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Kobra and the Lotus Interview

Performed on July 19, 2012 (via Skype)

Whoever said “anticipation is half the fun” either is a big, fat liar or was not waiting for Kobra and the Lotus’s self-titled album. No, actually having Kobra and the Lotus is both halves of the fun! It is no secret that massive, full-throated voices are right down my alley. Couple Kobra Paige’s impressive pipes with muscular (yet nimble) guitar work, and you have a positively killer album in the finest NWOBHM tradition.
Kobra and the Lotus

Sonic Cathedral’s Robin Stryker sat down with Kobra Paige for one of her first in-depth interviews. Dive in for Kobra’s take on the evolution of Kobra and the Lotus, being signed to Gene Simmons’ label, ginormous snakes, and much more!

Sonic Cathedral is so happy to welcome Kobra Paige, from the Canadian metal band, Kobra and the Lotus! Kobra, for our readers who will be discovering your band for the first time with your upcoming album, would you give them an introduction to what they are in for?

Kobra:  Yeah, I’d love to! Well, this album is the first introduction that we feel has the proper representation of our sound -- the sound that we really want to move towards and evolve towards. It’s very old-school, but it’s not. It has got our own elements of, I guess, what we take to the table. (laughs) I always have trouble describing actually the album. I would say that, if you’re a fan of heavier riffage but that classic soaring vocal melody line and dual lead guitars going on, then this is the kind of album that you will probably enjoy.

Robin:  Kobra and the Lotus has been on my watch-list since 2011, but what really sold me on the band was the video for “Welcome to My Funeral,” which is like a mini-movie. What is going on with the storyline of the video?

Kobra:  It’s quite dramatic! That story is actually surrounding the topic of self-sabotage and really digging your own hole. It happens many times to a lot of people (myself included), where you can actually sabotage your outcome or your path or whatever you’re moving towards accomplishing by having fear and eating away at yourself. You can just shoot yourself right in the foot by doing that.

So I wrote “Welcome to My Funeral,” which is saying that you are digging your own grave, and it can be interpreted in a lot of different ways. I mean, whatever way you are digging your own grave, whether it be substance abuse or emotional abuse … just something negatively influencing your ambition to move forward through life and LIVE full of life.

So yeah, in that video, I’m directing my own funeral, which is pretty creepy. I close the coffin on myself, and there is kind of the character of myself where I’ve lost my mind and am standing at the pew saying “welcome to my funeral!” Then there’s the part of me that is still alive, but it’s going to the funeral. And then of course, there is just me -- the everyday me -- and there’s a performance. I kind of grabbed all those aspects and put it into one, but it’s the same person.

Robin:  It seemed like a bold move for Kobra and the Lotus, who were unsigned, to come out with a rather elaborate video for an album that did not yet have a release date. What was your over-arching thought in doing that?

Kobra:  Our motive was to really start getting the new sound out there. We were ready to play the material (even though it wasn’t released yet), and we were just DYING to give people something new to listen to. It was very exciting to hopefully show an evolution in the sound. So we thought it was a great idea to release a taster, as in showing the world kind of what was going to be expected and the direction we were going to take. I think it was an important move for us, and actually, it shifted a lot after that. The momentum kind of picked up more after that video, which was really interesting.

Robin:  If I’m not mistaken, that video certainly caught the attention of (among others) Gene Simmons.

Kobra:  Yeah, it was pretty wild! That was kind of an intriguing way that it came about because the Universal A&R rep had taken our album that we had with “Welcome to My Funeral” on it to Gene Simmons, thinking he’d be interested. He just loved it, I guess, so now we are working with him. But man, it was a pretty wild series of events … we didn’t see that coming! We were on tour at the time, and our manager sent us the email with his voice -- sent us the phone call, so we could listen to it. It was kind of surreal like: “Is this a joke?! I don’t know.”

Robin:  (laughs) Tell me truthfully, if Susan had just sent you an email saying “hey, Gene Simmons loves it” and didn’t send the recording of his voice, would you have believed it?

Kobra:  NO, definitely not!!! I would have probably thought, “Oh sure, this is just something that’s been twisted through the grapevine,” which happens a lot every day through all areas of life. (laughs) So there’s no way I would have believed it. But we would have probably ended up meeting him when we got home, so that’s kind of what made it more real.

