Kihnplete: Our Interview With Greg Kihn

CREDIT: Felipe Buitrago
I've long maintained that Greg Kihn Band's "Jeopardy" is one of the greatest videos of the '80s. So when I was presented an opportunity to talk with Greg about his new compilation, Kihnplete, I jumped at the chance. We talked about the compilation, his involvement with the San Jose Sharks, Joe Satriani, Green Day, and how he picked the songs for Kihnplete. And he was nice enough to answer my questions about "Jeopardy," too.

How are you doing this afternoon?
I'm having a great day. I do a lot of creative thinking, so every day I've got some goofy ass idea I'm working on. For instance, since the Sharks have advanced in the Stanley Cup playoffs, and since KFOX is the official station of the San Jose Sharks, and since I have a special relationship with the Sharks and I sing the National Anthem a couple times a year there, I wrote a special goofy song for the Sharks.

It's a parody of "Mack The Knife" by Bobby Darin, you know with the big band arrangement? Except that I changed the lyrics for the Sharks and the Stanley Cup. I just recorded it today at the studio and it sounds really good. Everybody at KFOX has heard the song and everybody's really liking it so they're saying, "Let's do a video." So now what started as a silly, stupid idea a few days ago has mushroomed into this big thing because now the Sharks begin Round Two of the playoffs at the HP Pavilion on either Friday or Saturday night. So now we're bringing our film crew--which I just found out ten minutes ago--down to the Shark Tank and we're going to be shooting the video with a lot of people as they come in with their faces painted and all their teal. I'll be performing the song at a Sharks rally outside the HP Pavilion. We'll shoot the bulk of the video right there at the rally because we'll have the whole gang up there. We'll just point the camera at these crazy people and let them go nuts. There's your video.

Once these teams get one of the these "Go Go Go Team!" videos, they end up winning it all, so they'll owe you something after this is over.
I really hope so. I hope it's good luck for them.

Are you going to be able to do the National Anthem at one of the games?
I already sent emails to all the people at the Sharks. Usually they go with the biggest star power they can get for the playoffs. But one thing you have to consider is that I'm good luck for the Sharks. This year, I'm 2-0. Games in which I sing the Anthem, they're 2-0. Last year, I was 3-0. 5-0 over a two-year period, you can't argue with that. The year before that, we were 5-2, so overall my winning percentage is very high. So I sent an email to the General Manager of the Sharks saying, "Look, there may come a day when you need the extra mojo and I'm ready to put my mojo on the line."

Call me out of the pen, I'm ready.
You call me, I'll be there in a half hour. No problem. I'm expecting that phone to ring, but you never know. I just did an interview with Joe Thornton about a week ago and he pointed out, "Hey, we skate great when you sing the Anthem." And I said, "Tell the coach because in the playoffs, you might need a game real bad and I want to be there so I can put my magic in there."

You just released your three-CD compilation, Kihnplete. What's been the reaction to it so far from your fans?
It's been really good. The beautiful part of Kihnplete is it's all the post Beserkley stuff. Most of the people who know the Greg Kihn Band know us from the Beserkley days and that's when we had "The Break Up Song" and "Jeopardy" and all that. But there was a whole period of time from 1983 on, that we had a lot of great music and a lot of people have never heard it. A lot of people didn't even know Joe Satriani was in the Greg Kihn Band. We put all the Satriani studio stuff we had plus a nice helping of live stuff featuring Joe on guitar plus I got some live stuff with my son Ry on guitar, who by the way was a former student of Joe Satriani. After my band, that's when he went solo and blew up. Every night, I would stand there doing my bit, singing and playing chords, and turn around and I've got the best seat in the house. I'm watching this guy, one of the best guitarists in the world, just shred his ass off. It was a wonderful thing.

Part of putting out Kihnplete is putting out music that I felt needed to be out there. It was out of print, we still owned the rights to 90% of the stuff. None of this stuff was even available.

How did you go about choosing which songs made it onto the disc?
There was really not a lot of choosing. It was very organic. My concept was, "Let's put everything we've got out." The nice thing about doing this album was I had to go back in the vaults and pull out all this live stuff. We had some stuff that was recorded with Satriani that was just unbelievable. Plus we had all kinds of stuff from all the different Kihncerts.

In this day and age, you've got do it. I'm legacy building now. You've got to go back and look at what you've done in your life. I've always tried to be an artist. I've always tried to have some integrity in my music, in my writing. Whatever I do, I consider myself an artist. As opposed to bands these days, it's all about marketing. When we were making our albums back in those days, we thought we were artists. It was great that we were selling records, but that wasn't the reason we were doing it. We thought we were a cut above. We weren't doing it for the money and I feel that's what missing in a lot of today's music is that it's so driven by the dollar.

Look at it this way: my first top 10 hit was "The Break Up Song." That was on my seventh album. You couldn't even get seven albums into this thing without having a hit in today's world.

