I managed to catch up with Kenney ahead of his performance at Modstock to talk about his life behind the drumkit with some of the biggest bands in the history of British rock and find out more about the new Small Faces boxset and greatest hits releases.
01. What got you interested in music and who were your early influences?
I was blown away after seeing Lonnie Donegan on TV playing ‘Rock on the line’. He was playing banjo. I just fell in love with the banjo! I remembered seeing a banjo in a pawn shop next to Bethnal Green Station. The next day I went to buy it but unfortunately the guy had sold it. A friend had half a drum kit with one and half drum sticks and that got my buds going. I was hooked. I bought my very first drum kit in a shop in East Ham on Green Lane call the J 60’s. It was a white Olympic old Jazz kit. My early influences were The Shadows; Jimmy McGriff and Booker T and the MG’s.
02. When and how did you first meet Steve and Ronnie?
I met Ronnie Lane in my local pub called The British Prince where Ronnie’s brother worked as a barman. Ronnie and I first met Steve Marriott in the same shop that I bought my drum kit where he worked on Saturday mornings.
03 What were the early shows like at Leicester square and the Marquee, and did you have a particular favourite venue?
The shows at Leicester Square and the Cavern were amazing. My favourite clubs at the time were ‘The Marquee’ and ‘The Flamingo’.
04. What was the original mod scene like and did you frequent any of the famous clubs like the Scene or Flamingo for example and do you have any fond memories you can share with us?
Well apart from my comments above it was a great place to meet up in a time when music and fashion were as one.
05. What other bands did you rate back in the sixties and are there any current bands you enjoy?
I liked ‘The Action’ in the 60’s and of course ‘The Shadows’ in the 60’s. I quite enjoy The Strypes and recently my 16 year old daughter Erin has got me into Plain White T’s. She is great at playing me the most recent stuff and tries to keep me up to date! Some I like and other stuff makes me cringe! And of course I love the Red Hot Chilli Peppers – great drummer!
06. I have seen the Belgium TV footage from the early days at the marquee and also beat, beat, beat or maybe it was beat club in Germany which are both incredible, and did you prefer playing live or working in the studio?
I must say I like both. Live shows give you that buzz but studio work lets you be more creative and try new things.
07. Many fans claim the immediate era was the best small faces period would you agree with that?
It was probably the most creative and Andrew Oldham gave us more freedom to experiment. But I still think the Decca stuff is also great.
08. The manifesto of Immediate Records was a great idea trying to immolate the Stax and Motown hit factory in the UK, the Small Faces were and an integral part of that. What persuaded you to join Andrew Loog Oldham in the new venture and what was the atmosphere like at Immediate?
Immediate was like a family. We all looked out for each other and Andrew was boundless back then; his enthusiasm infectious. Most of us were. It was also the first independent label.
09. The infamous tour of Australia with the Who is stuff of legend, what were your memories on the crazy antics and any other humorous tales you can share with us on life with the Small Faces?
When the captain of the plane diverted the flight to Melbourne and had us arrested when we walked off the plane with our hands up. That was us, The Who and Paul Jones. My fondest memory of touring with the Small Faces and the Who was when Keith offered me a lift to the next gig in his white Rolls Royce and we ended up going down Edinburgh High Street. Keith had a PA system fitted behind the front grille with a mike connected to this. As we drove down the high street he shouted “Rape, rape and dangled a set of blow up legs out the back window. A bus driver stopped his bus to come to the rescue. When we got to the other side of town a policeman arrested us. He was a mad man!
10. I have heard Macs account about Steve wanting Peter Frampton to join the band to create a heavier sound and eventually leaving as a result to form Humble Pie, however it seems to me The Small Faces were already heading in that direction?
That is a difficult question to answer. Our music was already taking a different turn from our earlier stuff but Steve was pushing for change too quickly. When he left and Rod and Woody joined our music took a different direction anyway.
11. The three Small Faces went on to form The Faces together with Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood, did you know them both from the mid sixties London scene and did you ever perform with the Birds, Steam Packet or Shotgun Express?
Our paths had crossed from time to time Well Rod was on the Immediate label so we crossed paths then. We never got a chance to play on same bill as the Birds. There were times when the Small Faces were rehearsing when Rod used to sit on the amps watching us. When Steve left I asked him to join the band.
12. You also played alongside Pete, Roger and John in The Who after Keith died, how did the Who job come about?
I had just started a new band and was just about to sign a record deal when I got a call from Bill Curbishley the Who’s manager. He told me that they had had a meeting and they wanted me to join the band as the new drummer and they wouldn’t consider anyone else. I initially said no I can’t as I had just signed a new band and we are about to sign a record deal, but I would think about it. Later that day I went to get a haircut and when I left the salon I was stopped by a gypsy lady selling heather. I tried to avoid her but she was persistent. When I looked into her eyes I saw Moony’s eyes staring back at me. She was saying take it, I threw her a pile of change and ran away. It was so freaky. I called Bill up and said I would join.
13. The Small Faces catalogue has finally been done justice by Rob Caiger with the simply stunning boxset, when did the project start and how long has it taken to produce?
We have been gathering all the lost tapes for over 3 years and Rob has been working tirelessly to produce.
14. There are some fascinating moments of you working in the studio on the boxset how did it feel to listen to those moments again?
I got very emotional and lots of memories came flooding back. I could also smell the studio and feel every moment we spent in there. To hear Steve and Ronnie at their best was quite poignant.
15. As a big fan having collected all the original albums and singles listening to this boxset you really get to appreciate just how prolific the Small Faces were in such a short period of time, was that down to living together at Westmorland Terrace, the live shows or the recording sessions?
Most of the above but we had a magical telepathy between us. You can hear some of that on the studio outtakes on the box set.
16. How do you feel about the bands incredible popularity still almost fifty years after you first began?
I am completely blown away. The older, original fans seem to have passed down their passion and legacy on to their children. Lots of the Brit pop in the 90’s was influenced by the Small Faces and it has just been a slow steady growth of followers.
17. Considering you have played with three of the biggest British rock groups which band is your favourite and why?
Obviously the Small Faces as it was the most creative and the most fun. It was all new and we were breaking new ground. I loved my time with the Who as it was the most exciting by the sheer nature of their songs. The Faces were just one big riotous party!
18. What is your favourite Small Faces song and album and why?
My favourite song is Afterglow. My favourite album is Ogdens as it is so diverse and we were doing something that had never been done before.
19. We are honoured to have you perform at Modstock for our British legends show. What surprises have you got up your sleeve for the fans and who will be joining you on stage?
You will have to wait and see. My friend Jim Stapley is joining me on vocals along with Mollie Marriott who has an amazing set of pipes.
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