Kobra and the Lotus

Robin:  You talked about how the self-titled album is the debut of the Kobra and the Lotus sound. I am curious, though, about the evolution from the precursor of the album. This time last year, we were expecting an album called Visionary to come out sometime in late 2011. Some of the tracks slated for Visionary are on the upcoming Kobra and the Lotus album, and some are not. What happened?

Kobra:  This was basically the label’s input and Gene’s, just suggesting that we needed to take the ballads off the album. We had a few other slow ones on the album that were removed and replaced with faster things because they wanted this album to be, like you said, the debut album coming from their label. So, that’s how they are promoting it. They wanted it to be a kind of “hit ‘em hard and then get out” deal, because a lot of the world hasn’t met us yet and we’re just being introduced to many countries … most of the countries that we’ve been starting to travel to. It was a smart move; it was more of a strategy.

We still count on bringing some of those ballads back into the next album. When it’s time, we’d really like to bring them back. But for the time being, the sole purpose of this album is just to get in there, have a strong show, and then leave. The power pack, really.

Robin:  You guys have been generating A LOT of interest from Metal Hammer, Terrorizer and a bunch of others. What is the coolest comparison that has been drawn so far with Kobra and the Lotus?

Kobra:  Oh man, I can’t even pick ONE. Every time that they pick something iconic, like Iron Maiden or Judas Priest or Iced Earth, whatever it is … even though I would really like to not be pegged as something that is trying to recreate a band, because that’s really not what we’re out to do … but it’s humbling. To be called or compared to something that is so iconic, like any of those bands, it’s just really honorable. So, I guess it would have to be those bands.

I don’t really know any band like Iron Maiden in the world that has done what they have achieved and gotten the Iron Maiden fan base. You know, Maiden fans are for life, and it’s worldwide. It is like cities and cities of populations of people who are there for them, and so I think that one is probably the biggest one.

Robin:  Jumping in our time machine, I am curious to hear what your musical background is. Would you give us an overview of the path that brought you to Kobra and the Lotus?

Kobra:  Sure! Well, when I was eight years old, I started classical vocal lessons, and I did that for eight years, along with classical piano and theory. I loved it! When I was younger, I was always convinced that I was going to be an opera singer, which was ironic because, when I hit puberty, I basically wasn’t interested in that AT ALL anymore. I was really scrambling to figure out what I liked in terms of musical sounds. I was listening to a whole bunch of things, and getting into punk initially. I was trying to figure out something, and it was just not clicking.

Finally, when I was in grade 11 and turned 15, I went to a Judas Priest concert, and that was it! That was when I heard really metal for the first time. I mean, I had Iron Maiden, but I had only had Seventh Son of a Seventh Son … I hadn’t even heard Powerslave before that. So I had an Iron Maiden CD that was not the most common one prior to that, and it hadn’t done anything for me yet. It was Judas Priest that really hit me, when I saw the live show and I saw the energy. But they were OLD. They were old guys, but they were the craziest people I’d ever seen. The way they were just revving people up (and it was the whole stadium), I couldn’t believe it, and it just hooked me!

After that, I just wanted to start a band and play music ... to start with covers … to start playing covers initially. But that didn’t really happen. After the first practice with a couple of guitar players I met off the classified, we really started writing our own stuff, and that is when Out of the Pit started being created. That started picking up some speed because we saw, “Oh, we can do some shows. This will be really fun!” Then it just became an entity unto itself. The next thing I knew, I was not in university anymore, and I was just touring in a band and playing in bars around the world. (laughs) Not “around the world” -- I meant, “in Canada” -- every little hole we could find. (all laugh) Yeah, then through a few name changes, Kobra and the Lotus was really born. That is all it’s been since then; it’s just one direction.

Robin:  With Judas Priest having been the band that turned you on to metal, what was it like to play with them?

Kobra:  Oh man, I thought it was just so bizarre and so mystical, how it had actually come full-circle that way because it started me. It started my engine. Again, it was like the beginning of the new chapter for us. It was our first big festival tour, and they were the first band … the first big band … we were going to be supporting, and I just couldn’t believe that it unfolded that way. I just felt really blessed! It was really amazing to get to play with those guys. And not only play with them, but we were really respected. They treated us very nice, and we were an opening band. It was just an amazing experience!

