By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Jan 17, 2011 at 1:08 PM

Milwaukee native Kevn Kinney comes home to play Shank Hall with Drivin' N Cryin' for the first time in years on Wednesday, Jan. 19.

Although Kinney has been a relatively frequent visitor to his hometown to play material from his solo records, this time expect to hear Kinney and company focus on Drivin' N Cryin' music.

Last year, after Kinney got back up to speed after suffering voice woes, the band released its first disc of new music in a dozen years, "Whatever Happened to The Great American Bubble Factory," is on the road in short bursts to promote it.

We talked to Kinney -- whose band here, The Prosecutors, is still legendary -- about Drivin' N Cryin', and especially about Milwaukee... Did it feel good to get the band back together in the studio to record "The Greatest American Bubble Factory"?

Kevn Kinney: It was great to rehearse more. We play so many shows we rarely rehearse so it was great getting together and playing and changing things around. Dave (V. Johnson) brought his old ADAT recording set up. We went down to Tim's (Nielsen) basement, had some beers coffee and Coca-Cola and just jammed. We put a poster on the wall listing the things we wanted to accomplish on the wall a reminder to ourselves to stay true and make a record for Drivin' N Cryin' fans; make a record that could represent the spirit of a live show.

OMC: Why was there such a long period -- 12 years -- in between?

KK: Well, I had lost my voice about five years ago, so it was not only hard to record but impossible to do press or interviews of any sort. Before you could type interviews. But I also put out a few solo records and was in Europe a bit.

So after I had surgery about three years ago I discovered I could not only sing all of my songs but better, so that was exciting to know. I went in and did a spoken word record right away.

OMC: That's the upcoming "Pre Approved Pre Denied"? Can you tell us a little about what we can expect?

KK: It is half rambling spoken word inspired by my friend Todd Snider. He would send me a word a day and I would write him some prose.

OMC: How do you decide what material goes to the band and what you hold back for your solo records? Does the band ever say, "hey, why didn't you give us that one?!"

KK: I'm not sure. In a kind of a twilight zone answer the songs will tell you where they want to be.

OMC: Can folks expect to hear music from both at the Shank show or will you stick strictly to music from Drivin' N Cryin' records?

KK: I will play mostly Drivin' N Cryin' songs. We have over 100 songs we can play at any given moment so we like to mix it up a good bit; try to play at least one song from every album. We don't ever use a set list, we just kinda feel our way through it.

OMC: Can we talk a bit about Milwaukee and your connection? Was it exciting being a part of the rock and roll scene around The Starship and those places back then?

KK: Oh yeah, nothing like listening to Die Kreuzen soundcheck and playing the Gorgar pinball machine. Between The Prosecutors, Die Kreuzen, Oil Tasters, that was very much our home and safe zone. Kenny Baldwin was our (CBGB owner) Hilly Kristal except he was a brilliant drummer and super nice guy. He created an atmosphere that was essential to my musical education. I mean you can see X and then Sun Ra. I know now after marrying an ex-club owner the bullshit and egos you deal with on a daily basis. The permits and general backlash in the community that you're not a real business. Europe is eye-opening in that respect as well. Musicians and clubs are seen as a legitimate way of working and contributing to the community.

OMC: What led you to leave Milwaukee for Atlanta in the early '80s? Did you plan to return or did you know you were saying goodbye for good?

KK: Winter.

OMC: Have you maintained any kind of connection to the music scene here?

KK: Not really, music scenes change monthly. I don't even keep in touch that much with the music scene in Atlanta. I live in Brooklyn now and I go out about three times a week.

OMC: Have there been Milwaukee bands that have caught your attention over the years?

KK: I really love the Scarring Party. They stayed in our apartment here in Brooklyn. Really great macabre crooner styling. I wish my friend Vic Chesnutt was still with us, he would have loved them.

OMC: I know you've come back regularly to perform but do you get back much to visit friends and family?

