King Kobra King Kobra
King Kobra


Carmine Appice – Drums
David Henzerling (a.k.a. David Michael-Philips) – Guitar
Mick Sweda – Guitar
Johnny Rod – Bass Guitar

Paul Shortino – Vocals

During the 1980s, the music scene was exploding with an abundance of great rock bands – including multi-platinum sellers such as Mötley Crüe, Quiet Riot and Ratt – but there was always room for talented new contenders.  For King Kobra, this was an invitation from heaven, launching onto a landscape that was primed for killer hard rock, enormous sales, and unlimited airplay.   

King Kobra was formed in California in 1983 and led by seasoned drummer Carmine Appice (Vanilla Fudge, Cactus, Bogart & Appice, Ozzy Osbourne Vanilla Fudge, Rod Stewart) when he approached Mark Free (Unruly Child) to add his vocals to some tracks he had previously written and recorded with guitarist Earl Slick (John Lennon, David Bowie). Three songs - "Overnite Love Affair," "Fool In The Rain" and "You Are My Life" - were strong enough to secure King Kobra a deal with Capitol Records. Producer Spencer Proffer (Quiet Riot, WASP, Cheap Trickhowever, insisted on all new material for the band's major label debut, and the demos were scrapped, never to be released.

With an album to make, Appice and Free started auditioning players and writing songs. Guitarist Mike Wolfe came aboard and immediately kicked in some song ideas of his own. Keel's guitarist David Michael Phillips was then brought in, followed by wild-man bassist Johnny Rod. Before he was able to record a single note, Wolfe bailed out to open a recording studio, and was quickly replaced by Mick Sweda (Bulletboys). The line-up of Free, Phillips, Rod, Sweda and Appice won instant attention for their unique look (four blondes and one brunette) and would go on to record two solid albums for Capitol - Ready To Strike and Thrill of a Lifetime.   

The album ‘Ready To Strike’ won them the attention of fans and critics alike by delivering one of the year’s best records. Tracks such as ‘Hunger’, ‘Tough Guys’, ‘Piece Of The Rock’ and the title track itself are pivotal examples of some of the best mid 80’s hard rock.  ‘Thrill Of A Lifetime’, their sophomore album, originally issued in 1986, saw the band shift gear, modernising their sound and focussing on more accessible songs, perhaps modelled on the chart success of artists like Bon Jovi and Cinderella. The material was spearheaded by the hugely infectious ‘Iron Eagle (Never Say Die)’, a track that was included on the hit movie ‘Iron Eagle’.  Elsewhere there’s ‘Feel The Heat’, ‘Raise Your Hands To Rock’ and ‘Dream On’ for further proof of their hard rocking credentials. 

For the next three years, King Kobra toured the world over, barnstorming North and South America - as well as parts of Europe and Japan - supporting such formidable headliners as KISS, Iron Maiden and Queensryche. During this time, the band attempted to re-introduce their original demos into the fold, adding Rod's basslines, but sidelining them again before they were able to include Phillips and Sweda.

In 1986, Rod accepted an invitation to join W.A.S.P., and was replaced by Lonnie Vincent. Two new songs were cut - "Lonely Nites" and "Young Hearts Survive" - but were abruptly haulted when Free became dissatisfied with the direction of King Kobra was going. Stepping in for Free, vocalist Marq Torien, Appice, Phillips, Sweda and Vincent wrote and recorded six fresh tracks, including "Your Love Is A Sin." Unfortunately, the combination was short-lived as Torien, Sweda and Vincent went on to form Bulletboys, taking along tunes like "Kissin" and "For The Love Of Money" for their own major label debut.

Undeterred, Appice and Phillips pressed forward and initiated vocalist Johnny Edwards (who would later migrate to Foreigner), bassist Larry Hart and guitarist Jeff Northrup - core members of a group called Northrup. Combining their ideas and talents, they recorded King Kobra III for Appice's own Rocker Records label. Songs like "Perfect Crime," "Mean Street Machine," "#1," "Red Line" and "Walls Of Silence" exhibited a new maturity and growth in the band's sound. But it was not to last.  This time, Appice received a call from John Sykes and Tony Franklin in 1989 to join Blue Murder, and after five years, King Kobra was solemnly laid to rest.