Robin:  Speaking of mystical things, I notice that you have Sanskrit and Tamil tattoos, as well as a dreamcatcher, on your left arm, which made me curious about the song “Nayana (My Eyes).” You seem to have an affinity for the First Nations and the culture of India.

Kobra:  Yeah, I have a lot of compassion and love for nature, I guess. So I feel like a lot of my life-force will come from the ground up and that’s where my voice comes from, so that’s where I am really drawn to the First Nations thing. I’ve had dreamcatchers my whole life, and it’s always been a sign of protection for me. So, to have it on my body, it felt very natural.

The East Indian interest … it is just something about the vibrancy of the culture. I’ve been to India eight times, and there’s something about the colors, their music, the way they dance, and the way they honor things that I feel very aligned with. So, when I write things on my body or messages, it’s usually in a language from India because it’s private, was the first thing. It is not something that people will generally be able to read. It’s usually a prayer for myself, so it’s all about feeling good and feeling like something is there for you, even if it’s a little tattoo.

I forget … I was going to say something. Oh, Nayana. Do you know what Nayana means?

Robin:  Only the little bit that I was able to glean from the Internet …

Kobra:  I used it in the direct translation of “my eyes” or “eyes” [from Sanskrit], because it also sounds like the name of a person and is very phonetically fun to say, so there are other reasons as well. It just worked out altogether, but the initial reasoning was because I wanted to say “these eyes are mine,” but I wanted it to be the sound of a person, even though that is no one. The Nayana is actually whoever the eyes are of the person singing it, and so that’s what “Nayana” comes from.

Robin:  Which of your tattoos currently gives you the greatest feeling of serenity?

Kobra:  Hmmmm, oh boy. You know, it’s interesting because I have “surrender” written in both Sanskrit and Tamil, so there is a lot of serenity in every single tattoo. They are all to do with that. I would say actually the dreamcatcher, though, because … no, it wouldn’t actually ... I wouldn’t actually know how to choose.

Robin:  Fair enough. I will admit that something that gave me a feeling of great UNserenity was your photoshoot with those enormous, enormous pythons!

Kobra:  I know! Oh, they were HUGE. And they were all girls, you know … they were BIG girls. It was really cool though. I really liked that; I really enjoyed that. They felt really sweet, just because of the way their muscles moved. So I think it was fun for most of us, except for Pete because he is terrified of snakes. We didn’t tell him … we didn’t actually think about the fact that maybe someone in the band was scared of them. So we just brought all these guys in -- or “girls,” I should say -- and he was just like, “Holy shit, what is this?! What are we doing?!” He was so scared that he was sweating bullets. (laughs) But he powered through it, which was pretty impressive.

Kobra and the Lotus

Robin:  What did those beasties weigh? I imagine it would be exhausting to have snakes draped on you and dropped on you. They look like they would be … I dunno … 50 or 60 pounds.

Kobra:  Yeah, they were though! I think they’ve got to be around 50 or 55 pounds for the biggest ones.

Robin:  Kobra and the Lotus have been killing it this year on the festival circuit. You’re just off of Download (and Sonisphere earlier in the year), with Wacken and Bloodstock coming up.

Kobra:  Oh YEAH!

Robin:  My friends in the UK are really excited to see you guys at Bloodstock.

Kobra:  Awesome!

Robin:  How is playing a big festival different than playing a regular show or touring in venues?

Kobra:  Well, there is a huge difference in the intimacy. That’s the biggest difference. When it’s a gig that is inside a small venue or a club or something, I can see every single person’s eyes and faces usually, so that’s when it gets very personal. It flows differently. What you would say at a gig like that is different than what you would say on a main stage because you are not talking to a mass of people, you are almost having a conversation with people … or that’s how it feels for me when I talk in between the songs.

When you play on the main stage, it’s just this MASS of people. I don’t just single out one person pumping their fist, but I see a bunch of them pumping their fists. (all laugh) So it’s one whirlwind of energy, I guess. Any show that is a good show is a good show, no matter what the size is. But I found, with the main stages, just the adrenaline that I felt was through the roof. I would come off, and I’d just be jumping through my skin, like “HOLY SHIT” because the massive amount of energy coming back at us was just a lot to take in. It felt really wonderful.

