Welcome to Part 2 of our “Inside The Dream” special. Part 2 features a chat with Conspirator Todd “Dammit” Kerns, from late August 2018, as the band were gearing up to start rehearsing for the Living The Dream Tour. We talk about the album and how it all came to be. Without further adieu, “Inside The Dream Part 2, with Todd Kerns.
H2Z: What was the earliest riff you remember that ended up being used on the album?
TK: Serves You Right was early, What else was early? I think Driving Rain was pretty early if I remember correctly.
H2Z: Are we talking written last tour?
TK: Yeah, around that time. Read Between The Lines was around then too. A lot of Slash’s guitar riffs they come out fast and furious, but I think Serves You Right might be the earliest I remember.
H2Z: Driving Rain going into the top 10, how exciting!
TK: Yeah, our manager said it was our highest charting song. I don’t pay attention to a lot of that stuff, I just like to make music, rather than worry about the numbers and where things are charting, but its been doing great which is the important thing.
H2Z: So, I think the three songs released before the album was, while the most commercial, are not the strongest on the album
TK: I totally agree
H2Z: So if you were playing A&R guy, what would you put out as the next single?
TK: That’s really interesting that you say that. When I think about World On Fire, oddly enough songs like “Wicked Stone”, for me, are they key tracks, in a funny way. I don’t gravitate to what I think should be on the radio. I gravitate to what me, as a 15 year old would enjoy. There are a few songs on this album I feel that way about. In a lot of ways I feel “Serve You Right” is one of those key songs, I don’t know if it works as a single per se, but I think its pretty key as the centrepiece of the record. “Read Between The Lines” is really good, “Lost Inside The Girl” is really good. The ballad “The One You Loved Is Gone” is just a classic. There are quite a few songs that are pretty stand out.
H2Z: Talking “World On Fire”, I thought that “Wicked Stone” and “Avalon” were the lynch pins of that album.
TK: Yeah, I think so too, and its funny because we treated “Avalon” like “Oh this is just going to be a fun party type of song, that we didn’t think too much about. And I have had heaps of conversations with people that say “I know what a good song is by the riff”, or “I can tell a good song by a crappy demo tape”. Sometimes a song really starts coming together once you start putting all the different layers on top of it. You can know you have a good song, but there is something about hearing it with all its guitar parts and all the vocals, suddenly a song like “Avalon” became a really important song.
H2Z: I think “Avalon” should open the new live set.
TK: That would be a great opener. Funny you say that, I was just thinking about that the other day, that we have to go through that whole process, of what should we open the set with, and what we should play. “Avalon” would be a good one, ya know what, Im gonna put that on the list!
H2Z: “Avalon” straight into “Mean Bone”
TK: Oh! That’s a good one too. “Mean Bone” is a strong song, that found a whole new life being played by The Conspirators, I know that. It very easily could have been lost in the annuls of time, as a Snakepit song, but we really put our own stamp on it. Don’t get me wrong, that version on the album, the original version, is so great. Rod (Jackson – Snakepit Vocalist), just kills on the song. But for some reason, Myles does a pretty good job of making songs his own, and we do our own thing with those songs.
H2Z: If you guys opened with a new song, I would go with “Boulevard Of Broken Hearts”, that building riff at the start just lends itself to being an opener.
TK: Interesting. That’s another song I would call a ‘key album track’. Like “Ramble On” on Led Zeppelin II. It wasn’t a single, but it was such an important song. Boulevard was one of the last songs we put together for the album, in fact it may have been the very last song we did, and added to the record.
H2Z: I hope people will get how unbelievable that song really is
TK: Thank You! I really appreciate you saying that. That song really does have a certain weight to it.
