For me personally I´m gonna play and record the music that I love and feel is right:Interview with Kane Roberts
Kane Roberts is known for being the guitar player on Alice Coopers albums “Constrictor” and “Raise Your Fist And Yell”. After that he released a couple of solo albums and then he disappeared. He is back now with the new album “The New Normal” and Patrik Nilsson got the chance to ask Kane a few questions.
Mr Roberts starts:
-I must be honest with you, I haven´t been doing interviews in a long time. Right now I think it´s fun to do these interviews, and I´ve done about 50 interviews since last week. I really believe that the interview and the press is essential to get the message out and in the USA it is the media who pushes narrative, but I think in the rest of the world you sit and read the written word on the internet, and a lot of the message takes place that way and that´s why I believe that these kind of interviews are very important for me.
– What have you been up to these past years?
– I lost interest in the business part of the music business. I never turned my back against my fans or people that loves music or play guitar, but I just didn´t feel it was necessary to get in the business part of things. Bob Ezrin, the legendary producer who worked with Kiss and Pink Floyd. (He is the one who got me in to the Alice Cooper band and we´ve stayed friends ever since.) He said; -No matter what you do you´ll always be a creator, it doesn´t matter what you are doing. (I´ve always been very in to visual kind of things and I have been working in different capacaties of different areas of the film industry and stuff.)
What happened was that I started walking in to the studio and recorded more and more songs, and my very good friend Kip Winger said; ‘- If you want I could send a song over to my band’s label, Frontier Records.’, and I said; ‘- Please do that!’, so Frontiers was interested to release a record with me, certainly mostly for Kip Wingers recommendation, and I ended up in a studio with all the songs I´ve written, but after a month we decided not to use any of the songs, so we had to start all over and it took about 3 years and it just started growing and growing with all the collaboration and stuff, to finish this record. The record company was very patient with this record. Frontiers did not sit there and scream ‘Where the f**ck is the record?’. This company is all in it for the love of music, so I think I am in a good business situation at this time.
– I read somewhere that you have a college degree in music, you are a graphic artist, and a video game developer. The music is pretty obvious, but have you worked professionally as video game developer, or graphic artist?
-Yes, but that was a while ago. I did a couple of games. I have always drawn things since I was a kid. I was a Marvel kid, and I used to run down to the local drugstore every Friday to see the latest shipment with new Marvel comics arrive. As time went on, the visuals that take place with film and music and with music video goes together very well, and it was very easy for me to translate it in to doing some sort of motion graphic with music. For example one of the companies I was executive creative producer for, we had a commercial for the Superbowl and a Bud light commercial and big stuff like that. So I was able to work with a lot of amazing people and I was very busy at the time, but the music part of things started to get a stranglehold on me, and say;
‘-You´ve got to go back and do some music and start getting serious again.’ So here I am!
-Did you start these companies or were you just hired by the company?
-The companies already existed and it actually was a friend of mine, who asked me to come in and be an executive producer on a few commercials and short films, and I said ‘- Fine.’ I was there for some short films and a lot of big commercials. It was actually a big company so I learned alot about the software and about how to get things properly positioned in the videos, and that helped me a lot when we filmed the music video ‘Beginning of the end’ with Alice Cooper and Alyssa White-Gluz. It just helped in the post production with all special effects and editing of the videos. I´m glad I did it. My goal is to make three videos for this album, because I think the visuals along with music is very important. We already started a pre-production for a new video.
-Do you play any other instruments other than guitar?
-I play a little bit of piano, but that´s about it. I´m pretty much a 6 or 7 string guitar player, thats pretty much all I ever think about. I translate all music I hear, and try to work out how to get that song in guitars. What I did was that I was learning, not only guitar songs, but I learned John Coltrane solos, Sonny Rollins sax-solos and Miles Davis trumpet solos on guitar, and that worked out great for me. I think the instrument has a tremendous amount of potential that we just scratched the surface on, so I am sort of addicted to the guitar.
