Kepi Ghoulie
by Interviews

Process this: Kepi Ghoulie's been playing music for 30 years. While many of you were still in grade school, he was fronting pop-punk legends the Groovie Ghoulies, embarking on an accomplished solo career and producing one-of-a-kind artwork.

Now he's heading to Gainesville for Fest 13, and as part of the 'Org's preview coverage, Punknews editor Adam Eisenberg caught up with Kepi to talk about the big anniversary, his rotating cast of backing bands and spending Fest weekend looking for Mikey Erg.

This is your second time playing The Fest. Based on your first experience, how does it compare to other festivals?
I didn't do any of the early ones, and I wish I had, because the time I went it was great. I think what's cool about it is all the different venues. I think maybe that could be a hassle for some people, how it's all spread out.

The funniest memory I have of doing Fest last time is… I spent the weekend with Kevin Seconds. I played with Mean Jeans, he played with 7 Seconds, we played acoustic, all this crazy fun stuff. We had seen Mikey Erg the day we were checking in and we were laughing because he plays, like, 10 sets at Fest. We hadn't seen him all weekend and it was the last day and we were leaving and we were like, "We can't leave Fest without seeing Mikey Erg," and we walked around the corner and there was Mikey Erg. We were like, "Yay! We can go home now!"

The thing I like about it, that I also liked about Insubordination Fest, is so many friends. And now so many Europeans. Last year I was in Europe around Halloween and very many of my European friends were in Florida while I was touring Europe.

Fest has become very international. You can get in an elevator and be surrounded by different languages and British accents.
It's great. What's awesome about Fest is that it's right at the end of October, when it's just starting to get really cold in Europe, so they get one last hurrah. I remember sitting at Fest with some of the DeeCracks and some of the 20Belows, who live in Austria and Denmark. Those guys are stoked to be in Florida when it's still 80 degrees.

In addition to your solo set at Fest, you're playing bass with Chixdiggit. How'd you get that job?
That's really funny. It kind of just happened. I've now known those guys for literally 20 years. They came to Sacramento and we became friends years ago, and we just stayed friends and toured. It started when Mark (O'Flaherty, guitar) had to leave for the last two shows, and they said, "Do you want to fill in?" I said, "Totally," and so I learned the songs and filled in.

Then it went, "Oh, we got this thing in San Diego…"

"Ok, I'll fill in."

It was one of those kinds of things. Finally one of the bass players left and I just came in. They don't tour that much, and I love the songs, I'm a fan and a friend. It's just perfect.

The funniest one when I went to fill in was they had a bass player who couldn't do a tour, and it started, like, November 1 to November 13. I was finishing a tour on October 30 and starting on November 15. It was this crazy thing in Europe where it couldn't have worked out better. It was absolutely insane. That was our magic signal that it would work out.

So you're playing bass with them, and then they're backing you up during your set.
Yes. We've done that a few times in Europe. A few shows we've done, it's Kepi opening for Chixdiggit, but it's the same four dudes, just me singing instead of K.J. They learned 10 or 15 of my songs and we've done a few tours where I'll open for them for 20 or 30 minutes. This time they're learning the whole set of Groovie Ghoulies hits, their favorites and fan favorites. It should be pretty fun. I have them pick the songs. Whenever I build a band I'm like, "You guys pick your favorites," because there's a hundred or two hundred songs, I don't really know where to go.

You've also been backed by Mean Jeans, The Copyrights, Dog Party and others at various shows. What's it like bouncing between backing bands like that?
It's fun. It's awesome, I swear. I couldn't really pick who's my favorite to play with. I mean, The Copyrights did the whole Re-Animation Festival album, how crazy is that? It was so fun. Lucy from Dog Party, before we met, the Groovie Ghoulies were her favorite band in the world, it was Groovie Ghoulies, Ramones and Sex Pistols or something. So my drummer in that band is my friend and one of my greatest fans. They know like 60 songs, Dog Party, they're crazy. So it's always different. I'm all, "Pick your favorites," and then we throw in "Beast With Five Hands" and "Vampire Girl," a couple of those that just have to be done. It's amazing, super fun, and everybody has different favorites, which I love.

