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Photo By Paul Moffett
Popkiss Chainsaw

Pop Kiss Chainsaw: Proof the Rock 'n' Roll Dream Lives On?

Kevin Gibson

The rock 'n' roll dream is alive and well and living in Shively.

In a day when music seems to be selling less and less, thanks to the ease of file sharing via the InterWeb and other factors, it's difficult to find many of those classic stories of a band rising from nothing to widespread rock fame. Record labels used to be the only way a band could make it, but DIY has come into its own (thanks in part to the aforementioned InterWeb), and many artists eschew the constraints and trappings of turning over their talents to a music label.

But labels still carry weight because of the promotional opportunities and the financial backing, not to mention the lingering perception of legitimacy. So if opportunity knocks? Well, it's always a wise idea to at least see who is standing on the porch.

Enter Pop-Kiss Chainsaw, a quartet of guys whose music can be described in a number of ways, from mainstream hard rock with a classic rock spin, or "Southern Slam," a phrase coined by PKC guitarist Brian Goodman. In essence, it's a blend of Metallica and Skynyrd, with a modern approach.

Popkiss Chainsaw

Photo By Paul Moffett

Popkiss Chainsaw Popkiss Chainsaw

Popkiss Chainsaw

Photo By Paul Moffett

Popkiss Chainsaw Popkiss Chainsaw

Popkiss Chainsaw

Photo By Paul Moffett

Popkiss Chainsaw Popkiss Chainsaw

Popkiss Chainsaw

Photo By Paul Moffett

Popkiss Chainsaw Popkiss Chainsaw

Popkiss Chainsaw

Photo By Paul Moffett

Popkiss Chainsaw Popkiss Chainsaw

Popkiss Chainsaw

Photo By Paul Moffett

Popkiss Chainsaw Popkiss Chainsaw

Popkiss Chainsaw

Photo By Paul Moffett

Popkiss Chainsaw Popkiss Chainsaw

But these four lads Goodman, Troy Ford, Nick Priddy, and Steve Harris appear poised to make their rock 'n' roll dreams come true. They won't fully divulge the contacts that helped get them there, creating an air of mystery, but they claim to be in talks with a number of labels, including Capitol, Island, Interscope and Roadrunner.

"We're going to sign with one of the four in January," said Priddy, the band's bassist.

The band has even basically called off all its live shows between now and then, save for an appearance November 18 as part of Rock For Kosair at Phoenix Hill Tavern.

"The only reason we're even doing that is because of (the charity)," Priddy said. "Otherwise, we're waiting until January."

In January, the band plans to travel to New York to meet with representatives of Island, Interscope and Roadrunner. That is assuming, of course, Capitol doesn't come in with an offer they can't refuse before that happens. If Capitol flies the band to California for a meeting, you just never know.

HOW DID WE GET HERE?

Evelyn "Ninny" O'Brien, who is drummer Troy Ford's grandmother, has heard her share of Pop-Kiss Chainsaw. Ford learned to play in her basement, and his bands have practiced there over the years. Pop-Kiss Chainsaw still practices in the space beneath the modest Shively ranch.

"They've been practicing in my basement for 10 years," she said. "They sound better now than they did back then."

Told of his grandmother's statement, Ford laughed as he painted his fingernails black and white in preparation for a photo shoot.

"She's all about busting my balls if she gets the chance," he said.

But she knows of what she speaks the Pop-Kiss Chainsaw guys have been playing in various heavy rock bands for a number of years. In fact, they have all known each other for at least a dozen years, and each one of them has been in bands with the others previously, but the quartet had never played together before last year. When they tried it out, it just clicked.

"We don't argue," Goodman said. "It's crazy."

They got together, Ford said, "And then all of this stuff started happening."

Pop-Kiss Chainsaw performs relentlessly and has built a loyal local fanbase. That has led to playing in front of more and more people, and ultimately led them to play in front of some folks in Nashville who were impressed enough to want to represent the band.

It was a battle of the bands hosted by Montgomery Steakhouse, which is owned by Eddie Montgomery of the country duo Montgomery-Gentry. The rest, as they say, is well, perhaps history waiting to be made.

In any case, the band was told it had three essential elements: the songs, the look, and the sound.

"And they all complement each other," Priddy said they were told. "'They said, 'Your image looks like you sound, and you sound how you look.'"

That point is difficult to argue. Pop-Kiss Chainsaw is equal parts hard rocker, biker and southern rock rebel. Priddy opts for the black cowboy hat and leather, whereas Ford goes with more of a Nine Inch Nails aesthetic.

"The whole shit's black and white," he said of his outfit design. "That's my image; I gotta keep it."

Perhaps what is most interesting and even impressive is that these guys are so confident it's going to happen for them.

"Put us on the bus," Goodman said, referring to a tour bus. They've been playing in and around Louisville for pretty much all of their adult lives, and they are ready for the rock 'n'roll dream. The thing is, talking to these guys, one comes to learn that at some point along the way, they more or less started expecting it to happen for them. That may be half the battle.

THE NEXT BIG THING?

Really? Is a band playing hard-rock redneck music, from Louisville, Ky., going to "make it"? And what does it feel like to be poised on the brink of the rock 'n'roll dream?

