Interview with Guitarist and Singer Ryan Rosoff of Little King

By Mick Michaels

COSMICK VIEW: Hello, Ryan! Welcome to The Cosmick View. Thank you for
taking some time out of your day to chat with me, it's greatly appreciated.
Ryan Rosoff: Great to be with you, and thanks for the questions!

CV: Describe your definition of the band’s sound and style and how does that definition uniquely describe the music?
RR: I like the term "Dynamic Rock," as I think it covers the essence of what Little King is about…Or SHOULD be about, anyway.  We are clearly a rock and roll band, and some of our heavier material like "Hate Counter" from the last album is borderline metal, while other songs like "Happy Home" and "Forgotten Mile" run from acoustic rock to Grunge. It's all in there.

My ethos, if you will, is to keep it interesting and moving along.  My brain is busy!  I don't feel the same way all the time…I really change every 5 minutes…and Little King music and lyrics are a reflection of that.  If a record can encompass a wide variety of styles and moods within one release, and sometimes even within one composition, that's success.

We are working on a new album now called Amuse de Q.  The feel and vibe of this album is different than Occam's Foil, which just was released at the end of last year.  The reason is simple; the world is a very different place in October of 2020 than it was in October of 2019.  The Q in the album's title is for "Quarantine," as the songs were inspired by my time in lockdown in Delaware and then again in Arizona, where I recently relocated.  So, the music and the lyrics will reveal that volatility, uncertainty, resolve, and pain.  That may be true of most Little King albums, but this time it's raw and the topics will be relatable for virtually every thinking and feeling human on earth. Dyamic…Progressive…Melodic… Complex…I embrace all of that.

CV: Today, everyone talks about artist and audience connection. Is such a level of connection actually achievable for an artist and if so, how have you made the connection to your fans?
RR: Occam's Foil was released at the end of 2019, and we really didn't start promoting it until the beginning of 2020.  Like always, I had no idea what to expect.  I mean, Little King has been releasing albums off and on since 1997, so the patterns are odd and unpredictable.  Will people actually CARE?  Never know. 

But we certainly came out of that recording process feeling good. The songs worked, it was sonically the way we wanted it, and the playing from Manny (Tejeda, bass and backing vox) elevated the sound to a place that I'd dreamed of when I asked him to join Little King. And lo and behold...people loved it!  Social Media crap aside…will not be using your space to talk about hits and streams and likes, the response was incredible. Press was super positive, radio picked it up all over the country, and in particular the song "The Skin That I'm In" seemed to really reach people.  So, a "digital" connection was made. But we had to tour, right?

Survey Says....XXX!  Everything shut down in March and April, and all of the festival and club dates disintegrated. What could a poor band do?  We need to have that live connection...there is no better way to make and keep and connect fans than to crush their favorite song in a live setting.  That's where the memories are made and are built to last.  So as much as I value Social Media as a tool to stay in touch, everyone has that tool at their disposal. I am built to connect with people in person, and I can't wait until we have the opportunity to do that again. This time, with TWO new albums!

CV: Is fan interaction an important part of the band’s inner culture?
RR: Little King is a trio. Manny, me, and Eddy Garcia, who is the drummer and studio engineer.  We are all different guys, and we now live spread out between Delaware, El Paso, and Tucson.  As such, it's hard to say exactly WHAT our "inner culture" consists of.

We are all "people people," though. No way around that, although I feel increasingly withdrawn in big crowds the older I get. Perhaps a touch of agoraphobia, although it's not really a fear...more of an intense dislike.

This group has never toured together. As I said, we will do that once Amuse de Q has been released, hopefully.  But until we do, it's gonna be hard to say.  Manny is constantly pimping Little King; it's embarrassing for me to do so, as the art is so intensely personal.  It has always felt cheap to bleed so hard into a work of art and then write "Get it now for only $5!"  My heroes would not approve.  I struggle with the promotional side, but I do love hearing from people and talking about the music and the lyrics. That's awesome. 

And Ed?  He's an enigma, man. Rock Star status, for sure, but he's so humble and cool and down-to-earth. I love that guy...he's my brother for sure. This is the 5th album we've made together and 4th where he's on drums, and the synergy between us is fantastic. Easy.  We go a year or so sometimes without seeing each other, sometimes even more. But we know each other so well, both personally and musically, that it's kind of like an old married couple bashing about.

CV: Can a band truly interact with its fans and still maintain a level of personal privacy without crossing the line and giving up their “personal space” in your opinion?
RR: Sure...if you resolve to keep it that way.  Boundaries are important. Again, Manny LOVES the attention. He can't get enough. Eddy and I, not so much. Maybe that's just who we are, maybe it's because we are older than Manny. Mostly based on our personalities, though.

I am a very open person and I am down to talk about my life, my art, my struggles.  I think I can help people survive and overcome theirs if they know that I am battling myself. But there are lines that are not to be crossed.  I just don't know where they are!

CV: Is music, and its value, viewed differently around the world in your opinion? If so, what do you see as the biggest difference in such multiple views among various cultures?
RR: I don't know about that. I have traveled a bit away from the USA, but not as much as I would have liked. Europe, Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean...but I haven't toured those places just yet. I'd like to see for myself!  But Eddy has played in a ridiculous number of countries - he is humble as hell, but he has played with Overkill and Ministry and is probably at about 75 countries toured!  He describes crowds differently, and his favorite show was in Bangalore, India.  Maybe this question is better directed to Ed!

"Value" is a weird word.  How do you quantify that?  I can say it's really valued above just about anything else in MY house, and that's good enough for me. 

