Rich Williams Kansas Kares!

Words By Jeb Wright
Live Photos by Mark Schierholz

Growing up in Topeka, Kansas in the 1970s makes me an automatic fan of the band Kansas.  Having my grandparents, Max and Margaret Baker, live next door to Orville and Ida Williams, and their son Richard, makes me a bigger Kansas fan.  Loving their music, getting to know the guys, and ranking this band among my Top 5 favorites of all-time flat-out makes me a Kansas Rock Nerd.  While not an official Wheathead, I would like to think I have the heart and soul of one.  This band, and this music, has influenced my life in many ways… mostly positive!

When I received an email from fellow Kansas fan Paul Schmutzler telling me he was going to auction off a Paul Reed Smith Guitar with the cover of the iconic Kansas album Leftoverture on the face of it, then give all of the money raised to charity (in this case Autism Free Brain www.autismfreebrain.org), I wanted to learn more.

We are also approaching the 40th anniversary of the release of Leftoverture in October.  These two events made me think I should shoot a text to Kansas guitarist Rich Williams and see if I could get a few more details… and it is was great excuse to do an interview with him discussing that classic album.  The timing of our conversation happened to be only a day or two after Richard had fallen off stage while performing and broken his ankle.  Despite pervasive social media, and a Kansas music addiction, I had not heard about this occurrence.  So… we begin the interview with all of the gory details of this stage-dive-gone-wrong.  

Before jumping into the interview, however, here is some information on the guitar that is being auctions off for Autism Free Brain (www.autismfreebrain.org):   

In conjunction with the album’s 40th Anniversary, Paul Reed Smith commissioned and donated a one of a kind Commemorative Leftoverture SE Custom 24 guitar. The Commemorative Leftoverture SE Custom 24 is a quality guitar that is decorated by the classic ‘Leftoverture’ album artwork. 

The guitar, which will be auctioned off to raise money for autism research, will be played on stage by KANSAS guitarist Richard Williams during select KANSAS concert dates in 2016.

The auction will begin on April 1 and end on April 30.  Bidding will start at $1,000, and bids can be placed here: Kansas Leftoverture Guitar Auction http://bit.ly/1RsX2vm

For More Information on the Auction Contact Paul Schmutzler at  p_schmutzler555@comcast.net.

More Information on PRS SE Custom 24 Guitars can be found here: http://www.prsguitars.com/secustom24/

The band KANSAS is not an official sponsor or organizer of the auction.


Jeb: It is another day in the exciting world of Rich Williams.

Rich: It has been kind of exciting lately.  Saturday I fell off the stage and broke my ankle.

Jeb:  I have been very busy.  Wait… WHAT ???  I didn’t even realize that happened!

Rich: You call yourself a fan? 

Jeb:  I suck.  I didn’t know that.   Tell all.  What the hell happened?

Rich: [laughter] It was between the end of the set and the encore.  I turned around and walked to the area to where I had come up onto the stage, previously.  Of course, we were led up and it was lit at that time.  My tech was tuning my guitar and there was not much room so I was like, “I don’t want to go there.”  It ruins the reveal of the encore if you’re just standing on the side of the stage picking your nose.  I thought, “I’ll just stand on the other side of this curtain here where I came up.”  Staring into the lights on stage and then being in this dark area everything is really black.  I misjudged it, and when I went behind the curtain all I hit was air for four feet and then I slammed into—there is a ramp.  My right thigh hit the ramp and my left foot hit something and my arm slammed into the ramp.  I’ve got creases in my arm from the ramp. I cut the hell out of my left hand and I broke my left ankle. 

I’m lying there in this dark hole and all of this screaming is going on for the encore.  They find me and everyone wants to grab me and drag me around like a rag doll.  I’m screaming in pain.  I could have sworn my thigh bone was broken.  I was bent over double.  I couldn’t even feel the foot yet.  Everyone is tugging on me and I was like, “Leave me alone.  Get back.”  I didn’t know if my back was broken or what.  My hands were bloody but I didn’t know why.  I had hit my head.  I didn’t know if my head was bleeding. 

