INTERVIEW WITH FORMER NORTHRUP, KING KOBRA AND PAUL SHORTINO GUITARIST JK NORTHRUP
Date: March 14, 2020
Interviewer: Tyson Briden
SOMETIMES, A THOUGHT WILL COME TO YOU AND ALL OF A SUDDEN THINGS JUST SEEM TO ALL FALL INTO PLACE. ABOUT TWO WEEKS AGO, I WAS GOING THROUGH MY CD COLLECTION AND CAME ACROSS AN ALBUM I HADN’T LISTENED TO IN QUITE SOME TIME. THAT ALBUM WAS PAUL SHORTINO’S 1994 SOLO ALBUM ‘BACK ON TRACK.’ THE GUITARIST ON THIS ALBUM WAS FEATURED AS WELL ON THE COVER AS JEFF NORTHRUP OR JK NORTHRUP AS HE GOES BY THESE DAYS. I THEN PROCEEDED TO FIND MORE OF JK’S WORK AMONGST MY CD’S. THERE WAS A NORTHRUP ALBUM, A KING KOBRA ALBUM ENTITLED ‘III’ THAT JK WAS A PART OF, AND THEN THERE WERE MANY OFFSHOOTS OF JK’S WORK.
YOU SEE, NORTHRUP SINGER JOHNNY EDWARDS WENT ON TO SING WITH KING KOBRA, WILD HORSES AND FOREIGNER TAKING A COUPLE OF THE NORTHRUP SONGS WITH HIM. SO ON THAT EVENING, I FOUND ALL THIS WORK AND PUT IT ONTO MY PHONE AND MADE A PLAYLIST OF THIS HUGE BODY OF WORK. SOMEHOW, I ALSO INCLUDED A MITCH PERRY SOLO ALBUM AND THE BADD BOYZ CD WITH PAUL SHORTINO. ALL THIS MUSIC SEEMED TO ALL FIT TOGETHER IN A CERTAIN TIME PERIOD WITH VARIOUS MUSICIANS PASSING EACH OTHER ALONG THE WAY. THERE WAS ALSO A BAND CALLED 7% SOLUTION THAT IS INCLUDED ON THE MITCH PERRY CD THAT FEATURES ‘SEXY’ MICHAEL STARR OR BACK THEN, WHEN HE WAS KNOWN AS RALPH SAENZ.
AFTER DOING ALL THIS, I DECIDED TO REACH OUT TO JK NORTHRUP ON FACEBOOK MESSENGER AND SEE IF I WOULD BE INTERESTED IN TALKING ABOUT HIS MUSICAL LIFE WITHIN THIS TIME PERIOD. JK QUICKLY OBLIGED AND HERE WE ARE TODAY. I AM VERY EXCITED TO PRESENT THIS INTERVIEW TO YOU THE READER BECAUSE AS FAR AS I AM CONCERNED THIS IS YET AGAIN A VERY IMPORTANT PART OF HAIR METAL HISTORY. PLEASE ENJOY!
Sleaze Roxx: Hey JK, it is really great to be speaking with you. Before we go into your past slightly, please tell me what you’ve been up [to] musically. I understand you’ve just released a new album titled ‘The Mood Groove.’ What else have you been up to? I have to admit, sometimes it’s hard to keep up with everyone, but as I have been listening to your earlier work of late, I wanted to reach out and let our readers see what you’re up to these days.
JK Northrup: Hi Tyson! Thanks for the chat! In the most recent years, I’ve been involved with a LOT of different bands and projects. I produced, mixed and mastered two Fiction Syxx albums for MelodicRock Records. I also played a lot of guitar, both rhythm and lead guitars on both. That band features Mark Allen Lanoue on vocals and guitars, Tony Franklin on the first album and Larry Hart on the second album playing bass, Rory Faciane on drums and Eric Ragno on keys. At my studio called Alien Productions Music Studio, I have been mixing and mastering, as well as producing numerous albums for MelodicRock Records and Escape Music Ltd., as well as many more local projects. I also released an album with a great singer named David Cagle on MelodicRock Records called ‘JK Northrup & David Cagle.’ Very cool melodic hard rock! The new album that just came out by The Mood Groove, I co-wrote, recorded, mixed and mastered, as well as played all guitars! [The] album is called ‘Some Left, Some Stayed.’
Sleaze Roxx: I see that your long-time musical partner — I guess you could say — Larry Hart played bass on the album.
JK Northrup: Larry is not only a long-time dear friend, but one of the best bassists I have ever known! Besides the second Fiction Syxx album, Larry has been playing on the last two The Mood Groove albums and also played on JK Northrup & David Cagle. He’s also my “go to dude” on many local projects I work on.
