HIT CHANNEL EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: September 2016. We had the pleasure to talk with a great singer: Ronnie Platt. He is best known as the lead vocalist of Kansas since 2014. They just released a new studio album after 16 years, called “The Prelude Implicit” (Inside Out). Read below the very interesting things he told us:
What was the vision of Kansas for “The Prelude Implicit”? What did you want to do?
We had many ideas. I think there is a quite diverse collection of songs on this album. Songs that I would classify very interesting, classical songs. I think a couple of them have very heavy guitar, almost heavy metal sound. There is a couple that they are very moody, slower, kind of dark songs. Then, there is a couple of songs that I would call radio-friendly songs like “Summer”, “Unsung Heroes” and “With this Heart”. I consider these as radio-friendly songs. It’s a collection of different feels in this particular album.
Did you expect that you would be able to write lyrics on your first album with Kansas?
No. That’s a very funny thing because when I joined this band and got the job I knew that I would be able to sing songs that I know almost my entire life. So, signing a record contract with Inside Out was another gift just knowing that my voice was going to be in a studio Kansas album. This was very surreal. When I was presented with the task of writing lyrics, I was prepared for rejection. I didn’t know that Phil (ed: Ehart –drums) and Rich (ed: Williams –guitars) were going to like what I wrote and if it was fitting in Kansas label. So, imagine my excitement when I submitted my very first song, which was “With This Heart”, the very first single that we released from the album. When I submitted those lyrics to Phil and Rich, I was preparing myself for rejection and you imagine my excitement when they told me: “Wow, these are really good! Do you want to write another one?” and I ended up writing lyrics for 6 of the songs of the album. It was a very exciting thing and beyond my wildest dreams.
What I understand listening to the “Prelude Implicit” is that it’s a collective effort. You can’t say that someone is better than someone else. Do you agree with this opinion?
Absolutely. It really is seven band members equally putting ideas and contributions and I think that adds to the depth of the songs. We were preparing and writing music knowing that someone if he puts an idea, we all would listen to it, grasp it and try to embellish it. It really was seven of us just taking ideas and molding that as a band. We couldn’t be more proud of the end product.
The vocal performance in the song “Summer” is great! Are you proud of this song?
Very much so. I’m singing the high harmony vocals in the chorus on that and Billy Greer (ed: bass) sings the lead on “Summer” and he just did an amazing job. Billy is a vocal powerhouse for Kansas for 30 years plus now. So, I love the way Billy sings, I think it’s amazing and “Summer” is just an amazing track of the album. It’s very upbeat, it has a great feel and we did an amazing job on it. I’m very happy with that song.
Are you satisfied with the response you got so far from fans and press for “The Prelude Implicit” album?
The official release of the album is tomorrow (ed: 23 September). We released as singles “With This Heart” and “Visibility Zero”, which is also a video. It’s very intense. The response we received for those two songs so far has just been so overwhelmingly positive. There are so many new people in the group: myself, David Manion on keyboards who joined the band at the same time I did and our newest addition, Zak Rizvi on guitar. Three out of the seven of us are new members of the band, so there is a little anticipation of how is the hardcore Kansas fan going to accept us. They have been amazingly positive and I have heard nothing but very good and very flattering responses to what we put out so far. I’m very lucky.
Have you decided which songs from “The Prelude Implicit” you will play live?
Yes, but I am not so sure if I should reveal the surprise, but I can give you a couple: Of course, we will do “With This Heart”, we will play “Rhythm In the Spirit”, “Refugee” and the rest of them, I’ll leave for a surprise.
Kansas play about 90 shows every year. Do you enjoy being on the road for so long period of time?
Oh, that’s a funny story because when I first met with Phil and Rich, they additionally told me that we would do roughly 65 shows every year. Maybe one year a couple less, may one year a couple more. But last year we did 95 shows and this year we will easily do more than 100. They increased the number of shows quite a bit, but I love it and I love performing and I would not stay away from more things.
How did you feel when Kerry Livgren (guitar) and Robby Steinhardt (violin) joined Kansas on stage last year?
For me, that was a very special event. Kerry Livgren is such a prolific lyric writer and music writer for the band and really the inspiration for so many classic songs. For me it was like meeting royalty, like meeting a rock star guy. But both Kerry and Robby are super, super nice gentlemen. They are part of the Kansas family and it was nice that they tried to make you feel that you are part of the family too. It was a very exciting and quite important moment in my life.
