Interview by Robert Cavuoto
Kane Roberts is most notably known as Alice Cooper’s Rambo-esque guitar player in the last 80s; writing and performing on several of Alice’s albums including Raise Your Fist and Yell and Constrictor. An accomplished musician and singer, Kane also recorded four solo albums in the 90s.
Now Kane is back with a fierce new CD, The New Normal, and involved some really amazing friends including Alice Cooper and Alissa White-Gluz of Arch Enemy on “Beginning of the End.” Kane also managed to reunite his former Alice Cooper bandmates Kip Winger, Paul Taylor and Ken Mary on “Above and Beyond.” Other guest appearances include Nita Strauss and Lzzy Hale.
I had caught up with Kane to talk about his new CD, The New Normal, to share some Spinal Tap moments with Alice Cooper, and the thrill of writing with Paul Stanley of KISS.
Robert Cavuoto: You were gaining moment and notoriety as a guitarist and songwriter when you were with Alice Cooper as well as your Saints and Sinners CD in 1991. After that seemed you disappeared off the radar – what happened?
Kane Roberts: The Saints and Sinners CD was going quite well, but the music culture was changing. Listeners and record companies started moving in a different direction. My excitement in the music business was going way. I thought to myself that I don’t have to keep making records. I was still going to play guitar, and I valued my fans but to get involved in the legal structure of the music industry just didn’t appeal to me, so I went off the grid. I did make a couple of smaller releases, but it wasn’t until recently that I started going to the studio and creating demos. My friend Kip Winger pushed me to send something over to Frontiers Records. Serafino Perugino and Mario de Riso have an incredible record company and allowed me to take my time, which was three years, and here I am today doing interviews. They are very passionate about the bands and music. That is why they were able to build up such a great label.
Robert Cavuoto: Why did you part ways with Alice as you seemed to have a nice chemistry?
Kane Roberts: Alice and I are still best friends, when I got the record deal with Geffen, I had to put all my time into it. I also recall he was changing labels and working with Desmond Child. It was a very natural progression to move away from each other. I took away so much from working with Alice, like becoming a professional musician and learning about the creative process. The main thing that I walked away with was our friendship and blessed to have ever met the guy! He ended up being on the new record. When we parted, it was just the business that pushed us apart. He is such a nice human being! He used to stay at my house for months at a time, and we never had a disagreement; the reason being it was him. I can be very hyper but he is always even keel, and he guides the ship.
Robert Cavuoto: Alice sings on “Beginning of the End,” why did you choose that song for him to sing on?
Kane Roberts: I wrote it with Evan Magness, I heard the song and loved the rhythm section and the guitar parts. When we were done, I put down a vocal track and was listening back to it and thought; the type of lyrics that I came up with, nobody on the planet could deliver better than Alice Cooper. I then became obsessed with the thought of having him on it. I called him up that night at 9:30 pm while I was in the studio and asked him if he would sing on the song. I figured he would be busy or not in LA until months down the road. He responded, I’m in town, and I’ll be right over! From the moment I had the idea to the moment I called him, he came over with his wife and spent three or four hours talking and working. He did an amazing job.
Robert Cavuoto: A few of the songs on this CD have an industrial vibe like “Wonderful,” “Beginning of the End,” and “Leave this World Behind.” Is that a style of music you enjoy now?
Kane Roberts: I have listened to so much music, and everybody has their own terms for music. When you go heavy, you go heavy in that style that you hear. Those are heavy songs, and to me, “Wonderful” has that great middle section with the acoustic guitar. It also features what I think is my best guitar solo, but that just my taste. That is a song that I’m really proud of. “Leave this World Behind,” I wrote with Brent Smith of Shinedown. His version was a little less heavy, but we decided to have that 3 / 4 rhythm keyboard in the beginning with the 4 / 4 bass underneath it. It just gets heavy every time the vocals take off. I have always loved heavy riffs as you know with Raise Your Fists and Yell LP and all bands I have loved in the past. It represents that part of who I am.
Robert Cavuoto: My favorite track was “King of the World” as it has that classic anthemic rock vibe which is reminiscent of your days with Alice.
Kane Roberts: I wrote that one with my co-producer, Alex Track and I wanted to make the lyrics about a guy who is still struggling with the break-up of a girl. After a breakup, most guys feel like crap, then they get over it in a week or two. Other times it goes on for years. That where this guy is coming from, he is saying he is over her and king of the world. I got Nita Strauss to play guitar with me. The last line where I’m screaming, “You will never fade away;” Nita comes in with a sledgehammer guitar riff, and it’s just a great moment on the record. Kip Winger plays bass and has this incredible bass sound leading into the end of the chorus.
