Kasim Sulton will be performing at the Saint in Asbury Park on Saturday, July 29th. He took some time out of his touring schedule to do an e-interview with us.
What can people expect from a Kasim Sulton solo show? Do you keep the
setlist pretty consistent through the tour or mix it up a lot?
I have such a good time playing solo shows. It' really gives me a chance to interact with the people who come out to support me and who also enjoy my music. I usually try and make it as fun as possible. Interspersing my songs with stories from the road and my life experiences.
I do try and follow a set list but I've been known to pull a song out on the spur of the moment from time to time. It really depends on how I feel the show is going and whether or not I feel like the mood needs to be changed at any given point during my performance.
Because it's usually just me, or me and one other musician on stage, I can get away with more than if I had a full band behind me.
Are you currently working on a new solo album? Will some of the songs you play be potential cuts from a future disc?
There was a huge gap between my first solo album 'Kasim' and my sophomore effort 'Quid Pro Quo'. I promised myself that my next effort wouldn't take as long. So, I'm currently writing new material and have a few songs ready for what will eventually be my third proper solo CD. I will be performing the new material on my current tour.
Do you ever throw in songs from some of the bands you've toured with? Any covers from bands you wish you had played with?
I've had such a great career so far, I'd be remiss not to include songs from some of the bands I've worked with over the years. My only concern is being careful that I choose songs that lend themselves to an acoustic format. I'm not sure Joan Jett's "I Love Rock And Roll" or Meat Loaf's "I'd Do Anything For Love" would translate that well played with acoustic guitars.
I do play some songs from my time in Utopia.
I've read in a previous interview that you said "If I?m playing with someone like Hall and Oates, I?d much rather play bass than keyboards. I?m playing with Meat Loaf, I?d much rather play bass than keyboards. If I?m playing with my own band, I?d much rather play keyboards than bass because there?s more emotion in keyboards." With that in mind, will you be playing keyboards at the Saint, playing bass, guitar or a combination of the three?
I find it most comfortable to limit my choice of instruments to Acoustic Guitar on these shows.
You're offering 6 fans a chance to sit in on your soundchecks and have the ability to talk to you and shoot a picture together. That sounds like a
great opportunity for your fans to make the show even more memorable. Have you done something like this ever before?
I had a meeting a few weeks ago with the people who are helping me put these shows together. We were talking about offering the audience something special. Something that might make the evening a little more memorable. I suggested allowing a few people into the soundcheck to see what I did prior to a show to get ready. I'm not on the level of an arena act that can throw a party for 25 or 50 people with catering and a Karaoke fest. What I can offer is a glimpse into me setting up for something that I treat with the utmost respect and care. The participants will also get a one of a kind gift too.
What's it like to play before 15,000 fans when you're doing a tour with say Meatloaf or the New Cars and then playing clubs before a hundred or so on a solo tour? Is it a bit of culture shock the first few shows?
The intimacy of playing to a smaller crowd can't be matched. I love playing for the larger crowds, thats always a thrill but there is something really honest about sitting on a small stage in front of 75 people with just a guitar and a microphone. No stage set, no flashing lights, no video screens. Just chords on a guitar and a voice. I'm never quite sure how it's going to be recieved, but I know that if I speak from my heart, I'll be ok.
Speaking of playing before large crowds, I have a feeling that I worked backstage at your largest concert in Asbury Park. You were a member of The Blackhearts for a few years in the 1980s. I remember working with WNEW for a beach concert in Asbury Park that I believe took place while you were in
the band. Do you remember playing that show and if so, what do you remember?
I remember that show. It was so freaking hot that day. Me and Thommy Price, the drummer for Joan and one of my closest friends had driven down from our homes in Staten Island earlier that day and all I wanted to do was, play the show and go home! I believe Glen Burtnik was performing that day as well. Glen and I are good buddies and he and his band were fun to watch.
The Saint recently had Tony Levin roll through town. Between the two of you, it's like a who's who of rock and roll history. Do you ever think
about musicians like yourself that have made careers out of playing for and recording for several artists? Is there any competition or friendship/kinship within the bass world?
I know Tony and respect him greatly. He's a real musicians musician. I tend to be somewhat humble when it comes to including myself in the same group of bass players with Tony, Pino Palladino, Michael Rhoades or Anthony Jackson. Considering my accomplishments, I guess I could.
