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INTERVIEW: JOHN CORABI, The Dead Daisies – April 2015

| 1 May 2015 | 6 Replies

INTERVIEW: JOHN CORABI, The Dead Daisies – April 2015
By Shane Pinnegar

The Dead Daisies culminated a fantastic two-year-run by releasing the Face I Love EP and touring the U.S. with first Bad Company & Lynyrd Skynyrd, then Def Leppard and KISS – including appearing on the fourth annual KISS Kruize out of Florida – before returning to Australia for a triumphant club tour & readying themselves to record album number two.

John Corabi 02

Come February though, it was a very different Dead Daisies who set off for a whirlwind two-week tour of Cuba. Out was singer and founding member Jon Stevens (ex-Noiseworks), and in his place John Corabi joined Richard Fortus, David Lowy, Brian Tichy, Dizzy Reed and Marco Mendoza. Corabi possesses a resume most rock fans will be well aware of.

Plucked from his band The Scream to replace Vince Neil in Motley Crue, Corabi spent five turbulent years with the kings of glam-sleaze rock, a period well documented in their bio-book The Dirt. Like the rest of the band and those around them, no holds were barred in telling their story on paper, and Corabi tells in lurid detail of being led down a neon-lit path to their world once he joined the band, indulging in drugs, sex and ultimately losing his family – and, indeed, the gig, once Neil decided he wanted back in – because of it. The album he recorded with them – 1994’s self titled effort – remains an underrated classic.

Fast forward through stints with Bruse Kulick in The Union, alongside Kulick again and his KISS bandmate in the Eric Singer Project (ESP), as well as working with Ratt (as guitarist), Brides Of Destruction alongside Crue buddy Nikki Sixx, as well as a host of other band and solo projects.

John Corabi The Dead Daisies 01

I resolve to clear the air immediately I get a hold of Corabi in the studio in Sydney, where The Dead Daisies are putting final touches on the new record. Did the band tell you why Jon Stevens no longer the singer for The Dead Daisies?

“No,” he states emphatically. “And to be honest with you, I kind of learned with Motley – like, it was weird. When I walked into the room with the Motley guys, it was like those three guys talking about Vince and then you talk to Vince and Vince was talking about them, and I’m like, personally, I don’t want to know the drama. I don’t really care what happened prior to me getting here.

“All I care about is, ‘okay, you want me to come down? All right, fine. This is what I want: I want to hang out with a bunch of guys that get along with each other. I want to hang out with a bunch of guys that are easy to work with. And I want to write great music and record a great record. Now, if we can do that, I’m in.’ That’s it. You know what I mean?

“To be honest with you,” he continues, “I didn’t ask. I don’t know Jon Stevens. I think personally, from hearing his voice and hearing his music, he is a great songwriter, he is a great singer, but I have no idea what went down or what the reasons are for him not being here, whatever. I have no idea.

“Truthfully, I truthfully have no idea. Everybody asks me all the time, and I’m like, ‘I don’t know.’ Personally, I think the guy’s an insane singer. I think he’s amazing. You know what I mean? But, whatever.”

That’s fair enough: once bitten, twice shy is as good a reason as any to just keep your head out of past drama. Corabi says his old friend, bass player Marco Mendoza, who quit Black Star Riders last year to concentrate more of his time on The Daisies, called him in February to offer him the gig.

“I was home for a few days. I have a solo band in America that I tour with,” he explains, “I just got home and I was home for maybe two or three days and was out shopping for groceries with my wife. I was pulling into my driveway and my phone rang, and I looked down and it was Marco. I hadn’t talked to Marco for a while so I was like, ‘oh, let me answer this.’

“So we started chewing the fat and he basically said, “Hey, I’m involved with this band and we’d love for you to come down and meet everybody. We’d love for you to do some shows and maybe record with us.