Robert Cavuoto: Who are some of your favorite guitar players that you cite as influences and look to incorporate their flavor into your playing?
Kane Roberts: Because I have been alive for quite a while, I have a lot of influences. There is Jimi Hendrix, Alvin Lee, Eddie Van Halen, and Zakk Wylde who I always listen to. Steve Vai has always been one of the most important guitar players to me. The flavors I bring in really involves the environment that the song lives in. Something that comes from left field, when I went to the New England Conservatory of Music where I went to school, I listened to so many different types of music like classical and jazz. All of those influences weed their way into my creative brain, and that is why I play the way I do.
Robert Cavuoto: I wasn’t aware that you co-wrote “Take it Off” by Kiss as its one of my favorite modern Kiss songs. What was that experience like to write with Paul Stanley?
Kane Roberts: Bob Ezrin called me up and asked what I was doing one afternoon. I told him nothing, just staring at the wall with my mouth open [laughing]. He asked if I want to write with Paul. I’m still a fanboy at heart and still with Alice to some degree. I thought it was so cool. When I met with him, he is all about work, that’s what he wants to do. If you are there to write a song, then write the song. I wasn’t there to hang out and have a sandwich. As soon as I played that opening riff, as I had it holstered and ready to go, he just loved. We made a few modifications to it. I was also invited to go to the studio to watch them record it. I was chatting with Gene Simmons and Bruce Kulick was playing amazingly well. I really didn’t hear the final song than until they did a live video with all these strippers and its big production. Paul was singing it great, as he is one of the best vocalists out there. I was honored to hear a song that I wrote and played in that huge bombastic production. I like that song too and think it is one of their best.
Robert Cavuoto: Any Spinal Tap stage moment that you can share when you were touring with Alice?
Kane Roberts: Yes, back then I had a gun guitar that shot flames. When we went overseas, we were not allowed to take over any charges. We had to get explosives or flamethrowers in England for the first show at Wembley. I’m on stage with tech before the show, and he told me he has it all figured out on how to use the guitar on the solo. We are on this huge 40-foot stage, so when it came time for the solo, I pull the trigger, the guitar shot this 30-foot flame through the air. Alice shows up at the edge of the stage while I’m doing the solo, which he never does, so I back up a little and aim it at him. I was a safe distance and pull the trigger again. I hear what sounds like two pieces of metal slap together and this Roman candle missile shoots out of my guitar and hits Alice in the leg. He almost faints, and I’m thinking I killed Alice while the audience goes nuts. They thought it was part of the show. This is all happening while the guitar is still shooting flames! The tech ran on stage, took the guitar while it was still on fire, and ran outside with it.
Robert Cavuoto: Back in the day you bore a resemblance to Sylvester Stallone as Rambo. Did anyone ever think you were him?
Kane Roberts: No. I had this gun guitar, long curly hair, muscles, ripped shirt, and one day I’m sitting on the tour bus looking at Creem magazine, and there was a photo of me with the caption; “Underrated, great guitar player Kane “Rambo” Roberts.” I was like where did they get that from? I actually had no clue. [laughing]. Then it hit me after looking at the photos; I look just like Sylvester Stallone on guitar! It was so silly that I couldn’t figure it out. I have never told anyone this story until now but since you brought Sylvester up. Alice and I went to the movie premiere of Pee Wee’s Big Top Adventure. After the movie, they had a party on a Hollywood lot set up to look like a circus. Someone came up behind me yelling “Frank!” I’m not paying him any attention, and he does it a few more times. I finally turn around, and he says, “You’re Frank Stallone.” I told him I wasn’t, but he won’t let up. Here I am thinking I’m not even Sylvester; I’m his brother Frank. [laughing] He said, “You don’t do autographs?” I told him again I wasn’t Frank Stallone, but he was relentless so I finally signed the item just to get rid of him. [Laughing]
Robert Cavuoto: You reunited with Kip Winger on the CD, how was it to work with him again?
Kane Roberts: He is very prolific and active in music. He still has the fire whether with Winger or his solo band. He just got a Grammy nomination for his classical composition. The bass sound at the end of “King of the World” is unbelievable. He came up with that entire part. Any time I record, my first choice would be to work with him. He also arranges all the string on the CD.
Robert Cavuoto: Are you planning a tour?
Kane Roberts: No tour plans at this point. I’m going to concentrate on videos as I think that has better reach. If the reception to the CD is good enough and there is a reason to tour, then I’ll do it.