There really isn't any competition or professional jealousy between Bassists. We do what we do for the people that call on us and give 200% to each and every project we work on. Thats what separates the pro's from the hacks.
Tell me about the Kasim Sulton Signature Electric Bass. How cool is it to have a guitar named after yourself?
When I was approached over a year ago by Michael Houser of Interstate Music to discuss the possibility of creating a Kasim Sulton Bass Guitar, I was initially hesitant. I really didn't want to just take a pre-exsisting design and slap my name on it. At the same time, I didn't want to make a Bass that would cost the purchaser a mortgage payment. I wanted to desing a Bass that was a good sounding, well made instrument and at the same time, affordable. Something that a seasoned player would feel comfortable using, and a younger player could afford as well.
Along with the design team at Interstate, I think we came up with a guitar that meets all those parameters. It's a great looking guitar, it sounds great, and it's not too expensive.
I'm very fortunate to be in the position of working on the project with a great bunch of people who shared my passion to create a Bass that is unique and a pleasure to play.
In the last 6 years there's been several DVDs released from Utopia live shows. Would you ever have thought back in 1982 that people would still beasking you about that band?
Although Utopia might not have enjoyed huge mass appeal, that doesn't mean we didn't acheive something just as lasting as selling millions of records during the time we were together.
One of the coolest thing for me is when I meet a young musician from an up and coming band that says to me that I've influenced him in some way. That to me is the ultimate compliment.
So I guess that speaks to a larger issue which is the fact that the band, both before I joined in 1976 and until we disbanded in 1986 made some great music. Songs and albums that still stand up to this day.
After spending so many years with Todd Rundgren in Utopia and working with him on his solo stuff, was it a bit surreal to be playing alongside him in The New Cars? To me it's almost as if you guys got cast in a movie or something.
I consider Todd one of my best friends. I virtually grew up along side him on stage and in the studio. I know better than to ever second guess Todd or what he may or may not want to do. Any time I have the chance to work with him, I jump at it.
When I was told that Todd had signed on to the New Cars project, I pretty much thought it was important I was there too. It made perfect sense to me that I would be the Bass player in that band considering my history with Todd. That along with the fact that the Cars used to open for Utopia when they first started touring.
You spent some time playing on Broadway in "Movin' Out" - what was thatexperience like? Would you ever want to do more shows like that?
Movin' Out was not a typical Broadway Show. The people who put the show together understood that in order to make it as special as possible it was important for it not to come off as 'another musical'. Tommy Byrnes, (Billy Joels Musical Director), did an amazing job putting the band together and conforming the songs to the format of the show.
The main thing that was different about this show was the fact that the band wasn't relegated to the Orchestra Pit. We performed each night on stage along with the dancers and were really just as important a part of the show both visually and musically. I would jump at the chance to do another show like Movin' Out but I doubt there will be one anytime soon.
Is there anyone in the industry that you haven't worked with that you'd like to do a tour or record with?
I think I would be great playing with Paul McCartney. If anyone out there has a connection to him, I'd be greatful if you could drop my name to him.
Otherwise, I'm just as happy playing my solo shows.
As a Meatloaf fan, I've gotta ask... What can you tell us about Bat Out Of Hell III? Is there a planned release date? World tour in the works?
We just compleated the record. It's set for release in October of this year. As the only musician who has played or sang on every track on each Bat Out Of Hell record, I think Bat Out Of Hell III is the perfect end to the Bat Trilogy. It combines all the elements of I & II and takes the concept to another level. The record was produced by Desmond Child and I think he took great care to be mindful of the territory he was covering.
We're gearing up for a massive tour next year that I'm sure will be the best tour I've done with Meat Loaf since I started playing in his live band in 1993.
Finally, I read somewhere that when you were 17 your friends and you drove down to Neptune, NJ and got a tattoo... Any plans for some new ink while your in town?
I think I'll take a pass on that. They hurt too much.
Gary Wien has been covering the arts since 2001 and has had work published with Jersey Arts, Elmore Magazine, Princeton Magazine, Backstreets and other publications. He is a three-time winner of the Asbury Music Award for Top Music Journalist and the author of Beyond the Palace (the first book on the history of rock and roll in Asbury Park) and Are You Listening? The Top 100 Albums of 2001-2010 by New Jersey Artists. In addition, he runs New Jersey Stage and the online radio station The Penguin Rocks. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.