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Interview with Ryan Roxie
19 June 2012
RYAN ROXIE (Alice Cooper/Casablanca)
Having spent the best part of 10 years touring and writing with Alice Cooper, Ryan Roxie left in 2006 to spend time with his young family and pursue other musical ventures. Mick Burgess caught up with him to talk about his latest band, Casablanca, who have just released their debut album Apocalyptic Youth; the plans for a Roxie 77 boxed set and also his celebrated return as Alice Coopers lead guitarist.
You`ve just released your debut album, Apocalyptic Youth by your latest band Casablanca. How do you feel now that it`s out?
It was worth the wait, let`s say that. Maybe with all the things that are happening for me right now maybe it was meant to come out a year after its original time. The timing couldn`t be better than right here right now. I think being back with Alice Cooper is going to shine some good light on this album. It`s an album I`m really proud of. I`m proud of the guitar work, I`m proud of the song writing and hopefully it`s one of those albums that stands the test of time.
Apocalyptic Youth sounds the way albums used to be, short, sharp and straight to the point. There`s 10 tracks on there and there`s no filler. Was it important to you to concentrate more on writing 10 great songs rather than trying to fill up a whole CD just for the sake of it?
Exactly. It`s one of those albums that I enjoy listening to from start to finish. I do have a couple of favorites on there but I actually enjoy listening to all the tracks as that`s how I grew up listening to albums, you know listening from track 1 all the way to track 10 on those old Cheap Trick records. There was no such thing as a single. It was a great album track after great album track like in the old days of vinyl. Five years ago my love of vinyl would have dated me but now I`m cutting edge as everyone loves vinyl again.
Was this recorded in the traditional way with all the band together as there`s a real spontaneous feel to the songs?
If you can hear that then we`ve done our job correctly as that`s exactly the way it was recorded. We did that at Polar Studios in Stockholm, which is very famous for all the big Abba records and also Led Zeppelin`s In Through The Out Door. The grand piano used on “S.O.S” and “Dancing Queen” is still in the studio. We set up the drums in a huge room with mikes all over with all of us sitting around the studio and we recorded our basic tracks like that. The guitar, bass and drums that you hear on the record come from those first and second takes. Josephine, our drummer, was so focused, that a lot of her tracks were done on first takes. We`d done a lot of pre-production so we were really prepared when we went into the studio and that`s the way it should be. You shouldn`t go in and expect a computer to do any of the work and you should know your stuff from beginning to end. You should let technology help you but it shouldn`t dictate the sound of the album.
Your guitar sound is perfect for this music. It`s sharp, snappy but not too over bearing with some great melodic riffs. How did you achieve this sound?
If you don`t fuck too much with a Les Paul and play a straight chord going into a Marshall amp then you have a good chance of getting a good guitar sound. All the other muckety muck in between just gets in the way unless you`re confident about the effects you want to use. I`m all for it if you want to use a good Ping Pong Delay or a nice vibrato or tremolo effect to add colouring to songs, that`s all fine with me. If you want a straight ahead, great Rock `n` Roll sound then you just can`t replicate with any speaker modulator, any modeling amp or anything else, the sound that you get with a Gibson Les Paul through a Marshall stack. That`s the recipe for Rock `n` Roll right there. Ask any guitar player that`s not too tight with their endorsements and they`ll tell you the same. For certain songs a Stratocaster is perfect but on Casablanca it`s all Gibson Les Paul.
Your previous release, Roxie 77`s Two Sides to Every Story, was as a download only but this time you a releasing a physical CD. Why did you decide to do that this time?
We now have an amazing Indie label out here in Sweden called Rocket Songs and they are doing everything they can to get these songs heard. That`s the reason why a small band from Sweden is getting to do press in the UK. Every day there`s a bit more talk and chatter outside of Sweden and this label is really supporting us. We also need a physical product that we can sell at shows and that helps to pay for the gas, for the hotels and makes sure we get to the next show.
The way you did that as a conscience free download where people could choose to pay what they liked and half of the money you made went to nominated charities was quite an innovative thing to do. Did you get a good response to that?
People responded so well to it and there were some great contributions to it. I`ll probably do this for the next Roxie 77 album as well.
How would you say that Casablanca differs from your Roxie 77 band as you`re still running both bands at the moment?