Phil [Ehart] sticks his head around and I see the panic on his face.  I was trying to get up and I couldn’t get up, so I just gave him a circular clock motion to keep going.  The rest of the band didn’t know.  Phil went out and started playing “Fight Fire with Fire” and he tells David Ragsdale, “You’re playing guitar.”  So, Rags is nervous.  Billy Greer was like, “Where is Rich?”  Phil told him, “He fell off the stage.”  They stuck me in an ambulance and took me to the hospital.  We were on some reservation in Louisiana.  We were staying in Lafayette, and this place was 44 miles to the East.  A little town called Franklin was six miles away and they had a hospital.  They x-rayed me and said I had a broken ankle.  They put a temporary cast on it and I came home the day before yesterday.  

Jeb: Are you going to have to cancel any shows?

Rich: We are playing a casino in New Mexico next week.  I will just sit on a stool for that show.  I think I will be up on my feet after that.  I’m walking around now. 

Jeb: Well, I am sorry to hear about that situation… I hope you heal swiftly. On a different note, there is an upcoming auction of a guitar with the Leftoverture artwork on it.  Tell me about how this came to be… 

Rich: Paul Schmutzler is doing the auction.  Paul contacted me to get my contact with Paul Reed Smith.  I’ve gotten to know him over the last five or six years.  He is ex-military and border patrol.  I’m pretty sure he was a demolition guy overseas.  He’s a heck of a good guy.  He took us on a tour of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  We got to go behind the scenes.  It was fascinating.  It was an unforgettable experience.  We have a song on the new record that is dedicated to that experience, actually.

Paul met Phil on a flight when he was still in the military and they got to know each other.  He got involved with us and at the time with Autism Speaks.  One year he did a window box frame with drum sticks and really cool stuff like guitar strings.  It was a collage of Kansas items and he auctioned it off.  Once a year he does that type of thing and gives the money to charity.  He approached me and Paul Reed Smith about doing a Leftoverture guitar, since it is the 40th anniversary of the album.  I contacted Beverly Fowler at Paul Reed Smith and they said that they’d do it.  This time around the auction will benefit the charity Autism Free Brain (www.autismfreebrain.org).

It is an SE model guitar.  They did an overlay of the Leftoverture cover on the guitar.  It looks very cool.  They will donate the money from the auction to charity. I am playing it on a song or two live right now to have it seen among Kansas fans.   It is going to be auctioned off for autism research.  I will have to email you the link (www.autismfreebrain.org).  Paul is doing this for the cause.

They designed it and Christine Boyd, who does our website for the last I don’t know how many years -almost twenty probably- they provided all of the overlays and stuff for the album cover.  She got that to Paul Reed Smith’s art department so they could get this guitar made.

Jeb: I wonder how long that process took…

Rich: It took a while to get all of the correct artwork in the right form where they could use it and this and that.  I don’t know how long the process of assembling it goes.  I’ve been to the factory a few times and it is an incredible place.  I don’t know if the actual assembly takes a lot time...  You basically take a raw guitar out of the stack they are making and you set it up aside.  This one will have this design on it and it probably goes off to a particular person in charge of that.  I don’t know if it takes days, weeks or months, but they sure did a great job.  It probably is easier to do than people of our limited capability can understand!  They really did a great job, and it is a one-of-a-kind guitar.  Again, it is going to a great cause.  We want to give all of the Kansas fans the chance to see this.  They can get something nice to hang on the wall and help a great charity. 

Jeb: Let’s hope it ends up on the wall of a Kansas fan.

Rich: That is probably where it is going to go.  My guitars get banged up, so I can’t take care of something like this.  It looks too good not to be displayed.  I would not feel comfortable playing something like that [laughter]. 

Jeb: Kansas, as a band, has done a lot of nice things for others… but you do it very quietly.  You don’t showboat about it… 

Rich:  I’m not doing this to pat myself on the back for being such a wonderful guy.  It is a group effort for a good cause.  Why not?  We want to be involved with it.  My only care is that it raises a lot of money for a really good cause.  I don’t need any accolades or anything.  It is not about me in any way.  I’m just the vehicle to get money into the hands of people for autism research. 