-You mentioned a lot of it before, how this albumprojekt started. I suppose it is a little more complicated than just talking to Bob Ezrin?
-You know, it´s funny. You walk in to a situation like this. For example, the first time I walked up to the microphone to sing, it was a different feeling because I hadn´t done anything that had gone out to the public jetstream so to speak. It was a learning experience for me. I didn´t know if my voice was still intact or if my range was still there. I´ve been singing, but this is the big league. I always say to people; -If you write a song and you play it in your studio it sounds one way, but if you go and play in front of people in a room the song will sound different. So when I did go in front of the microphone in the studio, it was in a different world trying to discover what was going on with the record and during that discovery process the record started to evolve to something we wanted – something like a movie. In other words, the lyrics was like a script and the music was the settings or the environment where the melody was being played. So if there was a place where we normally felt like there should be a guitar solo, but we felt like singing would get the message through, we wouldn´t do a guitarsolo or we would put it in the end of the songs or whatever. I know your question were how the album got started, but truly when I got started it evolved to something radically different from when I got in the studio in the first place. I mean I walked in the studio with ten newwritten songs that in the end I did not use.
-What does the album title ‘The new normal’ stand for?
Well, think of it this way, the albumcover is a girl that is fully inked up and has blood on her hands. She´s wearing that mask. 50 years ago that albumcover might not have been allowed. But you see it this day and you are more kind of accustomed to see things like that. So in the terms how our culture have changed, the new normal has been pushed forward radically in just a couple of years.
Some of the friends and musicians that I have played with on the new album project, (like Alice Cooper back in the seventies), he represented the new normal. I mean he changed culture. He came out and moved everybodys sensibilities, how people saw art, and what was allowed or what wasn´t. Alice came out and shocked everybody back in the day. Nowadays it´s not that shocking anymore.
The same with Alyssa White-Gluz. If you see her in a video with her band Arch Enemy, with these massive guitar players and huge sounds, out of the smoke comes Alyssa and owns 80 000 people. And that´s part of a different way of looking at things. I was talking to Alyssa about how you break glass cealings, or break down walls, and you kind of shake up what people think is normal. And I believe, even if those things are essentially blown apart, you walk away with more, because the history doesn´t disappear. It´s still there, but now you have this other layer of how you can look at life. I think Nita Straus is part of that category. You see her play live and she is on stage in an area that was always owned by guys in the past, and thats no longer the case.
It also apply to me. I did not forget my past, I did not forget the music that I loved or played before, but I have listened to tons of different music, not only metal or rock, so this album is kind of my new normal. It is what I believe, without trying to make a record to sound one way or the other, it just sounds what´s normal for me.
-The music scene has changed a bit since you released ‘Saints and Sinners’, to say the least. Taking that into consideration; was it hard to make this album? Did you feel you had to re-invent yourself and your songwriting to be relevant?
It´s funny, there is a guy called Larry Groose and he wrote an older movie called ’48 hours’ that became a huge success at the box offices. He said once, that when you are creating you have to keep Mr Medioker away. There is always a voice in there saying you should have done this or that. You have done that before and that is the easiest way to do it. I think if there were any difficulties in making this album, it was just maintaining the balance of the things you are doing honest. I didn´t try to change the way I sound. I just gravitated to what I believed was part of the musical project I took part of at the time. For example, the song ‘Leave this world behind’, the guitarsolo comes late in the song, and it´s over a drumchord. Rather than having a chorus chords or that stuff, so I just stricted it down and just ripped it down like a percussive guitar thing. I think that making decisions like that, saying that this is not what I normally would do, but this feels right at this very moment and having that sort of creative freedom feels great.
