By Thomas S. Orwat Jr.
The Dead Daisies are a newer, classic rock influenced band that demands your immediate attention. The band was formed in 2012 by Jon Stevens, former vocalist of INXS and Noiseworks, and successful businessman turned rocker, David Lowy. Soon after, Richard Fortus, the guitarist of Guns N’ Roses, was brought into the mix. Over the last two years, an incredible array of talented musicians have played in the band. This list includes Darrly Jones, bass player of the Rolling Stones, and multi-instrumental musician, Charley Drayton. Currently, the line-up includes, Dizzy Reed (Guns N’ Roses)- keyboards, Brian Tichy (Billy Idol band)- drums, and Marco Menoza (ex-Thin Lizzy) on bass. The band has an EP out, entitled ‘Face I Love,’ and although it only consists of four tracks, it’s definitely worth checking out!
The Dead Daisies just completed a string of dates opening up for the Bad Company/Lynyrd Skynyrd tour. On August 2nd, they will hit the road again as the supporting act for the KISS/Def Leppard tour. If you plan on going to this tour, get to your seats early; you will not want to miss the Dead Daisies.
What follows is an exclusive RMS interview with the Dead Daisies and Guns N’ Roses guitarist- Richard Fortus. This interview was conducted on July 11th, one day after the Dead Daisies played their first show opening for Bad Company/Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Rock Music Star: You just played your first gig on the Lynyrd Skynyrd/Bad Company tour with the Dead Daisies. How did that gig go over?
Richard Fortus: It was great to be able to watch those two bands from the side of the stage. Both of them were big influences on me.
RMS: Absolutely. Is this a co-headlining tour with Lynyrd Skynyrd and Bad Company? Are they flip-flopping?
RF: Yeah, they flip-flop.
RMS: Very cool. How long is your set?
RF: We’re playing for half an hour.
RMS: Awesome. I’ve been checking out your EP, ‘Face I Love.’ I love the classic rock feel, it has a real 70’s Faces/Rolling Stones vibe to it. I think you will go over well with the Bad Company/Lynyrd Skynyrd crowd.
RF: Yeah, I think so, too. I think there are big parts of both bands, Skynyrd and Bad Company in our sound
RMS: Absolutely. In addition to this tour, you’re also going out with KISS and Def Leppard in August, right?
RMS: That’s insane, to have two major tours like that in one summer.
RF: Yeah, it’s been great. It’s gonna be great. I’m really excited. I have a feeling we’re going to walk away with a lot of new fans.
RMS: I would think so; I’m sure that’s the goal of the band. Now, everyone knows you’re also in Guns N’ Roses. How were you able to find time to work on this project while with Guns N’ Roses?
RF: Well, there’s always a lot of down time in our schedules. So, so far, miraculously, it’s worked out really well, and we’re all good about communicating to make it work- time-wise, around schedules and stuff like that. So far, knock on wood, it’s working out well.
RMS: How did you hook up with the founding members of the Dead Daisies, guitarist David Lowy and vocalist Jon Stevens?
RF: Well, I met up with Jon and David; they had already recorded the first record when I met them. They pretty much did that by themselves, and kind of put a band together to support that. And it just became a real band after that, and we all started writing together. It’s been very collaborative. But, I came into it through my friend, Charley Drayton, who, in my opinion, is one of the greatest musicians in the Northwest, and definitely one of my favorite drummers to play with. He called me, and whenever Charley calls, I go, because I know I’m going to walk away a better musician. So, when he called, I jumped at it and said, “Yeah, absolutely. I’m in.” And, I heard Jon’s voice, and just flipped out. He has an amazing voice. And, the whole concept of the band was wanting to do, basically, new music for classic rock bands.
After touring with Thin Lizzy, I really kind of got a jones to play 70s classic rock- the kind that I grew up on as a kid. Because, when I was a kid, I didn’t really listen to contemporary music; I listened to older music. For whatever reason, that’s what I seemed to grasp, and I wasn’t into bands like Mötley Crüe and that stuff. I kept leaning towards the older stuff; bands like Thin Lizzy, David Bowie, New York Dolls; stuff that had come out 10 years before, 20 years before. Then, I heard Clash, and things changed. But, it’s great to reconnect with that, because that’s what I grew up learning. And it’s a lot of fun. That’s why, after playing with Thin Lizzy for a year, I wanted to go play straight ahead rock.
