John Corabi is one of the musicians in this world, that for some reason or another, never seem to get the true credit which they deserve. Corabi never hit the "big time" with his first major band, the Scream, and his dream gig of fronting the legendary Motley Crue quickly became a nightmare, as not only was the band going through a transitional phase - trying to redefine who they were as a group - but so was the music world itself, with the end result being Motley's record company demanding Corabi to be fired, in order for the band to rehire original singer, Vince Neil. From then on, Corabi felt the effects of the double edged sword of being in a band (Union), where the majority of the group's member's names were preceded by the words "formerly of," to jumping the sinking ship of his ill-fated reunion with former Motley Crue band mate, Nikki Sixx, in the group, Brides of Destruction.
After quitting the dead end job of fulfilling the lackluster duties as the rhythm guitarist in Ratt, John Corabi decided that it was finally his time to take the spotlight once again, by releasing his first ever solo album, simply entitled, "Unplugged." While the average person might have been permanently discouraged by the musical hand he has been dealt, John Corabi perseveres by continuing to do the one true thing he loves, that will never ask for a divorce, music.
RockMusicStar was recently granted an exclusive interview with John Corabi, where he opens up about his musical past, present, and future, giving you - the reader, an inside look into the life of "the Crab."
RockMusicStar: You recently released your first solo album, "Unplugged," and I'd like to compliment you on how great and full it sounds, considering there is little to no percussion on the recording. What was it about doing an all acoustic, 'unplugged' recording that appealed to you?
John Corabi: Pretty much every song, that I've ever written EVER, whether it be the Scream, Motley (Crue), Union, whatever, pretty much started on an acoustic guitar. So I've always been very comfortable just noodling around on an acoustic. Even when I'm at home, I have a ton of electric guitars and amps and stuff, but after a tour, I usually pack those away, but I always have acoustic guitars all over my house. So my writing always starts with an acoustic guitar. I was also a huge fan of the "MTV Unplugged" series in the 90's. Any band can go up on stage and turn their amps on and just turn up, and have the comfort to hide (their flaws) behind volume and drums, and all the stuff that's going on in a live situation or setting. But when you're playing acoustic, especially with those "Unplugged" things, it's a different animal all together. You really have to be on your game when you're doing an acoustic thing, but at that point, it's just about the melody, the words and the delivery. I've always wanted to do an acoustic record and I know a lot of people are asking me why I chose to do an acoustic album for my first solo record. Considering I've done 8 or 9 (electric) records, I just felt like, "Why not?" Now's the time. Just let me do this and just kind of let people know that I'm not just the guy out there screamin' "Hooligan's Holiday" or "Old Man Wise." There's a little more to me than what people have heard over the past 15 or 20 years.
RMS: Considering most bands no longer have the big budgets to work with and most artists are using home studios with pro tools, etc., I have to say that your recording really sounds like a million dollars.
JC: If I can be totally frank and honest with you, we started on a Monday, we were done tracking the following Saturday evening/Sunday morning, we took a day off, and then went down to Atlanta and mixed it in 2 days. So we did the whole thing, literally, in 9 days. We recorded this whole record in 9 days, for probably, out the door - all expenses, artwork and everything - for about $4,000.
RMS: Wow!! One of the songs on the CD, "I Never Loved Her Anyway," seemed somewhat different from the rest of the album, as it had a real Country flair to it. Is that style something we might hear more of from you in the future?
JC: Nah. To be honest with you, that's a cover from the Scream album. And you know it's really weird, we had a little fun with it, and I put a little bit of 'southern stank' on it, but when I first wrote that song, I was totally influenced by Led Zeppelin's "Bron-Y-Aur Stomp." I'm a huge Zeppelin fan and the song was kind of like, "What would Zeppelin do if they were writing this song?." It's got a weird tuning to it, and when we re-did it for the CD, we just kind of put a little more 'stank' on it, and my bass player, Topher, just kind of did a blue-grass bass line to it. We just had fun with it. Even though 'Country' and 'Rock" are more closely linked than ever today, I don't think you'll see me on "Country Star" anytime in the near future. (Laughs)
RMS: One record that you did that was really 'under the radar' was the Twenty 4 Seven "Destination Everywhere" CD. I thought the material had a unique vibe to it and was rather good. What was the story behind that band and record?
JC: That was Bobby Blotzer's (Ratt) record deal. Bobby got that record deal and he initially asked Jack Russell (Great White) to sing on that record. I don't know what Jack's reasons for saying "No" were, but I think I was actually like Bobby's third or fourth choice. First, he went to Jack Russell and he couldn't do it, and then he asked Raplh Saenz - who's now the singer in Steel Panther - and then he asked Jani Lane to sing on it, and everyone was like, "No, can't do it," or didn't want to do it. So then Bobby came to me and said, "I got this record deal" and he asked me to sing like 3 or 4 songs. And then I wound up singing on the whole record. As far as writing goes, I only wrote one song on the record - with Bobby. All the rest of that stuff, he either wrote with Ralph or Jack Russell.
After I went in to sing it, there was some weird thing that went on, and I don't know the exact situation because I wasn't there, but there was some sort of issue between Bobby and the record label, and the guy producing the record, Mike Vescera. They had some sort of falling out. I went in and laid a bunch of my tracks down, and then I left for a few days. We recorded it Connecticut, and then I went to visit my family in Philadelphia. While I was in Philadelphia, I got this frantic phone call from the record company and Mike Vescera, and then asked me to, please, come back up (to Connecticut). Something happened, Bobby left, they got into a huge brawl, and since Bobby left, they asked me to come up and help finish what Bobby started. So I basically went up and did a bunch of overdubbs and some guitar parts, and some different things like that, to help just complete the record, and then mixed it, and then I left. And then at that point, I was like, "You guys sort out all the drama, I'll talk to you later." Apparently, that record wasn't supposed to come out and then it did.
