El Paso Music Scene
Ryan Rosoff and Shannon Brady of Little King

Little King Interview

EPMS: How old are you?

Ryan Rosoff: I'll be 33 in May.

Shannon Brady: I'm 31.

EPMS note: As I was introducing myself to Ryan and Shannon, and explaining how I do interviews, Ryan mentioned that he used to write music articles himself:

Ryan Rosoff: I was the music reporter for the El Paso Herald-Post. July through September of 1997; I started with them three months before they closed. It was my first job out of college. In September of 1997 I left for Seattle. For the Herald-Post I was writing local music stories. My column was called 'Hot Wax.'

EPMS note - There was a 1978 film called American Hot Wax, about the origins of Rock 'n' Roll. I'll always remember it because a young Jay Leno had a bit part in it... Fran Drescher, too.

Ryan Rosoff: My hometown is Seattle... Seattle is an amazing place. I started as publicist and promoter with my own band in El Paso in 1996. Through Little King Productions, I do a combination of editing, print publications, radio promotion, booking tours... I worked for an entertainment law firm in Seattle, where learned a lot about the legal side of the music business. I moved here in 1992. My ex-wife is from here. I met her in Tucson... I decided to stay here in El Paso. I like lot of things from here. I appreciate the people here... they are generally, genuinely kind and friendly.

I've met a lot of great friends... really cool people.

EPMS: What were you doing in Tucson?

Ryan Rosoff: I just decided to go to school there out of high school. I was sick of Seattle's weather at the time... I had just finished high school. I love the desert. It seems like it's on the edge of life and death... In the past, like, two hundred years ago, if you were caught in desert, you were screwed. I could do my business from anywhere, but I have chosen to stay here off and on for thirteen years. It's also cheap as shit.

(a nice-looking woman drives by)
Ryan Rosoff: Beautiful women in this town (El Paso).

EPMS: When you were getting your English degree from UTEP, did you run into Charlie Miller of Abinormal?

Ryan Rosoff: I took a Shakespeare class in the Summer of 1996 with Charlie Miller. We weren't the most serious summer students. He's a good friend, and Abinormal's a good band.

Shannon Brady: I do live sound for a living. I take per diem-sponsored tours, broadway shows, cruise ships.

I've been Assistant Engineer for a number of top albums. I did the Abandon album for Deep Purple. I worked on an album for Nine Inch Nails. It pays the bills. I did an album for the Allman Brothers, I did two albums with Pissing Razors, plus Anthrax, Fu Manchu.

Ryan Rosoff: He and I have been playing together since 1995. We had a band called Tweed Quickly... We just had a reunion show at Bombardiers... jaws were dropping. We're of like mind, always locked in... Educated listeners appreciate the way we play together. You can't replace the experience of playing together a long time.

(to Shannon) you know where I'm going before I get there.

Shannon Brady: It's a weird feeling. You don't even have to look at the person next to you.

Ryan Rosoff: Our songs are very structured, but at the same time, we leave room for improvisation. We play certain parts differently each time, especially the guitar solos (lol). We try to keep a balance, between the yin and the yang... It all makes sense, the way we play, the way we keep it loose... we keep the ability to improvise.

EPMS: What about bass players not getting any respect? Justify your existence, Shannon!

Ryan Rosoff: That's less true in a three-piece band.

Shannon Brady: Well, it's definitely the foundation. When it's not right, your house is not going to sit right. These days, it's starting to be used a lot more as a solo instrument. I don't like that, I see it as a foundational instrument. In this band, I have more freedom, especially on tracks 2 (Narcissus and Echo) & 6 (Virus Divine) on the CD. I didn't overdo my parts on the CD.

Ryan Rosoff: But I'm always pushing it (for Shannon to be more aggressive).

Shannon Brady: I hate any instrument being overplayed.

EPMS: Who do you consider to be great songwriters?

Shannon Brady: Right now, I'm digging Los Lonely Boys. Led Zeppelin, the Grateful Dead, Rush... it keeps going. I never liked Kiss.

Ryan Rosoff: Me either.

Shannon Brady: Now, some Kiss fans are gonna bash us. I was into Iron Maiden, Metallica.

Ryan Rosoff: U2. Neil Diamond, Steely Dan, Neil Young. In Seattle, I saw bands coming up like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden.

EPMS: Neil Diamond?

Ryan Rosoff: I'm a big Neil Diamond fan.

Shannon Brady: I really like John Denver. Right now, I have "Grandma's Feather Bed" on my CD player (Ryan and Shannon break into the song, a capella).

Shannon Brady: I remember where I was the day he died.

Ryan Rosoff: Yeah, when he went down in that Piper thing.

EPMS: Who has had a greater influence on music, Elvis Presley or the Beatles?

Shannon Brady: I'd choose Elvis.

