An Interview with
Guitarist of Alice Cooper ('86 - '89) and also Solo Artist
that took place on 4th & 8th December, 2016.
Interviewed by Glenn Milligan.
Glenn: Hi Kane!
Kane: Hey! How you doing?
Glenn: I’m doing alright. The wind’s terrible over here. We’ve got Storm Desmond coming over. How did you get involved in Rock ‘N’ Roll Fantasy Camp?
Kane: I was sitting at my house, staring at my favourite wall with my mouth open. I was actually drooling a little bit – that’s what I usually do during the day. The phone rang and it was Kip Winger. He blurted out a whole bunch of stuff. Now I had heard of ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy Camp’ but to be honest with you it sounded kinda lame. There were things like baseball fantasy camp – the sort of event driven enterprises like that where you go there and you play with the Pros. But because of the genesis of what I did, I came up through the ranks – the golden age of Rock where you could strap on a guitar, practise your balls off and then hopefully move to Hollywood and something will happen. I say Golden Age but that was the kind of way it worked back then. I went up the rank in a real structure. To do something like Rock ‘N’ Roll Fantasy Camp, it sounded cute but I couldn’t see how it could possibly work.
Kip at the time was the Musical Director. Something had gone wrong. One of the “Rock Star Councillors” – his band didn’t like him for whatever reason. You have to remember that the profile of these people that go there as campers.. the funny thing of this by the way is that I said, “I used to play Wembley and do stuff like that.. and now I’m a Camp Councillor”. So some of the campers didn’t like this guy. The profile you get from many of the campers is pretty wide. You get young kids, parents, sometimes wives will buy their husbands an anniversary gift. Sometimes it’s just a bunch of full-on Rock fans. Some of them are very wealthy and some of ‘m just scrape what they can get together because the ‘Rock Stars’ that are going to be there are some of their favourites. So it’s kind of their dream to play with them.
So I go in there. I said to Kip, “Yeah Sure”. It was right down the street from me almost. It was like 15 minutes away so I said, “Okay”. I strapped on the guitar and went over there. I didn’t know what to expect. Suddenly I was in the mix of everything on the first day. I didn’t know what it was. I started teaching them songs, how to play and gave them my experience from being in the studio and writing with whoever I had been writing with. They said, “At 1 O Clock, Zakk Wylde is coming in!” I was going, “What?”. At 1 O Clock they wheel in Zakk Wylde’s rig, he sits down and he plays a song with the band and the next day Steve Vai came by – he played with these guys – these campers. I can remember at the end of the week, with Warren Haynes we did a show at the Whisky. So it’s a pretty substantial experience for everybody and I have to admit, I think a lot of the councillors, so to speak or whoever comes in there and plays – the Rock Stars or whatever you want to call them, they get a lot out of it as well. It’s a real give and take experience. It’s a lot of fun.
Glenn: You did one in early November, how was that one for you?
Kane: Well it was Ginger Baker and David Crosby. The thing is, you never know what to expect with these guys. I mean, they’ve bee through quite a bit. Not negative stuff but they’ve seen a tremendous amount of stuff. So they are older guys now and many times, the older people get, the more rigid they are in their ways and they want things to be on whatever schedule they imagine things are. Rock ‘N’ Roll Fantasy really isn’t like that. Ginger Baker a little bit was kind of resisting in terms of going along with what the schedule was. But you’ve got to give credit to the people that work there, David Fishof – he kept everybody in line and everybody got a real first hand rubbing shoulders with Ginger Baker which I think in many cases that’s true legend right there. The same thing with Dave Crosby. They were supposed to do A, B & C with these bands and they ended up doing D, E & F. It’s a very fluent situation which is one of the best things about the camp because you don’t know what to expect.
I mean, think of it this way, from my angle, I walk in there and I don’t know any of these people. My first band, I had a guy there who was from Germany. He played guitar for a couple of months when he was 12. I had to get him to strap on a guitar and do a little solo. He ended up being one of the most exciting guys on stage at the Whisky. He came out of his shell and everything. It’s got all sorts of personalities. People come from different economic statures. It’s a real experience in that you don’t know what to expect but everybody at the end of the day walks away with having a truly rare and viable experience. That’s the best thing about it. I really wouldn’t keep doing it if I thought if there was anything false about it. There’s so much reality that takes place. If you go there, you walk away with a tremendous experience one way or the other.
Glenn: For you personally, what were your highlights and why?
Kane: Well what happens is you focus on your band. So you focus on the different personalities that are in the band. You see that eventually, pretty much just about everybody’s free’er. Some people come in and they’re extremely talented. They sing really well, they’re very confident, they gig all the time so there’s no problem like that. My band was mostly guys that were sort of intermediate and below in terms of that. We had one girl who basically was struggling to get a lot of the stuff done in terms of singing of what she wanted to do. For me, it’s a matter of keeping all the different plates spinning and managing these people that you’ve never met before. They’re really expecting quite a bit. The highlight for me was that we were able to write a song – we had an original that we went in and performed. We did a bunch of songs at the Lucky Strike in Hollywood which is a really cool club.
Glenn: It is.
Kane: Yeah. Then we played at The Whisky which is nothing but history. All in all I think the highlights for me was that I just got a new guitar from ESP so I strapped that on and I played a little bit. ‘I’m Eighteen’ by Alice Cooper was one of the songs I did. We did kind of an intro to it and I got to play a little bit to the girl who was very nervous about what she was doing. She got relaxed after that. Maybe that was the highlight for me.
Glenn: That’s cool. Did you have any ‘Waynes World’ like moments?
