“Guitar driven music, that’s what I like!” Ryan Roxie talks about his upcoming album and about his career

Ryan Roxie, the guitar player for Alice Cooper who lives in Stockholm, and who is also known from bands like Slash’s Snakepit, Casablanca and Roxie 77, has an upcoming solo album in the works. A first video off the album has already been released, and Robin Zander of Cheap Trick made a vocal guest appearance on this song. The reporter from Rockbladet wanted to find out more about the solo album, as well as the man behind it, and decided to have a chat with Ryan, who was in the middle of preparations before going on yet another tour with the legendary shock rocker. It was very nice talking to Ryan, and Rockbladet found out many interesting things about the friendly American Swede with the impressive rock ‘n’ roll résumé.

 

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You’ve got an upcoming solo album, Imagine Your Reality. What can you tell me about it?

– Basically, the main word that I can use to describe this album is guitars! (Laughter) I’ve always concentrated more on the songs and the singing with Roxie 77, whereas on this first Ryan Roxie solo album, I think I came up with a good balance between solo guitars and keeping the spirit of the three-and-a-half-minute rock song alive! In that sense, the songs still have that Cheap Trickish vibe, Oasis.., The Beatles.., maybe Billy Idol-esque vibe, but there’s ten songs and there’s ten guitar solos, and that’s what I’m happy about.

I wanted to do an album where I was able to find that balance between singing and playing guitar, and playing a lot of solo guitar as well. I also have some great guest musicians that were able to make appearances on it. Guys like Anton Körberg who’s from Roxie 77, Glen Sobel and Seven Antonopoulos on drums as well. The producers that I worked with, like Tommy Henriksen played on it. Kristoffer Folin, who produced a bunch of tracks on it, also played bass and drums on a bunch of the tracks. One of my favourite guest appearances that I’ve ever had on an album, the lead singer of Cheap Trick, Robin Zander, made a surprise vocal guest appearance on California Man! I think the spectrum of songs is kind of like the spectrum of my personal playlists. I’ve never just liked one specific genre of band or music, and I’ve always tried to keep the spectrum kind of wide. You know, I consider Van Halen just as rock ‘n’ roll as I do The Hives, I consider Foo Fighters just as rock ‘n’ roll as Blondie. It all falls under the same genre to me, rock ‘n’ roll. Guitar driven music, that’s what I like!

You are also one of Alice Cooper’s guitarists. For how many years have you been playing with Alice?

– I’ve been playing off and on with Alice for over twenty years now. I haven’t done every single tour since -96, but Alice has, which is a testament to him in his own right. It’s a testament as a true rock ‘n’ roll pioneer. He has never taken a year off since 1996, when I first started playing with him. I didn’t participate in a couple of tours like when I was with Slash and Slash’s Snakepit, and there were some years where I didn’t tour because I relocated to Sweden. Luckily enough, in 2012 I got the call to come back and we’ve been touring non-stop ever since.

What was it like working with Slash?

– Well, put it this way, it’s kind of like having one of the best guitar teachers that you’ll ever play in a band together with (Laughter) I always say that you learn something off whoever you play with. They could be considered a better musician or a worse musician, it doesn’t matter, you’re gonna pick something off the other guy! Slash to me has such a unique style, a unique sense of timing and obviously that tone, and he really writes great guitar rock riffs! Hopefully that influence rubbed off on me, and some of the songs even to this day I know were sort of inspired by his guitar playing. People don’t realize how long I was in Snakepit, but I was in Snakepit for a good couple of years. We played every single day off each other, like four, five hours a day, just jamming. There was a lot of jamming writing the album, there was a lot of jamming as well as recording the album… There was so much playing off each other that, obviously, I was influenced in a positive way.

You were also in the band Electric Angels, and I’ve heard that Jon Bon Jovi was a fan of that band..?