Ryan Rosoff: I'm just the opposite. They had two very different approaches. The Beatles were more cerebral than Elvis, or, for example, the Stones. I wouldn't say one is more influential than the other. As for Little King, I'd say the Beatles were more influential.

EPMS: Would you agree, Shannon?

Shannon Brady: Sure. It's hard to be in music, and not be influenced by the Beatles.

EPMS: How about the Stones?

Ryan Rosoff: We saw them two years ago. The SARS benefit in Toronto.

Shannon Brady: They had the Rolling Stones, AC/DC, Rush.

Ryan Rosoff: The Isley Brothers.

Shannon Brady: Half a million people were at that show. We flew up to see that.

Ryan Rosoff: We had 14 little vodka bottles, each, on the plane. Herbal substances are not frowned on in Canada. That's when we met Terry Brown for the first time.

EPMS note: Terry Brown is the legendary producer of Rush.

Shannon Brady: We went out, had dinner, drinks, toured his studio. He took us to his watering holes.

Ryan Rosoff: Toronto is a great city, man. An unbelievable place. Rush is our main influence. Terry Brown mixed our CD. It was recorded here, then we went to Toronto to get it mixed. There is no substitute for experience. Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson (of Rush) have been playing together for thirty-one years, 16 studio albums, since 1974.

I learned more in nine days with Terry Brown than I had in the previous twelve years. He is the most accomplished person we've met, but he has the smallest ego. He's in his early 60s. He's done albums that have sold fifty million copies. I ended up wanting him to be my dad. Working with him was a realization of a huge professional goal, and our dreams. Shannon and Wes didn't believe we could get to play with Terry Brown.

Shannon Brady: Yeah, because he's really busy, and very expensive.

Ryan Rosoff: He made it from a good record to a great piece of art. It's rare to meet someone that exceeds your expectations

EPMS: You sound like Tony Robbins.

Ryan Rosoff: Sometimes I feel like Tony Robbins. We're writing now for another album. Terry Brown has agreed to produce it. You're the first person we've told about it

EPMS note: I'm going to go call my mom!

Shannon Brady: It's going to be tracked in Montreal, his (Terry Brown's) stomping grounds.

Ryan Rosoff: It will be mixed in Toronto. Our distribution company is based in Montreal, called Unicorn Records. The working title, tentatively, is "Nerve #8." They have a studio we're probably going to use.

Shannon Brady: Terry's stomping ground is really Toronto, but he works a lot in Montreal.

Ryan Rosoff: With this new stuff, Shannon and Wes are taking a greater creative role in the process. Before, songs were basically written by me; I gave the songs to them to write their parts, whereas with the new material, they have greater creative input. The music's gonna be that much better, because Shannon and Wes are great writers in their own right.

EPMS: What changes would you like to see to the music scene in El Paso?

Shannon Brady: I'd like more live venues that support local, original music, not just cover bands that play four sets per night.

Ryan Rosoff: More support from local venues.

Shannon Brady: There are a lot of venues, but they don't support enough original music. The all-ages thing must be given attention to.

Ryan Rosoff: It would be nice to bring my eight-year-old to shows.

Shannon Brady: There should be more all-ages shows. When I was a kid, I could never go anywhere... I lied to my mom to see my first Metallica show, on the Master of Puppets tour.

Ryan Rosoff: I wish people would stop trying to emulate At The Drive Inn, and do their own thing. Also, that people would take their time when they record, so they sound good. I get demos every month, and it's hard to wade through those that sound like crap to get to the good ones.

EPMS: How do you like Murphy's Cantina, as a place to play?

EPMS note: Little King had been scheduled to play at Murphy's before, but the show had been cancelled.

Ryan Rosoff: It obviously would be a nice venue for a band like us.

Shannon Brady: We'd fit right in.

Ryan Rosoff: That stage area looks nice for us.

Shannon Brady: Plus they have a good PA.

Ryan Rosoff: Every venue needs a house PA.

Shannon Brady: A house PA is a must for a venue to have interest from local bands to want to play there a lot, for two reasons: 1) we don't have to rent, and 2) everyone in the bar would have a good mix to listen to, not just those at the front. A good house PA has time delays for bigger rooms, or rooms that have little nooks and crannies

EPMS: Like in the Three-Legged Monkey, where the bar is a little bit around the corner from where the band is playing?

Shannon Brady: A place like the Three-Legged Monkey would tell the band to bring their own PA.

Ryan Rosoff: You're not making more than $40 for a show, per member, if you're an original band.

Shannon Brady: You pay your bar tab, and, no matter what, Little King will always bring a sound man, even to local shows.

EPMS: Why, when you're a pro sound man yourself?

Shannon Brady: Because I'm on stage, not listening. When I do a sound check, the room is empty, so it sounds different than it will when the show is on. You asked before, "What change would I like to see in the El Paso music situation?" I think, to see bands look at it with that type of professionalism. Every time, we have good PA, and our own sound engineer. Our sound man is our first expense.

