Fame & Fortune: The B-52s' Keith Strickland

Bankrate: The music world has changed so much since the band's last record. Was there thought given to how to make your new music fit in with the times?

Strickland: Not really, because it really was about what I was listening to, just the two sounds that I thought that would be really interesting. The one thing about dance music and club music I often miss is, why aren't there guitars in there? Guitars sound so great. So I just had this desire to put these two sounds together. I did think in terms of, where would our audience be, but it wasn't so much about updating the sound or trying to sound more contemporary. It really was about where I was at as far as the music was concerned.

As far as lyrically and musically and the melodies, Fred, Kate and Cindy continue to do what they've always done, and they did it very well. Perhaps because we haven't done anything in 16 years, it just felt very fresh when we were working on it, and we all felt very excited about it. But there's no conscious thing to try to fit in. You really can't. If you go into it with that attitude, you're doomed to failure, because it becomes too self-conscious. You really have to connect to some sort of deeper desire or a direction you really want to explore. At least that's how I felt.

Bankrate: Given that you write most of the music, and write it before the lyrics or melodies, does knowing the three very distinct voices that are waiting for you affect how you approach the writing?

Strickland: Yes, it does. I write specifically for them. I quite often hear melodies when I'm coming up with the chord changes and bass lines and beats and all, but I just have to suspend that and let it go, and allow them the space to step in and do their thing. But I do have each one in mind. I know Fred's taste, what Kate likes, what turns Cindy on, and we have, of course, similar sensibilities in music, anyway.

So I think of my instrumentals, chord changes, bass lines and harmonic structures as landscapes, and they just kind of step into them, and I hope they'll be inspired by them and expand their lyrics and melodies in a direction that the music inspires them to go.

Bankrate: You started as the band's drummer. When Ricky (Wilson, the band co-founder and guitarist who died of AIDS in 1985) was around, were you involved in the writing then as well?

Strickland: He and I wrote together. Funny enough, at my very first jam session, before we started to take this more seriously, I was playing guitar and he was playing the congas. Then when we decided to get more serious about writing, I said, "you should play guitar," because Ricky was a phenomenal guitarist. But he and I would write together. Sometimes I'd play guitar and he would play bass, and a lot of times I would play the bass line and some chords on keyboard. So we wrote the music together.


Bankrate: So on the classic songs like "Rock Lobster," your writing was prominent?

Strickland: Yes. We wrote together. Then around "Bouncing off the Satellites," I was writing more music on my own, and by "Cosmic Thing" I did the music the same way I did for this one.

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