By Thomas S. Orwat Jr.
The Dead Daisies, the classic-rock influenced super group - formed by Australian businessman, aviator and musician Dave Lowy- have increasingly earned the respect from many music fans and critics alike. Since their inception in 2013, the band has gone through many line-up changes. However, The Dead Daisies current line-up is the strongest one yet. In addition to Lowy, The Dead Daisies currently consist of all-star musicians: John Corabi (Motley Crue, Union) - vocals, Doug Aldrich (Whitesnake, DIO, Hurricane) - guitar, Marco Mendoza (Thin Lizzy, Whitesnake, Ted Nugent) - bass and Brian Tichy (Whitesnake, Foreigner) - drums.
The Dead Daisies are currently opening for KISS on the "Freedom to Rock" tour, performing to thousands of people every show. Also, their recent hard rockin' release,"Make Some Noise," produced by acclaimed producer-Marti Frederiksen (Aerosmith, Def Leppard, Mötley Crüe, Buckcherry) - is certainly making some noise of its own. This impressive 12-track recording is brilliantly produced, and really brings out the skills of each member to a higher level. 'Make Some Noise,' could very well be the best rock record released this year.
We, here at RMS, had the opportunity to hang out with this amazing band in Rochester, NY on August 29, 2016. We witnessed their acoustic in-store performance, and then their opening for KISS, kick-ass, 45-minute set.
What follows is an exclusive interview with John Corabi, vocalist of The Dead Daisies. Here's what John had to say:
Rock Music Star: The Dead Daisies have had many line-up changes since it's inception in 2013. Is this current line-up committed to stay together for awhile?
John Corabi: Unfortunately, with the Dead Daisies, we’ve been kind of doing our growing in public. I think this is the lineup now - barring any accidents, illnesses, or whatever - I think this will be it. But things do happen. Like, last year, we were in Australia, and Richard Fortus got into a motorcycle accident right before we left, so he couldn’t do it. We were doing like, seven or eight shows in Australia. So, we had a buddy of ours - Dave Leslie - from a band called Baby Animals, come in and fill in for Richard. But then, Richard came back for the European tour. Same with Brian, last year; we did a few shows with KISS, and he had prior commitments. I mean, initially, David Lowy started the band with John Stevens - the singer. Most bands - they put a band together, and they’ll hang out for a while, and they’ll write for a while, and they’ll get a record deal and so on- David and John kind of did it ass backwards. They got together and wrote a bunch of songs, went into a studio with session musicians, and then put a band together. There was a few people in their initial band that just didn’t work out for whatever reason or another. But, they finally talked with Marco; Marco was on tour with Thin Lizzy in Australia. They started working with Marco, and then booked a tour, but Marco had to fill in and finish up a run he was doing with Thin Lizzy. So, they had Daryl Jones come in until Marco was free. So, they’ve been kind of building this as they went. Unfortunately, it was in public. I can honestly say, last year, the lineup was as solid as we could think it was, with Richard and Dizzy. Then they got the call to go back to Guns N’ Roses. Nobody really saw that coming - the Guns N’ Roses reunion. So, enter Doug Aldrich. Basically, now over the course of the last couple of years, they’ve kind of found a solid lineup that, hopefully, will continue on in the future with shows and recording and all of that other stuff. I guess, the biggest problem with this is that they’ve done their growing in public. I’ve got a solo band, as well. I can understand and relate to making changes. Even in my solo band, I’ve probably had five or six drummers, and several different guitar players until I finally found the right guys.
RMS: When you were asked to join The Dead Daisies, did you have any reservations, at all, about joining?
JC: Well, to be honest with you, when I was asked to join, I had never heard of them. That was the first thing. And then, yeah, my biggest reservation was that, again, I have a solo band. We had been out doing shows, and doing pretty good. As it is now, unfortunately, my solo thing has kind of taken a back seat to the Daisies. But, when we do have time off, I do book shows. I’m actually out now, with the Daisies, until September 19th, and then I immediately go home and start rehearsing with my solo band. We’re going to go do some shows, do the Monsters of Rock Cruise on the West coast. I think we have off in like, January, and a week here and there. So, in between, I try to book things with my band, so that we can continue moving forward, as well. That was probably my biggest reservation. I was just getting my thing going and rolling with the lineup that I have, and then I had to stop and jump into something else. But, at the end of the day, David - the manager for the Daisies - was like, “The Dead Daisies is going to help your solo career, and your solo career is going to help the Daisies, so let’s just work together on this.” So, it’s been pretty cool.
