We talk with guitarist KANE ROBERTS about his latest solo effort, “The New Normal”.
Kane: It’s funny. I only wanna do things that I’m really feeling at a moment where I think I’m gonna do something special. So, I stayed out of the music industry for a long time, because I really don’t like the business. The music business is the part … Not music or musicians or fans or any of that stuff, ’cause that’s all kinda like a dream.
But when it came time to … A couple of years ago, I would say four years ago, I started recording little demos and stuff. I got more and more involved. I always played guitar, but I started feeling stronger about where my guitar playing was at that point. So, Kip Winger said to me, “You oughta just take a shot with Frontiers.” Frontiers [Records] was nice enough to give me a chance to record. I was a little hesitant because of my experience with other record companies. Not that they’re bad or evil. When you walk into those things, you have to be a realist. You have to figure, “Okay, I’m going into business. Whatever this deal is, I gotta hang with it.” These guys are pretty hardcore, so you just deal with it.
Frontiers ended up being one of the few places where the music is the most important thing to them. They gave me three years to record this. I just feel like two things. One of them is I’m very happy that I decided to record again, and I’m really happy that I ended up at Frontiers Records. Mario and Serafino were yelling at me, but the point is that they said, “Make a great fucking record already. Hurry up.” They ended up liking the record. Then, of course, I just shot that video with Alice and Alissa White-Gluz. So, it turned out to be kind of a special journey.
ANTIHERO: You mentioned disillusionment generally with record labels. Did you ever maybe consider over the years just putting music out under your own steam, where you have full control?
Kane: That’s an interesting question, only because a lot of people, a lot of my friends from back in the day, are very upset the way the music industry is now. I always say I think it’s better because you have through YouTube and different outlets like that, different portals, you can get the word out there. Whereas before you’d play clubs and you had a demo and whatever and you just tried to play it for people. This is a little bit different in that you can actually get in contact with a lot of humanity just from recording your own stuff and teaching yourself how to use YouTube and places like that.
I’ve given seminars on music to younger musicians and even older guys that they wanna get into the music industry. I always say to them, you can’t really expect a lot. You gotta learn where we came from. It used to be a long time ago, musicians wore shoes that curled up with bells on them. They had a mandolin. They were playing the side of the road. Rich people would come by in carriages and throw meat at them or something. It really hasn’t changed that much. You have to figure, the main rule in terms of the music industry is if you practice enough, if you get obsessed, if you make yourself into something special, the world will beat a path to your door. The world will greet you with open legs.
I’m living proof of that. Because if you think about it, I weighed 225 pounds, a big muscle guy, played guitar. There was only one band in the world that would hire me, and that’s Alice Cooper. And he found me. Do you know what I mean? Even today, if somebody said, “Do you wanna join any other band?” There’s no band that would hire me because I don’t look right. I’m not the right person for other bands. I just either do my own thing or, just by a freak accident, Alice Cooper found me and I was able to play with him. The best thing about that is we ended up being best friends.
ANTIHERO: You mentioned there, obviously you’re very widely known for your guitar playing. I was actually quite surprised by the strength of your singing. You’re a pretty decent singer as well.
Kane: Yeah, you know, I always connected the two. In other words, I felt that the most emotional guitar solo I could do, it was a voice. It was part of me in terms of my voice. My singing when I started wasn’t very good. I really worked on it. I took vocal lessons and everything. To be honest with you, when I stepped in front of the microphone three years ago, I had no idea. I’d been singing and doing demos and stuff. But to get back into the public jet stream of putting a record out for people to judge and listen to or either love or hate or whatever it is … I didn’t really know what to expect.
Within three or four months, I felt like, “Geez. I still have my range. I can still do it.” I said, “This is pretty awesome.” So I got into just then getting into the best creative mode I could be in.
ANTIHERO: Okay. Returning to the new album, what about the songs themselves? Were they all new songs to you, or a collection of songs that you’d built up over the years that you’d sorta done little bits too, or are they all just new and fresh?
Kane: Whether or not the songs were brand new or they’re things I’ve been working on … It was actually an interesting question only because yeah, I had been working on a lot of songs. I’d been writing a lot. I brought those in thinking that was gonna be the album, and only one song ended up being a song that I had worked on before. Everything else was brand new.
