Catching up with Paul Shortino of King Kobra
Following the self-titled King Kobra album from 2011 does King Kobra II pick up right you left off as a band?
Yes. I’m certain that’s why Carmine wanted to call the record King Kobra II. I thought initially we might have called the record Have a Good Time because the attitude in that song pretty much describes life here in Las Vegas and how we all felt making this record. The majority of the record was done right here in the Vegas area. We did the video for that track at a place called Vamp’d which is one of, if not the only rock club in Las Vegas. Danny “The Count” Koker who has a show on the History Channel called Counting Cars owns the club and he let us shoot there. That’s where we go even when we are not playing just to hang out. They have some great acts come though and play there recently like Y & T, Michael Schenker Group and I think Saxon is coming sometime in August.
Carmine came up with the title “Have A Good Time” and that sort of sparked into another song that David (Michael-Phillips) had musically and then the whole thing came together pretty quickly. We then put together a bunch of footage at some events that we were at and Carmine was doing the same thing so we’ve guest appearances from friends such as Zakk Wylde, Danny Koker, Ace Frehley, Carrot Top, Vinny Paul, Ron Keel, Frank Dimino from Angel, Carol-Lyn Liddle. We had such a great time making this record it did not seem like work at all. Mario Russo also did a great job editing the footage all together. Carrot Top may use “Have A Good Time” as part of his show in Las Vegas.
Were any of the tracks from King Kobra II left over from the first album sessions or were they all more or less written after?
This record was stuff we wrote from scratch. The first record (King Kobra, released in 2011) was material they had left over from when the original incarnation of the band was still together back in the mid to late 80’s.
King Kobra II sounds a little less slick than the first record. What I mean that it sounds more 70’s than 80’s. Do you agree and was this intentional?
Without question. The last record had a more 80’s sound to it due to the fact that the material was older and lent itself to that period. This one sounds more 70’s for sure. Yet at the same time sounds more current than the last record did. Some of the thanks needs to go to Michael Voss who did the mix on this one. Carmine did some amazing stuff and actually put us in a position where we had to rewrite some songs but it was great because I think at the end of the day we all made some contributions to each track which really makes it a real band feel. More of a live feel to it which is what we wanted.
We all really identify with that 70’s sound anyway because that’s when we all grew up with. Although the 80’s a bit understood as well. Whitesnake was a hair band long before anyone was called a hair band. Bands were using Aquanet long before Poison. There was a wave of the 80’s that way more about appearance than the songs but some of those bands really did create some memorable stuff from that period. I think the producers had more to do with it than the bands themselves. When Led Zeppelin was recording NO executive was allowed even near the studio while they were recording. They never got to hear anything until it was done. Album covers, first single chosen nothing. MTV also changed things because it killed the radio star. Folks didn’t know what half of the musicians looked like in the 70’s unless you bought the record. Christopher Cross for example. I didn’t think he looked the way he looked until I saw him. When he got his first Grammy and the general public got a look at him his fan club shrank to almost nothing. His career went into a different direction when they saw him. Janis Joplin wasn’t a beauty queen but she sold a lot of records. Music wasn’t even placed in categories going back to the 1960’s because everything was on AM radio. Hendrix was played doing “Purple Haze” followed by Sinatra doing “Strangers in the Night”. FM radio changed all that.
What is the story behind “The Ballad of Johnny Rod”? Who wrote the lyrics and is it based on a single real life event or just Johnny’s life story in a nutshell?
David and I wrote the lyrics to that. I was writing about “Jack The Ripper”. Johnny Rod is such a character that we then thought to alter it a bit and write it about Johnny Rod. Anyone who knows Johnny knows that he is a character. I love him like a brother it’s not a put down by any means. We just took the storyline and some of the lyrics and turn it into a story about Johnny. Some of these stories go back to the first go around with King Kobra and Johnny’s crazy antics combined with my original ideas about Jack The Ripper. Sort of like when people come out to Las Vegas to party and start to drink and don’t stop because there are no clocks anywhere here!
Are those your own harmonies on “Take Me Back” or did the other guys lend a vocal cord or two to help you out on this track?
Yes and no. It’s me but also Carol-Lyn Liddle. Ron Keel helped out on some tracks. I brought in some other friends as well. Robert Mason is on “Take Me Back”. I love to share the spotlight with my friends whenever I can.
“Deep River” I think is my favorite track on the album. It’s a very ambitious song at 8 minutes long. Did it start off as such or just morph into this epic story through an extended jam maybe during production?
We just decided to just write a long song and trip out and create our version of songs that we love like “Whole Lotta Love” or “Still of the Night” anything like that. Even something like “Valley of the Kings” that Carmine had recorded with John Sykes in Blue Murder. Just to go somewhere else off the beaten path. We didn’t want to write an album full of nice short 3 or 3 and a half minute tracks of radio friendly singles. Screw all that and let’s do a record we are going to be proud of.
