Interview by Jay Rollins
Hey John (Corabi), Thanks for calling in, how are you doing?
I’m alright, just doing my interview run, ha ha.
Getting ‘er done, well I appreciate the time. You’ve been the voice of The Dead Daisies for over three years now, yourself and virtually every member of the extended Dead Daisies musical family has already been graced with a fruitful career in Rock prior to joining the fold. What makes The Dead Daisies special enough to draw so many great people in to participate?
Honestly, it’s just a lot of the names on the list are friends of ours that you know [step in] at times David couldn’t make it for a show, or shows, or somebody was sick or injured. For a while there when Richard Fortus was with us he had a motorcycle accident and couldn’t do a few shows in Australia. So, a lot of them are friends of ours just kind of helping fill in but as far as the band goes as a whole, it’s just a bunch of buddies that have known each other for years at one point or another. We’ve all wanted to work with each other and now we’re finally being given the opportunity. We’re all into the same era of music, the same bands, and you know it’s just an opportunity for us to go out and have some fun and just play together and draw from that era of 70’s classic rock that we all grew up listening to.
Some good buddies exploring the same inspirations.
Pretty much, I think if you asked any one of the guys individually who their favourite bands were, across the board there would be a lot of the same bands. So now it’s like you said, it’s just an opportunity for me to work with guys like Marco, Doug, Dean, and David, as well as people that we’ve all kinda watched over the years and been friends with over the years.
It’s full steam ahead in 2018 with a bunch of full blown events already under your belt this year and a slew of more shows, some of which have you dazzling Europe with The Scorpions and Guns N’ Roses. To amp up gigs beyond the energy driven stage show The Dead Daisies set up Daisyland, where you offer additional opportunities to interact with the band. Could you fill us in on some of the excitement found in Daisyland?
I think it’s just, if my memory serves me correctly from past meetings and different things we’ve had, we’re trying to put together some sort of an evening with, and we’re gonna have music before the show and after the show with meet and greets. We’re gonna be playing music that we love and just kind of turning the fans on to different influences of The Daisies. Maybe some new bands that The Daisies have either toured with or grew up listening to, so yeah it’s just everything encompassing The Daisies.
Get to know you guys from a different perspective than the just albums and what we get on stage, really opening up with the alternate influences and extended musical performances.
Yeah pretty much.
The Dead Daisies end the summer with a headlining stint with support from Dizzy Reed’s (Guns N’ Roses) Hookers & Blow. Are there any plans for that tour you can share with us? I know you often pay tribute to your favorite artists are there any covers you would like to see in the set list?
It’s weird ‘cause it varies and changes, I mean we’ve done everything, we do acoustic shows, we’ll do something like “Ramble On” by Zeppelin. Last year we got to play with a full orchestra in Poland, a huge festival. We did “Let It Be”, we did “Rockin in the Free World” by Neil Young, so it’s kind of an ever-changing always expanding list. I mean there’s so much great music out there that we’ve all come to know and love so that list is just constantly changing for us. There was a point where we were doing Aerosmith “Sick as a Dog”, and just whatever comes to mind, there’s a lot of times where we’ll just sit back stage and we listen to music. We all bring our iPods and our phones with us and we’ll plug in and we’ll hear something and we’ll go “oh my God I forgot how great that song is, you know what, let’s try it.” So we’ll learn the song and we may not play it that night but we’ll wind up putting it in the set within a few days of hearing it again. There’s a ton of stuff, obviously I’d love to be able to do something like “Bohemian Rhapsody,” but I think that would require a few more voices and a piano.
Have to take along an extra team to do one song, ha ha.
Yeah, I just love music man you know what I mean so I wouldn’t be against doing anything.
Have The Dead Daisies ever covered a song from one of the band members’ previous bands? For instance, I could see “Power to the Music” working well in your set.
You know, it’s weird, I’ll pick a fan or two that will come up and go “how come you guys didn’t play ‘Hooligans Holiday,’ or this or that, or ‘Man in the Moon.’” I have my own solo band that I’ve put together with my son on drums and I just think it’s best for everybody involved if The Dead Daisies just focus on The Dead Daisies. Then that leaves me, when I go out and I do my solo shows, I can go out and I can play that stuff, we just kinda keep it separate. And too we don’t want to start getting into “well I did this album with this band” or “how about this” so we just kinda keep everything separate. I mean we cross-collateralize a lot of things, but as far as the live show goes it’s probably best for me to just keep my back catalogue over there and if anybody wants to see it they can come and see me acoustically or with my solo band, and it’s the same with all the guys.
