Kix is an American hard rock band that achieved their greatest popularity during the 1980s with such albums as MIDNIGHT DYNAMITE and BLOW MY FUSE. The band’s biggest hit was the power ballad “Don’t Close Your Eyes, which was in heavy rotation on US radio stations and MTV. The band split up in 1996, but they got back together in 2003 with the line-up of vocalist Steve Whiteman, guitarists Ronnie “10/10” Younkins and Brian “Damage” Forsythe, drummer Jimmy “Chocolate” Chalfant and the new bassist Mark Schenker. The album ROCK YOUR FACE OFF was released in 2014. Kix performed at Sweden Rock festival in early June. There I had the pleasure to discuss with the band’s guitarist and founder member, Ronnie Younkins, on many topics including the current lineup, the upcoming Kix album and his recent absence from the group’s ranks.
KIX IN EUROPE
First of all, it’s great to see Kix finally in Europe!
Ronnie Younkins: Yeah, it’s long overdue. Way overdue. Yeah, it’s great. Great crowd, great place. The set-up is awesome, and I can’t say enough good about this whole thing, except I swallowed my front tooth last night. I had a crown; I was eating pavlova because we hadn’t eaten for hours, we were flying so… And, air hostess gave me something chewy, so I was like, “Fuck, my tooth came off.” But, anyway. So, I’m missing a front tooth, but hey man Keith Richards did a whole tour missing a front tooth “Laughs.”
Hopefully, that will be fixed soon “Laughs” However, the band has never played much in Europe. What’s the reason for that, because you had a good following here in the 80’s?
Ronnie Younkins: Why? I don’t know. Nobody invited us. Well, we were to do a European tour at one point. I think after we got back from Japan and it was like ’91 or something. And, it was booked, we were supposed to go through Italy, Germany, not up to this far, to Sweden, but we didn’t have enough money. The record company would only give us like half the money to come over, and we just couldn’t afford it at that time.
It must have been at the time when you released the album HOT WIRE?
Ronnie Younkins: HOT WIRE, yeah. HOT WIRE album. At that time Brian wasn’t with us. I’m pretty sure that’s when we were supposed to come over, at least, to Germany, and France, and Italy. We were talking about it, but we never made it, we didn’t have enough money to support the tour, but it makes more sense for us coming here now because this is a great setup. I can’t say enough good about how well we’ve been treated and what a great audience it was to play for today.
COMING BACK TOGETHER
Let’s go now to more current things and to the album ROCK YOUR FACE OFF. All in all, it was surprising that after all these years you decided to make a new studio album with Kix.
Ronnie Younkins: I know. Who would have thought and it was just, I was just finishing up a Blues Vultures CD, I play in another band called the Blues Vultures. I was determined to get that CD done that I made with those guys, and at the same time, we’re starting this new Kix record, and I was like, “We’re going to do a record? Okay.” And, I heard all these demos, and I was like, “I don’t know if it sounds like Kix or not.” There’s a lot of stuff that Mark had written. Brian took this stuff that Mark had wrote and just fucking “Kixfied” it to the max. Brian, hats off to you buddy. And, then Steve brought some songs in, but Mark and Taylor Rhodes did a great job with this record. I enjoyed recording it. It ended up sounding like a Kix record. I don’t know, just hats off to Brian.
Tell something more about The Blues Vultures?
Ronnie Younkins: Oh, I wish I had one CD with me now. The Blues Vultures, I write all the songs with that band, and it’s more like Rolling Stones kind of vibe. Yeah, that’s actually my passion. I love doing this (Kix), but the passion is more like what I grew up listening to, blues rock kind of thing. But, we’re going to make another Kix record, I think in…
There’s another Kix album in the works? That’s great news!
