Fireworks Magazine Online 58 - Interview with Kane Roberts

KANE ROBERTS


It’s been almost fifteen years since Kane Robert’s last album was released, the much under-appreciated Phoenix Down album ‘Under A Wild Sky’. Having toured and co-wrote with Alice Cooper for some of his more commercial albums and as a solo artist released one of the greatest melodic hard albums ever in ‘Saints And Sinners’, those years spent in the wilderness seem almost criminal. However, the last few years have seen Roberts regain his hunger, appearing live for the first time in years at Firefest in 2011 as well as being a regular on TVs Rock N Roll Fantasy Camp in the USA. Last year Kane re-issued the Phoenix Down album, complete with a second CD of excellent quality unreleased demos, and he’s now gearing up to release his first new music this millennium. Wolf Gant hooked up with Kane for the lowdown …

The original ‘Unsung Radio’ was a two CD affair consisting of the 1999 Phoenix Down album ‘Under a Wild Sky’, which really was the 3rd solo Kane Roberts album, along with a bunch of good quality demos from your past. So first question – why now?

I have always felt a bit odd about the Phoenix Down CD. When I, like most musicians, start up a project I have a kind of default, and intrinsically naïve, notion that it will get released with a half decent shot at being made available to the public. Before Phoenix Down, my last official recording was the ‘Saints and Sinners’ album so, although not perfect, my frame of reference was the Geffen marketing, promotion and MCA distribution model. I recorded ‘Phoenix Down’ for Now and Then Records, a small independent label spearheaded by my friend Bruce Mee, mainly because since the S&S project in 1991-1992 a lot of songs had been evolving in my mind and I wanted to get them recorded properly. After the recording was pressed I was sent a few copies to check out the packaging and take a listen to the mastering etc. I tried to listen but the CD tray kept popping back out. I then tried to play the CD on my computer and a PC game loaded up. The manufacturer had accidentally pressed the CD with a PC game instead of my songs. My friends and I were literally in tears laughing. They later fixed the issue and released a limited number of copies but I found out that Frontiers wasn't crazy about the CD artwork, the music and anything else remotely associated with the project.

This was my first taste of the "new" model of the music business. Minimized budgets, minimized promotions, shortened time frame for marketing of product, no touring, no video and the jackass that can't press a CD properly feels compelled to have an aggressive hand in the creative thrust of the project. A lot of these dim lights that start up music/distribution companies must, like any business men, of course seek the greatest return on investment, but their stake in the project often doesn't reflect any give and take in terms of their equity ownership when compared to their end of the contractual agreement – financial support and product nurture responsibility.

Think of it this way, when any industry suffers the inevitable downturn due to tech advances or cultural trending do you see the successful corporations deplete the resources necessary to make a quality product? Yes, they may cut back on personnel or find creative ways to produce or modify their product but they don’t  bleed the very thing they’re trying to sell. That doesn’t serve anyone – customer, artist and on and on – except for their dollar and that very short sighted incestuous thinking is one of the main reasons the music industry is on its fat old ass. Fortunately, technology is doing its thing and decimating these companies. It has, in essence, destroyed much of their CD sales and placed a lot more earning power outside the auspices of their bloated businesses. An enterprising individual or band can press their own music to CD, distribute digital material through online services like TuneCore and Topspin, aggressively monetize video through YouTube and self promote through an organized  and passionate cross seeding of social networks like Twitter, Facebook and their ilk.

Before any band signs a contract with the current strain of "record companies" I suggest you ask them "How are you going to sell my record." Sit back and have a good laugh as they struggle to understand the new economy thats sitting directly in front of them.

So recently, I had a conversation with Bruce and we discussed getting some Phoenix Down CDs out there for a little more exposure. We decided to add studio versions of unreleased songs recorded before and after my involvement with bossman Alice Cooper. Of course I insisted on doing the pressing and releasing together with Bruce and avoid the crippled excuses for record companies that cannot see two feet in front of their dissolving business model.

Can you tell us about some of the demos – what sessions they come from and why they didn’t ever make it to album. Many of the songs, especially the Peterik co-writes, are really good.