– Well, I think Jon Bon Jovi liked the album. He liked it so much that he took a line from one of our songs, True Love and Other Fairy Tales, and used it in a power ballad called Bed of Roses! All you have to do is to google the lyrics of that Electric Angels song and then compare it to Bon Jovi’s song… “Hey, wait, which song came out first?” (Laughter) At the same time, he gave us a lot of respect by coming out to the shows and giving us his thumbs up. I never debunk success, and Bon Jovi has had so much success, so the fact that he might have borrowed a line or two from one of our songs gives me a little bit of a proud feeling, that maybe we had a little something to do with all those gazillions and gazillions of dollars he’s made! (Laughter)

What Swedish bands have you been involved with?

– I’ve been involved with a few over the years, since living here. I’d say the biggest Swedish project I was involved with was a band called Casablanca, that featured Anders Ljung (Space Age Baby Jane), Mats Rubarth, Josephine Forsman from Sahara Hotnights on drums, and Eric Stenemo from Melody Club. We were all from different bands, and we were all sort of at the point where we wanted to make a straight ahead rock ‘n’ roll album with Casablanca. It ended up being two albums that I played on. It’s been a very interesting ride, and I have a lot of respect for the singer Anders Ljung. I think he’s got an incredible voice and he’s got great vision for what he sees as a great rock ‘n’ roll band. There is a song off the first Casablanca record called Last of the Rockstars, and in some ways, Anders Ljung IS the last of the rockstars! You know, with the attitude, the look, the voice… So, like I said, nothing but respect for those guys (and gal).

I had an American lineup of Roxie 77 before I moved to Sweden, great musicians like Mike Fasano, Jeff Morose, Teddy Zig-Zag Andreadis and Dan Myers, and then I was really blessed to find the musicians that I found for Roxie 77 when I put together the Swedish lineup. That was Anton Körberg on drums, Eric Rydman on guitar and Magnus Wikström on bass as well as Johan Bergqvist on guitar when we first started up. When you look at all those names, there is a lot of rock ‘n’ roll pedigree there! They’ve been involved with a lot of bands over the years, and you can tell they were able to contribute to the sound of Roxie 77!

You have been in bands, and you have been writing music, in the United States as well as in Sweden. Are there any differences between being a musician in the United States and Sweden?

– The biggest difference between playing in an American band and in a Swedish band is that I feel the musicianship in Sweden is at a higher level, to be honest with you. I think there is more time spent learning the instrument in the beginning. Whereas, and I can say this because I grew up as an American, at first, we spent more time making sure that we had the look right! When I was growing up, me and all my bandmates and friends were looking at Hanoi Rocks album covers and New York Dolls album covers, and we were thinking “Okay, how can we get that look” first, and then we were on our instruments! (Laughter) If you look at the early promo pictures of Guns N’ Roses for example, you’ll find there’s a lot of similarities between that and the Hanoi Rocks album covers that were going around at the time. You know, the same thing with Electric Angels, we were very much influenced by their sound and their look as well.

When did you start writing songs?

– Well, when I started writing good songs is a different question from when I started writing songs! (Laughter)

Well, okay, let’s put it this way then… What was the first song or album of yours ever released?

– The first official released was an album called DPM, and that stood for Dad’s Porno Mag. I thought there were some good songs on it. There was some tongue and cheek rock ‘n’ roll music on it as well, but even before that, I’d made a sort of demo cassette called Bye Bye Kitty. I guess that would be my first, sort of, release with more than five copies sold! (Laughter) I put the early demos and all the albums I did, in between DPM up until the last Roxie 77 full length album, on a release called The Roxie Box. You can go check that out on Spotify or iTunes or whatever, and that’s basically just a total compilation of all my stuff.

What inspires you when you’re writing songs?

– Sometimes it can be the guitar riff that comes out when I’m just jamming on the couch, and sometimes it could be a guitar riff when I’m not even playing the guitar. I wake up with a guitar riff in my head, and I have to go transpose it, and actually figure out how to play it on guitar. That’s happened a few times. Other times, when you get your heart broken, or when you fall in love, it could be good or bad songs written about either of those. Sometimes it just comes from nowhere. You’re jamming with some of your buds, you’re just having a good time and all of a sudden something is just created and you don’t know where it came from.

How old were you when you started playing the guitar?

