Ron Coolen and the All-Star Recording of RISE
Ron Coolen and the All-Star Recording of RISE
Ron Coolen is a dynamic multi-instrumentalist truly breaking free and living the rock and roll dream. Being part of bands an entire career, it was time to create what would turn on to be the solo project of a lifetime. RISE is the name of Ron Coolen’s debut endeavor, and it’s a masterwork of epic proportions, In addition to Ron’s extraordinary instrumental performances, RISE features the particpation an absolutely inspirational musicians. Featured within the grooves of the RISE experience are massive talents such as George Lynch of Lynch Mob, Keith St. John of Burning Rain, Christopher Amott from Arch Enemy, Göran Edman from Yngwie Malmsteen’s band and many more! All this, and a portion of the proceeds from RISE goes to support the ongoing medical expenses of the legendary Jason Becker. Read on as Highwire Daze discusses with Ron Coolen the making of the gripping auditory journey known as RISE…
Where are you based out of and what is the local music scene like there?
I am based out of the Netherlands, there is a very lively music scene over here, at least until a few weeks ago. For the last couple of years, there has been a huge increase of the ‘tribute and cover’-bands scene. For the average musician, playing covers is the only way to earn at least a little bit of money. The live scene for bands playing original music is relatively small. I guess that most original music is now played in dark and dusty bedrooms and cellars we call home studios nowadays. There are so many musicians recording their own music at home, which is a good thing. It is what I did too. But we should not forget that music is really played in a rehearsal room and on stages!
Is there any overall story or concept behind the Rise album title?
Oh yeah for sure, there’s this long story behind it of a young kid that dreamed of writing his own songs, releasing his own album and becoming world famous. Now, 40 years later, the first part of that dream is reality with the release of RISE. The last decades I was this family man with a nice career in corporate life, and playing music as an expensive hobby. So 3 years ago I decided to go for that album, and worked my ass off for 24/365 in getting it done. Releasing this album was my personal RISE from the ashes of corporate life, moving into a new world. You see that in the artwork too, with the phoenix-type of guy on the cover.
Select two songs from Rise and what inspired the lyrics.
The 2 songs that have the most significance from a lyrical perspective are Paradise and Too late to Surrender. The Paradise song is a tribute to the victims of the Campfire in California in November 2018. Despite the size of this devastation, this was just a footnote in the Dutch media at that time. When I did some investigation and saw the incredible videos on YouTube from people on the run from the fire, it just grabbed me by the throat, it was so sad to see and decided to write a song about it. The people of Paradise suffer from this for the rest of their lives, while the rest of the world went back to normal weeks later. The song Paradise is for the people of Paradise, they should never be forgotten.
Too late to Surrender is about the dramatic event on the Las Vegas Strip on October 1, 2017, when Stephen Paddock killed 58 people and wounded hundreds, while shooting on the crowd of the Route 91 Harvest Festival. Just incredible to see that it is possible in this world to drag in more than 20 automatic weapons into the Mandalay Bay hotel, and then shoot for 10 minutes on the crowd who were just sitting ducks. How the hell can you think of such an act of evil? This song is to pay tribute to the victims of the shooting who are scarred for life, they should never be forgotten, just like the people of Paradise.
How did Keith St. John of Burning Rain and Thorsten Koehne of Eden’s Curse become involved with recording the first single Big Devil Data? Keith also appears on many of the other songs as well…
When I had finished the music of the song Paradise I knew it needed a classical rock voice with a lot of emotional layers. To me Keith was the perfect candidate, I knew his Burning Rain albums, and I wanted to have the Keith of Out in the cold again of the Epic Obsession album. So I just chased Keith and his management and he decided to go for it, after listening to the song. A month later we met in person when Keith did a small acoustic tour in Europe with Doug Aldrich. We got along great and we agreed to 2 more songs: Big Devil Data and Too late to Surrender. Months later we agreed to do an additional 3 songs. The cooperation with Keith just grew song by song. It was incredible to work with Keith. He was very dedicated, and committed to the whole project, an awesome professional!
Thorsten Koehne got on board towards the end of the recordings. I was not happy with my own guitar solo on the song Big Devil Data and decided to replace it with a better one. Thorsten had helped me in the past with some charity work I did for Jason Becker, and he was more than happy to play one, and he did an amazing job too!
How did the legendary George Lynch become involved with the album and did he live up to his nickname Mr. Scary?
George is one of my heroes of all time, and he was top of my wishlist, but unfortunately he never responded to my emails. But it was Keith who helped me out, as he is one of the singers in Lynch Mob. Keith did some mediation and just weeks later George had played his parts. It is still beyond my imagination that I have George Lynch on RISE!……. Minutes after he submitted his guitar solo, he rang me up (it was in the middle of the night in Holland): ‘hey Ron, George here, please be critical man, tell me if you don’t like the solo and I’ll do it again’…… Ha ha can you imagine? Mr. Scary? Well, I would say on the contrary. He was just the nicest guy. Modest, humble, down to earth….. the greatest personality!
