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Kansas on music, departed band members and being better than Aerosmith

Kansas drummer Phil Ehart joins us to discuss being back with a new singer and The Prelude Implicit – their first album in 16 years

Despite having survived as a touring entity, the last decade and a half saw stagnant times for Kansas. With chief songwriter Kerry Livgren absent from the US prog rock stalwarts since the turn of the millennium, 2000’s Somewhere To Elsewhere seemed like their final will and testament.

However, this notions has now been rendered premature by a new album The Prelude Implicit, Kansas's first studio release in 16 years. As original drummer Phil Ehart now reveals, the retirement of co-founding lead singer and co-writer Steve Walsh in 2014 has reinvigorated Kansas – and nobody's more surprised than they are.

In 2005 you told Classic Rock: “Without Kerry Livgren or Steve Walsh writing material, it’s unlikely there will be another Kansas album.” And yet now we have The Prelude Implicit.

Sixteen years later, who knew that there could be a new record? But as the new line-up solidified it quickly became evident that we sounded like [the] Kansas [of old], which opened up a whole range of possibilities.

So who did write the album?

Zak [Rizvi, guitarist] was hired as the producer but ended up responsible for most of the material, in collaboration with others. He’s such a talented guy we asked ourselves why he wasn’t in the band, a situation we later addressed [laughs].

After a partnership of 41 years, how did Walsh's retirement affect you?

It was very emotional, on Steve’s side and ours, too.

By the end, the fans were grumbling about the deterioration of Walsh’s voice. Presumably the band knew that?

Of course. Steve was also aware that he was losing his ability to sing. He wasn’t happy with himself and we hung in there with him as long as we could until he decided he couldn’t do it anymore.

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