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Ken Tamplin

Originated: Marietta, Georgia
Country: United States of America
Genre: Hard Rock/Metal
Ken Tamplin Band Page
Read Other Interviews

Bio: Ken Tamplin (born December 11, 1963) is an American Christian rock performer and vocal coach. Tamplin is known for his vocal range (four octaves) and has composed music for television and movies.
Ken Tamplin is a pioneer musician. He started playing guitar at age eight and later adapted his study of music to other instruments including his voice. At 12 another significant event changed Tamlpin's life forever. In the process of building a rocket, it accidentally discharged into his stomach ripping open his spleen. Infection set in and the doctors didn't have much hope that he would live through the night. His mother called prayer chains across the country to pray for her son and in two days the infection and wound were virtually undetectable. He is a living miracle. The power of that experience focused Tamplin on a loyalty to Christian beliefs that has encouraged and blessed his life ever since.
In 1984, Tamplin joined Joshua, his first major rock band and assisted in the recording of Surrender, the groups second studio outing. "Joshua wasn't necessarily a Christian band," Tamplin told us poolside at the Ultrasound 2000 show. "There were Christians in the band but we played our type of music, which transcended well to both rock and Christian rock markets. It's kind of interesting in that Joshua played at the first Dynamo Festival in Europe years ago and here I am at the first Ultrasound Festival."
In 1988, Tamplin left Joshua to form his own band, Shout, with Idle Cure's guitarist Chuck King - but before cutting his ties he contributed to three tracks on Joshua's third record Intense Defense (1988). Both Shout records, It Won't Be Long (1988) and In Your Face (1989) were landmark albums in the arena of Christian rock. The lyrics were positive and inspirational though not over the top or 'preachy' and the guitar-fueled musicianship was ranked among the best by both critics and fans. It was Shout's similarity to Foreigner and Whitesnake that led to Tamplin being heralded as the next David Coverdale and with his four-octave range, he proved he was up for the challenge.
"I got compared to Sammy (Hagar) my cousin too. I never really tried to sound like him or anyone else for that matter," says Tamplin. "If anything I'm influenced by such great singers as Paul Rodgers and Lou Gramm - but my biggest influences are Aretha Franklin, Wilson Picket and Otis Redding. They really started the whole soul thing. And that's what I love."
By the early '90s Tamplin was recording as a solo act. This allowed him the freedom of mixing a number of different influences and styles under his monarch while still retaining a loyal fan-base. Axe To Grind (1990), Soul Survivor (1991), Tamplin (1993), In The Witness Box (1995) and We The People (1995) all faired well, especially in Europe and Japan.
In the dawn of the new century, Tamplin found himself busier than ever working in films (The Waterboy and Major League III) and TV (Baywatch, X Files and First Wave).
In 2001 Tamplin produced the album Make Me Your Voice, featuring gospel singer Andrae Crouch, to help raise funds for Christian groups working in Sudan.
Ken Tamplin's magnetic energy, dedication and enthusiasm are what inspired and coverted the many people lucky enough to have heard him play. His songs are a reflection of one man's journey through life and the effect the world has on him. It is his gift through music that lifts the soul, challenges the mind and moves one closer to an understanding of the Divine.

Interview With Ken Tamplin

By Rick "The Screamer" Lindner on 11/13/2012

Rick/D2S: Ken, thank you for checking in with us here at Dead-to-Self Radio! It is an honor as a long-time fan of your music to feature you here!

Ken Tamplin: Hey Rick, it is great to be interviewed here for the station.

Rick/D2S: As you may know, many D2S Radio listeners are fans of the era and style of the music you specialized in with your work in Shout, Tamplin, Magdallan and Joshua in the late 80's/90's. We have a lot we'd like to cover with you. We are also excited about getting up to speed on what you've been up to recently, as well as reliving some fun rock memoires? I hope you're up for it! (Laughs)

"I try really hard to not just do a Bible study, but to do the Bible and live it out. I would again encourage those of you out there that yes, we need to learn God's word, but we also need to put a practical application to flight and feet to it." Ken Tamplin: Gosh…….Shout, Tamplin, Magdallan, Joshua were all amazing times. They were times of growth, they were times of frustration and they were times of joy. If I were to look back at all of the music that got created during that time, I would have to say I would have never realized how many lives it would have impacted in the long haul. To this very day, I still get people who say they were moved and lives were changed by all the different music groups that were not just mine, but bands like Stryper, Barren Cross and Mortification, you name it with all the bands back then. At a lot of different levels, people had their faith grow through that time and I am absolutely blessed and honored to have been a part of it. Currently now I have a vocal academy. I've studied voice all my life and have spent a lot of time and money on my voice to perfect it. So again, from that time of growing in my life that was also something that propelled me into what I do right now. That is pretty much it.