You are a huge Yes fan. Are you looking forward to doing the Cruise to the Edge in February 2017 with Yes, Steve Hackett, John Wetton and others?
Again, this is what it makes it all very surreal for me, sharing the stage on Cruise to the Edge with so many of the musical legends that I admired my entire life. I’m really looking forward to that and really spend some time with those guys. I know it’s gonna be a great, great cruise and I have never been on a cruise. I’m looking forward to that.
Last year, Blue Oyster Cult opened some shows for Kansas. Did you have a good time being on the road with them?
Oh, my God Blue Oyster Cult! You will not meet a group of nicer guys. It was funny and we absolutely love doing shows with them and we have done a few now. One show that really sticks out in my mind it was Blue Oyster Cult, Kansas and Boston. It was a pretty nice line-up. Again, this is a group of super nice guys and we have a good time when we play with them. The Kansas guys have known the BOC guys for quite a long time, so they feel like old friends.
How did you get the job as the lead singer of Kansas?
I’ve always said that my old cover band back in Chicago (ed: ARRA) got me into Shooting Star. Shooting Star was my first national group and I really believe that Shooting Star got me into Kansas. Our mutual friend back in Chicago with the Shooting Star band, when they were looking for a singer, got me in touch with Van McLain, the guitar player of the Shooting Star. I met with Van, and I ended up being the singer of the Shooting Star. Then, Shooting Star did a job with Kansas in Walker, Minnesota at a huge, giant festival and it really was the time when I think Phil and Rich noticed my singing. I don’t know if they had guessed Steve Walsh’s retirement then –it was 2009- but at that time I knew that Kansas had a lead vocalist and that was Steve. When Steve announced his retirement, I sent a message to Rich Williams, with whom we were friends on Facebook and asked Rich in a message: “Rich, this is Ronnie Platt from Shooting Star. Please give me some consideration”.
And I heard from Rich the very next day, I talked with him on the phone and the next day after that, I talked to Phil on the phone. Three days later they flew me to Atlanta where I met with Phil and Rich. They were very direct telling me: “We are not having you come to Atlanta to audition. We’ve seen you sing and we know that you are a great singer. We want to see if you are a nice guy and if you can fit in with the rest of the guys in the band”. So, in that meeting with them, we talked business for not even 5 minutes and in the next 2 ½ hours we were just telling jokes, telling stories and having a good time. They really made me feel comfortable immediately. In a matter of minutes, I was sitting with a couple of old friends. So, after the meeting I moved back to Chicago and the very next day, I got an email from Phil Ehart saying: “Congratulations, you got the job”. It happened very quickly.
Which is your favourite Kansas album?
Oh, “The Prelude Implicit” (laughs). Of course, my first Kansas album was “Leftoverture” and after I heard “Leftoverture” I fell in love the rest of their music. After that, I got “Point of Know Return” but then I went back and got “Song for America”, then I got the first album. There are so many songs out of those albums that I love, that it would be like trying to ask you: “Which one is your favourite kid? What is your favourite child?” It’s just love for the entire library of music.
You worked as a truck driver in the streets of Chicago. Did your dream come true when you joined Kansas?
Very much so. Not that I was dreaming that I would become the lead singer of Kansas but I always dreamt of and I had a desire and I was trying to work towards becoming a full time musician. That really was my goal. I wasn’t able to do that in Shooting Star. Shooting Star did not play out on a regular basis. So, my dream came true in Kansas and I became able to do music from my life. I will say this: “This is not a job. Being in the music business, it is not a job, it’s a lifestyle. It’s something that suits you. You know that being a musician you are accepting that lifestyle”. And I’m very lucky. I’m lucky that I got to be the lead singer of one the best classic rock bands of all time.
As a fan, do you think Kansas should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?
I think they should be. I can’t understand why they are not but this is determined by some individuals. Maybe someday, they’ll come to their senses.
Do you think social media like Youtube and Facebook have helped younger listeners to learn about the music of Kansas?
Oh, I think the social media thing in the current music industry is an absolute necessity. It exposes you to the world. It’s really helpful for Kansas.
A huge “THANK YOU” to Mr Ronnie Platt for his time and to Peter Klapproth for his valuable help.
Kansas Official website: www.kansasband.com
Kansas Official Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/KansasBand
Kansas Official Twitter page: https://twitter.com/kansasband
Buy “The Plelude Implicit” from Amazon here .