Interview With Patrick Kennison
Of Lita Ford, Heaven Below, Union Underground
Rockin Interviews- Who is your biggest musical inspiration?
Patrick Kennison- “There’s so many. My favorite band of all time is definitely Judas Priest because that was the first heavy metal band I ever heard, when I was a little kid. So I would hold Judas Priest pretty high up there. They’re one of those bands that you can’t totally pigeonhole even though they call themselves heavy metal, they have like pop-metal albums and gothic-y sounding, prototype metal albums. So I guess I’d have to say Judas Priest I’d hold the highest.”
R.I.- Was that the first band that you listened to?
P.K.- “No, when I was 6 or 7 my older sister played Cheap Trick and Aerosmith and AC/DC and Kiss a lot. So I’m the youngest of seven kids, my parents got busy and had the seven of us. So there was a ton of music when I was a little kid. Even coming out of the crib I literally remember a lot of music in the house.
R.I.- Do your family members play any instruments?
P.K.- “Yeah, some of them do. My mom plays some piano and my dad played clarinet, but everybody in my family was smart and got into medicine and law and stuff like that, so I’m kinda the black sheep that stayed with the music.”
R.I.- How did your family’s music influence your early career?
P.K.- “Well it just massively did because my older brother played guitar and my mom would watch me tinker around on his guitar when I was 10 or 11 years old. And so when I was 11 years old I remember for Christmas I wanted a video game system real bad and I was disappointed because my mom got me an acoustic guitar instead. I started playing it and she told me if I did good that I could have an electric guitar. So for my next birthday, my 12th birthday, I had already learned all the chords and I’d gotten good at playing stuff, so she got me an electric guitar. So that just proves that moms know things before their kids do.”
R.I.- If you could collaborate with any musician who you haven’t yet, who would it be?
P.K.- “That would probably be, if not Rob Halford from Judas Priest, probably Robin Zander from Cheap Trick, he’s one of the best vocalists in the world and I would love to collaborate with that guy.”
R.I.- What is your favorite Lita Ford song to play live?
P.K.- “Oh I got a lot of them. I like singing… of course I like ‘Close My Eyes Forever’ because Lita lets me sing the Ozzy part and people go crazy on that, that’s always cool. But my favorite with the guitar stuff, it’s probably ‘Back To The Cave’ because her and I do like a guitar duel during the song, like play back and forth and stuff. That’s never planned out, we do that off the cuff. I don’t like knowing what’s gonna happen or things that are overly rehearsed or we know everything we’re gonna do, that’s boring, that’s like by the book. So I like ‘Back To The Cave’ and she’ll just whip it out at any time and put it in the set and all of the sudden me and her are trading licks.”
R.I- How many guitars do you have?
P.K.- “I’m over 20. I don’t know how far past 20 I am but I’m probably in the early 20’s. I had 40 at one time. Back when I was in Union Underground I had about 40 guitars. A lot of them didn’t get played so I sold about half of them when I moved to L.A. and I just kept the ones that i actually played.”
R.I.- What is the next guitar you plan to invest in?
P.K.- “Let me see… I actually need a classical guitar, one with nylon strings, so that’s probably the next guitar I’m gonna get. I have an 8 string that Schecter gave me recently that’s cool and I actually found a use for it on some new Heaven Below stuff. But think the classical guitar should be my next one. It comes full circle, back to the guitar I got when I was eleven.”
R.I.- What’s the creative process with Heaven Below?
P.K.- “I’m trying to open it up a little bit but normally it’s me writing a song, I do a little demo on my computer with my guitar and a drum machine and then I give it to the band and they learn it, they put their own touches on it. It ends up sounding like, once we’re done with it and we record real drums, it sounds like what you hear. Usually it does start with me, but I do love writing with other people, so I plan on doing that as well for our future stuff.”
R.I.- How do you come up with ideas for album covers?
P.K.- “I always have about a hundred ideas and about 99 of them suck. Then our bass player John Younger, he’s actually a graphic design artist and video editor and he helps me out, we’ll come out with ideas and sit down and I’ll collect pictures and sometimes we’ll enlist an artist to draw something or paint something. Other times we’ll just figure out what it is. It’s funny you say that, that’s one of the harder things to do is the artwork for me. It’s almost like the music comes easy. The artwork is hard cause I see it in my head but then I can’t always get my eyes to see it on paper. I think we’ve done a decent job, I have like probably one or two favorite album covers of ours. I’m not a dictator, I’m not trying to show everybody how good I am, I like to work together with other people.
R.I.- What was it like to play Ozzfest?
