Redlight King Frontman Kaz Talks Debut Album, Neil Young + More
Redlight King have been heating up airwaves with their single ‘Bullet in My Hand’ off of their album ‘Something for the Pain.’
The band also got the okay to sample Neil Young’s classic ‘Old Man’ for their own song by the same name. With two notable singles under their belt, it’s no wonder that the band are touring with artists like Everlast.
Loudwire recently chatted with Redlight King frontman Kaz, who shares his innermost thoughts on the debut album, his relationship with Everlast and his challenging journey as an artist among much more.
What inspirations did you draw from when writing and recording your album 'Something for the Pain?’
It was three years in the making; my biggest inspiration was that I wanted to make a record again [Laughs]. I’ve been making records for ten years and was at the end of my rope and I just needed to make it. I would say the one thing that set it off was I moved to California and sold all my stuff, I’m originally from Hamilton, Ontario, in Canada so I sold all my stuff and made this huge move to Los Angeles and then when I got to L.A., I wrote the first song ‘Something for the Pain’ and of course that sparked the creation of Redlight King and the band and continuing to write songs for the record.
How would you describe that move from Ontario to L.A.?
Necessary. [Laughs] In more detail, I just couldn’t sustain my livelihood in Canada, I was hitting road blocks and dead ends and also with just being able to make a living, making records. So I just thought you know what Los Angeles is warm and there’s a lot of hot rods there and I love the hot rod culture so that drew me there and I knew there was a heap of musicians down there.
This is Redlight King’s debut album; what was the recording process for this record like for you?
The recording process was actually fantastic, the pre-production and the writing was a lot of grinding out, just sort of find my way and surround myself with people that I wanted. We ended up in what is now called Wax studios in Hollywood, California and it was originally built in the 60s and Neil Young recorded part of his first record there, [Jimi] Hendrix recorded there, the Doors recorded there and [Frank] Zappa recorded there; it was a lot of history and soul in that room and we knocked it out it about three months. It was fantastic it gave me a lot of freedom, creatively and also for getting tones and the style of recording so it was a good experience.
Speaking of Neil Young, you had a lot of success with the single "Old Man,' which contains the first sanctioned sample from Young. Tell me a little about the song and how you were able to secure the sample?
I wrote a song about my old man, we had a huge falling out, we always had a real tough relationship; it was always hit or miss so I wrote the song it was called ‘Hard Working Hands’ it was an original song and I was coming home from the studio one night and I heard his song come on the radio ‘Old Man’ and it was always one of my favorite Neil Young songs and every time I heard it, it struck a chord with me. I knew it wasn’t about his father but I always related to it like that and so I thought it would be interesting just to have him singing a refrain in this song of mine. It’s impossible, I’m a kid from Hamilton how am I gonna do that. Then I got into sampling the vocal and using technology I was able to sample certain parts and use the refrain. I rebuilt the whole song and sorta built my own song using his voice and his flavor and some of the slide guitar.
I wasn’t ever gonna put it out, it always worried me, you’re sampling an icon and I didn’t know if it was the right thing to do but then again after I played the song it just got such a huge reaction that I always believed that the song, it’s from the heart and if Neil ever heard it he might actually like it and get it. It wasn’t like I chopped it up and butchered it, I really spent a lot of time building it, and put a lot of tear into the sound, every lyric and line. So, eventually he heard it, he listened to it once and said it was great, let’s put it out but everyone around him said no but no one listened to the song. So when he heard it then I knew I’d done okay.
It was a real compliment, I’d been writing songs for 15 years so it was awesome and also I would say the reaction has been more positive than negative. Even some of the most hardcore Neil Young fans come up to me, shake my hand and think it’s excellent, so overall it’s great. I love that it’s out there and people are diggin’ it.
You said that the video for ‘Bullet in My Hand’ is about “fighting your demons and having the strength to make a decision to move on.” Can you describe the song both lyrically and musically?
Taking a chance and making the decision to move forward, that is what it’s about and musically I wanted it to rock really hard. The song started with the line “I came out of the darkness / With a bullet in my hand.” I thought of it metaphorically as that was the one bullet that I’m gonna finally do myself in with and instead of doing it, sort of put the gun down and came out of it with one more shot. It’s how I felt at the time, it’s still how I feel. What can I say, it’s not easy for us sometimes. If people can relate to that song, I’m glad in one way [laughs] and I know how scary it can be but it’s definitely a song about seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.
How did it feel to go on tour with a veteran musician like Everlast?
I think its killer. I mean I was always a fan of Everlast, way back in the day when he was with House of Pain and then when he came out with ‘What It’s Like’ and the Whitey Ford stuff. I think it’s very rootsy and you can hear a little bit of the roots in my music as well. I look at him as an older brother.
What made you want to become a musician?
[Laughs] It’s a curse. It’s a beautiful curse is what it is. I can’t do anything else. I’ve done everything else, I’ve worked every job you can imagine and 90% of them were s--t jobs but I’ve always been writing songs, ever since I was seven years old, recording songs on my little tape recorder. By the time I was 16, I was recording professionally, I didn’t actually start playing guitar until I was 21, I was set up with these ideas coming to me and not being able to translate them or record them so I was like screw this I’m just gonna start playin’.
For a while, I was fighting full time doing Judo and just destroying my body and not gettin’ paid for it, just a whole lot of ups and downs in that world. I got tired of hurting people and getting hurt so I just thought I’m gonna focus on my art.
Where did you guys come up with the name Redlight King?
Redlight King to me, my old man had a race car called the Redlight Bandit, it was built it in the late '60s; we got pictures of it and I remember it and I put a line in the ‘Old Man’ song about the car. The reason they call it the Redlight Bandit is because he was always pushin’ so hard, he was always walking the line of losing but he was always testing himself and I thought it’s not too different from me. All these barriers and roadblocks that I keep hitting in my life, like I couldn’t f---in’ win a fight to save my life and it wasn’t lack of trying or lack of creativity. So at the end of the day I decided to wear it as a badge of honor, it’s a street name you know. Redlight King is the guy who’s the king of hitting the red lights and going through them and sometimes it burns me, sometimes it doesn’t.