Kane: Well we ended up going up and playing with Ginger (Baker). I have a lot of experience playing different types of music. I went to the New England Conservatory (of Music in Boston). I studied Jazz for a long time and Jazz guitar and learned a lot of guys like Coltrane – the sax solos on the guitar. I was a maniac when I was a kid! He loves Jazz now and I think one of his favourite drummers is Elvin Jones. So he started doing an Elvin Jones kind of beat. He started playing these very adventurous jazzened versions of a blues structure and the rhythms were very complex.
He and I kept hitting 1 at the beginning of every blues chorus so that was a little bit of a crazy moment for me. As a little kid, Ginger Baker, Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce were total Rock Gods because they defined it in many ways. That was a little bit of a Wayne’s World moment. I’m still a fan boy. I don’t care who it is. I have written with Paul Stanley and Gene but when he shows up I’m still like that kid that’s going “Oh that’s cool”, you know what I mean?
Kane: So I go through all of that stuff, yes. I still do with Alice even though we are good friends and we laugh about everything in the World. Hey it’s Alice Cooper what do you think of that? (We laugh)
Glenn: That’s funny sh*t! Would you say you’ve got likes and dislikes of rehearsing? Are things that you like and don’t like about it because there must have been so much rehearsing in your career?
Kane: Yeah. It’s a lot of work. You get there at 9am and you don’t leave until probably 10pm or something like that. It’s a long day. Then if you’re playing at night in a club it’s quite a grind. You almost feel like you are going into some sort of gravel pit. Some of the best feelings… a lot of people that work when they get home they have to wash off the grit of the day and they’ve put in a good days work. You kind of get that feeling a little bit but it is a little bit exhausting but if that that was one of the negatives. You almost wish there was one more day to rehearse your band – things like that. All in all though, I think if you do anything like that, in my world I don’t go into any situation with unreasonable expectations. In other worlds, all I’m expecting to get out of this with a little pocket change is that I’m going to meet some people, interact with them and hopefully get some sort of soulful inspiration experience out of it in terms of pushing them to a different level and giving them something valuable to take home.
Glenn: You know, It’s so tragic about just losing Scott Weiland.
Kane: It’s just so sad. I never heard anything but good things about that guy. His music was so good. It’s just one of those tragedies that will continue to happen because its impossible to control what it is you are actually putting into your body. Never mind the kind of poisonous stuff that might put in there as well. But literally, you could do it for a long time if you get the exact same potency but where’s the quality control? There is none.
Glenn: Keith Richards is a good example back in the day. He talks about not going near Mexican shoe scrapings because you don’t know what the hell it is. Referred to it as poison. He was getting top grade stuff all the time and he knew where he was getting it all from. So it’s a big difference.
Kane: Another thing, is if you do drugs and I don’t care what sort of drugs it is, there’s going to be a big chunk of your life in stasis mode – it’s not going to progress. I think when you’re young, there’s people that are just flying right by you. There’s opportunities that are just in front of you everyday. I mean, when you are older as well but if some guy spends five years of his youth in the ozone then he’s going to be five years behind everybody. Your life doesn’t progress at the same rate and in a lot of ways it just stays stuck wherever it is. I don’t care what the drug it. It’s going to shut down a certain amount of evolution of progress in your whole life and we’re only here for a minute or two if you think about it.
Glenn: I totally agree. I must say, the first time I ever saw you play, it was actually on video. I won a competition from this magazine called Rock Power that only lasted so many issues and I ended up winning in this Alice Cooper competition and one of the videos I won was ‘The Nightmare Returns’. That’s how I got to see you with the machine gun guitar.
Kane: Yeah. There’s so many memories come back with that because that ‘Nightmare Returns’ is really the first live show that we ever did. We did one pick-up show in fromt of a limited audience and then of course we had a lot of dress rehearsals but we think of the first real show. Doing this at Joe Louis Arena, Halloween night and MTV is filming. The band was behind the stage getting ready to go on and everybody’s pretty wired just from the adrenalin. Those first chords from the keyboards for ‘Welcome To My Nightmare’ when we finally go out there – the craziest thing about that, was that as soon as Alice hit the stage everybody calmed down.
I noticed that night amidst all the chaos, once I started getting into the flow of it, that he could perform to the last row of the arena. He reached everybody. It was kinda crazy. It took me a long time to just stop playing to the front few rows. You have to try and express yourself throughout the whole venue. By mid way through that tour, that band was a lot better in terms of how tight we were and the solos that were being played because it wasn’t that first night out. There was a lot of things you are trying to keep in place – you are just trying to keep the machine running. So that was the first time you saw me? That’s interesting. What did you think? Were you like a traditional Alice Cooper fan? Were you like doing in my Alice Cooper? Or did you like it?
Glenn: I thought it was great because at the time I was only about 16. I had only just left school.
Kane: Oh cool.
Glenn: I had an idea of who Alice Cooper was somewhat as I used to see the pictures everywhere. It was before Rock got really big again over here. It was my opening to Alice Cooper. In fact, I think it was the first things I actually properly watched of Alice Cooper as a full length gig apart from hearing or seeing the odd song now and again.
Kane: Yeah. I’ve said this before but one of the things was that I said to Alice, “The last thing we want to do is that you say you survived rehab because that’s not enough. You have to come back and become nuclear Alice. It got to be huge. You’ve got to sound modern. It can’t be an oldies but goodies tour –that’ll kill you!”. That wasn’t all my idea. He felt the same way. That explained if you listen to ‘Welcome To My Nightmare’ because that’s a very delicate kind of a song and when the moment that Alice kicks open that gate it’s suddenly a new age of Alice Cooper. It’s the atmosphere we are trying to create. I think we were successful in that regard but I think we upset at lot of purists.
