707 - 2005 Life Beyond 707: interview Kevin Russell

Life Beyond 707: interview Kevin Russell
Written By: Lee Bradfield
Dated: 13 July 2005

707 had finally broken up and I was really looking for something to do. I hooked up with my then pals from the band Taxxi. The guys had moved to the Bay Area and had a fair amount of exposure on MTV that year too. We did a series of winter shows. The band included: Tim Gorman from The Who (keyboards), Randy Jackson (bass) yep the same Randy from American Idol and myself (guitar and vocals).

It was short lived but a lot of fun. Great bunch of guys too! It turns out Kevin had two stints with Taxxi, the first one ending around early '84, leaving him pretty much high and dry. Once a survivor always a survivor though, as Kevin takes us through a difficult 1984 and a musical liaison with character laden Grateful Dead and Santana members in 1985.

1984 - Back to Basics
Times were tough that year man. I went back to playing with what we call casual bands. I played weddings, private events, clubs, cruises. You name it I had to do it! I had family and I had no money coming in at all. The break up of 707 left me financially broke. It was tough, but I knuckled up and did what I had to do.

1985 - Kokomo
This was a lot of fun, but insane, ha ha. In the summer of 85 I got a call to come down and have a little play with Billy Kreuztman and Brent Mydland from The Dead. and David Margen (bass) from Santana. The jam lasted all night. The guys were looking to go out and play a bunch of shows with a side-project they named Kokomo. It was really different in as much as I never knew much about The Grateful Dead, as I never really listened to them other than what was on the radio. I did make some fast money and the Deadheads were out in full force at the shows.

I was brought into that strange world of the Dead. Brent was such a cool guy and may God rest his soul. He died far too young. He was a huge talent in my eyes and a sweet soul. Billy was a trip and a lot of fun to play with. He was a very generous giving guy too. Following his stint in Kokomo, little did Kevin know he'd soon be involved with ex Stray Cats members and Earl Slick in a new project! Kevin now launches into a detailed account of how things came together, the players and the music, and how Earl Slick's ego got in the way.

1986 - Playing with Slim Jim Phantom and Lee Rocker
This was something I needed to do for the money at the time more than anything else for sure. The Stray Cats had recently broken up and they formed a band with Earl Slick. I remain good pals with Slim Jim and Lee still to this day. Theyre really great guys! Slick? Well you know how it goes. The band suffered a bit in areas musically I felt. Lee was not an electric bass player and the band did suffer as a result of that, however Lee of course returned to what he really does best and that is rockabilly. He's the best at it! Nobody does what Lee does better in my opinion!

Jim was sitting behind the drum kit which was something I wasnt too famaliar with him doing actually. Jim is very much a nuts and bolts kind of drummer. He loved all the greats and Jim was a fantastic showman too. Of course I thought Jim belongs up front standing up and playing drums. Hes the baddest cat at what he does for sure. Sweetheart too!

Slick and I went back a number of years at that point (1986). I met him in Hollywood around 1978. He was this young cocky New Yorker who had a couple year run as Bowie's guitar player and his attitude was HUGE! ha ha. He was a very stand off-ish kind of guy then. But he didn't intimidate this Detroiter in any way then! He was a fan of 707, but moreover (he later would tell me) very jealous of the fact that we had gotten a real record deal and were touring with a hit song. So it made him act weird when he was around me I guess. Who knows? A funny thing the ego is, eh?


Here is what I can say (and I dont mean to sound arrogant or cruel at all Im just calling it the way I saw it.) Me playing second fiddle to Earl Slick was never a very comfortable position for me or him. I have been a player for years not just a rhythm player. I always thought that Slick was just an average guitar player, He and I had a falling out in 1988 and he has held a grudge towards Jim, Lee and myself for years now I guess.

It's silly, but nothing I could do to ever change that. I personally made amends to Slick on a couple of occasions in the past for my part in the silly behavior, but he was indifferent towards me. So be it, No ill will on my end. Wish him only the best. Hes got his Bowie gig back. And good for him. Slick is a sideman not a band guy was my experience with him.

Considering all this, nobody could blame him for seeking greener pastures, and soon enough the call came to rejoin Taxxi. However, a familiar demon we know from the careers of 707, Shooting Star, Hobbit and Duke Jupiter etc returned. Record company stupidity and ineptness: Kevin tells us from his perspective what went down.

1987 - Back to Taxxi
After recording the lack luster record 'Cover Girl' with Phantom, Rocker and Slick I just split! I got a call from the guys in Taxxi and they had a new deal on MCA and really wanted me to come onboard and record and help arrange the new songs. The record was pretty cool too, but MCA dropped the ball and it never came out. They had similar management and personel problems as 707. But we had an absolute blast making that record in L.A. Jeff (Nead) and Dave (Cumming) were really great guys to work with too! Very caring people too.

Who could've known that high profile session work was just around the corner at this point? A good thing too, following the disappointment provided by MCA. Kevin takes us right into the studio with Sea Hags, F Machine and Whitesnake, following a fateful reconnection with an old friend who happened to be one of the 80's biggest producers, Mike Clink.

