INTERVIEW: Danny Stag of Kingdom Come
Kingdom Come ruled the music world in 1988 with their platinum certified self-titled debut album and the hits “Get It On” and “What Love Can Be” and have decided to re-group and tour to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the self-titled album. SoCalMusicToday caught up with lead guitarist Danny Stag to discuss the success of that album in 1988, how the band got back together, new vocalist Keith St. John and what to expect from the 30th Anniversary tour.
The tour kicks off on September 27 in Seattle and makes its way across the country ending in Kansas City on October 27. To into the Kingdom Come grove check out their biggest hit “Get it On” here.
Hello Danny. Thanks for taking the time to speak with SoCalMusicToday – much appreciated!
WOW – 30 years ago Kingdom Come was on top of the world with the self-titled debut album and the hit “Get it On” – Congratulations!! What’s it like to know you played on an album that over 1 million people went out and purchased?
Very humbling but it’s also validating. It was my dream since I was about 14 years old, I used to sit in school and draw pictures of bands on stage. I would think, wow if I could get like 5,000 people to pay a dollar to hear me play, that would be $5,000 – that would be pretty awesome.
It was like my “ I told you so moment” for all the naysayers . . . the teachers and people that would try and discourage me from being a musician. It was definitely crazy as when it was happening – my life sorta passed before my eyes, it was a whirlwind of a time.
The two Kingdom Come albums from 1988/1989 sound timeless, you can listen to them today and not be able to associate them with a certain era. What are your thoughts in 2018 after all this time on what you created musically?
I said at the time and it might sound a bit arrogant – I would put our music up against anybody. I remember doing this thing for Guitar World and I said our musicianship would allow us to take our place amongst the greats like Deep Purple and all those other bands . . . if we had stayed together who knows what we would have come up with.
I always thought what separated us from the pack is we weren’t just a glitter show like many others, we were really serious about our playing and put a lot of emotion and all our heart and soul into it. We were more like the old school bands like Cream, Zeppelin and Hendrix – it wasn’t just “look how fast I can play” and “look how pretty my makeup is”. We took ourselves very seriously as musicians and that’s why the music stands the test of time – we weren’t just playing dress up and pretending to be rock stars.
For this 30th Anniversary of the debut album – as the saying goes – you got the band back together and you are planning a month-long tour to celebrate this milestone. Now you guys have attempted to re-group a few times previously, how did it come together and end up happening this time around?
Well mainly because James (Kottak) didn’t have any other obligations. He was the one that wanted this to happen for a long time going all the way back to 2012. It took six years to happen – it was on, it was off, it was on and off again. At one point we had put together a crew, we had tour dates offered in Europe . . . we had come really close and just for different reasons at different times it didn’t happen.
It’s actually not an easy thing to do because we all have our own lives, other careers and other obligations, so finally the perfect storm happened and we did it.
What is your favorite thing about playing with the guys or what did you miss the most about playing with them?
I would have to say playing with James Kottak . . . there have been no great bands without great drummers. It goes back to when I was a little kid and on American Bandstand with Dick Clark, they would play a new record (song) and everybody would be dancing around and then he would ask the kids what did you think of it and they would say “I liked it, it has a good beat and I can dance to it” – that’s the non-musicians way of saying they have an awesome drummer.
You can’t do it without that groove; James is without a doubt one of the best rock drummers I have heard in my life. He always kicks my ass playing with him; I really love playing with him.
The whole band, we are all friends, we are like brothers, so it’s kind of like asking me who my favorite kid is but playing with a great drummer is exceptional. Also I miss all the good times we had as a band laughing a lot, everyone has a great sense of humor and we laughed our asses off back in the day.
Aside from vocalist Lenny Wolf you have all the original members of the band participating in this celebration. Vocalist Keith St John best known for his work in Montrose has been recruited for vocals on this 30th anniversary tour. What does Keith bring to the table that made him the right guy for Kingdom Come?
He’s a rockstar you know. He’s a great singer and a great performer; he really knows how to get an audience involved in a live setting. He’s not trying to be a clone of Lenny as he has his own style but maintains the spirit of what Lenny does.
He kind of reminds me of David Coverdale a bit. James really talked him up, I had never heard him until this reunion and once I heard him, green light all the way . . . and he is such a fine looking young man
This Kingdom Come lineup was only involved in the first two albums – the self-titled debut and the sophomore release In Your Face. What is in store for the fans on this upcoming tour song wise? Will there be any Montrose covers or possibly other classic rock covers?
No, it’s the 30th Anniversary tour of Kingdom Come celebrating that debut record, we will do some songs off In Your Face as well, but for me personally it’s about thanking everyone. I mean we wouldn’t be here now if it wasn’t for them (the fans). They are the ones who went out and bought the record, they are the ones who responded to our music and said yeah we love you.
I really love those people even though 99.999% of them I have never met. I think it is just amazing the way fans can be loyal for that long of a time and people stood up for us countless times when we were being put down in the press for this or that – people were saying we blew everyone away at Monsters of Rock. So for anyone within earshot, I just want to say Thank You – thanks for making our dreams come true.
You were active in the early 90’s with a band called Royal Jelly. Have you kept active on the guitar between then and now? Was there any challenges in getting back in the Kingdom Come groove?