I worked with Brent Smith from Shinedown and Lzzy Hale and Dave Bassett and this kid named Evan Magness who wrote “Beginning of the End,” the song I did with Alice and Alissa, and Katt Franich, I wrote that ballad with her. It ended up being something where I was just reaching out to different people and hoping that they would allow me to write on their material and stuff. So yeah, it started off being, “I better go in there with songs.” Then they didn’t kinda make the final cut. Within three or four months, I was just into creating new stuff.
ANTIHERO: Yeah. What about the recording process? Do you have your own studio? Did the musicians come in and do their own little bits, or did they send their bits to you via the Internet? How did that work?
Kane: I was lucky, because the co-producer, his name is Alex Track, owns a very successful studio in Studio City, which is where I live. So I was able to go in and record every night in a full-on studio. I didn’t wanna record at home, because I don’t really play good guitar solos in my underpants. Which is too bad, because I was gonna wear that onstage. No, I’m kidding.
No, but the point is that I think I wanted to get out of my comfort zone. I didn’t wanna have my couch there and the TV. Then I’d be hitting that stuff all day. In my world, I think friction is where you get the fire. I just wanted to take myself a little bit out of the routine that I was seeing every day. So yeah, I was in a studio.
Then some musicians came in. Some of them sent their stuff to me. Alice came in and sang with me. Some of the bass stuff, Kip sent his stuff to me. It was sort of a blend of either being in the studio with me or recording something and sending it and me sort of saying yay or nay. With Alissa White-Gluz, she sent me her stuff and everything just knocked everybody over, it was so good. So certain experiences like that are just one-shots. Same with Nita. Nita just tore up that song that she played guitar on.
ANTIHERO: I’m sure many interviews have talked about … You’ve talked about it yourself, the big-name musicians. One guy, I wanna talk to you about is … I’m originally from Northern Ireland myself. I wanna talk to you about how the relationship with Maverick came about. First, you did a song on their album. Then you got David from the band on the new album. I just wondered how that relationship with Maverick and David, how it started.
Kane: What happened was I think I was just on Instagram or Facebook. I think one of them just said hi to me. They said they were in a band. I listen to tonnes of music, Mark. I’m just really into so many different styles. People go, “Hey, you fucking listen to that? What’s wrong with you?” I just listen to a lot of stuff. If something’s good, I let it affect me, that sort of a thing.
I played the Maverick record and I just went, “This is freaking awesome.” I love David’s playing. I love Ryan’s playing. It really struck me as legit. People going in and really banging their heads against the wall to get something that they believe in. I almost did a small show with a couple of festivals or something, a small tour, and I was gonna have them as my band. The album started, so I wasn’t able to. But I really respect those guys. Those some of the best musicians I know. Ryan did some guitar on it as well, the guitar player. But David’s voice is-
ANTIHERO: Yeah, he’s incredible.
Kane: It’s just so amazing, so great. I played on one of their records. Since then, we’ve become friends. So yeah. Yeah, that’s how that relationship started.
I’m part Irish. That usually means to people that are Irish, “Yeah, you’re not Irish at all. Get the fuck out of here.” But I still kinda feel it. It’s on my bucket list in my life to go to Ireland someday and see it. That’s sort of a special kind of a feeling about all that.
ANTIHERO: That led nicely on to touring plans. I always feel that songs only really come alive when they’re performed live on a stage. I just wonder what sort of touring plans you had for the album.
Kane: Oh, you mean to play live?
Kane: There are no plans at all, actually. The thing is … It’s funny that you mention that. It is a very sort of substantial dimension to experiencing a band and songs. You hear them on CD, but then when you went to see them live, there was a tremendous amount of more information that you were gonna get. Very exciting and everything.
But I think probably at this stage, I’m gonna most likely just make some more videos. If there’s a reason for me to tour, if there’s enough response to the record or whatever and it appears like there’s a reason for me to get out there and do it, then I’ll definitely do it. The thing is, too, I would probably ask the Maverick boys to be the band and everything, and then we’d have to rehearse for quite a while to climb the mountain to make it good enough and make it special. So I just wanna …
Anyway, so yeah, I feel like, at this point, there are no plans. I don’t see it happening, but there’s a potential for it. I won’t fight it, but I don’t see it right now.
