Interview with Ryan Roxie (Casablanca/Alice Cooper)

Alice Cooper guitarist Ryan Roxie has just released a new album with his other band Casablanca. Mick Burgess caught up with Ryan to chat about their excellent second album Riding A Black Swan.

You’ve just returned home from a series of guitar clinics in France. How did they go?

They all went very well and the support I get from Gibson guitars has meant that I can go out and promote the brand by playing rock n roll on a daily basis. I get to talk about my music history and how the guitar company’s history relates to it. It’s a good opportunity for fans and guitarists to meet me on a one on one and ask me things about the guitars that they don’t get the chance to at a regular rock show.

What sort of standard are the students who attend your clinics?

We get such a spectrum of people who are interested in the guitar that I have to thank ‘Classic Rock’ as it’s a style of music that parents are able to play for their kids and for the first time kids don’t think that their parent’s music sucks. Artists like Alice Cooper aren’t just influencing adults but their children and even grandchildren too. Getting three generations of people at an Alice Cooper show is just insane. At my clinics I see parents who grew up with the guitar bring along their kids who are starting to take an interest too. My whole job is just to pass the torch of Rock!! Who would have thought that a Gibson Les Paul and a Marshall amp could bring families together?

You’ve just released your latest album with Casablanca, Riding A Black Swan. Are you pleased with the reaction so far?

So far we’ve really been taken aback by the acceptance of the album. I’m very proud of the album. In many ways I think this should have been our first album and our first album, Apocalyptic Youth should have been our second when you think of the rawness and live feel of the production.

What does Riding a Black Swan mean?

It means we are taking on the challenge of being a band that’s fighting for our second album chance. We’re taking all of the dark influences that push you down and we’re getting on top of those negative forces and going for the ride and let’s see where it takes us. The first album was based more on our Rock’n’Roll dreams and what we aspired to through our record collections and our hopes and dreams of being in a Rock band. This album takes those dreams and instead of turning it into anger, it turns it more into aggression. It’s more of an in your face approach saying that we might not have attained all our dreams on the first album, but we are going to take them and force them to come true on this album.

Were the songs all written specifically for this album or did you have some tracks left from the Apocalyptic Youth sessions?

There’s one idea from the first album and that was transformed 5 or 6 times before it made it to this album and that was “Hail The Liberation”. If you heard that on the first album, it’s a completely different song. Everything else on the album is completely new. We took a much more aggressive, raw approach on this album so everything sounds a bit louder this time.

It’s been 2 years since your debut and you have played some live shows together since then. Has this brought the band closer together as a unit?

Any time you spend time with fellow musicians all focused on a common goal of making a great record you do get closer together and that’s not to say there weren’t destructive moments, but you do come out stronger as a band when working so closely together. It’s happened with every record I’ve made whether it’s with Slash’s Snakepit or any of the Alice Cooper records I’ve done. That creative process brings you together, there’s no doubt about it.

Mats and Anders wrote the bulk of the album. You’re a prolific writer in your own right. Why didn’t you write more of the songs on the album?

With Casablanca it’s always been Mats and Anders who have brought in a lot of the core ingredients to the songs. That being said everybody gets their chance to put their talent and stamp on things and at the end of the day these songs sound like Casablanca songs and I don’t think they’d sound like Casablanca songs with a different line up. I am happy with my role in Casablanca as it enables me to fulfil what I think is one of my strengths, which is writing quality guitar parts that hopefully complement the songs. My main influences like Brian May, Steve Stevens and Neil Geraldo from Pat Benatar’s band are players who always wrote great guitar parts and they always complimented the song. In Casablanca I get to do that. In Roxie 77 I have a much bigger role because I front the band, write the lyrics and pull a lot of the arrangements together. There’s much more responsibility on my shoulders in Roxie 77 than in Casablanca.

I hear snippets of Sweet, Thin Lizzy, Boston and Kiss on this record. Are these the sort of bands who influenced you all?

The minute you put guitar harmonies onto an album you tend to think of three or four bands. Boston comes to mind, Thin Lizzy, Queen and early Iron Maiden. Every one of those bands was a big influence on us. We took little pieces of each of those bands and made them our own. You need to draw from your influences but not copy them. Listeners should be able to find the sources of inspiration when they do history checks on your band.

I see you have a Starz T-shirt in the CD booklet. Now there’s an underrated band if there ever was one.

I’ve been wearing that shirt on the current Alice tour for the encore and I was wearing it at a show we were doing in New Jersey and all of a sudden Richie Ranno, their guitarist, came over when we were backstage and we shook hands and he said he wanted to thank me for wearing that shirt every night. That meant a lot to me as they created such great songs and influenced my playing so that was a really cool moment for me.

You really do leave the best until last “Just For The Night”. How long does it take for you to plan the running order for the finished album?

I am honestly in 100% agreement with you because my favourite song on Black Swan currently is “Just For The Night” as well. I think it’s really cool to end an album on a real upbeat track as it makes you wish that there was more. I pay homage to two of my heroes on that song. The pre-chorus riff is influenced by Steve Stevens and the guitar solo is a nod to Neil Giraldo. They are both such great guitarists so I tried to take influences from both of them and introduce them into that track and I think it worked out rather well.

