To Be Kihntinued

After 18 years on the air, Greg Kihn is back on the road

Greg Kihn Band
Greg Kihn Band
Over an impressive 42 years, Greg Kihn has managed to squeeze in three entirely separate and successful careers. Most mortal men would be more than satisfied if not ecstatic to be a respected, award-winning author. Or a beloved radio personality. Not to mention an adored rock musician with an enviable, loyal fanbase. Kihn achieved all three.

Not only is that rare, the commitment and ability required to make that happen in three very different fields commands a particularly mind-blowing degree of kudos. And yet, in conversation, Kihn couldn't be more genial and genuinely modest. He feels fortunate to have been blessed with three successful lines of work. The musician's hat, he says, is the one that fits him best.

"I started off as a musician—it's my primary vocation, but you know, I love music so much," Kihn says. "It's been a wonderful ride, even when I was working for KFOX and doing the morning show for them—for 18 years, by the way."

Yeah, it's worth noting that Kihn wasn't really ever DJing and playing music at the same time. He pretty much took an 18-year break around the time of 1996's Horror Show album to focus on the day job.

"I did not tour, and I fell off the radar for a while," he says. "I think people are just now getting back to the fact that the Greg Kihn Band is out there playing and making fans, and doing it all again."

Kihn says that he had a great time working in radio, but simultaneously spent the whole time pining for a life back on the road. But damn, those station managers just kept throwing money at him.

"It really is a lot of work, and once you're involved in radio, it seems like you're in a treadmill you can't get off," Kihn says. "I remember when I first got the job, and the general manager of the station called me into his office and said, 'Greg, how much can we pay you to do this job?' I said, 'I don't know.' He writes down a figure on a piece of paper and slides it across the desk at me. He says, 'Would you do it for this amount?' I said, 'Well, what time do you want me here?' That was it. It was a great living, and I did not have to travel. In the mid '90s, I was getting a little burned out on travel. It was good that I stayed home for a decade."

So now he's back in music full-time. Last year saw the release of the Rekihndled album, his 17th if you include the 1989 "Best Of" collection, Kihnsolidation (he loves that wordplay based on his name). It's been a long road since the '76 self-titled debut album.

"I think that music holds up pretty well," Kohn says. "I was just getting into songwriting at the time, and I was graduating from writing folkie material to much harder rock. It seemed easy. We made the album on a four-track machine. I remember when the guy wheeled in the 16-track machine for the second album [Greg Kihn Again]. I thought we'd never use all the tracks. Little did I know we'd use all 16 tracks on the drums alone. I was naive but it was fun learning. It was the digital revolution just starting."

For a while in the '80s, Kihn had a young Joe Satriani in his band, fresh out of fellow Berkeley group The Squares. Satch would go on to play with Mick Jagger among others, before becoming the world renowned guitar instrumentalist that he is today. Meanwhile, Kihn's son Ry is now playing guitar in his band.

"I look over, and there he is—my son," he says. "You can't get any closer than father and son. I do have two grandchildren, 6 and 9 years old. Give them about 10 years and I dare say they'll be in the Greg Kihn Band. We'll have three generations of Kihns. Wouldn't that be cool? I wish my mother was around to see it."

Kihn is understandably delighted with the new album too. Songs like the opening "The Life I Got" and "Big Pink Flamingos" display a typical, rich blend of American blue collar rock (think John Mellencamp, Bob Seger and even Springsteen) and '60s Brit Invasion, with a healthy shot of the blues. The process was, he says, far easier now than previously, thanks to the incredible progress that the technology has made. "You can do anything with the touch of a button," he says.

It's great to have him back, even if longtime listeners of his radio show have been missing him dreadfully since he switched off his "on-air" sign three years ago. As he points out, a whole generation grew up listening to him.

"That's a lot of kids," he says. "But I would be doing interviews with buddies that were on the road like Eddie Money, Huey Lewis, Steve Miller, and I'd always have this wisty look in my eyes. I wanted to be on the road, but they were paying me so much to stay home."

This Sunday, Kihn performs at the AVA Amphitheater with Rick Springfield, a musician with whom he has enjoyed a long history.

"It's such a pleasure to be working with Rick Springfield again," he says. "He and I did two tours in the '80s when 'Jessie's Girl' was just out. We haven't seen these fans in many a day. But I really enjoy working with my band now. I don't even mind the travel."

Somehow between all of this, he found time to write four horror novels, a murder mystery novel, and a collection of short stories. It is, he says all part of the same creative spark that drives his songwriting.

"That's what drives me," he says. "I love writing stories, writing songs, or even a silly poem or something. If I'm working on a song or a novel, it's kind of the same thing. The novel just takes about a year to finish. I love it and it's part of my escapism. It's what I do."

He'll be putting the horror on hold in Tucson though, as he straps on his guitar and rives through a set of old and new tunes.

"I'm doing some stuff off the new album," he says. "Of course, I'm going to be doing all the hits because I can't not do them. I'll be doing 'The Break-Up Song,' 'Jeopardy,' etc. We do some jamming too. You'll see the Greg Kihn Band in all its glory. We'll be doing old stuff, new stuff, weird stuff and tried and true stuff. It's going to be a very good show, I guarantee it."

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