Jeb:  The image on the guitar is the Leftoverture album cover.  It has been four decades since this album came out.  That is a long time.  To me, it doesn’t feel that long.  Does it feel that long to you since this album was released?

Rich: Some things have parallel thought with two different aspects.  On one aspect, it seems like yesterday.  In the same thought, I’ve lived forty lifetimes in those forty years and it seems like an eternity ago.  It is conflicting thoughts on the exact same time.  I can lean one way or the other.  It is forever and it was yesterday. 

Jeb: This ensemble of tracks was a game changer.

Rich: I don’t know how many more records Don Kirshner was going to hang around for.  He’d already stuck his neck out for three records and this was the forth.  Nothing had paid off yet.  We were climbing up the ladder at a very slow pace.  This one was the one that his buddies at the country club were like, “What are you wasting your time with this band for?”  This was the one where he said, “I heard something in these guys and this is it.  This is what I’ve been waiting for.”

Jeb:  Were you insulated, or did you know Leftoverture was do or die?

Rich: I can only speak for myself.  When you’re in your twenties… I was living the dream already.  To record an album of your own material and to go out and travel around the country playing… that alone was so much bigger than any dream we ever had.  Back in the ‘60s there were bands like The Flippers that played through the Midwest on larger circuits… they would play places like The Cotillion in Wichita, Kansas.  We so wanted to break out of the local club band and we wanted to get on the Midwestern circuit.  That was the big time for me.  To do what we did was impossible to me.  It wasn’t even a thought to actually get to go out and do what we do now.  It was too far from a boy from Topeka to hope for or to dream about.  It was an unrealistic and an unimaginable thought.  Even before Leftoverture we had exceeded any expectations, hopes or dreams that we had as a band.

Jeb: I really love the album Masque.  A lot of us hardcore Kansas fans do.  I like all of it.  But I love about half of it.  The half I love has songs like “Pinnacle” and “Mystery and Mayhem.”  That style is Leftoverture.  Those songs led to the songs that came next.  The sound, the production, the songwriting… it all blossomed. 

Rich: We were becoming a band that was finding it’s voice.  Kirshner, for all the fun that people made of him, you would never think that Don Kirshner, the Monkee Man and the hit maker would cultivate an act like us in the way he did.  He was our benefactor.  He left us alone.  Once in a while we would hold up the phone and let him hear what we were playing.  He would listen to the middle of “Song for America” and I am sure he thought, “What have a gotten into?”  He kept with us in tour promotion and he cultivated us.  He just really thought that there was something there and that it would eventually take root.  It did.  It is all Don’s fault.

Jeb: The documentary goes into this topic about development very in-depth.  I wish the story would have gone on, but it is cool how you stopped with it on top.

Rich: We had to have an ending point.  We wanted to end it on an up-note.  The story really was coming from the middle of nowhere and climbing to the top of the mountain.  After that point, we started sliding back down and people left.  Then people came back.  Where do you go to?  This was the logical place to tell the miracle of coming from where we did and doing what we did.  That was the message of the story.  It was about the music.  If you start to get into the other stuff… the disagreements and why people left and all of these kind of things… it would turn into anybody’s DVD at that point.  Every band has got naughty boys doing naughty things and people arguing over this and that.  We didn’t want to stoop to just making another documentary.  We wanted to have a point.

Jeb: The positive point comes across well.  It is an amazing story.  Do you think that is the last time the six of you will all be together?

Rich: Do I? I have no reason to think it will or it won’t.  It was not like we were drug there by wild horses.  Everybody wanted to be there.  I’ve seen Robby [Steinhardt] fifteen times in the last year.  I’ve seen Dave Hope and Kerry [Livgren] a few times as well.  I am just not in their area very much or I would see them more.  Dave and I just emailed jokes back and forth today.  Kerry is limited from where he lives and from having the stroke.  He is just not as mobile as he once was.  There is not a personal reason why we wouldn’t.  It would be more logistics to get us all together in the same time.  We will continue to see each other at separate times.  All of in the same room… it could very well be the last time.  You never know. 

