Who is Kenny Leath? After a second chance on life, Leath is now a very much sort after Stage Manager for all the major music festivals in the USA and beyond. From the Vans Warped Tour to Coachella, Leath is an interesting character, who has not only changed his life around, but is now well regarded in the industry and calls the industry’s best his mates. Kelly Koostra-Aplin caught up with Leath, just as the COVID-19 pandemic froze the whole music industry.
Kel – How old were you when you first started working in the music industry and how did it all come about?
Kenny – Well, my first taste of the music business, well I think I want to say in my early 20’s or maybe just turned 20 and there was a place called The Oil Palace in Tyler Texas. I got hired by the guy and I did my first show, it was with Cyndi Lauper. Cyndi Lauper had Rick Derringer playing guitar for her at the time and I had no fucking idea. I was like clueless. I was like oh. Then I did my second show which was Ozzy Osbourne and Queensryche, back in 80 whatever. Well then, well then things change, you know I started doing other stupid shit, thought I was making tonnes of money and being a boss and of course that didn’t work out. So I ended up getting a taste of vacation time (Prison Sentence) and during that time, I was hell bent on never coming back you know, so I got clean and sober while I was doing my little (vacation) time, and that helped me get a little better edge and then I met Guy (while you know I was taking my vacation time) and his brother at the time, was doing a lot stuff in the music business and I didn’t really.. I honestly didn’t get his number. He left before me, about a year before, and it was really weird. I got out, time to to figure something out what am I going to do for work. It was probably about June, I think, I ended up going to a warped tour , I don’t know why, I just went and when I got there I didn’t even have money to fucking get inside, so I followed a couple of guys that look like me, you know like buffed and maybe taken some vacation time at some point and they are like Bro hey Brother and I’m like hey and they’re like are you coming in and I’m like dude I have no money you know and they’re like ‘I got you”. I ended up going inside and I could tell they were going to be up to no good and whatever and I knew I didn’t need any trouble, then so I saw the guy that I met and became work out partners with. I saw the dude there and he was standing at the back of one of the main stages and he was like ‘Big Kenny’ and I look and was like ‘Hey’. He was like want to come back here and I’m like ‘yeah’ so he went to his brother and got me a sticky tab and his brother saw how big I was and I was fucking huge. His brother goes ‘hey man. When I get back from this tour thing do you want to work with me?’ and I go ‘yeah what ever’. Fuck a job is a job you know. I didn’t really put it together so much. I thought maybe he had another business or what ever but he seemed like a nice guy so I thought fuck it yeah. Moneys is money. He ends up coming back and hiring me and that’s where my shit started and that’s probably in ’98.
Kel – Wow what a story! You turned it around
Kenny- Yeah pretty much
Kel- You ended up doing what you loved the most
Kenny – yes, yes I did
Kel – You have worked for Vans Warped Tour, Coachella, stage couch and many many more. Which has been your favourite and why?
Kenny – Oh well the Vans Warped Tour is my all time favourite, just because…Well there are a number of things. Kevin given me chance, even though I was a fucking not a very nice person in my life you know, then I had Kerry Nicolson production manager, and he put a lot of time and effort into me, taught me shit and I’ll always be thankful for that Kerry and Kevin you know. I wouldn’t have been able to make the career out of what I do
Kel- I remember watching you at Vans Warped Tour. You look like you’re such a natural. You really loved people. You loved helping them and on stage you loved the bands. You just loved everything that your doing)
Kenny- Well it was a learned love. When I first started working on the Vans Warped Tour, I was set on up crew and so I’ll tell you right now I was fucking… well I don’t even know how I could be around myself , like I was pretty gnarly. It’s true I was pretty gnarly. So I would say things to people and do shit and what ever and then I’d end up in the principles office which was Kevin. He didn’t fire me so you know, he could have you know, what I mean. But he kept hammering it home, ‘you can not talk to people that way, you can’t do that with the people’. You know i’d get a little frisky you know, at the time I had this crowd phobia you know like because of my prison time. I didn’t like being around crowds, so you know again, that’s the respect for him, for having the time to put into someone like me and let me keep forging ahead and come into my own shortly after a couple years or so. I’m doing set up crew and he gives me like this little stage and he’s like deal with it . You do it. you’re the manager. You put it all together, and I’m like argh ok, so thats kind of where I started. I was still rough, but I started changing, my attitude. Started getting to like start being a better person
Kel- It sounds like he really believed in you too to do that. He could really see your potential.
