A lot of trends have come and gone since “Jeopardy” hit number two on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1983, but Greg Kihn is still here. Not only is he still here, he’s still writing, playing, and recording new music with the enthusiasm befitting an artist who hasn’t already lived out his own rock ‘n’ roll fantasy.
Spending 17 years as the host of KUFX’s morning show appears to have rekindled his passion for performing, because his return to the road has yielded nothing but positive reactions from the audience. Tracks such as “The Breakup Song (They Don’t Write Em),” “Love Never Fails,” and the aforementioned “Jeopardy” haven’t lost one ounce of their infectious ’80s power pop charm.
I caught up with Kihn recently to see what he’s been up to since exiting the MTV spotlight and longtime fans will be glad to know that his love for music is as strong as ever.
MNOD: You took a 21-year hiatus from recording before releasing “ReKihndled” in 2017. What made you feel as if it was the right time to get back to writing and playing music again?
Kihn: That’s a good question. I had been doing the morning show on KUFX in San Francisco for 17 years without really thinking about doing another album. I knew it was the right time, because the station let me go and the show was over. Once I got back into it, I felt as if I was ready to make up whatever ground I lost. I revamped the band and we’re sounding better than ever. I’m enjoying it more now, because everything is just easier now.
MNOD: How did your approach to songwriting change compared to how you worked in the ’80s?
Kihn: It was like riding a bike. 20 years ago, songwriting was a pain in the butt, but it’s been more effortless lately. Things are a lot different now than they were back then, so it’s more fun. I can have a lot of different ideas in the studio and lay them down right there given how much the technology has improved. A technological revolution took place between 2017 and 1996, which means that you can do unlimited tracks instead of a set number. There’s less rigmarole in the studio now.
MNOD: How rewarding is it to have your son play alongside you in the band?
Kihn: It’s great. Every time I look over at that side of the stage, I smile. The kicker is that I have two grandchildren who are 10 and 6, so, in 5-10 years, it’s conceivable that we’ll have three generations playing in the Greg Kihn Band.
MNOD: When did you realize that he was into music on a professional level?
Kihn: Joe Satriani used to be my lead guitarist for a while and he kind of took my son under his wing. He became his private guitar teacher and basically taught him everything that he knew. Joe is the perfect example of a guitar player and he’s the best I’ve ever seen. I’ve really loved having Ry in the band with me now and he’s become such a great player in his own right.
MNOD: Your mainstream success in the ’80s was as celebrated as anything during the MTV era. What do you cherish most about that time?
Kihn: In 1983, we were the darlings of MTV. “Jeopardy” had just come out and we were really the first band to have a concept video that was almost like a mini movie. It had a “Night of the Living Dead” motif that was really cool and we shot it at Mission Dolores, which was Catholic church in San Francisco that was also featured in “Dirty Harry.” We had a great time on that and I’ll probably go to hell for the things that I did in that church after hours.
MNOD: What was your initial reaction when you first heard “Weird” Al Yankovic’s parody “I Lost on Jeopardy?”
Kihn: He’s a wonderful guy and I loved it. He called me up and said that he had an idea for a parody involving the game show and I thought it was a brilliant concept. He constructed a set based on the show and even had Don Pardo do the voiceover saying ‘That’s right Al-you lost! And let me tell you what you didn’t win.’ I was both flattered and delighted when that did so well. God bless “Weird” Al, because I still get money from that song.
MNOD: Did you enjoy making videos in those days?
Kihn: It was a lot of fun. Seeing yourself on TV was always cool, because we received a ton of airplay on MTV. Before then, bands had usually done straight videos, but we were able to something different by using the format to tell a story.
MNOD: You mentioned that you were on KUFX for 17 years. Was being on the radio something that always interested you or did it just come to you later on?
Kihn: I was always into radio. I had done a lot of morning shows before it and they were always pretty fun. It really kept the flame going for “Jeopardy” in a lot of ways, because that song still gets played today. I won’t miss getting up at 3:30 a.m. and driving to San Francisco anymore, though. I did that for so long that I still feel as if I haven’t caught up on sleep. When the morning show ended, I started sleeping until noon every day, which was great. Things have always just happened to me, so the show ending made me realize that it was time to get back on the road and in the studio. It had been a long time and it felt good to do it again.
MNOD: You’re also a novelist in your spare time. Where did your interest in writing fiction come from?
Kihn: I always wrote growing up and into junior high. While at KUFX, I wasn’t on the road anymore and I was able to spend a lot of time at home writing. I would get home after the show and sit at the computer ready to go.
MNOD: How does your mindset for fiction differ from sitting down to write a record?
Kihn: It’s more honest in some ways, because I write what I know. I love to be able create a universe full of characters. It’s liberating and wide open. My interests haven’t changed all that much from when I was younger, I’m just older now. Stephen King is an influence and Dean Koontz has always been a friend, but there are a lot of writers I look to for inspiration.
MNOD: I spoke with Robert Berry last year and he noted how much fun he has playing bass in the Greg Kihn Band. Do you feel the same at this point in your career?
Kihn: I definitely feel that way. Robert has been like a brother to me and he’s also an incredible producer. He can throw things together in the studio like nobody else in addition to being a great musician.
MNOD: Do you still enjoy touring after all this time?
Kihn: I do. When I’m not playing, I have a lot of time to read and write. I have to find different ways to amuse myself during the down time. We’re already working on the next record and have a couple songs toward it so far. It’s really a 12-month process, because the writing never stops. When the songs come, they come. You just have to be there when they hit.
The Greg Kihn Band is currently on tour with their next show in Las Vegas, NV on June 21.
Their 2017 album, “ReKihndled,” is available now wherever music is disseminated, but do us all a favor and pay for a physical copy.
See http://www.gregkihn.com for details.