RATED X – Getting Back Their Crown
Rated X (l-r): Tony Franklin, Carmine Appice, Joe Lynn Turner and Karl Cochran
Serafino Perugino – founder of Naples, Italy-based rock label Frontiers Records – contacted erstwhile Rainbow and Deep Purple vocalist Joe Lynn Turner with a view to the frontman being part of a group whose members all boasted marquee value. This led to the formation of the provisionally titled Legacy X, the quartet’s existence being revealed during December 2013. Later, the quartet dubbed themselves Rated X.
“Serafino just said ‘We really need to put a great band around you to showcase your talents, instead of doing all of these projects and stuff,’” Joe remembers. “Even though they were all great musicians, he wanted to have some name people with marquee value and all that. I said ‘Yeah, sure, it sounds good,’ but I was on tour most of the time. As you know, nowadays the paradigm has shifted, and the only way we can make any money is by live. You can’t make any money through CDs any more really, and earning 69¢ through Spotify is not gonna feed the family. You’ve gotta get out and actually hit the stage, so I was really concentrating on touring, which was very, very lucrative, thank you. I’m very blessed for that.
“I was home for two weeks, and I got a call from the New York Frontiers office. That was from Derek Shulman, to say that Carmine Appice was there (drummer for Vanilla Fudge and Cactus, among others). He said that he’d like to be in it, and I said ‘That’d be perfect. That’s great.’ Then it was said ‘Let’s see whether we can get Tony Franklin (bassist for The Firm, among others) on bass.’ He said ‘Yeah, I’ll contact him,’ and it kind of sprung from there. It grew from there. I think what’s interesting is we went through five guitar players until we finally finished the album, one of the reasons being is that the lead guitar player we finally settled on… Which is a very, very good friend of mine. He’s worked with me writing, playing, live, and in the studio on my solo projects. That was Karl Cochran, but he suffered a stroke seven tracks into the album, which is heartbreaking – still is. We’re doing benefits for him and all these other things now to raise money for his healthcare, so it’s quite a story this Rated X album, with all the things that we went through besides Karl’s accident shall we say.
“We were just super-happy at how it came out, because I think that we have a passion on it that is unrivalled by many bands today. That’s the short story. If you want the longer story in more depth and detail then I can do that, because we started with Bruce Kulick (of Grand Funk Railroad, and formerly of Kiss) on guitars. Then we had Jeff Watson (of Mother’s Army, and formerly of Night Ranger), and then this guy called Alex came in and cut a few tracks, but we said ‘No, that’s no good.’ Karl came in, and he was just brilliant. Nikolo Kotzev from Brazen Abbott had to finish the album, and he did it very graciously for no money, because we had absolutely no budget left or anything. It was really a labour of love doing this record. Everybody pulled together. Sort of like one guy goes down in the team, the rest of the team stands up, and pushes through. It was a lot of intense desire and heartfelt feelings on this record.”
Rated X notwithstanding, as a human being one has to query as to the current health of axeman Karl Cochran. “Thank you,” the Rated X mainman responds. “Thank you for asking. He had the stroke on the left side of the brain, and that affects paralysis on the right side of the body. It also affects cognitive speech, so his speech is not so good. With the right side of his body, he’s no longer using a cane to walk. He’s limping, but he’s walking. He can lift his right arm up to his shoulder, and with his right hand he can kind of spread the fingers. That’s remarkable, because most patients only have a six-month window to make progress, and he’s been making progress right along. We’re hoping that by the end of the six months, he’s going to be really doing well – even better – because he’s using not only conventional medicines as we say, but also Reiki energy healing, which is a form of acupuncture and is holistic. He’s working very hard; he’s incredibly determined to be fit again.
“There are stories of people with his exact condition that have returned to normalcy, so we are praying to God very deeply. A lot of people are coming forward to the benefits that we are creating and raising money for healthcare, because as you know, healthcare is shit nowadays. We’re doing a good job, here. He’s overwhelmed with love and purpose. I’ll tell him you asked about him, because that gives him a positive attitude. He’s very interested in what’s happening with the CD; he just smiles, and it gives him a strong will. So, thank you. Thank you for asking.”
The majority of individuals in the United Kingdom are unfamiliar with medical bills, given the existence of the National Health Service. “Oh boy,” Joe laughs. “I was just looking at a program this morning on the internet about the NHS, and how profiteering is now taking over instead of health for the actual population. It’s just unconscionable what’s happening in the world. Healthcare is absolutely crap here. I just think there’s gonna be revolution as Russell Brand is running around and screaming about, because we need it. We need the people to stand up, and we’ve got to change things. The world is in pretty bad shape.”
