Kyng is a band that has been not only a very important band to this blog but a very important band to me personally. Since first hearing them (thanks, Shawn) back in 2011, Kyng has been a band that I have carefully followed. From their debut album, Trampled Sun to their latest face melting masterpiece, Breathe in the Water, Kyng has lived the road dog life and touring with everyone from Megadeth to Clutch and all else in between.
I recently had a great time, as always, talking with drummer Pepe Clarke. We talked about his new found love for being a father, who he feels is the most underrated drummer, and everything Kyng that we could talk about. This interview was so much fun and full of laughs and just served as yet another reminder as to why I love this band so fucking much. Enjoy, y’all.
Pepe, thanks for taking the time out to do this today dude.
Yeah, I guess this is ok [laughs].
Dude, if I didn’t love you so much I’d hate you.
[laughs] You’ve been calling me an OK drummer for like four years. It’s become our joke and that’s ok [laughs].
Congrats on being a papa now! How has becoming a father changed your focus on Kyng and music in general or has it?
Thanks. It’s a pretty awesome feeling. Nobody can describe to you what it feels like but it’s definitely its own unique feeling. It just makes it harder. It hasn’t changed my focus because I’m pretty driven and I love what we do. I really believe in our music. My focus is still there but it just makes it harder to leave. I was telling my wife that before I could not wait to get on the road and I could just stay on the road forever. Now, I have a wife and a child and now when I leave, it sucks to have to leave but I still love being on the road and touring. I wouldn’t say it’s changed my focus. It’s just made it more challenging to do what I love to do.
Has being a parent also influenced you creatively in any way?
Absolutely. I think all your circumstances will influence you in a certain way and it’s up to you to channel them in a creative way. I think it will definitely affect my creativity and I feel like it has. I feel like I’ve been more proactive in the creating process of everything we do from art to video to everything. I had never really put two and two together but it might be because of all my life changes. Everything happened so quickly. My father died a year and a half ago, then we got married four months later and then she got pregnant two months after that. Everything just happened so quickly. My mind is always going and going so this has all helped me creatively.
Being creative is such a great outlet for us. Most people don’t realize just how much goes into it and how much we get out of it for ourselves as artists.
Exactly. It’s an amazing therapy to write your feelings down and to try to make sense of them. Eddie (Valez; Kyng singer/guitarist) says all the time that we’ve got to use our anger and our frustrations and everything that we’re going through to fuel our creativity and he’s absolutely right; its tools that life has given you. Like shitty tools that you don’t really want but you have them so you might as well use them [laughs].
Breathe in the Water was a fucking outstanding record. You guys did a handful of shows supporting it. Are you guys hitting the road again at all?
It’s been weird. We haven’t been on the road much at all. We did that Clutch run and then nothing. We’re doing a bunch of those festivals like Welcome to Rockville, we’re doing Rock on the Range, and we’re doing Chicago Open Air. We’re doing a bunch of those festivals and we’re also doing a tour with Fozzy and Sons of Texas. That’ll be a fun one.
It seems like you guys, at one point were on the road for like two years straight. Hell, you came to Atlanta three times in one year.
We were on the road for two years but it felt like ten years [laughs]. It’s like I left a teenager and came back middle aged.
I know how you feel. I’m 43 and I feel 50.
[laughs] I remember trying to explain my music career to my dad and I was in my early thirties. I told him that it wasn’t so bad because 30 is the new 20 and without missing a beat he goes, “So you started going bald when you were 10?”
Just over the last year or so, the overall touring cycles seem to have slowed down quite a bit. Bands like you guys and Crobot were hitting it hard last year on the road and now things seem to be really slow. What do you think is the cause of this?
Well, I don’t know exactly but you’re right. There are a lot of bands that I haven’t heard from in a long time that I used to hear a lot about and now they’ve kind of faded away a little bit. I think it’s that bands need to take some time off and do some writing. It might just be a coincidence. I mean, if we were all on the road at the same time it would just be parallel touring cycles.
You guys have toured with everyone from Megadeth to Clutch and so many in between. Of all the tours, does one stand out as a personal favorite of yours?
