INTERVIEW AND PICTURES BY MARKO SYRJALA
Scot Coogan is an American musician known for his accomplished drumming and vocal skills, working as both a session and touring musician. Coogan has worked with various groups such as Brides of Destruction featuring Nikki Sixx, Lita Ford, Lynch Mob, and Red Zone Rider feat. Vinnie Moore and Kelly Keeling. Currently, he performs with Blue Man Group, and he’s a member of former KISS guitarist Ace Frehley’s solo band. He worked previously with Frehley from 2009 through 2012 and performed on the ANOMALY (2009) album. I met a good-humored Coogan in Stockholm just before Ace Frehley’s band’s sold out show in Grona Lund, which is the largest amusement park in Scandinavia. We discussed various things including his work with Ace Frehley, Red Zone Rider and the rise and demise of Brides of Destruction… Read on!
BACK IN THE GROOVE
Scott, this is your second round with Ace, how is everything going so far?
Scott Coogan: Everything is fantastic; it’s wonderful to be back with Ace. I took a couple of years off to move to Las Vegas from Los Angeles, and I did the Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp (I was a Rock and Roll Counselor there). One of the drummers from the Blue Man Group saw me playing; they’ve been performing for over ten years in Las Vegas; very prestigious drumming, lots of drumming and stuff. They were sending production to Australia, and they had auditions, the first audition they had in five years. Blas Elias from Slaughter does it, and there are many very, very great drummers. So I got an audition for that and got the gig, and so I have been with the Blue Man Group for two years. I took a break from Ace because he was doing his book and stuff like that. There were some personal issues within the band and stuff like that, so I decided just to take some time off, so I did and did the Vegas thing. I guess he had another drummer during that period; they only did like six shows or something in that two years; because Ace was mostly doing his book stuff, But the other drummer was doing something else.
You’re talking about Matt Starr who’s now playing with Mr.Big?
Scott Coogan: Matt, yeah. So Ace asked me, I got a text from him and he says; “Are you still doing that Blue Man Group thing?” I remember seeing the text, and Ace and I, of course, stayed in contact. We talked over the two years. When I saw that text I said, he wants me back. I knew it. So we talked, and the first thing I asked was; who is the band? He said; I don’t have a band. I have a bass player, Chris Wyse. He said; do you remember the guy that we did the video with? I said: I’ve known Chris since 1999. I said; “that’s fantastic because Chris and I have always wanted to play together.” We’ve always known in the back of our minds.
When Ace did his instructional DVD where he had John 5 and George Lynch, all those guys, Chris was invited to play bass and he didn’t even know the song “Pain in the Neck” from ANOMALY; he had never heard it because it had just come out. So Chris and Ace and I set up, and when we did the DVD this was 2009, he learned “Pain in the Neck”, which is a difficult song. There are changes, lots of changes and odd times and stuff. The three of us worked so well together and he learned the song in about seven minutes and we went down and we cut it and we recorded it. So that was very interesting. Chris and I, we always knew we were going to play together. Then after that time, Ace played with Chris as well, he had the same feeling, but then time went on and we still continued on, and Anthony came back and we did some more touring and then I took my break.
When and where did you play your last show with Ace back then?
Scott Coogan: I remember that. The last show I did with Ace before my break was a casino in Michigan, it was a tour we did and I think it was November of 2009 or 2010 maybe. After that is when I left. So here I am back with Ace and he’s got Richie Scarlet back, who I had never played with before, but he’s just absolutely an amazing person, amazing guitar player and he’s become my brother in a short period of time, since November. We are like this unit, these three guys backing up Ace. I think this band is the best he’s ever had.
I saw this current lineup a few weeks ago at Swedenrock and the band truly kicked some serious ass. I can also say that this is probably the strongest line-up Ace has ever had.
Scott Coogan: I’m glad you agree. Ace likes to have harmony in the band. I’m not talking about vocals, we will get to that because we all sing our asses off. But harmony meaning getting along and stuff like that. There’s no drama, we all love each other and we call ourselves The Marines. We back him up; we give a 110% every night, no nonsense Rock and Roll.