In 1995 Mark Free called it quits from the music biz and in the same year he had a sex change operation and became Marcie Free.

In 2010, a new King Kobra emerged, with Carmine Appice on drums, Paul Shortino taking over vocal duties, Mick Sweda on guitar, David Henzerling (a.k.a. David Michael-Philips) on guitar, and Johnny Rod on bass. 


King Kobra’s long-awaited reunion album “King Kobra” (s/t) released on Frontiers Records in 2011, left no doubt that this was a band to be reckoned with. Even though nearly 25 years had passed since the original line-up recorded the landmark “Ready To Strike” and “Thrill Of A Lifetime” albums, the energy and immediacy of the bands lightning attack had not diminished one iota and fans responded in kind.

For 2013’s King Kobra II album “We chose to name this album “II” because it is both the second album of our reformation with Frontiers Records as well as the second generation of the band with Paul Shortino as lead vocalist,” says guitarist David Michael-Philips. “Paul’s unique style gives the band a new feel apart from what we were in the 80s with original singer Mark/Marcie Free. I think the “re-boot” naming gives Paul the credit he deserves while paying homage to our original singer and sound”.


When recording the King Kobra II album on May 8, 2013 guitarist David Michael-Phillips stated "We’ve got a high-energy combination of the classic King Kobra sound mixed with some of our favorite (heavy) influences: Led Zeppelin, Whitesnake, Blue Murder. Cool, heavy grooves, great melodies, soulful lead vocals by Paul Shortino, infectious harmonies and hooks...blazing guitars by yours truly and the thundering rhythm section of Johnny Rod and the legendary Carmine Appice! This is the next natural progression of Ready To Strike and our last, self-titled album King Kobra". 


The thick, soulful vocals of Paul Shortino, dual guitarists Mick Sweda and David Michael-Philips, and the thundering bass and drums of Johnny Rod and Carmine Appice delivered an album that, while easily carrying on the tradition of the first two releases, brought a contemporary twist to a signature melodic, hard rock style. “The “70’s” flavour of this new album was a conscious move to incorporate our influences into the music,” says David Michael-Philips, while Carmine Appice adds “King Kobra was a band in the ‘80s with great players…and had roots in the ‘70s also.. We tried to make a cool combination of both, which I think we achieved with this new album”.


Produced by David Henzerling with Carmine Appice and Paul Shortino, “II” digs into King Kobra hard rock roots to create an album that has all the swagger and swing of the classic 70’s albums (think Montrose, Bad Company, Deep Purple and even Carmine’s own legendary Cactus) with a crystal clear sound that combines the best of both analogue and digital recording techniques. From the tight and punchy “Have A Good Time” to the 8-minute epic “Deep River”, “II” shows a more mature band confident of its songwriting ability performing with the technical prowess garnered over years of experience.


The band went on hiatus following the release of their 2013 album, largely due to the other commitments of the individual band members. They did, however, play live gigs in 2016 sans Mick Sweda. 

On July 27, 2018 King Kobra released their first ever live album "Sweden Rock Live" which was originally recorded in 2016.

When you think of King Kobra, a vision of four bleached blondes out in front with one of rock's preeminent drummers in the driver's seat may come to mind. Beneath the hype and heady days of the 80's hard rock scene, however, there were true, inherent surges of brilliance from bands like King Kobra who boasted strong songs, precision chops and exuberant performances.

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Former Members:
Mike Wolf - guitar (1983)
Mark Free - vocals (1983-1987, 2001)
Marq Torien - vocals (1987)
Lonnie Vencent - bass guitar (1986-1987)
Larry Hart - bass guitar (1987-1989)
Jeff Northrup - guitar (1987-1989)
Johnny Edwards - vocals (1987-1989)
Kelly Keeling - vocals, bass guitar (2000-2001)
Steve Fisher - guitar (2000-2001)

Ready to Strike (1985)
Thrill of a Lifetime (1986)
King Kobra III (1988)
The Lost Years (1999) 
Hollywood Trash (2001)
Number One (2005)
King Kobra (2011)
King Kobra II (2013)
Sweden Rock Live (2018)




Carmine Appice Interview (Year 2000)

How did you get interested in drums? Do you play any other instruments?
C.A.: I started playing drums because my cousin played. And I liked playing his drums….I majored in Music in High school so I learned some music theory and harmony …..I play a little guitar,bass and keyboards….enough to write songs ….