Ronnie Younkins: Yes, we are, and I’d been working with Steve on his songs before I went into the rehab. I’m going to start working those soon because when I go to the recovery house, I can leave on work release during the day. Steve’s got some really good songs for this next record and Mark; I’m sure he’s writing and, yeah. I have a lot of songs, but they just fit the Blues Vultures more than they would fit Kix, so I just do that.
MARK SCHENKER AND DONNIE PURNELL
Kix is a special kind of band for many reasons, but partly because you still have almost the whole original line-up together. The only change is that Donnie Purnell is gone and he is replaced by Mark Schenker. So, what’s the difference between Donnie and Mark?
Ronnie Younkins: Oh. Well, there’s a big difference, there are worlds apart.
Mark played a big role when you made the ROCK YOUR FACE OFF album. And in he’s taking care of many things related to Kix. It seems that he’s become a very important member in the band.
Ronnie Younkins: Yeah. I mean, Mark, he’s a great songwriter, he’s a nice guy, an intelligent guy. He’s very determined guy, he’s a leader, Brian’s a leader, and those guys together work well. Yeah, together they make good soup. Mark has stepped in; he played in a band with Steve and Jimmy called Funny Money and when we put the band back together… We started getting calls to put the band back together in 2003, at first Brian was like, “Well, let’s get Donnie.” But then, Steve and Jimmy were like, “No, we don’t want Donnie.” I was like, “Well, fuck.” So, they said, “What about Mark?” And, I knew Mark from years ago, he’s from our area, so I knew Mark. I was like, “Yeah, Mark’s a great, nice guy, great guy.”
Donnie was Kix’s main songwriter and “creative mastermind” when he was still in the band. What do you think about him nowadays?
Ronnie Younkins: Donnie, I have the utmost respect for, for bringing the best out of each one of us in this band, he is a good songwriter, a great songwriter, very talented musician. On the other hand, he’s… It’s his way, or the highway and Mark is more diplomatic with us. Mark’s a good guy, I love him, and he’s been in the band now since, Fuck… What is it, 2017? Thirteen years, I mean, so what can I say? He’s good, he’s great, my best man.
Mark is a great guy. I 100% agree. But one more question about Donnie. Do you or other band members have any contact with him anymore?
Ronnie Younkins: No, he… I hate to say this, but he hates all of us because we put the band back together without him. Donnie and I stayed in touch while I was even in Los Angeles for a few years and I moved back around 2001. When the Kix band split up, Donnie and I were still friends. I moved back to Maryland. You know, I had family issues, I was dying, and I had a bunch of stuff. I had to move back, my wife, my girlfriend at the time is now my wife. We moved back, and I was working a day-job, and I put a band together, the Blues Vultures and we were opening up for Funny Money, so one thing led to another with this band getting back together. And, there was no connection, and once Donnie heard that he just… We just heard through the grapevine; he doesn’t want to talk to any of us, so I don’t know what he does, I don’t know where he lives, it’s a mystery.
None of you know what he is doing or where is he now?
Ronnie Younkins: Yes. We don’t know what he’s up to.
PERSONAL PROBLEMS AND THE SITUATION NOW
I have one question still left. But that is a little personal matter. Does it bother you?
Ronnie Younkins: No problem.
Your name has recently been in headlines because you missed the Kix show in March and then you were MIA (missing in action) for a while. In fact, you were out from the band for a few months because of “personal issues.” But you’re back now so; apparently, the problems must have been solved. Do you want to tell what happened and what is the situation now?