The current band is absolutely great but I remember seeing some really good shows from the previous line-up as well. I saw the band in Stockholm, Helsinki and London and in that tiny place in the middle of Britain…
Scott Coogan: Sheffield? The garage kind of funky looking place?
Yeah, that’s the one. So it was a great band as well, but something happened during the journey and things started to change. Maybe it was a chemistry thing or something?
Scott Coogan: It was chemistry but there is a lot more than that. It was getting dark and I don’t think Ace was having fun anymore, because the band wasn’t…I know the real story, but I don’t want to hurt anybody or defame anybody. I’ll just say that there was drama or problems. That’s it. Yeah, there were problems and I think it was noticeable. Ace now, compared to that era is a completely new person. He’s so happy and you can see it in his playing, he’s passionate again. A lot of that has to do with Rachael as well, meeting Rachael the love of his life and having this band. He’s just as happy as he’s ever been, and he tells us that. It shows in his playing and his singing and everything, and this unit is, I feel, unstoppable. I think we are just going to keep going up and up.
SPACE INVADER TALK
SPACE INVADER was a critical and commercial success but how do you like the album?
Scott Coogan: I think it’s great, yeah. I think it’s produced very well, I know that Ace is very happy with it. It took me a few listens but I think it’s an awesome record and I love the songs that we play, “Toys”, “Space Invader” and we were doing another one too in States. I think it’s a fantastic record, I love it; the fact that the record company is behind him and pushing it. ANOMALY was a great record, but unfortunately, the record company dropped the ball and plus we didn’t tour for it. We didn’t tour much, but SPACE INVADER is absolutely amazing. I think it’s a great record and we are working on new stuff now.
It was Matt Starr who played drums on the album. How do you like the drumming on the album?
Scott Coogan: I was going to do it, but I couldn’t leave the Blue Man Group. I stayed dedicated to the Blue Man Group for two years, almost two years, so that I could really claim my spot, to stay working there, because that’s a very prestigious gig. Once you get that you don’t give it up. They have been kind enough to let me take hiatus to work with Ace, so it was like “It’s Ace Frehley, of course”. That’s the first thing I thought, and nothing against the drummer that played on it or anything like that, but it’s very straight. Most Ace drumming stuff, the drumming on the records, it’s really flashy fills and things like that. I feel that it’s very safe, the drumming is very safe…It just sounds like just bash, there is no finesse to it, I don’t think.
That’s exactly what I am thinking as well. But I can see that you are now playing those songs a different way.
Scott Coogan: Yeah. I add my own element, especially to the SPACE INVADER songs. I play as I would have recorded it, still stay true to the song but I do my own things too with the SPACE INVADER. Not so much in the “Space Invader” song but on “Toys” definitely I add my own stuff, because I feel that that song could have had a lot more warmth to it and a lot different feel, and things like that. No offense to the other drummer. Matt, he called me when I was out with Lita Ford on the Rock of Ages Tour playing with Poison and Def Leppard. I remember him calling me and saying; “I’m trying to get the gig, I’m trying to get the gig with Ace. Can you tell me how you sing “Love Gun” and how you do this part and this and this?”. I stayed on the phone with him for almost two hours, and explained to him everything, how I do it. I’m like, “Yeah, off you go. Have fun”. I have never really seen any performances from that, I think I saw one at a festival or something like that. It was tired, it was really tired. It’s fun to see Ace happy again.
THE COVERS ALBUM
The next Ace release will be the covers album and it’s been in works for a while already. What is the status of the album at the moment?
Scott Coogan: Just before we left I went to San Diego from Las Vegas to cut the drums. We were only planning on doing four songs, because I think from the SPACE INVADER sessions, he already has three cover songs recorded with Matt playing and Chris playing bass. So these three songs, the Who song and a couple of others. So he flew me up to San Diego, we were planning on doing four more songs and we did eight in one day. So Ace took the drum tracks with him, we got a really nice studio to record the drums in and then he has a really nice studio in a house in San Diego. So he then took the engineer with him for two days, they just did all the guitars and all the vocals. There’s still quite a bit to be done but he has sent me two rough mixes so far, that Ace mixed himself. Ace is brilliant in the studio; he’s really, really great. He knows how to get sound; he knows what he wants to hear. So he sent me two rough mixes of two of the eight songs that I played the drums on, and it sounded awesome. It sounds really good; one of them is a Thin Lizzy song. I’ve got to check with Ace to make sure that you are allowed to say that. Anyway, his voice on it just nails it perfectly, the Phil Lynott sound. What he’s going to do is have guests, he’s thinking of getting several guitar people and also possibly somebody from the make-up band to do a song.