Roxie 77 is my band and I get to have the leadership role in that band and it works great. With Casablanca I`m 20% of a real powerhouse band. I was asked to join this band and I consider myself to be a full 20% of a 100% band. I`m really proud to be 20% of a group with such great band mates. In Roxie 77 more of the responsibility falls on my shoulders. Both bands are running at the same time but they both provide different roles for what I`m doing. Over here in Sweden it`s not such a big country so you can go out on tour and be back in a couple of weeks. The roles that I play in both bands are so different. In Roxie 77 I`m the frontman and write most of the songs whereas in Casablanca most of the songs are brought in by the singer and the bass player, Anders Ljung and Mats Lubarth and then we thrash them out together in the old fashioned way.
Your bass player Mats Rubarth is a former professional footballer who played left wing for AIK and was also a Swedish international. Did you know each other when he was still playing or did you only meet due to your musical interests?
We met because I`d heard the legend of Mats Rubarth. He holds the record for the most red cards in the Swedish league so if he could get that many cards playing football then the bass was probably the right instrument for him to play. I think he likes to tackle people. I`ve watched clips of him playing on You Tube and his demeanor is so different to what he`s like in the band. He`s such a solid bass player and doesn`t do any of the stage diving stuff and works so well with Josephine on the drums.
Your drummer Josephine Forsman is also a member of Sahara Hotnights. How does she juggle her time with both bands?
The bands that we are in outside of Casablanca are so supportive of what we`re doing. As it`s so different there is no conflict musically. We get a lot of support from the other bands. When we do a Casablanca show it`s not uncommon for members of Roxie 77, Sahara Hotnights and Melody Club, which is Eric’s other band, come out and see us. We do the same when their bands play too. We all hang out together.
You don`t tend to see many girl drummers but she`s a great drummer. How does she compare to some of the drummers that you`ve played with over the years?
I never look over my shoulder while I`m on stage and think “Wow, what a great girl drummer” I just think how lucky I am to be in a band with such a great drummer, period. She gives it as much energy as I`ve seen anyone give. It doesn`t matter if you`re man, woman, child or beast if you give 100% on stage like Josephine and guys like Eric Singer do, then you`re going to get my respect. I`ve been very lucky to work with drummers of such a high calibre as I have over the years.
You opened for Kiss on their tour of Sweden a couple of years back, that must have been a great tour for you to do?
That was a dream come true. I was able to open up twice in big, big places with Kiss. The first time was with my band Roxie 77. We played at the Stockholm Stadion which is just one of these huge stadiums and it was such a great thing to do as I`d never fronted a band before so many people. I was able to do it again a couple of years later with Casablanca and that was only our third ever show that time so we were living our Rock `n` Roll dream. The funny thing about that is our first couple of shows were in big arenas too, so we went from playing our first three shows in huge arenas and our fourth show was in a small club where we were the opening band on a three band bill. Most bands go from playing clubs to stadiums. I think we must be the quickest band going from stadiums to clubs in four shows!!
As far as touring goes what are you plans for taking Casablanca out on the road?
We leave it in your hands to give us so much press that it`s undeniable that we just have to come over. We`ll do our best as I have a very busy year planned. It`s a dream come true to be hooked up with Alice Cooper again. Whenever Alice does have a break we`ll fit in some Casablanca shows as well where we can. My priority is to get my ass out there on the road with Alice and with Casablanca and Roxie 77 as well. Both of these bands must know that there`s going to be attention given to us because of this second opportunity with Alice and I think we`ll be seen in a more international light and hopefully we`ll get that break.
Why did you decide to rejoin Alice Cooper for his forthcoming tour?
You never close the door on Alice. The whole set up were so supportive of my decision to watch my kids grow up. My kids are of an age now that they know what makes me happy and know what I love to do. I told them that if the opportunity ever came up to play with an old friend then I`d take that. They said “Of course you would Daddy, that`s what you do, you`re a Rock star!!” I`d go easy on that bit but I definitely know one or two Rock stars. It was time, I felt that it was something I`d like to do again and had been thinking about it for a while. You sometimes wonder whether that chance would come again and I knew that I`d be ready for that opportunity if it came. I always stayed in contact with Alice and the guys in the band. When they came over to Sweden last year I got a really good interview with him for my TV show. He was so cool and afterwards he asked if I wanted to get up on stage and do the encores. Once I was up on stage that was it, I just wanted to do 200 more encores, I didn`t want it to stop.
You spent over 10 years with Alice; this must be like going home for you?
It`s not just that it`s such a tight nit organisation where you feel so at home but it`s actually the community of Alice Cooper fans, you guys, who make me feel like I`m coming home. You guys have been supporting Alice for so many years and through that you have been supporting me. They`ve always kept one eye on what I was up to so when I needed something or some support or help, there were always Alice Cooper fans who would help out or would turn up at shows so it was the Alice Cooper fans who made it feel like home. You know what you are going to get with Alice, he`s so consistent. You won`t get a crazy singer who`ll say they`re not going to perform that night or just sit on the drum riser and sing songs. You’ll get a guy who`s going to give his all just like I want to give my all.
