Ronnie Platts of Kansas talks about the band’s latest album ‘The Absence of Presence.’
Ronnie is the current lead vocalist for American rock legends Kansas and had the very difficult job of filling the role vacated by Steve Walsh when he decided to retire from the group where he had been a mainstay of for some 41 years. The band looked for a suitable replacement and they found it in fellow Midwesterner Ronnie, who had previously been in local bands that had opened shows in the Chicago Area for Kansas, after which he was involved with Shooting Star. When Kansas came calling Ronnie was ready to step up into the Big League. Here are his comments on the new album and on being part of the Kansas brand.
John Wenlock-Smith (JWS) – Good day Ronnie, it is a pleasure to talk with you, how are you doing?
Ronnie Platts (RP) – Hi John, I’m fine thank you, struggling like everyone else at this strange time (this conversation took place as both the UK and the USA are in lockdown battling the Covid 19 pandemic that has affected the world significantly).
JWS – We are supposed to be getting information this Sunday from the Prime Minister of how they intend to lift the lockdown, so we are all waiting on that announcement really.
RP – Things are starting to lighten up here as well, as things are starting to turn around a little.
JWS – I think they have finally started to get a handle on things, I mean it is all about keeping the rate of transmission down and keeping people away from each other
RP – Yes (laughs) but that is a hard thing for social animals!
JWS – Very much so, I mean we have been at home here for 6 weeks now and we have only been out once to the local town which is a couple of miles away.
RP – Oh my goodness.
JWS – Yes it has been quite hard going at times but, as the weather has been good, we have been able to do some work in the garden, which has been nice.
RP – That is exactly what I am doing as well, planting my garden.
JWS – Right let us talk about Kansas for a bit if I may, you have a new album out in July?
RP – Yes that is right, have you heard it yet?
JWS – Yes I have and I am thoroughly enjoying it too, tell me how much of this one did you write this time?
RP – I wrote two songs, Never, which is from a title from Phil Ehart, and Circus of Illusion, but we shared writing responsibilities with Tom Breslin and Phil came up with ideas for song titles for folks to write around. The first one being Throwing Mountains, which is pretty epic for Kansas don’t you think?
JWS – Yes, it is a great song and the video is great too.
RP – I think we wanted to give the fans an insight into the working behind the band and show that we are not so serious all the time. Actually, we spend lots of our time laughing and fooling around joking. In this business I think you have to really.
JWS – I am glad to hear that Phil is throwing out titles for songs.
RP – Well Phil is the boss, he’s the guy that has kept the ball rolling all these years and he is very excited by the recent success that we’ve been experiencing with this line up, we’ve been doing very well. I know from my time in the band that our audience has been growing and we’re seeing our fans bringing not only their children but also their grandchildren and the shows are getting bigger. The members might have changed but the title has not and neither has the intent or the quality of the music.
JWS – You’re obviously still hungry?
RP – Well I think you must credit Phil and Rich for that as they have been in the band for 47 years now. One of the things that surprised us was how much of (previous album) ‘The Prelude Implicit’ was sold on vinyl.
JWS – Well I think vinyl has had a resurgence as people like the artwork, the sleeves and the inserts.
RP – At my age you need a microscope to read the sleeve notes which is why vinyl is a great thing. You get so many bands that used to print the lyrics and all that stuff was especially important.
JWS – Are you looking forward to taking the album on the road?
RP – John, I cannot express enough just how excited I am to come to England and Europe and for folks to be able to see us play for them!
JWS – It’s been quite a journey for you really?
RP – Yes I’ve always been in bands when I wasn’t out driving my truck. All that paved the way for me to join Kansas, I’m nearly 60 now and it seems like days rather than 5 years. If we had been able to continue, I’d be nearing my 500th show now, in the first year we did 98 shows (2016) and the next we did 99! Way more than expected and a pretty full schedule. We’ve to Brazil and Chile so I’m really excited to be coming over to you.
JWS – So what did you carry on your truck?
RP – Corrugated packaging.
JWS – I used to work for Bentley and everything came in that sort of packaging, we had a lot of cardboard!
RP – Oh, Bentley the car manufacturer? Getting back to the album anything that stands out for you from what you have heard?
JWS – Throwing Mountains and The Absence of Presence both stand out but, really, I am still in the listening and absorbing stage.
RP – I might be biased because I’ve been so involved with this album as we’ve had more time to come together as a band and gel together but, I think that when people get to hear this for themselves, that they may be very impressed with all they hear from the band now.
JWS – I first heard Kansas on the Old Grew Whistle Test playing ‘Journey from Mariabronn’ and then I heard ‘Point of Know Return’ and I worked backwards from there.
RP – For me it was a similar experience except it was ‘Leftoverture’ then I worked backwards too, I guess we are of a similar age?
JWS – I am 60 now…
RP – You have a couple of years on me as I am 58 now.
JWS – Well Ronnie, sadly my time has gone so it remains for me to thank you for your time, stay safe and hopefully I will see you at the palladium in November once all this is over?
RP – Thanks to you too John, stay safe too and yes, hopefully I will see you there too. Thank You!
‘The Absence of Presence’ will be released on July 17th, 2020.