He’s a key player in the Alice Cooper band and has enjoyed storied stints with Casablanca and Slash’s Snakepit. With new solo record Imagine Your Realityout this week, Cristina Massei caught up with one of the 21stcentury’s true guitar heroes – the redoubtable Ryan Roxie.
HRH Mag: There have been a few documentaries recently about sidemen but how do you think you transcended being a side guy to become a member of Alice Cooper’s band?
Ryan Roxie: I have never felt like a hired gun or a sideman, mainly because Alice has a family approach to the band. In fact we do have his actual family on the road! For many years his daughter was in the show and for the last five years his wife has been in the show. It’s a family-themed touring lifestyle, and it’s a special thing. I become a band member through experience and time but I do work for Alice Cooper. It’s his name on the marquee and the band all respect that. We know our roles and we play them very well. It was an exciting step for me to co-write with Alice as I grew up listening to the classic songs he had written. The first time we ever wrote a song together it didn’t feel strange like I imagined it might. I thought perhaps I would psyche myself out wondering if it was good enough but it felt really natural. And a few days later we wrote another song for the Eyes Of Alice Cooper album.
HRH Mag: What was the process of joining the band like?
RR: I remember it very clearly. Alice was there at the audition which I thought was very commendable. I have auditioned for other bands before where the lead singer has not turned up and they film you which is quite an odd feeling. If you are going to decide about being on tour with someone for the next year it’s probably best to meet them! Alice was putting a new touring band together in 1996. I was promised a one-year contract. He wanted to try going back out on the road and he’s been touring ever since! Eric Singer was there and Bob Daisley – so I was thrown into a situation with a very high level of musicianship. There is a way of turning nervous energy into inspirational energy and it gave me adrenaline. It was at a famous rehearsal studio called Mates and that place had always been good luck for me. I imagined doing it before I went in and I did it!
HRH Mag: Imagine Your Reality is your first official solo album – why has it taken so long for you to put an album out under your own name?
RR: I’ve been doing band albums under the name Roxie 77 and Dads Porno Mag so there have been solo themed albums over the years. But this album was special to me in the sense that I wanted to put out a Ryan Roxie guitar-driven album. My albums in the past had guitar on, the and plenty of it, but I focussed more on the vocals and the song structures and not on the overall guitar and solos. The producers for this record got the best vocal performance but we really nailed it on the guitar solos. I think the guitar playing is very recognisable. On this album it’s 10 songs and 10 guitar solos!
HRH Mag: Are you planning on any live shows to support the new album?
RR: I always prioritise Alice Cooper touring but when there is a break I will do my best to play shows and there is already talk about a US Midwest tour and then returning to the UK and Europe. I live in Sweden most of the time – which is a great rock n roll place.
HRH Mag: You’re originally from California but have lived in Sweden for some time. Are you glad to have escaped LA…your new track To Live & Die In LA seems to touch on that…
RR: Most people do the opposite of me! I left the US for Sweden. There is also a song on the album called California Man and I am California born and raised so there will always be a piece of my heart there. Who knows where I will end up in future? Growing up I always wanted to live outside of the US and the opportunity was there in the mid-2000s. I moved with my family and we took that chance. I could enjoy my kids growing up in a very cool environment in Sweden and when they are old enough to decide where they want to continue their schooling pretty much everything is on the table. What I miss about California and the US in general is there’s an openness to it, for the most part people engage, even casually in a store or something. Maybe less so in Sweden – sometimes it’s too cold to stop and chit chat although alcohol is always a conversation starter! My view is that wherever you are is the place to be in that moment!
HRH Mag: What’s left on Ryan Roxie’s bucket list?
RR: Touring with Mötley Crüe we played some of the all-time best venues like Madison Square Garden and the Hollywood Bowl – I grew up dreaming about playing those places! Donington – now Download – has eluded me over the years but it’s on my bucket list for sure! Working with Robin Zander was exciting and to have your all-time childhood favourite band lead singer guest on your album is amazing! We had toured with Cheap Trick before and our manger lives close to him. I was in Nashville with Alice playing a show with the original band members and Robin came up and was saying how much the original Alice Cooper band had inspired him and it made me think about how much he had inspired me! So I reached out to him about a week later. It’s a cover of a cover, which is originally by The Move. We worked it out via the internet, it was recorded in three different studios all around the world and I am very proud of the result. But I try not to reflect too much about some of these experiences – there will be time for that when I’m in an old folks’ home!
HRH Mag: Is there anyone else you would like to collaborate with?
RR: One of the top guitar driven bands that have proved themselves time and time again are Foo Fighters and they seem to have the same sort of family chemistry I was talking about earlier – that would be a great collaboration. Hats off to any band these days that can put out guitar driven music. That’s my mission – to put out a guitar focused album that will inspire other people to pick up a guitar. I like bands like Greta Von Fleet, Highly Suspect, Holy White Hounds, Death From Above – these are all stringed-instrument-cacophony-of-sound type bands that I’m happy are carrying the torch of rock!
HRH Mag: Alice Cooper is a legend, what’s the best anecdote he’s told you?
RR: When we are on tour Alice and I arrive in town in the morning we get dropped off at the hotel, take the car off the back of the bus and drive to the nearest golf club. Those car rides provide some of the most entertaining rock stories I have ever heard. We listen to a lot of Little Steven’s Underground Garage radio show and, upon hearing certain songs, Alice might tell me about playing that song in the early days and getting booed off stage or how he didn’t know Jeff Beck was in the audience and he would have freaked out if he’d known. Alice’s favourite saying is ‘never let the truth get in the way of a good story’ so tales get embellished – sometimes to become urban legend! But there are some things that can’t be embellished…I saw Dave Grohl break his leg and finish the Foo Fighters set, that was rock ‘n’ roll history. I was there! When Brian May joined Alice Cooper for School’s Out live on stage and we played a bit of We Will Rock You all the crowd’s hands were in the air and that was special. I have those rock ‘n’ roll memories ingrained in my DNA!
HRH Mag: Are you still involved with Casablanca?
RR: I never closed the door on Casablanca. The two albums I recorded with them were great rock ‘n’ roll statements, old school, bombastic sounds. Anders is one of the best frontmen out there. There’s no animosity, it was just the timing didn’t align right.
HRH Mag: The Roxie Box release was obviously a labour of love. How did you go about putting this together?
RR: The Roxie Box is everything I have done outside of Alice Cooper and it even has some early demos from Bye Bye Kitty – if you want to go down the Roxie rabbit hole, it goes deep!
HRH Mag: Is there a Ryan Roxie ‘masterplan’?
RR: You need to have a goal and that’s what the title of this new album is about. But how to reach that goal is a mystery and I never try to guess the path.
Ryan Roxie’s Imagine Your Reality is out on May 25 via Cargo Records.