When did you decide you wanted to make your own band? Who came up with the name King Kobra?
C.A.: I was forced into doing my own band when Sharon Osbourne fired me off the Bark at the moon Ozzy tour…she said my name was to big …I needed to start my own band….I came up with the name king cobra …and spelled it with a k….KOBRA

How'd you get all the guys together? Did you become better friends with any certain members than others?
C.A.: Well I was already working with Mark Free ….He did vocals on some songs that I had recorded as a demo for a solo cd I was planning ….while I was with Ozzy….so, after I was Fired we went full steam getting a band together me and Mark…after Mark we got guitarist Mike Wolfe….then I saw Dave play with Keel or someone(maybe Icon)…so I asked him to join …I already had the deal with Capitol ….I think….Anyway we where writing songs the three of us …next Johnny Rod sent me a package from St. Louis…after talking on the phone he had a great attitude and cool image, he was next to join…..after John joined …Mike didn’t work out…..we heard about a good looking guitarist working at tower records…..we went to see him and Mick was in….that completed the line up….The blonde hair and Kobra Kolors came from me… as I had Black and Purple hair and when I was with Ozzy…Motley Crue was the opening act…I reversed their hair colors…they had 3 black hair and one Blonde…I had all blonde and I was Black & Purple….

I had Dave living in my house for a while before the band was complete…so me and dave were close…but me and mark were close also…..then as the band progressed I was not close to anyone member…I tried to keep it even as I was the leader ….

Ready To Strike is most people’s favorite King Kobra album. Tell us how it came to be, the record deal, the recording process, etc.
C.A.: Well I was hooked Into Spencer Proffer/Pasha records…he had just produced QUIET RIOT…which sold millions….he helped us get the deal….Most of the songs where written in my house in my home studio where we worked everyday…most of the first album was put together by me, Dave and Mark as the band wasn’t complete yet….Spencer brought in a guy named Randy Bishop and Spencer rewrote some lyrics and a couple of musical changes…but has a whole ALL THE MUSIC WAS THE SAME AS WE WROTE AND A LOT OF THE LYRICS……after we decided what songs were going on the album …we went into rehearsal for about 2-3 weeks and started playing the songs together as a band….we went into Pasha studios and recorded the album….it took maybe 2 months to finish…meanwhile Mark was going to Karate Dance school to learn cool kicks etc…we paid for it, we bought thousands of $$ of stage and Just cool ROCK STAR clothes for everyone….everyone was on a salary….we bought the stage set that was in the HUNGER video …we bought a big truck,motorhome…we did it up 1st class…KING KOBRA WAS 1st class….

Why did Thrill Of A Lifetime take such a different direction than Ready To Strike? A lot of it is similar to the stuff Mark Free did solo. Was this his idea or what? Do you think it was an improvement for the band or was it the beginning of the end? What about all the stuff with the movie?
C.A.: Well that was capitol records fault….they blew the first album…we gave them a great heavy rock album and they couldn’t sell it…, they said before they do the next album ..( we had a 2 album deal) they wanted to hear singles because they did that well get singles going….so, we HAD to do that direction or lose our record deal…if we lost the record deal all momentum would stop…including the band salaries etc. so, we had no choice…I thougt some of the singles where great ….but as a hole the first album was better…but thrill worldwide sold more….because of IRON EAGLE….Iron Eagle came about from my good friend and co producer of Thrill …Duane hitchings….they had the song and needed someone to do it…we did and had LOU GOSSETT JR. in our video it was cool….

