INTERVIEW AND PICTURES BY MARKO SYRJALA
Glen Sobel is an American drummer and a native of Los Angeles. Sobel’s professional career got started after he won a large drum-off competition in Los Angeles at the age of 19, and it led him to join guitar virtuoso Tony MacAlpine’s band. Sobel did his recording debut MADNESS with MacAlpine in 1993, and later on, he has performed and recorded with several artists from many different genres. Sobel’s credits include Impellitteri, Sixx A.M, Paul Gilbert, Vasco Rossi, Beautiful Creatures, Jennifer Batten, Elliot Yamin, Gary Hoey, Graham Bonnet’s Alcatrazz, and Orianthi. Since 2011, Sobel has been the drummer for legendary shock rocker Alice Cooper. The Alice Cooper band is currently on tour in the U.S… In late October, I was fortunate to sit down with Glen in Hollywood, FL, and discuss various topics, including Alice Cooper and the past and the future of Glen Sobel. Read on!
WORKING WITH ALICE COOPER
Metal-Rules.com: First of all, how did you end up working with Alice Cooper?
Glen Sobel: Tommy Henriksen, our guitar player, he is a guy I’ve known for a very long time as well, out of L.A. He’s from New York originally, but I’ve known him in L.A. for a long, long time. He and I were in a band together in the mid to late ’90s. He became more of a writer/producer, and I would get on his recording sessions, usually for whatever he was doing. So three and a half years ago, he was involved in this Alice Cooper recording session in Nashville. It was up to him to get the studio musicians together, and Bob Ezrin was overseeing the whole thing being the main producer. We were re-recording some of the old hits like “School’s Out,” “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” “Welcome to My Nightmare,” “Elected,” etc.…. doing them note for note because anytime a movie or a video game wants those songs, they can get these newly recorded masters, and Alice re-sang, that way, they don’t have to do any business with the old record label. It’s a very common thing…
Metal-Rules.com: That’s what a lot of bands are doing today.
Glen Sobel: Yeah. Def Leppard, Journey, Kiss… they’ve all re-recorded a lot. So, I had to do my best Neal Smith impression and learn everything note from note adding my own thing, and this was making people think they heard the original basically. But it went so well that a year later, Bob Ezrin was asked to produce the show and rehearse the band, and he had an idea of bringing in some new people, being me and Tommy Henriksen and Steve Hunter at the time, which was great to play with him.
Metal-Rules.com: Before doing those re-recording sessions, how familiar you were with old Alice Cooper material?
Glen Sobel: I wasn’t buying the records, but I liked what I heard. I knew the hits like “School’s Out,” Under My Wheels,” and so on. I knew all those songs. And I knew a lot of bands who are re-making them. I remember when Krokus did their version of “School’s Out,” and it was all over the radio.
Metal-Rules.com: Right. That was on the CHANGE OF ADDRESS album.
Glen Sobel: When I was a kid. Yeah. It was a big hit for them.
Metal-Rules.com: When did you actually first hear about Alice Cooper?
Glen Sobel: I was a fan when I was growing up. And actually, when I was a kid, the first time I ever heard him was for the Marvel comic book where he was on the cover. It was an Alice Cooper comic book. And it was like, “That guy is scary! I don’t know what that guy is all about, but I don’t want anything to do with that guy. Because that looks too scary for me.” I was a little kid. So, now it’s funny that I’m playing with him.
Metal-Rules.com: So when did you did see that Marvel comic book?
Glen Sobel: I don’t remember, sometime in the early ’80s maybe, but the comic book might have been from the late ’70s, I think?
Metal-Rules.com: When was the first time you saw Alice Cooper perform live?
Glen Sobel: I didn’t see him live until maybe about 1999 or 2000. It took me a while. But I had seen live concert videos, and I always had many friends who had done the gig, different friends in Los Angeles.
Metal-Rules.com: Like Eric Singer?
Glen Sobel: Yeah. I have known Eric for 20 years. Sure, a long time.
Metal-Rules.com: How about Jimmy DeGrasso?
Glen Sobel: No. I don’t know him, but just about everybody else in the last 15 years or so. We all know each other more or less.
Metal-Rules.com: I interviewed Jimmy like four years ago, and he said, in fact, that he and Eric share the record of being in Alice’s band for the longest time. They both had been in the band for more than 7 years.
