Todd Kerns Wants to Play a Gig on Tatooine

The famed musician now touring with Slash talks seeing Star Wars for the first time, toy collecting, and much more.

From the late 1980s, musician Todd Kerns made his name on the Canadian rock scene as a front man with the Age of Electric before being plucked by Guns N’ Roses legend Slash to play bass in his new band, the Conspirators. They released their third album Living The Dream last year and, taking time out from the band’s bantha-sized world tour, Kerns caught up with to discuss his favorite memories from that galaxy far, far away, his appreciation for Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes, and why he has equal love for both Star Wars and Star Trek. Todd Kerns, welcome to…

Todd Kerns: I’m beyond excited to be here. I just tweeted saying that I’m about to do an interview with and I’m more excited than I would be for a cover story of Rolling Stone magazine! Be honest, this is why you got into the business — for moments like this isn’t it?

Todd Kerns: Yeah, I could die now! But once we finish this. Yes, finish the interview first, please.

Todd Kerns: All right. Imagine that you’ve been sent to a desert island, or even the island of Ahch-To, and you can only take one Star Wars film with you. Which one is it going to be?

Todd Kerns: Hmm. I’m going to… Well, if you want to have a long conversation about best first albums, and there’s quite a few — Appetite For Destruction would be in there, Led Zeppelin I Star Wars, Todd! Stay on target.

Todd Kerns: Yeah, sorry! [Laughs] But that’s where I was going with this; I think that A New Hope hits so many bullet points because George Lucas probably wasn’t thinking in terms of, I’m going to make three of these. I think he did such a great job of just making it a standalone film, if that was it and there were no others then we’d say, “What a perfect film.” We can always have that conversation of “Is Empire better than A New Hope?” but after seeing it in the movie theater as a kid, with it is attached so many memories that are beyond desert island enjoyment of a film. It’s the connection of my father taking us to the film, and to this day he talks about the Star Destroyer coming over in that opening shot, and my dad’s usually not that kind of guy. He’d rather go see a cowboy movie or something like that, but it blew his mind. So that whole experience with my brothers and him — and you couldn’t watch this thing at home in those days, so you just went to the theater time and time again.

Luke Skywalker watches the suns set on Tatooine. So it was more of an event?

Todd Kerns: One hundred percent, and I lived in a small town. So when it finally reached us it was like a city-wide event; we probably went every single night while it played. Well, as much as we could. For us that were there it became everything, it eclipsed everything to that point and it became the benchmark for everything from that point forward. It’s still the benchmark in many ways, I think. What’s the nerdiest Star Wars thing you’ve done in your life?

Todd Kerns: I’ve owned so many of the toys that if you come to my house it’s actually embarrassing! I’ve never been big on getting dressed up or that kind of stuff, but I’ve probably blown it with a number of women in my life by getting too far into this kind of thing! But the beauty of it is that you meet the right one who knows what you’re talking about and when you suddenly find yourself toe-to-toe you’re like, “Wow, better marry this one.” My wife is one of those and I can’t go and see a Star Wars film without her. She’d have my head! I invited Slash to join us today but he declined, and I’m not sure if it’s the case that he’s not fan enough or man enough!?

Todd Kerns: [Laughs] I think it’s a bit of both, frankly. I’m going to throw that gauntlet down! But he is a fan? He told me that he is, anyway.

Todd Kerns: He is a fan but he’d get lost in this conversation. It’s funny because he’s not the kind of guy who would stand in line for The Phantom Menace, but when he was a kid like us I think he would have gone to the original trilogy. It’s funny to think that he would be intimidated by our wealth of knowledge, but it would just be a little out of his comfort zone to be sat here geeking out about Boba Fett’s ship or whatever. So it’s fair to say that if you attempted a geek out in the dressing room with the band, you’d be the last man standing — or maybe just the last man in the room?

Todd Kerns: Yeah, a man alone, really! But you know, the funny thing about Star Wars is that everybody knows and enjoys it for what it is, but it’s just different whether people are swimming in the shallow end of that pool or the professional deep end, and I’m always in the deep end! I just love the whole thing. If you left Slash and the Conspirators to join a Star Wars band, which would it be?

Todd Kerns: I would go to the cantina band. It’s funny, that whole cantina scene, as it feels like it could probably be dated with the makeup and masks they’re all wearing around the club but it works so well. And the band itself, if I really sat down and analyzed it, I’d be like, “Well it sounds like a clarinet and a bassoon, all very earthly instruments,” but for whatever reason the tune they came up with is brilliant still to this day. We play it on the guitar, we play it all the time, and it’s just the quintessential song. That’s the band. Which Star Wars planet would you most like to play a gig on?

Todd Kerns: Wow, I have to say Tatooine. As a kid, and even now, it’s the first that comes to mind. I’d like to play the cantina with all the brawls going on, Greedo could come by… Well, not anymore, as he’s no longer with us. You could put on a Greedo tribute night then?

Todd Kerns: Exactly!

Todd Kerns, Slash, and the Conspirators Stepping away from Star Wars for a bit — you’re on the road touring the Conspirators’ third album Living The Dream with Slash. I read that Appetite for Destruction is actually one of your favorite albums of all time, and now you’re in a band with one of the guys that made it. How does that feel?