Some of the best times were cruising around with Shout all over the country, all over Europe, playing all of those fun shows, big festivals and what not. Beyond the shows, it was getting to know some of the amazing fans and friends I made along the way. Also, to this day the members of the bands are still some of my closest friends.

Rick/D2S: Fans might not know that you've worked with quite an accomplished list of musicians over the years.

Ken Tamplin: Man, I've worked with a zillion musicians from jazz legends to rock legends such as Doug Aldrich (guitarist Whitesnake) to Reb Beach (Winger), Lanny Cordola and Ken Mary (House of Lords) I could go on and on. On several of my records including the Wake The Nation album had about a dozen players on there, kind of a who's, who of shredding guitar players because I just love fast and shredding blues guitar. It has been interesting too because I've learned that whether its Marty Freedman or whoever, I've had the chance to play with, that they all have respect for me as a Christian. It felt interesting I should say I don't feel I always got that same warm reception from the church for what it was I was trying to do or called to do. That was to just be transparent to the world, be who I am and try to play with excellence. The world seemed to get that, at least the players themselves did. It is also fun too when you have a lot of great players that it makes an album somewhat bulletproof when you are trying to present a message that might get shot down by secular media who would try to find a way to poke fun at it. They find it more difficult to do that when they feel like they are poking fun at a great guitar player that happens to be playing on a certain track. Again, it could be Jeff Scott Soto who sang with me, it doesn't really matter; it becomes difficult for the world at large to poke fun at someone they may want to get an interview with sometime the next year.

Rick/D2S: What is the most gratifying part of your current vocal coaching business for you?

Ken Tamplin: For me, it is not only helping people get great in the craft, but for fear of sounding arrogant or prideful as I've worked very, very hard at my craft is to raise the bar for singing and playing. I feel like we live in an era with so many things vying for our attention in entertainment, time or hobby time whether it is video games, cell phones, this or that so few people really want to spend the time that it takes to get great at something. So Ken Tamplin Vocal Academy is really pushing people to do just that. It has also been interesting to have a lot of people that over the years have lost their voices and have come to the academy to not only get back what they lost, but have picked up quite a bit of range. Many of which you can go back in to singing professionally which has also been very cool. I also have students who wanted to get out of their day gig and wanted to sing professionally. Those are the things that are a blessing to me. I also get a chance to minister to a lot of people along the way. Right now, we have over 1,300 people doing the program and it is great to share with them the love of Christ in a professional way to where it makes a difference as it is real.

Rick/D2S: When you were active in the playing side of the business in the early days, could you have ever imagined at that time you'd end up on the coaching side of the business?

Ken Tamplin: (Laughs). That is a great question. I actually still get asked to sing for music groups today so I could still be doing that. I do enjoy being able to be home with my family and I'm not just gone so I don't necessarily separate that out as I'm sure I could go back and do that again if I wanted to. As far as the coaching side, I never imagined myself doing that and here is why. I was a very impatient person as far as teaching songs and what not. So the irony of it is, early on I didn't even want to rehearse unless the band already knew all of the material. (Laughs) That is the reason I learned to play bass and program drums because I didn't want to sit around and wait. Now, it is interesting because people that are willing to put money and time on the line, are very serious and do really want to learn so it has come full circle for me. I love to teach when people are hungry to learn.

Rick/D2S: Take us back to the Christian rock/metal scene of the 80's. Talk about what that time was like as a new musician involved in that movement.

Ken Tamplin: There are big mixed emotions about it so I hope it is ok to be a bit candid. I think this might bring healing maybe to others who have heard this or gone through some things that weren't as pleasant as they should have been. On the one hand, it was awesome to be pioneers and setting new ground. It was a blessing to see all of the lives that were touched and changed as I mentioned before. It was also disheartening to feel like you know; there were people picketing Stryper concerts when the week before AC-DC played there or somebody like that. We experienced that as well, in fact I will share a funny story as an example of something I just couldn't believe. I got a call from the Dean of Oral Roberts University telling me they held what was called "rock court" on my band and we were found guilty, charged and banned from Oral Roberts University. I laughed thinking it was a friend playing a prank on me, but I found out it was actually real. They said because my band was wolves in sheeps clothing according to them because people were being subliminally infused with whatever they thought they were being injected with and it was underhanded and unscrupulous. I ran into a lot of that prejudice and it was weird to see how we shoot our own and we cut off our nose to spite our face. There were both sides, again there was joy to see people moved by it and also judge mentalists and legalisms that I think was just kind of silly to be honest.