Glen Sobel: But our bass player Chuck, he’s been in band 12 years now, sure.
Metal-Rules.com: Yeah. I think he’s now the longest-running member in the band ever.
Glen Sobel: I think so; I think you’re right.
NEW ALICE COOPER ALBUM
Metal-Rules.com: You didn’t play on WELCOME TO MY NIGHTMARE II album, but…
Glen Sobel: No. That was done before I was in the band, but we tracked the new record in August.
Metal-Rules.com: Yeah, the covers album. Would you tell me something more about that one?
Glen Sobel: Well, I don’t know how much I can tell about it. They hadn’t made any official press releases about that yet.
Metal-Rules.com: Try me. “Laughs”
Glen Sobel: There are going to be special guests, but the thing is, they are not all locked in yet. So, I don’t even know what a lot of them are going to be at. But it is going to be a cover record; it’s mostly a covers record. It’s going to be a tribute to the Hollywood Vampires, which is the drinking group that Alice was “the President” of in the early ’70s. They’d hang out at the Rainbow in Hollywood, Whiskey a Go-Go sometimes, and it was Alice, John Lennon, Keith Moon, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, etc. It was all these guys, and we have that part of the show that pays tribute to that whole group of people. So, the record is going to have a similar theme to that, but as far as the guests, the stuff that people really want to know… I don’t even know some of them yet because it’s guest singers, and they are going to still, they are yet to do their parts.
Metal-Rules.com: But the album is going to include some original songs as well?
Glen Sobel: There might be a couple.
Metal-Rules.com: And when will the album be out?
Glen Sobel: I’m hearing that it’s going to be out early next year or spring, somewhere in there.
Metal-Rules.com: Legendary Bob Ezrin once again produces the album?
Glen Sobel: Yeah.
Metal-Rules.com: As mentioned earlier, you worked with Ezrin during the re-recording sessions. In your opinion, how is he to work with?
Glen Sobel: I get along with the guy. People have got along with him, and some people haven’t, but that’s just like with any producer or director of a movie. You know they have people they like to work with. And he wants it done quickly. He communicates something, and then you better remember it because he’s not going to say it twice. But that makes sense. But when you show up over-prepared, you are going to do okay with him. And if you are not trying to show about too much, it’s about taking direction working with any producer.
LINE UP TALK
Metal-Rules.com: Overall, speaking of Alice, I have been an Alice Cooper fan since the CONSTRICTOR album came out in ’86, ’85, or something, and since then, there have been more members in the band than you can count. What is the reason for so many line-up changes, in your opinion?
Glen Sobel: Through a drummer?
Metal-Rules.com: Let’s start with that point of view.
Glen Sobel: It’s a demanding show, physically. From what I know, it makes total sense that every drummer just about has always not loved the fact that they don’t get a break during the show. Alice doesn’t speak to the crowd during the show; he doesn’t break character. So, as a drummer, I have to start the next song right away, with no break. There is a couple of stuff intros with certain props where I get 30 seconds a couple of times. But since he doesn’t speak to the crowd and say, “Hey! How is everybody doing tonight?” Or, he’s not saying, “This is a song from my new record.” You’ll never hear that. So, it’s a constant 95-minute garage of just rock without a break. Drum solo, that’s when Alice has a break, and he’s doing a costume change; everyone else gets a break but not me. The guy is working the hardest. Don’t tell him I said that. “Laughs”
Metal-Rules.com: But overall, why are there are so many changes in the line-up?
Glen Sobel: Just that happens with any band, I think. Especially when there is one main…
Metal-Rules.com: The main star… right, and basically Alice is a solo artist.
Glen Sobel: Yeah. And they have their backup bands; you can look at just about any solo artist, whether it’s Sting or whoever, and they’ve had their share of people, but everyone serves a certain time. You don’t ever hear a very big lasting a few weeks unless they get fired, really. But usually, when you get a call for a gig like that, you have a reputation that built up, and you’re reliable, the playing, of course, you’ve got to be able to play. But it’s all the other stuff, just being someone that you can get along with, you know, people who can live with you on tour.
Metal-Rules.com: Speaking some more about the current band, I think this is a great lineup. I have seen many different Alice Cooper lineups, and this one seems to work great, especially that three-guitar thing is sounding just amazing.