Does KK have any touring plans for 2013 or into the new year?
Monsters of Rock Cruise 2014 from what I’ve been told is on our radar. Carmine wants to go out and play which is great. Frontiers is giving us 100% support behind this album. They really want to try and place us on bills with other acts out there and do some festivals. I can’t wait to play with these guys.
How familiar are you with the older King Kobra material? Could you or have you performed tracks off Ready to Strike, Thrill of a Lifetime or King Kobra III?
I’m not too familiar with the older material. I have done “Hunger” before. “Ready To Strike” I want to play. I do want to make sure that the older material is not forgotten. I will do it my own way and close to the original. But I’m not going to sound like Mark (Free). Mark is not going to sound like me either. It’s going to be me trying to interpret where he was coming from.
Some of the songs I did on the first record like “Midnight Woman” was a song co-written by Mark. The song was filled with his melodies and lyrics from his point of view. Some of the songs on that record were slightly altered from their original state to fit where I was coming from and how I would have performed them. “Screamin’ for More” was already written when we got to the studio.
Did Rough Cutt ever play any shows with King Kobra back in the day?
Interestingly enough we didn’t. I’m actually disappointed I was never able to check out King Kobra back in the day. A great very underrated band from that era. Of course King Kobra’s loss was the Bulletboys gain!
You’ve been performing as a cast member in a project in Las Vegas called “Raiding the Rock Vault”. It’s been getting rave reviews and has been extremely successful in its initial run. How did you become involved in this project?
John Payne (Asia) put this idea together and contacted me and asked me if I would be interested and I said count me in. I had no idea what was going to happen and what was going to be involved with it. Howard Leese (Heart, Paul Rodgers Band, Bad Company) and John Payne got together first and then added TraciI Guns (L.A. Guns) and Jay Schellen (Hurricane, Asia) on drums and Michael T. Ross on keyboards. On vocals was Robin McCauley (MSG, Survivor) and myself. Joe Lynn Turner was also involved when we performed the first few dates. Bobby Kimball (Toto) and Mickey Thomas (Starship) have since been added as guest vocalists.
It’s a show with actors, lasers and an incredible rock concert and journey of some of the greatest music ever written. The earth has been hit by an asteroid one thousand years into our future and archeologists find this vault. There is like five screens going on at once and once the asteroid lands on the planet suddenly you’re in the jungle. On stage they are in the jungle. They find a Mayan temple because the whole stage is made to look like one and they find the vault and we come down the stairs like Stargate. We are zapped in this vault and then start to perform. We start with “My Generation” and there are several photos of The Who on the screens performing live. There are several stage changes throughout the show. We go though the 60’s, the 70’s and the 80’s. Our next guest is going to be Jon Anderson of Yes fame. About 36 songs total that are performed in the show. It’s something for folks ages 5 to 85. It has something for everybody. Also hearing songs like ‘Smoke on the Water’ or ‘Stairway to Heaven” seeing them with lasers and lights makes it a different experience.
When you hear the song “Stars” from the 1985 Hear N Aid album what is the biggest memory you carry away from that experience?
Being in a place with everybody that I have ever looked up to and being in a state of awe. It was like nothing I ever experienced in my life. Performers showing up with no egos and just working together and being a part of an amazing singing cast from that era. It was just an honor.
Looking back do you think that if the S/T Quiet Riot album from 1988 had a different band name and album title it have been more successful?
The record company wanted to change the title to Delinquent Dogs two weeks before we did the first video. The sole reason the record wasn’t that successful is because we really didn’t tour in support of it. There were several factors that went into that at the time. Some of us had family members that had health issues, and other personal problems. We really didn’t tour because of it and it was very frustrating. We all pretty much went our own way. I wish we had done another record. We did some touring in Japan. It was all about money. It was a great lineup. However it wasn’t Quiet Riot. Kevin was Quiet Riot. I didn’t really feel I could fill his shoes because he’s Kevin Dubrow and there will never be another one.
Paul, you turned 60 this past May. You look and sound like a guy half your age. Do you attribute this to luck, good genes, clean living or the Las Vegas sunshine?
It’s my wife who takes really good care of me. Also you just start realizing as you get older what’s important in life. I have changed my outlook on things as I’ve gotten older and try to take good care of myself. It’s never too late to do whatever it is you want to do in life. You have to believe that there is something out there for you, because there is. There is a house out there for you. A car out there for you. Whatever you really love and as long it’s done with good intentions you will get it.
Do have a website www.paulshortino.com and also your own FaceBook page as well. Are these the best ways to keep track of your performance schedule, new recordings and purchasing some of your other various projects and tribute albums from the past?
No doubt. Keep steady on the social networks because they keep up on our lives better than we do! See you soon and take good care of yourselves.
* Band photo courtesy of King Kobra Facebook Page/ Denise Truscello