl Rose.
KEIFER: I think he’s brilliant. I love Axl and Guns N’ Roses. Nothing short of bad ass.
SLUDGE: OK, now for some “the last times”.
SLUDGE: Last fast food?
KEIFER: Two days ago. Taco Bell.
SLUDGE: Last time you signed an autograph?
KEIFER: We just did a show in Canton, Ohio, for the Hall of Fame game, at the fairgrounds, and I signed some autographs there. I haven’t been hitten up since.
SLUDGE: Last time you kissed the mirror?
KEIFER: Never done that
SLUDGE: Last time you saw Gene Simmons?
KEIFER: Hmm. If memory serves, I saw him in Nashville at KISS at the arena downtown, and that was probably quite a few years back, ten years maybe.
SLUDGE: Last time you bought a condom?
KEIFER: Let’s see. I don’t know. I don’t remember.
SLUDGE: Last time you sang in the shower? Oh, and what song?
KEIFER: I don’t remember but I do do it from time to time. I’m constantly turning my voice. Probably the last time was on tour. I usually sing the chorus of “Shelter Me.” I do like to sing.
SLUDGE: OK, just a few more things.
KEIFER: We’re good.
SLUDGE: Have you ever broke glass with a metal scream?
KEIFER: Not that I’m aware of.
SLUDGE: When was the last time you were shaken all night long?
KEIFER: Quite recently, actually.
SLUDGE: And finally, the last rock star you said hello to?
KEIFER: Hmm, I’ve got to think because I’ve been on the road doing my own shows, supporting a solo record. I guess it was John Corabi.
Gerry Gittelson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org