Glen Sobel: Well, we’re proud of it. Three guitars that work, we are doing the Lynyrd Skynyrd, three-guitar deal. Which a lot of people are doing now.
Metal-Rules.com: Iron Maiden and…
Glen Sobel: … Guns N’ Roses, they’re all doing it. But yeah, it works really well; everybody has got a part they are playing. And it’s the same more than it’s every night; it’s a production. There is no room to really stretch or improvise, but that’s not what it’s about. And yeah, we’re really proud of the stage show.
Metal-Rules.com: But isn’t it kind of challenging to have three guitar players when everybody needs their own spots. I mean, now you have to think more about how to share the parts and stuff like that, right?
Glen Sobel: It isn’t as hard as you think. Of course, it’s something that was worked out, a lot of rehearsals, and everybody has their time to do their thing. Everybody sings lead, I don’t sing, but they all have other bands. They have their own bands where they sing leads, so it’s great. And then we do use these other cover gigs, and sometimes we’re on tour will have a night where we got a night off, we can book a gig and do a meet and greets. We just did one in Moscow at the Hard Rock Cafe a few weeks ago now. We played “Ace of Spades,” and Chuck sings lead on that, and we played “Surrender,” and Ryan sings lead on that. And what else did we do?
Metal-Rules.com: I did see some stuff on YouTube, actually.
Glen Sobel: Those things are a lot of fun because we had to play some other types of music. And then Chuck and I, we’ve also been doing Orianthi’s solo material.
Metal-Rules.com: It seems that you have really good chemistry within the band now?
Glen Sobel: Everybody is friends, which is great. I’ve never been in a touring situation where there have been people in the band I don’t get along with, but I’ve known friends that have had bad situations on tour. What a nightmare that must be?
IMPELLITTERI AND MORE
Metal-Rules.com: You played many years with Impellitteri, and in fact, I did see you playing with the band in Swedenrock some years ago. Is there anything going on with Impellitteri anymore?
Glen Sobel: Swedenrock, that was in 2009. Chris, he’s been doing the Animetal thing, and I think they have some more stuff coming up in Japan. I talked to Chris maybe 2-3 months ago. They might be getting ready to do a new record, I think, with Jon Dette on drums. Because Scott Travis did the first one, but now he has his Judas Priest stuff to do. But with Impellitteri band, nothing is going on I know of?
Metal-Rules.com: It’s been a while since Impellitteri released its latest studio album…
Glen Sobel: Yeah, it was called WICKED MAIDEN. It came out five years ago. I was really happy with that album.
Metal-Rules.com: You played some parts of the album, right?
Glen Sobel: That record? No. I did the whole record.
Metal-Rules.com: You did? Because the album credits tell something else?
Glen Sobel: There was some weird stuff like the label wanted it to look like it’s a band, but I can’t be in a band that causes some confusion; we are hired guys for better or worse. There is nothing wrong with it, but at first, they wanted to make it have a phony name. There is no Brandon Wild and whatever. It’s all me; there is no such person.
Metal-Rules.com: So, he’s just a “ghost”?
Glen Sobel: Yeah. But I ended up in the actual record, and I hope you didn’t see it in there because, as far as I know, I’m credited, but you might have seen the press release?
Metal-Rules.com: No, I haven’t seen the press release, but I have the album, and its booklet says “drums by Brandon Wild, additional percussion by Glen Sobel”…
Glen Sobel: Really?
Metal-Rules.com: Yeah. I have the CD at home.
Glen Sobel: I don’t even think I have a CD copy of that. That’s why I don’t know that; I just have the files. That’s terrible. Well, I’m saying officially now, it’s me on that record.
Metal-Rules.com: Okay. Now we all know. “laughs.”
Glen Sobel: With Brandon Wild, there is no Brandon Wild.
Metal-Rules.com: So, he is just a ghost.
Glen Sobel: Yeah. He’s a ghost I played on.
Metal-Rules.com: Okay, that thing is now clear. But as you said, nothing is going on with the band at the moment, but if there is, would you then like to get involved?
Glen Sobel: That would be great. The only places I have played with him since the ’90s have been Japan, and then we did that one gig at Sweden Rock. You know, he doesn’t want to get out and play unless it’s something he feels that it’s worth, which is okay too. And Japan has always been good to him and the band in general. So, I know it’s pretty much stayed there since the late ’80s, early ’90s for Impellitteri.