Have you seen the Alice Cooper Old School Box Set yet?
No I haven`t seen it yet but I`ve heard that it`s great for the fans. If you have any space left on your shelf I have a Roxie 77 box set coming out soon. I`m going to call it the Roxie Box and it`s basically it`s the Dad’s Porno Mag album, Roxie 77`s Peace Love and Armageddon and Two Sides to Every Story. Then there`ll be a fourth CD that will be unreleased demos so there `ll be over 70 tracks on there. We are looking for a 7 July release date for this. That`s 7-7, geddit?
You co-wrote much of The Eyes of Alice Cooper and Dirty Diamonds with Alice. What was he like to write with?
I contributed most to The Eyes of Alice Cooper and Dirty Diamonds. Writing those songs with Alice was one of the most gratifying things that I’ve done. You`re not just writing songs for a typical Rock band, you`re writing for an icon and you`re song will be included in a body of work that includes hundreds and hundreds of songs. You really become a part of history when you write with Alice Cooper.
Alice has worked with so many musicians over the years; do you think this has enabled him to remain fresh and still come up with material that is of a consistently high standard year after year?
I`m sure Alice has his philosophy on that but I think the bottom line is that he`s always been able to reinvent himself and if that means going back to certain parts of his long career and revisiting certain eras then it`s completely within his right to do that. When we did The Eyes of Alice Cooper there was a vibe of Love It To Death in there and he`s earned his right to do that.
Have you started rehearsals yet?
Rehearsals start in May but I`m starting to practice now. I have Casablanca shows going on one week, Roxie 77 shows going on another week and then in the time in-between I`m working on Alice Cooper three guitar part harmonies. It keeps me on my toes musically, which is good for the fans because hopefully you`re going to see me more focused than you`ve ever seen before.
When do you plan to come to the UK?
Well we have the Bloodstock Festival booked in and who knows beyond that, maybe there`s some ace`s up Alice`s sleeve. You know that the UK is a huge favourite of his so you can be sure we`ll be over soon. You can be sure he won`t skip the UK with Roxie on board. I need to see my Alice Cooper UK fans.
While you are on tour, will you be running your guitar clinics on the road again?
That`s the plan as I have a deal with Gibson Guitars where I can do some clinics while I`m on the road. They are always a lot of fun to do.
You left after the Dirty Diamonds album, what did you make of the two records he made after you left, Along Came A Spider and Welcome 2 My Nightmare?
I knew Alice was thinking about doing a concept record about a serial killer on Along Came A Spider. I think it`s cool how the record label supported him so well with the videos and the promotion for that album. I also think he was so happy to get reunited with Bob Ezrin on Welcome 2 My Nightmare and it showed that the collaboration is alive and well. Tommy Henriksen, the guitarist I`ll be playing with, had a hand in a lot of the writing so I`m really looking forward to playing some of the songs from that album.
How do you set about playing those Alice Cooper classics on stage?
When I knew I was going to be back in the band I said that the role that I wanted to play was to play the songs in the spirit that they were originally recorded and break them down into what their component parts were. If it`s a 70`s song then you get a `70`s tone using the right `70`s guitar and play those same parts. Obviously you can add a touch or two of your own personality here and there but people expect to hear us play the songs the way they were recorded and that`s what we are going to do for them.
Have you thought maybe that when Alice is out on tour that maybe Casablanca could be the opening act or would two shows in one night be a bit too much?
I`ll never close the door on anything. I`m very confident that all the bands will put on great shows and if that happens to be on the same stage and we get a blessing from the camp then that`s great but if I don`t then that`s fine. It`s my job to make sure I contribute as much as I can for Alice and the guys in the band.
Where will this all fit in with your Big Rock Show TV program. Will you still do this or will you put it on hold for a while?
It`s shifted from a more in studio show which is something I can`t really do when I`m on the road, to more on location interviews like the one I did with Alice. I think it`s going to work good as a segment, as part of a bigger show, so we`ll see how that goes. You`ll see 5 or 10 minute interviews about what the artist is up to maybe walking the streets of Stockholm or sitting in a coffee shop somewhere. Keep an eye out for All Excess with Ryan Roxie because things should get interesting.
You`ve got a lot of things on the go at the moment. Where can your fans find out everything that you are up to?
Apocalyptic Youth by Casablanca is out now.
To see Ryan Roxie on tour with Alice Cooper visit www.alicecooper.com
Ryan Roxie`s All Excess show can be viewed here.