How'd you get the opening act for KISS? Did this have any relation to the work you did on Paul Stanley's solo album in 1978?
C.A.: I’ve known Kiss for many years…I was managed by AUCOIN MGT…at one time KISS’ managers….My Manger Alan Miller at the time was in AUCOIN from the beginng…and between both of our relationships with all the KISS guys they gave us the tour and gave us enough money to support ourselves on the tour…CAPITOL wouldn’t give us any support so we did it ourselves…

Any good touring stories or anything like that? Were any shows ever done in support of King Kobra III?
C.A.: No tours were done to support KKIII…I joined Blue Murder at that point….We had great times on the road….we used to have many breakdowns with our motorhome on the KISS tour…but no matter what we never missed a gig….Our gig in mexico was amazing …we took all the major magazines with us..gerry miller,metal edge, andy from hit parader…photographers…we were brought in by the government of mexico to play ACOPULCO ROCK Festival,US,Quiet Riot, LaToya Jackson(strange bill)…we had police escorts everywhere, hotel suites , limos…it was crazy….we played and the Mexician Police started beating people who were standing up and rockin’ with us…That started a Riot…we had to get out of the venue fast….it was nuts…but we had a great time and got lots of press from it worldwide….

Do you think that if you guys would have stuck with it that you could have ever made it?
C.A.: Well it was hard to stick it out because there was not one label that would sign us at that point…that is why KK III came out on my own label….

Did you have any favorite King Kobra songs or any songs that you hated?
C.A.: Yes I like BREAKIN’ OUT it was one of my favorite KK songs….Raise your hands to rock, shadow rider….I did not hate any of our songs

Why did you leave King Kobra and join Blue Murder? Did you regret leaving King Kobra when Blue Murder didn't turn out to be very successful? Did you ever think of getting the band back together after you were done in Blue Murder?
C.A.: As I said before KING KOBRA was over by the time the BLUE MURDER thing happened..I was beating a dead horse…the label who distributed KK III ripped us off and BLUE MURDER was on Geffen, produced by BOB ROCK, John Kolodner Was our A&R guy…SYKES, Tony Franklin(Both who’s playing I loved)…it looked like the best …cool rock trio….. I would have bet my HOUSE on the fact that BLUE MURDER was going all the way…great songs !!!…it did leave a great album that people still talk about now…we did some great concerts in the US and Japan…Japan BM was really big….And no I never thought of getting KK back after BM….MICK was in Bulletboys,John in WASP….Mark was doing stuff so…I went on with my career…..

The Lost Years was just released last year and it’s a collection of a few tracks from King Kobra III and the rest unreleased material. Is there any other unreleased material that might be surfacing in the future?
C.A.: Well there are some more tracks in the vault…like TAKE IT OFF from KKIII with Mark Free on vocals, some more tracks with Marq torien & Lonnie Vincent, Some tracks with Earl slick, me and Mark…maybe Johnny is on it…stuff like that…will it surface…at this time I don’t know….we are looking to do a new KK cd for 2001….

About how many albums has King Kobra sold worldwide, including The Lost Years?
C.A.: Maybe 400,000 ???? I don’t have numbers for KKIII or Lost Years…I think LOST YEARS did nothing on CLEOPATRA RECORDS

What's next for King Kobra? The people keep asking, is there ever going to be a new album or tour?
C.A.: We are working on a new CD…for MTM RECORDS in EUROPE….we hope to sign confirm the record deal by DEC 20th 2000…..If there is a cd then we maybe can do some shows in Europe….



David Michael-Philips Interview (Year 2000)

What was it like back when you were just a little boy named David Henzerling? Any favorite bands? How'd you get into the guitar?
DMP: Grew up in Phoenix, AZ. First album I ever bought was Deep Purple's "Machine Head". Early influences were Deep Purple, Kiss, Grand Funk, Montrose. My mom got me into guitar lessons when I was about 10.

You were briefly with Icon and Keel, how was it in those bands?
DMP: I was in a band called Schoolboys before they were called ICON. The original line-up was me (guitar), Dan Wexler (guitar), Tracy Wallach (bass), John Covington (drums) and Steve Clifford (sings). We recorded Mean Street Machine (later on KK III) on a locally released EP in 1980. It was also recorded by ICON for the first album, but was not included.

