During an episode of Vh1 Classic’s “That Metal Show” in 2013, Brian “Damage” Forsythe was asked by host Eddie Trunk to name a song that he wished he had written and he responded with “Tumbling Dice” by The Rolling Stones. His answer was enlightening, because he gave the viewer a glimpse into where his true inspiration lied. In an era defined by excess, Forsythe’s playing in Kix was often a bluesy, riff-based alternative to the shredding of George Lynch or Warren DeMartini, so it made perfect sense to hear that the song-centric style of Keith Richards had such an impact on his younger self.
While Kix never attained the same level of commercial success that many of their contemporaries did, their catalog remains strong and 1985’s “Midnite Dynamite” deserves to be in heavier rotation than much of what passes for rock music in 2021.
I had an opportunity to speak with Forsythe recently about producer Beau Hill’s remix of that classic album as well as what the band has planned for the coming months now that concerts appear to be coming back from the dead.
MNOD: Kix has had quite a resurgence since reuniting in the early 2000s, so it’s really cool to catch up with you. Like most bands, you guys had everything come to a halt once the pandemic hit, so I was wondering what your schedule has been like since the shutdown.
Forsythe: It’s been pretty sparse. We had a pretty full calendar for 2020, but everything was postponed until this year. We have some replacement shows coming up and some outdoor festivals booked for the summer, which should be fun. I’m not getting my hopes up too high for everything to get back to normal soon, thought, because it’s still difficult to say. The outdoor shows are definitely happening before the club shows come back. We actually have a drive-in show coming up in Frederick, MD on May 7, so we’re eager to get back out there.
MNOD: “Midnite Dynamite” was the album that initially broke you guys back in 1985 and it’s one that still holds up today. How did the “Re-Lit” project come about?
Forsythe: It was Beau Hill’s idea. He had done the remix of “Blow My Fuse” and did a really great job with that, so he decided to do the same thing with “Midnite Dynamite.” It’s funny, because I was wondering how he would be able to improve on the original mix. There aren’t a whole lot of obvious changes, but there are subtle things that I notice when listening to it now. Little things such as guitar fills that didn’t make it into the original mix are now brought back and, in many cases, I didn’t remember playing them. A song like “Cold Shower” was altered a bit, but I’ve also noticed how some of the deeper tracks have been sharpened this time around.
MNOD: What do you remember about the original sessions with Beau?
Forsythe: It was pretty easy. We would play a lot of new songs live before ever getting into the studio, so, by the time we started laying them down, they were easy to rattle off. Songs like “Cry Baby,” “Bang Bang (Balls of Fire),” and “Scarlet Fever” were the songs that hadn’t been developed yet, so they came together in the studio. Ronnie (Younkins) and I hadn’t really discussed who was going take each solo yet, but Beau decided that he wanted to bring in another guitar player to play on “Scarlet Fever” and “Walking Away.” I had tried a bunch of stuff that didn’t work for whatever reason, so he brought in Mike Slamer and that left a sour taste. That was really the only bump in the road during those sessions.
MNOD: What was it about Beau that made him so effective as a producer?
Forsythe: He’s a musician himself and that always helps. He just had a great system for how to mic the amps and get a full guitar sound. He always added a lot of good ideas to the process and is just a really talented guy.
MNOD: Because he had also worked with Ratt on “Out of the Cellar” and “Invasion of Your Privacy” around that time, was there any pressure on you guys to compete with that style?
Forsythe: There wasn’t really any pressure, because we just wanted to sound like ourselves. He was used to Warren DeMartini playing these lightning solos and that’s not what I was about. I came from the ’70s, so I was more blues-based and into the Stones. If I had to choose, I think I enjoy “Blow My Fuse” even more than “Midnite Dynamite,” because it was further along in the process. We took it upon ourselves to make videos for a lot of those songs, which helped us gain even more popularity.
MNOD: “Don’t Close Your Eyes” is the song that even casual listeners know Kix for, but the catalog is so much more than that. Do you still enjoy playing that song live?
Forsythe: I do. I’m thankful that we had that song, because it took us to yet another level of exposure. The shows got bigger, the crowds got bigger. I always throw everything I have into what I’m doing in the moment, so I still enjoy playing it.
MNOD: I just finished reading “Nothin’ But a Good Time,” which is the new oral history of the ’80s hard rock explosion that you contributed to. There’s a section in there where you briefly mentioned auditioning for The Wallflowers in the ’90s. How did that come about?
Forsythe: Yeah, that actually came about from a friend of mine when I was living in Los Angeles. There’s a place called Canter’s Deli that had a lounge where a bunch of people would play all the time and I met Rami Jaffee, who plays in Dave Grohl’s band now. I went to his house and he told me I should try out. So I came down to their rehearsal and this was before their second album came out and blew up. They sounded almost like the Stones or The Band at that time and there was talk that the guitar player was leaving. I was on the verge of getting the gig until he decided was going to stay in the band after all, but it was definitely a cool experience. Later on, of course, “One Headlight” became huge and the band really took off.
MNOD: While Kix is associated with the ’80s, you’ve said that your personal influences are much different than the LA scene. Who did you grow up listening to?
Forsythe: I go back to the ’60s, so I was really into The Beatles, Cream, the Stones, and Santana. Then, in the ’70s, I got really into Southern rock like Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Allman Brothers Band. Also, ZZ Top, Aerosmith, and Cheap Trick. That was an era when I really learned how to play the guitar and that music taught me a lot.
MNOD: Given how the whole ’80s scene died down, were you surprised when the demand for Kix started coming back?
Forsythe: There was a 10-year gap where we didn’t play any shows, so to have it come back like it has is really amazing. Initially, we only started booking a few in Baltimore and they sold out right away, so then we ended up extending the run. We then hired a booking agent when things started getting more serious. I’m always kind of waiting for the other shoe to drop, but it’s not stopping. There’s a total mix of people in the crowds now, because you have the older diehards who now bring their kids as well as younger kids who have gotten into ’80s rock in other ways. Our audience has a little bit of everything. When we started out in Baltimore, there were a lot of cover bands, so that’s usually how bands would start out. We’d play three sets a night and the middle set would end up being all originals, because that was usually the only way to get them in. Our following grew from there and we ended up extending further out from Baltimore a little later on.
MNOD: What prompted you to move from Los Angeles to Nashville?
Forsythe: I lived in LA for 26 years. I was in a relationship that ended, so I realized that I needed to find another place to live. I didn’t want to settle for just a crappy apartment, so I decided to move. In Nashville, the prices are better and you get much more for your money. The music scene in LA had also dried up and became a lot of pay-to-play without a lot of top-notch musicians like there had been before that. Nashville has a ton of musicians and there’s an exciting scene happening here.
MNOD: The last Kix studio album was 2014’s “Rock Your Face Off.” Have you guys discussed making another one or is there not really an incentive to do so anymore?
Forsythe: We’ve talked about it, but nothing has come up yet. We’ve done some DVDs and remixes of our classic albums, which bought us some time. The thing is that I would want to make something that is as good or better than the last one, so I would be hesitant to do anything unless it was on that level.
“Midnite Dynamite Re-Lit” is available now wherever music is disseminated.