[Editor’s Note: Read part 1 of Chris Willman’s interview with Kid Rock, in which the artist rails against lawyers, trash-talking rappers, and journalists.]
Lately, Kid Rock has gotten a lot of publicity for landing some blows on another one of Pam Anderson’s exes, Tommy Lee. But the ring he’s really hoping to preside in is the commercial one, when his first album in five years, Rock N Roll Jesus, comes out on Oct. 9. Talking with EW shortly before putting up his dukes at the MTV Video Music Awards, he shared what he hopes to accomplish with the record — and how he believes he’s got a career album that, in the long run, will outsell the new efforts from Kanye West and 50 Cent ”put together.”
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: It seems like you really want to make a big statement with this album, commercially and otherwise.
KID ROCK: People, bloggers, every clown that can hide behind a faceless name, everybody has something to say [about me]. It’s like, ”Oh, let me shut ’em all up again.” It’s the attitude I started with. I’m putting my middle finger in the air and telling everyone that doesn’t understand what I’m about to f— off, that I’ve still got something to say…. It seems like it’s too hard for people today just to be like ”Hey, I don’t gotta be f—in’ crazy on the left or crazy on the right. I can just be cool and come up the middle.” Like basically middle America is. But then you’ve got all these people over here and over there…. Every time, it’s proving yourself. It’ll be great. I love to be pushed so I can prove myself, because once again, I will. They can pay me now or they can f—in’ pay me later. It doesn’t matter — I’m gonna get paid! Especially other bands and people in the business that don’t want it to happen, that don’t want to believe — just all that energy, I’m soaking it in and gonna make it positive, and they’re f—ed.
So you still feel like you have something to prove, even after having an album go 10 times platinum.
Always, every time. I’m not gonna name names, but I’m looking at covers of magazines where they’re supposed to be the biggest rock & roll bands in the world, and they look like they’re in college: ”Oh, we’re at home by midnight, and we don’t drink any more.” Whatever. I’m glad for ’em. I’m sure they’ll live to be 80 years old, and God bless ’em. I’m sure they’ve got families that want to take care of them. I’m glad they’re good family men. To me, that’s not f—in’ rock & roll and never will be.
Listening to this new album, it’s hard to imagine being a reasonably rowdy 20-year-old kid out there in middle America and not wanting to blast this record. So the question is, how big can an album that has that kind of mass appeal be right now? Nobody quite knows the answer.
No. I think we’ll hear people loud and clear at the end of the day, though. I like how 50 Cent and Kanye West are like, ”I’m gonna sell more than you! I’m gonna sell more than you!” I’ll go on the record saying I’m gonna sell more than both of them put together, at the end of the day. But they’re rappers, and everyone goes, ”Whoa, rappers fighting! Wow!” I’m f—in’ bored with all that s—. I’m bored with all the halfway music and all the great controversy but no one delivers a f—in’ album. I have an album. There’s no question. And whether someone writes that I do or don’t, at the end of the day, the people will say I do. Not because I rap in bow ties and people think it’s ”weird.” ”Look at the crazy black kid rapping with the f—ing funny golf pants on! That’s genius!” I just watch all that s— going on and it’s just like, come on.
Let’s talk about some songs from the new album. ”Amen” — did I hear you say this is the best song you ever wrote?
Yeah, I think so.
What do you think you managed to get into that song?
It’s very relevant, in saying some things that people are thinking and what’s going on today. When we say ”Goddamn it, I’m scared to send my children to church,” that’s so f—in’ relevant. And everyone thinks it, but no one’s said it. I mean, all you hear about is priests molesting kids, and all this weirdo f—in’ crazy right-wing Bible-thumping s—. It’s like, I want to believe in Jesus, I do believe in Jesus. I am a f—in’ good person. But I’m scared to send my kid to your f—in’ organized religious crazy f—in’ bulls—. And I don’t know if anybody’s said that. I haven’t heard ’em. I might hear some left-wing f—in’ hippie that wants to f—in’ legalize drugs say it, but not anybody who’s right down the middle saying ”Look, this is what people are kind of thinking in the back of their heads.” And to put it in a way that really touches people right in their souls, and kind of takes ’em to church with rock & roll, it’s pretty powerful to me.
NEXT PAGE: ”You can’t put out an album without f—in’ 18 bonus tracks and 12 DVDs so Best Buy and Wal-Mart and Target can all be happy. It’s like, Can we all just make records?”
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So you feel you represent something that doesn’t get as much airtime, that’s not right or left but down the middle.
KID ROCK:Yeah, I think that’s middle America. I think it’s the way the majority of the people feel. But for some reason, all these f—in’ freak-ass left-wing people and freak-ass right-wing people are fighting for the power, and the people in the middle are just going, ”Jesus Christ, we’re sick of this bulls—.” And I still live in a small town in middle America and I deal with these people daily. You know, my friends aren’t all f—in’ big rock stars and movie stars in big houses.
”All Summer Long” is the tune that really brings together some different elements on this album.
A friend of mine, Mike Clark, made a beat and put [Warren Zevon’s] ”Werewolves of London” over it. He was like, ”Check out this beat I made.” I’m like, ”No, I’m not really doing a rap record.” But I go ”God, listen to that. How many great songs were made off that chord progression, from ‘Take the Money and Run’ to ‘Sweet Home Alabama’?” At the time, I had been to a few nightclubs around the country and been listening to all these mashups that had been going on, because I’m a big fan of old-school hip-hop and I love classic rock & roll. So when people put these together and you can go to nightclubs and you hear these songs mashed up together, I’m like, God, this is great! You don’t have to go to a nightclub and hear f—in’ techno! Some of them, you will hear a house beat, but you hear the Four Tops over the top of it, and it’s all right; there’s some melody to it. And so when this came around, I said, S—, let’s do our own mashup, but let’s take it a step further. Let’s take ”Werewolves of London,” put it with ”Sweet Home Alabama,” and write an original melody and lyric over it. To me, that was just pushing the envelope and taking it one step further.
It’s amazing how far it’s come. I remember doing my first record in 1989, and writing a letter to Jim Croce’s widow because I had used some of his lyrics as a scratch in a song called ”The Genuine Article.” They were like, ”No, we won’t let you use it,” because nobody understood it — they were all ignorant. And now, to have Warren Zevon’s son say ”we love it” and have the guys who control the Lynyrd Skynyrd estate say ”we love it” — it’s great how far everything’s come. Because everyone said, ”God, it’s going to be a licensing nightmare,” and it really worked out fine. Things have changed so much in the almost 20 years.
You got Billy Powell from Skynyrd to play the piano part on there, instead of sampling it. But this isn’t a star-packed album. Other than Powell and the Fisk Jubilee Singers, you didn’t pack a lot of guest cameos on there.
No, I actually didn’t. The only guest I wanted to have was Fats Domino, and we were gonna do it and the scheduling was tough. I wanted to call the album Kid Rock Featuring Kid Rock just to put a finger in the air to all the rappers who can’t make a record without a million guests… And then you can’t put out an album without f—in’ 18 bonus tracks and 12 DVDs so Best Buy and Wal-Mart and Target can all be happy. It’s like, Can we all just make records?
Everything has to have a ”value-added” extra component of some sort now, right?
You know what a bonus track is? It’s the worst f—in’ song you ever made. It’s something you give away for free. You don’t go, ”Wow, this is a f—ing smash — let me put it as a bonus track!” You go, ”Here, I’m gonna give you the biggest piece of s— I ever made.” And the f—ing corporations think it’s added value. It’s incredible, the way this s— works.