RMS: Yeah. I’ve followed you throughout your entire career, and you just seem like you have so much confidence on this record and on stage- not that you haven’t before - but it’s just at a different level in your performance. It’s like John Corabi on steroids. You just bring it, man.
JC: I appreciate it. You know, at the end of the day - I don’t know. It’s just weird. Doing these records has been awesome; even the last one. You know, honestly, I’m still learning stuff. I did the vocals this time, with Marti Frederiksen, in a way that I have never done it before and I loved it. Instead of being in a separate room from the producer, I was literally standing right next to him with a pair of headphones on, and we could just communicate with each other just by tapping each other on the shoulder and throwing ideas at each other constantly, right there. There was no delay; everything happened really quick. In a very subtle, laid back way, Marti’s got a way of getting you to give the best that you can. I’m hoping that - whether it’s my solo records or future Dead Daisies records - I love working with Marti. That was definitely a cool thing.
RMS: Absolutely. You’ve worked with two of the biggest producers in rock - Marti and Bob Rock. What’s the difference, in working with those two legendary producers?
JC: Each guy has his own way of doing things. To be honest with you, I’ve actually been very blessed to work with some really great producers with everything that I’ve done. If you go back and look at the first Scream record, I actually had the opportunity- my first record - I worked with Eddie Kramer, who did all the Hendrix stuff, all the Zeppelin stuff, all the KISS Alive, Frampton Alive, Humble Pie. So, each guy brings his own little thing to it. Bob Rock was great to work with. They’re all great. But, the thing that I really liked about Marti is that he’s not just a great producer - Marti is a great player; he plays guitar, drums, the whole bit. He’s also an amazing songwriter. If you go back and look at some of the songs that Marti’s written with other artists - songs like, “Jaded,” with Aerosmith, and, “Just Push Play.” He’s just a great songwriter. Even if I was stumped for a melody or lyrically, I would write some lyrics, and then Marti would come in and look at them and tweak them just a little bit to have them make even more sense. So, it was just awesome working with him. We both live in the same city, so I’m hoping that we can continue to write even more in the future; write and collaborate even more. It was pretty cool.
RMS: I definitely agree with that. I think, stylistically, it’s really great for people who love classic rock and rock music. Like I said, I think you are on top of your game, I really do. The live performances, too. I saw you on Monday, opening for KISS; I was just totally fucking blown away.
JC: I appreciate it, man. At the end of the day, the thing that I love about the band and Marti is, I’m not coming in and changing the band, the band’s not asking me to change anything. Marti didn’t ask us to change anything; we didn’t ask Marti to change anything. We just said, “We just want to do a good old fashion classic rock, kick ass, no frill, straight ahead rock record.” I write the way that I write, and I sing the way that I sing. It just worked out. We didn’t really have a format or a plan. It was just what it was. He basically took the ideas and smoothed out some of the rough edges for all of us. Even with Doug. There were a few things in there, guitar-wise and tonality-wise, that Doug wasn’t used to. Marti just kind of talked him through it and said, “Just try this.” And, as it turned out, we’re all sitting back and listening to it now going, “Fuck, this record is awesome. It came out great.” So, Marti just had this way of bringing us all together on the same page- not that we were off page- but, he just kind of pulled us around by our lip rings and said, “Hey, check this out,” “Check that out,” “No, try it this way. I know you’ve always done things that way, but try it this way now.” But that’s the experience he has, working with guys like Joe Perry and Mick Mars, and a lot of the different caps he has worked with. It was cool, man. I really dug working with Marti Fredericksen. He’s awesome.
RMS: The Dead Daisies were formed by rhythm guitartist David Lowy. He has a unique history as a very successful businessman. His father is one of the richest people in Australia. What’s it like, being in a band with him?
