Article By: Erik Kluiber ‡ Edited By: Leanne Ridgeway
[Editor’s intro] Every so often, we have a chance to run something off-road that kicks ass. This here be one of those times. Erik Kluiber (Void Vator, Ironaut, ex-Gypsyhawk, et al.) approached me about an article he penned. A tale I found intriguing and a bit surprising, about Patrick Kennison – who one might call a bonafide ‘rock star’. His career spans many successes, but within that success, Erik shares with us a candid view from Patrick’s home-spun dive stage fun, out from under the glory of arena lights. Enjoy! ~ Leanne
Patrick Kennison is what music industry insiders would classify as a “Lifer”; a musician whose every ounce of energy and focus always has been and always will be pursuing, performing, and creating music. Past accomplishments and accolades become glorious memories, while the true prize is always at hand in the present. Never satisfied with what “was”, the Lifer is focused on what “is”.
Currently, Patrick performs in theaters and arenas around the world, handling both lead guitar and backing vocal duties for rock and roll legend Lita Ford. When Patrick isn’t busy touring internationally with Lita, he fronts his own original hard rock metal band, Heaven Below, here in Los Angeles. However, Patrick’s story delves much deeper than that.
In 2000, Patrick started to gain notoriety as part of The Union Underground, a Nu Metal band signed by Columbia Records, which went on to sell over 350,000 copies of its album ‘An Education in Rebellion‘. The San Antonio native moved to LA in 2003, as The Union Underground was ending. “I knew the whole thing was done, and I wasn’t going back home,” explains Kennison.
Patrick had made friends with producer Scott Humphrey, through his work with The Union Underground, who invited him to record guitar on a song with Rob Zombie. Patrick moved all his belongings and relocated into an apartment he shared with (then unknown) DJ Ashba and recorded the song “Two Lane Blacktop” with Rob and Scott. The song was featured as a bonus track on Zombie’s ‘Past, Present, and Future’ album.
Though the Rob Zombie guitar gig ultimately went to John 5, Patrick continued gigging, writing, and recording. He played guitar for former Warrant singer Jani Lane (R.I.P.) and various original projects, including a band called Three Faced. Patrick recalls, “It was Fleetwood Mac, but heavy metal. When we showcased, they told us the girl was too clean and the guy (Patrick) was too dirty, but you have great songs.” Eventually, Three Faced morphed into Patrick’s own band Heaven Below in 2008, which he continues to sing and play guitar for.
Patrick joined up with Lita Ford in 2014 and continues to perform with the legendary rocker queen worldwide, having recently played overseas including London, Bucharest, and Whales. But even this long list of accomplishments is not enough for a music lifer like Patrick Kennison.
Patrick is a Rockaholic, and Wednesdays are a club night called Rockaholic, held every week at Skinny’s Bar and Lounge in North Hollywood, CA. Rockaholic is a live rock and roll/heavy metal Karaoke night, which is run by the notorious Skum Love. “When I first moved to Los Angeles, DJ Ashba introduced me to Skum Love,” explains Kennison, “When I heard that Skum was putting on a live rock night, he didn’t even have to ask me, I was all in!”
Skum started the “Rockaholic” night five years ago, in 2013. Skum explains, “I came here with my boss from Schecter guitars and Dj’d his wife’s birthday. I got really drunk and by 10 o’clock we were done. I asked what else they had going on here on a Wednesday and they said nothing. I said I was too drunk to leave, so I made some calls and got about 20 or so friends to come out. We kept Dj’ing and drinking and having a good time and five years later, here we are.” [Check out a few old videos from back when Rockaholic started in 2013.]
Skum Love quickly transformed the Wednesday nights from a drunken DJ free for all, into a live music jam night. “I have two bands open the night. Usually, it’s original bands, but sometimes it’s a tribute act.” Skum continues, “Then we have the Rockaholic live karaoke finish out the night. I have really good musicians in the house band [which includes guitarist Patrick Kennison]. We don’t rehearse, they basically listen to songs on their iPod, learn the material at home (it features rock and metal classics mainly from the late seventies, eighties, and nineties), and they get up on stage here and rock out.”
“I played in original bands and cover bands all through the ’90s,” exclaims Kennison, “I had a top 40 band that toured Texas and made decent money. I’ve always been a jam guy. I’ll play any song, even ones I don’t know. I’ll get up and play with people and sure enough, you learn something new every time.”
This “anything goes” approach is part of the beauty of Rockaholic night at Skinny’s, as literally anyone can sign up to play the guitar or bass (which are supplied by Schecter Guitars), drums, or sing any of the featured songs on the signup list. Skum boasts, “This is better than everywhere in Hollywood, because there is no VIP line. This is for the people. If you show up, you get on my stage. It’s free to get in and there’s free parking.”
World-class musicians such as Patrick and Lucas Kanopa (who fills in on guitar when Pat is on the road with Lita), mix with musicians of every caliber, resulting in always entertaining results. Some songs turn out to be amazing, jaw-dropping showcases of talent, while others result in needle scratching, nails on the chalkboard train-wrecks. Depending upon who you ask, sometimes the more less-than-perfect performances can be the highlights of the night!
“It’s always a good time,” remarked Fear Factory vocalist Burton C. Bell, who happened to be hanging at Rockaholic the same night that Meegs Rascon of Coal Chamber was in attendance. “Rock and roll is alive and kicking,” chimed in Meegs, as the two cheered beers and took time out to pose for a fan photo.
It’s safe to say that you can find Rockaholic Patrick Kennison at Skinny’s every Wednesday night that he’s not out on the road with Lita Ford or Heaven Below. The native Texan guitarist – whose favorite song on the setlist is (of course) “Cowboys from Hell” – goes on to say, “The day and age of a musician playing in one band is gone. Not because people are whores, but because people have a lot of talent and limited time.” He continues cheerfully, “It can be a scheduling nightmare, but maybe the Earth is going to die tomorrow and we all will have to see who played the most shows!”
The love of music is deeper than just words to these Rockaholic lifers. They don’t just talk the talk, they bring the rock. “Why do you do it? I ask myself that question at 2 am every Wednesday night when I have to wake up at 7:30 am the next day for my day job as A&R at Schecter Guitars,” reflects Skum Love, “Why not, I see people smile and have a good time. I’ve seen relationships bloom. I’ve seen bands get together from meeting here. So you know what, that’s why I do it.”
Well said. Check out Patrick Kennison, Skum Love, and friends every Wednesday night at Skinny’s Lounge in North Hollywood for Rockaholic Night. You never know who might show up, or exactly what is going to happen, but you can always count on a good time.
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