I have heard about it.
Scott Coogan: You’ve heard? Okay.
I think that Ace mentioned it in an interview a while ago?
Scott Coogan: So if that happens I’ll go back out in July, we are going to do some work on the record in July. Chris and I are going to go to San Diego, we are going to do some more work on the… It’s pretty much just the three of us, me and Ace and Chris working on this right now. So far so good. We’re just going to keep working on it and hopefully release it in October. So we have dates through July, some weeks here and then go back in the States touring. In that time off, we’ve got to get Ace going. We’ve got to say; “Let’s go man, let’s do this. Let’s finish these songs, do this”. Ace’s been very motivated, more motivated than I have never ever seen him. When we were working on the ANOMALY record, it took a long time to get finished.
We have a saying; there is a standard time-line and there is Ace’s time-line, which is endless “Laughs.”
Scott Coogan: Ace time, yeah. He’s on his time. Because he’s much happier now with Rachael in his life and with us, so he’s much more motivated. So the Ace time has gotten more towards normal time.
Is Richie Scarlet also involved on the new album?
Scott Coogan: He will be, I’m sure he will be. But it’s all because I’m in Las Vegas, Chris is in L.A. So we are very close to Ace and Richie is all the way out in New York, so it’s hard to find the time but, I’m sure we will have Richie there.
RED ZONE RIDER AND WORKING WITH VINNIE MOORE
Another band you’ve recently worked with is Red Zone Rider.
Scott Coogan: Yeah. What do you think about it?
I have all of Vinnie’s albums and this is one of the better ones.
Scott Coogan: It’s not like his solo records.
Yeah, because it’s a band album. It’s you, Vinnie and Kelly Keeling.
Scott Coogan: Kelly Keeling, yeah, on bass, vocals, piano organ. That was a Mike Varney’s Shrapnel label thing. I went in, I got hired to do the session. I had never played with Vinnie before and I was really excited to play with him. I had known Kelly briefly from L.A., so we all got together and we were in the control room, recording at the Count’s Studio. Danny “The Count” Koker owns it and the Vamp’d and does a Count car show. He was a great, great friend of mine. I love him to death. We were in the studio and sitting with Varney and the engineer and I said; “Well, let’s hear some of the music”. He said; “You have to do six songs a day. We are going to record 12 songs. Get the drums set up, get the sounds and I want to get six tracks from you a day. We’d pay you this much”. We were sitting in the studio and I said; “Let’s hear what we are doing. Let’s hear some music”. He said; “We don’t have any”. I said; “What are you talking about”? He goes; “Vinnie has got a couple of riff ideas on his computer, but other than that we pretty much need to…”. So we wrote that record in two days.
And you recorded everything basically live?
Scott Coogan: Live, yep. So that’s what that record…
That’s the way Vinnie works with UFO as well.
Scott Coogan: Yeah. But the way that that record came out considering we did it in two days is I think, incredible. I’m very proud of that record, I’m very proud of it. I wish I had sung on it, I wish I sang backing vocals, but we were really pressed for time with the studio so Kelly did all the vocals. Kelly is one of the most talented guys; he is so, so good. He’s ADHD a little bit. He’s kind of all over the place, but that’s what makes him the way he is and I love him; and Vinnie and I talk all the time. He has a new record coming out, he just emailed me the other day and said; “I’m working on my solo CD album”. I said, “WTF, what the fuck! Why didn’t you call me to play”? He goes; “Of course I would, but I recorded it two years ago. I did record the drums a year and a half ago or something like that”. So I gave him shit for that. I’m sure Vinnie and I will definitely do some work in the future. Red Zone Rider, I don’t know what’s going to happen with that. Kelly tried to do a tour in Brazil with Jeff Martin on drums and some guitar player from New York, and that fell through. Which I thought was kind of weird, I was like; let’s leave Red Zone Rider what it is and maybe one day we can get back together when I’m not working with Ace as much and Vinnie gets a break from UFO and stuff like that. That’s the reason we can’t tour, because Vinnie is so busy with UFO and I’m so busy with Ace.
