Kobra Paige (Kobra and the Lotus)
The interview with Kobra Paige (vocals) was a trip down memory lane! We chat about her journey with the band, her connection to India, and the deeper meaning behind the new music. Prevail I from Kobra and the Lotus will be out May 12, 2017.
HBI: Hi, I’m Stefan and I’ll be Interviewing you on behalf on Headbangers India.
KP: Awesome, so that’s for India? That is really cool.
KP: Love it! My family has been to India quite frequently throughout my life and it was a place that was close to my mother’s heart. In fact, many of my metal shirts came from the markets there.
HBI: Ah, that’s amazing!
KP: Yeah, so I know there’s a big scene there, I saw the Iron Maiden documentary.
HBI: Cool, actually I’m just going to send you a photo or two that you might find funny.
KP: Ohhh my God! Wow! Are those from you?
HBI: I was there front row, I think 2009.
KP: Wow, thank you, that is unreal.
HBI: Those were some of your first shows wasn’t it? Blast from the past!
KP: No kidding! (laughs)
HBI: It’s been 8 years now, so from Kobra back then to Kobra now, tell me a little bit about the journey.
KP: I believe that everything in terms of the music and performance has evolved and improved tremendously, which is a natural course of action. That’s the main thing, but also the sound has been evolving for KATL, it’s been a constant journey to distinguish what our sound is and what makes us unique and every album got us a little closer to that.
HBI: Did you ever feel back then you would reach this stage with the band?
KP: No I didn’t think we would reach here. I remember when we first got recognition it was Metal Hammer UK and I thought ‘Wow, maybe we could really try this.” It’s crazy because I feel that every time we get a little bit further, we are at the beginning of a new phase. It’s wild!
HBI: I had a chance to listen to the new album and you’re right in that the sound has evolved so much, and I’d love for you to tell us a bit more about it. And even from the cover art aspect.
KP: Absolutely. So you heard the EP of the classic rock covers? We did that EP and I got this crazy idea that the next album was going to be 70s style as best we could in the way that I wanted the band to be located in an isolated area where we would be together until the whole project was written. It was a completely new way of writing for KATL, usually we would come prepared to the studio with the songs pretty much ready like our previous albums. This time we came to the studio with a ton of ideas but no songs really. Jacob didn’t even think I was serious when I suggested this! He thought it was absurd but then we wrote for the first month that we were in Denmark and it was predominantly me and Jasio and another writer named Mark, and Jacob and Jake, the other guitarist with us, that were coming forward with the ideas for the music. Jacob, I had a feeling he was going to help us freshen our sound, which was really what I was looking for because we have been traditional metal, but it doesn’t separate us apart in our generation. We still needed to hone in on it and they really helped us figure out to break out of old patterns. The lyrical content is very directly tied to the album name and cover. It’s the most vulnerable lyrical content I’ve written, and it’s because I really wanted to be able to express myself at this level and have people relate to it with their own experiences. A lot of real stuff in there and this resulted in different dynamics in my voice that I used before.
HBI: Right from the first song I noticed that, it’s great!
KP: Dynamic – That’s how our lives are, there are so many positives and negatives, joy and grieving. The mandala represents a human being at the start completely untouched, it’s the circle of life. Innocent and untarnished. The second album will be the tarnishment after life. So this is going to be a testament for everyone to keep prevailing through everything that they go through and hopefully it will give some people strength as well.
HBI: Both albums came out of these sessions then?
KP: Yes, both came out at the same time finished and mastered. Napalm suggested to split it up because 2 full-length albums is a little much for people. I think the material will be better appreciated this way with a staggered release.
HBI: Did you go in with the idea of a double album?
KP: It’s funny, this idea came from my father. He made a throwaway comment one day that I should do a double album. He was listening to a podcast with Bruce Dickinson saying how this generation doesn’t do that anymore. Mostly the fear is what I was thinking about, keeping up the quality of the music across two albums. I really put that idea down quickly but a week later it was still resonating in my head and I’m very competitive with myself. I felt that we could actually do this. I remember telling Jasio and he was like, “I don’t know about that”, but we got there and just did it!
