Interview by Scott Preston
Fusing the complexity of British prog rock with an American heartland sound representative of their name, Kansas were among the most popular bands of the late ’70s; though typically dismissed by critics, many of the group’s hits remain staples of AOR radio play lists to this day. Formed in Topeka in 1970, the founding members of the group — guitarist Kerry Livgren, bassist Dave Hope, and drummer Phil Ehart — first played together while in high school; with the 1971 addition of classically trained violinist Robbie Steinhardt, they changed their name to White Clover, reverting back to the Kansas moniker for good upon the 1972 arrivals of vocalist/keyboardist Steve Walsh and guitarist Richard Williams. bThe band continues to tour to this day, and their massive hit singles “Carry On Wayward Son” and “Dust in the Wind” continue to be played in heavy rotation on classic rock radio.
Cincy Groove: Did it feel good to re-release “Two For The Show” earlier this year?
Rich Williams: it did, although the record company was going to do it anyway. This time we decided to be more involved in the process. We added some new liner notes and photos. We also had a second disc of songs we recorded for the original “Two For The Show” but never released.
Cincy Groove: Is the band working on any new projects?
Rich Williams: We are making plans to record with a symphony this January to release as a dvd. We are also working on a side project called Native Window. It consists of 4 out of the 5 Kansas guys. We should be finished with it sometime this month. The goal is to have it mixed by the end of the year.
Cincy Groove: How did the original members of Kansas get together?
Rich Williams: The first band I was ever in was with Phil the drummer for Kansas in high school. Phil, Dave and myself were in White Clover together and that mutated into Kansas. We all met really from just playing music around town.
Cincy Groove: How does it feel to have “Carry On My Wayward Son” in 2 video games, Rock Band 2 and Guitar Hero 2?
Rich Williams: Its pretty cool, although its making people a whole lot of money, but not us.
Cincy Groove: Was there a moment back in the beginning that really gave the band a push forward?
Rich Williams: Probably when Wayward Son was written and put on the album Left Overture. That really shot us through the door.
Cincy Groove: Who do you consider some of your influences?
Rich Williams: There really is so many. Back in high school we just had AM radio to listen to. It was right about the time the British Invasion started, so there was The Kinks. Others were The Animals and all the Motown stuff was a big influence.
Cincy Groove: When did you get your first guitar?
Rich Williams: The summer before my second year of high school.
Cincy Groove: Its good to see bands, like Kansas, that were around before the internet, embrace the technology instead of ignoring it.
Rich Williams: Well you can either embrace technology or let it trample you like a wild horse. The industry in general always resist any change. Record companies used to be the kings of the earth and now they are dying on the vine. You don’t even have to make a cd anymore. You can make 2 songs and make it available on the internet as a download. There really is no limit to what you can or cannot do. You don’t need a record company or even need a cd. It can be anything you want it to be and I really like that.
Cincy Groove: How do you feel about having Dust in the Wind being played at so many high school proms or other similar events?
Rich Williams: Its pretty cool. We have talked with many people where it was played at proms and even funerals. Really when you hear about things like that its pretty surreal.
Upcoming Kansas tour dates:
for complete show details visit http://www.kansasband.com
11/7/08 Rosebud Theater Effingham, IL
11/8/08 Winstar Thackerville OK
12/6/08 Corporate event Houston TX
12/11/08 Osage Elm event Tulsa OK