Well actually one of these songs did make it to the show so to speak. ‘Louise’ was recorded by Pat Travers along with ‘Women on the Edge of Love’ –which also appears on the debut Kane Roberts – and ‘In the Heat of the Night’ for the Hot Shot album. He actually shot a video for all three songs and as an odd side note, there is a girl in one of the videos that I met and dated years later. They flew me down to Florida and I hung out with Pat and yes, he's a great guy and amazing guitar player. Doug Thayler, who would later become an integral part of the Motley Crue management squad, hooked me up with Pat.

‘I Bleed for You’, ‘One Step to Heaven’ and ‘City of Pain’ were all considered for the ‘Saints and Sinners’ record but Desmond and I got into a certain mindset and kinda rolled over those tunes. ‘Waiting For You’ was recorded with one of my first bands ever: Greg Jackson on Bass, Victor Ruzzo on drums and Rusty Brinnier on Guitar. A local radio station played that one and we were so freaked out to hear ourselves on he air! Some members of Orleans also sang on that cut.

The Peterik set was written and recorded one week in Chicago just before I started to walk away from the biz in 1992. I handed that stuff to my publisher and rode off into the sunset only to be tracked down by Bruce a number of years later.
I also included a recently recorded song, ‘Wrong’ that features Kip Winger on bass, backing vocals and string arrangements, Paul Simmonz on drums and Michael Wagener at the recording console. Because it was so great to be back on “it” with great musicians and the song came out so hot, I thought it would be sweet to include.
 
As a divergence from the norm, you also included some commentary on the CD regarding the demos, as well as some guitar noodling. This was certainly an amusing and interesting addition – what decided you to do this?

I just wanted to break the current model. With all the social networks and the jet stream of information that these days have become such an integral part of life I think we should all feel compelled to juice up our projects with new ideas and methodology.
There are so many stories surrounding the recordings of these songs that I wanted to give people a feel for what was happening during those sessions. This of course is true with every recording artist out there because being a musician removes you from what most people experience on this planet and places you in a truly alien set of circumstances. Additionally, I've always gotten sexually aroused by "divergence from the norm", haha.

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The original limited 2CD made and sold in Europe sold out. You are now manufacturing a single CD set in the USA, as well as selling online downloads.  What’s the difference between these releases? And what’s the best way for someone to buy the CD release?

I decided to blend the two recordings into a 13 song CD set that represents the most significant recordings in terms of my development as a writer, singer and guitarist. The pre-Alice recordings are interesting to me because I remember thinking I was “all that” on guitar and it was only a few years later that I moved to Los Angeles and got smacked upside the head by all the smokin’ guitarists walking around. It was time to practice don’t you think? ‘Reckless’ (1992-1993) is a perfect example of the heavier crossroads I encountered along the way. It features Mike Slamer, Jimmie Tavis and some insane guitar and vocal styles that to me still hold up their end of the bargain.

‘Walk’ and ‘Blue Highway’ represent Jim Peterik's strong writing influence while ‘Dirty Blonde’ and ‘White Trash’ are tight performances that don't appear on the original ‘Unsung Radio’ release but are personal favourites of mine. Also, I'm valuing more direct connections with fans and I do find that autographing my merchandise whenever possible brings me closer to them all. As a result, I'll be offering an autograph, custom or otherwise, feature for each item sold.

It will be available through the usual online digital sites (iTunes, Amazon etc), my website www.kaneroberts.com and some other like minded CD distributors. Visit my site for the skinny. I really hope people check it out because it's a sweet pre-cursor to my next release of all new material!
 
Ah yes, new material. So what’s the next step? Is the Kane, Ken Mary, Kip Winger project that you told me about still gonna happen?

The songs are ready it's just gonna be a matter of when we can all coordinate our schedules. Kip is gonna tour with Winger and some other artists this year, Ken Mary has a record label to run and I'm getting ready to eat a tuna fish sandwich. Truth is, some of it will be a power trio with hot vocals and the other songs will also feature some of our hyper talented friends! A blend of heavy and pretty baby!
 
You’ve been taking part in the Rock & Roll Fantasy Camp.  Can you tell us about this…

I was sitting in my living room staring at my favourite wall – yes it's blank – when the phone rang. Kip Winger was on the line ranting about one of the counsellors doing a crap job. He asked if I would come to the rescue and I agreed. I returned to staring at the wall while wondering WTF I'd just agreed to do. RNRFC is an amazing concept. I walked in and started working with a band of business execs, teachers, welders, firemen, cowboys, strippers, shemales...you name it. My point is, people who left their "normal" lives and valued their creative souls enough to take a shot at playing with some of their childhood idols! During the course of the week I was there - Friday: Zakk Wylde walked in and played a song with each band. Saturday: Steve Vai walked in and played a song with each band. Sunday: Warren Haynes walked in and played a song with each band.