In light of The Dead Daisies being comprised of seasoned musicians it’s natural that for the last two records, Make Some Noise and Burn it Down you turned to producer Marti Frederiksen whose co-written and produced hit songs with Ozzy, Aerosmith, and your former bandmates in Mötley Crüe. How much of an impact has working with Marti had on the overarching Dead Daisies sound?
I think if you historically look at a lot of the great bands that we grew up listening to, now mind you Jimmy Page was one of those rarities where he was not only “the band,” or part of the band, he was the producer with their manager Peter Grant, that’s kind of a rarity; However, if you look at bands like The Beatles, Alice Cooper, even Aerosmith back in the day and the later Aerosmith, a lot of these guys attach themselves to someone that understands what they want and what they’re trying to accomplish. The Beatles had George Martin who, it’s funny that we’re talking about this but I just saw a video not that long ago where Paul McCartney walks into the studio and he goes “hey, check out this song I wrote” and he starts playing Eleanor Rigby on a guitar then George Martin’s says “it’s a great song, I think it’s awesome, but I think it would have even more impact if there was no instruments in it, we just used all cellos and violins” and all this other stuff. The Beatles had George Martin, Queen had Roy Thomas Baker, Aerosmith in the beginning had Jack Douglas, then they latched onto Bruce Fairbairn, and now they’ve got Marti. There’s always that guy, that secret weapon that writes with them, can explain to them how to arrange songs, different things like that and I think we’ve found it with Marti. He’s an incredible producer as far as getting sounds and tones but he’s also a songwriter and he can tell us when we’re being a little too overindulgent or we’re not expanding on the idea enough. So it’s great having him in our corner and I hope and think that we’re gonna use him quite a bit in the future so we’re excited about that collaboration.
Awesome. From what I can tell by reading other Dead Daisies’ interviews is that the writing process is extremely collaborative as well as focused. As far as the music goes you sit down to write an album and that is what the band concentrates on until tracking begins. Are the lyrics written in the same way as the music itself?
You know, yes. I mean there’s a lot of stuff that once the guys get the bed tracks down and I kinda have framework for a melody, a lot of times I’ll go off on my own and I’ll write lyrics, or I’ll come home and write lyrics the night after we get out of the studio. But there’s been a lot of times where I just didn’t have anything else, I’m like I don’t even know what to do with this song, and the guys are more than capable and willing to help me write the lyrics. And it doesn’t change anything because we’re all there, like I said, the entire process every step of the way. We share everything equally, so it doesn’t matter if I wrote more or less than anybody else in the band. It is very collaborative so we pretty much do everything together.
Between the interesting locations and international collaborations, you’ve had some unique events such as the Concert for Peace in Poland with a 60-piece-Orchestra, in addition to you being the first American rock band allowed back in Cuba. Are there anymore interesting one-off performances you would personally like to see The Dead Daisies make happen?
I would love to go back to Cuba again. We had such a great time there and we caught a bit of flak from a lot of fans wondering why we would go over and play for a communist regime or however they want to word it, but at the end of the day we weren’t there to play for the political figures in Cuba. We were there to play for the people and you know, I was really excited that America was rethinking its relationship with Cuba and it’s unfortunate now that with our new President, he’s kind of reversed that to going back to stricter restrictions. But I’m kinda hoping that we can get back and play there again, the people were amazingly hospitable and just so excited about us coming, so I would like to get back.
Regardless of political divides, music is supposed to be uniting and that’s one of the powerful things about music so I completely understand why you’d like to go back there because you weren’t there attending a bunch of political rallies, the documentary looked like you had a great time playing with all kinds of musicians.
It was amazing and then you see it kind of reinstalled our love of music, you know what I mean? We were watching people over there, guitar players, bass players, and people that played all different instruments, who for them, because of the embargoes and restrictions, there are no guitar strings and just simple things that we take for granted. You know if you break a guitar string on your guitar you can jump in your car and go to Guitar Center and buy a new set. In Cuba they can’t do that because a lot of these strings and a lot of these products are manufactured in America. [Cuban citizens] basically have to send money over to a family member, or someone that they know in America, and they gotta buy them the strings and then they gotta ship the strings. It’s just crazy, like they’re so passionate about music there they don’t let it hinder them. They don’t get discouraged by it, it’s just, “okay that’s the way it is, I’ll send over this money to my Aunt in Miami or wherever in America and she’ll buy me some strings and mail it back over to me” or drum heads, or drum sticks, or whatever. It’s pretty amazing, we just sat there and we were looking at all these other musicians and their struggles and we’re just sitting there going “man we’ve got it pretty good, we’ve got things pretty awesome.”
