photo credit: Victor Chalfant
Ryan Roxie is a go to guitarist for many of the world’s best. Starting off in the 80s with Candy, a band to feature future Guns N Roses guitar player Gilby Clarke, then onto Electric Angels, which also gained notoriety. The nineties saw Ryan work further with Gilby Clarke before joining Slash’s Snakepit. A little-known fact, Roxie’s six string work is also featured on the Tal Bachman hit “She’s So High”. But in 1996 Ryan began work with the godfather of shock rock Alice Cooper. Featuring on Alice studio albums such as “Brutal Planet”, “Dragontown”, and the amazing “Dirty Diamonds”, showed not only Roxie’s great guitar playing but the ability to write great straight up rock songs. Fast forward to 2018, those straight up rock songs Ryan is known for are about to be showcased on his first ever solo record called “Imagine Your Reality” which hits shelves May 20th. We caught up with Ryan from his home in Sweden to talk all things Roxie, Alice Cooper, Poker, and 1977. Here is our chat with Ryan Roxie.
H2Z: Hey Ryan, how are you today
RR: Hey Andrew, How are you doing, thanks for calling.
H2Z: Doing great, thank you. You have your new album “Imagine Your Reality” coming out May 20th. When did you start getting the songs together for it?
RR: (laughs) This album, is a long time in the making, because I have made a bunch of albums under the name “Roxie 77”, but I have never put out a solo album just under the name of Ryan Roxie. So, some of these guitar riffs, scan all the way back to the 90’s when I was playing with Slash, and in my early years with Alice Cooper, all the way up to a couple of months ago, with some of the new riffs and songs. Some of the song titles, I came up with years ago, but the lyrics, and the arrangements, well the final arrangements, came together in the last year and a half, that’s when I decided to make a solo record. So, you could say it’s been a very long time in the making. But to actually put it together, and make the final product, we did it rather quickly.
H2Z: I notice that you have Cheap Trick’s Robin Zander on “California Man”. I remember seeing you sing that live with Eric Singer and Friends at least 10 years ago, so it’s obviously a special song for you, yeah?
RR: It is one of my biggest Rock N Roll moments ticked off the check list, and having one of your all-time favourite bands singers, sing on your album. When Robin agreed to do the guest vocal on “California Man”, I was completely blown away, so happily surprised, and it worked out really well. I think the version we did, this updated “California Man”, was really current, with its guitar tones. It has a little bit more aggressive guitar tone. The arrangement though, stayed pretty true to Cheap Trick’s version. I’m not sure if you know this, but “California Man” is a cover of a cover (laughs). Cheap Trick made it famous on their “Heaven Tonight” album, but it was originally done by the band called “The Move”
H2Z: Who became “ELO”
RR: Exactly!, so you do know the history. But the song itself, it typifies where I come from, even though I have lived in Europe for a great many years now, in my heart and soul I am a California Man. I loved the way our video editor, compiled all this old surf footage for the lyric video. He did such a great job. And pairing that with our final production on the song, we have a straight up Rock N Roll classic.
H2Z: You just mentioned your lyric video. Gone are the days of huge budget videos. Do you think that lyric videos are still as effective in 2018?
RR: I think lyric videos, for a singer songwriter, are almost a dream in a sense, because when I was growing up, you have to understand, I grew up to taking out an album cover, taking out the sleeve, usually if I was lucky enough, they had the lyrics written on it somewhere. I would read along, while the song was playing, to each and every lyric. Now, with lyric videos, you can do the same sort of thing, and its interactive, and you can do it anywhere you want to. You could be driving, on a train, on the tour bus, not driving in your car hopefully (laughs), be the passenger in the car (laughs), and listening to your favourite song, but reading along to those lyrics. I think it is really important, that the lyrics, by seeing them, they conjure up the images in your mind, which is a lot different to the old-style videos. With those videos, they don’t have the lyrics with them, the only show you, what either the director, or the bands narrative of the song. It’s what THEY want you to visualise when you hear the song. With a lyric video you still get to have your own narrative. You still get to envision what the lyrics mean to you, personally, and I think that is what’s important.
H2Z: I go back with your music to the “Dad’s Porno Mag” days, the one thing I notice with your writing, is your knack for the 3 ½ minute rock song with a hook, so what’s important to you today, when it comes to writing a song?
RR: I have always tried to hold on to that formula. It needs a hook, a good melody, either lyrically, or riff based. The only thing I add to it today, importantly more than any other time, is to have an aggressive, good guitar tone. It is becoming my mission to nudge guitar-oriented music back into the forefront. For the last few years we have had less and less guitars in popular music. Thank god for bands like the “Foo Fighters”, that keep giving it, year after year after year with tonnes of guitars. But, this year, and hopefully the coming years, I want to see an escalation in guitar driven bands, and that’s what I am trying to do with the 10 songs on this album. If you listen to it, and it doesn’t take a lot to digest. I don’t have any super long power ballads, or anything like that. It’s very simple. 10 songs, with 10 guitar solos, and that’s all by design. I want as many people as possible to listen to it, but also maybe be inspired to pick up a guitar, and start playing it themselves.