Sleaze Roxx: Who else contributed to the material?
JK Northrup: Ed Balldinger is my songwriting partner on all of The Mood Groove songs! He is a published poet, as well as one of my closest friends. Ed’s lyrics are “outta the box” and intended to be a bit more eclectic. He is the main vocalist on the album and is the one that has that Billy Gibbons, Frank Zappa, Tom Waits kind of sound. Of course, Larry is on bass and Glenn Hicks on drums and vocals. Both Larry and Glenn were the rhythm section for the band Northrup with Johnny Edwards. Bad ass! Glenn’s vocals are amazing. [It’s] a cross between Bryan Adams, Rod Stewart and Paul Rodgers. We added two former Montrose singers — Paul Holdgate and Randy Scoles 00 to the album. They are both such bad ass singers!
Sleaze Roxx: From the clips I have heard, it is described on your website and it classifies the album perfectly, Zappa to Cash, Pink Floyd to ZZ Top, David Bowie to Linkin Park. There is something here for everyone and more! My assumption is that you were influenced by many genres and styles. Is that a correct assumption and would you care to elaborate on that?
JK Northrup: Yes indeed! I listen to almost everything and have been influenced by anything that is just good music all of my life, no matter the style. When Ed and I write the songs, we never have a preconceived riff, or melody. We just get into the studio and he will usually bring some lyric content and start reading it, poetry style. I’ll either pick up the guitar, or find a loop and we just start building it from the inside out. It is so liberating to just create music that there no boundaries. I call it ear candy so the third eye can see… again.
Sleaze Roxx: Before I switch gears slightly, please tell our interested readers how they can get a hold of this album?
JK Northrup: It is currently available in physical form on my website, www.jknorthrup.com. You can also choose to have it signed, or not. It’s also on pretty much every reputable download site, iTunes, Google Play, Amazon, etc. I’m not a big fan of the streaming shit, but it is also on Spotify, Deezer and Pandora.
Sleaze Roxx: Let’s go right back to somewhat the beginning — well, the beginning that I am aware of. You worked with singer Johnny Edwards and bassist Larry Hart.The album that this material is available on is a JK Northrup album… My understanding is that this was a full band called Northrup. Please give me and the readers the whole scoop on that project. What I love is to hear “Fire & Water” which ended up on the debut Wild Horses album that Johnny Edwards was a part of, but didn’t end up on the album. “Ready For The Rain” ended up on Foreigner’s ‘Unusual Heat’ album that Johnny sang on and “The Kid Is Back In Town” ended up on the Paul Shortino / JK Northrup ‘Back On Track’ album. I would assume these tracks too good to leave unused.
JK: Yes, Northrup! I’ll start with the Johnny Edwards years. In 1987, Ronnie Montrose and I shared the same manager. Johnny had just finished an album with Ronnie, along with drummer James Kottak. I was working with a singer from Seattle named Terry Young from the band Rail at the time. My manager played me some of the tracks from the new Montrose ‘Mean’ album with Johnny and I was floored! So, Johnny listened to one of my demos, read my resume and within a couple weeks. he moved to Sacramento, California from Louisville, Kentucky to join the band. Larry Hart had been touring with Ronnie a bit before and was a perfect fit for us. My long-time friend Glenn Hicks who I’ve been playing with off and on since we were 16, was already in the band. Ronnie produced our first demo from songs I had previously written. “When There’s Smoke” was the first song written by us together. That song also ended up on the ‘Back On Track’ album. Johnny and I wrote a TON of songs after that. We secured a publishing contract from Almo / Irving straight away and were showcasing for all of the major labels. John Kalodner even put us in the studio. We were offered several deals, all of which our manager rejected and we split up! Johnny moved to L.A. and joined back up with James Kottak to do an album with Wild Horses, but was grabbed up by Mick Jones and joined Foreigner. That’s how “Fire & Water” ended up on the Wild Horses album and of course how “Ready For The Rain” was recorded by Foreigner, which by the way, was supposed to be the second single, but Mick preferred releasing another song that he wrote. “The Kid Is Back In Town” is still one of my fave songs Johnny and I wrote together. Paul did an amazing job singing it as well.
Paul Shortino featuring Jeff Northrup‘s “Kid Is Back In Town” single:
I DO NOW OWN THIS SONG.
Sleaze Roxx: I love the track “Sheila” off the ‘JK Northrup’ album. Was this a fictional character or just made for a good, fun song lyrically?
JK: It was just a fun song! Both lyrically and musically. We had quite a good following doing many live shows in and around San Francisco and it was always a crowd pleaser. But it wasn’t about anyone specifically.
