Interview by Si Halley
Photos by Bill Crowe and Brian Harrington except first photo by Ward Boult
Ryan Roxie should need no introduction to Alice Cooper fans. He`s been pretty much Alice's right hand man on stage for 9 years now, adding his unique band of energy and enthusiasm all over the world. He has co-written material on both "The Eyes Of Alice Cooper" and the soon to be released "Dirty Diamonds" as well as performing on "Brutal Planet", Dragontown" and "A Fistful Of Alice". Away from the Cooper camp his band Roxie77 released what I think is probably the best album of 2004 in "Peace, Love and Armageddon" and he's recently moved to Sweden! In amongst all that he's managed to get away for an hour or so to answer a few questions for us so here we go!
How did you get the job with Alice?
"I guess you could say it was a case of right place, right time. Gilby Clarke (Guns N Roses) & I were going to be the two guitarists for the '96 tour. It was just going to be a 1 year tour with nothing else promised. As it turns out, Gilby had some commitments to his record label and wasn't able to do the tour, but put a good word in for me to the AC organization and told me to go for it. I did just that and some 9 years later....I'm still here. Thanks mostly due to the strength and dedication of the AC fans... thanks for keeping the torch of rock burning, and subsequently....me employed!"
How do rehearsals work? Is there still a "band leader" who rehearses the band before Alice arrives or is it more of a free for all?
"I'd say there are roughly 5 band leaders when it comes down to it.... .that's what ya get when you get a bunch of Alpha-dogs together in a room.... but I think we've all played with each other for enough years now that we know where and where not to go when it comes to pushing buttons. And besides, the one "band leader" that has final say, is the one with his name on the marquee......."
How do you feel about having to play so many casinos, with audiences that are often made to sit (by security) for most of the show?
"If it came down to having a choice of playing a casino or having the night off, I'd ALWAYS choose playing the rock show! So in that sense, playing the casinos keeps the tour rolling and that's exactly why we're out there.... to keep rockin' and rolling. Besides, it's PRICELESS to see the looks on all the casino-regulars faces when the Alice Cooper show rolls into town.... they aren't exactly used to the hard-core AC face painter fans who really do make the show what it is. What I have learned from Alice is that it's not so much WHERE the rock show is, but WHAT the rock show is and how the crowd reacts whether it's 400 people in a Niagara Falls Casino, or 40,000 people at a Bologna, Italy music festival."
"Eyes.." received some of the best reviews Alice has had for years. How do you feel about Spitfire Records, the lack of a video, and the general promotion they gave "Eyes..?
"Well, by the time this interview is published, many of the fans questions and concerns about the situation will most probably be addressed. I'm sure that everyone would like to always get more press, more coverage, and more attention in general. But people always leave out that little word that kind of lies beside the term "hit record".....that word is called Luck..... and ya never know when it's gonna shine down on ya. The only thing we can do is keep working hard to put out the best records and best rock show that we possibly can, and hope that with each new CD and Tour we make new friends and fans and retain the ones we already have."
"Who Do You Think We Are" sounded so good this year. What other old Alice songs have you wanted to get into the set? Do the band get much say in what appears in the setlist?
"It's ultimately up to the guy with the funny eye make-up, but certain members have been known to subliminally suggest our favorite requests in the form of very cryptic hidden messages..... so yeah, I think "Wish I was born in Beverly Hills" would sound great in the set...how about you?? ha!! Ya never know.... ya never know..."
Why was "Serious" dropped from the "Bare Bones" show so quickly? It smoked!!
"I think that one almost "smoked" our singers vocal chords!...I remember it being in an odd place in the set, so unlike me getting into the AC band, it might have been a case of Wrong place, Wrong time. Sorry 'bout that one, I liked playing it...pretty challenging to be honest..."
How do you and Eric or Damon decide who does what during songs, the division of the solos on the older songs and stuff like that?
"As with Eric, Damon and I just have a very instinctual way of knowing what the other guy is gonna be playing. That's why it was able to work as a "bare-bones" set up....because instead of two separate guitars jockeying for position in the mix, the guitars blended to make one massive sound wave of rock. Sexual, no??? Now if ya ask Damon, he'll say he gets the solos that I'm resting my hands on!...."