JC: You know, honestly, we don’t even think about that. David comes in, he’s got a great enthusiasm for the whole thing. It’s funny- obviously, he’s from Australia - a lot of the bands that he grew up listening to were AC/DC… he loved the band, The Angels - I think he even actually played with them for a while. David has a very direct and pure way of writing things, and he’s got a great sense of melody and he knows what he wants to hear. Honestly, all of the other stuff doesn’t matter. When we sit in the tour bus, or when we’re traveling anywhere, he’s pretty low key, man. You would never know any of the other stuff about him if you didn’t ask. He’s very successful with his businesses, but he’s constantly got music on; he’s got music on his phone. As soon as he gets into the arena every day, he pours himself a glass of wine or vodka, plugs his guitar in, and he just sits there and literally plays for hours every day, just trying to learn new things and come up with new riff ideas. He’s just one of the guys, man. He’s just very low key, very humble. In a million years, you’d never know, if you were just sitting and talking with him. There’s no weird air about him, at all. He’s just one of the guys. It’s pretty cool, man. I think the band is a very special band. We’re all a bunch of friends; we’ve known each other for years. I’ve known Marco and Brian for 20+ years. I’ve known Doug since he was 17, before he even moved to California from Pennsylvania. We go way, way back. To me, the band is just a very talented band, obviously. We just go on stage, and we’re just like, “You know, we’re just going to have fucking fun tonight. Let’s just go out, throw down, and have a good time.” That’s all David wants to do, is have fun. This is his release from the corporate world, and he loves it. We have a blast; it’s all good.
RMS: You have been opening for KISS the last few weeks, but you have a few headlining show coming up. This will be the first time that The Dead Daisies are headlining in North America.
JC: Yeah, we actually have two - well, three - at this point. We have one in New York City on September 8th at a place called Webster Hall. We’re done with KISS on the 10th- we head out to L.A. We’re doing a bunch of press and a video. Then, we’re doing another headlining show at the Whiskey on September 15th. Then, a couple of days later, we’re going to the Phoenix Cardinals stadium. We have a song called, “Make Some Noise,” on the record, and the Phoenix Cardinals have actually added it, and they play it in the arena. We’re going to go do a tailgate party in their parking lot with a huge concert, and then go in and watch the football game (laughs). That’s my last show with them for a couple weeks, until we go to Japan. It’s going to be awesome.
RMS: I think that song, “Make Some Noise,” is such a great anthem. It’s perfect for any sports team. Was that the goal, in writing that song, to come up with this amazing kind of anthem that could be used in a sports-type situation or soundtrack?
JC: Well, it’s weird. It’s so hard to look into the future in this business. We were sitting down, writing a song. We were talking about all of the great bands- Grand Funk Railroad, Led Zeppelin, and Queen was one of the bands that we were talking about. I don’t know if it was Doug, or one of the guys in the band - they were like, “We need an anthem.” We had the riff, so we just kind of, starting working on it. Obviously, it was like, last January when we were recording. I’m a bit of a football geek. So, at football games, if the defense is stopping a team, or the offense scores, those signs all come around the arena that say, “Make Some Noise.” So, we were like, “You know what, let’s just call it, ‘Make Some Noise.’” It just goes with anything; rock concerts, whatever. Initially, when we wrote it, there was a lot of references in there to hearing the guitars, and hearing the drums. I was just like, “No, let’s just make it about the crowd. Let’s make it about the audience.” The band referring to the audience. So, we kind of made it generic, not really thinking ahead to NFL games, or baseball games, or anything like that. We were just trying to make a statement from the band to the audience. For some reason, everybody that heard the song was just like, “We should just call the record, ‘Make Some Noise.’” All of the sudden, a few of the football teams contacted us about using it for some of their games, major league baseball, and I guess there’s a soccer team in Europe that wants to use it. I guess we just weren’t thinking that far ahead, but it just kind of worked out the way it’s working out. Hopefully, we can have a, “We Will Rock You,” kind of anthem in our catalog, as well.
RMS: It’s kind of simple, but it’s a great riff, it’s a really catchy chorus. You’re right, it could be like a, “We Will Rock You,” anthem that lasts for decades and decades and decades.
JC: Well, we’re hoping. Now, we’re starting to see the interest in it, and we’re starting to put two and two together. We were just talking about an anthem from the band to the audience. My lyrics are sometimes things that, when you read them, you go, “What the hell was he talking about here? What did he mean by this statement?” Marti’s like, “Crab, dumb it down. Just make it something easy to follow, and something easy to sing along with.” So, for lack of a better term, we made it very simple. There’s nothing more simple than, “We will, we will rock you.” (Laughs) You know what I mean? It wound up being a huge, huge song for Queen. Again, we weren’t really putting too much thought into it, but Marti was like, “This could be an anthem, so let’s just make it really, really simple.”