Glenn: Yeah it was more of a brutal thing because if you played the original it’s like ‘Jesus Christ this is a lot heavier – it’s like Alice x10 with younger guys and it’s more in your face than the old recordings so to speak’. You are very much correct there.
Kane: Think of it this way too. The Management – everybody that was around Alice at the time, the only thing that they’d experienced was that kind of classic Alice. Their last albums whenever they did those songs they sounded like those albums. So you can imagine us walking in. We were at Fox Studios in Hollywood, they walked in and they heard that. They were like, “What?!?!” We shook up the apple cart but Alice was totally into it which played a big part of it. We had nothing but fun, he and I. I know this sound weird – we never argued. We were just laughing and having a great time through all this. So yeah, it was great.
Glenn: I’ve not long since read his book, ‘Golf Monster’ which goes right from the beginning to around 2001/2 – the Brutal Planet Days. I guess he may be righting another one so he can talk about the last 15 years. But when it comes to songwriting, what goes through your head when you are going to be working with certain people? Do you have like a pre-notion, like a mental state or do you just literally go in and write a song or write it with them in mind?
Kane: That’s a good question! When I am gonna work with somebody I don’t get nervous and I am talking about the bigger guns that I end up writing with. I got a phone call from Bob Ezrin and he said, “Come on up and write with Paul Stanley”. At first it was like ‘Wow!’ but then when I get there I just get into the flow. I’ve got a guitar in my hand and that’s the easiest way for me to speak. But what I have noticed is certain guys have a level of focus that others don’t. Paul Stanley is all work.
We ended up writing a couple of songs and one of them was called ‘Take It Off’ It was on the ‘Revenge!’ record. I remember it was the same thing with Desmond Childs – if you have 15 minutes – that’s all you have – you leave with a song.The song may not be done but there’s a lot of times people will write. You are sitting there for like 2 hours and then you get a little bit of a verse done and then they leave, “Hey, I’ll see you tomorrow!” – A complete waste of time.
It’s like any other job. You have to really focus and make sure that your brain is firing at the right time – all the pistons. You’re active. You’ve got a lot of energy and you’re enthusiastic about it. When I go into write with somebody like Paul Stanley, I have two assumptions. One is, is that they call me because they know what it is that I do and number 2, I have such an understanding of a band like Kiss that right away I just started playing the main riff. As soon as I played that riff, I didn’t sit there going, ‘Oh he’s gonna love this’, I just started playing and then right away the song just clicked together. It took us three writing sessions to finish it up. Then I went to the studio. There was Bruce Kulick. Gene was there and Paul and I saw Bruce record the solo which I think is one of the best Rock solos.
With Desmond, I was writing for my own album. I didn’t know what to expect with that. That’s a different dynamic because he’s so strong, so forceful. He’s got so much momentum in terms of what he does and what he brings to the party. He and I know what I’m doing. I’ve not written as many hits. So that’s a different thing. You have to keep your eyes open and make sure he’s not writing you into an area that is not you which I don’t think he’s going to do but have sort of hold onto the part of you that you think is valuable and significant. Then the other thing is you have to make sure that you’re really there for every moment that you guys are writing. In other words you don’t want anything that flip past that might be great that he suggests that seems to get lost. It’s such an influx of information and creativity going on with a guy like that.
Alice – Alice and I became friends so…
Glenn: That’s different.
Kane: We would sit down. The weirdest thing about Alice is that he is able to… like there’s a song we did called ‘Prince Of Darkness’ and it’s on the ‘Raise Your Fist And Yell’ album. If you listen to those lyrics they are absolutely incredible and they flow so well. They are so filled with the proper content and messages. He literally wrote that in about 20 minutes. He was sitting down. He just got so focussed and he handed me that piece of paper and I was reading it going “The heck! How do you do that?” Check it out – you’ll see what I mean.
Glenn: Yeah I’ve not played that album in a long time.
Kane: The thing with with Alice, I would try to get things so that the atmosphere was right and that we both felt in a creative mood and know when to get out of his way when things started happening and make sure I jotted it down. That sort of thing. He’s more of a Salvador Dali than he is a Wayne Newton.
Glenn: Yeah there’s no wonder he was a big buddy of his. It makes a lot of sense.
Kane: Yeah it’s a big deal yes.
Glenn: When you’ve written a certain song or when you are writing it, do you have any instinct how it’s going to be portrayed later or ‘This is going to be an album track’ or this is definitely going to be a hit!’ When do you really know or get that inclin?
Kane: You can tell if something is great. I don’t know if you’ve ever been in your car and you sing a melody that’s all yours and you go, “That sounds really good!” Then what happens is, you go home, maybe you record it into a little recorder and it sounds awful. The key is that you have to remember and really absorb what the chordal structures are around underneath the melody because if I sing two notes and I have certain chord underneath it’s going to sound completely different than if I change those chords underneath. That’s what happens. We start to write and we have these chords that are the undercurrent to it. It’s critical that you have an understanding and can hear a chord in your head and put a relationship between that and the note that you’re singing.
That relationship is where the hit is going to, I believe, get generated. Of course, the lyrics – everything is really important. There’s certain songs that once you get where you have a chorus.. once you have a chorus that I believe is memorable then it’s something that’s really important. You can really sense that maybe the second time that you’re in the session writing with somebody. Then when you’re in the studio sometimes things fall apart or whatever.
There’s so much music out now that isn’t structured that way that is incredible music. A lot of my friends, they disagree with my feelings about music. But there’s so many different types. There’s a band called ‘The Weekend’ that I just heard one of their songs and I couldn’t believe it. It’s completely far a field from rock or any of that stuff that I did but it’s just an incredible sort of a project. The way they produce stuff and the way they write it and perform it.
