Keli Raven Tells All
Exclusive Interview by Alison “MetalBabe” Cohen
With all this extra time we have on our hands during the Corona Virus Pandemic, Keli Raven and I thought it would be a good idea to put together an exclusive interview for Metal Babe Mayhem. In this juicy interview, Keli talks about his surgery, addiction and recovery, family, childhood, and his new album entitled ‘The Institution,’ which is scheduled for a release this May.
ALISON “METALBABE” COHEN: Hey Keli! Thanks so much for doing this exclusive interview with me and Metal Babe Mayhem. As a longtime friend and collaborator I want to take this opportunity to talk about the new release and get up close and personal as well!
KELI RAVEN: Merci Beaucoup.
ALISON: First of all, congratulations on 30 years of Keli Raven! You had a life-changing experience and major scare with your recent heart surgery. What can you tell me about that experience, and do you feel it has made you stronger as a person?
KELI: I’m still a bit freaked out about having major open heart surgery this past September. I was in a fog for the first few months of recovery, so it’s still weird. I had to go through a very intense, very painful recovery in the immediate months after. I’m aware that I will always have some sort of pain in and around my heart, but I’m doing my best at learning to live with it for the rest of my life. I actually got the ‘green light’ in early December from my head cardiologist to get back to work, onstage performing.
I’ve always been a pretty strong person both in spirit, values, morals and even physically. Indeed it has made me stronger. Thank the Gods I didn’t go through it alone, having Mom, Justy and the most unlikely friend that I hadn’t seen in nearly 10 years… John. He’s one of my all time best mates and I love him. So for him to surface just as I was going into heart surgery was actually very calming. And he was there to comfort my mother. I know for a fact that Bea and Lem were watching over me. I always feel their presence, that’s been going on for many years now. It has made me not so scared of death, which I have been my entire life.
ALISON: What’s it been like getting out there again after your surgery?
KELI: Naturally I was a bit unsure if I ‘still got it’ (after having a two year hiatus). I had so much going on, working and writing a new album that actually came to life a year ago, My new image… (Having short hair now after having long hair for twenty seven years of my career). I’m known to re-invent myself in visual images, messages and certainly in my music. I’ve created somewhat of a monster, as nothing scares me. I am all about change, future, past and present. I am very blessed, a changed spirit and am so grateful that I had the ‘best surgeons’ known worldwide to remove the tumor that threatened the valves in my heart and save my life. So this year thus far has been kind of a challenge, not really knowing my physical limits.
We played our first show in Las Vegas after my surgery, and played a few back in April, May, June, and August in LA and surrounding areas. I feel great and the band is rockin’. My band lineup is one of my best classic lineups ever. There’s no better feeling than having really good musicians play my music flawlessly. We have a new fresh show playing music from all of my albums going back to 1992. It’s all because of the Keli Raven cult fans around the globe keeping me going. It is because of the love and continued support for thirty f*ckin’ years, my family, and of course my loyal friends like you Alison.
ALISON: Thank you Keli. Glad you are back out there again. Congrats on being clean for two years from meth/cocaine as well. That’s a major accomplishment. How are you feeling and what motivated you to get clean?
KELI: After being over two years clean from meth and cocaine I sometimes feel worse than when I was using. I’m told it’s my system cleansing itself. I can only thank the Gods. Even though I should have done it 20 years ago, I owe my ENTIRE recovery to my very loyal and caring support team.
ALISON: I’m glad that you had a support team to pull you though. Now let’s talk about the music! What can we expect from your seventh release this May, “The Institution?” Is is a concept album?
KELI: Funny you should ask about being a concept record. This album was inspired by my experience in a rehab facility, and ninety days in jail (due to a crazy chick that couldn’t have her way so she brought false charges against me). I didn’t even know anything about said incident.
The album touches on all the mischief that went on in rehab, it was some things and some people that became the basis of this work. And the so many selfish people that are spoiled by social media and other situations that inspired a track “Cry Babies,” which is targeted to those people who bitch, complain and don’t realize who they are trying to portray in this primarily fake world some are living in. The songs are based on being in an institution, no matter what help they may need. It’s a rockin’ classic Keli Raven single-driven record that is conceptual.
ALISON: Very cool. What do you have planned as far as singles once the album is released?
KELI: Well, luckily I haven’t lost my overly creative senses now that I’m done ‘experimenting’ with mind altering substances. Meaning, I’m just as creative and have become what some might call ‘over the top.’ So you never know what you’re gonna get visually from me. As far as the first singles, indeed ‘Cry Babies,’ ‘Coffee Social,’ and ‘Our Institution’ have been at the at the top of the list of first releases. I’m not sure in what order, but most likely those are on the front line. I think there might possibly be more singles than album cuts, that certainly will follow and hope to drive the record. Hopefully they will deliver a feel for the concept or whatever the listener chooses. Something I guess you can say is a ‘Keli Raven’ staple, (if I may say so). I certainly have no problem with people using their brains. Using your brain is not against the law.