ANTIHERO: You mentioned there that you’ve got a wide taste in music, different types, different genres. I just wondered how you view your own back catalogue. Do you actually keep copies of albums you played on? Do you go back and listen to those? Or do you not bother and focus on what’s coming ahead?
Kane: I don’t have a copy … I have one vinyl copy of the Saints and Sinners record, but that’s it. I don’t have any of the gold records. I don’t have any of the memorabilia. Nothing. I even sold two Gun guitars. Actually, I didn’t sell them. One of them ended up at the Hard Rock Café in New Orleans, and then one at the Hard Rock in Israel. I don’t hold on to the past. I don’t even look at it. YouTube, I might have popped on a song here and there, but that’s it. I have no interest.
ANTIHERO: What about touring? We mentioned that you’ve no plans to tour the new album.
Kane: Touring, no. I won’t be playing live. I don’t think so.
ANTIHERO: Previous tours with Alice, and I’m sure that you have toured all over the world, I just wondered if you have a favourite country in terms of culture, people, food, that you have visited on a tour that really stands out for you and you’ve maybe gone back to.
Kane: Yeah, no, there are. England was big … Everybody said, “Oh, you’re not gonna like the food,” all this stuff. I love the food in England. I used to walk around London, and then I would meet people who’d take me home and they’d make dinner. It was freaking awesome. It’s the same thing with Germany. I had a tremendous time in Germany.
The thing about Europe … As I said, I’m dying to get to Ireland. The thing about it is that you get a different feel. America’s all about tearing things down and building it up and then tearing … As soon as a building gets 50 years old, they tear it down. It’s a different feel in Europe. The way music and culture and trends spread, it’s not entirely media-generated. It’s more like word of mouth and it’s more organic. You really get that sense when you’re there. The fans have a different path to finding your music and then either loving it or hating it, that sort of a thing.
It’s a very special experience for me. I was fortunate to do a couple of world tours with Alice. You come back from an experience like that of playing all over the world in Europe and everything, and now you’re a real musician. Now you really know what the score is.
But I would say the two thoughts that come to mind are England and Germany. But I have to be honest with you. They all really struck a chord in my heart. If anybody ever reaches out to me and said, “Oh, I saw you in Sweden and stuff,” the memories sort of flood in. Playing live and touring … I was one of those guys, I didn’t want the tour to end. I could tour five years straight. I loved it.
ANTIHERO: You’ve played with several musical legends. You mentioned Alice. I just wondered who would have been the most influential. Who would’ve taught you the most? Would it be Alice, or somebody else?
Kane: Yeah, it’s definitely Alice. Because back in those days, I was a very hyper kind of a crazy kid. Alice was able to sort of get me on an even keel. I saw him work. I saw how he worked. His greatest moments are when all the noise is gone and he’s just in this sort of intense mood, and he creates the best stuff. Then I would see onstage …
There’s a video from the first show of The Nightmare Returns. We played Joe Louis Arena on Halloween night and it was filmed on MTV. It’s essentially the first show. The band is really nervous. We’re all young guys. We’re all in the back. Suddenly we hear the keyboard and Alice goes, “Welcome to my nightmare,” and the place explodes in this cheer. Then we walk out onstage. And as soon as Alice kicks down that door and comes walking out, the whole band relaxed, because he’s just incredibly skilled at what he does, and it’s so for real. Sometimes I’d be onstage with him and we’re doing … Especially during Raise Your Fist, it was a very violent kind of a show. I’d look at him and I’d go, “He’s really that character right now.”
I started to learn that when you play, it’s gotta be real. It’s gotta come from your heart. You can’t be thinking about how you’re doing or how you look or how you sound. I think that was sort of the beginning of me really learning how to be a musician.
ANTIHERO: What are your goals and ambitions for this year? Is music something that you’re gonna focus on, promotion of this solo album, or is it just a little step of many that you’ve got lined up for this year?