What's it like playing with a drummer like Tommy, who seems to have such a different style to Eric Singer?
"Nu school Vs. Ol school....there is greatness in both.... Let's use Star Wars as an example: The Dark Lords of the Sith seems pretty damn cool, but there is something that you can't deny about Yoda....ya know?"
What was it like having to play two shows without Eric OR Teddy when Eric left the tour?
"I don't normally get nervous for the rock show, but I gotta tell ya....I was on stage literally deciding which parts I was gonna play seconds before I played them....it was pretty exhilarating to be honest. Just the fact that Alice had never done a full fledged concert with just one guitar got me pretty psyched up to do it. Plus, everyone in the whole band and crew stepped up and really put in the extra effort to make it have bigger sound, bigger lights, bigger rock."
We recently ran a poll on the SickthingsUK site, asking who, if the original band reformed, should step up and play in place of Glen Buxton. You Won (As I hoped)! How would you feel about such a situation, if it ever arose?
"I'm thinkin' that the original guys are pretty happy to see us keep carrying the torch of rock which they helped light years ago. They also seem pretty happy that those royalty checks made out to them, not us (ha!) keep on coming year after year....nah, but seriously, I'm honored that people think I could fill in for the late great Glen, but I think the original band should be left intact....that was a great line-up!"
Alice has been saying that the new album will be done after the tour ends. Has work started and if so is it going to repeat the "Eyes.." formula with Eric Dover and yourself writing with Alice? (asked before we knew Eric had left the band)
"Alice wanted to make an album with a bunch of imperfect gems on it....hopefully we succeeded. It's titled 'Dirty Diamonds'. The "dirty diamonds" are actually the songs... and whether we end up with 11,12, or 13 Dirty Diamonds is in the hands of the production team....."
There have been rumours that the "Welcome To My Nightmare" show is being considered for a revival. Any news on that?
"I've heard that rumor too.... .if it's true, then count me in... .you KNOW I'm a sucker for the Big Rock Show..... complete with Spiders, snakes, guillotines, and costume changes.... hey, that's the show we got going now?!?...."
For the musicians out there: What equipment do you use with Alice?
"For the Tech heads out there.....I swear by my GMP guitars. Not just because they made my own model, The "Roxie SS" but they handle all the bashing and trashing I give them on a nightly basis! And as for amps, my Fender/Sunn Model T amps and Fender Cabs( www.fender.com )have been treating me sooo right that past few tours that I'm very pleased with the tone and reliability of them. As far as effects, other then the usual suspect Tremolos, Wahs, and Echoes.... I'm trying to keep it pretty unprocessed. The Shure wireless units that I use really keep the integrity of the sound (www.shure.com) plus have no drop out ratio. I have some Crafter acoustics out with me that are also treating me right."
How did the Cooperstown Nightmares Softball team come about? Isn`t it busy enough on tour??
"One would think.... but there's nothing like beating a Radio Station's softball team, when you know they had some "hired guns" that just happened to play softball that day....! Between interviews, golf, softball, rock show, and Poker......I'm actually THANKFUL that we are kept so busy....makes me not dwell on the fact that I'm away from the family for so long.....so c'mon...give us a softball challenge all you wanna-be ballers out there!..."
Can you give us a little background on Roxie77? Who's in the band? How did it come together?
"Roxie 77- Consider it a little like DPM with a dash of Rogaine thrown in! DPM aka Dad's Porno Mag is the band that R77 was spun off from. I mean it's the same heavy power driven pop music that I've always loved to write, it's just a bit more mature.... Now instead of songs like "Smell my Finger" we have "My girlfriend's got a girlfriend".... make sense?? I really like to be able to write songs about life and hope and sometimes despair, and it all comes together in one sound, and in one band... I would say that Roxie 77 is an amalgamation of all the bands that I've been in so far.. .much thanks to Mike Fasano Teddy Zig-Zag, Dan Myers, & Jef Morose for playing so amazing in this line up! Our debut album 'Peace,Love, & Armageddon' was released on our tiny indie-label Wax-tone Records and is available at the website www.roxie77.com and other fine music stores and digital music sites."
How's the response been to the debut album?
