Vancouver's Todd Kerns is Slash’s jack of all instruments
By Steve Newton, August 24, 2011
Guitar heroes don’t get a lot more heroic than Slash, who catapulted into worldwide fame with Guns N’ Roses in 1987 and has been a fixture on the rock scene ever since. He’s a Les Paul–toting force of nature, the type who can alter the destinies of those around him in a flash. Take Todd Kerns, the former Vancouverite who made a name for himself here with the melodic guitar-rock bands Age of Electric and Static in Stereo. Kerns was living in Las Vegas and playing casinos with popular cover act the Sin City Sinners last year when the call came in to try out for the bassist slot in the Top-Hatted One’s touring band.
“It wasn’t really so much of an audition as it was a jam session,” explains Kerns, on the line from Vegas. “We just kinda jammed [Guns N’ Roses’] ‘Night Train’ and maybe one other, and then the next thing I knew it was being presented to me to do all this Jay Leno and Craig Ferguson and George Lopez stuff, and I’m like: ‘Yeah, okay.’
“It’s been a year and a half touring on that,” he adds, “and now we’re getting ready to go in and do a new album, so it was all very unexpected. I thought maybe it would be three months of fly-out dates with a classic heritage artist like Slash, but no, it turned into, like, ‘Let’s go around the world a coupla times and do it.’ ”
While he’s best known as a singer and rhythm guitarist, it was Kerns’s ability with other instruments that led to him scoring the prized Slash gig. Let that be a lesson to all you rock ’n’ roll kids out there: don’t put all your eggs in one Strat case.
“It’s true,” says Kerns. “Even though you kind of become a guitar player or a singer or a drummer or a bass player, if you dabble in everything, then when something like this comes along you can strap on a bass and go.
“But I started on bass, actually,” he continues. “It wasn’t till my brother [ex–AOE bassist John Kerns] started playing bass that it became, like, ‘Okay, I’ll move over to rhythm guitar and singing.’ I was always a singer, too. Most singers are chosen by being the least-worst singer, I find. So I was luckily the least-worst in the group of four guys I was with.”
In Age of Electric, that would have been the two Kerns brothers and the two Dahle brothers, local music greats Ryan and Kurt. When Kerns plays in Van he’ll be pulling out some old AOE chestnuts, as well as a few choice covers, some solo tunes, and the odd Static in Stereo number. The 43-year-old rocker says that he’s always holding out hope for an AOE reunion one day, but until then he’ll just keep Slashing away.
“It’s been fantastic,” he says of his current high-profile gig. “It’s certainly not what I expected at this juncture in my career. It just sort of came out of nowhere, and often when these things go racing by, you either jump on or just get outta the way, and I guess I decided to jump on.”Todd Kerns plays the Media Club on Thursday (August 25).