Monday, February 4, 2013

Danny Klein of The J. Geils Band Exclusive Interview!

 
     Danny Klein, bassist and founding member of The J. Geils Band, has a simple and heartfelt message to the band's fans in the Motor City: "Tell Detroit We Love Them and We'll Be Back!"

     I've been lucky enough to see Klein perform with The J. Geils Band in concert 17 (!) times since 1980 and there is simply not a better live band in America, then OR now. Since the original lineup broke up in 1983 at the absolute pinnacle of commercial success, the band's sporadic concerts after a 1999 reunion have been spectacularly received (drummer Stephen Jo Bladd has been MIA from the touring lineup since the 80's).

     Just as the group seemed to be successfully reincarnated once again, the wheels fell off the Geils' tour bus yet again last fall.

     Amidst news of a legal battle between guitarist Jay Geils and the band that bears his name, a few highly anticipated concerts were cancelled last December including a date at The Fillmore in Detroit.  "We eliminated the December dates due to booking details basically" says Klein via phone last week.  "We'll reschedule.  It had nothing to do with anything else except that we decided it was not the right time to do it.  The lawsuit (over naming rights to the band) had nothing to do with it...it had no bearing on our touring and our playing.  It's totally separate."

   

     When asked if the remaining members (Peter Wolf, Seth Justman, Magic Dick and Klein) are able to still go out and play billed under the name 'The J. Geils Band', Klein says "Yes, we will go out as 'The J. Geils Band'.  That's what we are.  That's who we are. And that's our name.  We don't have our touring schedule yet, but we'll go out soon...Spring or Summer.


   
   
     "We're just as passionate as we used to be and work just as hard.  We really enjoy playing for people and doing what we do.  We make sure to keep in shape and rehearse so the show is as tight as we can get it.  I think the band is as tight, if not tighter, with the new backup players" says Klein.  "The show is as energetic as ever, like the way we've always been."  When asked about the band's chances of a full blown World Tour, Klein says "We seem to be more popular in the East Coast.  We'd like to go back out West and then maybe Europe.


DK "The Ace On Bass"

     "After all that time off we started with a couple of gigs" he explains.  "Then the next year maybe 3 or 4, and then last year we did 12.  We're going to continue to go and do more.  Europe's sort of a bang.  We haven't been there in awhile...we'll see what happens."



   
     Growing up in New Jersey and playing in the Boston-based group, DK still considers Detroit the J. Geils Band's "adopted home".

     "We LOVE Detroit.  It's such a good music town, it's our second home" says Klein. "I remember coming home to a bar in Boston after a tour and somebody came up and asked me what I was doing here and I say 'I live here!' They thought I lived in Detroit." Although it hasn't been easy, Klein and most of the original band have outlasted many of our local Motor City concert houses.

     Upon learning that Cobo Arena had been demolished and is currently under renovation to become another convention hall, Klein reminisced "A lot of the places we toured have been torn down and I don't know how to take that.  We played everywhere in Detroit...the Cinderella, the Eastown, Cobo, Olympia." As Klein runs down the list of legendary landmark local venues, he remembers even rocking the tiny club "Bookies! We always tried to play local places under an assumed name if we could do it just to give back a little bit."


     Not all the venues were so intimate.  "We played the Pontiac Silverdome once.  We had the same manager as Peter Frampton at the time," says Klein.   So in 1977, J. Geils played the monstrous indoor dome with Frampton, the Steve Miller Band, and local boys The Romantics.

     While the band played with so many greats over the years, one run of shows stands out amongst the rest...the legendary 1982 European tour opening for The Rolling Stones.  "That was one of those lifetime things which most people don't get to do" says Klein.  "That was a great tour and it was a lot of  fun.  They are a great bunch of guys.  We were playing every day, but we'd hang out and go out socially a little bit with them.  They were very nice to us and accommodating and, I mean...
THEY'RE THE STONES! so it was great."


DK, Stephen Jo Bladd, & Seth Justman

     When asked to summarize the initial breakup of the mighty J. Geils Band, Klein recalls that "People wanted to do their own thing, to go their own ways.  We had been doing years of albums, and traveling, and 200 shows a year, and practicing, and we were tired.  It was time to take a break so that's what we did.  It's better to go out on the top!"



   
     Describing the next decade or so, Klein says "I was out of music.  I love to cook so I went to cooking school and started cheffing,  which I still do now when I have to. After a while I started missing music and started to play again in local bands.  There's nothing like driving across the country and back in a windowless van to get your chops back!

     "After the '99 Tour, I got tired again of nobody playing J. Geils music so I started a band that eventually became 'Danny Klein's Full House'.  It's my fun band" says Klein.  "It's all Geils' music but we don't do it note for note and we play a lot of songs we like. Ones that the real band hasn't been playing like 'Back To Get Ya', 'Dead Presidents', 'Till The Walls Come Tumblin Down', 'Wild Man' and 'Teresa'."
Sanctuary Album Sleeve


     With the last two songs mentioned coming off of the phenomenal 1978 release 'Sanctuary', I tell him that my 15 year old son has been discovering and appreciating my old Geils' albums.  "It's really encouraging because although we love our loyal fans, it's always great to see the younger people getting into it."



