Mike Kellogg seems like an unassuming, clean-cut suburbanite who might otherwise pass as a poster boy for middle-class composure. That is, until the Redline Defiance frontman plugs in his Les Paul. Then he's all sorts of rage — the repressed kind, the type you carry with you into adulthood when a couple of twisted fucks storm into your high school, armed to the teeth and hellbent on death and destruction.
Kellogg was eating lunch in the cafeteria on that spring day in 1999 when Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold unleashed hell on the unsuspecting Columbine campus. The same cafeteria should have been buried under rubble once a twenty-pound propane bomb detonated. That the homemade explosive failed to detonate offered Kellogg little comfort when the bullets started flying. It also didn't help that once he was outside, things only got worse.
"I saw a couple of my friends get shot outside," recalls the 23-year-old, still shaken around the edges. And why not? Butchery at any age leaves a mark. For a sheltered, fresh-on-the-world teenager whose biggest concerns should have been pimples and No. 2 pencils, the violence traumatized. It also transformed, forever changing Kellogg's outlook on life and his need to play things safe. "I locked myself inside my room and picked up my guitar," he recalls. "Life's too fucking short...to live like everyone else."
CD-release party, with Otherside of Clearview, Epilogues and Saving Verona, 8 p.m. Friday, February 22, Gothic Theatre, 3263 South Broadway, Englewood, $8-$10, 1-866-468-7621.
Before long, Kellogg learned some chords and started writing songs, which proved to be cathartic in terms of dealing with the tragedy that nearly took his life. "I realized there are a lot of things you could actually push for and want to do," Kellogg says. "I've always wanted to play guitar, but after Columbine, I realized I didn't want to waste time doing anything else."
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A decade later, Kellogg remains true to this vision. For almost six years, he's focused solely on Redline Defiance, a project he founded with fellow guitarist Emerson Willis. The band hasn't exactly been an instant hit. At times, it has struggled to maintain focus and a stable lineup, as well as grow its fan base. To hear Kellogg and Emerson talk about their softcore, pop-friendly debut LP, Last of the Cellophane, you'd think they were embarrassed parents covering for a special-needs child who peed on the neighbor's carpet. "We produced the old CD a lot more than this new one," Kellogg points out. "We wanted White to be straight, cut and dry. We wanted people to get the pure essence of what we're trying to get across."
The once sputtering four-piece has since stabilized with the addition of bassist Carlos Martin and veteran drummer Seth Bennett, who's been pounding skins longer than Kellogg has had adult teeth. With a new lease on life, the band is ready and eager to foist its stripped-down, screamo-lite emo metal on the masses.
"In my sixth-grade yearbook," Kellogg notes, "everyone said they wanted to be a soccer player or a princess. I wrote that I wanted to be a fucking rock star."
Visit Backbeat Online for more of our interview with Redline Defiance frontman Mike Kellogg.