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Almost 50 years of career and Kansas is still there! Back with the excellent "The Presence Of Absence", the singer Ronnie Platt came back for us on the release of the 16th studio album of the band!
DARIALYS - 19.06.2020 -
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By the time "The Prelude Implicit" was released in 2016, Kansas hadn't released an album since 2000, with "Somewhere To Elsewhere". The arrival of new members has certainly boosted the machine. After having toured extensively in recent years, the legendary American rock band Kansas is back with a new album with the enigmatic title "The Absence Of Presence", released in June 2020 on InsideOut. So we might as well tell you that when we were offered to interview one of the musicians, we jumped at the to exchange with this kind of legendary and incredibly long-lived band (almost 50 years of career!).

A few days before the interview, I learn that it is the singer Ronnie Platt who will exchange with me by phone. I'm torn between a lot of excitement and a kind of apprehension when it comes to approaching this giant. How will he greet me? Will I disturb him? From the very first seconds of discussion, all my fears are dispelled. For the first time, my interlocutor asked me what my name is, what country I lived in, how was the deconfinement in France going and what was the situation! It seemed like an exchange of old friends. But let's not waste any more time, and let's get on board now!

We have a traditional question that we like to start our interviews with. I'd like to know what is the question that you've been asked too many times and are tired of answering?

Ronnie : There's one question I really don't like! When I became the singer in Kansas (6 years ago, editor's note), I was asked: "What was the first thing you bought after that? ». I think people are wrong. They think that under the pretext that I became the singer of Kansas, I automatically became a multimillionaire! But that's far from reality! I joined this band because I wanted to play this music, not because I wanted more money. Even before I joined Kansas, I had been singing 'Carry On Wayward Son' for years and years! And every time I sing that song, even though I've heard it thousands of times, when I hear people singing it with us, I feel like it's the first time I've ever heard it. There's always a new energy! I think that's the only thing I don't like about it! (Laughs).

All right, we won't talk about it then, and I didn't even think to ask you that question! We won't talk about the potential millions of dollars you made by joining the band! (Laughs)

Ronnie: You know, ten dollars is ten dollars! I'm still trying to get my first million dollars but it's not easy! (Laughs). I still have a long way to go before I get there! A lot of road!

I reassure you, it's the same for me! (Laughs). Ronnie, I'd like you to tell me a little bit about the name of this album which is quite enigmatic ("The Absence Of Presence", editor's note). Can you explain it to us?

Ronnie : What's interesting is to note how the name of this album coincides with what's happening today. It's almost like we were psychics on this one! But we're not, you can trust me! (Laughs). But the name of this album is exactly what we're going through today. It was basically just the name of a song (the one that opens the album, editor's note), and then I had a conversation with Phil Ehart (the band's drummer, editor's note), and we talked about using it as the name of the album after a lot of talking about it. Kansas has always been a bit ambiguous and has always liked to distill a bit of mystery in people's minds, especially in the references. All I can say is that we're very proud of this album and very excited to play it live.

"The Prelude Implicit", the studio album that preceded this one was a real surprise for me because when I joined Kansas 6 years ago, I didn't expect the band to come back to the studio one day to write new music. But Kansas is always about doing new things. Phil and Rich (Richard Williams, the band's guitarist, editor's note), have been in the band for 47 years now, and they still want to release new songs under the Kansas name. For me, it's absolutely incredible! "The Prelude Implicit" was Kansas' first studio album in 15 years, and now "The Absence Of Presence" is coming out. It's crazy for a band that's been around for so long, and it's crazy that the band still has such qualities and abilities! Kansas is known for that, but it's incredible.

And it's very important for a band like Kansas to be able to release such good albums! There are some very big and famous bands that release new albums, but they have difficulties to offer something fresh and interesting, but for you, it's been very successful! I must say that your album is really excellent! I've always liked Kansas, but I didn't expect that now, almost 50 years after the debut. And I was even surprised that some of the tracks on it remind me of some Kansas albums from the late 70s, as if you wanted to go back to your roots with this album. Was that your goal?

Ronnie: Well... No. It's something I've often repeated about Zak Rizvi, the guitarist and producer from Kansas, and myself. Zak and I have been huge fans of Kansas all our lives, since we were very young. You are a product of your influences. Zak and I have always been very influenced by Kansas musically, in terms of writing too. Zak wrote most of the songs on our last two albums, and Tom Brislin (the pianist, editor's note) contributed a lot to that as well. You don't consciously say to yourself: "you have to write a song that sounds like Kansas". We've always been influenced by this band! This influence is already in us! It's like we've been part of the band for a lot longer than we actually have. As you say, a lot of the songs sound like Kansas in the 70s. Especially the more progressive songs.


I imagine that for you and Zak, who have been fans of the band since the beginning, it must be incredible to find yourself next to your idols today, and if you also contribute to the writing of new songs, it's a real consecration for you! It must be an incredible feeling!

Ronnie: If you had told me 10 years ago that Zak and I would play in Kansas and we would write songs for them, I think you would have been told: "you've had one or two too many bottles of wine! "(laughs). But that's a very interesting perspective. I've been in the band for 6 years, and the last 6 years have gone by so fast! Our tour schedule has been very intense. When we have free time, we're in the studio, so there's never a holiday with this band! We work all the time! We always do something related to Kansas. It's part of the band's ethic!

