THE DIPLOMACY OF KANSAS

Updated:

Kansas is back with a brand new album entitled Somewhere To Everyone. Their debut for the indie Magna Carta label marks the first time all 6 original members have recorded together in twenty years! This is old school Kansas playing that epic music that many remember back in the 70’s. Songs like Carry On My Wayward Son and Dust In The Wind are still staples on classic radio and bring back memories to those who grew up when the tunes were new. Our interview was scheduled with original guitarist Richard Williams. We asked about some of the songs on the new Kansas disc.

“The opening cut is called Icarus II,” Richard said, “It’s a real cool story. There’s ten songs on the record. A lot of variety. There’s a song that’s called The Coming Dawn and it’s a stunning ballad. The middle section will probably keep it from any type of a single. It’s like a long Moody Blues or King Crimson type of thing. The middle is all instrumental, pretty orchestrated and very pretty. The song is just a knock out! The last cut called Not Man Big is a great entertaining song. I can go on and on. There‘s not really a turd on the record.”

But just how does the new CD stand in comparison to those classic Kansas albums? “I think it stands real well,” asserts Richard, “I think it’s very reminiscent of the Masque, Point Of No Return, Left Overture era. You could imagine any of these songs on any one of those records.”

In a live setting, one wonders if Kansas prefers to play the newer material or wants to just rely on those classics. “We have to play the older material. Personally, I would just love to go out and play this whole record. We won’t be able to do that. For the Yes tour, we’ll probably play two new songs from the record and three or four when we headline. We’ve never actually played these before -- they were all put together in the studio. We really have to get together and learn them! That’s how Wayward Son and Dust In The Wind were -- they were assembled in the studio. There‘s nothing new to us in doing it this way.”

Complete this sentence -- “If I have to play Dust In The Wind again live, I’ll...”

“I’ll be tickled pink,” answered Richard. While most bands complain about having to drag out the same old tunes over and over again, Richard is very much into playing the old classic Kansas repertoire, especially Dust In The Wind...

“It’s nothing we go through in dress rehearsal. But when you play these songs in front of a crowd, they have a life of their own. They’re like public domain. The life we can’t put into them in rehearsal the crowd fills in during the shows. If you have to sit down and practice it, I don’t care if I ever play it again. But to perform those songs live, I have no problem.”

And what about Richard personally? Is it still exciting to be a member of Kansas? “Absolutely!” Richard exclaims, “When I was 14, I had a job in a bowling alley refinishing bowling shoes. When I went to college I worked in a liquor store. Those are the only two jobs I’ve ever had -- except for playing guitar in a band. I would have never thought that hobby would turn into what I was going to do. I still don’t know what I’m going to do when I grow up.”

As mentioned before, the original Kansas members are back. How are they all getting alone, one wonders...

“When you say back, we’re back for this record,” Richard explains, “The original band won’t be touring this. Dave Hope came up from Florida and played bass on a couple of songs and unfortunately when he was there, we were on the road. We were still performing while we were making the record. And then we did the photo session, Dave was away on a retreat. He couldn’t be there when we had the big press day. So Dave was kind of there by proxy. As far as the rest, I haven’t had that much time in Kansas with those guys in a lot of years. It was kind of like a homecoming in a way.”

But did everyone get along? Highwire Daze minds want to know. Ever the diplomat, Richard stated, “It was very comfortable, very easy. There was no pressure. Just the camaraderie and the fall on the ground horse laughing! I haven’t laughed that hard in years! We really had a great time making it!”

Kansas will be touring with another super-group this summer. Yes and the mighty Jon Anderson are legends in their own right. Will all the boys on tour get along?

“We’ll see,” said Richard, “It should be pretty painless. This is our 26th year. They’ve been around for at least 30 years. The competition -- ‘we’ll blow you off the stage!’ -- That more of a 20’s testosterone filled band kind of attitude. When you’ve been in the business as long as both of us have, what you want to do is make the best show possible for everybody. Make it work for both bands so that people who are buying the tickets will get the best band for the buck! More than anything, their stage manager use to be my guitar roadie. They‘ve been up for us doing this whole thing, so I don‘t anticipate any problem. Yes is one of my favorite bands of all time.”

There have been several musical trends that have come and gone. Richard occasionally keeps up with what’s currently is going on, but comments, “You put on a Marilyn Manson record. Whether you like it or not, you really have to admire them. They sound awesome! Talk about nasty and ballsy! Tremendous promotion value! I can appreciate that, but it’s not exactly my cup of tea. But on the other hand, you can’t take it that seriously. Alice Cooper, on the other hand, was at least that frightening! It’s just a different time. It’s all a show. Ted Nugent is one if the straightest guys on Earth, but you’d never know it by going to one of his shows. It’s an act. This is a business. It’s show business!”

As for Richard’s fave Kansas tunes, he cites The Wall, The Pentacle, and Lamplight Symphony as personal favorites. And what are some Kansas songs he doesn’t particular like? “I’m not even going to go there because I don’t know what songwriter might read this! And I just don’t want the feedback.”

The Diplomacy of Kansas -- exciting non-compromising music that will live on forever! Be sure when to catch Kansas when they show up in your town.