ALISON: True! Who is currently in the band?
KELI: Well first I must say, I have been very blessed to have the best of the best players. My drummer has been with me for 10 years now. My fans all know him to be Mr. Sheldon Sims. He’s the exact same person he was when we first met. A closet total bad ass with no ego and a spirituality we can all learn a little something from. My bass player is an Icon in her own right, a world renowned public figure that I have known for 30 years. I doubt if there is anyone reading this that doesn’t know her name… The Goddess Miss Theolynn Carpenter. I have such an awesome lineup and we love one another. So here’s a shoutout to my band… Hey Theolynn and Sheldon. I f*ckin’ love you guys. Thanks for letting me live.
ALISON: Aww. You can’t ask for anything better than that! You are known for having a “Keli Raven sound” How would you describe it?
KELI: I’d say music that is chancy not over formulated. I have nothing against anyone’s music, but I am more attracted to songs that have bridges, especially when it’s only performed once in the song. I also have no problem with a bridge creating a pre-chorus naturally. I write pop, ear candy like songs all the time, yet I go wherever I want at the time. I’m in the zone. I can’t stand when people say a band’s production has too many effects. I use every effect that I can get my hands on. That has enabled me to have my (some could say) own unique style and original sound the past 30 years. Now on the other hand, there are bands that record in million dollar studios and have the opportunity to create their ‘own sound,’ but unfortunately they sound like every other band of their genre because of the same recording technique.
ALISON: What is your songwriting process like? Which comes first typically, the music
or the lyrics?
KELI: It differs. I may get hooked on a title and write lyrics based on that.
I may have a riff in my head and could go that route. However I very rarely write anything that is premeditated. I can honestly say that I write as I go along, literally while the tape is rolling. I take that chance most every time… Definitely on my last three albums. I’m okay with not knowing what the track or album’s message sends. It sounds dangerous, but arrangements make a main hook or chorus… Whatever you call it.
ALISON: Speaking of songwriting, we’ve collaborated on a couple songs! “Alleysinn” and “Why Do I Like Messed Up Chicks?” What can you tell us about these two songs?
KELI: Well I would definitely say they are rockin tracks. We (You and I) have a natural, writing chemistry. We definitely have something cool yet established goin’ on. Just unique and very open-minded with all things, especially hard rock n’ roll with a common natural friendship. Who knew I’d have become ‘buds’ with a really cool entrepreneur.
ALISON: Aww, thank you Keli!
KELI: I had a title for the ‘I’ll Be Your Superman’ album, but no lyrics or entry/hook. So knowing I call you and literally say “Hey babe, I need a verse, a hook, something for a track for “Why do I like messed up chicks?” and and you were like, “okay cool.” Within hours you called me back and not only had a first verse, but also part of the hook. You even sang me your idea. You know my edge and style so accurately that magic is created. You wrote the first verse and I wrote the second….. Pretty f*ckin’ cool.’
ALISON: Yes it was. I’ll never forget that phone call and how quickly and easily I came up with just want you needed. What about “Alleysinn?”
KELI: “Alleysinn” was an idea that we had that was natural. We wanted you to play off the Hollywood scene, ya know the rock and what glam we had left with you kinda’ hosting the track/video via vocals. At some point we decided to make it about you, with the track and lyrics I had already written and you starring in the video against me in an Alley playing off the hook ‘Alleysinn.’ We had a great director who really helped us see our visions come to life. That was fun to make. I believe we began taking shots of whiskey around 8AM, as ‘call time’ on set was like 6:30AM. It was fun and turned out to be one of my favorite tracks on that album. *Note: Alison also stars in my video “New Revolution Baby” from the same album ‘SCReAM KeLI RAVeN SCReAM. So yeah how we do it… That’s how we roll.
ALISON: Very True. I know there aren’t any live shows happening now with the Lockdown, but you are scheduled to play The Whisky June 25th with Stonebreed, Stereo Love, and Brat Prince, The Omnious, and Sepherin. Hopefully that show will still happen.
KELI: Yeah, I think it’s a very cool show. Playing shows with good friends is always awesome. At this time I can only say the performances obviously have become a second priority to the album. The venue is closed and locked down, like all things worldly. I am just heartbroken because there really is nothing I can physically do, nevertheless anything at all. All I can do is pray to the Gods at this time of world destruction, and I don’t mean world politics or politicians. I do not want to believe that this is end of the world. I believe there is always hope.