Man, Clutch will forever have a special place in my heart. We’ve toured with them several times and it’s always a blast. I love the band so much and their crew. It’s almost like going out with family so I absolutely love touring with them. As a fan, obviously touring with Megadeth was mindblowing. It was just insane. I even have a full circle story from it. I grew up with my parents being very religious so they would throw Megadeth cassettes away. Come time for us to tour with Megadeth, Dave Mustaine asked us into his bus to pray for us. We were sitting there in a huddle and he’s praying for us and I thought, “This is the most full circle thing that’s ever happened to me.” From my parents throwing this guy’s tapes away to him praying for me on his tour bus [laughs]. It was incredible.
It’s something you wish your mom could’ve seen.
[Laughs] Exactly! Yeah, I’m a huge Megadeth fan so it was a huge honor to do that tour.
Did Dave Mustaine have any kind of words of wisdom or advice for you guys while on tour that you still carry with you?
Absolutely. He would hang out with us and he would be giving us constant advice. When we were going to sign our deal with Razor and Tie I texted him and he told me to call him. I called him and he talked to me for like an hour and a half on things to look out for, he gave me advice on the contract that we had, he was just the nicest guy. I hate when I see negative press on him because he’s such a nice guy and he was so nice to us.
By the way, congrats on Breathe in the Water! What a great fucking album. It’s also your most dynamic and versatile album thus far. What brought on this growth?
I think it was a sense of freedom that we as a band felt in the writing process. I think it was also us taking everything we learned from making Burn the Serum and working with great producers and the freedom we felt while making Trampled Sun. With Trampled Sun there were no limits but obviously we were leaning towards the heavy. We were trying to be creative, throwing in blast beats; it was an “everything goes” kind of album. When we did Burn the Serum, it was definitely more calculated but when Breathe in the Water was happening, we said, “Let’s not think of anybody and let’s just do the record we want.” We were in our heads going to write the heaviest record we’d ever done but it didn’t turn out that way organically. It just, like you said, came out very dynamic.
Did you guys have some extra tracks recorded and if so, do you guys banking those tracks to maybe use them as b-sides or something? What do you do with those tracks?
We have tracks that didn’t make the album that are heavier than the heavy songs on the album and ones that are more melodic than the melodic ones on the album. We absolutely would love to do something like that with those songs. There were songs that we were really bummed to cut from the album. With the extra tracks, we did all the basic tracks with The Machine who was cool enough to let us lay down all the drums for them. Eventually we’d love to finish them.
I miss those days when bands like Iron Maiden would release 12” singles and there would always be some demo track or a cover song or an unreleased song. I’d love to see bands do that again.
Yeah. That was so awesome. I mean, how fucking cool was that? B-sides have become pretty obsolete. What you get now is extra track if you buy an album on iTunes or something. Even the format of albums I feel like is becoming obsolete. I mean, why not just release 25 songs, one at a time over the period of a year. Why do you have to release 12 at the same time? I just feel like we’re used to doing it that way but I don’t think there’s any real science behind it anymore. All the cool stuff like b-sides and hidden tracks just don’t exist anymore.
Recently, Kerry King said something about there not being any guitar gods anymore. Other “elders” seem to feel also that there are no bands to carry the torch for them when they’re gone. What do you think about this?
I think that, in a way, he’s right but not because there’s a lack of bands. There’s just not that format anymore. There are no more superstars. Bands are guys that are struggling in life. There’s no more Motley Crue type of bands where everyone is a millionaire. That just doesn’t happen anymore. I feel that bands like Metallica and Slayer were larger than life to all their fans. They were inaccessible and they were part of this really strong movement of music and now there’s no movement. There’s just an oversaturation of bands and they’re all trying to get a little piece of the pie and everyone’s going to starve to death at some point. I think it’s close minded to think it’s because of bands. I think it’s because of the industry. Bands are just not going to become larger than life anymore. You’re seeing the last of those bands I think.
I refuse to like Avenged Sevenfold or Asking Alexandria… ever.
[Laughs] Generally, you and I and Kerry King aren’t going to like those bands because we’re part of that last generation. We’re not supposed to like the new generation [laughs]. That’s just the way it goes. That’s a couple of bands that will probably carry that torch for kids. If you ask a 12 year old who Metallica is, they’d probably say that they’re a bunch of old guys. To them, Metallica would be like the Rolling Stones.
