Thursday, June 22, 2017

Living Loud: Catching up with John Corabi

Left to right: Doug Aldrich, Marco Mendoza, John Corabi, Brian Tichy and David Lowy of The Dead Daisies (photo courtesy of Chipster PR)

If you think Night in the Ruts was the last great Aerosmith album, you’re probably already a Dead Daisies fan. If you appreciate a real ’70’s-infused Hard Rock band doing the real thing, you’ve probably already seen The Dead Daisies live. But if you’re completely new to what this band has to offer, the recently released Live & Louder is the best place to start.

Easily one of the best-sounding live albums you’ll likely ever hear (thanks in large part to famed Aerosmith/Bad Company/Metallica/Santana mixer/engineer Anthony Focx), Live & Louder features onstage versions of the best moments from the band’s three studio albums (2013’s The Dead Daisies, 2015’s RevoluciĆ³n and 2016’s Make Some Noise) plus a couple of killer covers (Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son,” The Beatles’ “Helter Skelter,” Grand Funk Railroad’s “We’re An American Band,” The Who’s “Join Together”) added for good measure.

The album’s release is just one of the many highlights driving what is easily the most active time in The Dead Daisies’ career. Next month, they’ll perform for audiences in Japan before heading to South America. On August 3, they’ll hit the stage with the 60-piece Gorzow Philharmonic Orchestra as part of a special “Concert for Freedom” during Woodstock Poland, an annual event that has averaged 625,000 attendees in the last four years. From there, the band will embark on their first-ever North American headline tour.

After several line-up changes (including stints with Guns N’ Roses members Dizzy Reed and Richard Fortus), the current incarnation of The Dead Daisies includes guitarist/founding member David Lowy (Red Phoenix/Mink), singer John Corabi (Motley Crue/Ratt/The Scream), guitarist Doug Aldrich (Whitesnake/Dio/Lion), bassist Marco Mendoza (Thin Lizzy/Whitesnake/Bill Ward Band) and drummer Brian Tichy (Ozzy Osbourne/Foreigner).

For John Corabi, The Dead Daisies is the latest chapter in a long career that that has included stints with some of the biggest names in Hard Rock and Metal. He first gained national attention as the frontman of The Scream, a superb Los Angeles-based group whose 1991 debut, Let It Scream, remains one of the most underrated releases of the era. From there, he replaced Vince Neil in Motley Crue for the band’s self-titled 1994 album – considered by many fans to be among the band’s strongest material. Since his days with the Crue, Corabi’s musical travels have included time with the criminally ignored Union (with former KISS guitarist Bruce Kulick) and a near-decade-long run as a guitarist in Ratt. He was brutally honest about those last two band, The Dead Daisies’ revolving door lineup, his finances and a whole lot more in the following interview.

You’re three studio albums into your life as a band. Why do a live album now? It kind of reminds me of the old Kiss formula – three studio albums and then a live record.

I joined the band in January 2015. Since I’ve joined the band, we went to Australia, wrote, recorded, mixed and mastered a record, immediately went on tour with Kiss, toured right up until December and came home. Richard and Dizzy went back to Guns N’ Roses, we got Doug Aldrich in the band, went right back into the studio, wrote, recorded, mixed and mastered another record and immediately went on tour again. There’s still some interest obviously in Make Some Noise, but while we were on tour last year, we recorded about five shows, and it was for a combination of a few things. A lot of our fans who were writing to us were basically saying, ‘The record was great, but God, after I saw you guys live, it was so much better.’ We’re doing another record at the end of this year; we’re going in and writing and recording another one. Instead of having us record now, I think our management just wanted to give us a little more time to kind of [cultivate] our thoughts because the first two records came within a year.

The Dead Daisies have had a few lineup changes since the beginning. What do you think it is about this current lineup that works so well? Why does this particular combination of musicians succeed?