Kane: I think what I wanna do, Mark, is make a couple of more videos. I already have the next one. It’s kinda ready to go. That’s kinda my goal with this. Anything that Frontiers requests of me, I’ll absolutely do. But I don’t know. I might fall off the radar again. I have no idea. It was very important for me to make this particular record and get it out. Again, Frontiers was the place for me to do it. I was very lucky to find them.
ANTIHERO: Do you feel it’s necessary to take breaks from music? You mentioned there that the whole business has changed, it’s something that disillusions you a lot.
Kane: I think it’s better. I really do. Think of it this way. If you put your band together and you play … Let’s say you’ve got something special. You can put it on YouTube. If you teach yourself how to use YouTube properly … ‘Cause it’s very complicated. It’s a moving environment every day. YouTube rewrites their code every day. They’re writing it constantly. People don’t know, one day a week, they push the new code into YouTube. At that moment, for that day, nothing’s really happening on YouTube. They don’t know that. They don’t see it. They can’t notice it. But it’s a very, very complex system that you have to be on your toes about.
But if you teach yourself the things that you need to learn, if you surround yourself with the right people, you can begin your career in an international way through YouTube, and actually make money with it if you wanna think like that. That situation didn’t exist before. Before you had to send your tapes out and mail them. You had to do live shows, and hopefully, somebody that meant something would happen to see you. I think you have a much broader reach these days.
The music industry has never been built specifically for artists. It’s for the business people that wanna cash in on it. Think of it this way. The record companies are still fine. People say, “Oh, the music industry isn’t what it used to be.” They don’t have to make CDs anymore, most of them. They got rid of a lot of their staff. They don’t finance tours, for the most part, for new bands. They don’t do it. So they’ve saved a tremendous amount of money, so their business model is a lot tighter. The musicians are the ones that keep feeling the heat.
So, what does that mean? It means you’ve gotta just take the bull by the horns. You have to do your own thing. You gotta take control of your own life. A lot of people don’t wanna do that. But in that sense, I think there’s a lot more opportunity.
ANTIHERO: You don’t see a time where your music becomes a full-time career for you, no?
Kane: Yeah, that would be the ideal situation for me.
ANTIHERO: Obviously, you have done other things. You’ve gotten into graphic arts and stuff as well.
Kane: Yeah, I’m doing other things. I have a movie consulting company and stuff like that. But anything that would allow me to stay in my bathrobe and slippers all day, I’ll do. That’s my goal. No, I’m kidding.
I’m joking. I was in the studio literally from 9:00 to 3:00, 4:00 AM every night for three years, so I’m still very committed to it. I’m just kidding.
ANTIHERO: Just a final one, then. If the roles were reversed, who would you like to sit down and interview?
Kane: Oh. It wouldn’t be me, I can tell you that because I’m really sick of hanging out with me. No, I’m kidding. Let me see. Who would it be? Who would be a good interview?
Geez, I don’t wanna say Alice. Alice is amazing. Yeah, I don’t wanna say it, ’cause everybody’s gonna say, “Oh, he’s gonna say Alice Cooper.” I would like to interview Cristina Scabbia. That’s who I’d like to interview.
Because I did a song called “Wonderful,” and there’s a bridge section that’s a little bit X-rated in terms of the words, and then the guitar solo after that, which I think is one of the best solos I’ve ever played. She is the reason for the B section and the solo. She just got in my head. I’ve never met her. But I just started listening to her stuff and following her on Instagram. I was going, “This person is really deep and really, really sexy and really amazing.” If you listen to that bridge, you can hear how it ends. Then it goes into the guitar solo. She was in my head for all of that. So I’d like to interview her and ask her why she did that. She seems like one of the sort of new normal in terms of women that are innovators and they’re changing the culture. As you get to know them, you broaden your spectrum of what life is.
ANTIHERO: Kane, thank you very much. I’ll let you get back. Enjoy the rest of your day. Thank you. Thanks again.
Kane: Hey, thank you very much, Mark. This was a very enjoyable interview. Thanks a lot, man.
ANTIHERO: No problem. Love the album. Great album. Congratulations on that.
Kane: Oh, great. Thank you.