INTERVIEW WITH L.A. COBRA FRONTMAN DON COBRA
Date: October 28, 2017
IT HAS TAKEN ALMOST THREE YEARS SINCE L.A. COBRA STARTED RECORDING THEIR THIRD STUDIO ALBUM ‘SHOTGUN SLINGER’ BUT EARLIER THIS MONTH, THE SOUTH AFRICAN SLEAZE ROCK GROUP FINALLY RELEASED THE ALBUM. PRODUCED BY CRASHDïET’S MARTIN SWEET, ‘SHOTGUN SLINGER’ IS AN ALBUM NEAR AND DEAR TO L.A. COBRA FRONTMAN DON COBRA’S HEART. SLEAZE ROXX CAUGHT UP WITH DON COBRA TO FIND OUT ABOUT THE NEW ALBUM INCLUDING ITS MANY SWEDISH TIES.
Sleaze Roxx: Congratulations on your new album ‘Shotgun Slinger.’ It seems that the album has taken a long time to come to fruition. How long had you guys been working on this album and why so many delays?
Don Cobra: Thank you very much my brother. Yeah man, it’s been a crazy journey… I guess it needed to take this long as everything happens for a reason as “they” say. If we finished it earlier, we probably would have never had a product of this high quality, probably would have never worked with Martin [Sweet]. We are truly blessed. Man, there were so many delays, but looking back on it, it was worth it. We started recording the guide tracks in November 2014, then everyone went on holiday and only came back to the studio at the end of January 2015. Some of the delays were out of our hands. We were through such a journey ourselves as well. We went through harsh break ups, death, the celebration of two new lives joining our Cobra family, which affected us emotionally I guess, but it also inspired some of the creativeness on the album.
On the last day of filming the “Rock n Roll Pretoria” music video, my beloved grandfather passed away. He was a huge influence in my life and taught me my first chords on guitar. I was a bit shattered after that. Also, in the last weeks before the album launch, my mom had a stroke and I couldn’t dedicate myself as I wanted. My mind just wasn’t there. Then Slade was blessed with two wonderful little baby boys “Enzo and Deo.” We are brothers and very supportive and we knew it was going to consume a lot of his time as it’s a priorty to him and we supported that. Obviously, he was the one recording the album and we couldn’t spend so much time in studio as we wanted. He had daddy duties now but I take my hat off to Slade. He pushed through and I have an immense amount of respect for him. It’s not everyone that can raise twins and then commits to a band like he did, with lack of sleep and then contributed like he did. Thank you my brother Slade! You’re one special guy!
The vocals took a lot of time to do actually as we had melody changes, lyric changes and all of that shit. I probably did the vocals four times over [laughs]. Or Callie “The Animal” would come to the studio with an amazing idea [laughs] so we just had to redo some parts. For example, when he came to the studio with the new vocal melodies for “Ride”, we were in a daze for days [laughs]. Then I got sick with a flu for two winters in a row [2015 and 2016] and couldn’t and didn’t heal properly for probably six months in 2016. That was the first time ever that happened to me. There was some bad-ass flu virus floating around South Africa last year. Everyone was sick, and as I recovered, we decided to do almost everything over when my voice was properly healed. I’m glad we did. I actually can still hear my blocked nose on one part of “Midnight’ when I listen to the album [laughs].
During that time, Ewil burned down a house accidently, which left 12 people homeless and super pissed off with him. He lost a brand new Fender P-Bass he had for one week in this accident. We never even got to rehearse with it. When we were finally finished with the album, we didn’t have the money for the production of it. Then [producer] Martin [Sweet] suggested we must do a crowd-funding campaign and let people pre-order it, and thank God it worked out. It did delay the album by an additional four months, but it was well worth it, A huge thank you to each and everyone who contributed and believed in us! We love you!
L.A. Cobra‘s “Rock ‘n’ Roll Pretoria” video:
Rock ‘n Roll Pretoria is the first single off L.A. Cobra’s third studio album titled Shotgun Slinger. www.lacobra.co.za https://www.facebook.com/lacobraband/ https://www.instagram.com/l.a.cobra/ https://soundcloud.com/l-a-cobra https://twitter.com/lacobraband
Sleaze Roxx: Swedish model and Rebel Mistress singer Marielle Tengström graces the front cover of the new album. How did you end up getting Marielle to be on the cover and what’s the idea behind it?
Don Cobra: We had someone we asked locally to be on the cover as we thought it would make it easier logistically for us, but the person cancelled and rescheduled three or four times. I hate unprofessionalism. So I had this bright idea to ask Marielle. I met her at “Rest In Sleaze” through my friend Andi from The Trench Dogs. If I remember correctly [laughs], I had a lot beer in my system that night. But Marielle was so awesome! She agreed immediately. She organized a shoot with her photographer Stefan Tengen in Sweden and in about two weeks, we had the album cover shots. Thank you Marielle once again!