Did you do any shows with Red Zone Rider?
Scott Coogan: We never did a show, the only thing we did was a video for “By the Rainbow’s End” at Vamp’d. We just did a video and we did a promo video shoot, other than that we just did two days in the studio. I did two days; they were in the studio for a little bit longer. I’m very proud of that record, the Red Zone Rider record. Very proud.
Some recent album releases feat. Scot Coogan
BRIDES OF DESTRUCTION
Next, we do a little time warp and go back on the Brides of Destruction days. That’s also when we actually met the first time, right?
Scott Coogan: That was 2003 or 2004.
Okay, you remember better “Laughs.”
Scott Coogan: I don’t remember much “Laughs.”
It must have been a hell of an experience. What comes to your mind first from those days?
Scott Coogan: It was a great experience to work with Nikki and Tracii. I continued on to work with Tracii on several other things when we did the second record and stuff after Nikki left. I saw Ginger from The Wildhearts the other day; Ginger was a part of the song writing process for the second record. He and Scott Sorry and I used to write our own songs on the side and stuff, I love Ginger to death. So it was great to see him. But going back to the Nikki era…We knew when the band started, I was the last one to join. They actually had a drummer named Kris Kohl from Adema, he actually recorded four songs on HERE COME THE BRIDES. Then I came in halfway through the record and co-wrote some stuff with Nikki, that song “Life” that I sing. With Nikki and I and a couple of other people wrote that, I think James Michael had something to do with it, he’s in SIXX A.M. as well. Then I did the other five songs and John Corabi was around then too, and then the touring started. I remember a lot of fun stories from the tour, such as Tracii and me getting in a fist fight on stage at the Alice Cooper Show. The guys were throwing their guitars and knocking a kid out in Sparks, Nevada. We were crazy, we were just having fun. We were like a gang, and it was my first time ever being in a band like that. That was just crazy, just balls out Rock and Roll. At the time I was doing the three piece Led Zeppelin band called 6 Foot Nurse, which I still do. I sing lead and play drums at the same time, and I was doing that and I was kind of staying in town and playing in some different bands and stuff like that. Then I played with Pete Yorn, just before The Brides and then it just turned into this crazy Rock and Roll fiasco. Yeah, it was a lot of fun. I had a great time. The whole time in rehearsals, we had a room locked up for a year in the studio. Where we recorded HERE COME THE BRIDES within the same building, it’s called Clown Records in Santa Monica. Steve Bruno is the owner, and Jane’s Addiction was right across from us; and we had our big room and we were literary locked in there for almost a year, writing and recording. So we worked in the studio for a year and as we were working, Nikki would be on his phone talking to Tommy and saying; “Where is Mick? We got to find Mick”. We knew he was putting Motley back together. So it’s kind of weird to be in a band and being in a band where we all got tattoos together and all the stuff, but knowing that he’s going back to Motley and it’s going to end, it kind of sucked. I didn’t really think about it. The last show we did was in Sydney, Australia and it was 2004, in August 2004. By then I was involved with the song writing for the RED WHITE & CRUE record, which was a compilation record. It had “Sick Love Song”, “If I Die Tomorrow” and The Rolling Stones song. So I actually sang on “Sick Love Song”, I sang Vince Neil’s parts. Nikki and Tracii and I wrote 10 songs, and one of them was “Sick Love Song”, which was about my ex-wife actually. The chorus was originally a little bit different but Nikki changed up the chorus a bit. We all wrote those songs and “If I Die Tomorrow”, he collaborated with this other band, I forget what they are called. In the studio with Bob Rock, I sang all of Vince’s parts and then Vince came in and listened to what I did, and then copied me. They still use a lot of my background vocals particularly on those, not “Street Fighting” as much but “If I Die Tomorrow” and “Sick Love Song”, they use a lot of my vocals on that. I got a credit on it, it says backing vocals Scott Coogan. That’s all I got out of it.