A lot of this had to do with my co‑producer, who owns a well-renomated studio with a lot of famous producers called Studio City. I was allowed to come in and record five nights a week, much because if I would record at home, I would go into my comfort zone. I needed to get away from home to record, so I challenged myself and tried to get out of that zone. So I got out of my house and got my ass in the studio and forced myself to stand in front of the microphone and perform, and I just think it really paid off.
-Are you worried that your old fans will feel a bit lost with your new sound?
In my mind I think everything has to be what I call and I quote ‘Thoughtless act’. In other words, you can´t say, I´m gonna do this, I´m gonna do that, so these and those people like it. You just can´t do that. For example, back in the day when I was playing on stage with Alice Cooper, if I started to think about how my guitar sounded, or how I looked, or if the audience could hear my guitar, I was in trouble, because all of those thoughts has nothing to do with creativity. You have to be so in the moment because it´s such a precious moment, while you are creating. The point of it is, that you´re gonna have lovers and you´re gonna have haters, when you put out music. To me it´s all very legit, I mean people who listen to music, they´re looking for things they love and things they don´t like, when they are gonna tell everybody about it, and thats fine, because that´s art.
For me personally I´m gonna play and record the music that I love and feel is right, because win, loose or draw, thats the only choice I´ve got, because people are extremely smart and sensitive to if the music feels true or not. You just have to do what you yourself really believes in, there is just no other way and you have no other choice. I just can´t do things because of how people are gonna like my stuff. I know that is not what you are saying. You mean that could be the result of it, but that is risk I just have to take.
– How would you describe your music to someone who has not heard you before?
This particular record is a very heavy album that shifts from heavy metal to heavy rock. And lyrically its message is something very current. Before my lyrics was more like, ‘I woke up with that girl and she broke up with me and I hate her’ or whatever, but if you listen to my ballad on the album ‘Who we are’, it´s more about people who are lost in what their emotions are, because relationships isn´t easy. I think I kind of matured as a lyricist, because over the years I found out that things isn´t necessarily black or white. With life experience you find out the hard way that there are a lot of grey scales in all the issues in life.
-Tell us a little bit about the new album ‘The new normal’. Where was it recorded and who produced it, how long did it take to make it?
The album ‘The new normal’ was produced by Alex Track and myself. We recorded the album in a studio called Studio City which is just outside of Hollywood in California. The album took, as I mentioned before, three years to record, but it was one of those things, that the journey of making the record is actually more valuable when the record finally get released, because you are doing things you respond to well,or you don´t like and when you finally hit the right note is a beautiful thing – after looking for that tone for hours.
In the middle of it, something kicked in where I started thinking; I have to go beyond what people expect. For example in the song ‘Beginning of the end’ which summarize pretty much what I mean. I sang it, and I thought it sounded pretty good, and I thought the lyrics in the beginning of the song would be perfect for Alice Cooper. Everybody in the studio thought it would be a good idea, but they thought it would be almost impossible go get a hold of him. But I gave him a call at about nine o´clock at night, and to my suprise he actually was in town. So about thirty minutes later he and his wife Sheryl and I was in the studio just hanging out and recorded the vocal parts for ‘Beginning of the end’. And so now I´m ready to record a guitar solo in the middle of the song, and I thought to myself, the way the song is structured is a bit too routine, and also to expected.
At that particular time I got to think of something about the famous jazz artist Thelonius Monks vision about music, which basically is; Music should be fun and unexpected and make you laugh,
that´s what people want to hear. This got me thinking; How do I make this song bigger and stronger than just me and Alice Cooper getting back together? But then I thought Alyssa White-Gluz would fall from the sky and land in the middle of the song and just blow the whole thing apart. My friend Michael Largo helped me to get in touch with her. So I sent her the song and after she heard it she said yes right away. A while later she sent in her vocals for the song, and I was actually stunned with the result and I was extremely impressed by Alyssas level of musicianship, and thats kind of the mindset I had when I recorded the rest of the album.
-You let Nita Strauss do lead guitar on your song ‘King of the world’. How did that collaboration come up?
