Fireworks Magazine Online 85: Interview with Kane Roberts

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Interview by Bruce Mee

Kane Roberts is best remembered as Alice Cooper's M80 guitar-wielding side-kick from back in the 80s, but for me it was his second solo album, 'Saints And Sinners', that really cemented my long-time admiration for this highly talented musician, a man who is so much more than his larger than life comic persona might have you believe. We worked passionately together on his follow up solo album, the Phoenix Down project, as well as his 'Unsung Radio' limited release CD that featured a host of wonderful unreleased Melodic Rock gems. Now having signed to Frontiers, Kane will be releasing his fourth solo album, 'The New Normal', this January, and it's something just that little bit different – and special. Time for Fireworks to catch up with a dear friend...

Kane Roberts - Interview Fireworks Magazine

So, what IS the new normal?

The New Normal is wherever you are right now. You watch traditions and things you love blow up in your face and you learn to deal. That includes loved ones, finances and yeah, music. Stare at the face of change and then decide if we've lost something or gained something. I say at the end of the day, when the smoke clears, we always have more.

You cancelled your appearance at the Heat Festival in Germany back in 2016, having just been signed by Frontiers Records. That album is now being released in early 2019. Why such a long wait, and was it really necessary to have pulled out of the festival back then?

Well as far as the festival was concerned I wanted to play live but I seriously needed to prepare properly this time as I was deeply disappointed by my appearance at Firefest. It was essential that I spend the necessary hours to make my return special. My first move was to get the mad boys from MAVERICK. Fucking hard rockers overloaded with talent and pissed off attitude...just what I need to step into the killing fields again.
When the record deal came down ─ thanks to Kip Winger's relationship with Frontiers and the record company's big enough balls to take a chance on me ─ I thought I had to deliver in a month or two, or possibly three, so I had no choice but to cancel because of the flames on my neck to deliver. Little did I know that it would take me three years to complete the project.

1. I had a full on studio because of my co-producer Alex Track (huge advantage because I don't like recording at home. Theres something inherently wrong about doing a guitar solo in my underpants...(and that makes the assumption I even wear underwear). And since I DO use a tremolo bar, if I'm half naked, the move looks suspiciously like rubbing one off. Gotta think on all levels here!

2. I knew had to push the envelope because it's been a long while and Frontiers has demonstrated a blood passion for music that I almost never witness. Every few months my co-producer and I would look back to previous recordings and say "Dude you're singing is so much better than 3 months ago you gotta re-sing this!" (actually I don't call myself dude...that would be fucking weird) or I would hear something on the guitar or drums or whatever and want to change a beat or a voicing or solo approach etc. So I just would hit the part again until I felt like a proper beast after listening to the final result.

3. Frontiers showed insane patience and before too long I realised I was with a company whose heart in soul is all about the music. Serafino, Mario and crew are passionate warriors about the music they believe in and I realised fuck, I'm a lucky guy and I dug in deeper trying to make each song something engaging and special. So I just kept climbing the razors ladder till I got the result I wanted.

And yeah, as referenced above, I'd run into that kind of label once before with a guy named Bruce Mee and Now and Then Records!

Fans of your amazing 'Saints & Sinners' album will probably be a little taken aback with 'The New Normal', which is a darker, more modern Rock album. What plan did you have in mind regarding the song-writing direction when it came to this new album?

Well one thing regarding that stylistic concern. I did not try and find a direction that suited some agenda. Music, and in fact life, is at its best when played out as a thoughtless act. In other words, you have to be in the moment and not wondering what you look like or what people will think. Yeah, you gotta turn off the iron and sit yourself down. You gotta hit the line hard every time you get down to the hard work of creating something meaningful. But no matter what, one thing you can't do is force gotta find the flow.

That being said, you can hear my previous works in the songs ─ my commitment to melody, my guitar style, my voice. Yeah there are new elements and that's because I listen. There's so much good music out there now. I listen to Volbeat, Alice Cooper, Doyle's new band, Baby Metal, Arch Enemy...bands with something big to talk about or a door to kick down. I don't copy them, but let's face it, everything fucking thing we hear, taste, fondle or fuck influences who we are.