The songs a hit but it doesn’t ostensibly have any chorus. There’s no rule to that. It’s whatever the world it is, whatever your world of creativity is, as long as you see the relationships between whatever melody is in your head and sort of a chordal structure underneath, I think that therein lies sort of the essence of the hit. When I heard ‘Firework’ by Katy Perry, I mean, I don’t go out and buy her CD’s or anything but I went, ‘This is a hit!’
Kane: It’s just written so well.
Glenn: When I first got sent the promo single for Evanescences ‘Bring Me To Life’ I thought, ‘This is going to be massive hit this, it’s gonna go to number 1’ and it did. It was massive!
Kane: Yeah, yeah. The first time I saw Guns ‘N’ Roses, their ‘Welcome To The Jungle’. I remember the first time I saw that on MTV. I just went, ‘They dropped on’.
Glenn: It’s like, you’ve killed the predecessor, you’ve made yourselves the bar level that other artists have to adhere to. The other artists will have thought, ‘We’ve got to be as good as these new guys now – we’re in trouble’. You know?
Kane: Yeah! They were interesting and they opened for us before they hit. They opened for Alice Cooper for the first four shows. I always felt that they were an accidental mix. In other words, those were the absolutely right guys to be in the same room at the same time at that moment in terms of making that band. Whether it was going to last or not, you couldn’t tell but it was a perfect storm. Everyday says, “Well, you know, there’s certain rules that you have to follow” and all this stuff and none of that applied to them. They just all bumped into each other at the right time and made some fantastic records. They are really the nicest guys ever. Axl and I became friends, Slash is one of the sweetest..
Glenn: He is yeah. Nice guy.
Kane: And great musicians. I always loved Slash’s guitar playing because he had that thing Keith Richards does where you kind of feel like he’s going to make a mistake, the string is gonna break or whatever. There was this weird tension under the stuff that he’s playing but it always fits.
Glenn: It seems to work and he seems to pull it off great.
Glenn: Who would you say have been the most intriguing artists or artist to work with and it’s gone a way you’ve not expected and why?
Kane: Well I don’t want to sound completely stereotypical to what I would say but that would have to be Alice. He did a lot of unexpected things. That story with the lyrics – it would come out of nowhere. That was one of the things that I had to.. in baseball the second baseman is the second guy who navigates what goes on, on the field. I sort of had to second base a lot of that stuff to make sure that I caught the stuff and I was aware because he is what I mentioned. Like what I said about Salvador Dali – he is a true artist in that sense.
A lot of people will sit him down and say, “Okay, let’s write a song that might work or it might not.” That’s not how Alice operates. He lived with me in Woodland Hills, California for months and that’s where a lot of the best stuff came out. We’d be watching ‘The Smurfs’ or something and suddenly we’d just have an idea or he’s have an idea and I’d just grab a guitar and do it like that. That’s the best way to work with Alice I think, to get the best stuff out of him.
Now on the album ‘Trash’ he worked with Desmond. When he ran into the Desmond machine you can see Desmond’s influence was very heavy in that. I think that what I really noticed about Alice or that I knew about him anyway is that, you put him in any situation and he’s gonna pull it off, he’s gonna shine. It doesn’t matter what the pressure is, it doesn’t matter what the genre is. If you put him there and you turn on the lights he’s going to perform. He performed every night on stage that I played with him for two years. Played really well. Always has done. Still doing it.
Glenn: He is yeah. I’ve seen him many times. I’ve never seen him do a crap show ever every time I’ve seen him.
Kane: Orianthi was really good. I though she was a really great guitar player. A very sweet person and I just met her last year. Then the new guitar player Nita, she’s a lot more technically adept in a lot of ways but it’s just a different style. She’s fantastic in a lot of ways.
Glenn: Is that the girl from ‘The Iron Maidens’?
Kane: Yeah, yeah, she was from The Iron Maidens.
Glenn: Yeah, she was in Misstallica as well as I saw her across here in Sheffield.
Kane: It’s a great thing and I just wish that young bands were still coming up. In other words, her story is really great but think about it, she got discovered by Alice Cooper as opposed to the new Alice Cooper or whatever. The scene has changed so radically that it’s a different scenario and it requires a whole different sort of skill-set right now as opposed to the rules – the way they existed before. But I like his new band. I think the highlights of his new band are Glen Sobel the drummer and Orianthi and then Nita. Those three people I think are pretty amazing for the great aspects of the new Alice Cooper band. I mean, they really suck without me (we laugh).
Glenn: Of all the material you’ve done live and recorded, what would you say you are still excited about right now when you listen or you play it out if all the years?
Kane: I’ve just finished a new recording. One of the things I did was, I worked in broadcast design and we made some films and some short films and stuff like that. I’ve worked on a number of film projects so I’ve called in all these favours and I got two different producers. I recorded a song, I got two different producers to evolve the whole thing and built it from the ground up. I just finished. One of the guys is a rave-techno guy and the other guy, he’s with Hans Zimmer’s Studio which I’ve done some work with. He did the score for ‘The Ring’ and ‘Madagascar’ and movies like that. I blended all this stuff. So now I’m gonna go in and I’m filming a video. It’s not going to be like band of guys in a airplane hangar doing a song with a dolly and a camera.
We aren’t doing any of that. It’s more this creative enterprise. I am excited about doing that. I really think that one of the things that everybody has been kicked into is that the visuals along with the music are almost more important these days. I know there’s no MTV but You-tube is massive and it’s much more engaging. If people don’t want to buy a ten song album and then sit there with it and work their way through it for a month. At the end of three months they decide that song number 10 on side B is my favourite song. Well that sort of journey is over because of all the immediacy that is available now.