Ron Keel asked Kenny Chaisson and myself to move to L.A. and join his new band Keel after the breakup of Steeler (Yngwie Malmsteen was leaving) in 1984. When we got there, Ron said he was also auditioning for Black Sabbath. Needless to say, I started looking for another gig and found Carmine

Exactly how did you become a member of King Kobra? Who contacted you, did you hear they needed a guitarist, what?
DMP: I was doing phone sales in L.A. as a day job and Keel's drummer showed me an ad for Carmine's new project. I sent a tape and the rest is history (if you can call it that).

Were you especially close with any members of the band?
DMP: Not especially. I have stayed in contact with Carmine, though.

When you played at the Mexican festival how is it you guys and Quiet Riot ended up with La Toya Jackson?
DMP: Who knows? Ask the original promoter.

What were the boys in Quiet Riot like, or in any of the other bands you toured with? Any fights, or did everyone get along?
DMP: QR were always pretty nice. Everybody we ever played with was great.

KISS was probably the biggest act you toured with. How was it with those guys, who had already been hugely famous and with their millions of dollars?
DMP: Consummate professionals. They came by our dressing room and congratulated us the first night of the tour and were cordial every night. I watched every one of the thirty or so shows we did with them and they were great in every one.

Any interesting stories behind the scenes of King Kobra? Like while recording or while on tour?
DMP: We did a radio remix of "Tough Guys Don't Cry" with Steve Thompson (later Tesla's producer) that was never released by Capitol.

What King Kobra songs did you think were really cool, and what songs did you think totally sucked?
DMP: I love everything on "Ready To Strike". I'm quite proud of that record even today. I hated everything about "Thrill of a Lifetime" except "Overnight Sensation" and "Raise Your Hands To Rock" (written for "Ready To Strike", but not included). KKIII never got the credit it was due. Some great playing on that one, but too much of a mishmash of different ideas.

King Kobra definitely had talent, why do you think you guys never made it big? What went wrong? Anything you would have done differently?
DMP: One of the reasons KK did not last is that it became every man for himself. It was a project put together by Carmine for the express purpose of getting a record deal and I believe most of the members were hoping this would be just a springboard to other things.

It was only by accident that we really jelled and became a great band. But the pressures of courting the record company execs ripped any musical integrity to shreds and the small seed of greatness that was beginning to sprout after "Ready To Strike" died quickly.

I don't think the band would have lasted even if we would have had greater success. The financial set-up was ridiculous and Mark (Marcie) Free never really wanted to be in a hard rock band. I have nothing against Mark (he is a phenomenal singer), but I don't think his heart was ever really in it.

Interestingly, in my opinion, "Ready To Strike" is his best performance. I also like the stuff he did in "Black Roses" (right after KK).

After King Kobra you were with a band called Geronimo, what was that all about?
DMP: Geronimo was the fun, crazy, rock-n-roll band that KK never was. So much fun. When Johnny Rod re-joined we really kicked-ass.

Any other notable projects, before or after King Kobra?
DMP: "King of Kool" on Black Roses soundtrack - 1988 (and a great cover of AC/DC's "Gonna Be Some Rockin" that was never released).

Lizzy Borden's "Master of Disguise" (1989 - probably my best playing).

Tomcats - 1990-91 (my old ICON and Geronimo buddies). A cross between The Cult and AC/DC. Did a great demo for CBS.

Liquid Black - 1994-96 70's psychedelia, we did a 5-song EP with Roy Thomas Baker (producer of Queen, Cars, Journey, Ozzy, etc.) that I'm really proud of.

Produced Harry Perry's 1995 CD "Greatest Hits of the Millenium" (he's that weird guy with the turban who roller-blades/plays guitar on Venice Beach). This CD is hysterically funny.

You're now married and have several children. How's family life treating you?
DMP: I love having kids. I've got a lot of great stories to tell them.

Will the fans ever be seeing a "David Michael-Philips Solo Album" or anything of those sorts?
DMP: I'm hoping to make available all my KK (and other projects) memorabilia as time allows. I haven't played in 3 years (took time off to finish getting my Bachelors in Engineering and am getting my Masters in Computer Science). I've played a few gigs with my brother's band Gas Giants on Atomic Pop. I've got a ton of great stuff from Liquid Black that I would like to release some day.