   

     The band's songwriters, Peter Wolf and Seth Justman, presumably haven't worked together since the 'Freeze Frame' album was released in 1981.  When asked about the chances of the two of them ever writing new music together again
"Oh I'm sure, but I can't answer for them" says Klein.  "I know that Seth writes a lot and Peter writes a lot.  But the atmosphere today of the music business is that it's become a 'live' business again.  Album sales aren't as important now.  It's more of a live-thing and we've always been a great live band so its right in our wheelhouse."

     Even with its incredible back catalog and stellar reputation for being one of the planet's best live bands, The J. Geils Band has not yet been inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.  "We've been nominated a couple of times and I actually allowed myself to get into it the last time and was a little disappointed" Klein laments. "It would be an honor to get in.  A milestone but...maybe we'll get in posthumously." (Let's Hope NOT!)

 
      For a guy that grew up in a home with "one radio station that was tuned to just disgusting elevator music", Klein's life has been quite an adventure.  "I didn't start playing until I met Jay (Geils) and Dick ('Magic Dick' Salwitz) when I was 21 years old" he recalls. "I took lessons at Berklee for a year, but I don't really read music."

     Life has worked out OK for this Worcester Tech drop out.  "So far" he laughs, "So far!"  At 66 years old, Klein isn't slowing down either and still walks a couple of miles a day with his aging German Shepard.
"We work hard as seniors" he says.
"At least I get money off at the movies now!"


Thanks Danny Klein!
I Just Can't Wait for the next Detroit Breakdown.
See you soon!

10 comments:

  1. saw them late last year at the Fillmore in Silver Spring .. wonderful show and am so glad I could finally see them...Danny is the nicest guy and came out and signed a record.. very unassuming...gave him my lighter.. I hope they hit DC area again..I'll be there..

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    1. So glad you got the chance to see them live AND to meet Danny!
      Thanks for reading!

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  2. I have seen them numerous times since 1796 in waterbury conn.greatest rock n roll band of all time.had the pleasure of meeting danny outside the houseof blues in Boston.great guy.very unassuming and down to earth.

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    1. Thanks so much for reading.
      Danny is a wonderful musician and obviously a wonderful person too.

      Delete
  3. Can't wait to see the greates LIVE ACT again! Hopefully, my brother will be able to escort their frontman to the lawn and back again at Pine Knob!

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    1. Nothing better than The J. Geils Band at Pine Knob!

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  4. Worchester??? The city isn't even pronounced that way

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    1. Thank you for reading and pointing this out!
      I would blame my editor, but I am my editor!
      It has been fixed.

      Delete
  5. You want a comment I'll give you a comment! And a story. The J. Geils Band was the 1st ever concert I ever attended. I was like 13 or 14 years old sometime in '71, sometime during the Full House Live era, and they started with the iconic twofer of First I Look At The Purse into Homework. My brother took me, God Bless Him. He had no idea how the event was to totally transform my life. It took my love of free form rock and roll music that I was hearing on WNEW-FM here in NYC at the time to a whole other level. And today it is 1,400 concerts plus attended over four plus decades. And I owe it all to that very 1st show and the excitement I was a part of. You know, you always remember your first time…wink! I've spent this Memorial Day Weekend home and listening to some vintage Geils shows from '77, '81 and now '80 that I stumbled upon on YouTube while looking for a version of Love-Itis that I wanted to post for a friend on Facebook. And I've both smiled and shed of tears of joy at the overwhelming rush of memories as I've relived some of the greatest moments of my life dancing my ass off to THE BEST PARTY BAND. EVER. BAR NONE. They are still the reigning champs. And I want to state that they have never gotten the credit for the great musicians that they are. Never flashy, always serving exactly what the song needed to be successful. So thank you, Kurt, for your interview with DK. He comes across as a gracious and very down to earth person, very content with his life. Good for him. He gets 1/6 of the credit for being part of one of the greatest bands ever. And certainly the best band at what they did. On face value it might look and sound simple, especially if compared to other rock genres. But I totally believe him when he say that it takes hard work and practice to be as tight as they are onstage. BTW, DK gets a whole lot of shoutouts from Peter Wolf on the 3/22/80 show from Oakland Coliseum on YouTube. Thanks once again Kurt.

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    1. Alex,
      This is THE BEST comment I have ever received!
      Its amazing when one can label a defining moment that changes the course of their lives.
      It all changed for me when I was 15 and saw these guys for the first time at Pine Knob.
      Completely mind-blowing life-altering stuff of legends.
      Rock On!

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