– I was a kid, like five years old. There was always a guitar lying around in my house, and I picked it up, but I didn’t really know what to do with it. I played notes here and there, but I imagine that it was enough of an influence, and I learned basic songs enough, so that by the time I was eleven years old I knew that that’s what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to become those posters on my wall, that a lot of kids my age had at the time. We all had the same Kiss posters and the same Cheap Trick posters hung up. I had a poster of Rod Stewart, and I might even have had a picture of Alice Cooper somewhere, which is quite funny. Those Poster Idols were all on my wall, and I said “That looks like a good job, I wouldn’t mind having to do that one day!” and knock on wood, that’s what I’ve been able to do so far.

What was your first guitar?

– The very first guitar my parents bought was a Fender Stratocaster, off-white cream colored, just like the one that Jimi Hendrix played, and I think it was pretty cool that my parents had actually got me a quality guitar like that. Shortly thereafter I got my Gold Top Les Paul, which I still have today, and I call that my first girlfriend. That’s a 1972 Gold Top Gibson Les Paul, and I love it. I still play and record with it, to this day.

Were there any guitarists that inspired you in the beginning, when you started playing the guitar?

– I feel the guitar player of all time is Brian May of the band Queen, because he has it all, in my opinion. He’s got the look, he’s got the tone, he’s got an amazing voice and he can write great songs. When you think of Guitar Heroes, you’ve got to understand that there are a lot of guitar shredders out there, but Guitar Heroes come from great bands, and Queen was one of the best bands I have ever listened to.   

You have been hosting some Rock Shows over the years. What Rock Shows have you been hosting?

– I was involved with the web TV show called Big Rock Show, and then we had another show called Big Rock Talk. Then there is this newest sort of live stream that I’ve been doing lately, with a company called Metal Casino. Basically, I get to play DJ for two hours on a live stream, and tell my stories. Whatever song I play, usually I have a little back story to each one. So, at this point, I play music and tell them stories for a couple of hours while my co-host Marielle gambles the night away… Pretty fun.  

You’re also a guitar teacher. Can you tell us something about that?

– You know, at one point I think you want to sort of pass the torch of rock ‘n’ roll on to the next generation, and you want to see guitar driven music continue. I’ve collaborated with a company called PlayAlongMusic, www.playalongmusic.com/ryanroxie, and I’ve done a whole series of video lessons with them. Whether it’s beginning acoustic guitar, beginning electric guitar, we got you covered. I have this new series that just came out called the Blueprint for Guitar. Basically, I want to inspire the beginner, and people that are just getting into guitar. Let’s say that you listened to my music over the years, then what a better person to teach you an E Chord, and your first G Chord, than me? Also, the first month is completely free, and you can check out as many lessons as you want!

I’d like to see more guitar players that are in my position teaching these entry level beginner type lessons. Everybody that plays in a band has a certain amount of hard-core followers that do want to play guitar, and I think it’s important to get as many people to play the guitar as possible. That’s the only way that this genre of music is going to survive! It’s certainly not going to survive off album sales any more. We need to prove ourselves as live performance players.

Speaking of playing live, what’s the secret behind becoming a great live guitarist?

– I think that’s just repetition. Everyone says you have to be at the right place at the right time, but in order to be at the right place at the right time, you have to play a lot of wrong places at many wrong times! I can’t tell you how many thousands of times I played the same song in front of less than thousands of people! (Laughter) You just keep playing shows, and some are character builder shows, others are those bucket list moment shows, but you put it on your list of experience, and at the end of the day, after 10 000 shows, you should be pretty good at it!

Were you ever nervous in the beginning, when you first played live?

– I would say… nervous in a good way! I mean, there’s this thing called distress and eustress, and I think eustress is a helpful thing. It gets that adrenalin going in your body, so whenever I know that I’m going to play a bigger gig with Alice, such as Sweden Rock Festival or Wacken Open Air I get excited about it. I want all that energy, I want to suck that energy from the crowd, and hopefully rebound it back to them!   

Has there ever been a favourite tour or a tour that stands out somehow?