Glenn: How do you guys go on when you’re on stage and all of a sudden you’re bursting for a pee? That must be a nightmare?
Kane: Well I don’t think that ever happened to me. I know that some guys Devlin 7, when he was with Alice, I know that he brought a bottle with him just in case that happened.
Glenn: It’s a fair point though.
Kane: Yeah. It never happened to me. Usually there’s so much going on that you don’t really notice that – well I didn’t. I could try and make it happen with plenty of water.
Glenn: You’ve worked with a lot of people but what other folks would you like to work with or in other words, what’s on the bucketlist of Kane Roberts?
Kane: Well it’s a pretty broad expanse of musicians. I’ve always wanted to record with someone like David Bowie. I did get to do some recording with Steve Vai which was one of my main things. Zakk Wylde would be somebody I’d like to record with. When I look at the sort of bands that resonated through history. Rather than actually playing with those bands, it would just be creatively interesting to work with… I would have loved to have collaborated with the guys in Tool and even Rage Against The Machine back in the day, the guitar player, Tom Morello. He’d be a great guy to play with – just digging into new sounds. I listen to a type of music called ‘Enga’ Japanese traditional music. At the core of it, it sounds very muzaky in a way – like old peoples music. There’s an artist called Sakamoto Huyumi whose voice is just frightening and the things that they do with their voices is absolutely incredible – stunning stuff. Those people I would like to record with.
Doing the Camps, I am happy to meet all these greats but my goal would just be able to play with people that would push the envelope to push me into different areas of what I can do and how I look at things. When I was a kid I played a lot of Jazz. I used to learn John Coltrane solos and Sonny Rawlins. I used to as a 16 year old, going everywhere to follow Sonny Rawlins around. When I was in the music school I sat in with a musician called Sonny Stit who was sort of a Charlie Parker Alto Sax player. Those experiences had a lot to do with me looking at different angles of music. It’s one of the reasons why my playing doesn’t sound like standard rock stuff. It does sound a little bit off the beaten track and some might even say wrong. But I do look the melodic structure of solos and rhythm patterns a little bit differently than others for that very reason.
Glenn: I know you’ve got a graphic design company as well. Have you always had that interest in graphic design from an early age or did it come bit by bit?
Kane: Well when I was a kid I was a big Marvel guy. Later on I got in DC when DC got their act together but Marvel was the first time that they had artists. Guys like Jim Steranko, Steve Ditko and of course, Jack Kirby. These were all artists I used to stare at all the time. I was so into these comic books that I started drawing a lot. I wouldn’t just read them. I would sit there and draw Spiderman and The Fantastic Four and Firestorm or whoever. I was really committed to it so I started to do a tremendous amount of art as a kid even up to junior high school. Then guitars completely took over.
Later on when I did my Geffen record.. I thought the record was pretty good. It was in the pocket. It was a little pop for me but what happened was whatever the flow of that moment was, I thought that I had ponied up and got everything done that I had to, to make sure that everything that was on the record, was in my mind, the best it could be. The music did that shift from the hard rock, pop melodic stuff and it went into a different thing. All these big bands started coming out with amazing stuff. I remember when I saw the video for ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ – the song by Nirvana with the cheerleaders, I was like, “Oh jeez – that’s unbelievable”. I loved it.
But I felt like there almost became this pro-active agenda to move past what was actually happening at the time in terms of white rock. The music industry itself is what bored me. Just the act of getting a record deal and dealing all the number crunches and the A&R people. There’s one guy I met Michael Allargo. In fact, there was two people, Bruce Mee who had a record company called Now & Then and he put on festivals with Mark Ashton. They were great guys and put on great festivals. They are altruistic in the sense that they really love music and that is the infidus.
It’s the same thing with Michael Allago – White Zombie, he signed Metallica and then he expressed an interest in me. He was really excited about it and I ended up making two records – one on MCA and one on Geffen with him. Then after that, he was gone, he was booted out because of the shift in musical trends. Then some weird stuff happened on the business side with me so I just went, “You know what, I’m just gonna move on”. I don’t want to keep punching through that. I wasn’t about to suddenly wear shorts and get tattoo and do a record that wasn’t me. I didn’t stop playing but I just stopped trying to find that next record deal.
In the midst of that I taught myself computers. Very few people know this but Michael Wagener was a very great friend of mine, had a state of the art Mac set-up with Photoshop and I’m talking about back in the day. It’s still a bit early on in terms of their development but I used to go to his house at 1 in the morning, he gave me a key and I would go downstairs into the basement and just learn the computer. I started developing a videogame with my art. Believe it or not, at the end of a year I actually got the game signed with a company in Orange County called Prococacom. The game never came into fruition but it was my first time signing a contract and getting a hefty checque to develop a game. Some stuff went wrong with it with the programming. It went on and I made another game.
Then I met this other guy and I ended up being an Executive Company Director at a company called ‘Belief’. We had a couple of commercials in the Superbowl, It was a big deal and at the same time, he and I made short films. That’s where everything came together. If I would describe myself now, I’ve just finished a new recording and I’m going to do a series of five songs and each song will be accompanied by a video. I met a lot of really top-notch video people. People that know how to shoot stuff. People that worked on ‘The Matrix’ and ‘Hunt For Red October’ – a real wide spectrum of skillsets. The videos will be what Spike Lee will call ‘Joints’. In other words, there would be a song and the song will feature great musicians – friends of mine – whoever I can get to play on the and I will try to make them as good as possible.
