In early 2010, the Music Express office received a phone call from a Calgary-based lady called Susan Bullen asking if we were interested in reviewing the debut album of her daughter, lead singer of a new heavy metal band called Kobra And The Lotus.
She mentioned in our conversation that Kobra Paige was a major fan of Iron Maiden and that her vocals were not unlike a female Bruce Dickinson (Maiden’s lead vocalist). Mentioning that Maiden were personal friends of mine, I agreed to send a copy of Kobra And The Lotus’s debut “Out Of The Pit” record to Maiden’s manager, Rod Smallwood, who listened to the recording and gave it a positive endorsement.
Five years later and it seems Kobra And The Lotus are progressing nicely. Arriving back in Calgary for a quick pit stop before heading out on the road for a series of Western U.S dates before touring Europe for the umpteenth occasion, this time opening for Kamelot, Paige reports that after recording three studio albums and with a covers EP, about to be released August 28th, Kobra And The Lotus are taking baby steps towards international recognition.
For a band weaned on the likes of Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Motorhead, it seems strange that Kobra And The Lotus would release a five-song EP; “Words Of The Prophets” (produced by Johnny K) which is an ode to Canadian Classic Rock featuring covers of Alannah Myles’ “Black Velvet”, Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s “Let It Ride”, April Wine’s “Sign Of The Gypsy Queen”, Triumph’s “Lay It On The Line” and Rush’s “Spirit Of Radio”. However, Paige feels the release is a fitting tribute to music that heavily influenced her own musical development.
“The first music I think any of us heard growing up was classic rock, it was the stuff passed on to us by our parents, the stuff that dominated airplay,” explained Paige. “Those songs are the essence of nostalgia. Before I even got into heavy metal, I learned a lot from the musicianship of that period.”
The first single released off the EP by U.S based Titan Records, is a stylish cover of Alannah Myles’s Black Velvet with Paige portrayed as a sultry Marilyn Monroe-type siren. “Yes it’s a departure from my usual style of music but the video gave me a chance to stretch out and do something different. It was fun for me to do, but at the same time, I tried to keep the video tasteful, it’s my image to keep things classy.”
Since launching her band in 1992, Paige will be the first to admit that trying to get a heavy metal band off the ground in Calgary is an imposing task. “When major bands like Def Leppard and Rush come through, there’s always a big crowd but the underground scene for heavy metal in this city is virtually non-existent,” she notes.
Fortunately for Paige and her cohorts; Matt Van Wezel and Chris Swenson, Goddo front man and guitarist, Greg Godovitz, had relocated to Calgary and was looking for new talent to produce.
“With Greg, we were lucky enough to find someone who had experience as a performer and producer who just wanted to work with us. You need someone to give you that initial shot,” noted Paige. “We were totally green; we knew absolutely nothing about recording.
Godovitz started working with the band in the summer of 2009, new drummer Gene Kissack joining the band during the sessions, and Godovitz even got former Triumph guitarist, Rik Emmett to perform on the band’s only cover song off their ‘Out Of The Pit’ release, a revamp of Motorhead’s “Ace Of Spades”.
But while the tracks were being mixed, Kobra And The Lotus began touring across Canada and as she got accusomed to performing live, she noticed her vocals were changing. The band asked famed producer Kevin Shirley (Iron Maiden, Journey, Rush) to remix and remaster the tapes and another famous producer, Nick Blagona (Deep Purple) remastered and remixed the album’s final track “Legend”.
“Touring allowed me to develop a lot more power in my vocals, I started to find my natural voice,” acknowledge Paige. “You need that to deliver a power-packed set when you’re the opening act.”
The independent release, issued March 2010, received a positive reaction from Canadian campus radio and German heavy metal magazine, Metal Hammer featured Paige in their 2010 ”Maidens Of Metal” calendar.
Persistence by Paige’s Mom (Susan Bullen) brought demo tracks for the band’s second release, which had been recorded by producer Julius Batty, to the attention of Universal Records’ Mark Spiculuk who thought Kiss bassist Gene Simmons might be interested in the project for his new Simmons Records label. Simmons concurred but suggested the band write four more new songs and he pitched the project to famed producer Kevin Churka (Shania Twain, Ozzy Osbourne, Five Finger Death Punch) who agreed to serve as executive producer, remixing and remastering the entire record.
With Simmons’ stamp of approval , the self-titled Kobra And The Lotus record was released globally August 2012 and in North America in April 2013, receiving rave reviews from both England-based Kerrang and Germany’s Metal Hammer magazine.
Although Simmons wasn’t directly involved in the project, he was at the band’s disposal to evoke his own wealth of knowledge. “We had him at our disposal for any question, any time and he was happy to give us his opinions on just about anything,” noted Paige. “It was a big gift for him to provide us with so much experience.”
Yet even though Kobra And The Lotus has opened for the likes of Kiss, Def Leppard, Judas Priest, Buckcherry and Praying Mantis and appeared at a whole slew of prestigious festivals including the Download Festival at Donington Park in England, Italy’s Gods of Metal and Rock Im Ring in Germany, the band has only taken baby steps in creating an image for themselves internationally.
“Just because you are on a big show, doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve made it,” informed Paige. “It takes years and years of repetition in front of people’s faces to make an impact. We’ve played in front of 10,000 people at Graspop Metal Meeting in Belgium and then played in a club to 50 people the following night. After like 11 visits to the U.K we can depend on about 100-200 people showing up at any club gig. That just gives us a taste of how much touring we have to do for our organic audience to grow”
Paige admits that keeping a band lineup intact is one of her biggest challenges. Since launching the group in 1992, she has already gone through six original members with only guitarist Jusio Kulakowski and bassist Brad Kennedy serving as permanent members. Adam Brown is currently serving as a guest drummer (replacing Bones Elias who played on the Ep) and Bill Hudson is currently filling in on second guitar but Paige knows her band will struggle without permanent, full time members. “It’s so frustrating when you constantly have to worry about lineup changes,” she observed. “It’s an on-going problem keeping the band together but both Jusio and Brad are committed so that helps.”
Signed to New York-based Titan Records which released the band’s third album, `High Priestess’ in June 2014, and recorded in Chicago by noted producer Johnny K (Megadeth, Three Doors Down) , the record entered the CMJ Loud charts at No.4. “The only other artist Titan has on its roster is Bon Jovi guitarist Ritchie Sambora so its great that with such a small roster, we feel we are getting a lot of attention,” observed Paige. “And with a New York-based booking agency (TKO Entertainment) working with us, we are getting a chance to tour in the United States.”
Kobra And The Lotus are currently completing a string of nine Western U.S dates through August in places like Salt Lake City, San Francisco, Denver, Phoenix and Las Vegas before heading overseas to perform a 19-date European tour with Kamelot in September and October which includes dates in Germany, France, Holland, italy, Switzerland, Lithuania and Scandinavia.
“We are working really hard, touring as much as possible, ” concludes Paige. “ We have gained a lot of experience but we are still in a very `baby steps’ stage when we look at all the work we still have to do.”
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