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Exclusive Interview: Paul Shortino from King Kobra
Paul Shortino is one of the most underrated voices in hard rock. Shortino is 60 years young and those that have followed his 30 plus years in the music business are fully aware of his powerhouse vocal abilities. With such great stand-out records under his belt like Rough Cutt’s 1985 self-titled debut, Quiet Riot’s 1988 self-titled album, King Kobra’s self-titled 2011 effort and the recently issued King Kobra record II showcase Shortino’s fantastic vocals. “I’m really excited about this album because I got a chance to really showcase what I can do,” says the singer. “On the last record there were several songs that were left over from the Mark Free era and I didn’t get to contribute as much as I would have liked.”
A resident of Las Vegas for several years Shortino is currently a part of ‘Raiding the Rock Vault’ at The Las Vegas Hotel. The show runs four to five nights per week. ‘Raiding the Rock Vault’ has received rave reviews and is the #1 ranked show on the Las Vegas strip on Trip Advisory. “There’s nothing like it. It’s not like ‘Rock of Ages’ – it features ‘real’ rock stars,” says Shortino. The show essentially takes you through the history of rock ‘n’ roll from the years 1950-1990. “We’re booked here for about a year and they’d like the show to run for about nine years,” says the enthusiastic singer.
King Kobra is currently in the process of working out a deal that would add them to the line-up for 2014’s Monsters of Rock Cruise. Shortino however will be playing double duty if King Kobra gets on the bill as Shortino’s Rough Cutt has also been resurrected for the Monsters of Rock Cruise. “It’s funny, we talked about working on four songs for ourselves and then we started talking to labels and the thing went to shit! I guess that’s what happens when you bring ‘business’ into the ‘music,’” points out Shortino. He is however confident that Rough Cutt will record again at some point. “I’m all for it. Let’s just do it—it’ll be fun,” says Shortino. He’s a busy guy these days and doesn’t appear to miss ‘retirement.’ In fact, he sounds more alive than ever.
You made mention the last time we spoke when King Kobra signed with Frontiers that the label specifically wanted a record that sounded 80s. We know the story behind the songs that were left over from the Free-era while the songs were…
Yeah. Essentially stuff like “Screaming for More” was dated and cheesy but the hooks and melodies were very strong which is what made for a good record.
Right, “Live Forever” was one of my favorites off the last record.
I also really liked “Fade Away” – another one that I really liked because it was new stuff as opposed to the old stuff that was already around when I joined.
What I really liked about the new record is that it was all new ideas. While some of the ideas were things that David (Henzerling) had they were new ideas to us. I lobbied for David to get production credit on this one. We all produced it but David went beyond what we all did. Carmine (Appice) wanted to split everything equally but this was a Paul call and I wanted David to get production credit for this record. David and Carmine have had a long history together and David wanted something on his own on record that he’s done with Carmine.
So how did the songwriting work on II?
We’d send song ideas via email and Carmine, David and I would be brutally honest with each other on what we wrote. Carmine would say “King Kobra is all about women, rock ‘n’ roll and having a good time.” So Carmine wanted to write about that stuff and David wanted to get a little deeper—David was right about getting a little deeper because we’re all older and our fans are older. I think a little depth was the way to go instead of screamin’ for more, you know? (laughs) I love Carmine to death but one of his big songs was “Screamin’ for More?!” (laughs)
“Got it Coming” is one of my favorite tracks on the album. What’s the story behind that song?
That’s based on (pause). Okay I’m in this relationship, I’ve done everything that I can for you, if there’s something that I haven’t done for you that’s upset you—I’m just a man. I got it coming. I don’t understand the female way of thinking. That’s basically what the song is about. Some of the lyrics are David’s some are mine. What we did we’d send each other song lyrics and we’d take them apart then we’d piece them back together again and then someone would come back with another idea. David is a very intellectual guy and he was pushing for us to push the envelope and get a little deeper.
Another favorite of mine is “We Go Round.”
That’s one of the last songs that we wrote actually. It was a Mid-West boy who meets a West Coast girl and here we go round and round again, you know. I haven’t heard the songs. It’s funny because after I do what I do and I spend so much time with them I don’t listen to them when their done anymore! (laughs) I haven’t got a copy of the album but I do have the mixes. The only song that I’ve listened to is probably “Have a Good Time” because I’ve been showing everyone the video clip for the song. The rest of the songs I haven’t heard since late January or early February. I know they were good! (laughs)
We decided early on in the writing process that we didn’t want to do three minute songs; we wanted to go back to days of Hendrix and Zeppelin. Carmine would go in to record his drums with the skeleton of the song. There’s a song where Carmine starts playing then he stops. I think that’s ‘When the Hammer Comes Down” it gives you the illusion that we were in the studio together.