The video will be engaging and I’m basically going to release them myself. It’s not because I am trying to go back on tour or do any of that stuff. I just want to give what I think is a really loyal and passionate fanbase that I have, you know, just put it out there and get the energy out there of what I’ve been doing. So we finally wrapped the first song and I’m shooting the video this month. That’s kind of where I’m bringing in visuals and music. I’ve morphed into that kind of an artist now, where my songs, I believe in them in terms of living on their own but at the same time, the visual aspect of it to me is critical. When I listen to the song, I see the video in my head.
Glenn: Do you have to have a certain mindset when you go into this or is always there?
Kane: Yeah. You have to. Take a deep breath. The whole creative process is do something so many times, then even if its your worst, its fantastic. That’s what you have to do. When an athlete takes a deep breath, collects themselves and gets into it, really they are not in the zone. The zone is like something where they don’t have to do that. They just go there. The tennis player goes out there, returns everything – he just waits.
Occasionally you’ll see a number 1 play or a number 5 pass and the number 5 is not missing anything and it’s six love. Six love the first two sets and then they start coming down to Planet Earth which means the zone goes away. Well the great athletes or the great creators practise so much and they work on a song for example so much that even if they’re outside the pocket of being the best they could ever be, it’s still going to be an incredible performance compared to what most people do.
Then when you go on stage, it’s like at the beginning of a tour to the last gig of a tour, you have covered so much territory in how you understand and deal with these songs that you’ve moved on to a different level and maybe you’re adding nuances or very critical little subtleties or big moments to your performance that weren’t there at the beginning of the tour because you’re less concerned with maybe the structure of the song and hitting all the marks because you are just doing it now by instinct. So yes, when I go into any creative environment like writing.
My hope is that I’ve put enough passion, spiritual focus and technical practising so I’m going to be ready and just walk into it. That’s why I don’t get nervous necessarily. I just know how to roll with whatever energy there is. There is a little bit of win, lose or draw, depending on how much you’ve been practising or how devoted you’ve been. So that’s my mindset. It’s like there’s no way to get around it. If you’re prepared then it’s going to go a certain way. If you’re not prepared, you might wanna stay home!
Glenn: When you’ve been out on stage with Alice Cooper or anyone at all, do you find that you stick to a strict sort of style or do you find you improvise a lot and then work off the crowd?
Kane: Well if I’m playing with somebody like Alice, first of all, that environment, I have to preserve. That’s the key. I never think. He was generous on stage. He gave me moments but my deference to why anybody was there, myself included was Alice. So however I can embellish that and if I become like a vital part of it at certain points, in terms of the thermometer – like hitting a higher temperature and you’re involved in that. That’s a great process but in a situation like that I try different things but it’s all done within the realm of whatever the main artist is.
In terms of my own stuff, hopefully my belief in that particular moment is consistent with the first moment that I was creating that song and recorded. Whatever people love about it, if my instincts say I’m going to try this then hopefully it’s gonna work. In other words, you do improvise. I think that if an artist is in tune with the moment he won’t do something… I won’t do something atypical or incorrect. You do improvise, you do change stuff and I didn’t play the same solo every night with Alice except on songs that needed it. The time we did ‘Prince Of Darkness’, ‘Freedom’ and Roses On White Lace’ - I did the solos as they were recorded because there was so much arranging going on when we recorded those songs.
Glenn: Which of the older material meant the most to you to play?
Kane: Well there was a song called ‘Public Animal No. 9’ which we did. That was one of his best vocal performances especially at the end of it because he was just freaking out. ‘Eighteen’ is like being involved in that historic moment every time you play those chords. ‘School’s Out’, you know I never got tired of it. As much as the fan would be excited when we hit that song, I was excited too about it. Then, like I said, the fact that me and Alice did rearrange a lot of the stuff to colour his comeback with a wider swath like, “I’ve just survived rehab” or actually, “I’m here and I’m bigger and badder than ever”.
Re-arranging that stuff was touchy for me but it wasn’t for him. He was always telling me, “Yeah, this is great!”. He was fully supportive of whatever my concepts were. So the fact that ‘The King Of Rock’ was giving me his blessing sort of egged me on a little bit and I felt like even though I was stepping on sacred territory I could completely f*ck it up! I could mess with it.
Glenn: When you’ve done shows, do you find that it takes you a long time to wind down after being on stage or can you switch off just like that?
Kane: Well I’m very hyper. I was more so then, I still am now. So I would go off stage and just be wired. But during the day in my hotel room I was kinda hyper. I was pretty…Alice would tell me to calm down. I was just off the deep end. My parents were the same way. They were like, “Jesus! Chill out would you?” So I was pretty wired after the show. I would go out afterwards. Sometimes I would go straight back to the hotel room and stay up until 4 in the morning just staring at the wall. Let’s see if they wall is great. A nice wall with that little velvet stuff on it – that’s fantastic!
Glenn: It’s cool. I love sh*t like that. It’s fun. Do you have any certain tour stories that you can talk about?
Kane: Well Kip Winger and I once had eight girls in our room. I know that sounds typical rock stuff but it was eight. I didn’t really view myself as one of those guys, like a guy with a goatee and a pipe and an ascot. “I’m here to conduct an orgy”. I wasn’t that type of guy but you know? I think it was in Nova Scotia – some weird place and it was mostly like… well it seemed like farm girls. Well everybody got naked. It was kinda crazy. Kip was very prolific in that sense. The reason I’m bringing that up is that I’ve never told anybody that and I don’t wanna say the same stories I always say.