Kenny- He did and that’s why I love him so much and that’s why the Warped tour will always be my favourite, cause it made me who I was. Like you know the warped tour isn’t an easy tour and I’m not kidding. After the first year I was like I aren’t going back, that shit fucking hurts. I needed money and I did it again and then I did it again and that’s where that love, that strange love, started happening. That strange love of being with these people, working with these people, eating, sharing food with these people and sharing my life with these people
Kel – So I actually met the best version of you at the Vans Warped Tour then?
Kenny- Yeh (laughing) you probably did. Well, if I wasn’t yelling at you and being a asshole, then you did absolutely meet the best version me.
Kel- Over the years you have rubbed shoulders and established friendships with some of the biggest names in the industry. Who have been some of your favourites along the way on your journey?
Kenny – Gee that’s ahh – Reel Big Fish. I even became friends with Hayley from Paramore, new found Glory Guys, AFI when JB was out there busting it hard and heavy, shit I ended up going with like the Avenged Sevenfold guys. I love those dudes. I would do anything for them. Shit I don’t know, like Disturbed, like doing Metallica shows, Guns ‘n’ Roses. Fuck it just started going everywhere, so like in the beginning, those little biddy bands, I just loved those guys, you know, like Flogging Molly, they were my peeps you know. Fuck I can’t even name them all, you know. They became my family and I love and adore them. The list goes on and on. Like I even forged friendships with Machine Gun Kelly and he turned out to be, well first I thought he was a little shit head. I had to kind of get him into line and tell him that ain’t the way to do shit, and now I don’t know, every time I look at him, its like looking at my little brother.
Kel- Absolutely and like I said before, they respect you, they listen to you. Not everyone can have that with people. It’s like you’ve turned into a bit of a teacher yourself now
Kenny- That’s what happens when you get all the knowledge and information and you’ve got all the people believing in you then you start believing in yourself
Kel- Plus you’re a nice person. Like I know you say back in the day you weren’t, but you’ve grown into a nice person, so it’s all coming back around now. What you give out, you get back. Ok I’ll put this to you. In your teenager years and later years, you have looked up to and admired some of the best in the industry. Is there anyone else you like to give a mention that you admire from back when you were young
Kenny- Like bands what are you talking about?
Kel- Bands, friends, anybody ?
Kenny – My brothers, you know, even though I was the black sheep and stuff, they stayed behind me and gave me that. You know this is you. You can do it and now they tell me how proud of me they are. It feels good you know. My mom. I put that lady through the ringer and I was happy to be able to make her and my aunt’s memories. I was working with Toby Keith and they were huge fans of his and I like out them right up there with him, they got picture and talked to him.
Kel- Makes it all worthwhile now doesn’t it?
Kenny- Yeah my mom. Now I feel like she has seen her real son. You know what I mean
Kel – Absolutely that’s so sweet. If you could give any advice to anyone wanting to get into this line of business what would it be>
Kenny- Make sure the Coronavirus isn’t out and about!!! All I would tell them is to just believe in yourself. Just me from with personal experience from when like the Police and society labels you the freak loser, and then want to throw you away, you start believing them, and then you find somebody that actually gets through to you and pulls you through that shit and actually shows you who you are, and what you can be and what’s in the future for you. You know, I honestly didn’t think I had a future and that’s the truth. Without those people, without Kerry, without Kevin, I honestly don’t know if id be alive today and you know that’s the truth.
Kel – What has been the most rewarding part of your career?
Kenny – The most rewarding part is, just knowing I finally know what I’m doing and just being fucking good at what I do, and then the fans telling you on the way out ‘Thank you so much, I couldn’t have done it without you’, Like that just seems crazy to me. Like I feel they could have done it and then you hear you were the greatest and that’s the shit we don’t hear enough in our entire life times. It can make us depressed and make us like we’re worthless you know. What we think that shit, and then you get this shit and get that confirmation and I don’t get it. I need it, but when you get it its fucking beautiful thing.