Jeb:  Since the album cover is on that PRS SE guitar up for auction, tell me about the actual artwork that became the cover?

Rich: You give the record company ideas and it gets commissioned.  You don’t want to dictate, but you want to point them in the right direction.  For Point of Know Return we told them we needed something that signifies that teetering point.  He showed up with that unbelievable image.  You like to leave the artists alone.  You hire an artist because you really like what they have done and you like their style.  You tell them what you want to convey and this kind of stuff...  They come up with some drawings and you tell them if you like the direction they are going or not.  You kind of want their input. 

If we could do it ourselves then we would, but you’re really asking someone to create a great image by what they have done in the past.  You hire a drummer to play on a solo record… why?  Because of what he does.   It is like when Quincy Jones had Bob Dylan on “We are the World.”  Bob sang his part normally.  Quincy said, “No, Bob we need you to sing like Bob Dylan.”  Then he sang it with his Dylan voice and it was great.  The reason you hire people is because you have something you’re going for and you need to find the right person who can do it for you.

Jeb:  Leftoverture is an iconic image.  Was it an oil painting?

Rich: I don’t know where the original of that is.  I think Point of Know Return original is in Budd Carr’s hands somewhere.  Maybe Phil got it eventually?  I don’t know.  To see the originals, at some point I did see them, but you’re not thinking about those things at the time.  You just are looking at it as an album cover, not something that will be historical one day. 

We had all of those old tour jackets and stuff and I always just gave them away.  I remember one time I took twenty tour jackets to the Salvation Army as they were just filling up the closet.  I never wore them.  I have no idea what the value would be of them today.  I’ve emptied my closet since with auctions.  People ask for stuff and I send it to places.  I used to just give it away.  I never saw the specialness in those items as they were just tools to me.  I was in the middle of it.  With hindsight you see it different.  I have guitars I once owned that I wish I still had them now.  I wonder why I traded them.  You don’t think of it at the time, but in hindsight you see it.  I’ve found that hindsight sucks [laugher].  Reflecting on the past… it is gone and there is nothing you can do about it.  You usually look back and just find a bunch of regret there.  I am just going to keep my eyes focused on the foreground pretty close to me.  I am not going to look back or too far beyond. 

Jeb: You have to look back when Leftoverture hits 40 years old...

Rich: I don’t know if it is denial or what.  To really contemplate that it was 40 years ago… that is almost half a century.  It is still played on the radio and fans still want to come and hear it.  They demand us to play it.  It is amazing. 

Jeb: Since this is the anniversary and the PRS guitar for charity has the cover on it, let’s talk about the songs on the album.  “Carry On Wayward Son.”  What stands out to you when I say the title?

Rich: The a-Capella opening.  Sitting in the studio we knew we had a cool song.  It was clever and it had these time changes.  It was up and it was down and it had this great chorus.  There was nothing like it.  We knew we had a great song.  Tagging that part on the beginning was great.  We were sitting in the studio and our producer Jeff Glixman had it cranked.  The a-Capella started out and the song kicked in and we knew that we had something big.  I had no idea of the weight it would carry and propel us to this very day, like it has.  I don’t say these things lightly.  I don’t say it bragging either.  That is an iconic timeless song that is forty years old and I am busy as I have ever been.  You can love us or hate us or you can be indifferent, but the simple fact is that that is one of the songs that is part of American rock music history.  The song is still played constantly on the radio. 

I speak more for the legacy than I do for the bragging rights.  I’m more focused right now on getting myself healthy enough to play the next show.  Looking back, I am very proud of our legacy.  I am from Topeka.  I don’t walk around with my chest all puffed out telling people to stand back.  That doesn’t mean anything to me as an individual.  As part of Kansas, I am very proud to be a part of this team and that song.  Me?  Just me? Not so much.

Jeb: “The Wall.”