No, I didn’t lose my chops. Over that time, I’ve matured as a human being and I’ve really settled into what my playing style is and I play the way I play. I don’t listen to other guitar players and go “ooh, I need to be like him” like I might have when I was younger, I am settled with who I am.
I’m too proud, egotistical and vain to let my chops go away, that will never happen.
You lived in Los Angeles at one point, so I am sure you frequented The Whisky and The Rainbow on Sunset Strip. Does playing at The Whisky in 2018 have any special meaning? Is there any other venue across the US that holds any special memories or is a favorite to play?
I remember playing at The Fillmore West, that was really awesome because of all the history there. The Whisky has a lot of memories for me because that is where everyone wanted to play, if you got in there you might get noticed or signed, your dream might come true. I’ve played at The Whisky a bunch in different incarnations, JB and I have played there a number of times with a variety of people.
There’s so much history at The Whisky, I remember the first time I played there, I was like wow, Jimi Hendrix played right here, and that was a big deal. It’s an honor to play there and an honor to have been part of that whole scene on the Sunset Strip. While it was happening it was just what it was but now 30 years later it’s like WOW you should have been there – it was a legendary scene, it’s part of Rock n Roll history.
It’s great to get to go back there and feel that vibe again and even though things have changed, The Whisky is still the same. Sort of bitter-sweet but it’s still gonna be awesome to go back there.
Being a bit older in 2018 than back in 1988, how are you preparing for going out on a four week tour?
It’s actually not what I am doing it’s what I am not doing . . . I am not abusing myself and putting vast amounts of chemicals and foreign substances into my blood stream. I am very grateful I am still here as unfortunately there are a lot of people who aren’t. The older you get the more you count your blessings and appreciate it.
Is there any future plans to continue touring after this 30th Anniversary trek and is any new Kingdom Come music a potential in the future?
Sure – absolutely. We don’t have any plans at the moment but I wouldn’t rule it out. We all have ideas, if we got a green light or got an offer to go into the studio, I’m sure we would do it in a heartbeat. I love recording, I love being in the studio, I love new records, so yeah no plans yet and now that we are up and running we will see where it goes. Also we are talking about extending the tour in Europe and Japan so that would be great. We’ll jump off the recording bridge when we get there.
One last thing I want to ask . . . the 1988 Monsters of Rock Tour with Dokken, Scorpions, Metallica and Van Halen. What was that like and do you have a favorite memory from that tour?
My favorite memory of that Monsters of Rock tour would have to be when we played at The Kingdome in Seattle – it was indoors (all the other venues were outside). During the tour we would go on at like 1:00pm in the afternoon (at all these outdoor stadiums) and having the Sun beat down on you was a bit of a strange feeling. You always associate a rock show with the house lights going down and the crowd going wild.
So at The Kingdome I was playing the intro to “What Love Can Be” and I would always get into that, I would close my eyes and play and I look up and man there must have been like 25,000 lighters in the air, I literally thought “God you can take me now”, there wasn’t anything better than that moment –really awesome.
Then one other memory would be when we got to Alpine Valley Wisconsin, we all had out trailers backstage and I hear someone yelling “Kingdom Come” and it was someone from Dokken, Pilson or Mick Brown, I forget but there is this topless chic over there, she had autographs all over her breasts and so she came over to meet us and she said (in a heavy southern accent) “My name is Stella Starshine of the Starshine Shoeshine Company out of Waco Texas and I am gonna shine your boots”. We invited her into our trailer, nothing happened sexually but it was just hilarious. Lenny offered her his cowboy boot and she put it right in her crotch and she’s going to town polishing his boot and I’m like if Mom can only see me now!
I wonder where Stella Starshine is these days? If she’s listening, come to The Whisky and bring your shining rag.
Danny Thank You for taking the time to talk and best of luck to you and Kingdom Come on the upcoming tour and beyond!
You’re welcome and come out to The Whisky to catch the show.
Kingdom Come Tour Dates:
Sep. 27 – Seattle, WA – Club Sur Rocks
Sep. 28 – Vancouver, WA – Cascade Bar & Grill
Sep. 29 – Sacramento, CA – Holy Diver
Oct. 03 – West Hollywood, CA – Whisky A Go Go
Oct. 05 – Las Vegas, NV – Vamp’d
Oct. 06 – Ramona, CA – Ramona Mainstage
Oct. 07 – Scottsdale, AZ – Blk Live
Oct. 08 – Santa Fe, NM – Camel Rock Casino
Oct. 11 – St. Charles, IL – Arcada Theatre (with special guests KILLER DWARFS)
Oct. 12 – Westland, MI – The Token Lounge
Oct. 13 – Versailles, OH – BMI Speedway (co-headlining with AUTOGRAPH)
Oct. 14 – Louisville, KY – The Bourbon Hall
Oct. 17 – Pittsburgh, PA – Jergel’s Rhythm Grille
Oct. 18 – Sellersville, PA – Sellersville Theater
Oct. 19 – Halethorpe, MD – Fish Head Cantina
Oct. 20 – Poughkeepsie, NY – The Chance (supporting ZEBRA)
Oct. 21 – Derry, NH – Tupelo Music Hall
Oct. 23 – New Bedford, MA – Greasy Luck Brewpub
Oct. 26 – Granite City, IL – Eddie’s Bar & Grill
Oct. 27 – Kansas City, MO – The Scene KC Rock Bar