We had a woman during both of our tours that played the nurse. She was very tall. Her name was Linda Albertson. She was quite a feminist and I think the opening act, I’m not sure what band it was, it may have been Slaughter (we laughs). It’s pretty funny. Those guys if they ever read this will say, “I can’t believe you told that story”. They had some girl. I guess it was somebody’s birthday party. They put whipped cream all over her and cherries and everything. She was naked laying down and that was the guys birthday cake. It might have been for Mark Slaughter or Dana Strum. Linda Albertson, our feminist seven foot nurse walked by their dressing room and saw that, stormed in, made the girl get up and said, “How can you do this?” and “Put your clothes back on!” I remember thinking, ‘This is the least Rock ‘n’ Roll thing that’s ever happened in the history of music. God forbid that it was Alice Cooper’s tour was the one that brought that into the realm. I just thought it was pretty funny. I was basically standing in the back going, “I hope the whipped cream comes off completely before she gets dressed”. (We laugh)
Glenn: Yeah that’d be a nice dry cleaning bill.
Kane: We were playing in France. I remember driving in. We came from the hotel and I was with some of the other guys. I’m looking and I see these sparks flying all over the place on the parking lot. I said, “Hey, what is that?”. Somebody said, “I think it’s your guitar!” I guess gun guitar suddenly went off unexpectedly and was shooting and was and flying all over the parking lot. I thought, ‘I hope that’s okay on the action of the neck’. Unfortunately those guitars that that guy made were very tough. I did have to give it to our guitar guy to do a tremendous amount of clean-up but those guitars as far as I see were pretty incredible. It was just odd to see one of my instruments shooting around the parking lot. I don’t know how many people have seen that.
Glenn: That’s crazy isn’t it.
Kane: Those are stories I’ve never told anybody.
Glenn: That’s awesome.
Kane: There was a time where I shot my gun guitar at Wembley and the flame was going 20 feet in the air. It was the first time it had ever happened. Alice showed up, the stage was big and he was 40 feet away. So I pointed at him and this sound like two pieces of metal clanging together – it went bang and shot a roman candle firework out and hit him in the leg. The audience thought it was part of the show. Alice almost fainted. I’ve told that story before.
Glenn: When you played the ‘Lucky Strike’ night and also done the Rock ‘N’ Roll Fantasy Camps, does that give you an inclin to want to go out and play with bands again or are you just happy to do it now and again?
Kane: No…… (complete silence) (We Laugh)
Glenn: That’s a Lemmy answer that!
Kane: Actually no I don’t. Only because I was pretty much of a wreck. It’s like Rock ‘N’ Roll Fantasy Camp – everybody’s into jamming – all the counsellors, all the Rock guys. I remember back in the day I never hung out with anybody. I just didn’t. It’s not that I felt… I had my own friends but none of ‘em were musicians. So that’s always the way I was. I just was not into the community of mankind in terms of playing with musicians and going out and touring. But, what I would love if I was going to have my ultimate life it would be to have a killer studio, just always recording and having different musicians come in. I’d like to play some stuff with Bumblefoot – a really nice guy.
Glenn: He’s a great guy.
Kane: Yeah and extremely talented. His schedule in life was wanting to strap on on the guitar and be a Rock Star with his band and he showed up two years late. The industry changed but he’s a rare individual. He’s a rare talent. So my next recording, I’m probably going to hit him up and see if he’d like to do something. Another guy that I would love to record with is Bruce Kulick. Just more of a straight hard fast ball in terms of what he does but one of the best talents out there. Just a fantastic musician.
Glenn: Something that gets me about big name artist/musicians, is that they are never going to get chance to see themselves on stage. They are not going to be in the audience – Alice Cooper for example, he’s never going to get that chance unless he goes to see a tribute band, to watch himself like on stage if that makes any sense. It does sound a bit weird but…
Kane: Well Yeah. I mean, you don’t really thing that and it’s really a lot like listening to your voice when you’re talking or recording. The times that Alice saw himself on stage, we’d be looking at footage and everything… we’d just start laughing. Alice is one of the funniest, brightest guys. He’s got a good inside into all of that in that he does everything with a certain sense of humour. When I saw myself on stage I’d go, “Oh that kinda worked” , “That doesn’t work” and “Jeez I wish I never did that”. So you are just looking at it that way but I don’t take it all that seriously. The only thing I regret is that nobody ever filmed us after the first show with ‘Welcome To My Nightmare’ from the first tour. Nobody actually went there and filmed but there’s some really crappy camera films of that where you can see the band is really kicking ass but the sound and everything is crap.
Glenn: How times change when you type on Youtube and you can see some cracking from someone’s phone or something. Sometimes it sounds really good. It’s like holy hell, if only they had some of that sort of stuff 25, 30, 40 years ago as the footage would have been amazing. But then again, the footage that is around and captured then wouldn’t be as special now would it?
Kane: Yeah. No that’s true. When you talk about youtube, the interesting thing to me is I’ll look at a video of a great performance of something that we did and it’s recorded okay. Then I’ll see something similar of the band that exists today and like 400,000 people saw what they did today and 7000 people looked at the one that we did. It makes me wonder if we sucked. (We both laugh). It’s like I’m going, ‘I would be curious to see that’. But maybe if something happens currently then you align yourself with that and people look for it. I don’t know. I don’t get the process.
Glenn: Yeah it’s weird. What are your thoughts on music and how things have changed and progressed over the years?