Rich: I remember I had just played the solo in the beginning and I’d used a tone I had never really used before.  Phil’s wife, at the time, said, “That is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard.  It was really majestic.  The song was so powerful and so moving.” I was very proud of that moment, to have played that part there.  Once in a while I have a knack for finding a part that is needed.  There are a million guitar players that can play blistering solos that are amazing to see played.  Even the best rarely create a perfect note for that moment.  That is one of my best on that song.  I didn’t do anything amazing musically, but it was exactly what the song needed.  The song, in general, is probably in Kerry’s Top 5 of all time.   

Jeb: You made these songs in Topeka? Where were you rehearsing?

Rich: Yes we were.  For Leftoverture… I am not sure it is there anymore.  It was right across… just west of the Santa Fe tracks off of something like Sixth or Seventh Street.  There was a storage faculty there, and we rented a storage space and we were in there practicing.  That is where we worked up the record.

Jeb: Kerry was just bringing in new songs. 

Rich: He would come in and go, “I wrote another song last night.”  That song, “The Wall” with all of the complex parts and the lyrics… I’m sure in all honesty he had been working on bits and pieces, but it all came together really quickly.  He had a spurt at that time.  “Wayward Son” was the last spurt.  It came in on the last day as we were packing up.  “The Wall” came in before that one.  He would sit down at a piano and write the song.  It just flowed right out of him.  You can take a million guesses as to what that is.  All I know is that I will never know where that comes from.  People can say, “Wink wink, I know that you know where that comes from.”  I really don’t know.  Is it divine?  Could be, but I don’t know.  It came from somewhere. 

Jeb: “What’s on My Mind?” 

Rich: We are playing that one now.  It is an odd song to play because there are not too many songs that we play in B flat.  That is an odd key.  To solo in B flat is not something we normally do, it’s odd.  In hindsight, if it had been in the key of A I would have played a different solo because you lean on what you know.  With B flat I had to be more conscious of the melody I was playing and not just going back to the automatic fingerings of things.  It made me think about what I was doing a little bit more.  The opening solo- I did it the night before in the studio.  I knew I was going to record it the next day, so I worked it out the night before.  Usually, if there is a solo I would just roll the tape and throw a lot of stuff against the wall until something sticks.  This one being in a key that I wasn’t as comfortable playing in I wanted to be more versed in it, so I did it a different way.  We went in and did one take and that was it.  It was over and done.  It taught me something too, and that is to show up prepared

Jeb: “Miracles Out of Nowhere” is one of the best Kansas songs ever recorded.

Rich: When I look back at that, I think it was one of the most difficult songs for us to really learn. Now it is engraved in me, but I can remember the difficulty in the time jumps and things.  Things were in different keys but only half of the things would repeat—it was a very clumsy and awkward thing for us to get through.  The whole beginning phrase that repeats itself in the middle was painstaking to memorize and to get the right feel for it. 

It was the first time I had played acoustic.  I had recently bought my Martin over in Lawrence, Kansas.  I wanted to put some acoustic on the song.  I had borrowed a banjo from somebody and I taught myself to finger pick on that, but I hadn’t really done that on guitar.  I really didn’t know a picking style other than that.  When the first breakdown on “Miracles” comes up, I wrote a part that is very hard to play.  If I knew what I was doing then I wouldn’t have played it that way, as nobody would.  Instead I created this part that, to this day, every time I get to that part in the song I tighten up and remind myself to breathe because it is awkward.  It is the wrong technique.  Everything about it you would never do that way.  It worked for the song.  I needed to capture the feel of the chords that was coming.  I needed to write accents for it.  It was very awkward for me to do.

Jeb: “Opus Insert.”

Rich: I think that is a great song.  I always have enjoyed playing it.  We brought that back out now with Ronnie Platt singing in the band.  I think the problem with the song is that it doesn’t have the ending that “Miracles” has.  It doesn’t have a big ending… it just ends.  It doesn’t demand the response of a big flamboyant ending.  It is a very upbeat song.  Songs in the key of F, for some reason, have a very positive feel about them.  It has great lyrics as well.  I have never had people screaming for that song, though.  I never understood it, as I love the song. 