P.K.- “It was crazy, I was still in my 20’s, it was my first real, real major tour, it was a lot of partying, a lot of drinking, and doing bad things that I regret. But it was cool cause I made friends with a lot of bands and people I still talk to today. Corey from Slipknot, the guys from Drowning Pool, Mudvayne and when I see them we are still friends, so that’s the best part about Ozzfest is you make all these friends with other bands.”
R.I.- Do you prefer playing big festivals with crowds of thousands of people, or smaller, more intimate venues?
P.K.- “I can tell you the best about each. The best about playing a big festival is it’s huge, you feel ten feet tall playing in front of all these people that are checking you out. But I do enjoy the small places because it is more intimate and people can see more of the details of what we’re doing and what we’re playing. And i like that about it, it’s one on one and it is more intimate. So it sounds cliche but the smaller ones are more intimate and the bigger ones are cool, but they feel more like disconnected from the audience a little bit.”
R.I.- When did your friendship with Nikki Stringfield start?
P.K.- “After I moved to L.A., we would run into each other every once in a while and we had mutual friends and I remember at the NAMM show I think, she was eating tacos and she made me eat a taco and she goes, ‘You’re from Texas right?’ and I said ‘yeah.’ and she said ‘So am I, have a taco.’ So we officially met over tacos. And then it turns out she’s from dallas, Texas and I’m from San Antonio, Texas. And so you know, us Texans kinda stick together.”
R.I.- Do you plan to release music with Nikki anytime soon?
P.K.- “It’s funny you say that. Her and I were just working on something this morning. Heaven Below is releasing an album this winter. We have a cover album called, ‘Rest In Pieces: a tribute to the departed’ and it’s all songs from people who are gone, who’ve died. And Nikki is playing on the album with us, so her and I were just working on some of the guitar parts this morning. So that’s gonna be her debut with us, will be the cover album.”
R.I.- Do you prefer to play ballads or heavier songs?
P.K.- “I definitely like them the same. The heavier songs are where you really get your aggression out and feel the groove and it’s sweaty and it’s nasty and it’s ugly and the ballads, I like them just as much. It’s the polar opposite, it’s like getting in touch with all your sensitive stuff I guess.”
R.I.- How did you decide who was going to be featured on Good Morning Apocalypse?
P.K.- “It kinda grew on it’s own. We had a list of people. I asked people like Rob Zombie and Marilyn Manson cause I’ve had relationships with them through music and both of them were busy at the time. You know, you gotta shoot for the stars first. I love Udo Dirkschneider from Accept. That was one of the first bands I liked as a kid, first metal bands. And our guitar player at the time was playing with Udo in Europe and he let him hear some of the album and he said the singer is a huge fan of yours and Accept and he really would like for you to sing on the album. Udo said ‘Well I’ve heard it, now I’m ready to do it’ My buddy called me from Europe and said Udo says he’ll sing on the album. I said ‘stop messin with me.’ he said ‘no really I played him some of it and he said he’s gonna sing on it.’ And so we got Udo on it and then from there I asked my friend Jason Mcmaster from Dangerous Toys and Broken Teeth and he’s a big Udo fan too and I said ‘Udo’s on my album, we really think you should sing a song.’ He says ‘If Udo’s on it, then I’m on it.’ So he jumped on and then during that time, I got the Lita Ford gig and of course I played her a few of the song and she chose Running Under Satan’s Hand to sing on. Then last but definitely not least, we needed one more vocalist for Devilina and The Damage Done and our buddy, a drummer friend of mine, playing with Kobra and the Lotus. And same thing, he’s out on tour with her, plays her some of the album and inside of one hour I’m on the phone with her talking about what vocals she’s gonna do. So it’s good to make friends with everybody in the business. And if you make friends and you make good music, those things will come together for sure.”
R.I.- What can we expect from you in the future?
P.K.- “Definitely plenty more music, we just released our ‘Good Morning Apocalypse’ Deluxe edition. The response to it has been amazing. I’ve been doing a lot on interviews, just like this everyday and we’re gonna be doing some Texas dates in November, in support of that album. So we’re excited about that. I’m just juggling between Lita Ford and Heaven Below and I like having my plate full with music like that. Just expect a lot more music. We’ve got some music videos that are gonna come out for the cover album and we just released a trailer for the ‘Good Morning Apocalypse’ album that kinda looks like a movie trailer. We’re definitely just gonna stay active, we’re not gonna go away. As Nikki Sixx told me, ‘If you’re not appearing on social media, you’re disappearing,’ so we will stay appearing.”