H2Z: When you were out here with Alice, I was stage right side, so was able to hear a lot of your mix. Whatever combination you are using, sounds huge, but also there is a lot of clarity.
RR: Thank you man! We do our live show very old school. And I always say, until someone shows me a better recipe for Rock N Roll, I am going to stick with a Gibson guitar, plugged into a Marshall amp, with as few toys in between as possible. I understand you need to have certain colouring sounds with your effects, but having as few of those as possible, so people get the true tone of your guitar, going through those speakers. Till someone shows me a better recipe, I am sticking with that. Its worked for my heroes before me, it works for me now, and works for a lot of Rock N Roll guitar players out there now.
H2Z: I have seen Alice Cooper with both Orianthi, and Nita, and no offence to Orianthi, but Nita just brings such a different element to the band and it just really works. How have you found having Nita in the band?
RR: We really appreciate Nita being in the band, and not a lot of people know this, but this is the most consistent touring band Alice has had since the original “Alice Cooper Group”. For us, that is pretty special to be a part of this group. The reason I think this band works so well, is that everybody in the band knows their role. We have 3 guitar players with Tommy Henricksen, Nita (Strauss) and myself, and we all get to play really cool parts that work with the other two guitar players in the songs. Then we also get our moment to shine in the show, and along with Glen Sobel on drums and Chuck Garric on Bass, and of course we have this singer, you might have heard of him (laughs)?
H2Z: Oh, that Alice guy (laughs)?
RR: Yeah, that guy (laughs). He is the one that inspires us night after night, with all his energy. Being the age he is, and still giving as much as he does to his audience, and to the songs. He brings so much to the stage. That inspires us every night to be the best we can be, and it’s a really cohesive unit.
H2Z: Back to solo Roxie, “Over and Done”, came out at the beginning of March. Tell me more about that song, the lyrical content and things like that?
RR: It was one of the first songs we had together, with one of the producers we worked with Christopher. He really latched on to that song, he actually played drums and bass on that song with a cool shuffling drum beat, that is reminiscent of The Sweet. I love that sort of drum beat. I felt it was a straight-ahead guitar riff, with a great hook. Then you have that solo break that (laughs) is almost progressive in a Joe Satriani kind of way. A lot of people don’t realise that I am influenced by so many different guitar players. So, to sum it up, that song ranges from Johnny Thunders, to Joe Satriani, and maybe a bunch of stuff in between. So I thought it was a really good first song to release, so people could get an idea of “Hey this album is going to have a lot of guitar on it”, and I promise you it does.
H2Z: There is also one thing about your guitar solos, and I don’t know if anyone has mentioned this to you, but you can sing along with them, which is great.
RR: Oh Man! That is one of the biggest compliments I could take from anyone, about my guitar playing. I always say this in my guitar clinics, I always say this when I am talking about the guitars I play. I say when you write a solo, it should always be a story within the song, that helps out the overall track. So, if you can write that small story within however many bars you get to tell it, then you have made something really special. There are a lot of guys that can shred, there are some guys that can play way faster and way slower than myself. But when you can write something that you can sing or hum along with, you know you have written something special. I always refer to Slash’s guitar solo in “Sweet Child ‘O Mine”. It’s almost as memorable as the actual lyrics, and the melody line of the lyrics. Another guitar player that I look up to, that I feel writes stories within their solos is Brian May of Queen, one of the all-time greats if you ask me. He makes his guitar talk. If you can do that with just your pick and your left hand fingers, you are on to something if you ask me.
H2Z: I have noticed you do something called The Rock N Roll Parking Lot. Tell me about that?
RR: It’s a very cool opportunity that exists, that if you don’t want to pay for the expensive meet n greet VIP experience, but you still want to meet the band. I make a point to organise a meet n greet, sometimes before the show, sometimes after the show, sometimes it’s in the parking lot, sometimes it’s by the tour buses. Sometimes it’s in the venue by the merch stand. I make a point, and to be honest with you, its two-fold. I think it’s cool, that if the fans want to meet me, maybe want to ask a question about my guitars and equipment, maybe then they will check out the new album and that is great. But, it is also a chance for me to feed off some of their energy and their anticipation of the show and get my psyched up for who I am playing for tonight. So, it works on both ends, it’s good for both of us. I have been doing it for a bunch of years now, and it’s one of those things that you sign up for on the internet. It’s a little sort of cult meeting before the show or after the show, and it doesn’t have to be too big. Sometimes people notice it, and they go “What’s going on over there, who is that, is that Roxie?”, I’ll come over and take a picture, and it can be bigger, but a lot of the time it’s just be and 15 to 20 people just talking getting pumped up for the show.
