Photo Courtesy: Ryan Spencer Cook Facebook
Today we bring you a chat with Ryan Spencer Cook. Ryan is currently living out most Kiss fans dream as part of the Gene Simmons Band. But Ryan has quite the resume. He has played with the likes of Skid Row, Damon Johnson, but also fronted Hair of The Dog, a band coming out of the late 90s that created some buzz around the world. With Gene only a few weeks out from heading here, we caught up with Ryan to learn more about him, his career and how it’s going to be playing with not one, but two original members of Kiss.
H2Z: Thanks for your time today Ryan, so let’s start by letting Australia know about Ryan Spencer Cook. Give us a bit of a resume.
RSC: Well I was born and raised in Topeka, Kansas, and I stayed there until my late teens, until I was to join a band called Hair of The Dog.
Hair Of The Dog
I was asked to audition for that band by a producer and songwriter you may be aware of called Desmond Child. When I moved to Nashville in the early 90’s, Desmond heard me sing in a band, and came up and said “. I have this band, they are a hard rock band, they are a great group of guys and you would be perfect for them. He then flew me out there to meet the guys and play with them, and three months later I moved out there. From there we went through a few personnel changes in the band, and then we got our record deal on Spitfire Records and just touring the world. We did three albums over the 9 years the band was together, and once we got that record deal we pretty much just did the albums back to back and toured non-stop, and it was great. Then I got asked to move back to Nashville, and in the mean time I played with lots of cool people like Damon Johnson, my friends in Skid Row, where I have filled in for both Snake and Scotti on different occasions over the years and been around the world with them as well. Fast forward to now, and I am playing with Gene Simmons, and I just can’t believe it as when I was growing up one of my biggest dreams was to be in a band that opened for Kiss, and tour with Kiss. I never in my wildest dreams could ever imagine I would end up in band with one of the guys from Kiss (laughs), it’s pretty crazy!
H2Z: So, how did that connection come about? How were you put in touch with Gene and the band get put together?
RSC: Well, here’s the deal. I’m sure you are aware of Doc McGhee, Kiss’ Manager. Doc and I have been friends for a really long time. Just for fun, I started a band here in Nashville called “The Big Rock Show”, and it’s a fun 80’s metal tribute band. It wasn’t put together as a career move or anything like that. It was simply put together as a way to have fun. I got my old friend Paul Taylor (Winger/Alice Cooper) in the band, and Jeremy Asbrock on guitar who is in the Gene Band with me, and we also got some other friends and players in the band, and then back in 2011, Doc invited us to be on the first ever Kiss Kruise. When have been on all of them since. Paul, Gene and the guys would come out at least once every year and watch us, and then in 2016 Gene reached out to me via email and said, “I am thinking of doing a few solo dates next year is there any chance you could put together a band for me?”. So that is literally how the whole thing came about. He saw us every year on the ship and thought “Those guys must be doing something right” (laughs), and he entrusted me to put a band together for him and I knew right away the guys I wanted. It was Jeremy Abrock, Phil Shouse. Jeremy and I do “Big Rock Show” together. The three of us do “Thee Rock N Roll Residency” together, and we got Brent Fitz to round it out on drums, but due to his commitments with Slash, Brent will be unable to tour with us. It’s not like he quit the band or anything bad happened, unfortunately the schedules didn’t line up, so we got another awesome player in Christopher Williams. Christopher plays drums for Accept. He will be with us for the shows, and we will be having a few rehearsals with him soon. It’s going to be fantastic. We can’t wait to get there.
The Gene Simmons Band
L-R Phil Shouse, Ryan Spencer Cook, Gene Simmons, Jeremy Asbrock, Brent Fitz
Photo Courtesy: Ryan Spencer Cook Facebook
H2Z: The band is also pulling double duties, playing with Ace Frehley. Will you be getting together prior with Ace to run through the songs?
RSC: (Laughs) Here’s the deal. With Gene, we are playing on the 25th in Quebec, and we are flying straight from Quebec to Australia. We won’t be arriving in Australia until the afternoon of the first show, early that afternoon.
H2Z: That’s Crazy!
RSC: I know right, its nuts! I am not sure when Ace is arriving in Australia as we will be flying separately, but that is going to be a lot of fun. The whole way that came about is Ace came and joined us for 4 songs in Minneapolis for 4 songs last year, and we played this huge baseball stadium in Minneapolis with Cheap Trick opening for us, which was a great night, and we got along great and he really liked the band. Then Gene invited him to the Vault Experience in St. Louis, which isn’t incredibly far from my home, so I went along, and Ace and I got to hang out and get to know each other more that day. Then back in April or May he reached out to Gene and let him know he would be on the bill for Australia, and asked Gene minded if he used us as his backing band. This was all going on back and forth via email. Gene forward me the email and I told Ace as long as Gene was ok with it, of course we were ok with it. And we are super excited about it and doing two shows a night (laughs). It’s going to be a lot of fun, we really can’t wait. Think about it, Number 1. This is Gene’s first ever time doing a solo tour. Ace has done it, Peter has done it and Paul Stanley has done it. Gene has never done it, and also you being a Kiss fan, you would know, you have never really seen the Kiss guys just get up and jam with other people. You never see that. So not only do you get to see Gene on a solo tour, but you really get to see him just get up and jam. This is going to be really neat for Australia, because this is the first time in Kiss’ history that they will see a Gene Simmons Solo Tour in their country. And Number 2, and making it more special, is the fact that Ace Frehley is going to be on the bill as well. So now we get two original members of Kiss doing solo sets on the same bill, which has never happened. We are so thrilled to be a part of that. Then believe it or not, and I don’t know if you know this or not, but after the last show, Gene goes home, and we fly directly to Japan with Ace, for 8 more shows
H2Z: Wow, that is really great, there hasn’t been much talk about the Ace shows in Japan.