The song is about a guy who is struggling with his feelings for a girl that he went out with, but it did not work out and that is still painful for him. He is kind of fooling himself and starts to tell himself that he would go out of that relationship as the King of the world, which the listener of the song can tell that he sure isn´t. You can hear that he is still in a lot of pain.
On the bridge of the song you can hear me sing ‘No matter how I pray, you never fade away’. I really scream that part. And I thought to myself, how perfect wouldn´t it be if Nita Strauss just come in and sledgehammered that first riff on the solo, and just tore it apart, and thats exactly what she did. I´ve said this before, but after I heard what she did on that solo, I thought to myself; Jesus I have to f***in´wake up here. You know, it really was that good. It was relly great to work with her, it was amazing. Nina is an innovator and she is one of nicest people I´ve ever met. She totally know what she is doing and know where she wants to go with everything she does and have a great drive, which is a killer combination. So we go back and forth on that solo which in my opinon was a killer solo and important for the song.
– You ended up getting a record deal with Frontier records. How did you meet up with them, and do they have the deal for the rest of the world too?
The deal with Frontier records is a world wide distribution deal. I actually don´t know what´s going to happen after we shoot the videos we planned, I might just dissapear again, I have no plans right now. Right now I´m just fully into the fact that I made a record that I really love, and I hope the people love too. I do believe that Frontier records is one of the best record companies out there. They are true believers of getting the music they love, into the fans hands.
– Frontier records sure knew you were around, I mean you did play at Firefest.
It´s funny you remember that, because that was a disaster. The band I played with at Firefest, we rehearsed just twice. I didn´t know these guys and we never ever played together. I hadn´t been on stage for about twenty or so years, so I surely wouldn´t do a thing like that again, I can tell you that. If I would play live again it must be a meaningful experience for anybody who listens to it. But right now there are no plans on doing any live shows.
– Why not touring with this album?
Well, right now my main focus is on the video aspect of it. I´m a firm believer that the future of marketing is to get the video I shoot from the album, spread on Youtube and get a lot of retweets and other social medias. Thats were I put my energy and efforts at the moment. With that said, if it make sense to do live shows, I certainly will do it, but at the moment I don´t see a reason for it.
– I was definetly hoping for you to go on tour, so I could see you on the European leg of it.
Well, at the moment it does not look like it´s gonna happen, but you never know, it might!
-What are your expectations of the new album?
Well, once you put the record out in public you just don´t know how it is going to be received. My plan here is to kind of experience the whole thing. You know, make a few more videos from the album. Put out the things I believe in and ad them into the public airwaves, like Youtube, different radio venues and streaming sites and stuff like that, and hopefully I can move people in the proper direction. It is an honour to play stuff and have people listen to your music, even if they
don´t like it. It´s one of those things that is part of the process. You just can´t beat yourself up of the judgement of the public. You just have to play it home by yourself. It´s one of those things where some of the people moves in the proper direction and get the message I´m sending out and of course like your music. I´m gonna make two more videos from the album and see what takes place. I actually have no idea how people are gonna respond to the album.
– My personal reflection is that you matured alot, especially how to arrange songs and you tried to get in a lot of different music styles. I mean, there was no way you would have any growl on ‘Saints and sinners’ like you have on ‘The new normal’.
You´re absolutely right about that. The album ‘Saints and sinners’ days, that was my whole belief system. I had a few darker songs, but the record company didn´t want anything to do with them back in the day. But once I got into the songs that went on the album, I was totally commited to those songs. I still think that ‘Saints and sinners’ has it´s place, and it was an accomplishment for me to pull that album through. I remember that I for example took singing lessons.
-I think this album is a lot more progressive, to put a ugly word to it, compared to ‘Saints and sinners’.
It kind of feels like when you bite in to a sandwich. If you expect a peanut and jelly sandwich and then find out you got a tuna sandwich by mistake – if it is a really well made tuna sandwich, you will get in to it.