Metal-Rules.com: Graham Bonnet returned to Impellitteri briefly in 2000, and he sang on the album SYSTEM X. Later on, he formed a new version of his old band Alcatrazz which you were a part of as well. Would you tell me something more about that project?
Glen Sobel: That first started out as Graham Bonnet solo band, but then it turned into the new version of Alcatrazz. We had a good time on that. They still play…
Metal-Rules.com: With Bobby Rock on drums?
Glen Sobel: Yeah. Bobby Rock’s been doing it; he’s a guy I’ve known forever. He’s a good buddy. The band, they called it Alcatrazz, but it was more like Graham’s career retrospective because we’re playing some Rainbow and MSG in there as well. I love drummers like Cozy Powell, and it was great to play his parts. I love those drum parts. Cozy, especially with Rainbow, he was heavy but grooving and swinging drummer. He is a guy, I think, who sometimes gets overlooked when people talk about the classic rock drummers like Bonham and Ian Paice, but Cozy belongs there as well. May he rest in peace.
Metal-Rules.com: Beautiful Creatures was another interesting band in your career. And if you ask me, the band’s debut album is one of the best hard rock albums released in ages.
Glen Sobel: I really like that record still. I listen to it today, and it still holds up, although it was released 12 years ago.
Metal-Rules.com: It’s another album that hardly got the attention it deserves.
Glen Sobel: If it came out today, you could see it fits in with modern rock radio, but it’s just like any other record deal timing and the people you’re working with at the label that has everything to do with whether or not you are going to get out there. We had a good run, we did like the Ozzfest, and it worked. It fit in on a tour that also had Slipknot and Hatebreed in there and all these different bands because we sounded like we did. The AC/DC, Guns’n Roses side of it, we stood out. But we had a good time; we actually became a touring machine that summer. And then when we go on tour with some other modern rock bands that made it more than heavy, also we were the heavy act just tearing it up, and they don’t want to go after us, some of these acts because we were a hard act to follow.
Metal-Rules.com: I believe that though I have only seen some clips on the net…
Glen Sobel: There are YouTube clips for sure, Japan ’02, etc.
Metal-Rules.com: Right, but when DJ Ashba decided to leave, everything changed…
Glen Sobel: I was out of there not too long after. When you lose a major label deal… that can oftentimes make the band seem like its damaged goods. You’d have to move quickly to get a new deal with new material, but it wasn’t happening quickly enough. So, it was just time ‘it was just time to cut our losses and move on to the next thing. But to this day, like in different countries, people come to me with that first Beautiful Creatures album to sign.
Metal-Rules.com: How about the second Beautiful Creatures album DEUCE?
Glen Sobel: Well, I guess I’m on a couple of tracks that were demos in the beginning, but they turned new to albums. Actually, it took a long time to get that out, that record. Yeah, it wasn’t anything like the first one. It was a lower budget, and there wasn’t like one producer, we have other several people, a lot of cooks in the kitchen, it was done piecemeal.
Metal-Rules.com: Are you still in touch with the original members of the band?
Glen Sobel: I talk to all except the singer. I haven’t talked to him in a while. But DJ Ashba, that Sixx AM thing a little ago, and Kenny Kweens, he’s got a band called Villains of Vaudeville, and he did recordings which I played on. There is at least one or two videos out on YouTube, and I think all the tracks are available somehow. But it’s good stuff, like Marilyn Manson, mix with Motorcycle Riders, and its Kenny singing leads.
Metal-Rules.com: Actually, I might be wrong here, but some time ago, I read somewhere that they have plans to play a few gigs under the name Beautiful Creatures?
Glen Sobel: Well, not under that name though, might have been Bang Tango or something like that.
Metal-Rules.com: It might have been like that?
Glen Sobel: Because we talked about doing a reunion show, but we have to be all the guys from the first record. We’ll probably play in L.A.
Metal-Rules.com: Even DJ Ashba will be part of it?
Glen Sobel: It would have to be, but we’re not even close to it. It’s just scheduling like and everything, people being busy. Anthony Fox lives in Nashville. He’s doing engineering and ProTools and mixing for Marti Frederiksen. He’s busy with that. You know, Anthony has mixed a lot of stuff that you’ve heard and mastered it.’
