Interviewed by Mark Dean (Journalist/Writer/Contributor) Myglobalmind Webzine
Good evening Joe, its a pleasure to be able to chat to you. Just wanted to open by asking how the Rated X band came together. There are several names familiar to fans of the hard rock genre. On there It also features a name that is new to me personally in guitarist Karl Cochran.
Joe “Originally Frontiers Records wanted a band of renown players to showcase “the voice “I said”yeah,it sounds like a good idea”but I was really busy touring and I didn’t put much attention to it until I came back to the States and had some r n r.I got a call from Carmine and he said”hey you know that band you want to start. I said “yeah”,and he said that “I want to be in it “and I said “Great”.
I had worked with Carmine in Mothers Army so I knew what a killer player he was and a great guy. We then said”OK who do we get on bass?”and he said “there is only one guy and that is Tony Franklin”Yeah I said”that’s probably right if we can get Tony, then forget about it we have the rhythm section from hell”We called up Tony and he was all for it and then we knew that we had the rock bottom basis of a great band here. Now “lets look for a guitar player”.We went around but anybody that was worth anything was pretty much working and doing a full project. I called Doug Aldrich when he left Whitesnake and he said”No,I’ve got Burning Rain and Steamroller” and all this stuff. I thought “Forget that you are too busy, maybe in the future”and he said “Absolutely”. So moving along we tried Bruce Kulik from Kiss,and he said “I’m not going to leave Grand Funk,and I cant commit “We wanted a band not a project so we said that we needed a band member. We then went to Jeff Watson,he has his own studio and that is his main income now and revenue stream. He turned round and couldn’t do it either. I turned around and said “I am really frustrated with this,and said that “I have got the guitar player all along.”He is a guitar star waiting to happen, his name is Karl Cochran,he plays on all my records and he co-writes with me. He is a phenomenal guy with no bad habits and no egos,a killer player. He is just waiting to break out onto the world stage. We gave him two tracks and they came back and everybody’s mouth was open. Tony just went”oh my god this guy is just phenomenal,where has he been hiding?”Carmine was totally impressed, so we all went OK and gave him the tracks. He started ripping these tracks apart, they were incredible what he was doing on them. He caught the feel,he got the direction-he has got sex in his playing, He has technique,shred,everything. We went seven tracks deep and he unfortunately suffered a stroke.”
So I believe-how is Karl doing now?
Joe “Thanks very much for asking, he is doing much better. He is in therapy every day -conventional therapies as well as holistic therapies. He is working really hard and is determined to come back 100%,but believe me it is going to be a long hard road for anyone in that condition. He is doing very well. What is really getting him by is the positive results and reactions to the Rated X album and to his playing. Its really supporting him and keeping his mental and emotional attitude very high which you really need. There is a lot of depression that goes along with these strokes. We were doing a lot of reading about it, its very easy for a victim to just succumb to that. All of the messages left from you guys-journalists and radio personalities, all of the reviewer and the fans as well have really kept his hopes up and kept his spirits up. We thank you all so much and hope please let me get this out. There is a real legal foundation that is called Rock N Recovery It started off with Karl but we turned it into a charity foundation that is going to be for all musicians anywhere that have been afflicted and need any help with supplementing their medical costs. Maybe you don’t know but in the States it is through the roof. It is a shame but Obama doesn’t care. To make a long story short we realized that this was his life-he never did anything but music. He started his own studio in his house, We are going to supplement those costs for him and I can’t name the bands right now but they are huge. Absolutely huge bands that are coming together to do a huge concert in New York City which is really going to kick off the whole foundation. We are very excited about that in the near spring.”
Just returning to the album-if you could perhaps pick out a couple of tracks that would be particular personal favorites. The story behind the songs so to speak-perhaps the composition of the lyrics and how they were recorded?