HBI: Thanks to your dad then!
KP: One crazy idea which ended being so much more.
HBI: At what point did you decide to follow your passion for music?
KP: It was actually earlier than the photos from 2009, I remember I was 21. It was almost 8 years ago now. When Out of the Pit came out that was a turning point. I couldn’t spread my time out between school, so I needed to put my effort into one thing. I was really fortunate to have supportive parents and said that I should do this now because you can’t do it when you’re older. They were fine with me dropping out of university and going for it!
HBI: Great to have that support. You mentioned having to leave university, what other sacrifices did you make along the way?
KP: It is stressful and scary because the biggest problem, even as we’re growing, is the financial burden. We’re not at a big enough level to break even, but we have to have faith and that I can figure it all out and this has to stop someday otherwise it’s not going to be manageable to keep putting myself in debt. I can see things shifting now, and it’s the most challenging for the band to support it than it’s ever been, which is very ironic. I was thinking about it the other day if this was for a lot of bands when they turn a corner finally when they can manage things a little better if it’s the most challenging point in not giving up. There’s a lot of opportunities but I’m thinking “How the hell are we going to get ourselves over there?”
HBI: So what then defines success to you personally?
KP: I would already define our band as successful, in that it has got the message out for people and it’s mattered for people in a big way. Ultimately, I just want to do this because I’m passionate and really want to bring some light into the world in a way that I can. I think music is incredibly important for the world. The other side of it that we haven’t reached is the band being able to cover expenses while we’re on the road. What needs to happen is that we need to start breaking even, so that part of ‘success’ hasn’t happened yet. From what I can hear from other people’s experiences, this happens. It’s the illusion of how it seems when someone is on the stage, they seem like they have a lot more than they actually have in their real lives. It’s more glamorous from the outside.
HBI: I think that’s true for a lot of professions, or even people that you might see in your day-to-day life. You put on a brave face doing what it is you do, but there’s always struggles. In a way, it’s part of the human experience.
KP: Absolutely, you have to hang in there for things to happen. I know that doesn’t just relate to the arts, but definitely right now facing the fact that this is getting tough.
HBI: I like that this ties into the idea of the album – to ‘prevail’.
KP: Yes, it does! And it’s for everyone.
HBI: You’ve been in the industry for almost a decade, can you share some of the worst advice you’ve heard?
KP: (laughs) probably the worst advice was a manager of a big band telling me that I needed to lose ten pounds to be successful.
KP: Yeah! That was pretty unreal… I was thinking like “OK, I don’t even know what to say to that” (laughs). That’s the problem with marketing sometimes.
HBI: I’m sure you’ve had questions about how it’s like to be a woman in a male-dominated industry, but have you fought back against some of these perceptions?
KP: I have actually. It’s interesting to look at those photos you showed me. You can see me trying to find my identity and comfort in myself and being a woman. Once we started to get a little more acknowledgement and get exposure on tours, I started to cover my body more and more. Sometimes I’d get people asking if I’m the merch girl (laughs). It’s changing and you’re starting to see a lot of bands with women. It’s becoming more normalized to accept that but I definitely went through a wave of figuring out what I was comfortable with and what I wanted people to focus their attention on. Even now, I’ve gone through another phase where I’m embracing my body again but want to show it in a way that is tasteful for my personality. I don’t feel like I should be covering myself now, so that mentality changed.
HBI: Do you have any pre-show rituals?
KP: Oh! Well, I always actually chant a prayer in Tamil because I grew up with that as I was saying with my mother’s love for India. Just a prayer saying I surrender to the divine mother and the universe and that for me has been my ritual, besides vocal warmups and fist bump with all the guys. And it’s in Tamil which I guess is not very typical.
HBI: Any requests for the audience or parting words?
KP: I have a dream to come to India with the band some day in the near future. I think its and unbelievable country that has such a rich culture, I would love to have the guys experience that. Much love and gratitude to everyone who is supporting live bands today, including ours.
HBI: Thank you. Where can we find you online?
HBI: Thanks, this has been a great interview!