Interview with Joe Deninzon

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I currently spoke to violinist/guitars/vocalist Joe Deninzon, when he called from Arizona, where he is currently in the middle of the western leg of Kansas’s 50th Anniversary tour. As the newest member of the band (taking over for David Ragsdale, Kansas’s violinist/guitarist/vocalist for the past 25 years) Deninzon steps in and surely up leading with his unmatchable style and good humor to play an instrument that has always been integral to the Kansas sound.

And is damn glad to be doing so.

Joe also writes the songs for and leads his prog rockin’ band Stratospheerius (that’s Joe and his band in the picture here). Yes, the guy is busy…just like he wants it to be.

I just recently read and know from something I posted that Kansas is extending the tour (they hit Morristown’s Mayo Theatre, 4/26/2024)

Yes, it’s a beautiful thing. They keep going, love to work. I hope when I am in my seventies I have the energy Phil and Rich do (Phil Ehart and Rich Williams are the original drummer and guitarist of Kansas, respectively)

You seem to be a regular at ProgStock (happening this year Oct 8th-9th at the Williams Carlos Williams Center in Rutherford) and I know you have some time off from Kansas this year and will be appearing there again.

Yes, In fact, I started attending ProgStocks back in 2015, as well as the “Cruise To The Edge” tours (progressive rock concerts at sea), sitting in with groups as well as with my band Stratospheerious. (Joe’s new 2-CD set is called Joe Deninzon & Stratospheerius: Behind The Curtain, Live at ProgStock). Over the years, I’ve become known as the prog violinist.

Which had to have given you high visibility I am sure.

Yes, which is how I was on the Kansas radar. I got the call to join the band in May. I actually got the call from Ton Brislin (Kansas keyboardist and music director) when I was in the hospital after cutting my thumb making a salad.

A violist cutting his thumb…maybe you should stay away forms salads

Yes, no more salads for me.

In Kansas you are stepping into some rather big shoes, from the band’s original vocalist/singer Robbie Steinhardt (who died in 2021) to Davd Ragsdale (who was it the band for the past twenty-five years). Even though you are an accomplished player, did you find manning that lead instrument in this classic band, intimidating?

I look to honor what those guys played as much as bring my style into it. I phrase things differently than Robbie and David, as they would be different from me. We’re all different players. Anytime you have a new player, they’re gonna bring themselves, they’re gonna bring their style into it, right? No matter what. So yeah, that’s just nature and that’s OK. But I also want to stay true to what the fans are used to hearing and honor the many years of history this band represents.

I know you have a new Stratospheerius record coming out next year, and when you can you will do those ProgStocks and other shows, but would you say, for the forseeable future, you have definitely landed in Kansas?

I do love working with Stratospheerius and we will probably play more regional shows whenever, I’m not playing with Kansas. But yes, Kansas is my number one priority.

Not a bad situation to be in, huh?

No, not bad at all!

photo credit: Joel Barrios

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