Kane: Back in the day a lot of Metal sounded the same. There was a lot of it. When a band like Tool came along that’s like, “Jeez – incredible”, and they coloured it. There’s some young bands out there too that are really quite good. There’s a band I heard from Ireland called ‘Maverick’ that has its foot firmly planted in the 80’s/90’s Metal sound but there’s a fresh approach in there art the same time. So there’s a lot of cool stuff going on. The music that you hear today does have a little bit of a processed look unless you dig in a little deeper. If you go on youtube and look around you’ll find whatever genre and some of these bands have 50 million hits. It requires that but the problem is the ability to earn. It’s a tricky deal now and its not the same and the record companys are as always clueless. They are never going to handle this technological gift. It was no shock. They are just not smart enough. They just don’t look at it like that.
A lot of my peers passion for the way things used to be is because a lot of these bands from when they were kids like The Yardbirds, The Rolling Stones or whatever it is. The kids today, they’ve got their own line-up. I have friends that are really against these shows where the guys have a turn-table and they drop bass. There’s like 40,000 people there and they are going, “Dude that’s not even real music” and I always say to them, “Dude, there’s a huge learning curve to be able to run a show like that”. It is exciting if you go there and you listen to it. There’s a guy a long time, Paul Oakenfeld and that song, ‘Wake Me Up When It’s Over’ – what an incredible song. I think everybody just has to open up a little bit.
Glenn: What are your plans for 2016?
Kane: I’m working on some film projects. One of them right now is a 3D Independent film. It’s a kids film. We’ve designed 40 Characters for it. Then we have some of our own scripts. I’ve got another film that I think got picked up on. A Chinese script I wrote. I’m gonna be into that a lot. It’s going to be a creative group. We’re going to be doing music and visuals and concentrating like that. If anything translates to a live performance.
Glenn: What else would you like to cover that we haven’t talked about?
Kane: I just think there’s so many things happening today that’s bust up pre-concieved notions. I haven’t gone out and bought a Rolling Stones record for a long time but those guys have re-written what it is to be 70 years old. It’s absolutely incredible the different… just new potentials are being busted right open. When I was a lot younger I was lifting weights and I used to look at the girls that got huge – big muscles that were bigger than me. I never thought I’d want to get tight with that at all.
There’s one girl called Monica Molica who’s a semi friend of mine who I think has got everything going on in every garden. She’s also a brilliant nutritionist. It’s just that people who define a new potential. I used to look at these woman and go, “That’s the first time in history that’s ever happened. Granted, there was some chemicals involved but then there was technology but when has that ever not been the case. The first violin was a technological advance.
So my point is that the thing that I find the most engaging and inspiring is people that are doing things that re-write whatever our pre-conceived notions of what the truth was. You can see some guy who has become 50 years old and you can tell they kind of gave up. They followed the schedule of the script they were handed that was written way too long ago and there’s no real reason to do that. You can’t help it – your face is gonna fall off eventually. I keep saying “Hurry up science”.
This whole cloning thing. I think that’s pretty fantastic. When I get too old I just put my brain in whatever body I want. Just in terms of science of being able to re-generate. There’s a real cool cult – a think-tank of people. I used to write for Wired Magazine. They’re shooting for some sort of immortality before they die. I find that stuff really engaging. All the science stuff that is breaking all the rules. I remember the first time the whole gene therapy and cloning thing started and there was a religiois backlash to it. I was going, “Why?” Was somebody thinking they can read the mind of God. “He wouldn’t like us to clone anybody!”, What?
Glenn: How do you know?
Kane: How do you know? Who had a conversation with him about cloning? So that’s the sort of stuff that I find stimulating and hopefully some of the creative stuff that I do will reflect that.
Glenn: Are you still involved in bodybuilding?
Kane: I still lift. I’m in good shape. I’m kind of sick of going to the gym. I go to a nice gym here in Los Angeles right next to Hollywood. I don’t like hanging out there. I wear sunglasses when I’m there so nobody really talks to me and I don’t blame them. (Laughs). That to me is something that I’ll always do. Partially because it keeps, along with other things, it keeps discipline. It keeps your brain and your body in shape. It’s along the line that you don’t have to stop because other people said it’s time to stop.
One of my favourite bands along with Rage Against The Machine was Static X. I think back to when Wayne Static passed away. The first permutation of that band – I wish I had a chance to see because all positions in that band were pretty off the hook. The bass player, Wayne and everybody. You want to be part of an iconic moment. That’s what everybody wants – not everybody gets it so you try to brush shoulders like The Clash ‘London Calling’- that cover. That particular pose with smashing the guitar. Every aspect of the body language on that is just full-on. Icomic stuff on that full album. So I think that’s what everybody wants to do. I just hope that the music industry itself opens up and somebody, some kid has an understanding and restructures it so there’s more opportunity for people to get their sh*t out there for everybody to see.
Glenn: What do you like most about being around LA? I’ve been going twice a year since 2009 and it’s the most out-there area I’ve ever been to.
Kane: It’s the weather. To me, New York is glitter covered with trash. I always thought Hollywood was trash covered in glitter. You know what I mean?
Kane: In both those things there’s a certain decadence and awfulness about it really. It’s really attractive to me. Inventive debauchery that takes place in both of those cities more than anywhere else. Miami has a little bit of that. London has a really dememted corner of the psyche that goes on there all the time. Certain parts of Germany that we were in but New York and Hollywood to me are very attractive. No matter how serious people get about stuff you can tell that there’s the tongues in the cheek because they know, you know? Really the reason why they are there is that there’s some perverted demented thing they hope is going on while they’re talking.
Glenn: Right I’ll let you get off.
Kane: Alright man, I’ve enjoyed talking as you can tell.
Glenn: Yeah. You take care of yourself.
Kane: Alright man.
Glenn: Good to speak to you. Bye.
A big thank you to Valerie Ince for setting up the Interview and of course Kane Roberts himself for brilliant in-depth chats!