Legendary Rock Interview with Johnny Rod of W.A.S.P. and King Kobra
Johnny Rod is a wild man. On or off the stage, he is the SAME guy. High energy, great attitude and great musical talent have landed him in some pretty good company over the years. He of course got on the map with King Kobra, a buzzsaw of metal crossed with a pop/aor approach. He then found his way into one of metal’s baddest bands W.A.S.P. who saw all that energy and talent when Kobra was opening for them. We had a very nice and revealing chat with Johnny about his past in both bands and his involvement with the new re-charged King Kobra. Read on!!!
Q: You have been in so many bands, of course most notably W.A.S.P. And King Kobra, both big L.A. bands….I didn’t know you were from the midwest. How often have you played shows in the area???
A: Oh, hell yeah John, I’m from St. Louis!!! I’ve played Rockford, Chicago, Carbondale, Bloomington, you name it…..To be honest I can’t remember every show I’ve played or what bands played Rockford area but I know I have (laughs)….Way before any of the later bands I played all those midwestern towns on the bar circuit with my band AXE….We’re talking late seventies man….long time ago….I liked playing those bar shows too man. You know, the thing about me John, I still love getting up and playing with local bands or bar bands whatever you wanna call it, it’s fun no matter what. I do the SAME thing whether I’m on stage in front of ten people or on a bigger stage in front of 20,000.
Q: Speaking of that do you remember playing some of those old shows up this way at Alpine Valley?
A: Shit yeah….Wow…I remember the Iron Maiden show, it was the first time I ever met Bruce Dickinson backstage…it was a cool moment. Of course, Udo….I loved those Accept guys (launches into a pretty damn impressive “Balls To the Wall” vocal impression……laughs)…you know John, growing old is inevitable but growing up is an option (laughs….hysterically….
Q: True…any other advice?
A: Every bar should have a sign on the wall that says “If you’re drinking to forget please pay in advance”
Q: The King Kobra guys had a reputation as being a better live band than on record…was that accurate?
A: Oh yeah, definitely that’s the thing about that band….we were definitely better captured and more into the live shows than anything….me personally, I’ve been playing live since I was eleven years old….and as much fun as it is creating in the studio and stuff there’s nothing like getting up onstage and actually doing it live in front of people. That band in particular it was more fun to actually get up there and get peoples reactions in front of those crowds…we played with some cool bands and good crowds, KISS, Maiden….we opened for W.A.S.P., that’s another story (laughs). You know I have to say the King Kobra band, we were very underrated…I don’t know what happened with the albums but those guys, all of them, were some incredibly talented musicians and a lot of that came across heavier and better live. Those guys were a very tight band and then you had my bass solo….psycho, crazy guy fucking a Fender Precision on stage…(laughs). A 1976 Fender is a very comfortable thing…I had a 1973 but I smashed it when we were kicking off the KISS tour in Green Bay, 1986. I was a dumbass back then and made a dumbass move and smashed my favorite guitar on the Asylum tour, god, I wish I hadn’t done that. Other than that I loved that tour it was a great combination. Now that we’re on the same record label as Whitesnake I wanna do that tour!!!! Whitesnake with King Kobra…..Attack of the Venomous Snakes or we could call it the “Suck My Snake” tour…
Q: You guys are actually able to say you have two movie stars in your band now since Carmine was in Black Roses and new singer Paul Shortino was in friggin Spinal Tap…..
A: Really? Oh….yeah…..he was!!! I actually just watched that the other day. Lick My Love Pump has to be one of the best titles ever. Yeah, Paul had that spot playing Duke Fame!!!!
He was on screen with Howard Hessman playing the other band’s manager…(laughs)…..I caught Spinal Tap the other day on Netflix and was laughing my ass off you know, cause it’s an old favorite…Every tour bus I have ever been on has a copy of that movie…
Q: So you don’t recall Black Roses? Carmine Appice was in it….Horror movie. Maybe it’s better you don’t recall it. King Kobra with Mark/Marcie Free was all over the soundtrack also, they were actually the band that performed the songs the fictional “Black Roses” band played. Had you left the band at that point?
A: No, I’ve never seen that one man….Carmine was IN it?? (laughs). I’ll have to check that out…I did the first two albums with King Kobra and then we did some tours for the second album, Thrill of a Lifetime. We did the tour with W.A.S.P and Ted Nugent and that’s how I ended up being in W.A.S.P.
I didn’t know at the time but when we were doing the tour Blackie had been watching me because they were getting ready to make a change having Blackie take over on guitar and Randy Piper leave. So they needed a bass player and I came to find out that Blackie was watching me in King Kobra on that tour with that in mind. So after the tour finished they called me up at home…..King Kobra was in the process of getting dropped by Capitol Records at that time and to be honest John, the timing was just perfect for me to join W.A.S.P. It was kind of a messed up situation with us on that second King Kobra album in so much as we were at the end of our Capitol deal and there was a lot of outside pressure on us to become something we weren’t. It was not coming from any of us in the band and I think we were all sort of surprised at how things were turning out so night and day from what we intended. The way that album turned out was nothing like the way we envisioned it and it really didn’t help. It should have turned out to be as heavy and everything as the first album, that’s how it was written and recorded but when it came down to actual production and mixing it was a COMPLETE departure from everything that we had done as a band up to that point.
Q: So after that fiasco you found yourself “Inside the Electric Circus”?
A: (laughs). Yeah….actually I joined the band while that record was being made. After they contacted me on the phone, I went down to the studio and met with them prior to joining the band. Blackie was in the control room playing back some of what they were working on as far as tracks and shit. The first thing he asked me was “Hey, do you know this song?” and he plays “I Don’t Need No Doctor” and I’m like laughing hysterically, like “Do I know it???? ….I’ve been playing it forever….it’s from like 1970 Blackie…” you know, cause it’s an old Humble Pie song. So he hands me the bass and I start playing it. That ended up being the take they used on the album (laughs).
Q: It’s been said that you play on both the best W.A.S.P. Album, “Headless Children” and the worst, “Inside the Electric Circus”….or is that just Blackie’s opinion??
A: Yeah, I don’t think everyone universally agrees on that….that may be Blackie’s opinion and to be honest, like I said I joined while they were making that album so I’m not on every bit of it. I’m not sure why he feels that way. I also played on the Live in the Raw album (which is a LOT of people’s favorite) and enjoyed that one. The Headless Children album was really good to me though because for that album and that moment it was truly a collaboration. That album, Steve Riley had just left to join L.A. Guns after he did the Live W.A.S.P. Album. My memories of “Headless Children” are great because it was a true group effort and not just one guy calling the shots. That album was me, Chris Holmes and Blackie holed up in a garage working on those songs. It wasn’t Blackie saying “You play this….you play that….” it was a true band effort and to me that’s what makes those songs so great. Then you add Frankie Banali to this mix and it was just mindblowing….I mean to this day, when I think of how lucky I am to be a part of those rythym sections with two of the best drummers ever in Carmine Appice and Frankie Banali, I’m truly thankful, I’m a lucky guy. I’m beyond lucky, I’m blessed.
Q: Some people thought that he wanted to kind of tone down the crazy antics of the live show in W.A.S.P. At the time you joined, Blackie was in the middle of being the PMRC’s whipping boy. Did you think there was any conscious effort to change or tone it down?
A: Helllllllll no……not at that time John. At that time the setlist highlight was still “Fuck Like A Beast-Animal” and rightfully so…..It was and still is the truest example of a LIVE song, the epitome of a song that comes over perfect live, in front of a rabid crowd. I don’t think we bowed to the PMRC at that time AT ALL, we thought “To hell with those people”.