Later this year you're heading out on the road with Mean Jeans, so they'll be your backing band?
Yes, and they learned a set a couple of years ago of 20 or 30 songs and they do a lot of World Contact Day stuff, which I don't do with other lineups. It's funny, The Accelerators do Fun in the Dark. Sons of Buddha is another band in France and they've done a tour with me and they're amazing players and they love the songs and they're going to re-record Go! Stories. They have studio time in January where they're going to do one of these Groovie Ghoulies tribute records.

Speaking of records, you have a new one, Kepi Goes Country, out in November and also have a vinyl subscription series that includes the new LP, a re-issue of Appetite for Adrenochrome and re-recording of Fun in the Dark with The Accelerators.
Yeah, that's a pretty fun little collection. You have a new acoustic collection, the very first full-length and a classic record re-imagined by a European band. That's kind of where I'm at right now. It's really exciting. There's no rules. I love that I don't have to drive around the country playing the greatest hits.

My heroes are Tom Petty and the Rolling Stones, almost every song is a hit, and Chixdiggit and The Copyrights. I could see Chixdiggit or The Copyrights and I wouldn't care what they played, because they don't really have bad songs. For me, I like that people still like the songs, that there's bands out there that actually want to play with me, that think the songs are fun. It makes me excited, because I try to write things that don't have a two- or three-year shelf life. I want things like the Ramones, the Dictators, Angry Samoans, bands that even if they're old, they're still funny or rockin' or there's something good about them still.

This is your 30th year playing music. To what do you think you owe that longevity?
Too dumb to quit or ignorance is bliss or something like that (Laughs). You hope that you can have this kind of timelessness. I wouldn't care if I did something weird, like a stinker record, like if I tried to make a reggae record or a dance record or whatever the hell, if I felt like it, and it bombed, I wouldn't care. But I'm glad everything is still holding together for the most part. Since the Ghoulies broke up and I made a solo record, did some touring and then it's like, "Do I keep going?" And it's December 15 and then, "Hey, do you want to tour in January? Do you want to tour next March? April? May?" And the next thing you know you're booked until the next November. At this point as long as people want shows and new records, I'll do it. I don't mind, it's fun. I'm really lucky.

There's a special Kepi guitar that's coming out for your 30th anniversary. Tell us a bit about that.
Eastwood Guitars, I've been with them for 10 years. They gave me a bass when I was in the Ghoulies, they gave me a guitar when I went solo, they gave me a guitar and a bass to keep in Europe for touring. They gave me four of these guitars and they're great. Every single one still plays, every single one is still in tune. The guy re-issues classic old guitars and he made a Kepi model. There's 36 of them and he's already sold 12 without even trying, so he's really happy and I'm really happy. I guess it will eventually sell out pretty quick. They don't even officially come out until November, he's just doing pre-orders and it seems like it's working. I'm stoked. I'm really honored and I love Eastwood Guitars and I was hoping they would sell and it looks like they are.

We mentioned earlier that you're releasing a re-recording of Fun in the Dark with The Accelerators. Are you planning to do some other records along those same lines?
Yeah. The Accelerators one is completely done. It would probably be out by now if it wasn't for the delay in vinyl production, but everything is on track. It's cool. I think it's now going to come out early next year. The Copyrights have already recorded Re-Animation Festival and I put the vocals down on that so that's mixing and finishing that off. Sons of Buddha are going into the studio in January to record their version of Go! Stories. Chixdiggit wants to do Travels With My Amp. It's a fun project. I am going to re-issue all of the old records too, so no one has to buy these things, no one has to feel obliged. It's just like, if you like Kepi and you like The Copyrights, you're gonna have fun. If you like Kepi and you like Chixdiggit, you're gonna have fun. They're just projects of passion and friendship, you can't lose.