So in addition to drummer extraordinaire and dad, you are now an entrepreneur/teacher. You have started Let There Be Rock School. Tell me about that.
Thankfully, it’s starting to pick up. People are really happy. We’re about to have our Tribute to the 70’s show on March 18th. As musicians in bands know, there’s really no money in it now. We kept talking about what we needed to do to make a living for ourselves. I realize that I’m never going to live at a comfortable level playing music. For 10 years I’ve always been scraping by and having to get odd jobs here and there when I’m not on the road. Then I started thinking about getting into real estate. That’s what a lot of musicians turn to because you can study a course, get licensed, make good money, and you’re kind of your own boss. Every time I thought about it I would just get a knot in my stomach because I just didn’t want to do it. When we were on the road, we got asked to play at Let There Be Rock School in Frederick, MD. The owner of the school and I became good friends and I asked him how he would feel if we opened a school in El Paso and he said he’d love it. This was several years ago and we kept talking about it so when my dad passed away, he left us some money and that’s what I used to start this.
I absolutely love this concept because I feel that this is how we can preserve the music we love and pass it on to the younger generation.
Absolutely. I’ve noticed how necessary something like this is now because kids do not get into rehearsal rooms with each other to make music anymore. They’re all on video games or on their phones. The way we used to socialize was being in a band or in sports or something like that. Sports still happens in schools but music, not really. It’s becoming less attractive for kids to want to be in bands and the ones that are there are there because they really want to do it. They’re interacting with their peers, they’re playing songs, learning covers. It’s been so much fun. I didn’t realize how rewarding it would be to see their faces and how far they’ve come in such a short time. I’m so happy.
It also must remind you why you got into music in the first place.
Yeah, it was the passion. When we were younger, that was it. You either watched TV, you went outside, or you played an instrument [laughs]. There are so many things to do now. Even as an adult I find myself so distracted with so much stupid shit. I can’t imagine if I was 10 again and I’d have all these things accessible to me. I’d be going crazy.
In your opinion, who is the most underrated drummer besides yourself?
[Laughs] Thank you, Don. I think Lars is underrated. People give him so much shit. He’s not the best but he has such a unique style and it’s something that drummers nowadays lack. These days, you can’t tell one drummer from the other but I can always tell when Lars Ulrich is playing. I feel that it’s just as important to have your own sound and he definitely has that.
Who’s the most overrated drummer?
You’re putting me in a pickle [laughs]. I don’t even know if I can answer that and I’ll tell you why. I feel like drumming is so relative to the music that you’re doing. Who’s the most overrated bass player? All of them [laughs].
Drum solos: Love ‘em or hate ‘em?
I love drum solos. I don’t like drum solos. Maybe it’s that I’m not good at doing drum solos. I get really get super self conscious immediately. I know it’s something that you kind of have to get use to doing but as a fan, I love watching them. I’ve seen some horrible drum solos that go on for 70 hours. I have a recording of an Alex Van Halen drum solo that I thought was incredible. I also have a Tommy Aldridge solo that is amazing.
If you could drum in any band for just one night who would it be and why?
It would have to be Metallica for me. That was my band growing up. That’s my biggest influence.
Who would you love to have a Buddy Rich style drum off against someone, who would it be?
[Laughs] Don de Leaumont.
This is so going to happen. Next time you’re in Atlanta, sound check, you and me are gonna throw down.
[Laughs] Let’s do it. I’m expecting this to happen. I’ll even pay your Uber bill to the show just to see this happen.
Pepe, its word association time. I’m going to name four drummers and I want you to tell me the first word that comes to mind when you hear their name.
You’re an instigator, Don de Leaumont [laughs]. Ok, go for it.
Tommy Lee: Solid
Lars Ulrich: Underrated
Rikki Rockett: Hair
Ringo Starr: Underappreciated. He was such an innovator.
Pepe, what’s up with Kyng going into 2017?
Well, we’re going to try and get as many shows in as possible. We’re doing the Fozzy run, all the festivals, and we’re doing two shows with Gojira which I’m really stoked about. Hopefully, once summer comes we’ll be able to hop on a few tours and finish out the year strong.
Thank you so much for doing this dude. You always are a blast and I love wasting your time.
[Laughs] Absolutely, Don. Thanks and it’s always great talking to you.
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