– You did a video for the song for ‘Beginning of the end’. How did that come about?
Yeah, I actually made the impossible to make that happen, because I had to get both Alice Cooper and Alyssa White-Gluz at the same location at the same time. And I can tell you, that is not easy with both of there schedules. When I told Alyssa about my plans about a video for the song, she said; -I´d fly anywhere in the world to be in a video with Alice Cooper. That is Alyssas way I call comitted to art. She really wanted to be involved in something that involved Alice Cooper and a song that she and I created. And all of a sudden Alice Cooper were in Vancouver, a twenty men crew, and then Alyssa flew over from Europe to shoot the video with us. So one of my points here is that you have to have the guts to ask the world what it is you want, in order to get it.
– I have watched your brand new video, and I really liked the video of the ‘Beginning of the end’. Who is the beautiful lady who steps out of the Limo in the beginning of the video?
Thank you very much! I really enjoyed doing this video. And the beautiful lady who steps out of the Limo is actually Alice Coopers wife Sheryl. Did you like the kiss between Alice and Sheryl in the end of the video? We decided on a 70s cinemascope kind of treatment. That the footage is very exaggerated with the kiss upfront and the nuclear bomb in the background. After we shot that scene, I asked Alice if he was delighted with the kiss, and his respond was ‘Kane, I loved the kiss. I just thought it should be you and me’. So working with Alice is always a funny experience. There is a lot of lovely one-liners that will crack you up.
Just doing the stunts was fun, but it was demanding, I can tell you. We had three Hollywood stunt people to help me with all the stunts. I just thought I could throw a punch and that was it, but I had to have my feet in a certain position, my shoulders and my elbows up and stuff like that. It took over an hour to do the stunts. You get a lot of admiration for the stuntmen after working with them like that.
– I did notice you look very fit in the video. I did some research and you said you hated going to the gym?
Well, I did work out quite a bit for the video. But I don´t hate the gym, I am just not into it the way I was back in the 80s.
– Looking at all your collaborations, you seems to know pretty much every musician worth knowing. How do you get in touch with all those different musicians and make that happen?
Well, the musicians I worked with on this album are all old friends of mine, except for Alyssa and Nita, but they are now. Kip Winger, who got nominated for a grammy in the classical compositions. Ken Mary, who is now playing with Flotsam & Jetsam and is one of the best drummers around. I have a lot of friends that I know, who´s very active in the music industry. And as far as the new collaboration with Alyssa and Nita, that just paid off huge. And like I said before; get it in your head, ask the universe, and then you make the phone call. Thats the way it works, at least for me anyway.
– How did you end up playing with Alice Cooper?
My demotape was floating around the New York area and I was doing clubgigs in that area. To make money I was a card dealer for illegal black jack games at midnight. The games were in different hotel rooms all around Manhattan. At the time I was making 1000 bucks a night. At the club gigs I was making 12 bucks. Bob Ezrin got somehow hold on my demotape and found something that he really liked about it. He hooked me up with Alice Cooper and we became best friends literarly within 5 minutes. That was pretty much how that happened.
– You turned out to be musical director of the Alice Cooper band. What was your responsibilites as a musical director?
That came after Alice and I had developed a sense of trust. We kind of knew what to expect and knew what we were doing in terms of the show. For example I told Alice; – I don´t think you should come back as somebody who survived rehab. You should come back as someone who went in to a hospital and came out as somebody who put a whole sort of biometric system inside you, and come back as a nuclear version of Alice Cooper. So what you see there is what Alice and I collaborated on. It was a tremendous amount of fun, because Alice came up with a whole lot of theatrical to write, and Alice and I wrote the music underneath Alice theatrical vision. It was a lot of responsibility, but also a great deal of fun to be part of.
– Thank you very much for taking time to answer my questions, Mr Roberts. Have a great weekend and good luck with your new album.