EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: REDLIGHT KING Singer Kaz Sheds Light on Debut Album & His Dark Past
Published: November 22, 2011 - 12:14pm
During a recent interview with Kaz (Mark Kasprzyk), frontman of rock outfit Redlight King, we discussed the history behind the extremely personal songs featured on the band's debut record 'Something for The Pain', touring with Everlast and much more.
Redlight King has garnered millions of YouTube views for their hit singles 'Old Man' and 'Bullet in my Hand', making them one of the most promising rock bands to emerge in 2011. Their style of rock has been graced with hip-hop influences making them a unique force to be reckoned with (Read my review of their debut album HERE). Singer Kaz is a very intriguing frontman, infusing Redlight King with songs about his dark past and bringing some strong emotions to the table in a record that he feels needed to be made in order to wipe his slate clean for future efforts.
Keven: You're currently on tour with Everlast and I know your bands have a similar vibe, I'm just wondering how that's going and if the fans have been receptive of Redlight King?
Kaz: I think the sounds are actually, really quite different – certainly live. We have a lot of fans coming out to see us and we're getting a lot of new fans which is amazing. All in all we're having a great time and connecting with people. It's been solid.
Keven: Are you a fan of Everlast?
Kaz: Absolutely. I actually met him a few times prior to the tour. We both play a little guitar so we started chatting about music and stuff like that and it sort of led us to putting this tour together. Having listened to him younger, it's a real thrill being with him now.
Keven: Were you more of a fan of hip hop or rock growing up?
Kaz: When I was a kid, I listened to blues with the old man, but in highschool I started listening to early 90's hip hop, which is where I discovered him (Everlast) with House of Pain. It was a lot of Tribe Called Quest, Lords of the Underground and bands like that. Then I descended into rock and that's how I guess we sort of got our sound.
Keven: When you were coming up as a band and with the atmosphere of music changing so much, did you ever foresee 'Old Man' getting the kind of attention that it did on YouTube?
Kaz: I didn't really foresee how it was gonna come out and how people were gonna discover it at first. You're right about the climate and how the model has totally changed. Right now, I feel that rock is comin back up. It's definitely gone underground you know? It's not mainstream like it was. We just focused on the songs and let the rest take care of itself.
Keven: I know you had a tough time getting that sample for 'Old Man', how did you track down Neil Young because it seems like such a daunting task?
Kaz: You know, it really wasn't. When I wrote the song, it didn't have any samples in it and it's the first song I've ever used a sample in. It was sort of a guilty pleasure and I thought it would be cool to try it. After I cut it, a lot of family, friends and people close to me freaked out.
We went through the standard procedures of trying to get any sample cleared and everybody shot it down but nobody listened to the song. I thought at the end of the day if Neil heard it and OK'd it, we'd be alright. After two months of the process went by, which was out of my hands, I finally got the president of our record label involved - Bob Cavallo, who came up in the same era as Neil and knew him. So he got the track to Neil and as soon as he heard it, he thought it was great and said let's put it out.
I remember when we got the phonecall: Neil heard it and he said "yes!" (laughing). It was awesome. It was a huge compliment as a songwriter and it's never been done before. It's the first time in history he's ever said OK on something like that.
Keven: Is that song about your father?
Kaz: It is. I wrote the song about my old man. We had a huge falling out and I was on the way home from the studio when I was putting the song together and I heard Neil's song come on the radio and it just hit me right in the heart.
Keven: Can you go into 'Bullet in My Hand' and how that song came about, I know the song is very dark but the video is also an ode to your grandfather right?
Kaz: It's about a dark time in my life and that very moment hitting rock bottom and deciding whether or not to get up or finish the job. The correlation between my grandfather is simply because he fought in the second World War and we're here because of him. He was a bomber so I had pictures of bombers in the house growing up. So I just put the two together as far as the visual aspect of it.
Keven: What gave you the turnaround when you were in that dark time in your life; What was the sign for you to continue on?
Kaz: …..There's a few different….sort of feelings and scenarios as far as me wanting to come back….I would like to describe it in detail…But it's sort of difficult for me to explain. I pretty much hit rock bottom and at the end of the day I sort of forgave myself for all the s*** I've put people through, my family and my friends. I was just a mess. I thought by forgiving myself and wiping off the cobwebs, I would give it one more shot and whatever happens, happens with music. Also, I got a little bit lucky I feel like. Maybe there was a grand intervention, I dunno.
Keven: It's weird how the darkest times can translate to some of the most uplifting songs. How did you hit rock bottom, was it a substance problem?
Kaz: It was substance abuse for sure. But more than anything it was just self abuse, self destruction. I think it was a loss of perspective, slowly until the point where I was driving myself insane. I actually went insane (laughing). I remember having a standoff with the cops and ending up in jail, beat up and bruised. It was…a bit of a disaster for myself and all the people around me. I certainly found out who my friends were and who was willing to stand by me through those times.
I think it's something that a lot of us go through and it's a very painful experience and I certainly don't wish it on anyone. But I understand how it can happen to even really good people. I'm fortunate to come out of it and have a purpose, which is writing songs and possibly the soundtrack to some of our lives. People are coming up to me at shows and are really relating to specific lines in songs and it's just wonderful having made that connection.
Keven: As you get bigger as a band, a lot of those temptations can come with the territory, are you finding it hard to stay on the straight and arrow?
Kaz: I think the two.. don’t relate..There's always a snake in the grass and if you wanna get back into it, it's always a slippery slope but I'm very aware of that. As far as me being a musician and having any temptations, that doesn't scare me at all. I love connecting and talking with people; the more that happens, the happier I am. But at the end of the day, I have a job and I'm sort of a working class guy and I've always been that way.
Having gone through that, I can tell you more than ever that I'm totally 100% at this point very grounded and realistic about who I am and where we are and the importance of a songwriter who tells stories about the human condition and that's what I do and who I am.
Keven: One of my favorite tracks on the album is 'Little Darlin' and I was just wondering if that was about anyone in particular?
Kaz: Yes and no (laughing). It's about a combination of three girlfriends of mine throughout parts of my life so I was using my artistic license to create this character that has a sense of three personalities of women who I have known and loved.
Keven: So you're not with any of them now, I'm wondering if any have heard the song?
Kaz: I'm sure they have and it's cool. A lot of girls come up to us and really love that one. It's the song on the record that's about as romantic as I get. I always imagine just swooping them off their feet. It's really about women who are under-appreciated..
Keven: 'When The Dust Settles Down' is probably my favorite song on the album and I'm wondering how hard it was to write that track?
Kaz: It was difficult and I was really unsure of how brutally honest I wanted to make it. These songs are very personal and this record definitely has this singular voice, but that's also evolving with the band. But with this song, it was necessary for myself and in the landscape of the record it made sense to close the record with a song like that. Sonically, I wanted to capture the moment and the feeling; so we set it up in the live room and it was three guitars, a vocal mic and we just did it live in one take. I thought that was the best way to capture it.
Keven: Where do you guys go from here and do you have any plans for the next album?
Kaz: Absolutely, we've been writing a lot. We're excited about the next one. It is definitely an evolution of sound. I think that the songs will always have the characteristics that this record has. I don't think it will be too far removed where we sound like a different band but I don't think I need to write these particular kinds of songs anymore and there won't be a song like 'When The Dust Settles Down' on the next record because I've said it all and we can all move on now.
It will maintain the spirit of this record about not giving up and the human condition, things we all go through that people can relate to. We got the next record half in the can right now and it's exciting. We've learned a lot playing this record live for six months now but at the same time I think it's a deep record and I really want to work this record and get people to really hear it because I think it's more than just one or two songs.