"Pinch me, you know?" Priddy said.

"It's surreal," said Goodman.

"Hard to put into words," is Ford's response.

But they have published all their songs through BMI, they have hired legal representation to protect what is theirs, and they are confident they have a successful plan to go with their image, songs and sound. There is also the necessary measured humility as in, they also insist that it isn't all about the prospect of the dream.

While it is like a dream, Priddy said, "At the same time, we have put so much work into what we do. You almost expect something to happen."

"If you keep hacking at the tree," Ford concurred, "you expect it to fall at some point."

For instance, they began recording their album Pucker Up last November at DSL studios with producer Mike Baker. They invested somewhere in the neighborhood of $10,000 in it in order to make it "radio-ready," Priddy said.

"We were putting fifty bucks here and hundred bucks there" into recording, Ford said, which is why it took such a long time to complete.

"But we do what we do," Priddy said. "It just so happened that all these wonderful things happened. Even if we didn't have these record companies interested in us, we would still be doing this."

Priddy acknowledges that he and other band members have been in bands previously that have been flirted with by labels, "but never like this."

So what is it about the music that makes it attractive? For one, the recording is indeed radio-ready. .For another, it's something slightly different that what has come before, which may be all the edge they need, at least for the short term. The songs aren't self-indulgent in terms of being over-played or too long.

Another interesting differentiator is a sinister cover of Michael Jackson's hit "Billie Jean." It is difficult to describe, but it's tough to listen to it and not say, "Yeah, they got that one right."

The band even did their due diligence and approached MJ's publishing company with the recording to make sure everything was cool. They not only approved, they even complimented the new take on the song, Ford said.

There's also the desire. "Put us on the bus" really could be the band's slogan.

"I knew I wanted to be a rock star at about age 11," Goodman said. "My Dad gave me a bunch of old albums, and as I rummaged through them, I realized that this was my dream, and I've been chasing it ever since."

He had pretty much given up on the dream until joining Pop-Kiss Chainsaw. He was in Month of Sundaze, and said he had been content just "partying and playing rock star. … When I found out these guys wanted me in the band, I knew immediately the chemistry was there."

Priddy grew up around music because his father is a bluegrass musician and his mother was an avid music lover. He also has a long-time friend who is a blues guitarist, and it all ended up with him joining PKC.

"We first knew we had found the right combo when after we had only been together a week and a half we opened for the national act Halestorm at Headliners," thanks to their friend Terry Harper, a well-known local promoter. "It was basically sold out, and we blew the crowd away. We were signing autographs and taking pics with fans, which we have done at every show since. It's a good feeling."

"I've played in folk bands, country bands, hip hop groups," Ford said, "but there's nothing like being in a kick-ass rock band. You know, you really can feel when you've got the right guys with the right chemistry.

"We all knew going into this that our number one objective was to do all we could to land us a recording/distribution deal with a label we really hope that Pop-Kiss Chainsaw can be the next band out of Louisville to represent our city."

A LIFE OF ROCK

While they look like rock stars in their moody blacks, with chains and occasionally even bandanas covering their faces for effect "It's a show," Goodman said. "People want to see a show" the truth is, they're just a bunch of people, like all other people. They crack jokes, they drink beer, they have families.

At the aforementioned photo shoot, they took great pains to set up a scene with blood-stained sheets, red candles and a chainsaw. It's part of the look.

During set-up, Ford announced that his original idea, since it is the November issue of this magazine, was to include a Thanksgiving theme. He wanted Brian to pose as if he were going to carve the turkey with the chainsaw.

"I couldn't find a fucking turkey," Ford said. "I guess it's too early."

And don't even ask about how the band decided to play with the fictional name Sharon Peters. Seriously, it's best to just steer clear of that.

They do their best to share their inherent goofiness with fans whenever possible, which plays back to their surprising marketability. They look intimidating, but they're actually gracious and fairly affable even with their rock aspirations and obvious confidence. They just want to be out there doing it.

"My rock 'n' roll dream has always been about the experience," Goodman said. "To be on the bus traveling all over the world to do what I love to do -- who could ask for anything more? Of course the prospect of fame and wealth has a certain appeal all of its own, but to achieve it doing what you love? I'll say it again: Wow."

"You just can't land a deal everyday," Ford said, "so for us to be in the position we are in is a very special honor. If all goes as planned, this time next year Pop-Kiss Chainsaw should be traveling the globe and sharing what we love to do with those that also love what we love."

After the photo shoot, Priddy joked, "The next time you see us, we'll be rich assholes!"

To which Ford deadpanned, "The only difference is, we'll be rich."

But Ford seems sincere when he vows, "There's nothing like getting on that stage and sweating your ass off for your fans, and then hanging with them after the show getting to know everyone is a huge part of what we are about. We know every single fan we have, and most likely we shared a cold one together. Seriously, they are the most dedicated group I've ever met."

"Our fans are the truest fans in the world," Priddy agrees.

Depending on what happens between now and January, the next time Pop-Kiss Chainsaw's fans see the band might be on a national tour. On a national stage. With national acts.

Put 'em on the bus.