After spending two years out of football with a back injury, former All-Pro offensive tackle Kyle Turley has returned to the NFL and helped put the Kansas City Chiefs in the playoff race. However, Turley could have just as easily stayed away. Between music and ultimate fighting, Turley has lots of other options. He discussed some of that during his "Off Day" as the Chiefs got ready to face Cleveland this week.
Jason Cole: Aside from football, you play guitar and recently played drums with a death-metal band in Phoenix. It's always been my opinion that athletes and musicians are pretty similar from a mental standpoint because both like to go up on stage and put their art on display. Is that valid?
Turley: I think it's really valid. Every musician I've ever met wants to be a pro athlete and every pro athlete wants to be a musician. Basically, both of them live for that adrenaline rush you get when you're on stage or on the field. You get that rush from the fans, whether they boo or cheer. You throw everything out there and see how people feel about it.
Cole: Which do you prefer: guitar or drums?
Turley: I play both and like them. I'm a little partial to drums because of the aggressive nature of it. Drums just seem to be in my nature. But guitar, I've played that all my life and you can't make up a song just with the drum beat. You miss the melody. With a guitar, you can pluck away and let the rhythm develop what you're doing with the song.
Cole: Do you play before practice or after?
Turley: Definitely not in the morning. We have to be there so early, around 8 a.m. … I definitely wait to play when I get back. I sit out on the porch in the back and play, watch the sunset.
Cole: Sounds like you have a nice place.
Turley: Yeah, we're renting a house in Kansas City. It's in a perfect spot. The back of the house faces West, so you see the sunset. It's up on a slight hill so we look out over the neighbors and watch the sun go down. It's really pretty … Yeah, definitely no smog like in Los Angeles.
Cole: You still have a place in West Hollywood in California?
Turley: No, we actually just sold that place. My wife and I are moving to Nashville (Tenn.). She's from there. I went out there and I was kind of blown away by it. Nashville's not bad, not like someone from California would think right away. It's a pretty hip town and there's a lot going on.
I grew up in California my whole life and in all that time, the population has probably doubled or tripled. It's just so out of control. My wife and I are talking about having kids and California is just not a place where I wanted to raise my kids at this point. It's too much.
(There are) straight flights from Nashville to L.A. and that sounds a lot better than sitting in traffic for four hours from San Diego to L.A. … Plus, your money just doesn't go anywhere. With what we sold our 1,800-square foot home in L.A. for, we bought a mansion in Nashville.
Cole: You started your own record label, Gridiron Records. How's that going?
Turley: We got started in the summer – me and a friend of mine, Mikey Doling. He used to be the lead guitarist with a group called Snot. They played Ozzfest back in the 1990s, but the lead singer died in car crash … (Doling's) in a new band called Invitro, who we've got on the label.
We met awhile ago and got to talking. We found out we were from pretty much the same area. He was from Indio, Calif., and I grew up in Moreno Valley, about 45 minutes apart out there in the desert. We had lots of similar experiences and knew a lot of the same people. He wrestled in high school, just like I did.
I met him when he played in a concert that Pantera was headlining. We clicked as friends and got to talking about how none of the big labels are signing anybody anymore. He was working out in L.A. His day job was recording bands and then playing at night. That kind of spawned the idea. Plus, I had all these fans from when I was playing who used to send me CDs of their bands. They'd heard about what kind of music I was into and they'd send me recordings and say, Hey, check out my band.' I must have had a boxful of CDs …
Now, we've got Hairbrain Scheme that's one of the most unreal bands that Mikey or I have ever heard. They're crushing the L.A. scene. Then we've got this other hardcore band, Instinct of Aggression, and they're getting ready to start crushing the scene. We've got two albums recorded and we're recording Instinct of Aggression's album right now.
Cole: Which business is more cutthroat: music or sports?