Each of Rated X’s members boast extensive CVs, developing specific qualities in building those aforementioned CVs. “I have to tell you…,” the singer begins. “Professionalism, perfectionism, passion, technical abilities. These guys… I mean, when you listen to this album and start to listen in to the album, you can hear Tony and Carmine just burning. The way I see it and the way I hear it is that all of the players are shining in their own light, and they’re all doing what they do subtly, but it’s all together. I mean this above and beyond any normal situation. It’s almost like what Led Zeppelin used to do. It’s a very lame comparison – I don’t mean to compare the two – but the feeling that Zep used to have was that they stuck out as individuals, yet they came together as a band. What Bonham was doing was just amazing, and then you had Page (Jimmy Page, guitars), John Paul Jones (bassist), and Planty (Robert Plant, vocals). Unbelievable, and they were all shining. That’s what Tony does really well.
“We had roughly an hour’s conversation about that, and he said ‘I don’t just play dah-de-dah-dah.’ He said ‘I move you,’ and if you listen in, Tony is just moving all over the place but yet still in the groove. Then Carmine was doing it. At first I thought it was going to be what we call too busy, but it’s not. It just adds to the excitement and to the drama of each song, which makes the album as a whole a listening experience. I’m very proud of it, because your question was ‘What does each one bring to the table?’ Listening to it, it’s unbelievable. It just brings the heart and soul of everything together. I’m very proud of everybody. In this situation that we’re in to make this record, they all came shining through.”
In addition, Rated X’s moniker acknowledges the prolific histories of each respective member. “We were trying to find a name for the band,” Joe recalls. “We all said ‘C’mon. we’re all pretty much seasoned veterans here,’ and we don’t wanna be called some animal being – Def Leppard, or White Tiger, or any of these silly things. In my opinion, that’s passé. We said ‘Well, okay. What could we be? What represents our integrity, but at the same time, what represents our rock ’n’ roll attitude?’ We started just talking on a conference call, and I said ‘We’re all ex-members of bands; we’re all ex-wives. We have all lived the rated X life.’ They went ‘That’s it, yeah. Rated X,’ and I said ‘Yeah, I think we’re all rated X.’
“We laughed about it, because we said how if we chose Rated X as a name, we were gonna get a lot of people looking for something else (laughs). I said ‘Well, what’s wrong with that? That sounds like rock ’n’ roll to me’ (laughs). I also said ‘Besides, nowadays merchandising is important. If you went to a festival and only had £10 or something, what T-shirt would you buy? Would you buy a generic shirt, or would you buy a Rated X shirt?’ Everybody’s gotta love the bad boy, you know, and you would probably wear a shirt that says ‘Rated-X’. It all just came together. We had some controversy about it, but you know what? To hell with it. That’s who we are, that’s what we feel, and it’s kind of catchy and kind of cool.”
Producer Alessandro Del Vecchio aided in the penning of compositions. “Alessandro is a very talented guy,” the lyricist credits. “He said ‘Joe, I’m gonna be writing riffs and songs that I feel will be very good for your voice style-wise,’ and I said ‘Okay.’ I had a bunch of stuff that I was saving for a solo album, as well. We just put our heads together. The guys went in and started to kind of play together, but what happened was, it really came out as more of a jam. I said ‘Look, what we have here are good ideas, but what we need is an album’s worth of songs, and in the context of those songs we wanna create some bits that are more like jams. Bass solos, going into drum solos, coming out into guitar solos.’ That’s what we did, and that’s what the style is of Rated X. Pretty much on almost every song, we have these different bits.
“We started to look more into shall we say accessible listening, but yet with a rock edge, commercial edge, or accessible edge. As soon as we started writing, I had songs written, and I wrote a few more during the time period. For example, ‘You Are The Music’ came out because I had a demo of it with my Swedish pals who co-wrote it. It was for a friend of mine that had died, basically. It was an anthem, actually. I wrote it to give to his mother and father. I played it to the guys, and they went ‘We’ve gotta have that.’ His mother and father got the original version, and they were honoured for us to do it and put it on the record. Then we realised that this was an anthem for anyone who loves music, for anyone whose music is their life, who was touched at that one point in their life – as music often does. I would say that for me and myself, and I follow that path to this very day. We had to put it on the album, and I think it came out as a classic piece really.
“We all pulled together. Tony wrote some of the lyrics, and there were some lyrics that Alessandro might’ve had or that I might’ve had. We started to compare which ones we liked better, which had more purpose and meaning. We pretty much made this a band project, and I have to explain the word ‘project’ because it’s not a project. It’s a project that the band did. We are a band, make no mistake. We want to be a band, and there are difficulties today being a band, one of them being getting your music listened to. Now you may say that the internet takes care of that, but no it doesn’t. There are millions of guys out there that have songs on the internet, and nobody ever hears them. We have the advantage of having this name value so we’ve got a better chance than most, but our agents have been running into problems getting live dates because the promoters have been going ‘We don’t know how they sound.’