Rick/D2S: Your band Shout enjoyed some moderate success in that time putting out multiple well-received releases; It Won't Be Long and In Your Face, in particular. You also were honored with receiving Dove Awards during that period for Best Heavy Metal Song with "Give Me an Answer" and album In Your Face, as an example as well.

Ken Tamplin: Yeah, we did have some success. We sold a couple hundred thousand records, we made it to MTV in videos and this and that was all really cool. Yes, we won a couple of Dove Awards so that was really neat. Again, I will be candid. The industry was really cool, but I think the thing that bothered me and maybe in fact the reason I left if you noticed all of a sudden I stopped making records in the Christian market and only sold them through secular means after that is because every time I went to GMA it was exciting and a lot of people there, sort of the Christian Grammys if you will, but a lot of what I experienced there were a lot of fake, plastic people if you will, trying to claw their way to the top and there were teeth behind the smile. It almost didn't matter, like no matter who you were with or what you were doing; somebody was ready to strap a bomb to your back every time you walked out the record company door. (Laughs) But, I did meet cool musicians in the process that were experiencing and feeling the same things. I was watching and am still watching the commercialization of artistry and then to the extent that people are no longer really allowed to write from their hearts, they have to have all these specific buzz words, colloquialisms and Christianese phrases that are the only things that are allowed on Christian radio or on Christian labels. I just don't believe that is art. Art can be pain that we talk about or even a bad experience we go through to warn others to keep them from falling into the same pitfalls. Again, the homogenization and capitalization of it commercially speaking again was disheartening. I figured that if I am going to get beat up I might as well go into the world and get beat up instead of sitting in some bubble, Christian ghetto or ecosystem that didn't allow me to express myself.

Rick/D2S: As a fan of Christian Metal at the time, it was pretty exciting when I first saw the video for "Livin For My Lord". I don't think fans today realize how fortunate they are to have readily available access to band's videos, music, etc. today in comparison!

Ken Tamplin: Well, since you mentioned "Livin For My Lord" and the Axe To Grind album, I love that album! In fact, what you hear in that album was made out of angst and frustration. That one, Soul Survivor and Shout At The Top of their Lungs, all three albums actually. When we were already almost done with the Magdallan album, it took two years to get that thing out and released. And so, about six months into the recording of that album, which was maybe musically the most enriching time of my life, especially from a technical standpoint from engineering as I got to work with a famous mix engineer named Magousky. I learned more from him in six months or year that we recorded the album then I did in all the years in my own recording. It was just a fantastic experience. That album was actually made and you can hear it out of the angst and frustration of me not getting to get the Magdallan album out so I decided to put out two solo albums while I was waiting for that to come out. I think that is expressed in that and you can hear the intensity. Again, in inviting really great players, all these different people that I almost had to compete with myself with what was going on with the Magdallan album which I think came across on the Axe To Grind album and specifically songs like "Livin For My Lord".

Rick/D2S: During that period, you were signed to Forefront Records. Help us understand what a record contract meant in that era and what opportunities it afforded you as an artist.

Ken Tamplin: I think if you talk to anyone that was on Frontline Records they would all say the same things. I don't think I am the only one talking about this or discussing this. I was in the band Joshua prior to that as you know and the band was signed to an $800,000 major label deal. I felt called away from that band, not to go to another band, but to leave. After four years of being in that band, incredibly hard work, spending a lot of money in promoting, going to Europe twice, living there and Germany trying to promote the band, I felt called away from the band and to come back to California. I was hawking a wireless guitar system when some guy named Chuck King answered my ad and the next thing you know we became friends and he was in a band called Idle Cure at the time. The next thing you know, we are close buds and he says, "Hey I'm on this label. It's really small and their deals aren't that great, but do you want to make a record"? I said, "Sure". In my, I don't know if I want to call it haste or over anxious or eagerness to want to do something, we signed a really crappy six point deal which was about half of what most record deals were going for at the time which was 12 points. So you understand what that means, six point's means 6% of the gross sale of a record so if it was $10, 6% of the gross sale would be roughly 60 cents. Most people got $1.20 plus their publishing which works out to a little over $2.00. They took our publishing and we didn't see anything so I don't even own the songs from that era. (Laughs) It did provide and they did do a good job breaking into the Christian marketplace and doing what they could to break bands at the time. So, I don't resent it or whatever as it is what it is. We all have things we have to work through and we all have to learn to be good business people. What God has entrusted to us we need to be good stewards and maybe I wasn't the best steward at that time. With that said, it gave us a platform and an opportunity to pioneer some stuff which was awesome and it gave me a lot of legal knowledge as I actually have people calling me for contracts now! (Laughs)

Rick/D2S: As the 90's rolled through, you ventured out as a solo artist putting out multiple solo efforts including possibly my favorite project of yours, the 1993 self-titled effort released via Benson which also received multiple accolades as well.