Turley: They're relatively similar. Both are about getting your foot in the door and getting people to notice you. In music, you're not going to get hurt like in sports, unless you're running with Suge Knight and Death Row Records. But just like in sports, if you can get noticed, you can make it to the top. I remember when I was with the Saints, I got to know Dave Fortman. He was over there in Mandeville, La., across the lake, with all his buddies from Crowbar recording, all these different bands in what was basically a shack. He hung in there and worked on it and now he has 12 Stones and Evanescence.
Now, they've moved from that shack in Mandeville to being up there with the tops in the industry. That's the good part for us. Our other partner is Nick Adler, who owns the Roxy in L.A. He's the son of Lou Adler, who repped The Mamas & The Papas and a bunch of those groups back then. We've got a good team together with a real chance for success. We're fortunately in the mecca of the business in the L.A. scene. If you hit it big on the strip, you've got a chance. With Nick, we can get our bands up on stage maybe playing under another major band or get to the Viper Room or the Whiskey. We're in the right place.
Cole: So which is more fun: the music business or football?
Turley: Game day in football, there's nothing like that. Doing all the stuff during the week to get ready and going to training camp can get pretty monotonous and you don't want to do it, but game day makes it all worth it. You're in front of 80,000 people and all of them are screaming. It's the closest thing to being a Modern Day Gladiator as it gets. It's just a way different thing than you can get in anything else. When I was playing drums with that group in Arizona, that was the only thing close to giving me that rush like playing football.
Cole: You also toyed with the idea of going into ultimate fighting. What's up with that?
Turley: I was a wrestler in high school and I didn't even play football until my senior year. I was into the freestyle program in wrestling. I wasn't a fighter in high school. When I got into a fight, it was to stand up for somebody who couldn't defend themselves. My dad really didn't want me to be a fighter. But wrestling was my sport and I didn't continue it on into college.
Looking back, I wish I would have maybe gone to a school that had both wrestling and football. I had offers to go to Iowa State and Fresno State, but the surfing aspect lured me more to San Diego State … But then I saw ultimate fighting and it really is the ultimate fighting sport. It really combines the wrestling and the boxing. You see now where it's really blowing away the other sports, like boxing and wrestling. It's different because it combines everything. Not like in boxing, where you can have a guy like Lennox Lewis, who is 6-foot-5 and can just throw his arms out there and beat an opponent with a bunch of haymakers.
Ultimate fighting is a real test of a man's inner strength, of what you are. It's you and your desire. It really was a passion inside of me, an aggression that loved the art of wrestling. There is a beauty in it. You see moves and counter moves. That's what appeals to me about it. It's like the old back with the gladiators. Two men enter, one man leaves," to quote Mel Gibson from that great movie (Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome).
Back in Hollywood, I had some friends who were into it, who trained with Tito Ortiz and I got interested in it … I know it sounds weird, but it's really become a safe sport. It's not like boxing, where you can see the long-term effect. Boxers come out of it years later like they can't think … Ultimate fighting used to be like that. It was just one fight, one round might last 30 minutes. Guys could hit in the (testicles), bite, pinch, whatever. I think that helped to grow the sport initially. But now, it's not just pure brutality.
To become a real sport, it had to become a little more mainstream. But it's still a good sport. You still get the vicious hits. You have the wrestling part of it, so you have a place for those guys who were wrestlers to go out and make some real money. They didn't have that before. You still have some blood, a couple of broken arms and some good blows, but it's good that they're cleaning it up a bit.
Cole: Is there ever any conflict between the artistic side and the athletic side of you?
Turley: Sports is just what I've always wanted to do. I'm going to surf until the day I die. Ride skateboards, whatever. Playing football is a different toll on your body. It's a train wreck every play. But I keep trying to encourage both so that I try to make a marriage out of them.
Being a 265-pound offensive tackle now – and nobody else in the NFL is playing at that size at tackle – you really have to be good with your technique. So that's the artistic side. I'm not just the big 330-pound fat ass trying to pound away. For me, the defensive lineman is a ball of clay and I'm trying to mold him. It's like riding the big swells in surfing. You're trying to bring it all together for that great ride.