Ronnie Younkins: Yes. I’m living at a rehab now. I miss my daughter, and my son, and my home, but I’ve been there for almost two months now, and I’m going to move into a recovery home soon and stay there for a while. My disease has gotten worse. I had 21 years of sobriety at one point. Got sober and cleaned up in 1989, but I’d get on… A long story short, what led me back out was complacency in my program. I wasn’t doing enough of my work for the AA program like I did in the early years. Then, I went on Hepatitis C treatment, or they should call it punishment, the old one that has many side effects, in 2010. One of them being insomnia and doctor put me on Ambien, and it fucked me up. It’s a sleep drug, and I got hooked on it, and then I wasn’t working the program like with my mom’s death, I worked through that at ten years sober. I worked through that with my sponsor. Dad died, like in 2012. Some other shit had happened, and I worked through, and some serious things happened. We all have issues. We all have shit happen in our lives and, you know, I worked through them in the program, but my when my father died, and I was complacent in the program, and I was already high on this fucking Ambien. I said, “Fuck it.” And, I went out, and I started doing heroin and cocaine again within a month after my dad’s death, and it’s been nothing but downhill since. I’ve been through two rehabs, 2014, 2015. My disease… The disease of alcoholism and drug addiction keeps progressing even while you’re sober and clean. So, now it’s even… It got even worse than it was back when I was 31. I went to a great rehabilitation center called Haze when I was 32, and I only spent 30 days there, and I got it. Well, I didn’t get it, you never get this, but I understood what I had to do.
Let me clarify that. I took all suggestions, and I applied them in my life on a daily basis for 21 years, but once I started putting other things in front of that program and when I was on this Hep C treatment, I had all these side effects, crazy side effects. My teeth rotted out, I got freaking rashes all over my face, cramps, and it fucking made me feel like I had the flu for 11 months, my fucking hair fell out, all kinds of crazy shit, but I couldn’t sleep. That was the worst part. So, they put me on this Ambien, I don’t think they knew how dangerous that drug is and it lit me up. I mean, I knew I was high. I was going to meetings; I used to learn sitting in the back going, “Fuck, I relapsed.” So, then I… This is the disease talking to me going, “Hey man, you can’t go back and say you relapsed on Ambien. Let’s do this right and go get some heroin, some cocaine, and some marijuana and fucking go off to the races.” And, then when my wife found out and I went to rehab… She had a little bit of money we had left, and then I hadn’t been drinking, and I’m not minimizing or maximizing, that’s just a fact that once she gave me $30, $20 a week, I was off to the liquor store and I became fall-down drunk within six months. That’s how I noticed the disease had gotten worse, blackouts, shakes, DTs, all kinds of craziness. I can see the progress on of the drug use, how bad it got. I honestly can tell you that it got bad. It was nightmarish. So, I’m grateful to be sober and clean, and I’ve got… I’m not even counting the days, but I’ve been in the rehab, but it will be about like two months in a couple of weeks or something. So, I’ve just been there since the middle of April, and now in a couple of weeks, I’m going to go to a recovery house. And, I’m very grateful to the guy that runs this place. Danny is such a great man, and he’s helped so many people. My cousin Larry has been helping me a lot. He’s very good man. He’s a great guitar player too, and he’s building amplifiers now, and a wonderful pre-amp that I used at on shows in the US. We just couldn’t get it over here. It kicks ass. But, yeah. The band, I’m grateful. I was grateful… I thought about it when I was playing today like, “Fuck, I mean, I’m here playing with this band, and I’m not dead, and I’m not high, and I’m not drunk, and these guys let me come over here to play.” I love those guys in the band, they’ve been my brothers, all of them and Brian’s been a big help, because he’s in the program as well, and yeah… So, I just want to get my shit together once and for all on a daily basis. Today is what, Thursday?
Ronnie Younkins: Friday. Today is Friday, and I don’t drink or do drugs on Friday and tomorrow… That’s what Danny always says. Don’t look at the big picture because when Saturday comes you go, “I don’t drink or do drugs on Saturday.” “Laughs” But, I need to go now. I hope that this interview gave you some insight?
Yes it did. It’s good to hear that things are in order now and it was great to see you back on stage with the band. Hopefully everything will go well in the future and we will receive the new Kix album soon. It would also be great to see you again in Europe soon.
Ronnie Younkins: We’ll see. Thank you
Thank YOU Ronnie.
LIVE PICTURES FROM KIX SHOW IN SWEDENROCK!