Interview by Greg Wyshak
With their music featured on TV shows such as Desperate Housewives and American Idol, covered by Beyoncé, and sampled by R. Kelly and Snoop Dogg, it’s safe to say that KC & The Sunshine Band is still as relevant today as they were when they first danced onto the music scene nearly 40 years ago.
Harry Wayne Casey – “KC,” for short – developed a unique fusion of R&B and funk, with a hint of a Latin percussion groove, yielding an impressive string of hits including “Get Down Tonight,” “That’s The Way (I Like It),” “Do You Wanna Go Party,” and “Shake Your Booty.” With sales of over 100 million records, nine Grammy nominations, three Grammy Awards, and an American Music Award, KC & The Sunshine Band was one of the most progressive bands of the ‘70s and is credited with changing the sound of modern pop music.
The Groove got a chance to chat with KC himself about his thoughts on current dance music, change, and what’s new with The Sunshine Band:
Berklee Groove: In 1993, the album Oh Yeah was released—the first record in 10 years at the time. Since then, The Sunshine Band has gone through peaks and valleys, but has shown tremendous resilience by maintaining a musical presence – no easy feat. Where does the drive and motivation to stay in the game come from?
Harry Wayne Casey: Well, I love what I’m doing. I’ve just been touring, and I’m working on a new album now [called Feeling You] that’s 17 new songs and 17 classic songs from the ‘60s – I’m really excited about it. I’m working with some great DJs from Europe and some here from the States…. So you know, when you love doing what you’re doing, it’s easy.
BG: You’ve been called the “founder of the dance revolution.” What are your thoughts on how the artist’s experience has developed or been modified by the recent change in culture, with the young generation focused on EDM musicians and DJs?
KC: It’s evolved because DJs are now becoming superstars, you know what I mean? Everybody mixes a different sound and wants a different sound for the club that they play in, so… with the advent of computers, it’s allowed DJs to venture out and become more creative in their club and creating their own type of environment. Before, when an extended version was released, everybody played the same version everywhere and there wasn’t much you could do to change it up.
BG: How was your music career affected by the serious car accident you survived in 1982? After you recovered from the partial paralysis, you were back in the studio very quickly.
KC: I did suffer some paralysis—I still have some problems in my legs from it, even today. It was… a very scary thing that happened, and it causes you to recheck your life and everything life is…. It put my career on hold as far as performing, but I continued to write music even from the hospital bed. Actually, that’s where I wrote “Give It Up” – laying in the hospital bed.
BG: Would you say that the experience, and continuing with your art despite your circumstances, reaffirmed your choice in life to be a musician?
KC: Yes, definitely.
BG: So The Sunshine Band has clearly come a long way since its inception in the ‘70s. What are your thoughts on the evolution of the band and the music you all play?
KC: Whenever I’ve wanted to change or grow, it didn’t seem like it was very well accepted – not only by the record companies, but sometimes by the fans as well…. I know that for me, my new music is more lyrical than before, and those songs were deliberately written the way they were written—to be commercial singles. So hopefully everybody will accept what I’m doing right now. It’s a mixture of new and old put together, and I think it’s very new and very exciting.
BG: You’ve recently worked with Bimbo Jones and Tony Moran—Could you briefly describe that collaborative process?
KC: Basically [Bimbo Jones] sent me instrumental tracks, and then I wrote the melody and lyrics to those tracks. And I’ve known Tony for a long time—I had the mix done, and I sent it to Tony to do a remix for me.
BG: Excluding previous collaborators, if you could pick anybody right now to collaborate with, who would it be?
KC: Wow… who would I pick? It’d be fun to do something with just about anybody…. Lady Gaga! It’d be great to do something with her. It would have been great to do something with Madonna, or even Diana Ross or Aretha Franklin.
BG: So you have a show coming up this August 10th in New Hampshire! Tell us about the tour — where’s it taking place?
KC: We play [the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom] pretty much every year. It’s a lot of fun; the energy in there is just amazing! It’s always one of the best crowds, and I look forward to coming there.
Editor’s Note: I just couldn’t resist… oh, the ’70s: