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






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