"So far all the reviews have been very positive. I'm especially pleasantly surprised by the overall support the Alice fans have given Roxie77.....Seeing the Roxie77 "Wonka Shirts" and being able to sign copies of PL&A after the shows have meant a lot to me. There are even copies of the debut CD made available at the AC merch stand, so I'm really happy that people are getting to see (and hear) a little bit more of what I'm about."
Roxie77 is kinda seen as a Ryan Roxie solo project, is that accurate?
Pretty much hit the nail on the head...... I just think that Roxie77 sounds more like a male-enhancement pill rather then the Ryan Roxie Solo Project, which sounds like something I turned in as a homework assignment back in high school!"
The Roxie album appeared just after "Eyes". Did you have any difficulty deciding what material should be submitted to Alice and what you should keep for yourself?
"The only song that was sort of up for grabs was 'Between High-school & Ol' School'....... I had wrote it originally as a Roxie77 song and the only lyrics I had was "Between High school and Old School"..... and I thought that pretty much summed me up pretty well... Then Alice heard it and wrote some great lyrics to it and felt it summed the whole state of the Rock fan pretty well. In fact..... maybe "high school & Old school" can be the official AC fan-club national anthem! Aren't we all just somewhere in between........Old enough to know better, but young enough to still do it anyway!"
Was it tempting to ask some famous friends like Alice or Slash to appear on the album to give it that "featuring.." promo angle?
"Not a bad idea at all, and might still happen one day but maybe with a Glamnation album release because Glamnation is the type of thing where anything goes and everyone's invited....The Roxie77 Cd was a bit more personal and I want the songs to stand on their own because I'm quite proud of them......alot of them come from the heart, except "my girlfriend", that came from the loins...."
I realised the other night that the sample before "My Girlfriend" is actually from "American Pie 2" which I'd never seen before. Was it hard getting permission to use it?
" I'll let cha know when I get the 'ol cease & desist notice in the mail! I figure they're too busy going after rap bands that are selling waaaayy more records then to worry about a little ol indie-rock band like Roxie77......but for the record: shhhhhhhhhhh....................."
So far I only have the advanced version of the album (the "proper" version is on its way!") and it has limited credits. Who's the female singer belting it out on "Beat 'Em"?
"Her name is Miss Julie and we met because she almost crashed into my car.....!
The story goes like this: I was on my way up to Gilby Clarke's studio to finish some overdubs for the R77 cd. All of a sudden this car comes barreling down the road and cuts me off....I go to give 'em the good 'ol 1 finger Los Angeles hello and there's this knockout girl singing in the car...she apologizes and says she was sooo into this song on the radio that she got caught up into it. I tell her that I'm on my way to the studio and I need a background vocal for this one particular song called Beat 'em. I swore to her it wasn't a cheesy pick up line, and she comes up there and without ever hearing the song, nails it in 3 takes........me and Gilby were pretty blown away. We edited the performance so it would sound more like a "duet".....and there you have it! It's the stories within the stories of this Cd that I love talkin' about!"
Who is Tracii of "the unbelievable truth" fame??
"Maybe this one should be a Sick Things trivia question.......all the clues are there in the lyrics......think subject matter, think celebrity, think human crisis, think 80's!"
How about Roxie77 opening for Alice on the next tour?
"Would love to, but don't cha think you'd all get tired of watching the same monkey run around like an idiot in BOTH bands?!?" [NO!!... Si}
(From Belladonna) With the exceptions of the snake/heating pad incident & the eye virus incident...What was THE most memorable or FUNNY moment of the 2004 tour?
"The golf cart incident.....let's just say that it involved 1indy-modified golf cart, 1 innocent empty dressing room tent, 2 very inebriated band & crew members, and a HUGE financial settlement to the promoters.....come to think of it, whoever paid that bill probably doesn't think it FUNNY at all......or something they would like to remember.... oh well, it wasn't me, so I'm sticking with " The Golf Cart Incident". "
(From Alienspice) How do you keep your energy up? I think it is just amazing that you get out there every night and put on such an energetic show, running around all night and playing your hearts out. And Tommy doesn't even get a break! What are your secrets?