How did Göran Edman from Yngwie Malmsteen and Brazen Abbott become involved with Rise and what was it like working with him?
As for all the songs, I tried to find the right musician for the right song. I was critical, although there are thousands of incredible musicians, by far not everyone will be able to lift a song to another level. The vocal melody of Selfishness was already written by the singer of the AC/DC Tribute band I was in, so there was a clear idea of what was expected of the singer. This song was a perfect fit for Göran. I love his work in Yngwie Malmsteen and Madison, so I just asked him, he often does these kind of contributions. He was a pure professional to work with! Amazing singing, open for suggestions, and delivering on time.
How did Christopher Amott from Arch Enemy become involved with Rise?
Christopher and I go back a while to 2009 when I hosted a radio show here in Holland. For this show I followed Arch Enemy some years and Chris and I became friends. When he left the band and moved to New York we always kept in touch, and we always meet when Chris is in Europe. At one of these occasions in 2018, when he was touring Europe with Dark Tranquillity, Chris offered to do a guest solo for Kill Kill Kill. Chris did the first guest solo of the album, and for me that was the tipping point where it became really serious and I was confident enough this could end up as a great record.
Tell me about how your album is supporting Jason Becker and what kind of influence he has had on you as a musician over the years?
For every album sold I donate 1 USD to Jason Becker. His medical support costs are huge and increasing so this is the least I can do to help him out. I have been a Jason Becker fan since day 1, and I just felt so sorry for him when he was diagnosed with ALS, right at the moment he had everything going! He was just steps away from “super stardom” when he joined the David Lee Roth band replacing Steve Vai. I have done Charity work for Jason in the past. In 2008 I raised money by auctioning a large number of memorabilia donated by fellow musicians, and in 2011 I was involved with the organization of the Jason Becker Not Dead yet Festival in Haarlem (Netherlands). There was just an insane bill with players like Michael Lee Firkins, Guthrie Govan, Atma Anur who played for 6 hours that night, Kiko Loureiro, Stuart Hamm, Stephan Forte (who plays on RISE too) and too many more to mention…
Who did the cover art for Rise and how much input did you have on it?
A young Greek guy called Jor Art Designs has done all the artwork. He was recommended to me be a band he had worked for. I just gave him input on my story behind the album, and this is how he translated that into an image. He came up with the phoenix idea, and the birds representing the guest musicians. Great job, right?
What has it been like to release a new album right in the middle of a worldwide pandemic?
Well, I had been preparing the album launch for many months, since I am doing all promotion myself. And then 2 weeks after the official launch, this pandemic hits the world. Yeah, it is strange, and things have changed. Radio studios closed, magazines postpone next issues etc. So there is definitely an impact on the promotional side, although I still spend significant time on it every day. To make the best of the situation, I have started writing new songs, the time is right now, as musicians have a lot of time available. I got some very cool co-operations coming up again! So we deal with it in the best possible way.
Will you be doing any live shows to support this amazing album – maybe with Keith St John?
Keith and I have actually discussed the option of playing live together, and I had started to work on this idea, until the pandemic shut everything down. I am sure we will pick up the idea again once the opportunity is there. Of course, the ultimate dream would be to play the whole album with all 12 guests, but just thinking of the logistical and financial challenges gives me a headache already ha ha ha…..
Are you currently involved with any other bands outside of solo project?
Not anymore, I recently resigned from the AC/DC coverband I was in, so I can focus completely on my own music. As mentioned I am writing new songs again, and will probably release them as bonus tracks later in the year. Also there’s still loads of promotional work to do for RISE this year, some singles to be released, and I plan to do a second album….. so there’s no time left for any other project now.
Any final words of wisdom?
Don’t want to sound like a wise guy, ha ha ha….. but I have lived my dream by releasing this album. This is what I had always wanted, and I did it. I can recommend anyone to live your dream too, go for it! If i can do it, you can too!
Anyway, I really hope people will take the time and listen to my album, start to finish. That would be my ultimate reward.
Thank you so much Ken for the opportunity to speak to you and present RISE to your readers!
RISE features 12 guest musicians of absolute top notch level: George Lynch, Keith St. John, Christopher Amott, Göran Edman, Stéphan Forté, Joey Concepcion, Thorsten Koehne, Chris Clancy, Johannes Persson, Daniël Verberk, Steve Lamb and Sam Walters.
(Interview by Ken Morton)
Ron Coolen Official Home Page