Kel- whilst growing up who were your favorited bands and why?
Kenny – Well growing up I was like, my folks were country peeps so I had Johnny Cash, was like one of them. I didn’t really care for too many others however I did like Hank Williams as well. I would like secretly listen to like Johnny Cash and Hank Williams and then I went to my first concert and I was just a fucking kid. I was literally a kid and it was at a fair and it was in Texas and I went and saw a band I don’t know if you have heard of them they are called The Box Tops and they had this girl open up for them and that girl turned out to be Tanya Tucker. She was probably 15 at the time. I think I was like 9, and it was just like wow. You know there was something about the live music that did something for me and then there was Kiss and I’m like OMG , Jimmy Hendricks, Janis Joplin. I wasn’t really a big Doors fan. The Doors just kind of seemed very mundane to me, but like jimmy Hendricks, Janis Joplin was so fiery, full of energy and she just killed it. So yeah, those were some of my earlier influencers. People that I wish at some point I could have met them.
Kel – If you could choose another dream job what profession it would be?
Kenny – probably, I don’t know. I can’t think of anything honestly. Now that I’ve been here, done that, I couldn’t think of me doing anything else and like I don’t want to be a fucking lawyer. I don’t want to be like a money mogul. Yeah honestly, maybe like a cop or something I don’t know. Now that I’ve got my head on straight and I can think properly I’d make a good cop. Maybe a parole officer. Who knows!
Kel – You must have seen and heard a lot of amazing stories whilst on tour. Is there any that you can share?
Kenny- I did a lot of like signing you know. like be quiet or get sued shit. Things yeah you know most of my artists I worked for personally that was just the thing. Sign the ‘keep quiet clause’ so yeh I keep it pretty much to myself. I look at them and who knows when day i’ll write a book and at that time I’m going to be retired
Kel – I saw that you starred in a video clip with that Swedish band Amon Amarth. What was that like?
Kenny – Ahh they were cool. They were cool as shit. We shot these three videos and in the videos I played Ogre and it was really fucking rad. Like I had a good time with them super fucking nice guys. You look at them and think mmm maybe metal oh I don’t know rock and then they were like roar roar roar but they were like sweet dudes. My friend Jenny is like in their management company. I saw online her talking about them and then looking for people, so I hit her up. I wasn’t doing shit and I was home and she was like OMG come down here now please. So they fitted me out made me an ogre, put a big thing in my eye, put a scare on face. I gave up my eye for more knowledge. It was fun (
Kel – yeah. I remember seeing it and I thought god, what are you doing now. It was awesome to see something else you could jump into and you fitted the role perfectly.
Kenny- Thanks yeah it was fun. See it’s just shit like that I have fun with. I was in Avenged Sevenfold video too, and I had fun with it. We had fun. I also did one with snoop dog and a couple of other dudes in it and of course I played a guy locked up.
Kel – How do you manage to stay so incredible humble in the rock n roll industry?
Kenny – Because I feel the fucking douchebags out there and I see how they treat people and it fucking pisses me off. When we did the Vans Warped Tour show – it just started happening. We just become famous and kids coming up to us and I could never see myself being a douchebag. Like I’m not an artist, but you have these kids and they want to know shit and they want to talk to you so I don’t treat them like that.
Kel – So I think I know what the answer is going to be but I’ll ask anyway, What has been your greatest achievement?
Kenny – Well my greatest achievement is pretty much staying alive. Yeah being alive. That’s a good achievement. I mean honestly, the truth of the matter is, my prior life and my life now are two different things. Back then, I honestly didn’t think I’d live past 30, so yeah staying alive. I had to have a quadruple bypass that was frighting and I got run over by my motorcycle a couple of times. I just feel like the way I live now, that I am just feeling like karma has come back around now you know. Treat people right and I know things happen to you but karma will smile on you and you know I have been very very fortunate
Kel – Thank you so much friend. I’m so honoured you let me interview you for a second time
Kenny – Alright my love. Thank you