Surprised Kool & the Gang Is Van Halen Opener? So Are They
Surprised Kool & the Gang Is Van Halen Opener? So Are They

K ool & the Gang plan to celebrate plenty of good times on the road with Van Halen in the coming weeks -- even if the rest of the world seems to think it's an incredibly odd pairing.

"We're not that worried about it," co-founder Robert "Kool" Bell tells Billboard.com. "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."

Bell says having Kool & the Gang open for Van Halen's North American tour -- kicking off Jan. 18 in Louisville -- was frontman David Lee Roth's idea. Roth saw Kool and company perform at the 2011 Glastonbury festival and enjoyed it so much that he lobbied the band onto the bill. "I was kind of surprised," Bell admits, "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."

Kool & the Gang will play a 50-minute set before each Van Halen show, according to Bell, and in addition to the big hits the group plans to incorporate its handful of more rock-leaning songs such as "Misled," "Tonight" and "Emergency," which it also played at Glastonbury. As for possible collaborations with Roth or the rest of Van Halen, Bell says that "we've got to see as it goes. Right now (Roth) is happy about us being here and doing the tour with them. We don't know if it'll turn into anything more than that." But, he adds, his bandmates are stoked about the opportunity to see the headliners play each night.

"A lot of the guys in my band are definitely into them," Bell reports. "Of course Eddie, everyone knows that blistering solo he did for Michael Jackson on 'Beat It,' and a lot of my guys are familiar with other tracks they've done." The two groups have been together for rehearsals in Los Angeles this week, and Bell says "it flows. Everybody's cool so far. Everything is, as they say, cool in the gang."

The Gang, meanwhile, is also thinking about doing some recording after the Van Halen tour and maybe coming up with the group's first new album since 2007's "Still Kool." "We're writing and doing some things, some different concepts," Bell says. "It's not only the original members but the guys who are with us, we're constantly writing and coming up with different ideas. Hopefully we'll get some product out before the year is out."