My true belief is that if you stay open minded, keep your standard sky high and work harder than you think possible, the world will greet you with open legs. That's how I approached "The New Normal" project.

So tell us about the song-writing, and the people you wrote with....

I wrote with the amazing Lzzy Hale (The Lions Share), Brent Smith from Shinedown (what an awesome writer and insane singer - crazy good), new on the scene Evan Magness, Katt Franich, Dave Bassett, Alex Track...a cross section of wildly talented people. Once again - lucky me!
My goal was to search for concepts I was hard or passionate about. Sounds and lyrics that seemed fully legit and also added something to the story I was telling. I called a friend of mine, Matt Messer (Owner of El Camino Records) and he hooked me with Dave Basset and Lzzy Hale, Brent Smith and a new hyper talented writer on the scene Evan Magness.

Katt Franich is a killer tattoo artist. She loves 80s hard rock along with a shit ton of other music so we got along right away. She sings with me on the track we co-wrote ('Who We Are') and her part hits the right notes both musically and spiritually as well. As you can hear, Katt is loaded up with edgy talent, a core attitude and a fresh way of writing about how our relationships and emotions tear us up and ultimately play out for the better.
Alex Track has classical training along with serious rock chops and a sharp ear for sound. He also owns the studio where we forged these songs so his understanding of the room's potential was off the chain. I seriously couldn't have found a better mix of talent to collaborate with.

This new direction was seen on several songs on your Phoenix Down album, including the track 'Wrong' which is re-recorded on 'The New Normal'. Why did you decide to revisit this song?

I met a producer, Scott Lang, who heard the recording of 'Wrong' (a standard Rock song I'd released) and he said it needs to be 'de-volved'. He saw the song as having a Massive Attack feel embedded in the rythmic and melodic structures of the melody. I sent him a Pro tools file and all the tracks and he sent back what you hear on the CD ─ an awesome re-telling of a song. Although I had previously believed the song to have been fully developed I fucking loved his vision. After re-singing a bunch of it, I included it on the track-list.

And you know, right there embodies much of the process that generated 'The New Normal'. I believe we just gotta fearlessly open our minds and hearts to new ideas and let them test and influence our thinking. I knew recording this project was gonna be a war, but fuck it all - to my way of thinking - the battles are where the true ecstasy exists.

You got the old Alice Cooper guys, Kip and Ken, to guest on the album. Did any of the guys actually come to the studio, and if so, what was it like hanging out and recording again?

Kip got Frontiers to agree to offering me the record deal so sending him tracks was a breeze and having him kill his parts like a boss is what I always expect from him. My friend Ken Mary nailed vocals on a few of the tracks. Very few people realise Ken's not only one of my favorite drummers in existence but an accomplished singer and vocal arranger. He also recorded remotely. Both guys possess full bore recording studios.

Also the other very special guests. How did you go about getting Alice, Alissa, Johnny 5 and Aoyama involved?

Alice Cooper:

I don't really sleep that well. I never have. Always been one night I open my eyes l at 3am and a brief movie played un my head. I imagined that the song, 'The Beginning of the End' should be a duet with Alice Cooper and I. Not just a few lines by Alice. The song could stand up and do justice to his massive persona so I began to adjust some of the lyrics. One night when I felt the track was in shape I called him, fully expecting him to say he was on tour or in the middle of a recording of his own and I'd have to send the digital tracks to his engineer etc. But in typical Alice Cooper fashion he said, "I'm in town, I'll be right over!" He and Sheryl showed up and after about an hour of catching up AC went into the vocal booth and seriously nailed his parts! (Uhhh not surprised by that by the way).

When I stepped into the recording studio in Studio City, CA that first night ─ we always recorded at night by the way ─ I did not have a formula that had to be injected into the music. There were no pre-conceived assumptions made about the recording methodology and song performance. I did discuss with my co-producer that I wanted a cinematic feel to the project because it is my true believe that sound generates imagery along with emotion etc.

