After hearing former Prophet guitarist Kenny Dubman‘s solo album Reckless Abandon, there was an incredible urge to dig into the mind of the dynamic artist behind the party-infused music. Dubman’s phone call didn’t begin with a simple, “Hello.” Instead, Dubman opened with a prank call in the character of a blue collar plumber. His comedic delivery had hinted toward a laughter-filled interview. To my surprise, this charisma was only a sliver of the personality behind the music. Kenny Dubman has a message and has given Shockwave the opportunity to deliver it.
Shockwave Magazine: You’re a New Jersey native?
Kenny Dubman: I am.
So, where did this Southern-blues rock influence in Reckless Abandon originate?
People keep bringing up southern, I don’t know if I’m really getting that. But, that’s cool, because I’m a huge fan of all kinds of rock: Skynyrd, Allman Brothers, everybody included. I’m going to lean towards blues-rock and if some of it comes out sounding kind of southern, I guess it’s just a matter of everything that I’ve listened to my whole life. Cause I like it.
Blues in the blood, right?
Yeah, I’ve never really considered myself a blues guy. I love blues artists and playing blues, but the stuff that I’m creating, I don’t know if I’d call it “bluesy.” If anyone wants to put that into the stew of labels, they can apply it to my stuff, that’s totally fine with me. I don’t really care what label they put on it as long as they like it.
It’s got a 70’s pumped, backwoods party, and hyped-up Skynard aesthetic.
70’s most definitely. When I put a label on this music I just call it earthy, organic, 70’s influenced hard rock.
Was that the direction you always planned for?
I didn’t plan for a direction. When I started getting song ideas it was late 2014 for this record. I wasn’t planning on making a record, at all, or even thinking about getting back into the recording side of making original music. The ideas just started to flow once I was in a good place mentally again and those are the ideas that came out. I didn’t set out to write anything. They just came to me and I just channeled them. I truly feel like that.
Just very organically?
Yep, no GMO’s.
Where did the idea for “Son of a Colt 45” come from?
I was running. Actually, I was jogging, in the park. Those chord changes and melodies started going through my head. It’s interesting that you key in on that one, that song and “Ain’t Too Late for Memphis,” the ideas just came. They didn’t come from any specific stimuli. I initially thought when I started getting these ideas, that some of them leaned towards country-ish. Country is not really an accurate name to put on modern country, it’s rock with a twang. Because those songs struck me like that, I was actually thinking about putting out two records. One of them under a pseudonym, which is pretty funny because no one knew who Kenny Dubman was anyway (laughing). I figured if I got a bunch of more country-rock sounding ideas I’d just put out a whole different record of that kind of stuff. Those two songs ended up kind of fitting in with the rest of them anyway, so I scrapped that idea.
Speaking of “Ain’t Too Late For Memphis,” there’s kind of a go-for-it message. Where did that come from and why is that important to you?
That came from me sitting around thinking about, “What if I just?” This is when I was starting to feel like I was getting drawn back towards music again, “What if I was able to just chuck everything I have here and relocate to Nashville and make a go of it in music again.” The way the chorus evolved, Memphis sang better than Nashville, so I stuck Memphis in there. That song is about someone who is thinking about making the jump back into something that he really loved to do. The message is to just do it, you’re never too old.
What did you picture for yourself in the music industry when you first started this?
Just sweeping out bathrooms in Madison Square Garden (laughing). I’m kidding. I pictured myself as a rock star, playing in front of thousands of screaming people. When a kid is a teenager learning an instrument and starts becoming passionate about it, and you’re surrounded by all the great 70’s music and you’re going to shows at Madison Square Garden, the Beacon Theater, and the Capital Theater, it’s as soon as you feel like you might be able to do that, that’s what you envision. When I got out of high school all my friends went to college, I went right into a working bar band 4-6 nights a week and that was it.
Going back to re-obtaining and searching for that dream with the go-for-it message, what was the driving influence to inspire you? What was that moment?
It wasn’t really a single moment. It was a gradual onset, really. I had been through a long, difficult, period in my personal life that I had to get behind me. Once I did, after about a year, I was feeling really good and the song ideas started to come. I didn’t sit down say, “I’m going to write a song.” The ideas started coming through my head and after a while I said, “Maybe I should really take of a few of these and run with them and see what happens.” That’s why I’m very big on the whole ideas are fed down to you from elsewhere; because I never sat down to write a song. The ideas would pop into my head first and then I’d pick up the guitar and open a notepad. I think the answer to your question is: once I had peace and clarity in my life again is when the creative ideas could start to happen because they weren’t blocked out by all this negative shit.