I’d have to agree with you as a listener I would have never figured that you guys recorded this out via sending music files via email. This album sonically sounds like King Kobra was in the same studio knocking it out live.
Oh, it really does. You’ve have to give credit for that to Carmine because we had to revamp the songs after he cut his drums. We had to go back and grid stuff out because he cut his drums to tape and with the transfer to protocols is a little off. Since David wanted to add some orchestration to some of the songs and some other stuff we had to map things out. If you listen closely to Carmine’s drums he’s just a hair behind the click which is great because if you’re on it’s like a metronome. I’ve played with guys that play with clicks and they get caught up with that they play just like a machine it’s like you have a drum machine back there instead of a drummer. Carmine doesn’t do that. He’s the most incredible drummer that I’ve ever played with. I think the next guy in line is Jay Schellen who currently plays in ‘Rock Vault’ with me.
You mentioned earlier about going old school to the days of Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin with longer songs with more meat to them. “Deep River” is another favorite that fits the bill. When I spoke to Carmine last week I mentioned this to him as well. “Deep River” has a great riff, powerful vocals, orchestration, an acoustic interlude and it ends as a heavy gospel song.
Oh, yeah. You’re right. Some of the guests on the records are Ron Keel, Frank Dimino, and Carol-Lyn Liddle. Carol is a phenomenal singer from here in Las Vegas and incredible friend—she was blown away that I wanted her to sing on this record. We had a living room full of people. We had Danny Coker who you’ve probably seen on ‘Counting Cars’ and ‘Pawn Stars,’ he’s on the record and in the music video for “Have a Good Time.” We also had the guys from Danny’s band Count 77 singing on the record and they’re also in the video. We also have Zakk Wylde, Ace Frehley and Vinnie Paul in the video along with other guests. We had Robert Mason singing on ‘Take Me Back.”
You mentioned all the guests that are featured in the music video but one of the things that I found very cool was the fact that you flashed the ‘Tales from the Stage’ book for a few frame in the music video. You’re featured in the book—I love the book and have gotten to know the author Michael Toney over the last couple years.
Yeah Mike Toney! He was there the night we shot the video and I thought I’d plug the book! (laughs) We had such a good time making the record and making the music video for “Have a Good Time” that it would have great to call the record ‘Have a Good Time’ but it’s Carmine’s band so he chose King Kobra II because he felt that this is really the King Kobra that he would have liked as the line-up.
Carmine’s my brother from another mother and it’s an honor to do anything with him – I’m just so grateful to be a part of anything that he does. He’s responsible for bringing me out of my retirement stage that I was in. I had mainly been producing and engineering records and stuff like that.
I have to ask you about Rough Cutt because there’s been talk about another reunion. What’s the status with that? Will it happen?
It was funny because we’d been talking about doing a record. Not just doing four songs just for fun—no money involved let’s just go do this for fun. Well as soon as I got a deal I asked my management if Frontiers would be interested in doing a Rough Cutt album—the label was all for it. There was an offer for a decent amount of money. As soon as money got involved the whole thing went to shit! (laughs) I couldn’t believe it! Everyone was scrabbling for how much they could get—it wasn’t about doing the record for fun. Before there was a label offering us a deal we were going into the studio to do an album for free. It’s funny how when money gets involved it puts a damper on the music. I guess that’s why they call it the ‘music business’ because anytime you bring in ‘business’ it destroys the creativity and where you’re going with it.
If we would have signed the deal two years ago right around the time that the first King Kobra album, we would have negotiated a deal in December of 2011. Frontiers had signed a major distribution deal that required all the bands on Frontiers’ roster to be touring. Well Rough Cutt hasn’t toured in years so that whole deal fell by the wayside. So years go by and last year Jailhouse was on the cruise (Monsters of Rock) while they were playing people were shouting ‘Rough Cutt, Rough Cutt, Rough Cutt!’ So that’s how we wound up getting an offer for the cruise. They made it lucrative enough for us to sign on to do it.
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