“I was always happy just being the guitar player,” Dave Keuning says. “All my idols growing up — Angus Young, Keith Richards — were the guitar player. That’s all I really ever wanted to be.”
As a member of the Killers for the past 17 years, that’s exactly what Keuning has been. But that’s about to change. The guitarist has now unveiled a solo project, named Keuning, as well as a new album, Prismism. The 14 tracks effort boast plenty of Killers-esque New Wave rockers, but also show Keuning indulging a long simmering fascination with electronic sounds, keyboards and drum machines. “This record shows sides of me that maybe people haven’t had a chance to see before,” he says. “Like, they may not have known I had all these keyboard riffs hidden away. But now I’ve finally gotten them out.”
Today, Rolling Stone is premiering the first single from Prismism, the jaunty “Restless Legs.” Keuning calls it one of his favorite tracks on the record, though he also cautions, “I don’t know if any one song really represents the album.” As for its origins, he explains, “ ‘Restless Legs’ was kind of an experiment in making a quick pop tune. I was in my home studio messing around with keyboard sounds, and that triggered certain riffs that were just bouncy and fun to play.” For the animated video, he called on the services of director Russell Sheaffer. “He spent about a month of his life cutting out paper dolls,” Keuning says with a laugh. “I paid him, thankfully, because it took a lot of time — there’s thousands of those things.”
In addition to writing the music and lyrics on Prismism, Keuning also performed, save for some drum tracks, all the instrumental parts. And that includes the vocals. “I never aspired to be a vocalist, because I’m pretty self-conscious about my voice,” he admits. “But it just made sense that I should sing once I decided I was going to do my own thing.”
Keuning’s decision to “do his own thing” came after he opted to take a break from the Killers in 2017. He’s still a member of the band — he says he’s currently in the “super early” stages of working on music for a potential new album — though he bowed out of the tour in support of 2017’s Wonderful Wonderful in favor of spending more time at home with his family. “It was such a hard decision,” he says. “But there wasn’t a way to figure it out other than do the whole tour or do none of it. And being at home was important enough to me that I knew I couldn’t be gone for a year and a half.”
Writing and recording Prismism at his home in San Diego allowed him to still be immersed in music without having to be away for extended periods of time. “It was great because I could have my son around, and I didn’t have to rent studio space and lug gear in and out and do all that. I had the engineers and producers come to me. So I could just wake up and be creative. The whole experience was a lot of fun.”
Which is not to say that Keuning won’t be bringing Prismism out on the road. In fact, he assures, “I have a few shows I’ll probably announce soon, and I’m definitely going to do some dates next year.” (Details for several gigs are now on his website.) “Obviously, I won’t be doing as much touring as the Killers ever did, because if I wanted to do that I would just tour with the Killers. But I definitely want to do some gigs around San Diego, and I also want to go to England and Mexico and all my other favorite places to play.
“That’s the great thing about this project,” Keuning continues, “I have complete flexibility of not only making whatever music I want to make, but also making whatever schedule I want to make.”