When you have that moment, and its coming down to you, what is the writing process? Do the lyrics hit first or is it the instrumentals?
Sometimes it’s a single line, like a melody line and a lyric. If it’s got some strings to it I’m like, holy shit, let me go grab a guitar and see where this goes. It’s generally a brief melody. Its maybe one line worth of lyrics and that’s what ignites the whole thing. Once I pick up the guitar it really accelerates the whole process. It’s like throwing gasoline on it.
What’s your favorite song on the album?
Really tough to pick, but I do have my favorites. I think currently it’s probably “Sunset Serenade.”
I was leaning towards that in the article, but I couldn’t keep my clothes on long enough to finish.
You’re out of your freaking mind. I love it. It’s so cool. I have to tell you that review was just like, “Wow.” It was so cool and funny and different. I think you were the first woman to review the album. So, that was cool to have that perspective with sexuality thrown there too.
That’s interesting because the album speaks to the feminine parts of people. It really pulls out that woman in you.
I kind of had to bring out some of the woman in me to actually write some of those songs (laughing).
It sounds like you’ve had a lot of challenges that you’ve had to overcome, and I’m trying to figure out if this album is a result of pulling out of that or if it’s your center when dealing with those problems.
It is being free of mental duress that enabled me to write again. When I did write, a couple of the songs key into what I went through. “Wolf at the Door” is one of them. “After the Bomb Fell” is another one.
Those are very lyrically intense.
Thank you. ”Wolf” is about a specific situation with a specific person and “After the Bomb Fell” is the whole ugly time period with more than one person. It went on from one to the other, it was bad. I had to go through it, because after going through all of this, I never thought I’d make another record. It was just hitting bottom and reassembling myself. Once I was reassembled with nothing negative in my life, now I’m back on the musical path that I started after a really long detour.
There are elements in your album that remind me of some challenges quite a few close people have gone through, and that’s sobriety. It seems like some of those lyrics speak towards that direction. Is there any form of connection between that and your struggle?
“Wolf At The Door” is definitely about the last bad point I went through. Yeah, it’s very specific. “After The Bomb Fell” just kind of sums of the whole thing of being in situations that are not healthy for you and when you finally clear the other side you can look back and realize the mistakes you’ve made and know not to make them again. Is that answering the question?
Yes, it’s definitely answering and speaks to a lot of people. You’re album has a very upbeat party sound with lyrics that are full of depth. It kind of surprises as it’s a little bit of a contradiction.
Cool, well thank you. I feel that way too. I spent a lot of time tweaking the lyrics to where nothing made me cringe. Writing lyrics is the hardest part. It really is. A couple words change here or there can make something that’s a little hokey end up being really good.
I always say rock is the poetic form of storytelling and I think you mastered that here.
Wow. That’s a very big compliment. I believe that telling a story within a song is the hardest way to tell it, because you have such a limited amount of space. If you write a book you have as many pages as you want. But, within a song you have a very finite amount of space and it has to rhyme. I think lyrics are very, very, difficult. I really do.
What’s your favorite song you just enjoy to play on a fun level?
I love “Colt 45.” It’s packed with attitude and it’s a loud, bombastic, kind of song.
Is there anything you’d like to say to your soon to be fans and your current ones?
Yes, what I’d like to close out with, this is how I usually close: If you as a fan — I’m a fan too, first before I’m a writer, performer, or whatever — if you find a band that you like and you think they are really good, spread the word, tell all your friends, find their music, and buy it. Don’t try to download it for free. Support original music, because it takes an incredible amount of time, energy, and an insane amount of money to put a record together and get it out there. You can buy it for a fraction of the cost, like a micro-fraction. So, support live music. A lot of great music is all underground. It’s all on the fringe and the way these artists are going to be found is by you talking to your friends about them, buying their music, and going to see them at live shows. Support original music.
You’ve shown that there has been a lot of struggle, but you’ve given your gift to the world.
Since this has come out it’s scratching an itch for me that has been dormant for so many years. Getting to do these interviews and talking about music is so great. I’m enjoying it so much. This is all the stuff I never got to do with the band Prophet that I was in in the 80’s. It truly is a dream come true.
Reckless Abandon is brimming with dynamic lyrics hidden among upbeat shindig music. Dance to the sound, revel in the attitude, and pay attention to the story, as there is much to be heard from the magnetic Kenny Dubman.