SIXX AM AND MORE
Metal-Rules.com: As you mentioned earlier, you also worked with the Sixx AM. Tell us something more about it?
Glen Sobel: In the beginning, yeah. They are doing a whole release of the book, HEROIN DIARIES, and then the record almost at the same time. So, it was almost more about the book, in the beginning, it seemed, but we did this big press conference cool thing in L.A with the multi-media video synched up to us playing. And that was a lot of fun, but that was it. That song had become as big of a single yet, “Life is Beautiful.” And it’s drum programming on that record. James does a great job of programming the drums, James Michael. But I would have wanted to do more things, but nothing was coming up. So, I took a gig playing on a tour with an American Idol finalist that had a big pop hit. It was a good thing; I felt to do something in a different world as pop/R&B. And I took that tour, and it was a lot of fun. But then the Sixx A.M started to activate, and all I know, I guess I can’t be in two places at once, but it is okay.
Metal-Rules.com: But maybe you were a bit of a right choice; they haven’t been too active later on?
Glen Sobel: Well, they were doing Crue Fest on that summer, which I’m sure was a blast, but as I said can’t clone myself, so.
Metal-Rules: What I’ve learned from some recent interview of DJ Ashba, that Sixx AM have plans to make a proper tour, maybe next year, finally? But it’s up to Guns ‘N Roses/Crue schedules if it’s going to happen?
Glen Sobel: Sure, yeah. The schedules of Crue and GNR and James works as a producer in Nashville. Everybody has got their own stuff.
Metal-Rules.com: But if that’s going to happen, would you like to be a part of that?
Glen Sobel: Sure. If I was able to, sure. The guy that did Crue Fest, Tony Palermo. I was just hanging with him the last two nights. He’s Papa Roach’s drummer, a great player. And he did that tour, Papa Roach was a part of the tour, and he did both bands. And I just was hanging with him last night because we did these shows where Papa Roach’s played right before us. Yeah, it two of us and Bullet for My Valentine, Heaven’s Basement. It was a good line-up.
Metal-Rules.com: Ok, our time is running out, but there are still some questions left… I did learn that when you have off time from Alice, though he’s really busy on these days, you have these side gigs like the one with Vivian Campbell?
Glen Sobel: Yeah. I played in his solo band, Vivian Campbell’s solo band in L.A.
Metal-Rules.com: Tell me something more about that project?
Glen Sobel: That’s fun because it’s different; we play a lot at the Baked Potato in L.A. I’ve been going there since I was 16, this tiny little world famous like a jazz club, but they have other stuff, there is fusion. Like, I usually do fusion gigs there, like with Jeff Kollman. He played with Glenn Hughes and played in Chad Smith’s Bombastic Meat bats. I played there with them sometimes, and sometimes I played with Vivian. And that’s definitely a rock thing. It’s blues-rock, we do a lot of old school Fleetwood Mac, pre-Stevie Nicks, like the Peter Green era stuff, and we play some old ZZ Top, which is a lot of fun. And we do a lot of Thin Lizzy because Vivian was playing with them at one point.
Metal-Rules.com: And because Vivian is from Ireland?
Glen Sobel: Yeah. And we played Horslips, an Irish band; we played a couple of theirs, yeah. But that’s a fun gig; I love Thin Lizzy. And more so now that I’ve had to play it a lot “laughs.”
Metal-Rules.com: The last question is about Tony MacAlpine. You worked with him in the early ’90s, right?
Glen Sobel: Wow! It was my first gig. That was my first record. That’s another one; you’re picking all the members I like the most. You know, I think I was just talking about that album today because Joe Franco was here tonight. He happened to be in town, and he told me he was here. So, we were talking about that. How like he was an influence, I’ve known him for a long, long time. He used to have a girlfriend that lived next to me when I was a kid.
Metal-Rules.com: I have been a fan of his since his Blackjack days.
Glen Sobel: He’s a great guy. I was talking about my first gig and how he was an influence on me making that record and so on.
Metal-Rules.com: That’s amazing. Okay. This is good enough. Anything more you want to say?
Glen Sobel: I wanted to be on Metal Rules. I see stories from you guys all the time, spreading the rock.
Metal-Rules.com: Thank you.