The Many Faces of Mike Keneally

Mike Keneally
Mike Keneally

Perhaps best know for his work with Frank Zappa or more recently as a member of Steve Vai’s touring band, Mike Keneally draws his own dedicated following with his band Beer for Dolphins, and solo efforts like his latest masterpiece “Nonkertompf.”Flying Solo

Including more than 30 songs and spanning over almost 74 minutes, the “completely solo” album “Nonkertompf” features Keneally on every instrument – guitar, keyboards, drums, saxophone, and more! Keneally explained that the name and the whole concept for the album were thought up when he was only 12 years old.

“Its not a real word. It evokes a feeling in me that even I don’t understand…That word helped me form a picture of what the music was supposed to be. So, I carried this weird picture in the back of my head for 25 years.” And when Keneally blurted this idea out to Scott Chatfield last year, Scott said let’s do it. And they did. While waiting for the international Vai tour to start, the two joined forces and started a label called Exowax Recordings. Keneally quickly recorded the album, and released it on Exowax in August of 1999.

Mike says that the album is “very personal and it is very different…not necessarily easy to follow.” However, “The people who are inclined to like it, love it!” He credits the Internet as being “ ridiculously helpful” in getting his music heard. His Web site is the first place that people go if they want to find out about him. Since the site was created in 1994, Keneally has gained a tremendous following.

These fans have really taken to his new album and sales are booming as a result. Mike explains that those who visit and keep in touch via his Web site and newsgroups seem to feel closer to the music as a result. “There is a connection. They feel like we have become friends and in a way we have.” He also proudly said that these fans are people with good taste, who he wouldn’t mind having as friends regardless.

Steve Vai’s Right-hand Man
Through touring with Steve Vai does take him away from his own projects, Keneally explains that Vai “is one of the few people that I would like to dedicate so much time to.” When he first met Vai, Keneally was rehearsing with Frank Zappa in late 1987. They later collaborated for a tribute at Zappa’s Universe in 1991, when Vai made a guest appearance and played with the band on four songs.

They didn’t start working together solidly until nearly five years later, and then, Keneally toured as a member of Vai’s band through most of 1997. Once again, he is touring with Vai in support of the Steve Vai “Ultra Zone” album, which was recently released on Epic. Keneally says that he enjoys letting someone else be in charge for a while, though he is still using the tour as an opportunity to promote his solo effort “Nonkertompf.” The international Vai tour is slated to end in the spring, and then Keneally plans to begin work with his own band, Beer for Dolphins.

His Band
Beer for Dolphins (BFD) originally began as a three-piece band. During the last Steve Vai tour, the band opened for several shows. However, BFD has now doubled in members. And as s a six-piece, it was completely impossible financially for BFD to support Vai on this tour.

Keneally explained that “the budget for the opening act on this tour is minimal.” So, he is now able to relax a little bit, instead of performing in both the opening and headlining bands as he did on the last Vai tour. But when the tour ends, Keneally plans to work on a new BFD record and start his own tour after its release.

A Little on the Side
As if he is not busy enough, Mike Keneally and his band-mates Mike Mangini (Steve Vai) on drums and Bryan Beller (Beer for Dolphins) on Bass also recently collaborated with James LaBrie, the voice of Dream Theater, and keyboard player Matt Guillory, on LaBrie’s solo project, Mullmuzzler.

Keneally says that “It is a solid album, a lot of good performing and writing on it, ” and describes the project as “more like classic ‘70s rock – Zepplinish…” The album, “Keep it to Yourself” was produced by Terry Brown and released on Magna Carta, a progress rock label, in the United States.