"If I said, "Ancient Chinese Secret" I wouldn't be referring to the dishwashing liquid or to polished egg-shaped stones......In fact, I don't really know what I'd be referring to at all. But I DO think having a job that we really enjoy and a boss that seems to have more energy then us...well that keeps us on our toes and ready to rock!"
(From Alienspice) Who was the poker champ of the 2004 'Eyes of Alice Cooper' tour?
"I would like to announce that there were 2 champs.... Mr. Chuck Garric took the European leg..... and your Humble Host (me!) was the Top Dog on the American/Canadian run...... but when it comes down to it, we're ALL winners aren't we?? Just don't tell the losers that!"
(From Sarabeth Halley(my daughter!)) How's parenthood and how do you deal with being away from home for so much of the time?
"Wow, that's a good one. I'm still trying to figure it out..... .I guess I have to just realize that for all the time I'm away, that affords me the opportunity to be with them 24-7 when I'm not on tour.... so yeah, it's rough when we don't get to see each other everyday, but when I'm Home..... I'M HOME!!.... and I gotta tell ya, of all the things in life that are over-hyped: movies, books, albums (except ours of course!), parenthood is something you CAN'T overhype.... It's cool and cruel and the same time.... parenthood is crool!"
(From AndyB) What are the hardest songs to play live?
"For sure, the hardest ones to play are the ones we've played a million times! The more technical new songs added to the set are ones we pretty much have full concentration on and make sure we're nailing the parts... But the ones that we play all the time, those we just sort of slip into automatic pilot...... and sometimes there is pilot error!.... I'll look down and my left hand will be where my right one should... .it's not pretty."
(From TNivek) Are there any plans for Roxie77 to tour further afield, say Canada?
"OH CAAANNAADAHHH!! I have such a new found love for the beauty of the country and the coolness of the people after our long tour stint there in 2004. I think we made a bunch of new friends and fans there, so yeah, any excuse to cross the border I'm there!..... If there is anyway to book some shows there with R77, let us know! I would be there faster then you can say Glass Tiger.... Ehhhh!"
(From WeirdKat) What music do you listen to when not busy with your own or with the current AC tour?
"I'm always on the search for new bands with great songs...and sometimes I find those bands, they are out there. Some of them hit me right away, like the Ark or the Hives... others take a little more time but really seem to grow on ya like Pete Yorn and The Stereophonics. And then I find myself listening to bands from Manchester like the Happy Mondays and Curve, and realize that all those bands from the Manchester sound era really made some great, great music. And then still other times, nothings better then Cheap Tricks first record followed by any AC/DC record with Bon Scott blaring out of the speakers!"
You must have rehearsed a lot for the last couple of tours with the Coop in order to get the quality to the level you like. But, I'm
wondering - how different is the rehearsal than the finished show itself? Does the Alice Cooper character come out? Does the band
give it their all as you lot do on stage at a full show? I'm imagining that theatrics etc. must be totally different when
rehearsing, as there's no screaming crowds, is that right?
"When we are rehearsing we are mostly just trying to concentrate as much as possible on nailing the right guitar parts, background vocal harmonies and blocking of where we are supposed to be at any given time on stage to avoid being impaled by a sword or whipped by a dominitrix..... but then as soon as rehearsals are over and we get in front of a crowd, we forget the songs and usually end up running right smack into each other! (at least the first couple shows anyway.....!)"
Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions. Is there any message you want to send out to the Sickthings round the world?
" You got it, my pleasure....and I really do want all the Sickthings out there to know how heartfelt and appreciated your support of The AC group and Roxie77 is. You are truly the ones that keep the Torch of Rock lit up alive and well..........May Lady Rock shine down upon you always, and think about this:
This is our world, our time, and our place....we can pay tribute to the past, and speculate about the future, but the only thing for sure is RIGHT NOW....so make the most of it. Yesterday is history, tomorrow is uncertain, today you shine.....If you're going to heaven, congratulations...if you're going straight to hell, you might as well enjoy the ride....
Enjoy the noise....
Thanks to Ryan again for taking the time. Check out www.roxie77.com to keep up to date with goings on. 'Peace, Love, and Armageddon' is available now from www.roxie77.com and more then worth getting if you haven`t already. A bonefide classic from start to finish.