King Kobra was started by drummer Carmine Appice after he finished work touring with Ozzy Osbourne for the “Bark At The Moon” tour. The band was rounded out by mostly unknown musicians at the time consisting of Mark Free (Lead Vocals), Mick Sweda (Guitar), David Micheal Phillips (Guitar) and Johnny Rod (Bass). All band members except for Appice had bleached-blonde hair that was considered somewhat of a unique look at that time. King Kobra released two studio albums featuring the original lineup for Capitol Records, Ready to Strike (1985) and Thrill of a Lifetime (1986). The song “Iron Eagle (Never Say Die)” was featured on the soundtrack album from the 1986 movie Iron Eagle and the video garnered the band a lot of airplay on MTV. Later, the band released King Kobra III (1988), Hollywood Trash (2001) with various lineups before reuniting the original lineup except for Free, who was replaced by Rough Cutt and Quiet Riot vocalist Paul Shortino for two albums with Frontiers Music, King Kobra (2011) and King Kobra II (2013). The band went on hiatus in 2013.
So…Where are they now?
Mark Free – vocals (1983-1987)
Mark Free performed lead vocals on the first two King Kobra albums “Ready to Strike” and “Thrill of a Lifetime” before leaving the band in 1986. Free then released two albums with the band “Signal” Loud & Clear (1989) and Signal Live (2000). Mark Free then fronted the band Unruly Child which released their debut in 1992. Free still fronts “Unruly Child” but has gone by Marcie Free after reportedly suffering from gender dysphoria for most of his/her life. People who experience gender dysphoria are typically transgender. Marcie Free has recorded the following albums with “Unruly Child” Tormented (1995), Worlds Collide (2010), Down the Rabbit Hole (2014), Can’t Go Home (2017), and Big Blue World (2019).
David Michael-Phillips – guitar, keyboards, synthesizers (1983-1989, 2010)
David played on five King Kobra albums: Ready to Strike (1985), Thrill of a Lifetime (1986), King Kobra III (1988), King Kobra (2011), and II (2013). David also played on two albums by Lizzy Borden as well as in the band Big Cock with Warrant’s Robert Mason. David continues to compose and produce original projects as well as perform locally with his Arizona-based cover band Trailer Park
Mick Sweda – guitar, synthesizers (1983-1987, 2000-2001, 2010)
Mick Sweda left King Kobra in 1987 and started The BulletBoys with Lonnie Vincent and Marq Torien. The Bulletboys signed to Warner Bros. Records in 1988 and released three albums. Their debut album received rave reviews from critics and fans alike, with many critics drawing a comparison in their sound to Van Halen. However, the second and third albums sold less with each release and Sweda eventually left the band in 1993. In 2020, The Bulletboys announced that the original lineup of Marq Torien, Lonnie Vincent, Mick Sweda, and Jimmy D’Anda would reunite and embark on a U.S. tour with the possibility of newly recorded material in the near future.
Johnny Rod – bass guitar (1983-1986, 2010)
Johnny Rod started out in his mainstream career with King Kobra. Rod left King Kobra to join W.A.S.P. in 1986. After W.A.S.P.’s The Last Command tour, guitarist Randy Piper departed the band. Former King Kobra bassist Johnny Rod joined W.A.S.P. as Lawless went back to playing rhythm guitar. He performed with W.A.S.P. from 1986–1989, and again from 1992–1993. In 2010 he reunited with the other King Kobra original members with Paul Shortino handling vocals in place of Mark “Marcie” Free.
Carmine Appice – drums (1983-1989, 2000-2001, 2010)
Carmine Appice has been in some of the great bands in rock history from the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s. Known for bands like Vanilla Fudge; Cactus; Beck, Bogert & Appice; Rod Stewart; Ted Nugent, Ozzy Osbourne, King Kobra; and Blue Murder. Appice started King Kobra after his stint of touring with Ozzy Osbourne for the “Bark At The Moon” album, Appice formed King Kobra. Later Carmine went on to form the critically acclaimed rock group “Blue Murder” with John Sykes. Recently, Carmine released the album Sinister as “Appice” with his brother Vinny Appice which showcases both brothers drumming skills. The two brothers have been doing Drum Wars performances for many years.
We asked Carmine a while back about King Kobra and the chance of a reunion with the original members and this is what he had to say about it:
XS ROCK: So you mentioned King Kobra. I’m a huge fan and I’ve followed the band since the first album, which is one of the best rock debut records to come out in the ’80s. Now the original vocalist was Mark Free, which has since undergone a transformation and is now known as Marcie Free. Do you still ever talk to each other anymore?
Carmine: I don’t anymore. I used to speak to “them” all of the time. I say them because it’s so weird for me to call Mark Free, Marcie now (laughs). About two or three years ago, I was doing a record deal with a label and we were just getting catalog stuff together. Somebody had given me a DVD of King Kobra live in Mexico. There’s no real money in it because people just don’t buy a lot of DVDs nowadays. So I had a deal that was maybe worth $500. It was going to cost me $150 to do the menus and all of that stuff. So we’d have $350 and we could just divide it equally among all of the original members. I just wanted to get it out there so the fans had something to watch because we never really had any live video footage. So Mark (Marcie) Free says no way! I’m not going to sell my voice for $50 and if you do it I’m going to sue you. I said, “come on dude, what are we talking about here?” We’re not talking about in the ’80s, there’s no money in this thing. We’re just doing it for the fans, really. So I said, you know what? I don’t need to do it. I don’t financially or creatively need to do it. So if you don’t want to do it, then “Fuck it”! So that’s the last time that I talked to him.
XS ROCK: So there’s never going to be a chance that there will be a reunion of the original lineup then?
Carmine: No, no. When the Frontiers thing came about. I got Paul Shortino. He’s a well-known singer, and he said he’d love to do it. And we put out two of the greatest King Kobra records that I think we ever did. I want to do some live King Kobra shows next year because we have King Kobra at the Sweden Rock Festival coming out. So now David Michael-Phillips doesn’t want to tour and Mick Sweda is in the movie business. So I guess if we do come out, it’ll be me, Paul, Johnny Rod and the guitar player that we took out on the live album. He’s really great. We’ll have one original member and one really well-known member. Most bands only have one original member now anyways…(laughs).