1988 - The Hired Gun
I reconnected with my old pal Mike Clink and he was producing a band called The Sea Hags. He really needed a 70s sort of blues-rock player. Well, that was me! I flew down to L.A. to start recording and meet the guys and so on. Mike told me 10 days is all he needed me for. Well, 2 months later I was still working on that record. The money was pretty cool for the time I guess and it was very cool to hang with Mike again, So I had no real complaints.

The music? I wasn't into to be honest. I thought they were a garage band at best! Not very good players at all. Mike needed me to play all the solos and fix Ron Yokum's parts too. Chris (bass player) died of a heroin overdose at a very young age. He was a real sweet kid with a very bad drug problem. Those two young cats were a mess during that record. All strung out on junk! I just kept my distance and remained a professional 100% of the time. I also tried to ignore them as much as possible too to be honest.

Mike wanted me to do his next project F Machine. That was a long one too, but I got to do things that I enjoyed as far as creating different atmospheric landscapes sonically as well as just blazing at times on the record too. The cat that really was F Machine was a guy named Simon Fellows. Simon was very young and very cocky! He had a real attitude and put everyone off most of the time. Warner Bros dropped him before his record was ever officially released. His manager quit as well. I was glad to get out of that thing as soon as possible as I recall. Once again I did my job as a pro and got paid. That what I was hired to do and I did it.

Recording with Whitesnake
Mike Clink was up in Reno working on Whitesnake's follow up record to the hugely successful '1987' record. It was 'Slip Of The Tongue'. Viv (Campbell) was out and Adrian had injured his wrist. This left them with no guitar player. It was a very stressful time for David (Coverdale) as I recall. He had this hugely successful band and no guitar player. So I got the call to please fly up ASAP. I entered a situation that was quite tense to say the least. Adrian had managed to lay down some rough guitar parts on the basic tracks before his injury and I used them as a guide to learn the songs. Coverdale needed someone to start laying down guitar parts down for real.

I walked in not knowing what to expect at all. I didnt know anyone except Mike. I had to learn something like 15-16 songs right away! The pressure was on me like I couldnt believe. I was cramming night and day and not sleeping very well either. I laid down some cool stuff on a few tunes and Coverdale really seemed to like it too.

What I didnt know, was that Coverdale was negotiating with Steve Vai. He wanted to get the biggest name in the guitar world that year to be his new guy. As soon as the deal was finalized, I was out, Ha ha ha, I felt bad for Adrian though. Hes a really sweet guy and he never got to play on 'Slip Of The Tongue' either. We still stay in contact today. Adrian is a wonderful painter too! All in all I must say that I think David is still one of the greatest rock-blues singers. He and Paul (Rogers).

With such a string of high profile studio and live gigs under his belt, it should come as no surprise that another big one was on the way. With the E Street Band dormant around 1989, Clarence Clemons was at a loose end and had just relocated to San Francisco: guess who he bumped into. Kevin takes us through great club nights, auditions and some big names swinging by to check things out.

1989 - 'The Big Man' Clarence Clemons
Clarence had recently moved to the Bay Area and we became pals quite soon thereafter. We'd hang out and hit the local clubs and sit in together. Man we had a blast. C is a good guy and is well respected too. He asked me how I felt about helping him put a band together to go out and tour. We both made some calls and held some auditions and then settled on some cats for the band. We were the new Red Bank Rockers.

C had a hit with 'You're A Friend Of Mine' with Jackson Browne and C had a new record out at the time so he was eager to tour. The E Street Band was on hold and C really needed to get out and play I guess. We had a lot fun on the road and I got to play with some really wonderful people too. I always liked when Bruce would come sit in with us. He was a really sweet cat and a very warm person. Joe Walsh would come sit in at different times too. He is a great player and a real kick! Lots of laughs we had with ole Joe. I left C in 1990.

In 1993 (I believe it was), C asked me to fly down to L.A. to do his new record with a bunch of cats he had put together down there. Jim Keltner on drums was one of them. Jim was such a pleasure to have worked with and what a player man and a really nice person too.

Rock musicians' lifestyles of alcohol and substance abuse are the stuff of legend, some of them ending pretty sadly. Certainly, some of them see the light though, and have the necessary will power and grit to get straight and stay straight: Kevin is one of these, and he told us when this occurred and how it contributed to his musical life. I would recommend any musician struggling with any substance to read this carefully and remember.

1990 - The Change
I got clean and sober in the fall of 1990. By the grace of God I still am today. So much of my life began to unfold for me in the 90's. My new found sobriety brought up so many feelings for me. One of the main things I really thought long and hard about was my career as a musician.

As I began to open myself up and search for answers it became very apparent to me, get back to your roots. And that was my love for blues way back to when I was 11-12 years old growing up in Detroit. I heard the Paul Butterfield Blues Band's first record and it blew me away. Mike Bloomfield just knocked me. I then went on to do my homework as a young guitar player (with the help of the older guys I gigged with.) I discovered B.B, Albert, Jimmy Reed, and Freddie, Oh man the list goes on and on.