RSC: Its 6 shows in Tokyo, and 2 shows in Osaka. It’s going to be a lot of fun, and we are really looking forward to it. And as a Kiss fan, like you, I’m excited, one for selfish reasons as I get to do something that really is a dream come true, but also for the rest of the guys in the band, as we are such die hard Kiss fans. And because of that we want to do our best, every single night, so all the fans walk away from the shows saying it’s one of the best Kiss related experiences they have had in their lives. We take this seriously. We learn everything note for note. We want it to be as close to perfect as possible. We want it to be fun for everyone, especially as people get to see Gene in a whole new and totally different light.
H2Z: Well that is because he isn’t tied down.
RSC: Yeah, that’s right. Literally, he is not tied down. Don’t get me wrong, he loves Kiss. The only thing that trumps his love for Kiss is his family, his wife, his kids and his mother. Gene and Paul have worked so hard for over 40 years with Kiss, but that being said, he is enjoying this for a whole different reason. It’s like, he is a lot more relaxed, it’s a lot more laid back. The clothes he shows up for soundcheck in, are generally the clothes he wears that night at the show. He doesn’t have to sit in make up for 2 hours. He doesn’t have to do an acoustic set. He doesn’t have to wear all the heavy armour. He doesn’t have to take all the stuff off after the show. He is just really laid back, and he is enjoying it. It’s also a lot of fun seeing him interact with the fans, and having him on stage with him, and joke around and have fun with them. Think about it, at a Kiss Show, he really doesn’t say much except “Oh Yeah!” (laughs). With this, its him, directly one on one with the crowd, and people afterwards come up and say “Wow, I never really knew he was like that!”. That’s what makes me really happy, when people see what a good guy he really is”
H2Z: Tell me about the setlists and getting them together.
RSC: The big thing with that, is we like to push Gene to do things he has never done with Kiss. Songs like “Got Love for Sale”, “Radioactive”, “Ladies Room”. We have done “All the Way”, all that cool stuff. We always do the classic Gene songs, but it’s also great to throw a song like “Sweet Pain”. But you never know what you’re gonna get because we love changing it up. One of my most favourite things to do with Gene is to play “Watchin’ You” and “She” back to back. We are really doing our best to have the fans leave and say, “I never saw Kiss do that, that was so cool”. He also loves to have fans come onstage and sing along on songs, which is really special. He loves the fans and loves them to participate as much as they want to. It’s going to be a great, great time.
H2Z: What about Ace’s set list. What’s the one song you are looking forward to playing with him?
RC: While it’s not a rarity, I cannot wait to be on the same stage as him and play shock me with the “Smoker”. That will be so exciting because as a kid you always wanted to emulate that yourself. It will all be great but stuff like “Hard Times”, “2000 Man” and “Two Sides of The Coin”, those songs will be great. To be honest with you, the Ace set list is still being put together as we speak as we all want to change things up. Of course, we will do things like “New York Groove”. I remember growing up, he was the only one that had a song on the radio, and it was that song, and it was on the radio for a long time when I was young, but there were no Peter, no Paul, no Gene songs on the radio, so we have to do that one.
H2Z: “What’s on Your Mind” would be a great song for him to do
RSC: Oh wow, yeah! I was always a big fan of “Torpedo Girl”, when I was a kid I was always pretty sure that was not Gene playing bass on the record, and I don’t know if he has done it live solo, but I would love to see him doing it, because as a kid I always loved that song because it was so different. It wasn’t a typical Ace song. You know what, it’s just going to be so much fun looking over and seeing him play the soli on everything. It going to be super exciting for us, because when we walk on stage for that first show, it will be the first time we have played together since he came up as a guest last year. I’m pretty sure Gene and Ace will also get together for some sort of encore at the end of the night, so the Australian fans are really getting to see something special, and us guys in the band are too.
H2Z: And steering away from the upcoming tour, any more shows with Skid Row on the horizons.
RSC: None that I know of. I just played with them two weeks ago in Salt Lake City, and Las Vegas, filling in for Scotti who had other commitments. It’s always very random. Rachel and I live down the street from each other and see each other all the time. They will be down there in October, right!
H2Z: Yeah, they sure will I’m looking forward to catching a show.
H2Z: So, to finish up, any last words?
RSC: Well I gotta say, the first show was in February 2017, and it was only meant to be 4 shows and that was it. Gene said to me “Only 3 or 4 shows, I don’t want to do much”, I replied “What about Europe, what about Japan, what about Australia?” he replied “No, won’t have enough time for that”. Here we are, we have been to Europe, all around the USA, and now I am talking to you about coming to Australia, almost two years after were only meant to be doing those 4 shows. It really blows my mind and all of us are beyond grateful, and I know Gene is having a great time or he wouldn’t be doing it.
H2Z: Ryan, thanks to much for your time, we look forward to seeing you in a few weeks!
RSC: Andrew, thank you! We look forward to meeting you and seeing all the fans in Australia, we can’t wait! Thank you and see you soon.
We would like to thank Ryan for his time and it’s only a short amount of time until Gene Simmons and his band hit Australian shores with the one and only Ace Frehley.
TEG Live Presents
with special guest
Tuesday, 28th August: Adelaide
Entertainment Centre Theatre
Thursday, 30th August: Melbourne
Friday, 31st August: Sydney
Saturday, 1st September: Brisbane