Todd Kerns: It’s pretty surreal. In 1991 I was in LA trying to get a record deal and all of that stuff, and Slash was at the Rainbow and hung out with us, but it was a lifetime ago and he has no recollection of this particular crossing of paths. But at the time it was like, “Wow that’s the guitar player for the biggest band on the planet and we’re just some kids from Canada trying to get a deal!” It’s funny how you fast forward and then you’re playing with Slash. And it doesn’t stop there — you once performed with Bill Murray as well?

Todd Kerns:  Yeah! It was a benefit show for a friend of ours called Kerry Simon, he was a chef in Las Vegas and apparently had been a roommate of Bill’s in the ’70s. So Alice Cooper, Sammy Hagar, Slash, Vince Neil, Todd Rundgren, and I got together to play this benefit show. There were rumors that Bill Murray might show up but nobody ever has a concrete anything about Bill Murray, that’s the way he rolls. But somebody had said earlier in the day that he sometimes likes to get up and sing “Brandy,” so we went through it just in case of the random chance that Billy Murray is going to wander in and sing with us! And then I’m standing side-stage watching whoever was opening the show, and he just rolls in. He had his back to me and then turns around and looks at me and goes, “Oh.” I’ve never met the man in my life and he comes over and shakes my hand. I asked if he’s going to sing tonight and he said, “Warming up, warming up,” and then just walks away! He ended up singing and MC’d the night, but nobody had any kind of structure. He just kind of took over. It was the most surreal thing ever and you kind of forget that Alice Cooper and all those other insane people were there too! I know you’re a big fan of both and there’s absolutely no pressure here, but I will remind you of whom you’re speaking to right now, the official Star WARS website. So Todd Kerns, Wars or Trek?

Todd Kerns: [Laughs] Well, I connect with Star Trek because it’s in the future and Kirk was born in like Iowa or somewhere, and then there’s Russians and Asians, black and white, and we’re all working together. And I think that’s why I’ve always connected with Star Trek, because of the idea that this is actually a potential future for human beings. I always say that if Starfleet was a career option, I would be doing that! And then Star Wars is never quite explained. We don’t really get concrete information, like what is Han Solo or Luke? They’re obviously human, but are they somehow connected to Earth humans? They are so markedly different it’s hard for me to pick one; Star Wars is so much bigger and all-encompassing, while Star Trek feels smaller, which is probably the wrong word to use. Even though it’s all about space travel and the vastness of all that, it just feels like a potential future while Star Wars feels like this great grand escapism-type thing that we can do. At least that’s the way I equate them, but I really would have a hard time saying which one over the other. You’re not leaving this room until you get off that fence and give me a definitive answer, Todd…

Todd Kerns: [Laughs] Can we have Han Solo and Captain Kirk duke it out and see what happens?! Beatles and Rolling Stones, Star Trek and Star Wars, it’s all good to me! I enjoy both so much it’s impossible to answer that.

Han smiles and leans back in the Millennium Falcon cockpit. Okay, let’s finish with some quick-fire-ish Star Wars questions. Who’s your favorite classic character?

Todd Kerns: I think we always thought of Luke as the star. The entire thing is based around this kid and his connection to the Force and to Darth. But I think ultimately Han is the one I find most fascinating. Even the Solo film only really touched on all of what I want to know about Han Solo as a character. There’s a sort of darkness to that character that doesn’t exist in Luke, Leia, and those kind of people, because Han was really always about Han. With Luke you understand his complicated journey and, of course, Darth Vader is a whole different story, but I’m still going with Han. What about your favorite new character?

Todd Kerns: I think Poe is great. I really like Oscar Isaac and he also kind of has a bit of Han Solo about him. I also find [Rey] fascinating; I think she’s really great. I think I’ll go with Poe though. Light side or dark side? Or is it mood dependent? You can be neutral on this.

Todd Kerns: Light side. It’s really interesting when Yoda talks about the dark side, you kind of forget that it is all based in fear. A lot of the things that we see in the misunderstanding of the human nature is fear-based, and it makes people act a certain way. I like to think of a Jedi as that you have to be one with yourself and strong. I think people aspire to be like that, rather than Dark Lords.

Chewbacca and a porg in the Millennium Falcon You’re back on that desert island, do you eat a porg or free a porg? 

Todd Kerns: I would free a porg. I’m vegetarian! Okay, fair enough!

Todd Kerns: That whole scene with Chewbacca was hilarious. And finally, bringing your Star Wars and music knowledge together… How badly do you think Kylo Ren wants a My Chemical Romance reunion?

Todd Kerns: I’m sure he would be first in line! Todd Kerns, thank you.

Todd Kerns: Thank you, that was a blast.

Living The Dream by Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators is available now.

Jamie Stangroom is a UK based broadcaster who proudly models his appearance on Chewbacca. He first became engrossed with Star Wars when he choked on a C-3PO Tazo in his cheese and onion crisps, back in 1998. Follow him on Twitter @jamiestangroom.

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