RMS: Yeah. I watched some of the clips with you and Thin Lizzy, and I thought you fit that role really well, and it looked like you were having a blast.
RF: Yeah, it was great. For the guitar player to be able to play those parts, like Gary Moore’s parts, and to play harmonies with Scott, nothing can be better than that. And to be part of that lineage; that Thin Lizzy legacy, is really amazing.
RMS: Did you have to leave Thin Lizzy because of your commitments with Guns N’ Roses?
RMS: That was pretty much it?
RF: Otherwise, I would have stayed (laughs).
RMS: It’s a bit ironic because, the Thin Lizzy bass player is currently in the Dead Daisies, now.
RF: Yeah, because when I was- we were looking for bass players, and we were like, “Oh, we should grab Marco.” So, you know, he fits.
RMS: So, you must have had a pretty good experience. He’s a great bass player; he’s played with pretty much everyone.
RF: He’s phenomenal. And he also sings incredibly well.
RMS: The impressive thing about the Dead Daisies is that, when you look at all of the musicians that have played in the band over the two years, it’s an incredible list of accomplished musicians. They must really believe in the music, and they must believe in the other musicians in the band. It’s incredible, the caliber of musicians that have played in this band.
RF: But, you know, we’re all friends. We’re all in communication all the time. You know, it’s funny how you run into people on the road, and they’re like, “Hey, if you ever need a bass player, give me a shout. I’d love to do a tour with you guys.” But, it’s pretty cool. But, a lot of it just comes full circle. And these guys grew up listening to the same stuff, so we’re all in the same boat. It’s a lot of fun for us to do stuff together. And Jon is an incredible vocalist.
RMS: What is the game plan, as far as a full-length release goes?
RF: That’s a good question. I think we’re- we’re finishing up another tour, still on the EP. And then, I don’t know. We’ll probably do one more four-song EP. The cool thing about this is, I guess, if there is a call for a full album, we’ll take the three EPs and put them together. Or, after this next EP, we’ll do four of five new ones, and put them all together and release a full album. I don’t know, that sounds like a good idea to me (laughs). But, we’re always recording; we’re always writing and recording on the road. It just flows very naturally. So, as long as that remains the way that it is, I anticipate it continuing to flow the way it is.
RMS: Now, for you to go from playing some of the biggest arenas in the world to still playing big arenas, but being an opening band; you’ve only played one gig. Well, one gig on this tour, but how is that transition for you?
RF: Well, the Daisies have been doing- we’ve been opening for people like Aerosmith, ZZ Top- to me, I don’t know. It’s a lot less pressure, but it’s fun to have that challenge- where you don’t have songs that everyone recognizes, and you’ve gotta win the people over, and you’ve got 30-45 minutes to do that. You’re playing for people who don’t have any idea who you are, and they don’t know the lineage of the band, or at least they don’t when they walk in. So, it’s a fun challenge.
RMS: Well, I definitely think you guys have the songs to convince people.
RF: Awesome. Thank you. Yeah, I do, too (laughs).
RMS: With the Dead Daisies you’re right in the spotlight as the lead guitarist. With Guns N’ Roses, there’s two other guitar players. But now, everyone’s focused on you- you’re the lead guitarist. Was this a challenging transition for you at all?
RF: I mean, it’s fun to have more space. I don’t know. I don’t really think about it that way, I guess, or I haven’t thought about it that way. To me, it’s all just good in both situations. I mean, I was talking to somebody last night about it. We only played a 20 minute set last night, and I was joking- that’s how long my solos are in Guns N’ Roses (laughs). It wasn’t exactly true, but (laughs). I mean, we play three and a half hour shows. Playing for 20 minutes is just… it just seems so quick. You can barely play a track.
RMS: Yeah. With Guns N’ Roses, sometimes the shows are three and a half hours long. Is that always planned, or does that just happen spontaneously?
RF: It just happened. Sometimes, it happened, sometimes, it’s a short show (laughs). Sometimes, it’s a really short show. No, that hasn’t happened for a while. You know what I mean? Generally, we play a lot of songs. Once Axl gets on stage, generally, he doesn’t want to leave. That’s what he digs. So, that’s why it ends up being that long.
RMS: It seems like, once Axl gets rolling, he doesn’t want to leave the stage.