Funny story — we asked her if she can pose with a shotgun, and she messaged me back after a while and said, “Don, no one owns a shotgun in Sweden. I’m going to have to buy a toy gun for the shoot.” So yes, the shotgun is photoshopped on the cover [laughs]. It was weird for me [laughs] as in South Africa, almost everyone I know has a shotgun in the safe. Actually, the night of her photo-shoot, my neighbour was killed right in front of my house here in South Africa as he tried to stop fucking idiots from hi-jacking his car. That was a huge shock for me as it could have been me. I was coming home 15 minutes before it happened.
Sleaze Roxx: What’s the idea behind the album title ‘Shotgun Slinger’?
The idea behind the album cover is Marielle is actually pointing at the band, which is on the back cover of the album. It represents lyrics from the song “Shotgun Slinger” — “Bullet through my heart, I knew it from the start you’d take me down.” It means you always meet this girl, you know she’s gonna break your heart, but you go for her anyways without thinking twice.
Sleaze Roxx: The new album was produced, mixed and mastered by Crashdïet guitarist Martin Sweet who is based in Sweden. There’s a lot of Swedish ties to this album [laughs]. How did it work having Martin involved in the album with you guys living in South Africa?
Don Cobra: Yeah, I also actually realize now there’s a lot of Swedish ties, but hey what can I say? For me, Sweden is the most beautiful country in the world and they have “Bearnaise” sauce, which I can’t live without and some of my ancestors are apparently Vikings [laughs]. Basically, the album was already recorded by Slade here in South Africa so we sent the raw files to Martin via wetransfer.com, and he’d send us mixes of the songs. We’d make notes of the little changes we wanted but as I mentioned in a previous interview, Martin was so good in that he knew what we wanted before we wanted it. Martin also did a lot of the backing vocals on the album which sounds truly amazing, and it just gave it that extra warmth the songs needed from the different tone in his voice. He is a musical mastermind and I cannot thank him enough for all his hard work, as he worked on our album between tours with Sister and his own projects. Thank you my bro!
Sleaze Roxx: What’s your favorite tracks on the album and why?
Don Cobra: It’s really difficult to choose a favourite [laughs] as all of the tracks are very close to my heart. Behind every song, there’s an actual meaning and a lot of thought behind that represents a special event or moment in time that I treasure. But one on my favourite tracks is “WTFR (Wrong Things Feels Right)” because it’s a fun song to play live, but with others like “War,” “Somebody To Love” and “Sell Your Soul (Little Girl)”, there’s a lot of emotional ties to them. My absolute favourite song to listen to is “Ride.” It puts me in that feel good mood that I just want to jump on my Harley, do a road trip with the boys and drink Whiskey [laughs]. I suggest everyone put this song fucking loud when you listen to it! Play it to your neighbours if they wanna hear it or not. It’s a must!
Sleaze Roxx: You have two new members on the ‘Shotgun Slinger’ album. When and how did both guys end up joining L.A. Cobra?
Don Cobra: Slade, I know since we were about 16. Our bands played the same circuit. He joined L.A. Cobra once in 2007 when the bassist Ron Midnight of the first line-up left for a brief period. We always stayed friends and would party when we see each other. In 2012, I called him to ask if he could actually help us out on bass for a minute. One thing led to another and I called him up early 2013 and asked him, “How does it feel?” And he replied, “What?” So I said, “To be the new lead guitarist of L.A. Cobra!” Without hesitation, he said, “Fokken befok” which in Afrikaans which means “Fucking amazing!”
Ewil, I met through a mutual friend at a festival, and I had a good chat with him, drinking beer on a Sunday afternoon. I could sense he had a huge heart and is a super kind guy, someone I could work with, and be on the road with. We exchanged numbers and I called him up for an audition and he basically just never left [laughs]. He is an amazing musician and an awesome vocalist, which is exactly what we needed. Apparently, he was a huge L.A. Cobra fan as a kid and watched us perform at the local skate park a few times, which was very cool for us. He is our little brother, and we love him dearly. He is also one funny character and reminds me bit of Lemmy. If you get to meet him, you’re going to walk away with one huge ass smile on your face [laughs]. He also looks like actor James Franco which pisses him off. He said he is gonna make a shirt soon quoting “James Franco looks like me [laughs]!”
Sleaze Roxx: What led to the previous members leaving the group?