(The Dead Daisies’ short documentary “Revolución” captures the vibrancy of their Cuba adventure: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FEriI95XjmI)
Man before I let you go I have to bring up the Live 94 album released this past February where you play Mötley Crüe’s self-titled, and largely underrated, record from beginning to end. Doing a live performance of an entire album is becoming popular but it is no easy feat. Where there any songs from that record you were apprehensive about doing live?
Well there was one that I thought that I wouldn’t be able to do live which was “Welcome to the Numb,” but my guitar player kind of figured it out. He went home and listened to the whole song and the tuning and he figured out a way to do the song live. So, it was pretty cool being able to go out there and do the whole record from top to bottom in the order of the record, it was awesome. In doing the album we just kind of sat and we said were gonna record this thing, we only have one shot at it because we only recorded one show. We rehearsed for like a week and then we had the show booked, set up everything with the sound equipment, we sound checked everything and everything sounded good. Then you know, we were like “okay let’s do this” and we literally did one show and it was a total roll of the dice, because if anything was screwed up we were kinda screwed, for lack of a better term.
And it was gonna be obvious, because everyone knows what the album is.
It was funny man I got up earlier in the day and I’m like God man, I had like a sore throat and I don’t think I was singing all that great but I got through the show. We gave it to Michael Wagener and we just said like “do your thing, put effects on whatever” but that was it, we were like we’re not gonna overdub anything, it is what it is. Basically I was kinda going for an Aerosmith Live! Bootleg type vibe. Is [Live 94] the greatest sounding live record ever? Probably not but you know what, it is what it is, it was one show just like the title says Live ’94: One Night in Nashville, boom done.
Especially for being one show I think it sounds like a great album anyway, I would have never guessed it was all done in one show. What does that one night in Nashville mean to you as an artist to revisit an album like that twenty years later with your own solo band, considering who the band is?
Well it was funny, when I was relearning the stuff and singing it again, when we were out doing the shows I was just like, “oh my God man what was I thinking,” I was full tilt the whole time vocally on the [Mötley Crüe] album. It was a little rough pulling those shows off in the beginning, I was worried about whether I’d be able to do those songs and do them justice twenty some years later. But it was fun, I didn’t even realize it until we were out doing a regular show where I was doing a little bit of all of my back catalogue and somebody yelled out to me “Happy Anniversary,” and I’m like what are you talking about it’s not my anniversary? And they were like “nah, nah your Mötley record came out today twenty years ago.” Then my manager was like “you know what dude? They’re not playing any of that stuff anymore, you should go out and do that record, I think a lot of people would want to hear it.” It was pretty cool, it was a lot of fun revisiting that stuff. You know what was funny playing it live on stage? I was having a little bit of a proud Dad moment. We would start songs like “Power to the Music” and that drum fill comes in and it just took me back twenty years ago, standing on stage with Tommy, and it was awesome. My son learned that record and I think he played it flawlessly, and it was weird hearing some of those fills man, it took me back to playing with Tommy but then I’d turn around and look back at my kid. He would just sit there and give me a big old shit eating grin and I was like oh this is awesome.
Is it true that Tommy gave him his first kit?
When my son was very little Tommy had a kit made for him that was a mini version of Tommy’s kit but DW made it and he wound up doing amazing, my son taught himself to play. Then when he got older and he started jamming, Tommy gave him another kit, the one that he has on Live 94, he’s had it since he was like sixteen years old, he’s had that kit for about fifteen years. It’s funny, now he just ordered his first DW kit, first brand new kit ever, so he’s pretty stoked about it.
Man that’s interesting, it adds that extra layer that Tommy gave your son the drum kit that he would then go on to play on the Live ’94 album, that’s great.
Yeah it was pretty cool.
Thank you very much for giving me your time and having a conversation with me, I’ve been a fan since that self-titled album, I’ve been listening to it since I was a youngster, I grew up with it in my house and it’s always been one of my favourites and a staple amongst me and my friends. And now I look forward to The Dead Daisies, so thank you very much for taking the time to speak with Metalheads Forever and hopefully I can chat with you again sometime.
I hope so too buddy.
Cheers Brother have a great one.
Alright you too thank you.
MHF Magazine/Jay Rollins