Dangers Bob and Chris on The Blue Album
THE DANGERS: MORST INTERVIEW
Morst, our intrepid SongBook reviewer, archivist, and social butterfly interviews The Dangers’
Bob Vennum and Chris LeRoy on the release of their new album appropriately called…The Dangers.
Morst: What got you together the first time?
Bob: I answered a very colorful ad that Chris or John Hickman had placed in a local music store (Lier’s Music) for a bass player and drummer. I should say that the drummer I was playing with in a band at the time is the one who found the ad and wanted us both to try out. I don’t remember why but my drummer friend had to work pretty hard to talk me into it.
We tried out at the club that Chris was getting ready to open (the Beat). There was shit everywhere and a cleared out “stage” in the middle of it, AND another drummer was already there, so we jammed with two drummers.
I got a call from Johnny later that afternoon asking me to join but not the drummer who dragged me down there.
Chris: A friend, Bob Kjorvestad, suggested a band with a drummer he met, Randy Abraham. We got together in a meat locker in Grand Terrace CA, and realized we needed a lead guitarist. Bob put up an ad at Liers Music in San Bernardino CA and Johnny Hickman answered. We then went upscale out of the meat locker to the living room of my bachelor pad in Loma Linda. By then we knew we were pretty good and played our own songs better than covers. San Bernardino Boy Bassist Bob Kjorvestad though a great songwriter himself was already falling off the stage drunk and a change was in the wind.
Morst: Who was in the band then? Where are they now?
Bob: The Dangers then was Chris, Johnny, Randy Abraham and me. That lasted about 3 months. Then Johnny and Chris found Keith and Ian. I really don’t know where Keith, or Randy Abraham are. Johnny’s in Colorado and Ian is in Arizona I think.
Chris: Bob has it about then. Right now Bob and I, drummer Brad Vaughn and Tim Loughlin on bass constitute THE DANGERS, although the album versions ebb out to Johnny Hickman and some other drummer pals, Art Shindele and Chad Villareal. Johnny wanted to get together last year for some new Dangers tunes. Only Wandering Around came through. Tony Fate is a great songwriting partner who has DANGERS material too. I always want to get Lisa Kekaula to sing something for every record. In my head there are many DANGERS. The trick is to get them into a studio. Overall, I’m lucky for the talent of my friends, and perceive THE DANGERS as a recording entity first.
Morst: What were your early influences?
Bob: I’ve always been into the Beatles, Creedence, the Who, 50’s and 60’s rock/pop and a lot of blues like Freddy King, T-Bone Walker, Robert Johnson and I’ve always really dug singers. Otis Redding, Etta James, Dinah Washington, Linda Ronstadt, Sam and Dave, Lou Rawls, etc.
Chris: Dylan. Ray Charles. Beatles. Hendrix. Stones. My AM transistor radio filled in the rest. First album was Sgt. Pepper then Are You Experienced and I have never had a penny since that didn’t go toward music. My house is a temple of albums and CDs. Obviously folks see my influences on my sleeve. “I don’t want to insult you but…you sound like Bob Dylan, you sound like Lou Reed, Paul Simon, Neil Young during one of his seizures…” Mostly they mention people who go way out of tune. But these are all singers who are the best interpreters of their songs. That is the connection that counts for me. This played out in the Dangers. Johnny is always will be the superior voice between us. But as I wrote songs it seemed I could deliver them stronger. Johnny was always really encouraging in this too. So I got to be my own influence too.
Morst: What made the band break up?
Bob: The thing about bands is, they’re really, REALLY hard work! There’s usually never one thing that breaks them up. I think a lot of times bands get to a point where they have to shit or get off the pot. You either take that huge leap of faith and start touring, etc., or you play local gigs and keep your day job. Either way you have to stay interested enough to put the work in. That takes a toll.
Chris: Bob really nailed it. He and Lisa and Johnny and Tony Fate and David Lowery. They all took that leap. I was more interested in the songs and not on touring. Of course I lamented not being out live in front of folks. Johnny and Bob have propped me back up into that spotlight. I am happier now about music than ever, welcome back hard work…..
Morst: What got you together the second time? (and when was that?).
Bob: I think it’s been three years now since Chris and I got together again. Two people Chris was very close to ended up dying within a month or so of each other. Chris had been doing some music at the time with one of them and asked me to help out with the recordings he had left behind. It was really good stuff and it eventually became “the Death of Me” album. Once that was done I wanted to do the Dangers album that had never happened.
Chris: Bob describes it well. Death is the great artistic
stimulus that no one has his or her hand out for. On the other hand here are
three good albums in three years, and three more waiting to see the light. I am
glad the music is getting recorded and released and so glad to be back working
with my musical brethren. It will be interesting to see who The Dangers are on
the next album.
Morst: Why are you still together and what does the future
Bob: One of the things that really intrigued me about getting back in touch with Chris is that he’s such a good songwriter. Playing music, to me, is all about playing great songs. The Dangers always had a lot of very good songs and Chris just keeps writing more. So I’d like to just make sure that there’s always an outlet for them. As far as the future, I’ve had this idea to have a place where songwriters and musicians can come in and record songs. A place of pure creativity that talented people can be around and contribute to, like Motown or the Brill Building. We know a lot of talented people who could make an idea like this really successful.
Chris: We know a good thing when we hear it. I see some live stuff and the next record. I think Bob’s Brill idea is cool, like Levon Helms’ barn. It is close to what we do already. Back to live shows, The Dangers are and have always been a really powerful live experience. And we are old school in that we look at the audience, connect and show passion. Need more of that. Bob is a great musician and supporter. He has helped us be a band once more, and somewhere along the way I found mynger voice again!!!
Morst: How does this recording differ from Dedication?
Bob: Dedication was put out to sort of get the Dangers record that never happened out finally. Chris had a lot of old recordings that had never really seen the light of day so we worked on them as best we could, threw some newer ones on top and put it out just to get things going. The new album is just that, a new album. We recorded all the songs at the same time with the aim of having an “album” that pinpoints what we’re doing right now. Many of the songs are as old as “Dedication” but we recorded them as modern tunes in a modern way.
Chris: The Dangers are special. Part of the story is song but it’s the group chemistry too. Here, so many years on, the laboratory is still beeping and buzzing and electric arcs sizzling up the wires. Like Bob said, this new album is how we sound today and there are sparks shooting out like comet trails to the future, pointing to how we are going to sound tomorrow. There are rockers like Highway 61 and acoustic numbers like WRONG and all have the intensity that lit up that meat locker in Grand Terrace, especially, HOW TO FEEL. It was written this year. That’s why we called it THE DANGERS. Could have been Meet The Dangers! In my mind the song is just getting started.