RMS: The funny thing about that record is Bobby rehashed a few of the songs and riffs from that CD for the Ratt "Infestation" record.
JC: I do know that I have a writing credit on the Ratt record, because of the one song that I wrote for Twenty 4 Seven wound up getting used. Stephen Pearcy heard it and liked it, and he just wanted to play around and change some lyrics and change some stuff, so I have like 10% writing credit on that one song.
RMS: Another weird situation you were involved in was the Brides of Destruction band and CD. It seemed like that was a project that had potential to be something very cool, but then died very fast.
JC: It's funny because Tracii Guns and I just talked about this recently. We did a tour together not that long ago, and he was a little discouraged about some of the things I had been saying in the press. We discussed it, and everything's fine. I love Tracii, he's an amazing guitar player. He's a great guy. But I told him that anything that I said, wasn't anything I didn't say to him or Nikki (Sixx) straight away anyway, so I don't know why he was upset with me.
It was very cool in the beginning. But I really wasn't sure what kind of direction the band was going in. Are we a punk band? Are we a heavy band? What are we? So there were musical things that I didn't really grasp. I co-wrote a couple of songs and think there were some elements of what we did that were super fucking cool. But at the end of the day, I just didn't get it.
The one thing, more than anything, that I was confused about, was that we were sitting there, trying to tell the world that London (Legrand) is the greatest singer since sliced bread, and don't get me wrong, I like London, I think London's got a very cool, distinctive voice, but the one song that I think had the most potential to be on the radio, was a song that Nikki wrote with an outside writer. It was called "Life," and for some reason, when we recorded it, Scotti (Coogan), the drummer, sang it. While I thought Scotti did a great job singing the track, it really had me wondering about the fact that the one song that had the most radio potential is the one that the drummer was singing (and not our 'lead singer'). So I didn't understand that part, and to boot, I was going through a divorce and I had a lot of shit on my plate, mentally. I didn't want to hold the guys back, so I told them I wanted to get out the band. At the same time, I kind of got out of music for a little while. I just went and kind of gave myself a break. I had a regular job for awhile and I just needed to get out of it, in order to appreciate music again.
RMS: I'd like to talk about the 'part time' band you play in with Eric Singer and Bruce Kulick, ESP. The band started out in 1998 as a 70's cover band, but over the years, it kind of morphed into a KISS "Revenge" era Mk.II tribute band, with Chuck Garric doing the Gene Simmons part and you doing the Paul Stanley role. Recently, Gene Simmons has been doing some live 'solo' performances and many people have stated that if he were to do a "Revenge" type band outside of KISS, they would like to see you involved. From your experience doing the KISS material with ESP, if you were asked, is that something you would consider?
JC: The thing that's so appealing about the ESP thing is.....we started ESP right after Bruce (Kulick) and I put Union together, and we went to Keith Leroux's KISS Convention in Indy. Eric (Singer) was there and Bruce and I showed up to promote our new record, and Karl Cochran (the original bassist for ESP) was also there because he had been playing with Ace Frehley. So at the end of the Convention, Keith came up to us and asked if we'd like to jam for the fans. So we went up and did songs like "Tush," "All Right Now" and whatever we could throw together, and we went and we played. At that point Leroux said, "We don't you guys make a record and we'll make it available to the KISS fans?" And he had talked to Eric about it, and they were going to do a bunch of tunes that Eric grew up listening to, and that influenced him to be what he is today. So we did the record, and initially, it was Bruce, Eric, Karl and myself, and we all picked 2 or 3 songs that we wanted to do. And it was a great success. Karl unfortunately fell along the way side and (we) pulled Chuck Garric into this thing. Because the majority of the ESP shows are tied into KISS expos, the set list is a little KISS heavy when we play. We do the stuff that we're all into. We really have fun doing it and it's a no pressure gig, so it's not like being in KISS. ESP is just a fun, laid-back, no bullshit, no pressure gig.
RMS: I think it's great ESP plays some of the material that Bruce and Eric were involved in together before the KISS Reunion occurred.
JC: The odd thing is that KISS decided to release "Carnival of Souls" after the Reunion era started, which was right around the time the first Union record was coming out. But at the time when the album was written (1994-95), Bruce told me that those guys (KISS) were listening to the Motley record I just did with them, and felt that some of the writing was influenced by the Motley record. So when I heard the record ("Carnival of Souls"), I'm like, "These riffs are fucking great" and immediately, even with Union, considering Bruce wrote 'em, I wanted to do "Jungle" and "Rain." Recently with ESP, we just started doing an instrumental version of "God Gave Rock and Roll To You." None of us sing it, we just start playing it, and in Europe, the audience will sing it word for word.
RMS: With the "Unplugged" record out, what's your game plan? Are you planning to tour in support of it?
JC: Initially this record was supposed to come out on a different record label. And we were going to do a couple months worth of press before the record came out, but the whole thing kinda went south. So Rat Pack records came in at the eleventh hour and said, "We'll put it out." So I just wound up doing most of the press that I should have been doing before the record came out, and I'm hoping that my managers and agents can get me and my band on a tour, and get us out there in the summer. I'm a little old school. I feel like I should promote the record. I should go out and tour to support the record, so I'm totally looking to go out and do an acoustic tour - with my band, and get this out in front of as many people as I can and let them know about this thing.
For more information on John Corabi and ordering his "Unplugged" CD go to - www.JohnCorabi.com