– Well, a couple of years ago we (Alice Cooper) were chosen to be the band that would tour Mötley Crüe’s Final Farewell Tour. That was a bucket list tour, because I got to play a bunch of memorable venues that I had always wanted to play in my career and never had the chance. It was the first time for me playing Madison Square Garden, The Hollywood Bowl and the Stockholm Globe Arena, so I was very thankful for that tour. The other tour that really stands out for me was when we toured with Cheap Trick. Anyone that knows me, knows that I’m a huge Cheap Trick fan, so that was a dream come true!  

Alice Cooper did a few shows last year, where the original Alice Cooper band members played a few songs together on stage. You had the honor of playing guitar instead of the late Glen Buxton..?

– Yes, I was asked to play the role of Glen, which I proudly accepted. I was lucky enough to meet Glen before he passed away years ago, and I always respected that original lineup. They’re the reason why we’re able to still tour today. Those big powerhouse songs, I’m Eighteen, School’s Out, Under My Wheels, those are all the original band. Alice, in some ways, sounded like he was fronting two different bands when we did that tour, because our touring band has our way of playing the Alice Cooper songs, but when the original band comes in, they have their way of playing! They haven’t changed their way of playing the songs since the seventies, so it really took on that vibe. It was very cool, though. I just wanted to fit in and sort of be the glue that held all the things, you know. Alice Cooper asked me “Well, what was it like playing with the original guys, what was it like?” and I said “It was kind of like… juggling cats.” But in a good way, because you didn’t know at one point if the train was going to go off the tracks. It screeched enough off the tracks to be dangerous, but then it got right back on, and that was exciting.

Do you ever go to concerts yourself?

– Yes, I do, I went to a couple this last year. I love watching the Foo Fighters play live, they are one of my faves to watch, and I was able to see a bunch of different bands this last year that were really entertaining. We were on the road for so long, we played over a hundred shows, so within the span of two weeks I was able to see Blondie, Five Finger Death Punch and In Flames.

Every now and then, you are involved in different charity projects. Sometimes you even start a little project on your own. Has it always been important to you, or were you inspired somehow?

– When you feel like the career’s been good to you, and I obviously realize that I’ve been very fortunate with my things that I’ve done, then I feel it’s pretty important that you acknowledge that, and use the influence of what you managed to accomplish to help others. I still try to do that today, with whatever I’m doing. Sometimes it’s better to just do it, and not talk about it, but other times you need to talk about it to inspire other people. So, it’s a weird one for me. I kind of want to stay under the radar about it, but at the same time, when there’s an opportunity to use your notoriety to inspire others to give, I’m all up for it! I try to follow that line “Pay It Forward” as much as possible.  

Finally, have you got any message for your fans?

– You’re welcome to drop by and say hello at any time at my official website. www.ryanroxie.com. It’s got all the links on that site, and it’s got all the information for the new album. I’m excited because there’ll be a new single coming in just a couple of weeks. A sneak track called California Man has already been released. I’m planning on releasing this album in a more unconventional way than we’re used to, because I want the momentum to last as long as it can. Earlier I talked about ten songs, ten guitar solos, and I’m shooting for ten songs, ten videos as well. So, you know, you might have ten different little releases throughout the year. If you can’t wait, and you have to hear the whole album right away, then you’ll have to pre-order the album. Then you’ll get the digital download of the entire album right away!

And lastly, try to pay it forward when you can. It doesn’t have to be anything huge, but you know, open the door for somebody, pay for a coffee for somebody in back of you in line, and above all, Enjoy The Ride. The ride is life, and hopefully you enjoy it to its fullest extent. You stay safe, you take care of yourself, but at the same time you enjoy your life. And hopefully during that time you’ll be enjoying music that I’m playing guitar on blasting through your speakers! (Laughter)

 

REPORTER: Tamara Chastain (tamara.chastain@rockbladet.se)
PHOTOS: Victor Chalfant, Chris Jean, Kyler Clark

FACTS – RYAN ROXIE

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Check out the video "California Man" from the upcoming album "Imagine Your Reality" :

 

 

 

 


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