Joe “I gotta tell you,I am not going to choose my own songs because it is not about a situation like that. I really love”Journey to Lhasa”which with friends of mine when we were putting the album together we realised that we needed really superb material. I contributed a few from my bag of tricks so to speak. Of course Alessandro Del Vecchio(Frontiers Records)came up with a bunch of tracks and we started writing music and some lyrics. We all just started to contribute, however one of the tracks from the Swedes (my Swedish friends)which is amazing that they wrote was called “Journey to Lhasa”Alessandro and I collaborated on the lyrics. He put that together and it is basically a spiritual message of the ancient search for your soul. It is almost an eight minute piece, what we call our Kashmir. Its not a three minute single, its a deep track and it is astounding. We feel that this defines the band. The band is a performance band, a players band a singers band and a writers band. We want to cover all the bases and this track just puts it right in perspective about the whole feeling where we take the listener on a journey. It really is a journey, so that is one of them. Of course “You are the music “it is one of mine but at the same time is a great track. I wrote it for a friend of mine who had passed who had an aneurysm in his brain. He died on the table, in the hospital. He came to life, lived for about a year and then one day I was texting him and I got no answers. His mom and dad said that he had passed. It was just absolutely devastating to me. I just had to write a song and I realized that this song was just an anthem for everyone not just him and to his memory. It is also for everyone who loves music and that music is their life. There is quite a few other tracks on there “Fire and Ice””This is who I am “I mean for me one of the most unsubtle tracks that we did ,”Don’t Cry No More”-a real rocker.”
You began originally as a guitarist and played that instrument on the four Fandango albums. Do you still occasionally pick up the guitar or is your voice your sole instrument?
Joe “Well you know what happened was,a guitarist who sang by accident. The singer in my band got sick,I think he was drunk or something. He started throwing up,anyway I walked up to the mic singing and playing guitar. The people started to come forward and I started to realize “Yeah I have got something here”So we fired the singer…..(laughs)I have been singing and playing ever since. Then when Richie got me he said”You cant really play guitar here”and I said”No I figured that”That is when lead singing became a whole new format for me. I had to learn and not hide behind the guitar. That was a learning experience and Richie really helped me through that .I was the only guitarist that ever played on-stage with Richie Blackmore. He gave me a silver anniversary stratocaster and I played”Ode to Joy” and once I even got to do the lead on “Smoke on the Water”when Richie pulled a moody.(laughs).I grabbed the guitar and just finished it off. When I went backstage he was sitting there drinking a scotch and coke and went”Well done Joe”
Do you find personally that the song writing process becomes easier over the years or is it harder to find inspiration?
Joe “The exercise of writing is a very inspirational one and sometimes you have to find new ways to say old things. The message still remains the same today, for example on the Rated X album we have a song called “Devil in Disguise”It is seriously a political statement, religious leaders, political leaders -everyone is lying to the people. There is a lot of that going on now a days .I guess there always was. We are making a statement. So you have to find these particular subjects to express again and again and again in different ways. Until we all wake up and realise ,when somebody shakes you awake and says”I am tired of all this, “Look what is going on in the UK, look what is going on in the States, Ukraine, Russia everywhere. Its a mess! We have got to do something about it! Music has always been a revolutionary tool and I think Russell Brand is going on about it now and god bless him for that. He has a big voice and he can make a difference and he is calling for revolution. He is calling for people to awaken and to understand what is really happening in this social/economic and political situation that we are in today worldwide. Yes you have to find the lyrics, you have to find the messages .We are not writing pop stuff we are writing statements and messages. Pop stuff is always pretty simple that gets their 15 minutes of fame and then goes. Bands like us can’t afford to do that-that’s not what we are about. We are in it for the long run and we are in it deep. So it does become a little more difficult than “how do you rephrase the same message “Other than that I think there is an endless wave of creativity that one can tap in to if they really try. I urge everyone that is out there and trying to be creative to absolutely never give up on it and just to free yourself from any restrictions that you may have. Or judgments on your own creativity because that is the worst thing. That is what will stop you-is your judgment on yourself. You just have to put it out there-throw it out there and let it happen.”
Over the years your musical career has had many highlights-for me personally the time that you spent in both Rainbow and Deep Purple. Can you pick out a particular highlight with each of those two bands?
Joe “Well obviously with Rainbow -getting into Rainbow was an incredible experience. I always say that, and on talking to Cameron Crowe who wrote the Rockstar movie that it is very similar to that. He may have taken the lead from that somewhere. People have mentioned that before, I am not saying that I am the only one that has happened to but I was one of the first. Just a guy coming out of nowhere getting on the world stage, and just being accepted like that. It was a fantastic thing to happen. That alone is a highlight but I would have to say a real highlight of Rainbow was when we sold out Madison Square Garden here in New York where I live. All of my friends, family and everyone that thought that I was never going to make it. There we are headlining 25,000 people-”you have arrived “So that was my message for me. Just getting into Deep Purple was an absolutely momentous occasion. That was my favorite band during the early years. It really was. There was the Big Three-Sabbath,Purple and Zep. Purple was always my favorite. Of course as a guitar player I really loved Richie Blackmore’s style. I felt that he was the most innovative of the three although all of them are brilliant. Pagey and Iommi are just killer. I just took to Blackmore so getting into Deep Purple was just outrageous for me. It was a dream come true and I think that we had a brilliant album there with “Slaves and Masters”.Only after ten years or so people started to realize “That was a great album”. During the time there was a lot of backlash about it, a lot of fussing and fighting about it.”Oh no-its Richie and Joe,its Deep Rainbow”.Well hey two guys were from Rainbow-what are you going to do? You are going to have a crossover sound. At the same time I think it was the last great Purple album”
In my research today prior to this interview, I did actually listen to it for the first time in many years, I do concur with your point-definitely a much under-rated release.
