Since March 27, Kansas fans have speculated about the reasons for Robby Steinhardt's departure from the band and his re-replacement by his former replacement David Ragsdale. See my posts here and here. In one of the best interviews I've ever read from drummer and band manager Phil Ehart, we now get the details. Robby wasn't fired, but he didn't just leave on his own either. He'd gradually been losing interest in the band, and it was showing in his performance. Eventually, the band had to make him realize that his heart wasn't in it and that it was affecting the band. But they didn't fire him. They left it to him to decide what to do, and he realized that he didn't really want to keep doing it.
There's lots of other great stuff in the interview. He explains why he has insisted that the band be part of any efforts by labels to repackaged already-released material and remasters, even with projects he wouldn't have been motivated to do. He just thinks that if it's going to be done, it ought to be done right with band input. He reflects on Always Never the Same, the album (with the following tour) that utilized an orchestra as a sixth band member. He also offers thoughts on their current situation with their two writers reserving material for other projects, the different band lineups over the years, and the controversial period of the early 80s when two band members became evangelical Christians, singer Steve Walsh left over the explicit Christian lyrics that followed, and newcomer John Elefante turned out to be an evangelical Christian himself, leaving them with a majority Christian band.
He reveals that he himself is a Christian, but he didn't think it was fair to the band members who didn't share Kerry Livgren's views to turn the band into what effectively was acting as a Christian band. He also doesn't include himself with Kerry Livgren and Dave Hope when he describes it as "one third of the original six". If you counted Phil, it would be half, not a third. He may just be referring to one third of the original members as having recently had conversion experiences, or he may have meant that one third had the view Kerry Livgren had about using Kansas as a vehicle for evangelistic songs, a view Phil obviously didn't share. Then again, it's possible that he just doesn't identify himself as an evangelical the way they do, and that's what the percentage referred to. I did read a report of him calling into the Bible Answer Man saying that he was a regular listener, though. So I'm not entirely sure what to make of his statements on his Christianity.
He talks about his dad's death around this time, which made it into the liner notes of one of the albums as "This album is dedicated to two loved ones who are now with the Lord, Howard Ehart and Dan Dehaan. To know them was to love and respect them for their devotion to God, Family and their fellow man. They will be missed." His account of what recording that album was like for him reminds me of when I had to grade 90 ethics papers in the days following my brother's death in 1997.
One thing I found amusing when I was looking for pictures of him was this. I guess Phil Ehart is politically conservative. It's true that rock musicians tend to be pretty liberal, but Kansas is one of the reddest states in the country, and I know Phil isn't the only politically conservative member of the band. Kerry Livgren is pretty conservative, and I remember Rich Williams describing himself in an interview as conservative, but I can't find it online. Maybe it was on one of their DVDs.