KOOL & THE GANG Co-Founder: 'We Will Survive' Opening For VAN HALEN

Robert "Kool" Bell, co-founder of the legendary New Jersey jazz, R&B, soul, and funk group KOOL & THE GANG, spoke to Billboard.com about the band's seemingly unlikely support slot on VAN HALEN's North American tour, which is scheduled to kick off on February 18 in Louisville, Kentucky.

"We're not that worried about it," Bell said. "We had big hits in the '80s, and so did they. They've been kind of like a party band on the rock side, with their audience, and their audience is 60 percent female and we have songs like 'Ladies' Night' and 'Celebration'... and our audience is at least 80 percent a pop audience. Most of the time we have a crowd that's 80 percent white. Plus we do a lot of international dates with DEF LEPPARD, MEAT LOAF, URIAH HEEP, CHICAGO, ELTON JOHN... A lot of people don't know that 'cause they don't really see it. So I think we'll survive."

VAN HALEN singer David Lee Roth reportedly got KOOL & THE GANG added his band's tour after seeing them perform at the 2011 Glastonbury festival. "I was kind of surprised," Bell admitted, "because VAN HALEN is more on the rock side and we do what we do. I said, 'That's an interesting combination...' It really caught us by surprise. But the more people I mention it to, the more interesting they're saying it is."

In a recent interview with the QMI Agency, Roth stated about VAN HALEN's decision to get KOOL & THE GANG to support them on their upcoming North American tour, "We picked KOOL & THE GANG to open for us because KOOL & THE GANG and VAN HALEN are the sounds of an entire continent at recreation. We've come to represent that — although you're more likely to hear KOOL & THE GANG at a bar mitzvah than me, even though I'm a brother. You go to a Hasidic Jewish bar mitzvah and they'll play 'Ladies' Night' by KOOL. Me, they'll let in — 'But he doesn't sing; he runs with the devil!'"

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