Heart of Steel: Interviews

Ron Keel - The Iron Horse Rides On

Interview by Keith McDonald


Ron Keel made his mark on the hard rock circuit as the lead singer of the band named after him, Keel. Keel had some commercial success but never reached the arena and platinum heights of bands like Ratt and Motley Crue. After Keel disbanded, Ron set out as Ronnie Lee Keel and went towards a country musical direction. He continues on with his Iron Horse band as I had the opportunity to speak with him. You can check out his website at www.ronkeel.com.


I see you have a new IronHorse album coming out. Tell me about that.

It's been a work in progress for some time now…we have 16 songs completed; most of which were produced and mixed by Kevin Beamish. It was great working with him again…he had produced KEEL's "Rock N Roll Outlaw" for the 'Dudes' movie soundtrack. There is no title or release date yet…I'm trying to be patient, which is not one of my strong points, because I want everything to be right to allow this album the best chance for success. I hope everyone will keep up with us on line at www.ironhorseband.com.



How would you describe the new material?

Diversity has certainly been one of my trademarks through the years…I don't like to stay in any one place too long, and IronHorse satisfies all the musical wanderlust in my soul. There are powerful hard rock anthems like "American Thunder", dirty southern rock like "Three Sheets To The Wind" (which is available as a free download at www.soundclick.com/ironhorse), and many others that are a perfect marriage of Heavy Metal and Country, my two favorite musical styles.



What made you decide to end Keel?

It was just time. KEEL was a very special band, I feel fortunate for the bond we had and the wonderful experiences we shared, and that we had the chance to compete in the big game. After the band went through some personnel changes and the musical climate began to change, my aforementioned wanderlust kicked in and I became the first male metal vocalist to front an all-girl band, Fair Game…that was a great band, an awesome concept with great players, great songs, and some of the best vocals of my career (the CD is available at www.metalmayhem.com). After several years with that band I returned to my country roots and did a couple of country albums…these were recently compiled onto one CD and released as "The Country Years", available on my site www.ronkeel.com. During this period I returned to Japan to record the heaviest record of my career with Saber Tiger - of all the albums I've done, this is certainly one of my favorites to still listen to today. After a couple of European tours with a country-rock band called the Rat'lers, I took some time off, went to Italy for almost a year, and that's when the vision for IronHorse began taking shape.


What are your tour plans?

I have always stayed busy…my love of performing live is a fire that will never die. IronHorse has toured the States extensively for almost four years now, headlining and opening for bands like ZZ Top, Ted Nugent, .38 Special, Ratt, The Doobie Brothers, and others. We are road dogs to the core, and will continue trying to fill the calendar with the best possible concert situations.



Would you ever consider touring with Keel again?

Absolutely. KEEL is practically the only band that hasn't done the retread reunion tour circuit - and this being our 20th anniversary; we have discussed some options. It would have to be the right tour package at the right time, and we've worked too hard building IronHorse to let anything jeopardize it.



Do you speak with any of the former Keel members?

Some more than others. I have nothing but love and respect for all those guys, but time and circumstance puts distance between the closest of friends. Marc Ferrari and I are still in constant contact with each other; we are good friends and Marc represents some of my music in a publishing capacity. Marc and I performed an acoustic KEEL show at last year's New York KISS Expo, that was a blast…and when IronHorse played in L.A. Marc and Bryan Jay joined us for four KEEL songs, and that was a very magical moment in time.



Why such a drastic change in your music writing?

Change is inevitable…people change, times change. I write what I feel, and feelings change. My music is the landscape of my life, and in that landscape there are oceans, mountains, fields, cities, and countless other places I like to visit from time to time.


Who is currently in your band?

For the past four years, my rhythm section has consisted of two of my best friends in the whole world: Gaetano Nicolosi on drums, whom I met while I was in Italy, and Geno Arce on bass, who has been like a brother to me since back in the Country Years…Jay Rusnak has been with us on guitar for a couple of years now, and the newest addition is Dean Lehman on keyboards. This band is a labor of love, and is truly a band in every sense: one gets cut, we all bleed. I would gladly take a bullet for any one of those guys, and to me that's what differentiates between a 'band' and a 'project'.



How much has the music scene changed over the years?

Drastically. As I said, change is inevitable, and it is a constant challenge as an artist to adapt to new changes in the industry, the audience, the technology, all of it.



Does the Keel catalog still sell? Are all of the albums still available?

They are not currently available. But this summer, we are releasing "Ron Keel: The Time Of My Life", a 2 CD anthology of music from throughout my career…one disc will be all KEEL, 17 songs - greatest hits plus my personal favorites. The other disc will contain 17 songs from all my other bands and projects from Steeler to IronHorse, plus some new and previously unreleased tracks.


How do you explain your longevity when so many other bands from your era are no longer in the music industry?

I don't stop. I made peace with myself a long time ago, coming to the realization that this is who I am and what I do. I will always sing. I will always create music. And I will always be in this business.



What lies ahead for you?

I take the road one curve at a time. My job is to create and keep creating, continue performing, playing, writing, singing - I try not to worry too much about the stuff I can't control. I'm going to keep doing what I'm best at, and what I love, which is making music for anybody whom might want to listen.

 Ron Keel: ronkeel.com
IronHorse: ironhorseband.com