You have covers of "Another Girl, Another Planet," Green Day's "Boulevard Of Broken Dreams," and Springsteen's "Thunder Road" on the compilation. Any other covers you like to play live?
I do a couple of Springsteen covers. On the second album, I did a version of "For You." Bruce liked it a lot and he gave me "Rendezvous," which we put out a few years later. It's a bitch to sing, man. I'm up there like Roy Orbison. I can't hit these notes I hit when I was twenty. I sound like Jerry Garcia reaching for the stars.

I like the fact that I've got all this catalog. I love the fact that I've got eighteen albums to draw from. You've got to do your hits. If you don't do your hits, they'll throw tomatoes at you. So right off the back I've got to do "The Break Up Song," "Jeopardy, "Lucky," "Remember." That's cool. I love all those songs. But then I've got all these other songs to pick and choose from.

"Boulevard Of Broken Dreams," you know how that came about? We were a Berkeley band back in the day. We lived in Berkeley, we were on Beserkley Records, we played at the Keystone Berkeley every week. We were the house band. We survived as a club band. In those days, Berkeley bands had a certain attitude. It was kind of a "Screw You" attitude, it was like us against the world.

The next generation came along and it was Green Day, and they kind of had that same attitude. They made it against all odds. They did it on their own. They went out there and earned it, same way we did, so I felt an affinity with Green Day. We were going to be on this show called Hit Me Baby One More Time. You were supposed to do a song from the past and a song from now, a recent song. They wanted me to do a Weezer song. I said, "Dude, I can't do that. That's ridiculous." But the nice thing about Green Day was they were a fellow Berkeley band so I felt like it was doable but you had to get their permission to do it. We had to track them down to a hotel in Germany because they were on a tour in Europe. We called them in the middle of the night and got their road manager to go down there, wake them up, and say, "Hey, is it OK if Greg Kihn does 'Boulevard Of Broken Dreams' on a TV show next week?" And they said, "Greg Kihn? He's from Berkeley. Tell him, 'Yeah.'"

I want to talk about the video for "Jeopardy." That's one of my favorite videos from the '80s. Who came up with the wedding day jitters premise?
I'd always been a horror movies fan. Joe Dea was the director. He said, "I've got this idea for a video" and he came up with this zombie idea with the wedding. It was kind of semi-autobiographical.

That's what I was wondering.
My first marriage was already halfway broken up, so the message was "Look before you leap." Joe Dea came up with the concept of doing the zombie wedding. It was so much fun, but I've got to tell you, I am going to hell for what we did in that church after hours. They let us have the church for one marathon forty-eight hour shoot. We just stayed up for forty-eight hours and shot the whole thing in one blow.

Of course, we were on blow the whole time because how do you stay up for forty-eight hours with a bunch of maniacs? We did horrible things. This was during the height of our partying days. My guys were drinking Jack Daniels and smoking big reefers--that's normal. That's what they do in public. Imagine what they do behind closed doors! Everybody got whacked out. By the time we got to that zombie scene, it was four in the morning and everybody was turning into a zombie at that point.

We had so much fun. We had a low budget. Joe Dea came up with the idea for the snake. You know the rubber snake?

I was going to ask you about that. I was wondering if that was a snake, a shark, or an octopus.
It was a snake. It was a serpent head.

With a tentacle.
I'm pretty sure it was a snake. This thing was made out of rubber like a rubber band. I wrapped it around me tight and I let go and it went back to where it was. We reversed the film and it looks like it's grabbing me. It's a cheap effect but we ran it in reverse and it looked really cool.

I'm hacking at that thing with a piece of wood and there's green slime hitting me in the face. That was Campbell's Pea Soup. We got five gallon things of pea soup and they were hitting me with squirt guns with pea soup in them. Just crazy.

I've got to ask you something about that video. The thing that grossed me out most was the couple who were attached at the hip. What was that?
That was Joe's idea. It was kind of creepy, I thought. But then again, we only had three or four effects. That was one of them and we were going to use it come hell or high water. We had that, we had the snake, we had the pea soup. We had to do this thing on the natch. When I break through the church to the outside, that's Mission Dolores Church in San Francicso. That church was in Dirty Harry movies. When you walk out of the church, if you turn left, there's another church right across the street. When I pull out with the car, there's a bride leaving that church.

What was Lips referring to?
Joe Dea put that on there because he had to cover up the license plate. The person in charge was the Art Director of the video. I can't remember her name but the name of her company was Lips and that's why she put Lips on there! I just remembered that! Wow.

It certainly didn't refer to my lips. Or no reference to giant bongo lips like Jagger or Steven Tyler. But let's face it, lips are a part of rock 'n' roll.

I won't keep you much longer because I know you're busy, but we have three questions we ask every guest. Purple Rain or Thriller?

Tiffany or Debbie Gibson?
I'll go Tiffany.

Most people do. 16 Candles or Pretty In Pink?
I'll go Pretty In Pink. Better soundtrack.

Thanks for taking the time to talk with me today.
I've got to tell you that was a fun interview and I loved talking about some of the stuff we did in the old days and hopefully I won't go to hell for some of the stuff I did in that church after hours.

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