KOBRA AND THE LOTUS - How To Build An Iron Maiden
March 28, 2010, 8 years ago
By Carl Begai
When BW&BK; received new kids on the Canadian block Kobra And The Lotus’ initial promo sampler in 2009 it went over like a fart in a spacesuit. Thus, when the request came in from the band’s promoter for a review we (read: I) politely declined in keeping with the old adage “if you can’t say anything nice don’t say anything at all.” Pressed for the reason why we’d pass on pushing potential homeland heroes, the vocals were cited as the ton of bricks dragging the entire project through the floor. Singer Brittany Paige was easy on the eyes but she clearly hadn’t found her calling. The end.
Or so we thought.
Early 2010 brought Kobra And The Lotus’ official debut, Out Of The Pit, which took up space in the “In” pile until questions of coverage arose once again. Pressed to take a listen, the album proved to be a distinct and more-than-merely-tolerable improvement over the original sampler. The band had grown some balls and were clearly on a diet of street-level grit, and they’d gotten rid of the lousy singer. Quite unexpectedly, they’d replaced her with a stronger and confident Brittany Paige, who took the above mentioned criticism to heart and chose to do something about it.“It helped guide us, actually,” Paige says. “We decided as a band that it was important to re-record my vocals because they changed a lot once we started performing. I realized the authenticity of my voice and the way I projected it when we played live, and that wasn’t represented at all on the initial CD. We finished that sampler at the end of March 2009 and we just started touring. We toured all summer across Canada and played the hell out of every hole we could find. We did a festival in London in November, and when we got back we approached Kevin Shirley to see if he’d be interested in working with us. I was thinking it would be awesome if we could re-do all the vocals because I was so unhappy with them. They weren’t representative of me at all.”
Proving that thinking big can in fact pay off. In a surprise move producer Kevin Shirley, known for his work with Dream Theater and in particular Iron Maiden, agreed to take on Kobra And The Lotus and give them the overhaul they needed.“I went to Malibu right before Christmas – he said he had one week open – and it was literally cabin fever," laughs Paige. "I just stayed in the studio for 10 days straight, and on a few of those days I didn’t even sing because I got food poisoning, so I ended up being this weak sick thing (laughs). It was awesome, though. I knew exactly how I wanted to present myself, I had a clear idea of how I needed to sound. And one of the most important things for me in comparison to the previous recordings is that I needed people to realize it was a woman and not a girl singing. Working with Kevin was so easy.”
“We’re a really new band, and he’d actually never done a project before ours that had been worked on previously by another producer,” she adds. “It was a weird thing for him to do, and the fact that he even wanted to do it was phenomenal for us. And the end result was 100% above my expectations.”
It’s worth noting that the original recordings were produced by enduring Canadian rock legend Greg Godovitz (of Goddo fame). Paige has nothing but good things to say about him and credits Godovitz with teaching Kobra And The Lotus about the realities of working in the studio at a professional level.“When we first did the album with Greg, that was the brunt of things because nobody in the band was used to having a producer in the room with them. Initially that was initially really tough for the guys because they weren’t used to taking direction and ideas from someone. There was a little bit of tension in the beginning. We’re totally and completely in a different mindset now compared to when we did those first recordings and we’ve realized that extra input can help bring the songs to the next level. The guys were so pumped about Kevin coming in because he’s a metal producer whereas Greg is more of a rock producer, so when Kevin decided to tweak the sound so it was on the heavy side they were thrilled.”
“Kevin undressed the songs rather than fill them up. The original recordings weren’t very raw at all so Kevin took away all the effects, even on my voice. He made the songs raw and heavy so that it sounded like we do when we play live, and we really appreciate that.”
Out Of The Pit also features an unexpected guest appearance from former Triumph guitarist Rik Emmett, who shreds his way through a cover of Motörhead’s ‘Ace Of Spades’.“That actually came about through Greg,” Paige reveals. “Rik Emmett is one of his friends from back in the day and Greg asked him about doing it, and Rik was totally into it. He liked our songs and showed his support by laying a solo down. So that solo in ‘Ace Of Spades’ is all Rik Emmett.”
Which is a huge deal given there are a legion of disgruntled Triumph fans that would sell body parts to hear Emmett shred up a storm for the span of even one album.“Especially with the kind of music that he’s doing this days, sure. It’s very, very cool that he would do that for us and we’re really appreciative. We don’t really understand why we’ve been given that honour but we’ll take it (laughs).”
With tour plans currently being laid out for 2010 - including some shows Stateside – Kobra And The Lotus are looking at a picture much bigger than their native Cangary. According to Paige it’s a city where metal goes to die.“We don’t really focus on Calgary at all,” Paige admits. “We find that, for now anyway, with the position the band is in and the venues that we play, it’s not an appropriate scene for us. The difference between Calgary’s and Edmonton’s metal scenes, it’s way bigger for us in Edmonton. I think there’s too much elitism in Calgary, with people having these ideas of how things need to be and having no room for compromise. It’s definitely not our favourite place and we’ve made it our home base and not much else. We just focus on touring and playing places like Toronto, for example. That’s a much better place for us to be.”
“We’ve already talked about it and hopefully in the next year we will be relocated. I think it’ll probably be Toronto. Somewhere on that side of the country. It’s absolutely one of our intentions to get out of here because the music scene in Toronto really seems to be thriving. And it’s not just one kind of music, it’s everything.”
As for the odd band name, it’s a story that Paige and her bandmates are cursed to tell over and over again…“(Laughs) It’s actually the result of a series of comical events. It actually started out as The Lotus, and at that point we weren’t really touring or anything, just mainly writing music. We had a drummer come into the band for a period of time and he didn’t like how feminine the name Lotis was, so he was pushing for something more masculine. I suggested ‘Cobra’, but of course there were hundreds of bands out there with that name so we put the ‘K’ up front to make it a bit different. So, were were Kobra for a while. When we finished the album in March 2009 and started getting everything ready for the licensing on iTunes we couldn’t use the name because there was already a band using it. There were Kobras everywhere again (laughs). We got to thinking and came up with the idea of putting Kobra and The Lotus together because we knew there was no way anyone else would have it.”