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Interview with Jan Kuehnemund of Vixen on their new album “Live & Learn”

VixenMost notably know for their massive hits,’ Edge Of A Broken Heart and Love Is A Killer’, Vixen will go down in history as one of, if not the most successful all female rock/metal band. And with the release of their first two albums (Vixen & Rev It Up), it had gained them world wide recognition.

But late in ‘91 several problems beset these “Queens of Metal” and the road to glory soon can to an end. With two of the members trying to reclaim the spirit with the release of ‘Tangerine’ in 1998, it started a roller coaster ride that led them to an actual reunion in 2001.

With such positive feedback from the fans and despite the debauched tour they were set up on, the only original member and founder Jan Kuehnemund refused to give up on the band again. Now with the release of their new album ‘Live & Learn’, Jan and Vixen are on a steady up hill climb back to the top. I was very fortunate to have the chance to chat with Jan about a few things. About the history, the new album and up coming tour plans.

JH: Okay, so tell us briefly how Vixen formed and made it’s way to the top.

JK: Well, I started the band in my hometown of St Paul, Minnesota. The original band was all my best friends. Then we moved out to California trying to make it big. We thought that you either had to go to New York or California for that so we picked California. We had started working with a producer at the time and things were kind of hard on everybody. One by one the original members all left for various reasons. So one by one , the members that ended up making the record Janet, Roxy and Share replaced the original members. So it left only me as the original member. We then found a great manager and he (Allen Kovak) was determined to get us a record deal and he did. And the first record went gold.

JH: What events led up to calling it quits back in ‘91?

JK: Well we had done the two records and several world tours and were starting to talk about what the third record should be. You know we had some disagreement in the band about working with outside song writers. At the same time we got dropped by EMI. They had gotten into a big fight with our manager. So there we were left without a label and we were split down the middle about the song writing. Allen was real close to having us re-signed on Geffen Records but because we weren’t getting along in the song writing department, it was really hard to keep it together. So Geffen was not real happy with that. They were talking money with our attorney. We were really close to getting that deal too. Unfortunately we were just not able as a group to keep it together.

JH: Did you even try forging ahead with Vixen?

JK: Actually yes. Roxy and I tried to keep Vixen going. Keep the name. And we had a different singer for a short time. But because it was so close and not knowing if Janet and Share wanted to use the name, Roxy and I with the new singer did a song for an album under the name Bombshell for a Nintendo record. But that record never got released because they did not have all of the artist’s rights. So anyways, Roxy and I tried to keep it going there for a little bit. But we soon realized when it wasn’t working out, we sort of both went our separate ways.

JH:What other projects or bands have/were you involved with after that?

JK: So after that, for the first time in my life I played in an all guy group. It was really fun!!!

JH: So how did you get the Vixen name back? Did any of the others just not care this far down the road?

JK: Let’s see, in 1998 Roxy this time with Janet actually went and did a Vixen record but they did not have the permission for Share or myself. So I sued them. Share really didn’t care at all at the time as she was off doing her own thing. So I sued at the time because they did not have the right as the four of us still owned the name. They really didn’t acknowledge the lawsuit. It had got to the point where my attorney was really bugging them. Finally I won the name. So the manager I was with at the time thought it should not end on a bitter note and wondered if we could ever work together again. At that time I had the name back and said sure. I never really had a problem working with them. And they said yes they’d work with me and Share didn’t want o participate. So we did the reunion tour with the three of us in 2001.

JH: So that kills the next question.

JK: No, no, no. What is it?

JH: So what led up to the reformation?

JK: Okay I see. Well it was my managers idea. He had found a tour we could get on. It was really good for the band because it was Vince Neil, Ratt and Slaughter. So we fit well into that. So we all decided to go out on the tour. But we didn’t all make it through the tour.

JH: What happened there?

JK: It was a really rough tour. We had been promised that we were going to have an RV or a bus to travel in and the money was just not there. We had ended up in a van packed like sardines on a lot of long drives a lot of things gone wrong. A real rough tour. Gigs falling out , it was keeping that together as well.

JH: Since then obviously, there have been some line-up changes. Who are the current players in the band?

JK: Well it’s Jenna on vocals, Lynn on bass and Kat on drums. I had actually found them while out on that tour. I really didn’t want to call it quits again. So I looked for someone that wanted to come out and finish up the tour. So I found these three and we’ve been together ever since.

JH: That didn’t sound very difficult. So what, were they all in the same place?

JK: No, it actually was a bit difficult. But I guess it was just meant to be because it just worked out really well. There were two other drummers already worked in to finish out the tour before Kat came along. At the last minute they had both dropped out for what ever reasons.

JH: Drummers are like that.

JK: Yeah, yeah.

JH: Well the ones I know. So what’s it like getting back out there playing all the old Vixen tunes?

JK: Well we’ve had great response all over the world with the new line-up. And I’m not kidding. We really have. The audiences have been really receptive to the new members. I also think because they do such a great job on the old Vixen material, that’s how it comes across. Great!!!

JH: Some real high energy shows?

JK: Yeah. So we’ve gotten a lot of new fans here along the way. And there are the die hard fans that have been with us through all the changes and I can never thank them enough. So yes, the response has been great.

JH: So ‘Live & Learn’ is the new album?

JK: Yes

JH: And that was released when?

JK: It was released in Europe in November 2006 and it was released in the U.S. I believe the second week of February.

JH: Okay, I’m not too far behind. Can you tell us a little about it?

JK: We probably started writing a couple songs back in 2002 on that tour. We did a demo and tried to shop it around for a producer and found one. It took some time. But seeing as we were not playing full time, that’s where the lag time comes in between the writing and the release. I got our old producer that worked on ‘Rev It Up’ to come in and work on the new record with us. We just love him to death. He brought such great times and great vibes to the record. He was coming to the rehearsals. Went on another summer tour in 2005 and came back to finish it early 2006. Went on tour again summer 2006 and were hoping for a fall release date but it did not work out that way.

JH: How well is it being received?

JK: It’s being received very well. We haven’t done very many shows yet, but the ones we have, we’ve sold tons of the CDS to people after the show. With a lot of positive feedback.

JH: Musically, how does it compare to the first two albums?

JK: It’s different of course because the members are different and Jenna’s voice is different than Janet’s voice. But she really brings a lot of heart and soul to the record. Sort of a bluesy soulful vibe to it I think. But overall I do feel that the sound is very consistent with those two first albums. We didn’t really set out to sound that way or not to sound that way. It just came out that way.

JH: What about a tour schedule for the year? Anything lined up yet?

JK: We have a couple coming up here at the end of April. Something in Texas and a show in L.A. other than that, we are waiting on some different packages to be confirmed before we sign on to anything as of now I really can’t mention them. We will however be out for the rest of the year and hopefully by the end of the year start on the new record.

JH: So the fans can expect to Vixen around for awhile?

JK: Yes!!! Absolutely!!!

JH: So what’s up next for the band?

JK: Well we really just want to get out there and tour. Here in the states and over in Europe. Throughout the year then work on the new album.

JH: Last words/anything you like to add?

JK: Hope to see you all out there on tour, thanks for all the support, thanks for hanging in there through all the changes and everything and we love ya.