I never noticed that
Scott Coogan: That’s all I got out of it.
But you got your name on the Motley album?
Scott Coogan: Yeah, I guess that’s how Nikki thinks, but it still doesn’t feed my son.
I have talked with John Corabi a couple of times and he also told a similar type of stories about working with Nikki.
Scott Coogan: He’s known for it, he’s known for it. Go in and write a vocal and I would go in and sing a part and come out and be like; that’s great. Have a song and publish it.
Then you hear it.
Scott Coogan: Then I hear it, yeah. When I went to the first Motley Crue re-union show at the Palladium in Hollywood, their first show, they were supposed to fly in a helicopter, but something happened to the helicopter. So they drove in a hearse, that’s where they put the coffins in. Anyway, I’m watching the show and they are playing “Sick Love Song,” and I hear my vocals come out. I heard my vocals come out of the PA and I just went; no way, you’ve got to be kidding me. I talked to Nikki about it and he just said something really, I’m not going to say what he said, but I think he said I have good karma or something like that, I’m super talented and I’m going to be fine or something like that. It still doesn’t feed my son. They were using my vocals live too and it just blew my mind, I was just like “wow”. I didn’t know how to feel, I was going to walk out but I didn’t. Nikki doesn’t really talk to me much anymore, probably because he knows how I feel about being treated like that. I actually saw him when I was on tour with Lita, when Motley and Kiss were playing that summer; we had two days off in St. Louis. Lita and I and the band went back stage to Nikki’s room when K.I.S.S. was playing and sat and talked. I hadn’t seen him in years, it was alright because the whole thing that went down between him and Tracii, he thinks that I am part of that; because of whatever they did I’m considered on that side too, which I’m not. I love Nikki, I love Tracii. I love London, it was a great band. Now he has Sixx: A.M., if all that shit didn’t go down, it probably would be The Brides. But shit went down and it went bad, but we knew he was getting back with Motley. There are some personal things that I won’t get into, why the things happened with Tracii and Nikki. That’s how DJ Ashba appeared. But yeah, it’s a great band that will never, ever play again together. There will never be another Brides, which is sad, but I have really fun memories and two records to listen to.
And you still have your name on a Motley album “Laughs.”
Scott Coogan: I have a name on the Motley album, yeah. Background vocals, Scott Coogan.
Motley Crue is now doing their Farewell tour. What do you think about it, is now a good time for them to say a final goodbye?
Scott Coogan: I think they are way past, they should have done it years ago. They should have done it years ago, but the money is there, they are still getting the money. So they should have quit, they probably should have quit after DR. FEELGOOD as far as I’m concerned. But it is what it is.
THE LAST WORDS
Our time seems to be up now. Anything more you want to say, other projects, bands or names you want to mention here?
Scott Coogan: In my home Las Vegas I have a recording studio. I’m getting back into song writing again, like my own stuff. I’ll be doing my own record, so that’s something to look forward to. Also on my time off, I will be doing 6 Foot Nurse, my Led Zeppelin covers band. I have Keith Robert on guitar and Sean Koos on bass. Sean’s out with Katrina & The Waves right now and he played with Joan Jett for years, and Keith does Ace Frehley in the K.I.S.S. band. He hasn’t done it in a while, but he’s a phenomenal player. We’re going to be doing some shows in Las Vegas, and we also have this big event coming up in August called K.I.S.S. Fest at Vamp’d; Stoney Curtis who plays in the Count’s band, Count’s 77, putting on some other guys. We have a band called Last of Kiss, its a three-piece and I sing lead for it all. I do the Gene; I do the Paul and play three guys. So that’s something to really look forward to, that’s in August at Vamp’d. Just doing my Zeppelin band, Ace, Blue Man Group and when we get the K.I.S.S. thing coming up and my own record. I’ve got my plate pretty full, which is the way I like to keep it.
Okay, maybe that was it by now?
Scott Coogan: Thank you so much, it was great to see you.
Yeah, it’s always nice to see you.
PICTURES OF ACE FREHLEY BAND: LIVE IN GRONA LUND, SWEDEN 2015