“So yeah, the album is out, and everyone will finally know how we sound. I think they’ll be clamouring for us to play live, so it’s just a waiting game. This band is a band, and we were all really committed to being a band from the very beginning, which is why we went through five guitar players. Bruce Kulick couldn’t make the commitment, Jeff Watson couldn’t make the commitment. Karl did make the commitment, but we all know his story, and we hope he comes back. Nikolo Kotzev from Brazen Abbott will be our guitar player until Karl comes back, but we know that for Karl it’s gonna be a long road to recovery. We put Karl on the cover as well, because he deserves it. I’m surprised to say that these guys are real human beings, and that the egos were totally under control. That’s one of the pre-requisites for this group, is that everybody has to leave their egos at the door. It’s not 1980. That’s who we are. We’re just regular guys trying hard to make some great music, which I think is sorely needed in this environment today.
Lead cut ‘This Is Who I Am’ was co-authored with Stockholm, Sweden-based friend Chris Antblad. “I had the intention of writing about this woman that I was involved with, about women who at first get with you and then they want to change you,” Joe reveals. “I’m sure you’ve been through that – as we all have – but then I felt that this was a much broader song. The chorus was much bigger than that, so we needed to make this song for every individual that wants to remain an individual, that wants to maintain their identity and is sick and tired of anybody, or society, or government, or church, or anyone telling us what to do and who we’re supposed to be.
“This is an anthem for anyone who wants to stand up, and say ‘I’m me. This is who I am, this is what I stand for, and this is what I’ll always be. You’re not gonna take that from me; you’re not gonna take my dream away from me. You’re not gonna take away what I believe in.’ I loved the part where we came up with the lyric which said ‘There’s always something on your mind, but you’ve never got anything to say and they’re not gonna listen to you anyway.’ It’s an anthem, and then we have something like ‘Lhasa’, which is completely spiritual. I think that’s gonna be a classic cut that needs to be in the annals of rock history, because if you hear that song, it’s just enormous, it’s heavy and it’s deep, and the middle section is like Pink Floyd.
“If you look at ‘Fire And Ice’, that’s an apocalyptic song about the end of the world, which could be any day now. I mean, I’m not trying to be an alarmist, but people keep doing what they’re doing. We’re destroying each other – it’s just unconscionable – so the apocalypse is not as far away as everybody thinks. Then you take ‘Maybe Tonight’ for example, an AOR, kind of commercial type of hit in my opinion. All the guys said ‘Yeah, this is a really commercial song,’ and so then they said ‘No, we’re gonna heavy it up, rock it up.’ I said ‘Great.’ That’s a great song for AOR radio that was actually written for my wife. So yeah, there are all different kinds of things on there.”
Each members’ parts weren’t recorded in the same location. “That’s very interesting,” the vocalist comments. “It sounds like it. In my opinion, it sounds like we were live. This record’s got so much spark and fire, and everyone’s playing so together that it sounds like we were in the same room at the same time. In fact, it’s very close to sounding live in a way, in sections. I think that when you listen to it, there’s so much excitement in it that it does sound live, but no. We were never in the same room at the same time, ever. The only thing that really influenced us and helped us and assisted us was technology – Skype, for one.
“You could go on Skype while Tony’s gotten a bass part for example, and we’d go ‘Oh, it’s great. Leave that bit.’ He’d go ‘Alright,’ or we’d go ‘Don’t do that bit. Do this bit,’ and then he’d send the file. We’d listen, and then we’d call him back or whatever and say ‘Try this bit.’ Most of the time we didn’t have to do that though, because he just played brilliantly. We’d just say ‘That’s it.’ It’s got a lot of big fire and enthusiasm. Everybody’s playing your heart out, but remarkably, no. No-one was in the same room at the same time, and we certainly didn’t have the budget for it. This was a very low budget record, and yet despite that, I think we came out with something really wonderful.”
Rated X’s members have been around for a number of years, yet the Rated X platter shows that the veterans arguably still have plenty to offer. “Yeah, it does,” Joe agrees. “I mean, we’re all seasoned geezers here (laughs). We play like we’re 19 years old and that’s a lesson for everyone, that music has no age. Music is forever, and we really believe that. Music keeps you young; it keeps you going, as witnessed by this record. Live, I just think we’re gonna kill people. One journalist asked me ‘Can you do this live?,’ and I said ‘Yeah.’ There are no tricks on this album, or any production values on this album. It’s straight ahead; it’s five guys playing. It’s a five-guy classic rock band, and we can duplicate anything that we did live no problem.”
Rated X plan to perform its debut effort live. “That’s what we’re working on, is trying to get shows,” the frontman discloses. “I think it’ll catch fire – I’m hoping so, anyway – and then the promoters will gladly put us on for festivals. As you know and as I know, these dates are usually booked six months in advance. It’s a struggle, but we are coming out – we do have some festivals. We do have some dates, and agents are working on this right now. Fingers crossed.”
