Kasim Sulton Interview:
Talks New Lp, Touring With Todd, Joan Jett and Cheap Trick
November 2, 2021
Kasim Sulton is a bassist everyone should know.
He has played on countless records, many of which have gone on to sell millions of copies. From Meatloaf’s Bat Out Of Hell, to Patty Smyth to Todd Rundgren to Joan Jett. The man has gotten around.
This time out, he has created a solo record titled Kasim 2021. We had the chance to do a Zoom call with Kasim to discuss his new album, his career and touring with Todd Rundgren for the past forty years.
Greg Drugan: Hey Kasim, congratulations on your new album, Kasim 2021. Tell me how this album came about.
Kasim Sulton: Ever since I started working with Hall and Oates in the ‘90s and then with Meat Loaf well into the 2000s, I spent an inordinate amount of time in the U.K. It was like my second home. Any chance that I get a month off or a couple of months off, I go. I have a writing partner who lives there, Phil Thornally, and he asked me if I had been working on any new material. This was in 2019. I said yes, I played him a few things and he said, “Great! When are we going to work on the next Kasim Sultan solo record?” He kinda lit a little fire under my ass and that’s how the record started.
It was great working with a producer, I don’t usually work with those because I produce everything myself. It made the process a little bit quicker and a little out of my comfort zone. So that’s how the record started and finished.
GD: I did get to hear the first single, “More Love” which is a perfect song for the times that we’re in. You have stated that it was the last song that was recorded for the record, but it’s the first single.
KS: The bulk of the record was done and Phil felt that we needed one more track that was right down the middle in terms of genre and tempo and message. We kinda covered all the other bases with the rest of the tracks on the record. So he came up with the idea of “More Love,” and we finished it together. When it came time to discuss the first single with the record company, I said there’s a reason why we did that song. It’s a very good indication of what the rest of the record is like. It made sense to me to not to release something that was too far one way or the other. If you heard “More Love,” you’d have a pretty good indication of what the rest of the record would be like.
GD: Excellent. Now what number of solo album is this for you? I know that you’ve put out a couple.
KS: This is proper number four. The first was in 1981. The second one was 2004, third one was 2014 and this one in 2021.
GD: So you are out on the road with Todd Rundgren again playing back to back shows. How is that working out for you this time?
KS: You know, it can be a little taxing. I give Todd a lot of credit. None of us are in our thirties any more, or our forties for that matter. (laughs) It’s a two and a half hour show and there were some cases where we played three nights in a row. Not only is it a two and a half hour show, but he has costume changes during the show. What do I do? I stand there and play bass and sing background vocals. I’m not digging ditches, I’m not dodging EID’s in Afghanistan. I’m on stage, I’m playing music, I love what I do and I love who I’m doing it with. The hardest part is the traveling. It’s not really that bad, I just convinced myself it’s not that bad!
GD: Todd is getting inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this weekend. I know he isn’t a big fan of the Rock Hall, but would you have liked to perform on that stage with so many great artists in attendance?
KS: Sure! Of course I would have liked to, but I’m not being inducted. It’s not my choice and what I think of it doesn’t matter. I’ll tell you what I say when I’m asked, It’s nice to be acknowledged by your peers. That part of it Todd appreciates, I think Todd’s biggest thing is that the fans are vindicated. He’s happy for the fans.
GD: You are performing close to Cleveland. Cleveland has always been supportive of you and Todd and Utopia, can you describe that relationship?
KS: We love Cleveland! I’ve done a lot of solo shows in Cleveland, whether it be Beachland Ballroom and more recently The Music Box. I have a fondness for Cleveland that transcends any problem with the weather! I was just talking to someone about Swingo’s! He turned me on to the documentary about Swingo’s. My first time in Cleveland, we stayed at Swingo’s and I remember walking into the place thinking, this is wild! I don’t want to disparage anyone but there were rockers on one side of the bar and hookers and pimps on the other side. (laughs) And everything in between.
GD: Jon Anderson from Yes told me that Elvis wanted to meet him when they were staying at Swingo’s. He said he was too shy to talk to him but he did get a note under the door and it was from Elvis. I’m sure there’s all kind of stories like that.
KS: Oh my god, that’s amazing!
GD: Looking back on your career, who inspired you to become a musician?
KS: It’s the same story that’s been told a thousand times. I saw The Beatles on Ed Sullivan. February of 1964 and I said that’s what I’m going to do for the rest of my life. I’m going to be a Beatle. (laughs) Of course there was no room, and I was only nine years old. But I knew at that moment in time, come hell or high water, I was going to be a musician and I was going to do my darndest to make a career out of it.
GD: Do you remember the first artist you saw in concert and how did that impact you?
KS: I grew up on Staten Island, by the time I was twelve or thirteen years old and there was a new theatre called the Ritz. I’m not sure what band I saw there. Everyone from Cactus to the James Gang, Yes, Vanilla Fudge and I want to say Jeff Beck. It’s funny because I remember seeing Cactus and Carmine Appice, who's the drummer, and now all these years later, Carmine and I are friends. It was something for me as a kid, to go see a band like that, in my my home town and so many years later, I’m good friends with someone in that band that I saw.