There’s 10 songs on the album and not a filler in sight. Were you trying to capture the spirit of vinyl by keeping the album fairly short and punchy?

We appreciate the fact that people listen to this from track one to the end. It’s important to listen to it as an album. We didn’t make opuses or super long songs for that reason so you can sit down in one sitting like I used to do and go with the flow of the album. One thing that has surprised us is how many people have bought the vinyl. They are going home listening to side one and then flipping it over to side two in exactly the way I did 30 years before with my Cheap Trick albums. Unfortunately with CD’s and downloads, the ‘experience’ of listening to music has changed so much. I think listening to a record entirety helps you to focus on one band and really the most you could focus on at a time was five or six bands… but with downloads and streaming you can listen to a thousand or one hundred thousand bands. That’s OK for discovering new bands so long as when you find that song that grabs you, go in and give that band a chance.

You now have two full albums out; can we expect to see more live shows from Casablanca?

We’re trying our best to play more live shows. We’ve just done a tour of Spain and that was very cool to do. The reaction was great and they knew all the lyrics to the songs and we were like “really?…yes!!!” I’d like to go back there and really want to play some shows in the UK.

How about a tour with Michael Monroe and Imperial State Electric?

If I saw that triple bill, I’d buy a ticket for it even though I’m in one of the bands.

It’s quite unusual to see a girl drumming in a Rock band?

Josephine is one of my favourite drummers that I have ever been in a band with because she just goes for it. It’s different because you don’t tend to see girl drummers really go for it like Keith Moon or Dave Grohl ….but she does and the fact that she does that and does it with such natural ease makes it so exciting to watch. There’s times when Josephine’s playing pushes me to put on an even better show because if 90% of the audience is looking at her, then I have to try even harder to get that other 10%….ha!

What about Roxie 77, your other band. You mentioned previously that you are working on an EP. How’s that coming along?

I’m very excited about it. It’s called the Ameriswede EP and the concept behind it is pretty cool. It’ll be released on ‘vinyl only’ although you will also get a digital download that is included with it. Vinyl is the main tangible source and that gives us two sides. With this EP you’ll get an American side and a Swedish side. There’s two different types of production. The American side is much more lush and radio friendly while the Swedish side is more raw and in your face. There will be the same 6 songs but produced in two different ways. I wanted to do a similar thing to the electric and acoustic versions that I did for Two Sides To Every Story but I didn’t want to copy it, I wanted to do it slightly differently and I think the Ameriswede EP does just that. This will be out by the time I hit the road with Alice later on this year.

You’ve now been back with Alice Cooper for a couple of years now. Previously there were two guitarists, yourself and Damon Johnson but now there’s three with you, Orianthi and Tommy Henriksen. Has the extra guitarist changed the way you play on stage?

The roles have changed completely as far as what we do now as I feel that now with three guitar players we have a ‘wall of sound’. It’s up to us to make that wall something nice to look at. We don’t just want a wall to pound the audience with sound. We want the crowd to watch all three guitarists each play something different. It’s more of an orchestrated sound and we have the opportunity to put more depth into Alice’s songs. Sometimes we all play the same chord but at different parts on the neck of our guitars. That’s completely conscious. We break down each song and try to add a lot of texture and colour to the music with our playing.

Alice’s last album was the sequel to his classic Welcome To My Nightmare. Have you started work on a follow up yet?

Right now Alice is working on his covers album which will have a ton of guests on it. I know Johnny Depp will be on there plus a bunch of other guest guitar players on as well. The main priority at this moment is getting back up on stage with Alice and playing on the upcoming 2014 tour with Motley Crue. This AC band line-up has now been playing together for a couple of years and we’re really comfortable together and we know what each of us will be playing on stage and I think it’s going to lend itself to a really entertaining show.

The last time we saw you in the UK was at your Halloween Special in 2012. Have you any plans to return to the UK and Europe?

We’ll definitely be over to the UK this year and I’m hoping that it’s sooner rather than later. Any time I can get over and play for the UK fans is obviously a treat for me.

Opening for Alice would be great exposure for Casablanca. Would you be up for that or would it just be a bit too much for you being a support act and headliner?

Whenever there’s the opportunity I put a good word in but a lot of times these tours get booked a long time in advance so it’s not always possible, but trust me I have tried. In fact Roxie 77 has opened for Alice before over here in Sweden. A full tour would be pretty hard going but I think it would be really cool if Roxie 77 or Casablanca did a few nights, then Beasto Blanco, Chuck Garrick’s band did a few nights and then Orianthi’s band did some nights. That would be a cool idea but at the end of the day we all know who the ‘main attraction’ is…and it’s an honour for us to be up on stage with that iconic rocker each night.

With your work with Alice Cooper, Casablanca, Roxie 77 & Gibson Guitar Clinics taking up much of your time. Have you got plans for anything else over the coming months?

I do have a pretty full plate. When I’m not doing any of those projects I’m basically just a taxi driver for my two kids taking them from activity to activity. Real, normal life actually takes up the rest of my time which is great as real life keeps me grounded and keeps me humble. I am thankful and really blessed to do what I do for a living.

Casablanca’s new album Riding A Black Swan is out now.

For more on Ryan Roxie visit and


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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