Don Cobra: All the previous members left on a good note, excuse the pun [laughs]. We had a curse at some point! Thank God it’s over. Every bassist we had became a dad and chose to rather support their family and their priorities changed, which we respected. I’m still friends with each and every previous band member and musician that played with us or helped us out for a brief moment in time. John Strong left in 2011 as he moved to the UK. Vince Luv left to finish his studies. T-Bone Billy left to pursue his career and family,’ and is today a super successful business man. There obviously were some politics in the past between some band members through all the years and line-up changes, but we’re all human. It’s all behind us now. We grew up and we can have beers together and talk about the good ol’ days. There’s no hard feelings, no bad blood, which makes me happy as I hate conflict.
Sleaze Roxx: How hard is it to find band members in a continent that is frankly not known for its sleaze rock or even rock n’ roll culture?
Don Cobra: It’s hard to find band members — especially bassists — in the sleaze rock/glam metal/hair metal that fit the image, play their instruments well, that actually want to play ’80s inspired glam rock and to take it seriously and not just as hobby, but as a professional entity. The mainstream metal and rock scene is huge in South Africa. There’s tons of bands and very talented musos here. The “Afrikaans” rock culture is massive lately. Afrikaans is one of the eleven official languages in South Africa, which is similar to Dutch.
Sleaze Roxx: Have you ever considered moving from Africa in order to increase your chances of “making it” or increasing the band’s opportunities?
Don Cobra: I have indeed. When we started out, I just wanted to move to the “Sunset Strip” every time when I listened to Guns N’ Roses or Mötley Crüe, and when I read Mötley Crüe’s ‘The Dirt.’ I wanted to be in Los Angeles, and imagined what it was like growing up there and playing the Strip. But in reality, it’s not so easy to just move. We all have ties here, but if the right opportunity presents itself, it will definitely be highly considered. Today, the world is small. If you look at the internet, everyone’s connected. There are band members in international bands that don’t even live in the same country, but they get together when they tour or record.
Sleaze Cobra: L.A. Cobra recently asked its fans via Facebook for which new song it should shoot a video for? What were the top three songs and have you settled on which track to shoot a video for?
Don Cobra: The top three songs so far were “Somebody To Love,” “WTFR (Wrong. Things. Feel. Right.)” and “War.” We haven’t decided yet. We’re thinking of putting up a poll where our fans can actually vote. Our plan in the long run is to make a video for every song on the album. “Shotgun Slinger” and “Rock ‘n’ Roll Pretoria” are already done and on YouTube. But please if you read this, go listen to our album and help us decide. Or you can order a physical copy online at our online store.
L.A. Cobra‘s “Shotgun Slinger” video:
The video for the single Shotgun Slinger off the 2017 album Shotgun Slinger. http://www.lacobra.co.za
Sleaze Roxx: Now that the album has been released, what are L.A. Cobra’s other plans for the rest of the year and 2018?
Don Cobra: So far, we are going to do a local tour in South Africa, playing two shows at the coast in KwaZulu Natal — The Winston in Durban and LA Casa in Pietermaritzburg. We are still waiting for a confirmation for Johannesburg. We’re doing a Halloween show/album launch tonight at Hardrock Café Pretoria. In December, I’ll be playing a solo acoustic show in Milan, Italy and am still waiting for a confirmation in Dublin, Ireland. In early 2018, L.A. Cobra will do a full South African tour, and also to the neighbouring countries like Namibia, Botswana and maybe Mozambique. Then I’m waiting for a contract for us to secure a Scandinavian tour. We are going to try our best again for the Sweden Rock Fest band competition in June, so please vote for us when the time comes, and make our African dreams a reality [laughs].
Sleaze Roxx: Last question — what are your top three favorite albums of all-time and why?
Don Cobra: Must I really name only name three? This is super hard brother [laughs]. Metallica’s ‘Garage Days’ — man, when I heard “Am I Evil” and “Blitzkrieg” when I was nine or ten years old, it literally changed my life. If I hadn’t heard that album, I probably wouldn’t have played music today.
Deep Purple’s ‘Made In Japan’ — Ian Gillan and Ritchie Blackmore, need I say more? [Laughs] Gillan’s voice just woke something up in me, and Blackmore’s guitar tone on “Highway Star”… It was raw, it was real man! Other kids my age were listening to techno bullshit such as Whigfield and stuff, whilst my cousin Zeff [from the band Hot Rod Hearse in Ireland] and I listened to ‘Made In Japan’ over and over. It blew our minds. We irritated our mothers by just doing — or let me rather say — trying to do the high pitched Ian Gillan screams all day long [laughs].
Mötley Crüe — it’s very hard to choose. ‘Dr. Feelgood’ I guess. They inspired me to what I wanted to do and that everything is possible. ‘Dr. Feelgood’ and Guns N’ Roses’ ‘Appetite For Destruction’ are both number three [laughs].
Thank you so much Olivier. I really like your interviews brother. They keep me on my toes [laughs]. Check out our Facebook page for the poll on the next video. Have a lekker day as we say in South Africa.