Paul Shortino is a huge talent. It could be argued that he is one of the most talented vocalists to emerge from the hard rock soaked 1980s. It is not by luck or coincidence that Paul ended up being discovered by Ronnie James Dio, hired by Quiet Riot or asked to front the new King Kobra. We recently talked to Paul about his career, his life and even that scene in Spinal Tap that continues to follow him. Read on…..(all photos from Paul Shortino)
Q: Thanks for calling in Paul….the new, self-titled King Kobra is some of your best work
A: Thank you….I agree, it’s something that I am really, really happy with. It’s nice to be able to work and take your time and I think we came up with some pretty great stuff. When they approached me about doing it it was in the process of me doing some work at my studio. I was working with Ron Keel and David (Michael Phillips, KK guitarist) had mentioned Carmine and the band….it’s a great fit really. I’m also working with Carmine in a group featuring Javier Vargas and Tim Bogert in a great blues group, visit http://vargasblues.com
Q: I can only imagine how great the stuff would sound live from the new self titled album and what it would be like to see all you guys playing some of the back catalog stuff. Is the live show something that will eventually happen?
A: Well, I have already talked with David about doing another King Kobra album! We’re all on board to tour and hopefully it will happen, Johnny (Rod, bass) Mick (Sweda, guitars) and we wanna do it but there’s just the matter of getting Carmine to have the time to do it. He does a lot of other touring and stuff and obviously he’s a big part of the whole King Kobra thing.
Q: He kind of let it slip on That Metal Show that the album was actually recorded by you guys sending work back and forth via the internet. How can you manage to get that type of a record to come out of that? It sounds like five guys all getting together in the same room so I guess you did good….
A: Yeah, it really proves that with technology nowadays there really are no limits. We’re really happy that people seem to be digging the album and it’s getting really good reviews. It debuted on Amazon at number eleven and we really haven’t heard back anything negative to speak of. I have a little different vocal style than Mark Free did so I’m glad the old fans are still excited to hear what we’ve come up with.
Q: I don’t hear a lot of people mention the last track on the album, “Fade Away” but to me that song is one of the best. Not to sound too pussy or anything but it’s got this really uplifting kind of vibe to it and if you guys collectively never recorded another note…..it would be the perfect coda.
A: Yeah, I like the way the album was sequenced and I like that song a lot too. It’s got a bit of a spiritual end to it lyrically and Dave and I wrote that with that in mind. It could be about a relationship or about your relationship with a higher power. Dave and I both come from that old Catholic background so I suppose that was an influence. The song really didn’t come out exactly as we envisioned it though. There was a stipulation in our contract that there would be NO acoustic guitars…..which is how we wrote it and envisioned it. Who knows, I’m sure if we do it live we would probably do it more in that vein.
Q: Do you mind talking a little about Rough Cutt or Quiet Riot?
A: No, not at all.
Q: I caught on to Rough Cutt when I was a kid and a friend’s older brother played me the first track on the first album…..it blew me away. To this day, I usually crank “Take Her” at least once a month.
A: Ahh…yes…that song was originally produced by Ronnie James Dio. We’ve actually done that acoustically which is very different. I just recently was told that Ronnie was planning on producing that first Rough Cutt album..,..I think it might have turned out even better had that happened.
Q: Both that album and the second one, “Wants You” are both cool albums though. That was Jack Douglas that produced that one correct?
A: Yes, Jack did that one but by that point we were already feeling pressure from the label and all that and it too should have turned out to be a little heavier, that one was even more pop. I think that if you took the best tracks from both you’d have the ultimate document of Rough Cutt.
Q: Is there more stuff that is sitting in the vaults? It’s been a lot of people’s hopes to someday get some of the early stuff with Jake E. Lee out in some capacity.
A: There are some things, yes. Wendy Dio, runs Niji Entertainment and I know she has some stuff, early material that Ronnie worked with us on. Hopefully that will see the light of day. I had an arrangement in place to do a reunion and a new album with the guys in place. It was a situation that could have been real cool and was headed that way but then one or two people start to complain about the money end of thing and it gets to be…..it’s just a pain in the ass. The money and the business end of things always seems to sour everything else.
Q: You recently got up with the Quiet Riot guys when they played a show there in Las Vegas where you live now…..the youtube footage of it is amazing. You still are the consummate frontman and looked like a total rockstar. How did it feel for you to be up there singing “Stay With Me Tonight” again?
A: Well…it was like stepping into a time machine. It was a blast. Those guys are great, all of them, Marc, the new singer is amazing and really pays tribute to Kevin and it was just a really special night. I still play that song at my shows but to do it again with Frankie was just a lot of fun. That song was a song that I had originally brought to Rough Cutt before we did it on the Quiet Riot album. I would like to record again with those guys at some point under a different name, I think a lot of people would have had a different response to that album had it been done under a different name. Quiet Riot, the name, is so synonymous with Kevin DuBrow.