Joe”Yeah, put it on again and check it out. Richie himself had said it in the press that it was one of his favorite Purple albums. He wouldn’t say that if he didn’t mean it. He doesn’t need to. To me it was a much underrated album when it came out. The more I go around people say to me “you know we never gave it a chance, we never really listened to it for what it was. We all had our pre determinations about what Purple should be, but not what it really was. For it being commercial or more accessible-well that was our plan. To make Purple as successful as we had made Rainbow. So you can fault me or you can cheer me on either way I was going into this situation to make it a more accessible entity in that day and age. Whenever everyone else was getting on the radio and videos were on MTV..That was all planned.”
Following on from the release of that “Slaves and Masters” album which you both are still proud of-it must have come as a shock to have been replaced by Ian Gillan who you had replaced?
Joe”Aww no no no-you know I knew about it. It wasn’t like I was shocked or anything. There was a big fight going on within the band-as always with Purple. What happened was that this was part of my everyday life at the time so I knew what was going on..and where it was going with Jon, and Ian Paice. Richie was standing by my side and he wanted to finish the second album that we had started. We already had some great tracks of which they used three of them on “The Battle Rages On”They are great tracks but I think that the messages were not so good in my opinion. That’s just my opinion but what really happened was very aware to me. I got frustrated with the whole thing and I quit before I was fired so to speak. I wasn’t really fired I was “let go “because Richie wanted to still hang onto me but the rest was a business deal. A straight up business deal. In a way I am glad that they got Ian back but then again history shows that Richie quit. Runs off at the beginning of a tour actually, I think they were only four shows in. Basically he was expressing his discouragement with the whole thing. He really didn’t want to be there, so you can’t keep a band together if you don’t want to be there. All in all-not a problem to me, I mean it was a sad day because I think we were coming out with a great second album. That would have sealed the deal for everyone. They would have seen that we were a real entity. To make a long story short, I knew about it and everything was cool. I was going off on my solo anyway.”
You have worked with several guitarists who could fairly be termed”moody” and with “difficult” reputations. Does that element of tension/danger and unpredictability fuel or stifle creativity?
Joe “Well if you mean was Yngwie difficult? Laughs)Yeah he’s difficult, definitely more difficult than they say that Richie is. Richie is pretty intelligent and reasonable. He wants perfection from somebody and that is all that he expects. If you deliver that then you don’t have a problem with him. Once we had a disagreement /a fight or whatever. We sat down, drank a bottle of scotch together and were laughing. We had figured out that we want the same thing we just didn’t know how to say it.”
Does that make it more difficult in a band situation when there is that element there?
Joe “I’m not sure if I can answer that directly but Yngwie was more difficult and since I brought his greatest album ever and put him on the map so to speak …This was all Polygram’s idea by the way, they hired me to do this. I did it and I accomplished it. What I resented about it is the fact that he is walking around saying that “I didn’t write those songs “and I didn’t co-write them anyway. He did the tracks and I did the lyrics and melody. Anyone who listens to them can clearly see that they are mine and his-there is a combination there. I think that is the biggest discredit to him, in that he wont give credit where it is due. He needs to have it all, and I think that he hasn’t come out with even a close album since that. Because of his resistance and that makes him extremely more difficult and stubborn.”
There has been lots of internet discussion recently leading on from your comments in another interview regarding a possible Rainbow reunion. In that interview you also stated that you would be having a”sit down “with Richie to discuss that at the beginning of December. Given that that date has now come and passed what is the latest update on the Rainbow reunion situation as it currently stands?
