You know that joke about how after the nuclear holocaust only the cockroaches will survive? I have a feeling that after the fires burn and the dust settles there will be cockroaches and Kepi Ghoulie. After performing for nearly two decades as the founder and sole constant member of the pop-punk band the Groovie Ghoulies, he’s ventured out on his own, simultaneously releasing both a rock and folk solo album on Asian Man Records. With an undeniable optimism and ever-ready attitude, Kepi has not only left of trail of albums, singles, and tours in his path, but an indefatigable mark on the underground music scene as well. I’m hesitant to use the word “iconic” when talking about him, if for no other reason that his own modesty, but it’s hard to think of any other word that’d do him justice. Regardless, there’s nobody quite like Kepi Ghoulie, and quite honestly, there never could be.
Interview by Sean Logic
Photos by Samantha Sommatino
This isn’t your first time delving into more country/folk style music, you were also in The Haints. How would you describe the set you’re playing tonight as different from that style?
Maybe a little less country and some different things, some pops songs maybe. I play my whole catalog; Ghoulie songs, Haint songs, solo–whatever the audience wants to hear. It’s kind of the same, but different.
How did recording Hanging Out and American Gothic compare to recording with the previous groups you were in?
Gothic for sure was the most different thing, where I recorded in three different places with three different producers. Usually I go into one room and record from a day to a week and that person mixes it. For American Gothic I had all these songs and I was recording with three friends; Kevin Seconds in his home made studio, Anton Barboe at his house, and David Houston at his totally professional rock studio. Whoever had time and whatever song was appropriate. It was really fun and I think it turned out good, I’m pretty happy with it.
What about doing Hanging Out?
The rock record was different in the fact it was the first time I just sang. We recorded as a 4-piece, and I was going to play guitar, but Danny [Secretion] just nailed everything and I ended up playing guitar on only two songs. I just sang and watched the recording process, which was a lot of fun.
In addition to this tour you’re currently on, you also spent some time touring in Europe. What was the highlight of that?
We were in Europe for three weeks. It was basically three chunks, first we did an acoustic tour with Kevin Seconds in England and Germany, so that was my first acoustic tour in Europe. While we waited for Danny to come over for the rock tour we did an art show in Berlin, so we were there for about a week. While we were there we recorded a couple of 7-inches, so it was crazy non-stop. Once Danny got over we did a rock tour for five weeks. I drummed and sang, Danny played guitar, and Dino played bass. Dino is the constant in all these projects of mine, she wants to tour all the time and is around to record all the records.
So when you were ready to start putting out your solo stuff, was everybody just really responsive?
A lot of people were offering to play, and I knew Dino wanted to play bass, and Danny was into it. I just wanted the most enthusiastic players and they came together and we made this great record.
Everyone I’ve met from Sacramento has been really nice. It’s a really cool place.
I don’t why, but I’m just grateful. Sacramento is a great city, there’s very little rock n’ roll ego, everybody gets along, everyone pretty much likes each others band, helps each other out–it’s a really good scene. I’ve been around the US a zillion times and it really is a special town. There’s towns where people are cool and scenes are cool, but for sure it’s always good to come home and have all these friends and musicians waiting and hanging out.
You always cited Neil Young and Chuck Berry as influences, and you’ve even covered some of their work, but you’ve also done a few Daniel Johnston songs in the past too.
I’ve been a fan for years, San Francisco is actually the first place I saw him play. I’ve seen him three times now out here. At one time though I would have gone to Austin to see Daniel Johnston or Roky Erickson, but luckily they’re both touring now.
Any other artists you’d like to do covers of?
I would like to do a Roky Erickson cover, I’m trying to figure that out now–I always have a million things I want to do. I just recorded a bunch of fun covers with Vic [Ruggerio] from the Slackers, we just did a bunch of old rock and blues covers, that’ll be coming out pretty soon.
Speaking of new stuff, there was a good mix of more introspective material and fun stuff on Hanging Out. Do you think you’ll stick with that direction or will there still be songs about monsters and aliens?
I think both. I like everything. There’s definitely a couple themed projects on the books, like the Chuck Berry record with the Ghoulies, but there’ll always be monster songs. I just kind of do whatever comes out. As soon as I finished these records I got these tour offers, and then Kevin Seconds started touring again, and things just fall into place. I’m really happy about that.
One last question since I know you’re a fan of both–who’s better at fighting the evil undead, Spawn or the Ghostbusters?
I am a Spawn fan but I would have to go Ghostbusters. They keep a sense of humor like Spider-Man.
Interview by Sean Logic
Photos by Samantha Sommatino