Robin:  How excited are you to have these big shows coming up, after Kobra and the Lotus comes out and people will have a chance to hear more than just the couple tracks for which there are already videos?

Kobra:  I can’t WAIT! It has been so long that we have been waiting for people to finally know our material and have the ability to go and get it, if they want to. It’s just going to be amazing to finally be able to sing with people as well. I love it when I see people singing the words, and they’re getting into it at an even deeper level because they know more about it. They feel more connected because they know the words or where the beats come or where this and that comes. It’s going to be very exciting. I can’t wait!

We’ve seen so many people on the last tour, who are singing our songs. Our music is not out, and they’re trying really hard to sing it. That’s always really funny, but it’s very endearing. It is like, “Oh man, I can’t wait for this stuff to be out, so you can actually sing with us! (laughs) You’ll know what we’re doing.” So I can’t wait!

Robin:  I think I read a post that you crazy kids are already working on new material.

Kobra:  (laughs) Yeah, we are! We are always working on new material. It is just because of the way our schedule is, when we come home from tour, that little amount of time … we’ve had about a month now and it will be about a month until we go out again, then we’ll have probably a few weeks before we go out again. When we come back from touring quite a lot in the next year-and-a-half, I know that what the label and what the people are going to need is more music. And so, the only time you have for that is when you get home and you have that little amount off of touring. So you can never stop!

It’s kind of a crazy industry that way, because I don’t think any musician can ever really stop, unless they’re Iron Maiden or something. (all laugh) They work to be up there. I mean, they’ve had their up-and-down too. It’s really hard to not be lost in the shuffle of new stuff coming in and out, so you can’t ever really stop your push forward. So yeah, we’re working on it, and it’s awesome. It’s a lot of fun!

Robin:  You had talked about the evolution from Out of the Pit and Visionary (the precursor to your upcoming debut sound). Do you feel that you are still evolving, or have you found the Kobra and the Lotus sound?

Kobra:  I think that we have found the Kobra and the Lotus sound, but I think we will always aim to evolve. In whatever direction it will unfold, I don’t know how that will happen. We will have to see how the next album turns out, you know. But I think that (for me, at least) it’s very important that we find some way to keep our familiarity with people … when they hear our songs, they know instantly “oh, that’s the singer of this” or “that sounds like the guitar players from this band, so that must be this band.” But I think also I really don’t want to create an album that is almost a regurgitation, mixed up and mashed up again. I just don’t want that.

I want to make sure we don’t get stuck in a box, which I think is easy to do. I already get stuck in a box sometimes, so what I’ll go do is: I’ll step outside of the band and go find a great guitar player that has a totally fresh new input and style that I really enjoy listening to, and I’ll say, “Hey, let’s co-write a song!” It always turns out Kobra and the Lotus sounding because I’m so involved with it, but it is something fresh in some way.

Robin:  With Kobra and the Lotus already having checked off a ton of milestones in the last year -- from being featured in Metal Hammer to playing the main stage at huge festivals -- what is your big dream for Kobra and the Lotus’s future, where you would be ecstatic if it happened?

Kobra:  Well, I guess the master plan for the band is to get to … I always say it’s healthier to dream big … so our plan is to be able to fill the kind of venues that a Judas Priest would fill. You know, it is going to take a lot of time and a lot of growth and a lot of determination, but I think anything is possible. So that would be the goal. I know that no one in the band (including myself) wants to do anything but music. We really, really live for it, so we would hope that we could live by being a musician in the future.

Kobra and the Lotus

Robin:  Kobra, we have about reached the end of our time together. Speaking directly to Kobra and the Lotus fans, both old and new, what would you like to tell them?

Kobra:  I would first like to say, “Thank you so much for believing in us!” (laughs) I’m really horrible at this, sorry. It’s mostly gratitude. I would say “thank you” and “keep rocking and supporting metal!” It’s a culture that is very unique unto itself, and there is nothing like going to a metal show. So, thank you!

Robin:  Kobra, thank you so much for talking with Sonic Cathedral, and we can’t wait to start seeing and hearing and reading the feedback once fans get their hands on your new album!

Kobra:  Yeah, me too! Thank you so much. It was nice to finally talk to you. I hope to meet you someday.

Robin:  I hope so too!

Many thanks to Carol Wright at Universal Music for setting up the interview!

Kobra and the Lotus

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