David started this band in 2012 with another singer named Jon Stevens. He’s a very well-known, popular singer in his own right; he sang with INXS. I’ve got to be honest with you; they kind of did the whole process a little bit ass-backwards. Most bands get together with a bunch of dudes, hang out for a while, write songs together and then they try to get a record deal. They did it backwards; they just got together, wrote a bunch of songs, went in and recorded them with session guys, did the record and then said, ‘Let’s go out and do some shows.’ For a combination of a lot of things, you put a band together and then you go out and do some shows and you’re like, ‘Wow, this guy's really cool; he’s a great guy and a great player – and it’s just not working.’ You just don’t get along with him or he’s not really easy to work with on tour. So I think there were some growing pains, but it was done in public because they did it the way they did. Part of it too was that we had Richard and Dizzy, and nobody really saw the Guns N’ Roses thing coming until the last minute. Dizzy and Richard finally came to us and said, ‘Here’s the deal, guys. GN’R called us; they’re doing a reunion thing and they want [us] involved in it.’ They gave us plenty of notice, and it was Richard who actually suggested that we get Doug. He was like, ‘With the type of music that you guys all dig and what you’re trying to do, I think Doug’s the guy.’

Since David Lowy put the band together, he’s always had the idea of having a set, steady band the whole time, but there were little mishaps and different things. The list [of members] is a bit deceiving as well, because some of the people who are on the list are people who just filled in for a brief period of time. Like last year, Brian couldn't do part of the Kiss tour because he had prior commitments, so we got Tommy Clufetos [Black Sabbath] to come in, so Tommy’s on the list. Then we had a guy named Dave Leslie fill in for Richard before we went to go to Australia because Richard was in a motorcycle accident. So, there are a few of those names that are just friends, pals, mates of ours. They’re kind of part of the family; they just move in. If we ever need to use them again, they’d be more than happy to do it. We’ve had a great time with them, but they were just fill-in guys.

John Corabi on “With You And I:” “I think the lyrics to ‘With You And I’ are especially relevant at the moment; you can't turn the TV on and NOT see some sort of human decay anymore. We're battling each other in so many ways, it's disturbing. Be it political party differences, the struggle of black vs. white, religious differences, terrorism, famine, disease, pollution, climate change, etc. – nobody is working TOGETHER in any way to find answers to these issues and communicate as adults!”

You raise an interesting point, because you also have your own music that you do in a solo sense in addition to The Dead Daisies. How does that work within your schedule with the band? How do you balance both things at the same time?

When I’m with the Daisies, I focus on the Daisies; when I’m out doing my thing, I focus on that. Oddly enough, I may wind up getting into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame for just one purpose only. (laughs) I’ve got Live & Louder and then at the end of the year, I’m actually releasing a John Corabi solo record, which is also live, that I recorded like a year and a half ago called ’94 Live: One Night in Nashville. I was out doing some shows doing Motley ’94 stuff. I recorded it and I turned it in like a year ago. We were always struggling to figure out when I could release the record where it didn’t interfere with the Daisies... I’m going to drop it late September, August, something like that. I’ll go down in history as being the only dumbass who put two live records out in the same year!  

I know a lot people are very excited to hear that ’94 live stuff.

It really sounds great, dude. I kind of went into it saying, ‘I’m doing one show.’ I didn’t have the luxury of recording a week’s worth of shows or a whole tour; I literally went into a club, I set it up, I rehearsed my band and we went in and did one show. One of my favorite live records of all time is Aerosmith’s Live Bootleg. There are little glitches in it; there are things feeding back and whatever. It’s boom! So we did the record, and it came out great. Everybody played their ass off. We gave it to Michael Wagener and asked him to mix it. I’m very blessed, man. I’ve got this Dead Daisies record; everybody played their ass off, and we gave it to Anthony Focx, who’s an incredible engineer and producer. He did an amazing job; he did unbelievable work with it. I gave my record to Michael Wagener, and he did a great job as well. It’s all good.

Union is one of my favorite things that you’ve done over the years. When I lived in California, I actually saw you guys play at Paladino’s out in Tarzana –

That’s going way back!

I’ve always loved that band, and I interviewed Bruce once. It’s been a few years since that project’s been active. Do you see a future for that in any way, shape or form at this point in time?

