Interview with Kansas’ Rich Williams

Rich Williams is the lead guitarist from band Kansas.  The band is responsible for such memorable songs such as “Carry on Wayward Son” and “Dust in the Wind”.  The band is currently touring the country with there Collegiate Symphony Tour.  Media Mikes was able to chat with Rich about the tour and what he enjoys most about performing on the stage.

Mike Gencarelli: What can we expect from this year’s Collegiate Symphony Tour?
Rich Williams: The tour is going great! This was something we started last year and because of the great response we received we decided to do it again this year. We are hoping that the more colleges we play others will pick up on what we are doing and they will want us to play at their school as well. It’s been a great time.

MG: What has it been like working with the college students on the shows?
RW: It’s a lot of fun. The students seem to really enjoy it and they get to do something they may normally not have the chance to do in their normal curriculum.

MG: What do you like most about performing live as of late?
RW: It’s hard to describe as this is what I have always done. A long time ago I used to work at a liquor store while I was in college and then I started playing. I really haven’t done anything else. It’s a normal day to me. Everything is really fun however, when we have a couple weeks off I tend to go a little stir crazy.

MG: Is there one song that you really enjoy playing live each night?
RW: There are a lot of songs I enjoy. We have added quite a few songs to the set recently. We added a song called “Down The Road” back into the set. We have been playing a lot of symphony shows as well as shows at state fairs. There are some songs that don’t work without the symphony so we have to fill that time in. We haven’t played “Down The Road” live in a year or two. A lot of times we will pick a song, rehearse it in the dressing room and then go out and play it. It’s fun not to be on auto pilot.

MG: What were the bands initial inspirations?
RW: Everyone in Topeka at the time was in a band after the British Invasion hit. Some people eventually lost interest or got a day job. After a while the musicians who were left were the ones who either wanted play the Holiday Inn lounge or who really wanted to make it.  We were all really inspired by the things coming out of Europe and none of us were ready for a real job yet. All of us wanted to do real original music and that’s what really got us started.

MG: What type of music have you been listening to lately that you really enjoy?
RW: I really don’t listen to music as of late. I am just so busy that I don’t have time for anything. If I do listen to something it’s probably because I walked past a speaker that was playing something and that’s what I am listening to.

MG: Your song “Carry On Wayward Son” was featured in the video game “Guitar Hero”. Have you ever tried playing it?
RW: Before “Guitar Hero” came out they sent me all the hardware for it. The thing is I never heard back from them. I wasn’t really too interested in the game but my kids did enjoy playing it. The game has brought a lot of new people to our concerts and it has really sparked something. In my opinion anything that promotes playing music is great.

MG: “Dust In The Wind” is often used quite a bit in movies. How do you feel about the ongoing popularity of the song?
RW: Those things are what keep us out there. Both the songs you mentioned are bigger than we are. People a lot of the time know the songs but they don’t know us as a band.

MG: Are there any plans to record and release new material?
RW: It would be great to do one but then there is reality. They take a lot of time and money to put together. We are out there playing because we love it. Not for the money. If we were going to be recording an album it would be us as a band paying for that. Besides the fact that I am not independently, radio won’t play anything new and people don’t really come to shows to hear new material. Once you realize that reality that people don’t truly care about new material you have to come up with a way to recreate yourself. That’s why we did the symphony album and tour. It’s a way of doing something different and fresh with what you already have.

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