KK: I get back mainly to stay with my mom. It's funny she still flashes the bedroom light when its time to get up! Love it. Family is very important to me. I am bringing my daughter and granddaughter with me. I spent so many years dedicated to touring and huddled down, plotting the career, ever aware not to miss any opportunity so that it might destroy all you worked for. Its great to get together with all my sister and extended family and just f*ckin' play Scrabble. Then I will call Peter Jest and say, "Hey, man, any way I can play down there tonight?" I did a show at Shank Hall recently with Sam Llanas and it was fantastic.

OMC: What do you think about the state of the city now when you return? Does it look familiar?

KK: You know I love it when I meet another musician and it comes up in conversation that I am from Milwaukee and the tell me what great and beautiful city it is. I try my best not to wax poetic on the late '70s recession era but it does occasionally slip out.

OMC: What do you like to do when you're visiting? Any places you've got to go (restaurants, bars, sights, etc.)?

KK: I like to take my mom to Pieces of Eight, cause growing up it just seemed like a place we could never go. It looked so private. It's amazing how few lakefront restaurants there are. I love Pete's Pizza -- still the same after all these years. Still the best crust. And I live in Brooklyn! And I always get Mexican, of course. I always drive by The Haskel Hotel on Arlington and tip my hat to all of the great mentors that took me under their wing and taught me so much about everything. (Like) music; (it was the) first place I ever heard the MC5, (and) life; (I) was practicing with The Prosecutors when we heard John Lennon had been murdered. Friends Doug Lavalliere was my best friend and roommate and co-roadie of The Oil Tasters. Relationships: lost my virginity there. Recording: recorded my first session there with Marty, (the Haskells sound man and my ex-boss at Peaches. Break ups, make ups, cars blowing up in the back yard. No wonder I'm so f*cked up. THANKS MILWAUKEE!!!

Also this week at Shank, Deflection -- a Milwaukee band that draws inspiration from bands as diverse as Alice in Chains and Coldplay -- celebrates the release of its new disc on Friday, Jan. 21. Mathew Haeffel opens the 10 p.m. show. Cover is $10 and includes a copy of the CD.

On Saturday, another Milwaukee band launches a CD. Holly Haebig -- who fronts the Milwaukee Love Collective -- has performed with One Drum, De La Buena, Kirtan with Ragani, DevaNation, The UrbanItes and the Earth Poets and Musicians -- and her group The Milwaukee Love Collective is a name for the more than 20 musicians who worked with her on her new record.

Ali and The Desert Sound Ensemble open the $10, 8 p.m. show.

At some other venues this week:

The Cactus Club has a full slate of shows this week, too, including:

Toxic Holocaust, Burning Sons and Architects Of The Aftermath on Tuesday at 9 p.m.

A listening party featuring the new records -- "Shadowlands" and "Tea Party" -- by our own JC Poppe on Thursday at 9. There will also be DJ sets by Kid Millions, DJ Bizzon and Ku Mays.

There's a Powerwagon reunion, with Iron Breather and Scrimshaw opening on Friday at 10 p.m.

Finally, The Snowbirds, Trapper Schoepp & The Shades, and Tim Schweiger & The Middlemen play at 10 on Saturday.

The Rave packs three shows into one night on Friday, Jan. 21:

There's a Psychopathic Records All-Star Show with Blaze Ya Dead Homie, Anybody Killa and Axe Murder Boys at 6 p.m.

Ill Nino tops the bill as the Restore the Insanity Tour lands at 7 p.m. Also playing are Anew Revolution, Ekotren and Fashion Bomb.

Hip-hop's Wiz Khalifa performs at 8.

Turner Hall hosts Liz Phair on Friday at 8 p.m. and a free show by School of Seven Bells on Sunday at 8. Meanwhile, Dark Star Orchestra plays at The Pabst on Friday at 9.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He has be heard on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories, in that station's most popular podcast.