Ryan Rosoff: As an original band, you're not gonna make a living unless you pay your dues and have a loyal fan base, so it needs to be a part of the budget. I agree whole-heartedly with Shannon. A sound man that knows your music is essential as a member of the band.

Shannon Brady: He's going on tour with us as a member. His name is Eddie Garcia. He's the bass player of Ministry, as well as the drummer of Pissing Razors. On his time off from playing he does sound for us, and I do sound for Ministry and Pissing Razors, when we're not busy. It's going to turn out that we can't do that; we're both getting too busy.

Ryan Rosoff: He was the studio engineer on our Virus Devine CD.

EPMS: I saw Tension a few days ago, and they had very good sound when I got there, but it was very distorted after one or two sets. What would cause that?

Shannon Brady: Guitar players share frequencies.

Ryan Rosoff: Guitar players tend to turn up the gain, not the volume.

Shannon Brady: One is going to suffer.

EPMS: What equipment do you use?

Shannon Brady: I have many basses... My main bass for the last eight years has been a Warwick. That is a company that hand-makes basses in Germany. They're not production line-made. I use a Trace Elliott bass head. My cabinet is an Ampeg 810. We used to call it 'The Coffin.' It's got a lot of history. I call it 'Old Faithful.'

Ryan Rosoff: Paul Reed Smith guitars. I have a Mesa Boogie Triple Rectifier with matching Mesa 412 cabinet, and a million different effects.

Shannon Brady: A good part of (Ryan's) sound now is his Jekyll & Hyde distortion pedal. On a lot of the big parts of the songs.

Ryan Rosoff: It has good color.

Shannon Brady: It enhances the solos.

EPMS: Who will be the next El Paso band to make it?

Ryan Rosoff: After Little King (lol), Thieves of Always, who is going on tour with Sparta.

Shannon Brady: Thieves of Always. Atomic Pink.

Ryan Rosoff: Siva, who is going on tour with Sparta, too.

Shannon Brady: The Third Edge, because they have the drive to do it.

Ryan Rosoff: They have the talent, too.

Shannon Brady: Their music complements their drive.

EPMS: I know y'all are friends of Matt and Jaycee of Devices in Shift; I interviewed them a few days ago.

Ryan Rosoff: We're a little older than Matt and Jaycee. I sat in on some of their rehearsals... original, cool stuff. Jaycee is a big supporter of the local scene.

EPMS: How important is it to support up-and-coming bands?

Ryan Rosoff: Some twelve-year-old, right now, is at home playing on his bed, and he or she is going to be big. Those guys are out there. It's up to us, The Mars Volta, Sparta, bands like that, to blaze the trail, and have a positive influence. It's gonna happen, it's already happening.

Ryan Rosoff: Publicity, organization, that's gonna separate the bands here. There are a lot of bands that work very hard on their music, but never get a CD to a radio station.

EPMS: Someone told me that Little King plays the kind of stuff that KLAQ would love.

Shannon Brady: Yeah, I believe that's right... mainly because they've been playing it! I think they'd agree with that, too, because they've been playing it. I think people (listeners) shy away from local bands, but you're not really popular until you're on the radio.

Ryan Rosoff: We've never written a song that was intended to get on the radio.

KLAQ, for the last fifteen years, had been virtually unsupportive of local music, but when Courtney Nelson took over as Program Director, and brought in Jack Lutz, who runs the Q Connected show, it turned around. We submitted the CD, the press kit, our bio... We kept up with them by email, phone calls... we stayed persistent.

That's the way you're supposed to do business. KLAQ has been so incredibly supportive. They had us on the air last Sunday for fifteen minutes.

Shannon Brady: They interviewed us; we played an acoustic song, live... It went really well. We got a lot of good response.

Ryan Rosoff: We played in their studio. According to Courtney, they're going to keep playing it. Can I get you to review our CD? That would be great.

EPMS: Gee, you two boys are so nice. I guess you haven't heard what a meanie I am.

Ryan Rosoff: We need constructive criticism... it's so difficult to come by honest criticism.

EPMS: OK. So, what's the outlook for Litle King?

Ryan Rosoff: We have records coming out in 23 countries, through Unicorn Records. Virtually every online music outlet carries us. It's what we call our digital distribution.

EPMS: How much do the distributors take when they sell an MP3 for you?

Ryan Rosoff: Their cut is 30%. BTW, we play at Joker's Pub on Piedras on March 18, please come out and check us out.

EPMS: Well, maybe, but I think I have to wash my hair. Thanks guys!

- Charles Hurley

Links to articles on basic Sound Engineering:
Stage Directions Magazine, March, 2001
Accutronics Reverb by Sound Enhancement, Inc.
Square One, Acoustic Design Techniques
Next Two loudspeakers from MEDC: Guide to the selection of loudspeakers for PA/VA applications

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