I don’t know. I don’t want to say no, because we’re all on good terms. We never really split up. If I can be completely frank, Union was just one of those bands where we were doing well with attendance at the shows, but it wasn’t translating into record sales. Back then, it was right at the beginning of Napster and file-sharing. That’s where the bands made their money – in record sales. Now, it’s kind of flipped – bands don’t really sell any records; now, they make their money on the touring and shows. The problem with Union is that we just couldn’t get anybody to pay attention to us at the time. The funny thing of it is, my manager laughs; she goes, ‘Dude, every record you’ve ever done – whether it’s The Scream, the Motley record or Union – for some reason, when the records come out, it’s kind of like nobody really notices. But then, for some apparent reason 10 or 15 years later, they’re like hailed as these great albums.’ Now, everybody’s writing to me bitching that they can’t find the records and can’t get them! I don’t know if I had the worst PR on Earth or if I was way ahead of the curve, but I’m still trying to figure that one out! When we all had some time off, I think it would be a lot of fun to get together with Bruce and [drummer] Brent [Fitz] and [bassist] Jaime [Hunting] and just go out and do a little run – like a month – and just go do some shows. I think that would be a lot of fun.

Photo courtesy of Chipster PR

I interviewed Stephen Pearcy a few months back, and obviously there’s a lot going on with Ratt. You have a history with that band; what are your thoughts on what’s going on with these guys at this point?

Listen, I love [guitarist] Warren [DeMartini] and Stephen. I’ve never really worked with [bassist] Juan [Croucier] and [guitarist] Carlos [Cavazo] before, but I worked with Warren, Stephen and Bobby. Each one of those guys is his own animal. I love them to death, but you’ve got to kind of figure out how to play each one of them or know how to communicate with each one. Honestly, as much as I love those guys, they’ve always been dysfunctional – always. If Warren would say to Bobby, ‘Hey, the song is too fast,’ Bobby would say, ‘Go fuck yourself! I’ve been playing it this way for 25 years; I know what I’m talking about.’ If I can be frank, the minute they got their record deal with Roadrunner [for 2010’s Infestation]– and you can ask [former bassist] Robbie Crane or anybody who was involved with the band – and said, ‘Hey, we’re doing a record! We signed the deal; it’s on,’ I told them I quit! (laughs) [I said], ‘I can’t get through a fucking rehearsal with you guys, let alone eight months writing and recording. No!’ I can’t picture doing it. It would be like performing brain surgery on yourself through your asshole. I just said I wasn’t interested.

I don’t know; I don’t see any settling [of] that whole debate. I don’t think that Bobby deserves the name; if anything, it does belong more to Warren, Stephen and Juan; at least they’ve got more original members than Blotzer’s take… Until they figure out how to talk to each other reasonably, I don’t see any bright future for that thing at all.

You’ve been in this business for decades now, and it’s not the easiest career path in the world. What do you see as the key to survival? Most specifically, what keeps you excited to keep doing this?

Honestly, man, I love doing it. I love the fact that people are still showing up – actually, even now more than ever. I just kind of accepted the business the way it is. The days of bands getting out there and playing The Forum are few and far between, man. I don’t want to say I’ve lowered my standards, because I haven’t. I feel like there are certain things that I can control and I can worry about, and I just go out and try to do the best that I can do as far as writing. I try to take care of myself when I’m on tour for my singing and keep myself in reasonably good shape so that I give the people their money’s worth. Other than that, I’m just grateful over the fact that I still do have a career. I still enjoy taking a riff and getting into a room with guys like Doug, Marco, Brian and David and putting that riff on the table and seeing everybody get excited about it – then we all build this thing. I love watching the process of it going from a riff – which is like a seed – and then hearing the song back finished, like ‘We did this!’

Honestly, dude, I think about what you just said – I’ve been doing this a lot longer than a lot of other people. I’m not a multi-millionaire; I’m not a millionaire. I’m just working hard and I’m saving a little bit of money here and there. I’ve got a great wife; we have a great house. My career’s going great, and I have great kids. I’m just kind of glad and grateful for everything, and I’ve just learned to stop looking at the glass as half-empty. I look at it as half-full, and I think that just comes with age, man. Not to sound like ‘Old Decrepit Aging Dude,’ but there is some truth to ‘with age comes wisdom.’

*Portions of the above interview were edited for space and clarity. 