GD: That’s awesome. And he’s still out doing it!
KS: Yeah, he is!
GD: How did you get asked to play on Meat Loaf’s Bat Out Of Hell? Where you with Todd at that point?
KS: I was living up in Woodstock, that’s where the band, Utopia was based out of at that time. Meat and Jim (Steinman) did not have a band. They needed to put a band together. Todd needed to hire musicians and the phone rang one afternoon and he said, “You’re going to play on a record that I’m going to produce.” I said, “Ok, who is it?” He said, “ It’s a guy named Meat Loaf.” I was like, ok stop kidding around, who is it? He said, “Just show up at the studio at one o’clock tomorrow.” Click So that’s how I got asked to play on that record. What a feather in the cap that is. It’s one of the top selling records of all time. To be one of the four musicians that created that record is special.
GD: Were Max (Weinberg) and Roy (Bittan) in the E Street Band at that time?
KS: Yeah they were. Actually, Jim was a big Springsteen fan and he specifically requested Max and Roy. He wanted that over the top, Phil Spector-ish wall of sound. Roy is an amazing piano player. Off the charts amazing pianist, and Max, well you can tell Max is playing drums. Between Max, Roy, myself and Todd, we recorded all of those tracks in ten days.
GD: That’s amazing. You toured with Meat Loaf, right?
KS: I started working with Meat Loaf in 1993, right before Bat Out of Hell II. I stayed with him for seventeen years, twelve of which I was his musical director.
GD: In the eighties, you ended up being a member of Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. How did that come about?
KS: My good buddy, Thommy Price who I grew up with on Statan Island, was a sought after drummer. Session drummer and live drummer in the New York area. He was working with Billy Idol and that gig ended, but everyone was using Thommy Price on drums for their sessions. Joan needed a bass player, because their bass player had just left. Thommy called me up and asked if I wanted to play on a Joan record. I said yes, and that ended up being a three year run with her. I had the best time with Joan, I loved working with her, she’s a real trip!
GD: I just watched the “I Hate Myself For Loving You” video. Everyone had their big hair and leather fringe jackets except you. You just had the vest on.
KS: I looked like a bartender! The only thing that was missing was the garter on my arm. (laughs)
GD: That’s true! I was doing some research here, what was your experience with Cheap Trick? Did you tour with them or play on a studio record? I couldn’t quite find it.
KS: Steve Walsh, from Kansas was their “utility guy.” Which means you play keyboards and sing background on stage. Steve left, Kansas was getting ready to go out again after a hiatus. Rick got in touch with me. I’m friends with Rick, Robin, Bun E. and Tom. Cheap Trick used to open for Utopia before they became hugely successful. Rick said, I know you play a little keyboards and did you want to come on the road with us for a bit. I said yes, but it was only for three months.
GD: Very good, I wondered how that happened. You mentioned being on the road. It seems that you are always on the road with Todd or B.O.C. How have you handled this past year and a half not being on the road?
KS: It really wasn’t that bad. I kept myself busy trying to finish my new record. I also did a few live shows. I did a couple of drive-in concerts. That was very strange, having people sit outside of their cars and instead of applause, they honked their horns. I was just happy to do shows!
GD: I wanted to ask about your experience with The New Cars. You were in that band with Todd, Prairie, Elliot and Greg. I missed seeing that tour, but I heard you did a great job singing “Drive.”
KS: There were a certain amount of songs where Todd was singing the Rick songs and I sang some of the Ben songs. It happened to work out that I sang “Drive.” It was really a fun experience but unfortunately, Elliot hurt himself about three weeks into this big tour. We built up all of this momentum and press but then Elliot got into an accident where he broke his collarbone and we had to shut down for about six weeks while he recovered. Everybody had high hopes for that incarnation of The Cars, unfortunately it was doomed and never took off again.
GD: So you are out with Todd, how much more do you have to go?
KS: We’re about halfway through. I believe we finish up on November 17.
GD: Do you have any plans for a solo tour when you finish up?
KS: Right now, we have some tour dates planned for March of 2022. We’ll be doing some Utopia music and partially my album.
GD: Well hopefully you will have a Cleveland date on your solo tour. I did hear you are doing the David Gilmour Project tour as well.
KS: Yes, how could I have forgotten that? That is happening in January. Yes we are playing Northfield Park which is where I am with Todd.
GD: Kasim, thank you so much for your time. I wish you success on the album and hopefully I will get to see you when you come to town next weekend!
KS: Thanks so much Greg!
Be sure to check out Kasim Sulton's new album, Kasim 2021.
You can catch Kasim November 6 and 7 at the MGM where he will be playing with Todd Rundgren. He will also be appearing there in January as apart of the David Gilmour Project.