Jeb: “Questions of my Childhood”

Rich: I have not heard that song in so long.  We have never ever played that song live.  I think there are some cool parts in it.  If I were to listen to it now, it would be like listening to a new song.  There are reasons why bands play some songs and don’t play others.  They can’t all be “Wayward Son” on an album.  It is funny because people still go, “That is my favorite song on the album I wish they would play that.”  Really?  I don’t get that.  Nothing about it ever really stood out to me. 

Jeb: “Cheyenne Anthem

Rich: Those are the types of songs that I most identify with Kansas.  They are songs that create a mental picture.  They create a tapestry of sound and they really capture a mood.  They are not just about, you know, let’s boogie in 4/4 and do it loud.  There is a time and a place for that.  What I’ve always loved about us is that we demand of ourselves to create something like that song. 

Talk about feeling silly… play that song at an outdoor festival at two o’clock in the afternoon. That song demands being under dramatic lighting.  The image on stage can’t really capture the mood of it all.  Whacking it out in the daylight is not suitable for that song.  It has to be done in the right venue.  When it is in the right venue it because very dramatic.

Jeb: Kansas didn’t take left turns, they took off ramps.

Rich: We have a song on the new album that I think you will particularly like called “The Voyage of 8:18.”  It starts and eight minutes and eighteen seconds later it is over.  It is so quintessential Kansas with beautiful chord structures and verses.  The beginning is very cool and then it just goes away.  It is a journey of a song.  It brings you back home and then goes back out again.  You’re tired and you feel like you’ve been somewhere when you’ve heard this song.  Kansas fans are going to swear Kerry wrote it, but he didn’t.  It is so ‘us.’ It is the hardest song that I’ve ever had to learn.  There are certain elements that make me personally identify Kansas to, and it is those kind of songs.  I think that is where we are the most different than anyone.  We are most identifiable as us when we stress capturing a mood.  We’ve done it again with this song. 

Jeb: “Magnum Opus”

Rich:  That song was a great example of teamwork.  We had all of these different parts and ideas that we had not cultivated and turned into anything.  We made a song out of them.  We put a piece here and a piece there and that spurred thought at the moment.  We need to write parts as we were going along to get from one idea to the next.  Someone would go, “I’ve got an idea.” 

The song “Magnum Opus” was actually called “Leftoverture” because it was a song created from left over ideas.  All of the parts we didn’t use anywhere else we laying around.  I would have a part that I warmed up with and someone would go, “Put that here.”  The record company loved the title so much that they said, “That is the name of the album not the song.”  The song became “Magnum Opus.” 

We have a quirky sense of humor, so we had to give titles to all of these little sections.  “Gnat Attack” is just what the music sounds like.  It is fitting for it.  A lot of people took that really seriously.  They looked for a meaning in the titles like “Release the Beavers.”   I know we’re funny, but a lot of times people don’t want you to be funny.  They want you to be dark and morose.  You sit around miserable in a dark room and you feel the pain of living and then you crawl to the table and write… we spend more time laughing than anything.  We still are like that. 

Phil and I said a long time ago that if this ever stops being fun it is time to stop doing it.  We don’t want to stop doing it so we cultivate the fun and we demand it be fun.  We don’t want to overwork ourselves and take ourselves away from family too long.  We want to think about what is next and we want to have something to strive toward.  We want to keep it fun and keep it light and keep it friendly.  It is amazing how much fun you can have when that is your goal. 

Jeb:  When Leftoverture went so huge, that began living a different style of life than you’re living today.  You were giving it all up to be on the road when things are going Platinum. 

Rich: It is not like it happened fast.  There were three albums before that one.  We went from being an opening act to headlining Madison Square Garden.  Each experience was a brand new one.  We didn’t have anything to measure it against.  We were busy and we were working.  Our manager Budd Carr was like, “We sold out Madison Square Garden.”  We were like, “Yeah… after the show let’s go get a burger.”  In hindsight I go, “We sold it out.”  We were young guys and we were all for one and one for all like a pirate ship on the open sea.  There was a cockiness about us.  We were young and dumb.  Philosophically, I am a completely different person now.  I know how to appreciate the moment.  When something is really awesome, I recognize it.  I don’t want to look back and realize that something was great.  I want to know it is great right now.