Sleaze Roxx: Now tell me how the three of you ended up working with King Kobra on the ‘[King Kobra] III’ album.
JK: We were doing some shows and showcasing in LA. Our manager knew Carmine [Appice] and invited him to a show. Marq Torien and Mick Sweda had just left King Kobra to pursue BulletBoys, so Carmine seized the opportunity and asked us to finish the ‘King Kobra III’ album. Three of my songs were on it. Carmine wanted to record “Ready For The Rain” but we were saving it!
Sleaze Roxx: It was such a difficult time musically for many bands. That ‘[King Kobra] III’ album was on a smaller label. Regardless, it is a really solid release. I have heard the earlier version of “Take It Off” with Mark / Marcie Free on vocals and thought it was very cool, but I do like Johnny’s approach on this song slightly better. He really brought a sexy feel to the song. When that song ended up on a Big Cock album years later, I thought David Michael Phillips’ guitar approach was much rawer… so I think I prefer this version the best. “Mean Street Machine” also ended up on the same Big Cock album. Robert Mason did a great job on the vocals, but these two songs still seem best on ‘[King Kobra] III’. It’s funny how a great song can end up being recorded many times over the years. What is your take on that song?
JK: I loved the song “Take It Off”! David is a very talented writer and guitarist. Although I did see Big Cock play live, I didn’t remember them playing either of those songs and I never heard the album, so I’m not help in answering that question [laughs]. However, I will add that I have been mastering a bunch of never released songs that Mark / Marcie Free sang on. [It] fucking blows my mind! What a voice!
Sleaze Roxx: “Walls of Silence” is possibly my favorite track on ‘[King Kobra] III’. That is a track that you wrote as well as “Burning In Her Fire.” “Perfect Crime” was a collaboration with yourself, Johnny Edwards, Larry Hart and Glenn Hicks. Were these songs that were to be used for Northrup?
JK: The Northrup band demoed all three of those songs, but were willing to let them go on the ‘King Kobra III’ album. “Walls of Silence” was written by me back in 1984-85? “Burning In Her Fire” in 1986. “Perfect Crime” in ’87-’88 by the band!
Sleaze Roxx: Yet another track that seems to have had so much life, was “It’s My Life.” The story goes that Gene Simmons, who wrote the track wanted this song to be on Black N’ Blue’s ‘In Heat’ record, but the band fought to have it left off after the failure of the Jonathon Cain penned “I’ll Be There For You” on ‘Nasty, Nasty.’ Then it ends up on the ‘[King Kobra] III’ [album]. Years later, KISS would actually record the song for ‘Psycho Circus’ with Ace Frehley on vocals but it was left off and would appear on the KISS Box Set. Do you remember much about this song? Or how it ended up on the album?
JK: Actually, that particular song was already finished before I came in, with the exception of Johnny replacing the vocals and Larry, the bass. I didn’t play on that track. The only history part of it is that Wendy O’ Williams had recorded it on her album in 1984, but she did it very punk rock. It was Johnny Edwards’ least favorite song on the album. I’m not sure why or how Carmine decided to put it on the album.
Sleaze Roxx: “Legends Never Die” was also penned by Simmons, Mark Free and Adam Mitchell. It seems that there were songs coming from everywhere. Tell me about that. Was this something where Carmine was getting songs from anywhere to make an album? Or was it a deal in place that stated, “Okay, you get three songs on the album, the next guy gets three, etc.”
JK: “Legends Never Die” is a really cool track. Again, I never discussed with Carmine or David why it was decided to put two songs from Gene Simmons on the album. As far as the songs I contributed, the album needed more tracks than what was already written, so we decided that they were perfect for the album and rounded it out. Only nine songs total.
Sleaze Roxx: Tell me what happened at the end of the band. Was there any touring for this album? Was it just decided to move on?
JK: Well [laughs]… So true story. After we shot the video for “Take It Off,” Carmine joins up with John Sykes and Blue Murder. So he asked if our band Northrup would go and tour for the album. We did, since three of the members on the album were on stage for the shows. To get some publicity as to why Carmine wasn’t on stage with us as King Kobra, he made up the story that our drummer, Glenn Hicks, was his cousin! Funny shit. Needless to say, it didn’t go over very well, so we pulled the plug and resumed as Northrup until we disbanded in 1989-90.
Kobra‘s “Take It Off” video:
From the album “KING KOBRA III” 1988
Sleaze Roxx: ‘[King Kobra] III’ came out in 1988. The Paul Shortino / JK Northrup album would not come out until 1993. In that period, what were you doing? Of course, Carmine Appice moved on to Blue Murder, David Michael Phillips had a band called Geronimo and Johnny Edwards went to Wild Horses [and] then to Foreigner.