Ken Tamplin: That album is an interesting time in my life personally as I worked really hard to get to a certain level. Prior to that, I'd even been asked to sing for the band Foreigner and Deep Purple which became later members of Black Sabbath also and knew that wasn't right for me. I was asked to sing for the band Accept, which was Deters band, when he found out I'd left Joshua they basically asked me if wanted to be the singer for Accept when I was already two weeks into tracking the Shout album. That Tamplin album which a lot of people don't know, in fact I don't think I've ever done an interview on this. It was at the time that Nirvana was just hitting its zenith and the whole pinnacle of the alternative rock from the Washington stuff was just huge, hitting critical mass and the entire melodic rock world completely collapsed. I think there were only a handful of bands like Van Halen, Bon Jovi which toured Europe for two years to get his name back if you will and bands like AC-DC and Aerosmith that made it through that out of about everyone else. I was actually curious and the reason I bring this up is as if anyone takes the time to take a look at that album here is what they are going to find out about the album. I was curious to see where all those melodic rock fans went. Did they all just flip a switch over night and it went in a change in an era where there were no people left? The answer would be yes and no and I am going to say more yes then no. I think that people were looking for maybe more modern music and I think the modern alternative music world was really not up to the task of wanting to play their guitars six or eight hours a day or singing really high or singing with perfection. They would rather just grab a guitar, play an attitude and talk about angst, hating their moms and dads or whatever. I'm glad you brought that up. If you read the lyrics and if you listen to the music and licks on the album, the album musically speaking was to take some of the greatest licks, riffs and whatever and find a clever, creative way to pull all of those licks and create an entire album of those to see if people still liked melodic rock.

On the lyrical side, I actually for two years saving up and reading a lot of poetry and virtually every single solitary line on that record is a direct or interpreted quote from a major poet throughout the last 4,000 years. But, coherently to where they are actual sentences that make up songs. Not the same poet, each line is from a different poet from Shakespeare to whomever. I did that because I got so sick and tired of the secular media praising my music and bagging on my lyrics. So, what I did was to put out the most bullet proof album lyrically so that when someone said, "What is this when something wicked comes, no one hears their plea", I would say, "Do you have a problem with Shakespeare?", "What do you mean do I have a problem with Shakespeare"?, "This is a blatantly Christian, sappy lyric", I would say, "No actually it is taken from Macbeth or whatever!" (Laughs) So, every single line was defensible by something that withstood the test of time so people were unable to poke fun at the gospel meaning of the message I was putting in using great poets throughout the ages.

Rick/D2S: Is there one show or a handful of shows that really stick out in your mind over the years as just a special moment in time?

Ken Tamplin: There were a lot of great shows. Believe it or not, the more intimate shows were a lot more fun. We actually played a show called the Marquee Club in Hamburg. You had to go down a street where all prostitutes were so it was weird and creepy. It was really sad too. At the club, the main act had canceled so we found ourselves all of a sudden with another hour to fill. It was really fun because usually you are out there trying to promote your own songs and to get people to like what you do as an artist, but I remember as it was a secular club and people there had a few drinks, more smoke in the room then you could practically breathe from. I was with Scott Ven Zen and the guys and the next thing you know we are breaking out into other songs and I am standing on the bar playing slide guitar and then I get a chance to share my testimony in the middle of this. They are incredibly receptive and here I am just a normal guy like them with a story of hope and promise. It is those kinds of things where you can interact with your audience, get to know them and it is more like a living room setting, those are some of the times I cherish the most.

Rick/D2S: What is the craziest thing a fan has ever given you at a show as a gift while you were out on the road or maybe sent you in the mail? Do you still have it?

Ken Tamplin: How about some of the craziest things fans have done? (Laughs) One time we were playing at this orphanage way deep in Mexico somewhere, I don't even remember and I was doing a little acoustic thing. I gave this young kid some guitar lessons as we were there for the weekend. The guy shows up, I don't even know how he found my address, but he shows up at my doorstep which kind of freaked me out. He comes to the door and come to find out, he comes upstairs, we start exchanging stories as it had been a couple of years. The guy became a shredder and he brought me his guitar just to show me how far he had taken the licks I had shown him in some tiny little pueblo out in the middle of Mexico. The guy is now a total shredder and had started a band called something like Cross of Fires that he was taking all over Mexico and just throwing down hard. So, it is those kinds of things that just make it worth it and really cool.