ALISON: Yes, you have to have hope. Tell me something about yourself that no one else knows. Something we would be surprised to learn about you.
KELI: I am petrified of rodents and reptiles… Ewww.
ALISON: Haha. That’s funny. Let’s talk about your family a little bit, starting with your sister Bea. Can you share a story about your sister that brings a smile to your face?
KELI: Bea was always my bodyguard. In grade school she had her little gang of girls that I guess you could say serviced protection for candy. She wasn’t a bully, but if you f*cked with me, ut oh here comes Bea and her gang. It’s kinda funny when I think about it now. She would bully me at home by telling me to do something that I would definitely get in trouble for… Like we used to toss my mom and dad’s 45s out of our ninth floor window.
She also would dress me up in girl’s clothes and make me keep them on until mom was home. Bea was no angel, but she protected me my entire life. She would blow on my food at the dinner table knowing I won’t eat after that. When she was dating an air force fighter pilot captain (Tommy) my girlfriend and I would go to the base with them and fly jumbo jet simulators. When it was my turn, Bea was my co-pilot. After trying so hard to land on the airstrip, I was right on target and she reached over and of course made me crash. I didn’t think it was funny at the time, but looking back… At least she couldn’t land either!
The overall funniest thing she did was, finally when my band was popular and getting girls, she told all of her stripper friends not to date me. I believe her words were, “don’t date my lil’ brother.” Those were some of the best days. I miss her ever so much. She and Lem raised me on rock n’ roll and hooked me up with the right people from the beginning. Anyone that knows my sister Bea knows, yeah she was super hot, but she was super funny. Bea… My hero.
ALISON: Thanks for sharing those stories Keli. Those all brought a smile to my face, and I’m glad I knew her. Speaking of family, your mom has been an integral part of your career, managing the band and helping from the ground up. I’d personally like to give Gayle a shoutout for all she does. What would you like to share about her work with your musical career?
KELI: She is so on top of it. I really find it hard to put into words. She always knows what’s gonna happen before it happens. She has worked with so many artists over the 50 plus years that she’s been in the game. She produced a David Allen Coe short stint of shows and she manages me and the band. When it all comes down to it, she can do it all. She’s damn smart too. She has helped with so many questions from friends of mine. She knows everything from the entertainment industry to legal. It’s a fact. I’m super proud and super love my mother Gayle. She’s an awesome songwriter. She has written the lyrics to several of my songs that are brilliant. She raised Bea and I the best she could in this ever so hardcore entertainment industry and she’s like some of us musicians… She just can’t stop. She’s the best. Sometimes having a “momager” is the best way to go.
ALISON: Your dad is a musician as well. What can you tell me about him, and how did him being a musician shape the path that you chose to take as a musician?
KELI: My dad is a great musician. He’s probably one of the best drummers you’ll ever know. He taught me the theory of music as he headed off to become a teacher. I learned anything I know from him. I became a pretty awesome drummer from his teaching. There are so many things that his teaching has made me do, such as amazing work arranging, dynamics, and just plain old stuff needed to play in the game. My dad is now a professor still living in NYC and we are very close That is the most amazing blessing a man could have.
ALISON: Definitely. You did some acting as a kid, along with your sister Bea. What can you tell me about that time in your life?
KELI: Bea and I began working at very young ages, around five or six. We worked on an awful lot of popular national commercials. My mom was never a pain in the ass stage mother, she just simply saw that we got to our auditions. Bea and I attended the best performing arts school when living in New York City, and the prestigious Hollywood Professional School in Los Angeles, where just about every working kid attended, The Brady Bunch kids went there… I mean everyone. I did the original screen test/pilot for the Bad News Bears TV show, but my friend Christoff Saint John ended up replacing me for the first season. Mom made sure we knew all our lines for whatever commercial or film we had principle roles in. We got 80% of the jobs. I will say this though, after a while you knew exactly who you were up against because other agencies had plenty of clients with star power too. So of course every time I would show up to read for a gig, there was Todd Bridges and other familiar household faces. We were all friends, we saw no competition, and we all had our share of work.
ALISON: Love that! What last words do you have for our readers, and what are your thoughts on the current situation with the Corona Virus?
KELI: Be kind to one another. You never know how bad depression and loneliness can be. It won’t kill you. This virus can, so please let’s do what we are told, and pray, pray, pray. I myself am very frightened, as I just don’t understand why the Gods would bring such horror and destruction upon us. Let’s please spread love, not the virus and certainly no hate!
ALISON: Thanks for your time Keli, and for offering Metal Babe Mayhem this exclusive interview!
KELI: Honey, the pleasure was all mine.
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