Kasim Sulton has carved out quite the distinguished name for himself over his 46-plus years as a professional musician.
Chances are that Kasim's accomplishments are an indelible part of your daily playlist, wheter you realize it or not. To date, Sulton has played and sung on albums that have sold more than 85 million copies, regularly performing and touring with world renown bands.
Kasim is at the top of the call sheet whenever established rock artists need an anchor who can both hold down the low end and harmonize alongside the best vocalists in the business, whether it be on the live stage or in the recording studio. (Sulton is also a top-shelf bandleader and songwriter in his own right, having graced the Top 40 a few times himself.) Indeed, Sulton has played with a veritable who’s who of rock royalty who continue to be broadcast all across this country’s programming dial day in and day out. In addition to having been Todd Rundgren’s go-to righthand bass player in Utopia and his various solo projects for over 45 years and counting, Sulton has been a valued band member for artists like Meat Loaf (for whom he also served as music director for 10 years), Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, Hall & Oates, Cheap Trick, Patty Smyth, former Eagles guitarist Don Felder, and Blue Öyster Cult, to name but a few.
“Kasim is fantastic,” observes Don Felder, who enlisted Sulton’s bass and vocals skills in 2017. “As a matter of fact, when I saw him playing with Todd Rundgren on one of the Rock Legends Cruises, I went, ‘Man, that’s a killer bass player! And he sings really well too.’ When he went on tour with me, he just played and sang everything perfectly. We were definitely hearing some cool things we hadn’t heard before when Kasim was in my band.”
Adds Tommy Shaw, the stalwart Styx guitarist/vocalist who’s known Sulton for decades as a tourmate with other bands as well as as an occasional onstage guest, “We love seeing Kasim out on the road. He has that certain joy about his playing and singing that audiences always seem to respond to in such a good way. Kasim is also somebody we call ‘a good hang’ — and I can’t wait to see him out there again.”
Where did Kasim’s drive to create music and please audiences the world over start? The Beatles’ electrifying appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964. “That was my lightning bolt moment. I’ll never forget that night because I remember saying to myself, ‘Ok, I’m done. I know what I want to do for the rest of my life. I’m going to be a Musician.’ For me, everything stems from those initial Beatles years. They did more in eight years together than a lot of bands accomplish in their entire career. They had a profound impact on myself and, in fact, the world. There was just something about Beatles music that always resonated with me. Their chord structures, their lyrics, and their song arrangements all shaped me as a musician. They became my point of reference.”
Even amidst all the accolades from fans and peers alike, Kasim remains grounded, mainly thanks to the values instilled in him by his parents while he was growing up in Staten Island, New York, in the ’50s and ’60s. “My dad was old school,” Sulton recalls, “he impressed upon me the importance of being a gentleman, how to be polite and courteous. I just think it’s a lot better to be humble than it is to come off like the world owes you something. My mother always said to me, ‘Make sure you get along with your friends, because you will always have to get along with others.’ As I got more and more into making music, I also figured out I had to learn how to play well with others too.”
Right out of the gate as a young musician, Sulton’s “play well with others” mantra was exactly what Todd Rundgren was looking for when in 1976, he was recruited to take over the bass, background/harmony and Co-Lead vocal duties in Utopia, Rundgren’s popular neo-pop/prog collective. “God love him, man,” Sulton says of his band captain, longtime friend, and creative foil. “The amount of work Todd puts into putting on a show is something I will always greatly admire. Next to doing my solo stuff, I enjoy playing with Todd more than anything. Utopia was a really, really great band — and we were a great live band too.”
With Utopia, Kasim’s dreams came true by way of sold-out world tours, creatively satisfying album projects, and majestic chart appearances. Kasim also happens to hold the fine distinction of being the lead singer on Utopia’s lone Top 40 single, “Set Me Free,” which made it all the way to No. 27 in 1980. He even garnered a solo hit under his own name in
1982, when the horn-driven “Don’t Break My Heart” made its way into
the Canadian Top 40 singles chart.
Whatever the case, Sulton’s chief goal as a singer/performer remains clear — serve the song first. “It’s always about supporting the song, and always about the lyrics” he explains. “How can I best feature the lyric, the melody, or what the song is about? What can I contribute to help make the song more listenable, and capture your attention? Sometimes it’s about playing a little bit more, and sometimes it’s about playing a little bit less.”
Being able to marry the best of all these harmonic worlds led Sulton to come up with Kasim Sulton’s Utopia, a touring collective he fronts that explores the finest elements of the storied Utopia catalog. It’s a handpicked band he very much looks forward to getting back out on the road with when time permits. “I make sure to honor the audience with the song choices I’ve made,” he explains. “Since the Utopia fans have been so loyal and devoted over the years, it’s my pleasure to keep doing this for them.”
If all this wasn’t enough, Kasim also hosts his own terrestrial radio show ‘It’s My World And Welcome To It’. Airing weekly in 7 markets, the one hour show is a celebration of new and old music peppered with first hand stories of a life recording albums, performing and touring the world.
To quote a popular Utopia song “but there’s more!”....
2022 will see the release of a fictional series podcast loosely based on Kasim’s life both on and off the road. “UnSung” is a smart comedic look at the life of a successful musician who constantly juggles his time between being a Rockstar and the all too familiar struggles of parenthood, did we mention he nearly dies on stage?
Ultimately, the bottom line for Kasim’s ongoing success is quite simple. “The secret in my book is, if people appreciate your talent and you’re good enough at what you do, and you’re a nice enough person, folks will want to be around you. It’s just like I said before: It’s not so much how well you play — it’s how well you play with others.”