Photo courtesy of Chipster PR


Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Metal's Trans Maiden: Mina Caputo on Sex, Drugs & Survival

Photo courtesy of Freeman Promotions 

As anyone who’s ever attempted to establish a long-lasting career in the music business will tell you, finding the right combination of musicians for a band is a daunting task. Although different incarnations of New York legends Life of Agony have existed over the years, no one can deny that true magic occurs whenever the classic lineup of singer Mina Caputo, guitarist Joey Z, bassist Alan Robert and drummer Sal Abruscato (A Pale Horse Called Death/Type O Negative) convenes in a recording studio. Released last month, the extraordinary A Place Where There's No More Pain is the band’s first album since 2005’s Broken Valley and their debut release on venerable Metal/Hard Rock label Napalm Records.

A lot has happened to Life of Agony since they first appeared in the then-thriving New York underground Hardcore/Metal scene in the late 80s. Referred to by many back then as “Biohazard with keyboards” thanks to early demo recordings like 1991’s brilliant The Stain Remains, the band elevated their unique sound to new heights with 1993’s River Runs Red, a undisputed classic that is still as intense and innovative as it was nearly a quarter century ago. Since then, they’ve gone through personnel bust-ups (including a short stint with Ugly Kid Joe’s Whitfield Crane replacing Caputo), extended hiatuses and – perhaps most notable of all – the 2011 announcement by Caputo, who was once known to world as Keith, that she was now living as a woman named Mina. While Life of Agony have experienced more than a few internal twists and turns over the years, A Place Where There's No More Pain proves that the group’s creative output remains strong after nearly three decades.

Late last month, longtime Life of Agony fans in Boston were treated to the live debut of the new album’s title track as well as another new tune, “World Gone Mad.” The sold-out show and playful onstage banter (which included Caputo jokingly introducing 1993’s “Lost at 22” as “Lost at 42”) made it clear that this was a band meant to survive.

As you might imagine, chatting with Mina Caputo is an experience as intense as listening to one of her albums with Life of Agony. It didn’t take much prompting on this end to get her to really speak her mind on topics ranging from downloading to drugs to how society has evolved in its acceptance and understanding of transgender people. With the exception of a few very minor edits for space/clarity, what follows is our conversation as it happened last month – tangents and all. My deepest respect to Mina for her candor – a true rarity in a world where pre-packaged/pre-rehearsed press interviews are far too often the norm.

I’m originally from New Jersey; I was around that New Jersey/New York scene in the late ’80s/early ’90s and remember when The Stain Remains came out. You’ve been around a long time now. You have the new record out, and you’ve been a functioning band again for a while now -

(Laughs) Sort of!

Well, at least you’re putting out records, right?

Yeah, and at least it’s quality work. It ain’t no piece-of-shit record; it’s probably the best record we’ve done together in our entire lives, thanks to all the life experience that we’ve had individually and of course collectively. That’s my opinion, anyway. I have the best taste in music, so I don’t believe anyone else! (laughs)

How would you describe the general mindset and relationship within the band now? How do you think that is reflected on this new record?

Obviously, we’re all getting older. The things you used to take very seriously when you were in your twenties and thirties are things you don’t really take so seriously when you’re in your forties. You can look back and laugh at all the worrying you did or arguing or all the fun you took away from yourself and all the bullshit that comes with Western culture. I think the band has been in a very empowered place or playground – very light. We’re trying to just not really give a fuck and have a good time. We’re not really putting so much effort into the machine. We’re saying no to a lot of things and really being selective of where we want to be, who we want to play with and where we want to travel to. We’re doing things our way; we fired everyone. The band is very close-knit now; we’ve weaved our way to the center of this machine in a sense - instead of everyone else being around us, making money off of us, robbing us, everyone who works for the band having their own personal agenda... All that’s gone. We’re just fuckin’ having fun; we’re just not taking life, music, this band or any of this seriously. If it happens for us, it happens for us; if we attain a new level of impact in the industry, and our contribution has more impact than what we’ve already done for our genre or whatever – or genres, because this band’s, you know… They call us Metal or Hardcore or this or that, but those are just soulless approaches to categorizing a band that’s so much bigger than all of these puny subdivision categories. We don’t fit in anywhere, and we know that. That being said, we constantly fucking threw down. We’re in a great spot; we’re arguing about cool things and things that makes sense – not even arguing, but just discussing. We just want to have a good time.

