Kool & The Gang have been grinding since the early 60’s and they don’t plan on stopping anytime soon. They just released their new single “Sexy” to go with their North American “Keep The Funk Alive” tour. There’s no denying their impact in music as their hits are constantly sampled by Hip Hop and R&B artists. Along with that, their song “Celebration” is one that will probably be played until the end of the time. YouKnowIGotSoul had a chance to talk to Kool from the legendary group to talk about their thoughts on music today as well as their journey from the beginning up until now.
YouKnowIGotSoul: You’re currently headlining a brand new tour. I know you have some special guest there, so talk about that.
Robert “Kool” Bell: It’s called the ‘Keep The Funk Alive” tour. It’s with Morris Day & The Time, Bootsy Collins, and Doug E. Fresh. Bootsy and I have been talking the last couple of years about doing something and bringing the funk back, so we decided to come and put this tour together.
YouKnowIGotSoul: What’s the importance of touring for you guys?
Robert “Kool” Bell: Touring is important. We’ve been touring for so many years and we do a little bit of touring everywhere from Asia, Africa, Europe and continue to build our fanbase. The fans love to see us once a year or every other year, so we like what we do and touring is very important for us right now.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Your music has not only impacted different generations, but also different cultures. I know Justin Timberlake covers one of your songs on his latest tour. Did you expect your music to reach so many different audiences when you first started doing this?
Robert “Kool” Bell: To a degree, but you have to realize that when we started, we were young guys. We were right out of elementary school and high school, so we didn’t know how far we would be going. At the time we were from New Jersey, Philadelphia and Boston. We started to build and grow. We got hit records and then we went from being national to international! We do a lot of tours over in Europe and a lot of summer festivals for the last three years. This is the first time we’ve been in the States for a tour of our own in the last three or four years. We’re having fun being at home touring.
YouKnowIGotSoul: It’s pretty amazing how long you guys have been able to keep this up. A lot of artists are lucky to get five years these days, so what was the key to your longevity?
Robert “Kool” Bell: For the love of music and working hard. Our fans who have continued to support the group and buy our record. They also see us every year. That keeps us motivated. It’s all about the music. It’s just about keeping our fans happy.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Like all artists, you guys had to go through transitional periods. There was a time where every song you put out was a hit, but then things started to slow down. What was that time period like for you?
Robert “Kool” Bell: One of the things that we kept doing was touring. When we didn’t get the hits, we would tour and try to come up with new music. It’s an up and down business. You’re not always going to be rolling like that, so it’s very important that when you do get a hit that you go out there and support it. The fans will support you if you support them.
YouKnowIGotSoul: As music continues to evolve today, do you guys still have passion to make music knowing that it’s so different now?
Robert “Kool” Bell: Yes, we still have the passion because we’re constantly recreating ourselves. There’s this new record we have out now called “Sexy”. The vocalist on that song is now part of the gang now. My son has this writer that works with. My son is a writer/producer, he goes by the name of Prince Hakeem. One of his writers sent us that track and then my brother and a young gentleman by the name of Walter Anderson came up with the idea for the hook and the lyrics. It all came together and it looks like we have another one with this song.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Has the process changed for you since the beginning of your career?
Robert “Kool” Bell: We still work and we still get gigs. The process fluctuates but nothing has changed. We’ve been able to be consistent because we’ve built a market around ourselves and around the world for so many years. We’re still here and thankful for that.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Your hits have been heavily sampled in the Hip Hop and R&B world. How do you feel about that?
Robert “Kool” Bell: We don’t have a problem with that. Most of the times when they sample us, they get clearance from our publishing and if it’s a hit, we all make money. *Laughs*
YouKnowIGotSoul: Is there a song that stood out to you guys?
Robert “Kool” Bell: I like what Will Smith did with “Summer Madness” and turned it into “Summertime”. That became a very big record for Will. Then you have “Hollywood Swinging” that Puffy took and turned it into “Feel So Good” with Mase. That did quite well. There’s some artist have taken a little bit of this and that like Madonna and Janet Jackson.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Members have come and gone since the beginning, so has that changed the dynamic of the group?
Robert “Kool” Bell: We still have the core. We still have the original members. It changes the dynamic to some degree. James “J.T.” Taylor joined the band and we had a nice run with him. He left the band and then Shawn McQuiller who handles the lead vocals and guitar. So far it’s another dynamic to the band especially when we went out with Kid Rock and Van Halen. He’s into the rock side as well, so it all works out.
YouKnowIGotSoul: I know you guys have the new song “Sexy”. Are you working on a new album?
Robert “Kool” Bell: Yes, the album will be out at the end of the year. The album is called “Legacy”. We’re also working on a book that will be out next year. It’s called “Hollywood Swinging: The Kool & Gang Story”. We would like to do a musical at some point called “It’s a Celebration”.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Anything you’d like to add?
Robert “Kool” Bell: I’d like to thank my fans for supporting Kool & the Gang. We haven’t had a record out in ten years, but we’re getting a lot of love right now. We’d love to thank our fans for supporting us.