H2Z: It’s the modern-day tailgate
RR: It really is! And I’m a sucker for a good tailgate. I loved doing it for my football team. It’s quite cool, with the Alice Cooper fans, we really do have the best fans. While we might not get the notoriety of the Kiss Army, because they are the Kiss Army, and that’s great, and they are very loyal. But I’ll tell you, the Alice Cooper “Sick Things”, they stand right beside. If you think about the Kiss Army, I would say the Sick Things are more like The Marines (laughs). The Sick Things are the most amazing people and we are all so thankful for them, as they are the people who have allowed me to continue to do produce my own records of the years and ultimately release this Ryan Roxie solo album.
H2Z: What are the chances of getting out to do some shows in support of this album?
RR: Absolutely, I’m doing my best in the breaks that Alice has to do my own shows, and who knows maybe I will get that lucky chance to open up for one of Alice’s other bands. As you know he has the Hollywood Vampyres, and he is touring Europe with them, so you never know. The bottom line is, that everyone in this band knows our priority is Alice Cooper, we want to be the band that rides Alice out into the sunset. Like I said, it’s a kick ass band, I am so proud to be a part of it and being able to be a part of that legacy, and to be associated with that Alice Cooper legacy, is something that’s really special. That being said, when there are openings in the touring schedule, I’ll definitely do everything I can to get my music out there and get it heard by as many people as possible.
H2Z: Who are your favourite bands that are out today?
RR: Hmmmm, I have some cool bands that might be floating under the radar but are starting to get notice. There’s a band called “Holy White Hounds”, I like a lot. It’s a very cool guitar driven, indie, punk rock kind of band. They are out of the mid-west. There is another Canadian band that I like called “Death from Above”, they used to call themselves Death from Above 1979, but have just reverted back to Death from Above. It’s a cool 2 piece. From the UK I enjoy “The Struts”, they are a very cool band that has a lot of opportunity to seize and pass the Rock N Roll torch from our generation onto the next generation. I’m also a big fan of this guy Ryan Roxie (laughs)
H2Z: So, who is current champion of the Alice Cooper tour bus poker?
RR: (laughs) I can tell you who is not! This last leg of the tour that I just got back from, I fell back behind a couple of places. I started up, but then fell back. The current chip leader, I believe, on our bus, is oddly enough not Alice Cooper, but Chuck Garric. Chuck Garric won the majority of the chips, but I am pumped and ready to go for leg number two.
H2Z: To finish up, what’s your thoughts on the industry in 2018?
RR: My thoughts are that DIY is alive and well. You just have to do it yourself man. I feel the more that we independently push guitar driven music, the more we nudge it to the centre and hopefully the forefront again. I have so much respect for the band that have done it themselves and then kept working hard to get major label releases. Bands like Greta Van Fleet, I think they are going to get a shot, and I hope that they take it, and lead this new wave of guitar driven music, because it is something we need more of. We need more players, we need more music with it, and I am doing my best with this solo effort to bring that to the forefront. Like I said before, 10 songs, 10 guitar solos, but all wrapped up in a 3 to 3 ½ minute rock song. And hopefully people appreciate that.
H2Z: I’m looking forward to hearing it! I think it’s going to be 2018 goes 1977!
RR: (laughs) I think you just created me my own soundbite, I might have to start using 2018 goes 1977. Because to be honest with you that’s why the 77 exists. Just do a Google search on albums released in 1977 and you will see all my musical influences in all their shining glory.
H2Z: Some of mine too!
RR: OK, let’s go back and forth with some of your albums! I’ll start. The first two Cheap Trick records
H2Z: Kiss Alive II
RR: If you are gonna go Kiss on me, I’ll go Love Gun, gimme another one?
H2Z: Let There Be Rock by AC/DC
RR: Wow, good one! I’ll raise you, Queen, News of The World
H2Z: I’m now struggling now (laughs)
RR: OK how about Sex Pistols, Never Mind the Bollocks and Fleetwood Mac Rumours, while different they are still really great rock records. Soft Rock, Hard Rock, Punk Rock. Still has that word Rock, so it all falls under Rock N Roll
RR: Which one? I forget
H2Z: Pauses, Ummm Rockets to Russia
RR: Wait wait, now your Googling for sure (laughs)
H2Z: (laughs) Got me, totally checked that one!
RR: (laughs) But look at that! Probably all their best albums!
H2Z: Alright man. I’ll leave you with it, thanks again for your time and the great chat. Looking forward to the release of the album and stay in touch!
RR: Let’s talk again later in the year and see what’s happening, Thanks Andrew!
Ryans album “Imagine Your Reality” is out May 20th, hit up his iTunes or the Bellyache Records site to pre order packages (Links Below)
Vinyl Album pre-order – http://www.bellyacherecords.com
Official YouTube Channel – http://bit.ly/RyanRoxie
Official website – http://www.ryanroxie.com
photo credit: Kyler Clark