JK: After Northrup parted ways, I began writing the songs that became ‘Back On Track.’ I signed a deal with a small label out of the bay area called Ossum Possum Records in 1991. I knew a bunch of the dudes that eventually recorded on the album and had James Kottak lined up for some drums. The album was intended to be called Northrup and feature several different singers, as well as several drummers and bass players. We began recording the album in 1992 at Pasha Studios in LA. James asked if I would like to have Paul Shortino come down to Pasha Recording Studio where we were tracking drums and bass with James, Matt Bissonette, Jeff Pilson and Carmine. Paul shows up with Sean McNabb and he listened to a few of the demo tracks and was blown away! So we decided on trying “Bye, Bye To Love.” I knew Paul from his Rough Cutt and Quiet Riot videos, but he was so fucking awesome. It blew me away. Even the guy that helped start my career, Billy Thorpe of “Children of The Sun” fame was there and he was blown away. By the way, my first real tour was in late 1982 playing guitar for Billy. Frankie Banali was the drummer! So, after Paul sang that first song, the label owner, Dennis Wolfe R.I.P., Paul and myself decided that Paul should sing the entire album and “Bam”! It wasn’t finished until 1993 because Sean joined in on the band thing and we decided to re-track some guitars and bass at Keith Olsen’s studio Good Night LA. It was also mixed there. Paul had a bit more exposure than me at the time. We decided to call the album by his name, featuring me. [I] should also mention that Northrup alumni Larry Hart and Glenn Hicks played a few songs on ‘Back On Track’, most notably [on] “The Kid Is Back In Town.” The album was picked up by Japan and I.R.S Records in Europe and released in 1993. So I was doing a lot of stuff at that time. The deal signed in Europe was a HUGE mistake. It has been re-released and branded by so many smaller labels. I never saw a penny after the initial advance.
Sleaze Roxx: I love the groove and your slide work on “Girls Like You.” This song almost has a Foghat feel to it — that really ’70s groove. Was that the approach on that song? Once the chorus hits, it’s got that real gang vocal that again reminds me of your earlier work. I think your stamp on this material is so prominent. This is a really great collaboration. I take it Paul was very open to your ideas?
JK: Yes, I really enjoy that song. [It’s] fun to play live. I picked up playing slide from Johnny Edwards. Bad ass slide player! I was simply writing a bluesy song about some hot chick. There were a couple strip joints in LA that featured that song for the dancers. Paul was very open to all of my ideas, as I had already written the album before we met. During the recording process, Paul would have some great ideas of his own and I gave him credit for it. Having worked with so many great singers already, Paul and I had a great relationship. For the most part, I would write the music and lyrics with the melody in mind. I knew that Paul could take it to places most humans can’t.
Sleaze Roxx: I must also ask, “Girls Like You” fades out very quickly. Was this song much longer?
JK: I believe that we simply didn’t add enough at the end and cut it pretty quick.
Sleaze Roxx: I find it funny that there are all these albums / bands that are somehow interconnected from that time period — Northrup, Wild Horses, Badd Boyz, Foreigner, Mitch Perry, Quiet Riot, Shortino / Northrup, 7% Solution. As I was doing my research, I was back and forth between these albums to hear different versions of songs and what not. It’s almost as if the music community was so small and in the early ’90s, everyone was trying to do what they could to sustain some kind of continuity within the business. How did you feel about the whole situation in the ’90s after Nirvana and grunge took over?
JK: Yes, it was a very tight community with so many of us players at that time. We all knew each other and were being supportive of one another, trying to keep rock going. When the grunge scene began, I didn’t think much about it. Other than Alice In Chains, I wasn’t paying attention. So yes, it took all of us by storm and we were all in a bit of a struggle trying to be relevant. I eventually stepped back and listened. I know that the market became over saturated with the Warrants and Poisons, etc., and things kind of needed a change. As much [as] it sucked at the time, I understand it. That’s partly why I enjoy creating something different such as The Mood Groove! I’m still putting out my classic JK Northrup style music, but with a bit more modern twist. The good thing is that so many of the bands pre-grunge are back and relevant again.
Sleaze Roxx: JK, I want to thank you for taking the time to speak [to me] and I wish you the best of luck with all endeavours.
JK: Thanks so much. I hope to talk again soon. Cheers!
JK Northrup & David Cagle‘s “The Night Is Mine” video:
BUY VIA ALL DIGITAL OUTLETS, AMAZON, OR DIRECT FROM MRR: http://melodicrock.com/articles/melodicrock-records/2018/03/07/jk-northrup-david-cagle-thats-gonna-l…