Jonah Koslen - 2003 Interview with Jonah Koslen

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edited December 2020 in Interviews all

WRITTEN AND COMPILED BY: Gdazegod and RichardB

If you take a place like Cleveland OH off the musical map, then you eradicate a vast and rich history of achievement that stretches back years. Without fail, Cleveland has contributed much to the tapestry of commercial rock and pop music over time, some well known, others not so well known, but whose fingers of influence spreads itself like a spiders web across the music industry.

One of those characters that is part and parcel of this scene, both past and present is guitarist, vocalist, songwriter and producer Jonah Koslen. Many reading Glory Daze will need no introduction to the man. On the other hand, some won't have a clue who he is. Here is your 'clarion wake up call' then!

Jonah first came to prominence as the right hand man (could be left hand man, depending what side of the stage he performed on) of Michael Stanley, in the Michael Stanley Band. Jonah stayed with MSB right up to the end of 1977, then went out with his own band Breathless, who released a couple of albums during 1979-80 period.

He next appeared with another outfit Jonah Koslen and the Heroes. Jonah then moved out to Los Angeles and got involved with the burgeoning multimedia industry. His next musical highlight was 1993's lovely Ghost Poets album, featuring a reunion with Michael Stanley. Returning to Cleveland a few years later, Jonah has teamed up with a amalgam of players as part of the Gentlemen Rockers.

So here he is. A very busy man, recording artist, web entrepreneur, and multi-media guru. We manage to catch up with him in-between takes. Obviously there's no rest or the wicked in this business. 'You know what they say, use it or lose it' muses Jonah jokingly. Being able to integrate creativity on both a musical and technical level has been one of Jonah's biggest assets. He is one of the fortunate few to establish a credible reputation in both fields; the technical area of expertise involving the audiovisual medium.

After all these years he continues to enjoy a prosperous career in this dual role. 'The audiovisual work I have done has been a very exciting new direction for me. There has been lots of work in video editing and animation - 3D and otherwise, and much of this has been for corporations. But recently, my main focus has returned back to the music.'

As we've summarised, Koslen has had a long and varied career with lots of highlights spanning decades. I asked Jonah, as a musician, what was the best period that he could recall? 'Well, every period has had it's 'shiny' moments' he says. 'I recently played a reunion gig with Michael Stanley where we did most of the 'Stage Pass' album'.

'Daniel Pecchio was also involved, along with the rest of Michael's current configuration, who are called the Resonators. It brought back many memories for the audience and me. It is always a real thrill to relive a great moment like that. Before the end of the year, there will be a Breathless reunion as well. It will include Rodney Psyka and Allen Greene from the original band, as well as members of the Gentlemen Rockers rounding out the line-up.'

All of these acts are well known on the Cleveland scene, and we quiz Jonah about some of the best aspects of it. Goodness, it must go back years, when we think about identities and landmarks. People like Carl Maduri, and the Agora Theatre for instance: a local landmark.

'Yeah, Hank Laconte's original Agora Theatre will always stand out for me, and many other people as well, I'm sure. So many great artists have played there before they hit the big time. 'Stage Pass' was recorded live there. Breathless, and my other band the Heroes recorded WMMS coffee break concerts there. In the basement was 'The Mistake' bar where I first heard Alan Greene play with Jimmy Ley. Back in the day, I closed that place many a night with a smile on my face and a lady on my arm.'

Jonah also reflects on his earliest association with Michael Stanley. A surprising story this one, and one which is slightly unusual. 'My earliest memory of Michael would have to be before I had even met him. I was working in a record store in Denver, Colorado and I used to listen to the 'Friends and Legends' LP there. When I received a call from my dear friend and manager at the time, Columbia Records promo-man, Marty Mooney, saying he was flying me back to Cleveland to audition for Michael's band, I was awe struck.'

For those familiar with much of the Michael Stanley Band (MSB) music, you'll notice that the vocal duties were spread around some of the band members. I'd always wondered why, the answer really was quite simple. 'It pretty much followed that the writer of the song sang it. But there were always those times when Michael would hear something I was working on and say he really wanted to sing that one. It happened with 'Ladies Choice' that way.'


