The composer, performer, producer, promoter, provocateur, manager, disc jockey, film director, etc. that is Kim Fowley, can be called infamous, but legendary is perhaps more appropriate. The former child actor appeared in his first film in 1949, produced his first band by 1959, and he went on to compose or produce numbers for a mindboggling number of acts, such as Kiss, Alice Cooper, Sonic Youth, the Germs, Nirvana, Cat Stevens, the Byrds and so many more. Fowley is perhaps best known for his “baby” ––‘70s hard rock girl-group, the Runaways––and while you can hear him
deejaying every weekend on Little Steven’s Underground Garage channel (Sirius 25/XM 59), he’s back with a new record/film company, Flesh-O-Rama, and its first band/album/movie, Black Room Doom (www.youtube. com/blackroom doomisuals). The band’s breakout star, scream-queen Victoria De Mare (screamqueendemare. com) will also issue her debut album Actress on Flesh-O- Rama, and its lead single, the current events-inspired rocker “World’s On Fire,” is already receiving play on Sirius/XM, KROQ’s Rodney On The Roq, and several other stations/ podcasts worldwide.
Music Connection: Who chooses the playlist for your show on Little Steven’s Underground Garage channel?
Kim Fowley: Little Steven creates the playlist, and Program Director and DJ Kid Leo supervises and delegates it to the individual DJs (including Andrew Loog Oldham and Handsome Dick Manitoba). The playlist is subject to change depending on whatever releases are coming out, or the different promotional tie-ins or specific themes they’ve worked out. I am a paid radio actor and in my own mind, I’m doing Ken Nordine, Alan Freed and Casey Kasem. There are 3,000 songs in the playlist, and I’ve memorized every one of them. I know how they all start and stop and I can make them flow so where you can go from 1949 to 2011; I can go from Tegan and Sara to Buddy Holly and it will all make sense to me. Kid Leo and Little Steven really have impeccable taste, and once in a while if there’s something that one of us DJs like, we send it in to Steven and/or Leo, but we don’t lobby or anything.
MC: Does Sirius-XM Satellite Radio pay you a salary?
Fowley: Oh, I get paid, and they’ve kept me on for seven years and keep on renewing my contract.
MC: What do you remember about the Alan Freed days of promotion?
Fowley: I learned radio from Alan Freed in 1959. I was his assistant and food runner. I got paid off in lunch and dinner. There was no salary, and no breakfast, but he let me use his Thunderbird when I would take out older women. Promotion in those days was all about steak dinners and chives on the baked potato—that was as much payola as I saw—though I understand that some folks did get alpaca sweaters and tickets to Hawaii.
MC: What’s the biggest difference in the music biz between yesterday and today?
Fowley: Diseases, drugs, and haircuts: everything else is exactly the same. The record industry collapsed before the days of Elvis, because back then all they had was Julius LaRosa, Eddie Fisher and Patti Page. Before Elvis showed up on Sun Records there were only five labels, and now there’s only four. Now Victoria De Mare and Black Room Doom show up on Flesh-O-Rama, so we’re in 1957 in my mind. And just like 1957 there isn’t any artist loyalty or record loyalty anymore, there is only song loyalty. Rob Cavallo and Green Day proved this when they released the five downloadable singles for American Idiot. The young audiences bought the album after they knew they could trust the songs. We’re taking that approach with our label/film company Flesh-O-Rama, because we have a lot of artists with material, but we’re not going to trot them all out at once––we’ll release them one song and one clip at a time.
MC: How do you feel about The Runaways movie?
Fowley: I was portrayed as the Darth Vader version of a used car salesman, or like I was there running out for food or something, instead of being the architect of whatever the Runaways was. Joan Jett and I were the architects and Sandy West was an original member, but there were five incarnations of that band before the one up there on the screen. Aside from that I thought that Michael Shannon was brilliant, and I think it’s partly because Joan Jett and Kenny Laguna made sure that Michael and Kristen Stewart met me, so that they would get more than just Cherie Currie’s and her screenwriter’s point of view.
MC: Are you unfairly saddling your new band, Black Room Doom, with the baggage of the Runaways?
Fowley: Understand that Black Room Doom is still not about the Runaways at all! It’s about the idea of the Brill Building in the era when you had people like Bert Berns, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller; when it was like, “we’re going to make a record, and you’ll be in the group, oh, and you’ll be in the group, and yeah, you’ll be in the group. What’s the name of the group? Don’t worry about it, here’s some money, sing on this and get the fuck out. [smiles] Where should we mail you a box of records?” And, “Sign this contract.” Then, while on the way home from school, the Shondells [King Records], or someone would hear their record on the radio. Now it’s the 21st Century and Black Room Doom tells a different story: a girl group that sings and plays their own instruments in the era of satellite radio, podcasts, blogs and viral video.
MC: How does Kim Fowley promote a record in the 21st Century?
Fowley: In person, online and I still like to use the phone. I send out a one-sheet and the product to the radio people and then we’ll blast them. If I know them, I will call and play a verse and chorus over the phone. The word no doesn’t exist at Flesh-O-Rama.
MC: Are you looking for artists to sign?
Fowley: We are going to have a presence at SXSW this year, where we will have a guy representing Flesh-O-Rama, and we’ll give advances on the spot if we like what we hear. Keep up with me at kimfowley.com, and please send all submissions to: Kim Fowley, 8033 W. Sunset Blvd., #914, Hollywood, CA 90046.