Jeb: Can you do that without experience?  Is that something you have to learn?

Rich: Oh, absolutely.  You have to see what’s behind the curtain a million times.  You’ve got to have your rear end kicked a lot by yourself and by people around you.  You keep taking the next step and you work your way through this.  You either die a frustrated drunk, or you, somewhere, find a little bit of peace in it all and you get to sit back and look at it from a different perspective.  I’ve gotten to that point to where I can look at what I do and have the joy of just doing this, and it is awesome. 

Jeb: Are you more into Kansas now than you were then? 

Rich: I would say yes. I am a different person now.  The way a young man full of piss and vinegar looks at any situation… a mature, wiser man in the same situation is not going to see it through the same eyes.  In measuring the two, and in dedicating 42 years of my life to this, I have a whole different respect for it.  Kerry, Dave, Robby, Steve, Phil and everybody that has been a part of the legacy and I have the utmost respect and love for.  Keeping the flame alive of what we are, and what we always were and what we will always be dedicated to, and we will always be represented to that. 

Now we have a new album coming out.  We are not going to just sit back on all of that… this band is hungry.  We want to grow.  I love seeing that in us.  I’m a lot more serious about it now.  How serious can you be when you’re 24 years old?  You’re finally not playing in a bar.  You get an album out.  You are released upon the world.  It is a different mindset to someone who has spent a lifetime nurturing and protecting that.  I have a lot more vested in it now. It is much more a part of my life now than it was then…  Not that it wasn’t important then, but it is an entirely different animal to me now. 

Here is a simple fact: Change happens.  The most difficult thing for people to grab a hold of is change.  Everything changes.  It is always in flux and it always will be.  Yet we fight change constantly.  There is something about the human spirit that struggles with change.  Eventually you adapt to that and you learn that I can stand at the edge of the ocean and scream at the tide, but it is still going to come.  You make peace with that and you find a different beauty in it.  Now, I like change, although it upsets the stomach and makes you nervous as to what’s next, but for me, just taking the next step has always been positive at the end of it all.  I got off on a tangent, but this is where we wound up.  It is kind of like that! 

Jeb: That sums up life.

Rich: It really does.  I respect the people who love old Kansas.  Do you think you love it more than I do? Come on!  You know, these guys left and it was painful...  They left for their reasons and it was time for them to go. 

Jeb: This lineup is very strong.  I love this new version of Kansas.  Your new keyboard player is very impressive. 

Rich: David Manion is great.  He’s a good guy.  He played on Billy Greer’s Seventh Key albums.  He was our lighting director for twenty-some years.  It was nice to have somebody who was very musical doing the lights because he understood what we were doing on the stage.  He is one of those guys who was in the right place at the right time.  It just took him a long time to get there.

Jeb: Ronnie Platt is amazing.  Make sure he does not get LSD… that ‘Lead Singer’s Disease’.

Rich: He would have by now.  He has so much respect for Steve Walsh.  Ronnie is so grateful for where he is now.  He is just a nice guy.  He is not going to turn into that rock star jerk where you saying, “I remember when he was a nice guy.”  He is just too humble.  He dedicated his life to his craft for this shot, and he is not going to do anything to blow it. 

Jeb: Let’s end our conversation with the new album.  We know Ronnie has good energy on the stage.  How does he do in the studio?

Rich: It is going to be great for Ronnie and great for the band to turn the page.  From this moment on- everything else we do- these are Ronnie’s songs to sing, and these are Billy’s songs to sing.  We are creating a new catalog of material.  Ronnie killed it.  He did a great job.  The album is called The Prelude Implicit

Jeb: Another bizarre title.  Where do you guys think this stuff up? 

Rich: Well, we wanted something that conveyed a message.  A prelude is the introduction of something and implicit means absolutely without even saying so.  This is our new beginning.  This is a new musical beginning of Kansas; a rebirth.  We decided last week on that with Inside/Out, the record company.  They love this record and they can’t wait to get it out.  Make no mistake, this is not a last gasp.  We are already talking about the next album and the next album after that.  We are raring to go and we’ve got a lot to do. 


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