RF: Exactly. It’s the same with tours, once they start, he doesn’t want to stop. He wants to keep going. Inevitably, towards the end of the tour, he decides that he wants to play more shows, and he starts trying to get management to book more shows. We start doing club shows, usually. You can’t book a big show a week out.
RMS: I recently watched the Guns N’ Roses DVD –‘Appetite for Democracy’ from Las Vegas. That was a pretty incredible and over the top show.
RF: Oh, yeah! I haven’t seen the whole thing. I saw it in the theater, but I think that’s the abbreviated version. But, I did see it in 3D, and that was pretty killer. It was great.
RMS: It’s pretty cool that you guys took advantage of the 3D technology.
RF: I think the sound is really good, too.
RMS: Oh yeah, definitely. The sound is great. It’s an awesome concert. For anybody that has any doubts about the current Guns N’ Roses lineup, those doubts are put quickly to rest after watching that.
RF: Yeah, well, there’s always going to be people that don’t want to hear it. That’s ok. That’s totally fine with me. It’s funny; I was standing with a friend of mine last night, watching the show. She was asking who was original from Lynyrd Skynyrd. And I was like, “Well… that guy!” (laughs). And, in Bad Company, they have three original members, which is pretty awesome. There are so many bands touring right now, like Foreigner, where they don’t have any original members.
RMS: I’m almost wondering if some bands are just going to have all replacement members, and just continue on. Like, there will always be a KISS, and there will always be a Bad Company?
RF: I think that’s the plan. I mean, Foreigner; that’s what they’re doing. You know, Mick Jones- he has people doing it. He doesn’t play all of the shows. I mean, I think that’s KISS’ intention. Just to continue to bring it.
RMS: Yeah, because why should good music just die out because the band isn’t around? Why does the music have to die just because the members are old or not around?
RF: Yeah. I mean, I wonder that, as well. We just gotta see what happens in the next few years.
RMS: Time will tell. Rickey Medlocke from Lynyrd Skynyrd; he has a Blackfoot band that’s out there, that he’s not a band member in this current line-up, and there’s no original members in, and they’re really good.
RF: You’re kidding me!
RMS: No, they’re really good.
RF: Wow. I was talking to him last night, and he recognized me from the Thin Lizzy stuff, which was such a big thing for me. But, that’s crazy! I had no idea. So there’s still a Blackfoot out there touring, and he’s not a part of it?
RMS: Yeah, they’re actually in the studio right now. They’re recording a new CD. Rickey’s involved in some of the writing; I think he’s actually producing them, but he’s not in the band.
RMS: He hand-picked the musicians to be in the band. Their guitarist, Tim Rossi is amazing. He has great skills and tons of energy.
RMS: Yeah, it’s cool.
RF: It’s a little strange (laughs). But yeah, I guess you’re right. I was thinking about it with Skynyrd; they’re going to continue if Rossington passes. Why wouldn’t they? Right?
RMS: Right, at this point. Yeah.
RF: I mean, at that point what difference does it make? Those guys- the torch has been handed down, right?
RMS: You’re right.
RF: So, to the other guys- Medlocke’s been in it for how many years now? Why wouldn’t he carry on? You know what I mean?
RMS: Some of the replacement members have been in the band longer than the original members were.
RMS: Skynyrd was only around for five or six years before the plane crash. And then, the surviving members got back together in 1989 with Johnny Van Zant. And ever since then, they’ve been playing and have had a ton of different members, but there’s no reason why they can’t continue.
RMS: I wanted to ask you some questions about the band that you were in prior to Guns N’ Roses. You were in a project with Richard Butler.
RF: Yeah, for a long time.
RMS: Yeah. I remember when that Love Spit Love record came out. I thought that was a really cool and innovative release. What ever happened with that band, and why didn’t you guys continue on?
RF: Well, we did two records. The second record was with Maverick, and in my opinion, was a much better record. But right after that record was released, Maverick had a bunch of cuts in their staff. In their marketing and promo staff. And so, it sort of fell between the cracks, as did everything else involved with Maverick after that; after they just went off on their own. So, it’s unfortunate, because I thought it was a great record. And then I did stuff with the Furs after that. I did some recording, as well. With Richard, we’re still great friends, and I love working with him; I think he is one of the great voices of rock. He’s just really slow. It’s difficult to get any new material out of him. I don’t know; he doesn’t seem that inspired. He’s more inspired by painting. He hasn’t put out any new material in a while.
