Ron Keel - The Iron Horse Rides On
Interview by Keith McDonald
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
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
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
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