Anything to mention about the King Kobra Reunion Tour, new albums, or anything else involving the future of King Kobra?
DMP: King Kobra was Carmine, David, Johnny, Mick and Mark (Marcie). If those guys aren't together, it's not KK. Not to say any other line-up wouldn't make a great record or tour, but KK, for its short life, was special and individual. I am honored that people listened to the music. That's all any artist can hope for.





Fan Stories (from the archives in Year 2000)

L-A. Silverthorne
In November of '87 my friend Jodi and I took a train to Toronto to see the Bullet Boys at Rock n' Roll Heaven.. When we got there, we had something to eat and then waited in line. Jodi and I casually walked to the front of the stage and jumped on the amp stacks... Jodi had the hots for Jimmy, and I liked Mick & Marq... He kept looking at me and smiling, and during "Smooh Up in Ya" he walked over to me, got down on one knee and handed me a pick... I picked it up and stuck it in my bustier... He kept winking at me, and I just kept blushing...We sat there for the whole set, and actually had a hard time walking afterward because of the vibrations..

A few months later, I saw them again at the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium with Winger and Cinderella. I got 2nd row floor right.. I had a different bustier on, and a sparkly coat I made.. They came out, and right away he recognized me... He smiled at me, and I smiled back.. I motioned with my finger to come to me because I wanted another pick.. He motioned for me To come over, I did, and I climbed over the rail into the (very small) pit.. I stayed there for the rest of the show... and came home with about 6 picks from Tom Keifer.. :)

Stacey Lewis
I used to live in LA, now in Philly - I used to hang out with Mic. Mic lived in this great little studio in Hollywood right around the corner from "The Cat and the Fiddle" - what a great guy! Viv (who went on to other gigs)... and Lita Ford were also there - in a small (rented) recording studio in LA. This was just as Iron Eagle was coming out!. We used to go to this place called Maggie's Pub and throw darts. I have a good friend (Gene Kirkland) who is a photographer – this was a beginning! - These were good friends!

Dean Havlik 
I recently met Mick after a Bullet Boys show in Atlanta. I had the opportunity to talk to him for a few minutes and told him about the time I saw King Kobra. I saw them open for KISS in early 1985 on the Animalize tour in Cedar Rapids, IA. I'll never forget that show. I never really heard King Kobra prior to that and they really blew my mind. The show took place a few weeks prior to the release of the Thrill of a Lifetime album came out. What I found so striking about the band was the amount of energy they put out. At one point Mick and David were doing a dual guitar solo, each were standing on opposite sides of the stage. Then they each ran right at each other, jumping up, in mid air passing one another, and then sliding down the drum riser on their backs. They never missed a note in the solo. It is still one of the coolest things I have ever seen a band do live. Also during the night Johnny was playing in the center of the stage, started moving backwards, then seemed to lose his footing. He fell back on the drum riser. The cool thing was he kept playing for a few moments laying down on it. I think he lost his footing, but he made it look very professional anyway. Then of course he did the routine of humping his bass. That was also pretty cool, and I know the chicks dug it. I also will never forget Mark making the Kobra hand sign before Raise your hands to Rock. He had what seemed to be the whole crowd doing it, pretty cool. The day after the show I went out and bought the Ready to Strike album and then bought Thrill of a Lifetime as soon as it came out. I was 14 when I saw the show and it had a big influence on me as a musician. I still get inspired remembering that show and currently I play in a band named Call Me Daddy out of Atlanta. All four of us have blonde hair! I told you they had a big influence on me!

Andi Clay
I saw K.K. back in 1986 at Hullman Center in Terre Haute, IN.  They were opening for KISS on the Asylum tour.  K.K. played a 45 minute set.  Needless to say that was the only time they toured around this area.

Michele Shrader-Summers
I met them around '86. In a bar called Cardies in Houston. They are the nicest guys. I hope nothings has changed as far as how great they were. Me and a friend followed them to a few locations in Texas with Johnny riding with us. It was a blast. Thanks guys for some of the best memories. Michele - Houston




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