Rated X concert setlists will naturally include the members’ best known material from yesteryear. “That’s one thing that the promoters were asking, is ‘Are they gonna do some of their hits?,’” Joe shares. “We thought that that would be a good idea to represent each member, and do songs from each of our careers. Believe me, that would be a delight I think for the fans, because you go right around the band, and it makes for a very eclectic kind of set – for me to do some Rainbow, Purple, for Tony to do some The Firm, or… He’s been in all of these other bands, like Blue Murder with Carmine. Carmine’s got a really great but heavy version of ‘Do Ya Think I’m Sexy’ by Rod Stewart (from November 1978’s Blondes Have More Fun), which he co-wrote. You might laugh at that, but it’s a heavy version. We actually did it at the Rock ’N Recovery benefit in New York for Karl, and it’s terrific. It’s like a heavy metal version (laughs). So yeah, we’re gonna be doing some of that as well.”
Material has already been authored in support of a second Rated X outing. “We’ve already started writing material, absolutely,” the mainman confirms. “Not only us, but our counterparts who are great writers from Sweden, and Nicolo is writing. Karl’s got some stuff, I’ve got stuff already, and Tony – Carmine too. Carmine writes; he co-wrote ‘Do Ya Think I’m Sexy’, so it’s really a group effort. It’s really all of us, and our counterparts who are pitching in to make this the best that it could possibly be. We all believe in it so much.”
Rated X aside, Joe intends to musically take a back-seat for a while. “Right now, I’m taking some time off to just rest and be a person again instead of a road dog,” he explains. “I’ve been working on the road for a very long time, and enjoying it really. Taking some personal time. There are other businesses that I’m interested in outside of music, so I’m working on that – sort of to diversify myself. Working on Karl’s recovery; we’re doing these benefits like I said, and that kind of thing. I would like to take a short vacation somewhere, a holiday – that’d be nice. I really am trying to take a breather here right now. There are always things in the fire – different projects that are being offered, and all that – but I’m just trying to put them on the back-burner right now. I’m really concentrating on Rated X, and I hope it does very well. So far so good, and of course there’s always the Rainbow reunion (laughs). Always. The completely rumoured, long-awaited Rainbow reunion. You never know with Ritchie (Blackmore, guitarist and Rainbow founder), so we’ll see if that happens.”
Many Rainbow fans are clamouring for a reunion. To put things into perspective, inaugural Rainbow frontman Ronnie James Dio succumbed to stomach cancer at the age of 67 in May 2010 – over four years ago. Should Rainbow wish to reunite, time isn’t on their side, and so a potential reunion would have to arguably take place sooner rather than later.
“Yeah,” Joe concurs. “In my opinion, for Rainbow it would be one last shot and then going out in a blaze of glory so to speak. I think the fans deserve it, and to honour all of the members of Rainbow, past and present. I always feel that in my sets, I play Rainbow, Purple, and things like that because no-one else is doing it. I play Ronnie’s songs and all that stuff, Graham’s (Graham Bonnet, Rainbow vocalist from 1979 until 1980) whatever – I have no compunction about doing that material. I think it’s all a part of the legacy, and that we should do it willingly as singers of the same band. I know Graham’s still out there doing it as well, and Doogie (White, Rainbow vocalist from 1994 until 1997) in his own way. It’s a big family.”
Rated X was released on November 7th, 2014 in Europe and subsequently on the 10th in North America, all via Frontiers Records.
Interview published in November 2014.
Related Posts via Categories
- AVENGED SEVENFOLD – As They Like It (January 2017) | Features / Interviews @ Metal Forces Magazine
- DEVILMENT – Waltzing Under The Thunder (November 2016) | Features / Interviews @ Metal Forces Magazine
- PHIL CAMPBELL AND THE BASTARD SONS – Taking Aim (November 2016) | Features / Interviews @ Metal Forces Magazine
- IN FLAMES – Underneath Their Skin (November 2016) | Features / Interviews @ Metal Forces Magazine
- HAMMERFALL – Hammering High (November 2016) | Features / Interviews @ Metal Forces Magazine
- GRAHAM BONNET BAND – The Next Chapter (November 2016) | Features / Interviews @ Metal Forces Magazine
- DEMON – Turning On The Magic (October 2016) | Features / Interviews @ Metal Forces Magazine
- TESTAMENT – Ruling The Den (October 2016) | Features / Interviews @ Metal Forces Magazine
- BRANT BJORK – Luvin’ Stoner Life (October 2016) | Features / Interviews @ Metal Forces Magazine
- OPERATION: MINDCRIME – Taking On The Music World (October 2016) | Features / Interviews @ Metal Forces Magazine