When Frontiers Records wanted to put together a supergroup to record an album of classic hard rock music, they looked to Joe Lynn Turner.
Turner, the former lead vocalist for Rainbow and Deep Purple, also a successful solo artist, quickly agreed. Before long, bassist Tony Franklin and drummer Carmine Appice were on board.
Following several unsuccessful attempts at filling the guitarist slot, the band found Karl Cochran, who stepped in to provide some tastefully inspired shredding. With infectious songs like “This Is Who I Am” and “Fire And Ice," Rated X’s self-titled debut sounds like a band that’s worked together for years as a unit.
Unfortunately, Cochran suffered a stroke during the completion of the album and is still on the road to recovery. I recently spoke with Turner and got an update on Cochran’s condition as well as the Rated X album and the possibility of a Rainbow reunion with Ritchie Blackmore.
GUITAR WORLD: How’s Karl doing?
Thanks for asking. He’s improving drastically. His speech is still a bit impaired and he’s paralyzed on his right side, but he’s able to move his arm up to his shoulder and has some feeling in his hand. He’s not walking with a cane, which is incredible for this type of situation. He’s progressing but we know it’s a long, hard road.
If you don’t know much about Karl, he’s a guitar aficionado. His house is filled with vintage guitars, amps and a workshop. His is a complete guitar world. We’re doing benefits to help pay for his medical expenses. We had a very successful one at the Iridium in New York and are doing a few more. We’re doing what we can because the cost of health care is off the hook these days.
How did the you come up with the name Rated X?
It actually started out as just a project we called Project X. We thought that since we were all ex-members of bands, had ex-wives and all had lived “rated X” lives [laughs], that’s what we should name the band.
The band started out with a revolving door of guitarists. How did you settle on Karl Cochran?
When we first started talking about the project, the record company suggested we have a “name” for a guitarist. We actually started out working with Bruce Kulick [Grand Funk Railroad, Kiss], but he unfortunately had other commitments and couldn’t do it. Then Carmine and I thought about Jeff Watson [Night Ranger]. We both did Mother’s Army with him, and what he played on that album was just incredible. From the elegance to the shredding, he’s a real virtuoso.
But again, we needed a commitment and Jeff has a studio at his ranch that keeps him busy. Fresh out of “name” guitarists, I told the others that I had a guy who was perfect and knew exactly what this band had to be—and that’s Karl Cochran. Karl’s been with me for a long time and played on a lot of projects that I did. He jumped at the chance. So he came in and finished a few tracks and then we flew out to LA to finish the videos.
What was the songwriting process like?
It was a collaborative effort by friends and band members. We would usually start with the skeleton of the song and then everyone would kick the ball around. We all put our heart and soul as well as sweat and tears into it. It was a very free experience.
Who will be performing guitar duties on a Rated X tour?
We were about seven tracks in when Karl suffered his stroke. At that point, there was only one guy I knew who could come in and get up to speed, and that’s Nikolo Kotsev from the band Brazen Abbot. He’s another brilliant player who fit right in. He listened to what Karl was doing and finished the last four tracks for us. He’ll be playing with us live in Europe next year.
Is the band working on any U.S. dates?
We’re looking forward to doing some live show here in the States. We have a brand of music that people will love, plus we also can do some of our own hits. For instance, Carmine has a real heavy metal version of the song “Da Ya Think I'm Sexy?” Not many people know that he co-wrote that with Rod Stewart. It’s a metal version that just blows me away. Being in this band also allows us the opportunity to do some Rainbow, Purple and the Firm.
Speaking of Rainbow, there have been rumors going around about a possible Rainbow reunion with Ritchie Blackmore. Any truth to that?
I really believe we need a Rainbow reunion and the reason why I popped that rumor is because it’s the 40th anniversary of Rainbow in 2015, and we’d really like to do something with Ritchie to go out in style. I think the fans are owed another record and tour. There are a lot of possibilities about what form a reunion could take, including the possibility that nothing happens at all. So even though I think it’s time, let me just go on record by saying that right now there’s nothing definitive. We’ll see what happens.
What’s the origin of the Rainbow song, “Street of Dreams”?
At the time I wrote it, I was having this recurring dream. I would always see the face of this angelic woman in my dream and I kept getting these strange messages. One night, I woke up from one and just went over to the desk, lit a candle and started to write. I woke up the next morning and saw that what I had written was called “Street of Dreams." I read Ritchie the lyrics and he just loved it. He came up with three separate sections of that song and laid down that beautiful solo in one take.
Can you tell me the story of how you got into Rainbow?
I have to say getting into Rainbow was probably the most memorable moment of my career. Because at that moment, my whole life changed. I was down on my luck and living in a one room apartment in New York City going to auditions. I realized I needed a band and as destiny might have it, I got a call. It was from a guy from Long Island who had somehow gotten my number.
He started out by asking me about Rainbow and Purple and I said, “Yeah, they’re two of my favorite bands, but who are you and what do you want?” That’s when he said, “Well, I’m sitting next to Ritchie Blackmore and he wants to talk to you.” I said, “OK, which one of my friends is pulling my leg?” Then he puts Ritchie on the phone and it was a struggle at first because I still wouldn’t believe him! [laughs].
But eventually Ritchie told me he was looking for a new singer for Rainbow and wanted me to come in and audition. So I went in and we spent the day working on “Midnight Tunnel Vision” and stacking vocals on “I Surrender." It was only then that Ritchie came in with a Heineken, looked at me and said “You’ve got the job!” [laughs].
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James Wood is a writer, musician and self-proclaimed metalhead who maintains his own website, GoJimmyGo.net. His articles and interviews are written on a variety of topics with passion and humor. You can follow him on Twitter @JimEWood.