RMS: You definitely achieved that. Sometimes, the simplicity does go a long way. I want to ask you about your solo band. You said you guys are going to get back together and do some touring. Are you going to be releasing a re-recoreding of the, ‘MC 94’ CD in its entirety, still?
JC: It’s done. It’s actually done. (Laughs) The only problem with that is, I recorded the show and videotaped it, so it’s actually going to be a DVD and a CD. Initially, my record label was talking about putting it out in May or June. I didn’t want to put it out so close to the Dead Daisies thing. I’m like, “Let’s hold off. We’ll take some time. Let the Dead Daisies get their record out; put it out, promote it, and go on tour. Then, I can put mine out.” So, I’m not exactly sure. It was recorded. I had it mixed by Michael Wagner, the record label’s got it. They’re working on artwork, and they’re working on some things with the video. They video came out great. The only problem of it was that, I want this record to be more of a - I don’t know if you’re familiar with it - one of my favorite Aerosmith records is ‘Aerosmith Live! Bootleg.’
RMS: Absolutely. My favorite live record of all time.
JC: Right. So, instead of setting up like, 10 or 15 shows, and having a mobile unit with us the whole time, I basically went in, my band rehearsed, we worked it up, we got everything as tight as we could, and we booked one show in Nashville, at a place called the Basement East. We brought in a mobile unit, and we brought in a video unit, and we set everything up. We sound checked, and we literally did the set from top to bottom. What you hear is what we played. We didn’t do any over dubs. There was no crazy thing where we went back into the studio and started fixing stuff. I left it as it is. When we filmed the video, I was like, “Wow, the video’s really cool. But, I want it to have that, ‘Bootleg,’ kind of image to it.” The artwork that we’re doing right now for the album, and the video, basically, we’re running it through some stuff so that it looks like - I hate to keep using Aerosmith as an example - but do you remember the video they did when they got back together for, “Let the Music Do the Talking?”
RMS: Yeah, They used footage that their fans filmed, I thought, or something like that.
JC: I think it was something like that, too. So, I just basically said to my manager, “The record is what it is. The sound is exactly what it is. It was one night. There’s a couple little mistakes in there. I may not be singing perfect. Leave it as it is. I want the video to have a vibe to it to match the record.” So, to be honest with you, we filmed this video, and right now, they’re taking the video, and for lack of a better term, they’re fucking it up to make it look more grainy and whatever. So, we’re just having fun with it. It’s called '’94 Live: One Night in Nashville,' and hopefully it’ll be out this fall. I actually have to call the record label to see what the deal is, and when they have a plan of a release date. But, it’s all done and ready to go. They’re getting the packaging together. It’ll be out soon, I promise.
RMS: I absolutely can’t wait to hear that, and see it. I’m a big fan of Mötley Crüe ’94. As a matter of fact, I think I was one of the very first people to interview you when you joined Mötley Crüe in ’94. So, that was really cool.
My last question for you - I’ve been going to a lot of shows this summer, and seeing a lot of my favorite bands play. I’ll tell you, I’m very disappointed, because it seems like a lot of the bands are faking it by lip syncing, playing the backing tracks, or maybe not even playing at all, and just performing to a tape. John, how do you feel about all of this going on? I saw the Dead Daisies perform, and I didn’t think there were any backing tracks. You guys looked like you were 100% live. What do you think about these other bands that are going up on stage, and really ripping people off?