The boys are very much into their families and their kids. We’re focused on different things, and that allowed us, I think, to write the record that we actually wrote, rather than feeling the ball and chain and shackle of, ‘Who from the label wants to dive into the artistic preparation for the album?We were like, ‘Yo, we’ll do this [record] deal, and the most important clause for us would be that nobody steps into the creative process. Not even a fucking demo will be leaked.’ That’s the way we approached it, and we pretty much blocked out the label; we blocked out everyone – booking agent, management. We fuckin’ did our thing. We went to several different kinds of studios; we file-shared and did everything we could to make the songs the best that they possibly could be. I basically sang the record twice in a way, because I demoed everything first just to show the boys how alive these songs could get… Then, we would pick it apart from there – ‘Ah, that verse ain’t that strong; let’s go for a different one,’ or Al will send me lyrics or a chorus [and say], ‘Can you try this maybe, or combine the two?’ We’re very open; we have a good time. We were very detached from the creative process; we had no personal ideas or agendas. It was just like, ‘Yo, let’s really collectively hone in on this and do this and try to make the best possible record we can.’

I think some of the guys were jaded from the whole Broken Valley era as well – with Epic Records and the nightmare we went through with that dick, and the bullshit, the lies and all the money being spent in all the wrong different directions. It’s just a fucking headache with all these fucking people. People just don’t realize the depth; if they did, they wouldn’t steal music.

Yeah, you’re absolutely right! I’m 100 percent behind you on that one.

Absolutely, man! I’m fucking hate that; I’m sorry. I’ve never downloaded a fucking CD to this day, man. I fucking buy music, I buy movies and I support my fucking creative people, even though I don’t know them. And even if I did see a movie that I shouldn’t have [online], I’ll go fucking to the movie theatre and go see it. I saw The Revenant before it was out in the theatre, and this one and that one, but I went out to the theatre and spent my money on the arts anyway. I don’t want free shit. My boy [Howie Abrams] just wrote the fuckin’ H.R. book [Finding Joseph I: An Oral History of H.R. from Bad Brains], and I’m signed to the publishing company because I’m doing my own book. I’m just like ‘Motherfucker, I’m going out to buy your book! I don’t want a free copy.’ You know what I mean? You fucking buy three coffees for $20; you can’t buy a fucking album?

Well, look, I get electronic files of your record and everybody else’s record sent to me all the time, but I’ll go out and buy the hard copy if I really like it. That’s always been the way it’s been.

A lot of people don’t behave that way. They’re fucking just…A lot of people got the ‘gimme gimme gimme’ attitude in this life and in this world, and that’s why culture isn’t really our friend in a sense. You’ve got too many people who just need attitude adjustments. They just need a little alignment adjustment to get them back on an empowering road rather than a fear-based, ‘let me think what everybody else is thinking in the world’ kinda approach to life. There’s no unique, authentic, rare mind... It’s hard to come across that and a real creative individual in this culture.

How would you say societys ability to embrace the transgender reality has evolved over the years?

When I was growing up, Atari was our Mac. I grew up in a very different time. I already knew that we had this umbrella title called ‘transgender woman’ or ‘transsexual’ or whatever you want to call us...We’re a different kind of human being, and there aren’t just two [genders]; it’s just part of the farce of the institutions that are set in place for humanity to think. There’s tons of different kinds of human life on the planet, just like there’s hundreds of thousands of plant species. Just like there’s hundreds of thousands of amphibian, reptilian and bird species and mammals. Human beings aren’t just male and female; it doesn’t work like that. You need to fuckin’ open your mind. And I do think as time evolves, more and more people really don’t care. Everyone’s got their own story. I think everyone puts too much emphasis on what everyone else is thinking rather than what they should be thinking and making their own personal changes. Change starts from within; change starts from inside your own self. I wanted to see more people like me walking the planet, so what did I do 10 years ago? I had to come out, because it got to a half-hearted suicidal point where I was doing crazy fuckin’ drugs – heroin, coke – for weekends and weeks at a time, hoping to die at 25 because I couldn’t bear to live as a man because I knew I wasn’t. The soul, the consciousness – it’s alive; it’s big, even though science, the church and religion try to deny this stuff. All these institutions fighting against nature. That’s what they’re all designed to do – take your own nature away from you. But I do believe that progress is being made; we’re definitely in a safer environment than when I was growing up in the late ’70s and early ’80s. I couldn’t have come out; my grandfather would have put a bullet in my fucking head. My grandmother knew, but we couldn’t tell the family because my grandfather would have literally murdered me. He was a racist, he was homophobic and he was transphobic – he fucking hated himself. He beat the shit out of me and his wife my entire childhood – in fact, I never even had a fucking childhood. It was mothering my junkie father my entire fucking life. I always had that motherly instinct, hence why my wings needed to spread.