Rick/D2S: You were a true Christian rock/metal warrior in the 80's/90's. What is the biggest difference with the scene/movement today in your opinion compared to those particular years?

Ken Tamplin: I don't want to misspeak as I haven't been in the industry for a while. From the little bit of listening I have been able to, I'm seeing a "dumbing down" of God's word. Not that we just want to go out and preach; "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus", but I feel like we've really become just really superficial surfacy. I'd like to see us be a little more intense about the way we present the gospel. For example, I don't think this happy, clappy kind of thing has neutered the message so much in the name of being commercial and accessible. That is not just in music that is also in churches. It's like, "Hey grab your coffee, grab your this, grab your that, come sit down and we will give you a message that will make you feel good". Our job is, iron sharpens iron into a two edged sword. It is our responsibility in cool ways and different kinds of ways in the same way, but also to challenge people in everything we do, not just music, but in everything we do. It is our job to challenge people to have to throw the gauntlet down for them to take a look at Christ. That doesn't mean shout scripture at them, if anything it means to live a good holy life and let a life example be a witness for Christ. There is also the dumbing down of things when if of all times, it is time to really get in the Word, understand philosophy, and understand why we are here. Understand there is an argument against evolution; understand all these things so we can defend the faith. So teach us to number our days so we may apply our hearts, wisdom and give every man an answer for the reason of the hope that is within you with meekness and fear.

Rick/D2S: One last fun memory for us?

Ken Tamplin: As far as some fun memories, the most interesting times were just literally the times we got to put smiles on people's faces and see people grow in the message that was trying to be delivered in some of the darkest places. One time we were in a bull fighting arena in the south of Spain and some guy wanted to jump on stage and kill me and looked like he was about 6'5" and comes straight for me. I handed him the microphone in front of about 8,000 fans on this giant stage and he freaked out and did a stage dive into the audience. It's those kinds of things that make it fun and I think it might have won over somebody that wanted to kill me. (Laughs)

Rick/D2S: What would be the best advice you would give to someone reading this considering starting a Christian rock/ metal band?

Ken Tamplin: Make sure that Christ stays in the center of everything you do because it is really easy to get caught up wanting to be a rock star whatever degree and level that might mean. The second thing is, work really hard at your craft, get really good at it and deserve the platform. Don't resort to cheap tricks and mostly I would say to surround yourself with good people that can hold you accountable and can help you grow. Get a good support team before you just go do it and just stay true north, stay true to the compass that God has called you to. Write it down now, write a diary log, write a mission statement down now before you go out and do something so as you start to veer off the course a little bit you can actually look back at your mission statement and realign yourself with your original ideals, goals and vision in Christ.

Rick/D2S: Any new music for us any time soon?

Ken Tamplin: It is funny you mention that about new music. (Laughs) We have a Shout reunion barbeque planned with the continued discussions about doing a new Shout album. I mention Idle Cure as we will be using the drummer from Idle Cure for the new Shout project itself. Chuck and I have been getting together and we have quite a few songs written, a couple almost done. It is going to be a bit of a departure from the typical glam metal stuff we did in the 80's. There is going to be some better song writing I believe, very soulful and little more what I think people now will want from Shout rather than relive the 80's metal days. There will still be some nice guitar, some heavy vocals and stuff, but there will also be a side to it with a little more depth and more adult which I am looking forward to.

Rick/D2S: What is one thing about Ken Tamplin that a fan of D2S Radio might be curious to find out?

Ken Tamplin: I don't know if there is any one thing or mystery that people don't already know about me as I am pretty outspoken. I think what people might not realize is I am the same Ken Tamplin from the 80's as I am today. If anything, I've become maybe even stronger in my faith, but I have a lot more grace and a lot more love and resiliency for what people are going through. I don't think I had that back then as much. I've lived a life now of seeing different things that people go through, some that I've had to go through as well where I have more compassion in different areas of my life. I try really hard to not just do a Bible study, but to do the Bible and live it out. I would again encourage those of you out there that yes, we need to learn God's word, but we also need to put a practical application to flight and feet to it. I would encourage everyone to remember that God is faithful and it is amazing if you are willing to follow him period. The places He will take you if you can do the work, get out of the way and let Him do what it is that He does, it will blow your mind where God and Christ will take you and what He can do through your life.

Rick/D2S: We've covered a lot of ground Ken, is there anything you'd like to add to conclude our conversation? Thank you for what you are doing and may our God continue to bless your efforts as much as it has blessed us!

Ken Tamplin: Thanks for the interview, I appreciate it. God Bless all that you do and I look forward to some new music and possibly have you stop by the academy and see what we do there. God Bless you all.

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