Joe “It has now been slightly pushed and I might be able to get him between Christmas and New Year. If not then we are planning on it right after the holidays, because they muck everything up. We are going to have a face-face,sit down, have a few beers and discuss this and see where we want to go with it. I am not really sure of his creativity and endeavors yet and how far he wants to take it. I know for a fact that we have deals on the table that would really be incredibly huge. I don’t know if he wants to go that big. He may just want to do so many gigs or one gig or a residency someplace. Like the Albert Hall or Hammersmith or something. Just do a few gigs there and say “cest la vie”and off to posterity. We will suss it out, figure it out. He will have to hear everything that is offered to him by some extremely big companies that really know the value of Rainbow and what the fans would rally round. Everywhere that I go throughout the world everyone is asking “When is Rainbow going to get together “some of the people were big fans, some were too young to see us live and who have grown up with the music. They are all clamoring for this band which was iconic. It has been said to have started the basic metal genre because of the way that Richie played. He is an iconic guitarist -he deserves it and the fans deserve it. All the ex members of Rainbow deserve it, Ronnie we have lost. Everywhere I go on my solo stuff I do Ronnie songs. I love his diverse of old Rainbow and I’m not afraid to put my spin on it. I still honor these guys by doing these songs. There is nobody else out there doing this and the world still needs to hear these songs.-Let’s talk to Richie, see what he says and we have to respect that.”
What about the rest of the line-up for this reunion-will Roger Glover be involved and apart of it,and Don Airey?
Joe “Well you know there is a difficulty there with the rivalry and years of problems within the Purple camp. You have got to take that into consideration and you don’t want to upset the apple cart. We would love to have Roger, Don Airey-you know they are securely implanted and immersed into Deep Purple now…I don’t think that the management who does not get along with Richie would appreciate it. There is so much politics in this business, and they are just ridiculous really. Nobody really gets along and everybody is fighting with each other. and I don’t see the point. Music is not like that but that is what we have to worry about”
I’m asking because obviously Rainbow fans are going to be asking that question…
Joe “From a fan perspective? a lot of people don’t consider it because they don’t realize what is really going on behind the scenes.”
How do you view your personal musical legacy? Are you proud of what you have achieved, and what is there left to achieve?
Joe “I really am, I mean who would ever think when I started out with a dream with a goal .I never gave up on it and the doors have opened. There is an old equation that preparation for eternity equals success. I was certainly prepared, the opportunity came along and success was the result. I say that to all my students that I deal with in the school of rock here in the States.I has an assistant professorship with them. I am always telling the kids that you need that dream-the fire of desire. Dedication and sacrifice, determination and a selfless that you are singular about it. That no one can deter you or stop you. There is a lot of haters in the world. lot of jealous people….”Jealous Lovers “to use a phrase(we both laugh recognizing an old Rainbow song title).Yeah really that’s what that songs third verse was written about. Its about people, its about one day they love you and the next day they don’t. That happens all the time. You cant let anything deter you and you have to follow your star so to speak. You have to try to reach higher ground no matter what they say because you have a purpose. So yeah I am proud of what I have achieved, it’s been a lot of hard work , alot of tears and a lot of sweat. The ones who are surviving we become legends. As my dear father said when he was alive” Joe, its not how many times that you get knocked down, it’s how many times you get back up”
Finally Joe, regarding Rated X I just wondered how touring plans were shaping up for the band-Is that something that has already been discussed yet?
Joe” The album has still only been out a short time. It has not yet had time to catch fire. With guys like you and your help that’s why we appreciate you so much because you can get the word out to people and you can let them know that it is a fantastic album. They should listen to it and they should want to see us live. Once they do that then I think that the promoters are going to wake up because money is tight today as you know with the economic situation. I think that when they see that Rated X is now a viable force in this music industry that we are going to play shows off the hook and everywhere. We have a few set up to come out and show people what we have got. What is on that record is exactly what we can do live and a lot better because we will all be putting it out 150%.At the same time we want people to realize that we are determined to become a new musical force in the melodic hard rock genre. Everywhere we go and every journalist that we talk to we are getting rave reviews ,we are getting radio play in the United States which is just about impossible these days. We are actually making a mark here so it’s fantastic results and we couldn’t be happier. We just hope that the people feel the same way .With any luck and with you guys pushing it for us we will reach our goals.”
Joe thanks for talking time to talk to me-it’s been a genuine pleasure,
Joe “Thank you so much, really from me and the rest of the guys I speak for all of them when I say a very Happy Christmas to you and a wonderful New Year. I hope to see you in that New Year.”
Good luck with the album I hope that it achieves the success that it deserves.
Joe “The success that it deserves”-very well put. I like that; I will use that phrase-thank you very much.”