I think progress definitely has been made, but there’s still a lot of work to be done. I still think a lot of people are not afraid of people like me; what they’re really afraid of are their private selves. They can’t look at themselves in the mirror – they can’t enjoy themselves, they can’t enjoy their bodies, they can’t enjoy their sex, they can’t enjoy anything about themselves. They try every fucking minute to not look in the mirror... Transsexuals, gay people – we’re the most creative, open, empowered, giving, sentimental, loving and compassionate people on the fucking planet. But then you’ve got all these other motherfuckers who are running the fuckin’ planet trying to make rules, regulations and laws on why and how you shouldn’t be transsexual or gay – or you shouldn’t do this or shouldn’t do that. They’re telling you, ‘No, no, no, no, no!’ but meanwhile all these politicians and priests are all getting their hands dirty with little children and child trafficking and pedophilia. The world’s run by quote-unquote ‘faggots’ and transsexuals, okay? That’s the big fucking thing – the jig is up. Everyone needs to wake the fuck up.

I appreciate you sharing that.

Well, it’s my truth. It’s how I perceive my world. But there are seven billion people out there with seven billion fucking realities, you know? Also too, hon, listen…Not one neurologist brain doctor or fucking scholar – I don’t give a fuck if you have the heart, mind and scholarship of the Dalai Lama, nobody could map out, or precisely or sentimentally just explain neurologically, what goes on in our biochemistry for a genetic female to change her gender into a male and vice versa. Isn’t it funny how male-to-females are sensationalized in our Western culture and how female-to-male transsexuals or transgender men aren’t even talked about in the fuckin’ news at all? Everyone’s obsessed with the penis, okay? Everyone’s obsessed with the phallus. Bombs are made in the shapes of penises. That’s what we’re dealing with – penis fucking envy from politically ignorant, fuckin’ fear-based, power-hungry megalomaniac fucking monsters that are fucking running this planet into oblivion, basically. No one could explain the chaos of nature; let me put it to you that way. There are many fish [and] there are many insects and plant species that go from male to female to female to male later on in their lives. The clownfish does it; the male seahorse fertilizes himself and takes care of the young. If that’s not an homage to femininity and nature, I don’t know what is. Again, there are institutions designed to take the human being away from its own nature – especially religion, the fucking institution that claims love. Mankind’s been searching for this idea of God, but it’s all bullshit; it’s just another candy store, and people can’t see through the candy that they’re selling.

Basically, that’s what it is, hon; it’s very simple. Once you’ve lived years and you’ve taken the right drugs and expanded your mind and understand the whole scheme of things – and they’re not even drugs; I'm talking about marijuana or DMT or iowaska or the magic mushroom... Notice how even what they label as drugs are basically nature that expands consciousness? The reason why all these quote-unquote ‘drugs’ are on the list of Schedule 1 drugs above alcohol and cocaine is because they’re boundary-dissolvers. They open up consciousness; they open up the heart to love. 

You can see more art, more creation, more mathematics, more science and more astrology in the four hours that you’re laying on the middle of your floor tripping out…You can see more art and love in four hours than has been created in the past one million fuckin’ years. The authorities, the drug companies…please; they’re putting poison over the counter…These institutions are designed to create fear, separation, division…It’s exactly what’s going. Even part of the whole gender thing. Who the fuck are you to tell me about my own sovereign right and my own fuckin’ body, mind and soul? Who the fuck are you to tell me how I should experience my experience? That’s what they’re doing – from the stupid fuckin’ bathroom laws to whatever. It’s a fuckin’ joke, and it’s all designed to take man- and-womankind away from their own nature.

Photo courtesy of Freeman Promotions