JC: You know, there’s a few artists out there that have done it, the fans know they’ve done it, the fans complain about the fact that they’re doing it, but at the end of the day, the fans still show up to see them play. Honestly, when I was in Mötley, as far as the playing was, Tommy was playing, Nikki was playing, Mick was playing, I was playing, and to be honest with you, we did have some backing tracks for things like, “Misunderstood,” for example. We had a 53-piece orchestra on the original track, and when we sat down and started rehearsing, everyone wanted the tracks while we were playing it live. And that’s fine, that’s cool. It kind of enhanced whatever we were doing on stage. Personally, it’s the beauty of what I did on the '’94 Live' - the thing that I’m getting ready to come out with - is I sat down with the guys in my band, and we talked about doing the show, and we discussed possibly having some backing tracks. At the end of the day, I was like, “I don’t want to do that. I just want to play the songs as a five-piece band, as it would have been without any of the backing tracks.” So, there’s not a shit-ton of backing vocals, there’s no orchestra parts, there’s no backward guitar thing. It’s just a five-piece band playing the songs in the most stripped-down, direct format possible. That’s kind of the theory and the attitude of the Daisies. Personally, for me, I’d rather figure out a way to do the song a la, how Zeppelin used to do it, and how Aerosmith- if you listen to ‘Aerosmith Live! Bootleg-‘ when they do “Dream On,” there’s not even a piano part in it. They figured it out, and they transposed it to guitars, and they do it that way. It’s a bit odd for the listener, but honestly, the beauty in it is the rawness in it. It’s just a five-piece, stripped down band playing their great songs. To me, it doesn’t bother me. To each his own. I’ve had Mötley fans come up to me and talk to me about Mötley. I’ve had other fans talk to me about all the backing vocals and the tapes. I just ask them, “At the end of the day, did you have a good time?” That’s it. “If you had a good time, was it worth the money you paid? Did you get your money’s worth?” If they say, “Yes,” then whatever. If they say, “No,” I’ve got nothing for them. Whatever.
RMS: I totally agree with you, with the rawness of "Aerosmith Live Bootleg.' That’s why I would rather see a band fumble around on stage, not be pitch perfect on vocals, than to see them lip sync. I would rather have a bass player actually play his bass, even though he’s going to mess up some notes every now and then. I have no problem with that. I don’t like being deceived into thinking I’m watching the person perform when he’s actually playing to a tape.
JC: That’s the beauty of music. Listen, there’s some nights, where I go on stage, and I’m like, “Shit, I don’t know if I’m going to be able to hit that note.” I change the melody a little bit. Bands have good nights, and they have bad nights. I’m not going to cover up anything or pretend. For me, personally, that’s just my thought process. The fans that I meet over the last 10, 12-15 years, or however long it’s been since I’ve been out of Mötley- I appreciate the fan support that I got from the Mötley fans. It’s just funny to me, they come to me and they’re like, “Dude, I saw Mötley, and Vince sang every other word,” or, “They were running all these tapes and backing vocals when there was nobody by the microphone.” They give me all of these things, and I have the same response every time. I sit there and I say, “Are you going to go see their final tour?” And they’re like, “Yup!” After they just got done complaining how the last five shows were…. Whatever their complaint was. I’m like, “First of all, if you’re going to sit here and complain, then why are you going again? Why are you spending another $150 for a ticket if you didn’t like the last five shows? What makes you think they’re going to do anything different on the last tour than they did on the last four, five, or six? Why are you complaining? If you want to make a statement, don’t go. Why are we even talking about this?” It’s just crazy to me. I’m not talking about with you, right now. I’m just saying, a lot of these fans come up to me, and I just sit there sometimes and I go, “Is this person baiting me right now? Trying to get me to say something?” I really have nothing to say. Mötley is a great band, they’re a legendary band. They’re probably going to go into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at some point. I’m totally fine with Mick, I’m totally fine with Tommy, I’m totally fine with Vince. I just saw Vince a month or two ago in Nashville; we did a festival together. We’re fine. They are what they are. If you don’t like what you’ve seen so far, don’t complain to me about what they’ve done in the last five or ten years, or however long, and then go again. That’s like enabling a drug dealer. That’s like enabling anybody. If you take your girlfriend to a five star restaurant, and she hikes up her dress and shits in the middle of the restaurant, and she continues to do it, and you continue to take her to fucking restaurants like that, then you’re an idiot (laughs). Why are you talking to me about this?
RMS: That’s a great way of putting it. John, I really appreciate your time. As always, it’s great talking to you. I wish I would have gotten this on tape last week. You’ve got to bring that John Corabi thing to Buffalo, New York. We have to see that.
JC: We’ll see what the deal is. I got to try and figure out when the record is going to come out, but it’s in the can. It’s ready to go, we’re just waiting for the right time to release it.
For more on The Dead Daisies visit, www.thedeaddaisies.com
A big thank you to Chip Ruggieri for setting up this interview. Thank you to Dana Kaiser for transcribing this interview.