David Fishoff the RNRFC creator has really put together a great event and always struggles to deliver the highest value for his campers. I've continued to be part of the camps not just to work with the people that pay to attend but also because the "counsellors" do shows almost every nite. I'm jamming consistently with guys like Alice Cooper, Howard Leese, Kip Winger, John Moyer, John 5, Bruce Kulick, Vinnie Appice, Ace Frehley, Roger Daltrey etc. After the first jam I thought, ‘Fuck, I remember playing with guys like this!’It's really helped to get  my chops and stage perception back and yeah, I'm eating up every second of it.

So you’ve been hanging out with Alice Cooper again doing this show. How are you guys getting on? Do you think you’ll ever write or work together again in the future?

Alice and I are friends first and foremost and will always get on famously. Whenever we see each other it's as if no time has transpired since the last time I strapped on the guitar with him and created that "culture of violence" on stage. We recently we did the RnR Fantasy Camp and we were driving towards the main venue with tears in our eyes from laughing. It got so intense we had to pull over and compose ourselves before we went inside. As far as working with Alice, we discussed doing some writing but that's always been on the table! And yes I will endeavour to make that happen again ASAP! I’ll be seeing Alice next month at Universal Amphitheatre in Los Angeles and I may fly to Baltimore a few weeks later to hang and check out the show as well.
 
You played live at Firefest in 2010, and you didn’t seem very happy with how it all turned out. How did you see it from your perspective?

Hmmm, well Firefest was a running kick in the balls for me. It hurt but damn it got my attention, know what I mean? The plan was for me to play with a band called Talon and I remember reaching out to them by phone in January 2010 to get a feel for the rehearsal schedule. When they said we'd be rehearsing in September two or three times and then do the show, I readily agreed, hung up the phone and made lunch. See, I never would have gone along with that if I'd had my head straight. I hadn't appeared onstage for a millennium and back when I was doing it for "real" I certainly would have insisted on more rehearsal and some live club dates leading up to an important event like my first and only appearance at Firefest! But instead I practiced guitar on my own and worked my vocals coaches, Bruce Eckstut and Kip Winger, for months. And after my first rehearsal in September I knew I was in deep trouble. Those guys are great by the way and I appreciate their talent and what they accomplished with their own show. Thing is their bass player didn't want to do the show so their rhythm guitarist took over the bass duties, plus they were overloaded with their own concerns. I heard they had a great show by the way.

But we were not ready. For example, we rehearsed the night before in Nottingham and the band didn't get through one song without stopping. Not good...time to get tense? Interestingly, a talented guy I've grown to call my friend, Pete Newdeck, joined in on vocals and rhythm guitar that night for the first time and he knew the songs top to bottom! What I RE-discovered the night of the show was nothing takes the place of live performances as a method of honing your stage skills and I never should have made Firefest my first re-entry into the real world.

Now all that being said, because of the special nature of the Firefest audience, it was a rockin' wake up call and once the pain in my balls had begun to subside I picked up my guitar and started playing every available minute. Some time after that I got the call for Rock N Roll Fantasy Camp and now singing and playing has once again become a welcome kick in the pants instead of a blinding boot in the nuts.

Two things: Firefest is a rare event and the guys who put it on, their staff and crew are insanely committed to making sure everyone gets what they came for. Also, I want to re-iterate my love for the Firefest audience. They were truly the entire event for me! Their passion and musical souls will always resonate with me and my true hope is to play some different festivals and venues and get another real shot at us doing it all together again!

So, what are your objectives and dreams for the future?

One of my dreams is that Japan keeps on their path to recovery after that tsunami a few years back –NIHON GANBARRE! Also, it is my sincere hope to keep playing music, keep moving forward spiritually, explore new ways to extract sounds out of my guitar and vocal chords, to keep writing, eating the food I love, watch Sumo, pray that plenty of Jennies be hound dogging me, get closer to my fans (yeah like real close), hang out more with Bruce and whatever else you want to throw in there. Rock the Fuck On!

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