In the early 90's there was major upheaval in the rock scene, pulling the rug out from under several established bands and artists, in favour of the droning negativity that was grunge. How did Kevin react to these developments? Could he find a way to musically survive, even thrive in these circumstances? With a rediscovery of blues and soul, not to mention joining forces with his beloved brother, of course he could.

90s - New Rock is in and the Hair Bands are out!
MTV was changing almost overnight with the new bands coming up..Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Sound Garden, etc, Hard rock (or metal) as we knew it was all but over. But I made a decision at that time to get back to playing blues and r and b (what we called soul music in the Motor City).

I threw myself in with both feet. I got back to practicing again and listening to so many old blues and soul records. I even did a blues instructional audio 3 part series (European release import only). I started to teach again for the first time in many years. I have had so many wonderful students over the years. It was so cool to see students young and old getting into blues and really wanting to learn about it. I so love passing it on.

The Russell BrosMy Brother Brad and I did the last Clarence Tour together and it was a wonderful way for us to reunite. Brad had moved to the Bay Area and we got a house together in Marin County, Ca. We put together the Russell Bros. Band. It was a trio and we used various different drummers (Steve Smith, Kenny Dale Johnson, Kevin Hayes, Narada Walden, etc). Man we played a ton of gigs in and around San Francisco all through the 90's. Brad and I did a lot of records together during this time period as well. I produced a bunch of blues records for other artists and Brad played on most of them. Working with my brother Brad takes the music to another level. Clarence used to call him 'Bad Ass Brad.'


Then came the 'Trip To Heaven' saga: it was first released as a 707 album featuring Kevin Russell, but with fans the world over saying it didn't sound quite like 707, and no other previous members on show, clarification was needed. Kevin tells us exactly how it was.

2000 - Classic Rock Revisited
At the urgency of Bedrock Records, I recorded a classic rock oriented record, 'Trip To Heaven'. It was originally titled 707 - 'Trip To Heaven', but I fought to have the titled changed to Kevin Russell's 'Trip To Heaven' because it was not 707. Long story short, Bedrock Records were complete amateurs in the record business as it turned out. They completely dropped the ball and went out of business owing me a lot of money. Thats the truth! Oh well. Live and learn.

Where to from here? So much water had gone under the bridge by this time, followers of Kevin's career had to wonder how much was left in the tank. As it turned out, after a rest there was plenty left, including a fresh new direction for us all to enjoy. Now over to Kevin as he takes us right into the digital domain.

The New Trip
I knew it was time for me to take a break. I continued to play some local Bay Area gigs, but as far as recording another record it would be a while. I had not much interest in making another blues record. So I took a break from the recording end of things and I really wasn't all that active for a couple of years. I prayed for the inspiration to come. I needed to reinvent myself once again. I had come to a place of re-evaluating myself as a musician and artist. Today I dont under estimate the power of prayer as it works in my life when I truly apply it.

2004 - My Generation
I thought it was time for me to enter the digital domain-recording world. WOW it was so intimidating to me at first (being the analog guy I was) My dear wife Joanelle helped so much during that time. She pushed me to hang in there and it will come be patient. Joanelle and I read through the instruction manuals for the digital recording gear night after night as I tried very hard to get something recorded.

AH HA! Finally one night I heard something coming back that sounded like I may be able to actual do this. I never thought that it would end up being 'My Generation'. It has been so freeing to be able to do things on my own and not have to rely on recording studios, engineers and producers. I did every single record that way up until 'My Generation'. Smooth jazz radio really embraced this record and I got so many wonderful reviews too. I am grateful that I can keep my music out there and that people still enjoy hearing me play guitar.

With that said, we need to know about the here and now. What is Kevin up to? What are his recording plans, future studio approach and lifestyle priorities? Kevin sees it this way.

These days I record when I want. I also produce and engineer the way I hear the music not the way someone else hears it. For the first time in my recording career I am able to take all the time I need and re-do things if I feel it or sit back with the songs and make sure they are exactly the way I want them to be. It is such a joy to record this way now, I can't ever see going back to the old way of doing things.


Today I must remain true to my vision and keep the focus. I really enjoy the process of recording these days more than I ever have in the past. That is not to say that I didn't make records from the past that I am still very proud of, but they were quite stressful in many ways. I am recording and writing new songs all the time. It is an on going process that I work hard at, but I keep it stress free. After all, it is art not life itself. My family and health are number one top priorities today.

Kevin is currently working on a new cd to be released in the not too distant future. We wanted to know what fans could expect to hear this time around. Most definitely ROCK. Melodic heavy guitar music.

Sounds great to me, and I'm sure to most of the melodic rock acolytes out there. I'd like to thank Kevin Russell for his candid and entertaining participation with us here at Glory Daze. As future developments happen in his career you'll hear about it right here. For the last word, over to Kevin.

I want to thank my fans for supporting me through the years and I look forward to releasing my new record this year. God bless, and please pray for peace. Kevin.

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