CV: Do you feel that a band that has an international appeal, will tend to connect more so to American audiences? Would they be more enticed or intrigued to see the band over indigenous acts because of the foreign flavor?
RR: Judging from our sales and downloads and media and streams, the answer is ABSOLUTELY we have an international appeal.  I think Rock and Roll has been proven to be universal.  People around the world, regardless of the borders within which they reside, will appreciate a universal set of truths. If art is well-thought out, delivered with passion and confidence and skill, is meticulously well thought out or just correctly constructed, and if the message resonates on a broad level, it will work anywhere. I firmly believe this.

For example, I love King Sunny Ade.  I have never been to Africa, but I hope to be there someday.  I adore Peter Tosh and Steel Pulse and the Marleys...I only went to Jamaica for the first time 7 years ago, but I'd been listening to reggae my whole life.  Vivaldi and Mozart were active 200-300 years ago and 6000 miles away from Arizona.  I LOVE them...their art speak to me in a way that very much transcends time and place. My kid loves the Beatles...he's never been to England. You see what I mean?

CV: Has modern-day digital technology made everyone an artist on some level in your opinion? Have the actual lines of what really is an artist been blurred?
RR: Fantastic question!  Art is a moving target...your definition likely diverges from mine.  Classically, I would define it as an intentional creation born from a person's desire to express themselves. No matter what the medium…be it music, sculpture, photography, painting, or comedy, art is an expression of self and a bridge to the rest of humanity.

I spend too much time on my art to qualify everything that is in the digital universe as art. Or maybe as WORTHY art...I don't know. I guess I can come around to the idea that art doesn't need to be crafted, edited, well-thought out, and sweated into.  It can be flip and easy, but it's not gonna have my same respect.  Does digital technology make it "easier" to create art?  Perhaps.  Does it make it easier to create transcendent and relatable art?  Perhaps not.

CV: How would you describe the difference between an artist who follows trends and one who sets them?
RR: As cliché as it sounds, trend-setters don't care what people think of their art, typically.  At least the trends that I am interested in!  They make it for the sake of expression, and if they're like me, because without that outlet they'd be a total emotional mess.  Confidence and a bit of narcissism might be required as well.

What is a "trend"?  I think we need to define our terms when having broader discussions.  I guess a trend is something new or relatively unique that captures the attention of a greater audience and sets a path that others care to follow.  But there is very little "new" under the sun, particularly in music. Only so many notes available, right?  So, going back to your last question about digital mediums, perhaps that is the last available form of manipulation that can create truly new and unique art.

Personally, I create music and words that draws inspiration from my heroes.  I know for a fact, though, that if I stay true to myself and eschew any conscious desire to sound like someone else, the synthesis of those ideas will come out sounding like me.  That's good enough, I think, to set a trend in its own right.

CV: Has music overall been splintered into too many sub-genres in an effort to appease fan tastes in your opinion? And has such fan appeasements, in actuality, weakened music’s impact as a whole by dividing audiences?
RR: There is no weakened impact from messaging and categorization, unless you think perhaps people are not experiencing new music because they are turned off to a particular category.  I might not listen to deep house music much, but if someone says, "Hey, check out this deep house's amazing," guess what?  I am gonna check it out if the "referral source" is trusted. Maybe that's because I love all music in some form, or anything that is well-crafted.

We live in a divide-and-conquer culture.  The new album has a song called "Keyboard Soldier," and that very topic is beat to death in those lyrics.  Can't wait to share them with you...soon...not now!  But social media has far-reaching effects, the worst of which is that mentality of "them vs. us." So fucking destructive and plays to our worst tendencies as a species. War-like as we are...

CV: What can fans except to see coming next from you?
RR: Amuse de Q is coming!  The drums, bass, and about 80% of the guitars are done.  There is work to be done, still, of course.  I have some string arrangements, my son is playing a piano part on a song called "Set It Down," and I am finishing the lyrics and the vocal melodies as we speak, so we are taking our time.

Last year, I made a slight mistake by releasing Occam's Foil at the end of the year.  Because it was release in November, someone who picked it up at radio or press in January of 2020 might have thought it was a lot older than it really was...Potentially 10 months older!  Rookie mistake for a guy who has been releasing albums since 1997, right?

The goal is to time the release of Amuse de Q in 2021 with the glimmer of hope that bands will start touring next year.  Vaccines, social distancing, a better understanding of the virus, an improved political climate, and all of the other unintended repercussions of COVID aside...I have hope that 2021 will be the comeback of live music in a BIG WAY!

Lyrical topics include my personal experiences as well as those of close friends in lockdown this year. Enforced (by the state) sobriety, domestic violence, desperation and revival during the Q, the protests that have gripped the country, and more.  These things had a profound effect on me, and I believe that they will move our audience in a way that I always intend, which is to examine their own roles and places in the world and shift the lens a bit through our music to take a fresh look at themselves and the world around them.  Or to just bang their heads!  Either will do.

CV: Thanks again for taking some time and talking. It is greatly appreciated. RR: The pleasure was mine.  GREAT interview...really enjoyed it!

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My name is Mick Michaels...I'm an artist, music fan, songwriter, producer, dreamer and guitarist for the traditional Heavy Metal band Corners of Sanctuary. Writing has always been a creative outlet for me; what I couldn't say in speech, I was able to do with the written word.  Writing has given me a voice and a way for me to create on a multitude of platforms including music and song, articles, independent screenplays, books and now, artist interviews. The Cosmick View is an opportunity to raise the bar and showcase artists in a positive and inspirational light. For me, it's another out-of-this-world adventure.

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