RMS: Do you think it’s maybe because a lot of these veteran musicians rest on their past accomplishments…
RF: I don’t think so. I think his interests shifted. He’s become so much more successful with artists and painting, that it’s become his primary focus. Occasionally, he’ll go out and tour and he’ll write some songs. But he doesn’t feel the need or the pressure to get them out. Occasionally, he’ll tour, and that sort of gives him that outlet, and that’s enough for him.
RMS: Well, that’s cool. But, if he called you and asked you to participate in a project again, would you do it?
RF: We’ve spoken about it. Yeah, definitely. Yes. I love working with him. We are really close friends. When I speak to him; well, I don’t speak to him that often, but when I do speak to him, it’s like we just spoke yesterday. I’ve spent a lot of time with him.
RMS: I just think, your guitar-style and his voice mesh really well together.
RF: That’s nice. Thank you.
RMS: You’re welcome.
RF: When I was a kid, the Furs were one of my favorite bands. Like I said, after I heard the Clash, and bands like the Furs and the Band- that theme really became my focus.
RMS: We’re about the same age. I remember that time; it was like 1980’ish. You were either into the new-alternative, or you were into hard rock.
RF: Yeah, and that was my thing. I wasn’t into bands like- I was into classic rock. I was into the bands from the 70s, and sort of the art rock like Genesis and YES and King Crimson. But, I wasn’t into rock bands that much. I didn’t dig it. I wasn’t into Van Halen. It wasn’t my thing. And then, I heard the Clash. And then, from that leading into the punk thing. So, I guess, between that and the 70s thing, bands like the Stones, it makes sense that between that and the punk stuff, Guns N’ Roses evolved.
RMS: Well, my final question I have for you is: I wanted to ask you what it was like to audition for Guns N’ Roses. I can’t even imagine the nerves. If I were in that position; that would be insane- to think that I was going to audition for one of the biggest bands on the face of the Earth.
RF: Yeah. I don’t really get freaked out over stuff like that. I’ve worked with so many of my heroes that… I don’t know. I had worked with Brain, who was the drummer. I had worked with Tommy; I had played with. I just seemed- I don’t know- it wasn’t that intimidating. And I was out on another tour; I was in Europe, and I flew to L.A. because I had two days off. So, I flew to L.A. after- I remember I walked off stage, got in the car and went straight to the airport. Got off the plane, went straight to the audition, and after the audition- got straight back on the plane and went back to the tour.
RF: Yeah, it was pretty crazy. And this is the crazy thing- after I did the audition, I ended up hanging out with Axl and listening to a lot of stuff that was recorded, and talking about music, and stuff like that. We’re at the airport; I’m sitting at LAX, and this guy comes up to me and says, “Excuse me, sir. Are you who I think you are?” And I said, “Well, who do you think I am?” And he said, “Are you Izzy Stradlin.” No one had ever said that to me in my life. No one had ever said that to me. And he asked me that, and it was the most surreal moment. I looked around at the other guys. I said, “No, I’m not, but I think I just took his gig.” The guy just kind of looked at me and then walked away. But, it was a really surreal moment.
RMS: Well, I can understand it. You do kind of look like him. Not that anyone would know your style from just seeing you at the airport; your style is a little different, but it’s also kind of similar.
RF: Yeah, I guess so. Yeah, it’s not that it doesn’t make sense.
RMS: But, you’re definitely not a carbon copy of him, by any means.
RF: No, but I actually like him quite a bit.
RMS: I think it’s just because you guys have the same influences.
RF: Yeah, definitely.
RMS: That’s definitely what it is. Alright, that’s all I have for you, Richard. I appreciate your time. I’m looking forward to seeing you guys play on Sunday at Darien Lake in Buffalo, New York.
RF: Yeah, me too.
RMS: It should be a great time. The weather is supposed to be nice.
RF: Yeah, it’ll be great. Paul Rogers is still one of the best vocalist around.
RMS: I can’t wait to see the show, I really can’t. It’s such a great lineup. And having you guys on there, too. Are you kidding me? This is great. This is the show of the summer, in my opinion.
RF: Well, if you get a chance, come up and say hi.
For more on the Dead Daisies, please visit www.thedeaddaisies.com
Special thanks to Jeff Kilgour for setting up this interview. And also, Dana Kaiser for transcribing it.