H2Z: Was it all your Anti-Star bass on the album
TK: It is predominately, I mean the Anti Star bass, is such a behemoth of a monster, that I used my P-Bass, the one I have had for years, it’s the one I named after Dee Dee Ramone. I used it on “The One You Loved Is Gone” and maybe one other song, I would have to look at my notes. I think it was one of the other slower songs, probably “Lost Inside The Girl”, which is a really great song too. Otherwise its all the Anti-Star Bass
H2Z: When I first listened to the album, I have to admit, I didn’t understand the album, now I realise we are so conditioned to just hearing singles that what I didn’t understand is I needed to listen to it as a whole album, like you would with the ones from the 70’s
TK: Oh cool! That’s what I miss about albums, is the idea of investing that kind of time. There is a lot of albums that you and I grew up with, where the first time we listened to it, it wasn’t that we didn’t like it, it was that we didn’t understand it, you really had to spend some time with it. Then those things usually go on to be your favourite records, because they speak to you in a different way.
H2Z: Was there a time in the studio where Slash pulled out a riff, where you just went “Woah! What the fuck dude”?
TK: Pretty much every riff Slash played for us (laughs). I was just talking to a friend the other day, and I said how he just comes up with all these riffs, and they really are all just classic riffs. But back in the day when we first started playing the riff for “The Unholy”, it was so crazy and alien at first, that it took a minute for me to find my place in it and really get inside of it. Sometimes you feel like you are just surfing along the surface of a song, and you have to wait until you are completely immersed in the song to really understand it. The new record I felt comfortable with from the get go on pretty much every song. It also has 5 less songs than “World On Fire” which makes it far less to contend with
H2Z: I think having less songs makes it more of a complete album, because all the songs gel so well.
TK: I think so too, and originally he only wanted to 10 songs, like Van Halen II or something (laughs), like the old records we grew up on. The 17 to 20 song albums only really came in with the advent of the compact disc. When we were kids albums were 10 songs, some even 8 songs. I think he wanted to make a succinct statement, and I think we achieved that still even with ballooning the album to 12. I think it makes for more a complete experience.
H2Z: And this was the first time using Slash’s new studio Snakepit
TK: One of the very first things recorded in Snakepit actually
H2Z: How did that differ from using places like NRG in the past
TK: Well last time we used NRG for Drums and Bass and then we went to Elvis’ studio Barbarosa Studios in Florida for guitars and vocals. This time we went to NRG in North Hollywood for Drums and Bass and then to Slash’s place in the valley for guitars and vocals
H2Z: And the vocals with Myles worked the same where he did all his vocals and then you came in and did the backgrounds?
TK: This time he would come in during the day and do his lead vocals and I would come in that night to do the backgrounds and harmonies on it
H2Z: What song did each member have their standout performance and why?
TK: Brent – My Antidote. Brent is one of the most solid drummers out there period. When he gets to shine I like that. Wicked Stoke was his moment last time. This time I feel it’s My Antidote.
Frank – I actually love the interplay on the guitars on Driving Rain. Slash and Frank have found a cool Joe Perry/Brad Whitford chemistry. You can hear it in the harmony guitar line in the verses.
Myles – Myles has the ability to make everything he sings seem like he is absolutely feeling it. I believe that is because he actually does. That kind of stuff always shines through in songs like Starlight. On this album I believe that song is The One You Love Is Gone. He sings very heartfelt lyrics that really connect.
Slash – The new highlight of the album, for me is the outro solo to Serves You Right. It takes me back to the long fade outs on Ozzy’s Diary Of A Madman album where Randy was shredding so hard they faded out very slowly to keep as much of his mastery as possible. That’s exactly what Serves You Right turned into on Living The Dream. When the best guitar player in the world is letting loose you gotta let him fly.
Me – I think I’m most proud of my work on Driving Rain. I like to play what serves the song. There are classic walking lines that I feel compliment the guitars.
I also love the harmonies I sing with Myles in that song. In the chorus I start below Myles then work my way above him halfway through the first line. Myles and I often weave above and below each other harmonically. It’s challenging but fun
H2Z: Thanks so much for your time Todd, any final words for our readers?
TK: See you all out on the road in 2018/2019
We would like to thank Todd for his time, and check back tomorrow for Part 3 of “Inside The Dream”