Q: I love the song too and the album cover and I still like to dig it out and listen to it. I had heard there was just a lot of drama going on with the band at that point, besides just Kevin not being involved, is that correct?
A: Well, we had a great time, rehearsing, writing, recording the album. All the problems began after that point. Before that, we were having a blast. There was a united front. Then you’ve got various different managements and the label people and next thing you know…..again….it’s never the music making that’s the problem. I love those guys, we did a tour overseas that was amazing. The live DVD that’s out that was a part of that tour. The gig we just did in Vegas that was the first time we were together onstage performing since that tour.
Q: You’re from Ohio and we’re also midwest here in Illinois. Do you miss touring this part of the country…were those stops fun for you guys back in the Rough Cutt days?
A: Oh, yeah! The people there in the middle of the country…..it’s a different way of life. It’s not like the east coast or the west coast were there is always something, or more like twenty things going on….
Q: or Las Vegas…(laughs)
A: Right…There is always something, every night of the week here and I think the tendency is to become numb or jaded to it and people just don’t appreciate you as much because there’s so many different choices and flavors. In Ohio or Illinois or any of those places you might be the one big gig of the week, maybe even the month and people tend to really connect with you. I just love that part of the country and yes I do miss it. I think also that people from the coasts, or the media tend to look down on that part of the nation, like they’re somehow better than……the people in the midwest…..and I feel that’s wrong….and hurtful. They are NO better than the people in the middle of the country. That is the backbone of America, it sounds cliche but being from there I must say it is accurate. They are smart, hardworking, hardrocking people and they really open their arms to entertainers and make it worth your while. You tend to want to elevate your game.
Q: Was it boring growing up out here, was music kind of an escape?
A: I don’t know if I’d say it was boring…..it was a different time. People found things to do outside of their homes. People hung out and did things outside. I don’t know but I think you guys in the midwest still might do a little more of that but it was really like that for me growing up. You didn’t sit at home and vegetate on the net. Music was an escape but it wasn’t the only escape….life was good in general and it’s something I think this country needs to get back to as a whole. I think kids, people, were more active and healthier in general and more trusting and it was just a great time to grow up. Things need to change in this country….the way people are living, the people in congress…everyone goes on about the upper offices but a lot of the change could come by shaking things up in the congressional arena. Some of those people in power are just career politicians and it doesn’t benefit them to shake up the status quo.
Q: I want to know if performing at the Ronnie James Dio memorial was as difficult for you to do as it was for me to watch….it was really, really a great performance but it felt like an exposed nerve.
A: Yes….I enjoyed it but it was difficult to make it through. Ronnie was a very special friend and was a very special mentor to me in my career and he just left us all too soon. That song, “In My Life” says so much lyrically and is such a personal and special song to me. I sang it when I lost my brother as well.
Q: You got to deliver one of the signature lines in the Hear N Aid song, “We’re Stars” …..the “We all wanna touch a Rainbow” part…..was that Ronnie’s insistence?
A: Well, I think we knew….going in that Ronnie was a very big supporter of the band and with Wendy managing us….I knew I would have a good part in the recording of the song, yes. The song still stands as a highlight not only for me but for everyone involved I think. It was great to be together with all those people and be doing something like that and have everyone get along….it was very memorable.
Q: Before I let you go, I have to ask….you played Duke Fame, the guy in “This is Spinal Tap” who was too famous and couldn’t be bothered to deal with Spinal Tap or their manager. Is it true that Jake E . Lee was also supposed to try out and you just showed up looking cool in that white suit of yours and they picked you?
A: (laughs) I always get asked about “Spinal Tap”…..Jake and the other guys were supposed to go down, I got there first. Duke Fame has followed me around to this day. When Rough Cutt was out on tour with Krokus, we were getting shit for soundchecks and all that. We were basically treated like we didn’t exist and one day the manager for Krokus pulls me aside and says, “Hey…are you Duke Fame” and I’m like “Yeah” and he’s like “Oh, the guys in the band totally wanna talk to you” and all this and suddenly we’re getting soundchecks and the whole tour just changed for us…..because of Duke Fame….(laughs).
Q: I also heard that you told Harry Shearer and Michael McKean that they looked like the guys in Spinal Tap….you had no idea???
A: That was sooooooo embarrassing. They had a good laugh about it though. I was sitting at lunch, during a break in filming…..at that point I hadn’t seen them without their wigs or anything…I just looked over while sitting there with them and Rob Reiner (director) and said “Man, it’s funny you guys actually look a lot like the Spinal Tap band” and they were like “Well, we are the Spinal Tap guys, they’re just wigs you know”…..and I was so unbelievably embarrassed…
Q: That’s awesome!! Thanks so much for taking time for us Paul any last words?
A: Just thanks….thanks for your interest and thanks to the people checking out the new King Kobra….we have a new video up on youtube for the new song “Turn Up the Good Times”….check it out! Thanks to everybody out there….have a great life!