I have a question about 'Throwing Mountains', the first single. The main riff is really heavy for Kansas! How did you come up with the idea of writing a song that's so heavy compared to your usual standards?

Ronnie: Well, it's something magical that comes from Zak! He's the one who came up with the riff. He sent the demo of this song. We always start with the foundation, and everything is built around that. In the studio, we experiment, we try things, we add parts. Throwing Mountains is probably one of the heaviest songs in Kansas' career. A lot of people put it in the progressive metal category. But there's actually a lot of dynamics in that song. When the first verse comes in, it's much more peaceful than the rest of the song. There's a lot of highlights and quiet times, it's very dynamic. We can't wait to play this song on stage! It's a song that is made to be played live, with all the harmonies, with this chorus that is so powerful!

And then there's this incredible moment towards the end where you play the 3-part chorus with just an acoustic guitar in the background. 

Ronnie : With this passage, we tried to show the extent of what we can do. It's a sample of what we do.

Is a second album planned after 'The Absence Of Presence' to follow this record?

Ronnie: For 'The Song The River Sang', the idea was to do a cliffhanger like the last episode of a season, to keep the suspense going before the next album. The very end of the song doesn't have a fade-out or anything, it stops instantly. It's a bit like a slap in the face! I think that's still one of the things Kansas likes to do, surprising people! It's like the beginning of 'Throwing Mountains' where you can hear the riff in the background before everybody comes in and it's gone all of a sudden! It takes you by surprise. We wanted to do the same with the last track, to make you want to know what's going to happen next.



If I'm not mistaken, you also play keyboards in the band, in addition to Tom Brislin who is the main keyboardist. How do you know who plays which part?

Ronnie : Having Tom Brislin in the band is a bit intimidating because he's probably one of the best keyboard players in the world. In Kansas music, there are a lot of parts and layers that overlap. So we talk about who plays what. But being the lead singer, I don't want to be behind my keyboards the whole time. There are instrumental parts which are very rich and allow me to be behind the keyboards. These are parts that make us very proud. Technology allows us to get so many different sounds! We have sometimes 2 guitarists, even 3 guitars at the same time. We can play all the songs on the discography! Sometimes there are 2 violins in a studio song, so on stage, the violin plays its part, and the other melody is played by someone else. We like to spoil our audience!

Usually, when a band releases a new album, I like to ask them what they expect from it. But you, you have almost 50 years of career, you're one of the biggest American rock bands. After all this time, do you still have particular expectations when you release an album, or do you do it more to be in the studio and have fun?

Ronnie: I think it's dangerous to have too high expectations because you might be disappointed. We'd love this album to sell 30 million copies, but we do it because we love to write music, we love music, we love to create it, we love to play it. If people like it, that's great, if people don't like it, that's fine with us too! Everybody has their own taste. Why does so-and-so drive a Ferrari and so-and-so drive a Porsche? It's a matter of taste, it's personal. I don't think we have any particular expectations. The satisfaction comes mainly from the fact that you bring new parts. That's what makes us accomplished.

I saw that you have tour dates planned for the end of 2021. On the last ones, you focused mainly on the albums "Leftoverture" and "Point Of Know Return". Would you like to give more space to your new songs in your next set?

Ronnie: Only time will tell! One of the "good" problems we have in Kansas is that we have a huge discography to draw from. I like the new album, but I grew up with "Leftoverture", "Song For America", "Point Of Know Return". These are songs that I knew how to play and sing even before I joined the band! So what will the next set-list look like? I don't think anyone in the band has the answer. We're just talking to each other. It's very difficult to choose because everyone has their favourite songs. And of course, we must not forget the audience. We have so many potential songs to play! Are we not going to play 'Carry On Wayward Son'? Of course we're going to play it! Of course we're gonna play 'Dust In The Wind'!

Those songs, people expect you to play them. Maybe it's a silly question, but don't you musicians ever get tired of playing them all the time?

Ronnie: No, because they're songs where there's a huge energy coming out of the audience. It's never boring for me. I've been singing 'Carry On Wayward Son' myself for 40 years! When the first arpeggios of 'Dust In The Wind' sound, people are captivated. Sometimes it's scary, the audience is so captivated that you can hear a fly flying! It's very intense! It's a wonderful thing. So do I get tired of singing these songs? Never!

Precisely, since you based your last tours on some old albums like "Leftoverture" and "Point Of Know Return", what would you think of exploiting the coronavirus by playing the album "Masque", and you would all be masked on stage? (Laughs).

Ronnie: (Laughs) I'll study that! We could play "The Absence Of Presence" and "Masque" in its entirety! It's a good com shot, yeah! (Laughs) I'm going to propose that to the management!

Thank you Ronnie, and thank you for this beautiful album!

Ronnie: See you next time and have a great day!

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(2) COMMENT(S)  
Beau boulot ! Bravo.
Super interview, merci les gars !
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KANSAS: The Absence Of Presence (2020)

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