Alissa White-Gluz (Arch Enemy):

YouTube offers the potential for mind bending imagery and sound. And let's face it, there's a lot of cool stuff that can knock the wind out of your average mellow day. On a rare occasion you run into an Alissa White-Gluz. Somebody that on the face of things embodies every notion you have about what you think you know and then obliterates it as soon as she grinds her way into an Arch Enemy (or The Agonist) song. Suddenly she's not just a stunning female who moves like a pissed off mountain lion. She becomes much more with her vocals that range from ferocious growl to her impassioned angelic singing voice. When someone smashes so many cultural norms so effortlessly and with such skill I just naturally need to see if I can make her a part of what I'm doing. My friend Michael Alago, (A&R superstar who signed Metallica, White Zombie, Flotsam and Jetsam and more) knew her and Doyle so he reached out for me. As soon as she heard the song she was on board and I have to say she made me look like a fucking genius. Her skills (self-taught) are a truly impressive array.

I was also able to get myself, Alissa and Alice Cooper on the set together to shoot a new feature video for 'Beginning of the End' to be released in January 2019. Most people when they shoot a video these days kinda take the easy road. Afraid or unwilling to step out and take the heat from trying to roll out something special. If you don't spit blood to try and do something special then you're going the race to the bottom. Frontiers helped me and I kicked down as many walls as I could and fought to get 30 hard-working film crew and film equipment to a location in Vancouver. These days that's called giving a fuck in the case of everyone person involved. My gratitude is unending.

Nita Strauss (Alice Cooper):

I wrote a song with co-producer Alex Track called 'King of the World' about a guy that's having trouble forgetting a girl that he never belonged with to begin know - waaaay out of his league. The bridge talks about how he can't forget her no matter what she says or how much he prays and he finally loses it. I thought, 'How perfect for me to have that beautiful monster guitarist, Nita Strauss be the girl who refuses to be silent and trade solos with me.' Every time I run into her, see her onstage, hear her guitar skills, she rises above the fray and out does her previous efforts. Top notch! Uh, by the way, she fucking tears into her guitar solos ─ on the song she trades first. Once again, Alissa and Nita - The New Normal.

Aoyama Hideki (Baby Metal):

I've been a fan of this band for a while because the producers said, "Let's do something different and pin the work and skills to the wall." Insane arrangements, killer musicians and Nakamoto Suzuka sings like a never ending dream! The final element I needed for the "BOTE" was a drummer that played off the chain hard, fast and creative and Aoyama Hideki was my first choice. When he heard the song he immediately agreed to play and he threw down some of the best drumming I've heard in decades. A "soulful machine" is how I describe Aoyamasan! Arigatou!

Johnny 5:

Great bass player, great studio musician and now great friend! He delivered hard on 'Leave Me in the Dark!'

Tell us about the album cover design. Were you involved with it?

I saw Michael Rosner's work on the internet and it spiked my interest, no pun intended. He captures innocence, evil and compromised virtue like no-one I've seen. We had numerous discussions as to what I needed and he dirtied things up with such artistry it tore my brain in half when I saw the end result. Bryarly's (the model) look in her eye really grabs the viewer and runs them through a myriad of possibilities as to what has taken place. Someone asked me if she represents women as victims because of the blood etc. My answer is - it's not her blood. Women are breaking so many glass ceilings these days someone is bound to get cut.

For fans of your earlier, more melodic songs, do you ever see yourself recording in that style again? There were so many great unreleased song demos you gave us on the 'Unsung Radio' album that would be amazing with a full production.

Hey, I may disappear for another 100 years but who knows. Let's see what shakes loose in the next year or so...

Do you think you may do live shows to promote 'The New Normal', and if so, have you already considered any potential band members?

Not so far. If I venture out into live performances it would require a tremendous amount of rehearsal which I'm prepared to do but my main focus right now is to create meaningful engaging videos that complete the story of 'The New Normal'.

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