When Rob Decoup decided to cover the all-but-forgotten Alice Cooper gem “Pain” and make it the title track of his new four-song EP, he’d hit on the perfect summation of the misery he’d witnessed living and traveling all over the world.
With intelligent lyrics reflecting the desperation of those who can’t or won’t pull themselves out of various types of living hell, and set to a barrage of stinging rock guitar, the Cooper cut fit nicely with Decoup’s similarly-tenored self-penned numbers like “Burn Me to the Ground” and “Say Hello to Misery.”
And while the songs on “Pain” are Decoup’s reflections on the sorry side of the general population’s human condition, the singer/guitarist has ironically been in some personal pain lately after messing up his leg pretty good. Decoup is a native of Austria and is there undergoing physical therapy at the moment but he still took the time, in an email conversation, to tell us a little bit about “Pain” and well, pain.
Of the four songs on “Pain,” three are self-penned. Why did you choose to go with the Alice Cooper cover as the lead song?
I always thought Alice Cooper was an underrated songwriter and lyricist, and his song “Pain,” although a masterpiece of songwriting, was one of those songs that didn’t really get the global spotlight, unlike “Poison” or “School’s Out” for example. That’s why I chose it as the lead but also because I really liked the alternative distorted touch I gave it with my version.
Can you tell me a story from your youth in Austria, something that maybe someone raised in the States wouldn’t have a chance to experience?
When in middle school we went to see a classical concert in Vienna. I felt the frequency of the violins and was mesmerized by the concert. I was very fortunate to grow up in Austria, a country where so many iconic musicians come from, including Mozart and Strauss. Austria has such a rich culture and appreciates music. Upper middle class Viennese visit opera and classical music concerts almost every weekend. It’s an integral part of their DNA. Although I grew up in this culture and respect it, for me personally getting involved in making music was driven by rock ‘n’ roll and that high energy roaring sound of a distorted electric guitar.
Considering that you’ve traveled and relocated a lot, what places have offered experiences that most influence your songwriting?
I think seeing the world and the misery and hardship people go through affected me and shaped my songwriting and lyrics. I can’t seem to write happy or joyful songs with ‘shiny happy’ lyrics and I think it’s simply because that doesn’t reflect the real world. The majority of the people in this world are enslaved one way or the other. This is the common denominator that I noticed living in Vienna, Rome, London, Spain and New York.
You are literally a rock ‘n’ roll doctor. Where did you get your PhD and were you involved in playing music during that time?
At the University of Vienna, Austria, in Political Science. I was doing some small club gigs and lightly involved in songwriting while completing my PhD.
I know your full-length record is coming soon. Is it finished or are you still working on it? Can you tell us a little about your experience recording it and who plays on it?
Yes the LP “Rays of Sun” is all done and two songs will be released as singles this year while the full album is coming out in January 2015. Laying the vocals was challenging for some songs; the producer Mike Plotnikoff made me re-sing line after line to get that perfect take. I was sweating like I was in a sauna; it definitely wasn't easy. But it was a lot of fun and I had a great sense of accomplishment once it was all done. Eric Friedman of Creed and Tremonti played guitar and percussion and sang backing vocals. Phil X, who has filled in for Richie Sambora in Bon Jovi, played great solos on “Sunshine Days” and “Roll.” Marty O’Brien of Lita Ford’s band played bass and Dan Welby handled the drum parts.
The songs on “Pain” are about pain in the abstract and as applies to mankind in general, but you’ve had a personal bad experience recently. What happened?
I had a skiing accident this last winter in Salzburg and tore an ACL but I couldn’t have an operation on it as I had to return to the US for a SXSW gig in Texas. After the show I flew to Austria to have it operated on and do rehab. That’s pretty much what I’ve been doing since April: getting that knee back in shape and writing songs.
There’s a paragraph in your bio about an experience you had in 1991 where you say you saw “creatures with sapphire thrones” float out of a cloud “in crafts made of two big wheels” and that you simultaneously received a cosmic message that “the melodies are the weapons of choice in the intergalactic war against the enemies of the age of Aquarius.” Are you pulling our leg or did this really happen?
To be honest that experience is a mystery to me as I don’t remember whether it was a dream or real. It probably was a dream. It was a time when I was obsessed with ancient religious texts on extra terrestrial encounters and out of body experiences. I don’t know if I'm the only one but I have memories from the past in my head that I can’t allocate as real or dream. I guess I should see a shrink about this at some point!
Visit the official Rob Decoup website