"Just For The Record" is a brand new section at the RockUnited site where 'DJ Urban' has a look at some old(er) records/albums in the great history of hard rock and metal. It could be some "obscure" minor record label release that simply didn't get the attention it so rightly deserved the first time around. It could also be a what you would call a "classic" album or sort of a best-seller. They all have one thing in common though. They all ROCK and and they all have at least one classy enough band member to answer our q's.
KING KOBRA: "Thrill of a Lifetime"
KING KOBRA and their second album "Thrill OF A Lifetime" from the year of 1986 ("produced" by Spencer Proffer). Quite a change in style and pace from their melodic metal debut, "Ready To Strike". The band started out as a project by the experienced drummer Carmine Appice (Rod Stewart, Ozzy Osbourne, MSG, etc) in 1984 and thought of as the anti-version of Motley Crue. Well.. at least image-wise, since Carmine kept his hair black and some of the other members had to go platinum blonde. Original RATT vocalist Marq Torien were also the original KK vocalist, until a certain Mark Free came into the picture and Torien had to come up with his own act, Bullet Boys. The line-up on the first two KK albums are, Mark Free (later: Signal, Unruly Child), original Schoolboys/Icon guitarist David Michael-Philips, guitarist Mick Sweda (later: Bullet Boys), bassist Joh nny Rod (later: W.A.S.P.), and Carmine Appice (later: Blue Murder). "Thrill Of A Lifetime" is a very commercial album with a more Pop/Rock radio-friendly sound and blessed with quite a lot of guitar synthesizers and a drum-machine(!?). I can't help enjoying most of the tracks though, and as a kid I spent an entire summer with this as my soundtrack and tape. As you know, music is somehow connected to certain memories and people/places in time. I like it... but it's not what the band wanted as you'll find out in this episode of 'Just For The Record'. You'll also notice it's the second time already that "producer" Spencer Proffer basically took the money and didn't bother to show up in the studio (see also our EYES (click here) interview with Jeff Scott Soto). Here's Icon/Tunnel guitarist David Henzerling with his insight on "Thrill Of A Lifetime". Oh, yeah... some of you might recognize him more for the King Kobra name..... DAVID MICHAEL-PHILIPS
How long did this album take to make from start to finish, recording-wise?
We started pre-production right after our first tour ended in the Fall of 1985. We finished around Christmas and the album was released in the Spring of 1986.
What kind of initial budget are we talking about here?
Not sure, but somewhere around 150K, I think. That was about standard in those days.
How much of the budget did you actually spend on useless equipment and other nonsense?
Well, seeing that all the money ran through the producer's production company (Spencer Proffer's Pasha) and the studio (which the producer, coincidentally, owned) all of it.
What kind of 'sound', production wise, did you have in the back of your mind, prior to entering the studio?
We were told by our record company, Capitol Records, that we need to make a radio-friendly, commercial album in the spirit of Jefferson Starship's "We Built This City" or we wouldn't be making a second record. So that's the sound we were shooting for...
What kind of input did the producer have during the process?
He basically took the money, then poked his head in every once and a while to listen. The bulk of the day-to-day work was done by Duane Hitchings, us and a few in-house engineers. The producer did supervise the mixes, as I recall...
And were you pleased with the final outcome? (sound - production wise)
I didn't like this album personally. I liked the heavier sound of our first album, "Ready To Strike". Capitol made us work with outside writers that really diluted the focus of the group and the collection of songs has always felt disjointed, to me. It never really ended up resonating with radio either.
Did the producer use any (weird) experimental miking and/or recording techniques?
One thing we did which was sort of new for a heavy rock band at the time, was track the songs with a drum machine (Oberheim OB-1). Only the last 3 songs of the record used real drums.
How much time did you spend on overdubs?
Almost all, since we didn't play together in the traditional sense. Once the drum machine was programmed, we just set up and played in the control room.
Which band member spent most of his days in the studio and why?
It was pretty evenly mixed between vocals and guitar. We have a lot of layers for both that required a significant amount of time. I also used a guitar synthesizer on a few songs, which was also a new technology back then.
Which band member hardly spent any time at all in the studio and why?
Probably Johnny, the bass player. There are no overdubs and he does his parts fast and usually on the first take.
Let's talk about the lyrics. Are you just as fond of them today or are they typical of its time?
We didn't write the lyrics on "Dream On" (Russ Ballard song), "Only The Strong Survive", "Feel The Heat" or "Iron Eagle". Listening back, a lot of the lyrics sound pretty dated.
How did you go on about capturing your 'live sound', or perhaps you didn't?
We only played a few of the heavier songs "Raise Your Hands To Rock", "Overnight Sensation" and "Party Animal" live. The pop songs never really went over very well.
Did the record company interfere anything on your "sound" and "songs", considering what's 'hot and not' at the time?
We were told to record a radio-friendly album.
Your favourite songs off the album and why?
"Raise Your Hands To Rock". It was written for the first album, but we always played it live.
Any 'oh-I-wish-we-had-never-recorded' song on this album?
"Second Time Around", "Feel The Heat", "Thrill Of A Lifetime" and "Home Street Home". Can't stand any of those songs.
Were there any other tracks recorded during those studio sessions that didn't make the cut?
There were two, actually. One was another pop song called "Warning Signals" and the other was a cover of Grand Funk's "We're An American Band".
What's your honest opinion about the songs and the production today? Dated, fresh, a mess?
A horrible mess, from start to finish. Even the cover art was embarrassing. In retrospect though, I'm glad we did a second album, because it gave us another year of life (along with the opportunity to do a few more great live shows). On the other hand, the tug-of-war amongst all the parties during the making of the record (band, producer, record company and manager) pretty much tore the band apart anyway.
Are there any 'crazy' behind the scenes anecdotes from these sessions that you can share with us?
Lots of bickering, posturing and fighting for everyone's piece of their turf.
Were you ever a "priority" case or merely just another release at your record label?
We were dropped almost immediately after the album was released.
Did you ever feel like the record label supported you guys enough afterwards? (promotion-wise, tours, etc.).
Capitol did not support us. They did, however, pay our producer a lot of money. It always begs the question, why sign a band if you're not committed to try and make it a success? I'm afraid I still don't have the answer to that one.
Any regrets whatsoever? (regarding the album of course)
I was 23 years old at the time and we did have some good fun during those few years, this album notwithstanding. I don't know that I could have changed anything even if I would have been smart enough to know that there was anything truly wrong that was in my power to correct, so I guess I don't regret the way things turned out. Some people really like this album, so who am I to rain on their parade. I just think, looking back, that the band could have made another really cool hard rock album instead of a sell-out pop one and if we could have stayed together just a few more years, we probably would have been part of the second wave of hair-metal acts that followed and had great success (Poison, Bon Jovi, Winger, etc.). We had all the tools...
If there's anything you'd like to add, say, or promote, please do:
I still play and currently have a new CD out with my band Tunnel. Go to
Interview by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,