Moving on into 1978/79, Jonah formed the classic band Breathless. Out of all his body of work Breathless is the one which stands out for us. Even twenty plus years on, those tunes still have a certain 'magic' about them. Songs like 'Takin' It Back' and the superb 'Walk Right In' are prime examples, as Jonah testifies.

'I'm very proud of that body of work. The band at that point was so hot! We would rehearse 5 days a week. I brought in a new tune to learn every second day or so, so there were a large number of songs that in the end slipped through the cracks, never appearing on an LP. People can hear the rehearsal recordings of a number of these unreleased songs on the 'Live in the Bubble' CD which I have released through my website.'

After a few years and a tour supporting the masked wonders Kiss, Breathless folded. Jonah returned in 1983 with another band, The Heroes. They released an excellent album called 'Aces' that year, to positive acclaim. The new band proved to be just as exciting as Breathless, and one that Jonah was also proud of.

'Yes, very' he agrees. 'That album 'Aces', was my 'farewell to innocence' song collection. The band at the time featured Donnie Krueger on drums (formerly of the Eric Carmen Band) and Dennis Lewin on keys (founder of Beau Coup). We did have a follow-up album called 'Orange', which was unreleased until just recently. The guitar playing of Danny Powers, who later joined MSB for the 'Can't Fight Fashion' LP, is featured prominently on this one.'


After the run with The Heroes stalled, Jonah then moved his family out to L.A. We asked Jonah what were the major differences between living in L.A and Cleveland for him and his family? 'Better Mexican food! Worse traffic jams. More BMWs, and I was no longer a big fish in a small pond. And I also got the opportunity to work with the great Bonnie Bramlett.'

More recently, Jonah has returned to Cleveland, and he's appeared with the band The Gentlemen Rockers, which is an amalgam of former MSB, Heroes and Beau Coup personnel. It is perhaps the perfect vehicle for Jonah to express himself musically, taking into account, past and present activity.

'GmR has been an amazing experience for all the band members, myself included. We've all been playing together in one band or another for so many years now that we spontaneously fall perfectly in sync with each other. It's been a real pleasure working with these guys again.'


It fits in real nicely with the whole classic rock thing which is still a huge market today, all the teenagers of yesteryear now working parents with long memories of bands like Wild Cherry, MSB, Breathless, Donnie Iris etc. What's your take on that scene now, particularly in Cleveland? 'I'm pretty outta the loop as far as the Cleveland scene goes. If I'm not out playing myself, I tend to spend the evenings in front of the computer or hanging with my family.'

Many people we've spoken to say the state of Radio in the USA absolutely sucks. Same company owns about a zillion different stations all playing the same track playlist. What gives? Is there some deliberate attempt to dumb down the youth of America or something. Jonah shares his thoughts on this one.

'There is a deliberate attempt to maximize profits and monopolize power, I think. Then there's the record industry as well. They just go on whining about the state of the CD industry and 'pirated' music. These fat cats are the real pirates. They all have been ripping off the artists and the public for far too long. Let the dinosaurs go extinct; let 'em fall over and rot.'

On the Gentlemen Rockers website, we noticed the poll question about a reunion of MSB. On the other hand, we'd like to know about one day seeing some MSB performances compiled onto DVD for instance. Is there a wealth of video stuff of MSB about? 'We did a performance in June for 6,000 fans here in Cleveland, but beyond that there is no plan to do anymore' says Jonah. 'No plans for a DVD as far as I know either. There really isn't a lot of video available to my knowledge. A few music videos from the later days is about it I think.'

And finally Jonah, your web-presence is great, and for melodic rockers there's a wealth of info available, and of course all the audio material is there to purchase. What other enhancements do you envisage making to the site? 'Nothing else comes to mind right now. I've put a lot of time and effort into the design and implementation of the sites and I'm pretty happy with them for the time being.'

Thanks very much for this brief update Jonah. 'Thank you. It's always a pleasure.'


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