“So I went and I met them in LA. Literally ten days or two weeks later, I was on a plane to Cuba and we did some shows there, and then a week or so later I’m here in Australia. I’ve been here for about three weeks. We just sat down and wrote a bunch of songs and we’re recording them – so, pretty cool!”

John Corabi 2013 (Photo by Evangeline BelBono)

John Corabi 2010 (Photo by Evangeline DelBono)

If it sounds like a bit of a whirlwind – it has been. In fact, “a whirlwind would be an understatement, my friend,” laughs Corabi. I comment that it must have been just good fortune that he didn’t have anything else going on at that time.

“No. I mean that’s the thing,” he chuckles. “We have this saying in America, like, when it rains, it pours. It’s hilarious, like in the last couple of months I’ve had my band touring America. The band that I had there is my son and a couple of friends of mine, and we’ve been touring America and Canada doing the Motley ’94 record in its entirety. And then I was stockpiling some music to get ready and go do my own solo record, which I’m still going to do.

“That’s been going really well, and then all of a sudden I get a call from Mick Mars [Motley Crue guitarist], and he wanted to talk to me about possibly doing some recording with him. And then I got a call from this other guy that wanted me to do a radio show and then I got a call from The Dead Daisies! So we have this phrase, when it rains, it pours.”

There’s nothing like being popular, is there?

“It doesn’t suck!”

Corabi is no stranger to Australia, having visited “eight or ten times”, starting with a visit in ’97 or ’98 with The Eric Singer Project, playing with Bruce Kulick and Eric Singer, who had both recently left KISS when original members Peter Criss and Ace Frehley reunited with the band. Singer went on to rejoin the legendary face-painted group and remains with them to this day. Corabi says he’s friendly with the rest of the band as well, and looks forward to touring through Europe with them in the middle of the year, and then support them around Australia in October.

“Well obviously I’m good friends with Eric because we’ve done The Eric Singer Project. To be quite honest with you, Gene Simmons, even before I was in The Scream, has been a very big supporter of mine. When I was in a band called Angora, he was actually looking to either manage or sign the band to his label. He had that label back in the late ’80s or early ’90s called Simmons Records and he wanted to sign the band.

“So Gene has definitely kept an eye on my career through the whole thing, so I’ve been hanging with Gene and Eric. I know Tommy [Thayer, Ace Frehley’s replacement on guitar], I knew Tommy back in the day when he was in Black ‘N Blue and I used to go see him then. I [also] used to go see him in – he had a Kiss tribute band called Cold Gin for a while. I’m very happy that he, you know, obviously that he’s doing very well and I’m happy for him. I’ve met Ace and Peter [too].

“The one that I don’t really, really know well – I’ve met him a few times – is Paul, but he’s been very cordial to me. When they were doing the Psycho Circus record, the guy actually borrowed a couple of my acoustic guitars. I went and had lunch with Paul and he was very cool, very talkative. But other than a few times that I’ve been around him, I haven’t hung out with him extensively like the others. But it’ll be fun [touring with them]. It’ll be cool.”

John Corabi 04

Are you looking at this project as a one-off – record the album, do the tour and then that’s it, or are you hoping this might extend out and be a bit more of a band for a bit longer?

“Well, at this point it’s been an incredibly enjoyable experience for me,” he says guardedly, “but again I’m the new guy walking into something that was already rolling so I don’t know how this is going to play out, [just] as I didn’t know how it was going to play out with Motley. Right now, my main focus is on writing the best songs that we can, recording them, giving them the best vocal performance, and then just going out and kicking ass on the road. If they want me to come back and do another record, I’ll be more than happy to because this has been fun. Everybody that’s involved in this thing, they’re all great players and just genuinely nice people. You know what I mean? So I’m having a blast.

“If they want me to come back, I will. You know what I mean?”

Corabi’s voice ramps up a notch with excitement when I enquire about the tour through Cuba, and the online tales of how magical an experience for the whole band, which for that tour also included Bernard Fowler on vocals, famed for his long-time stint as the Rolling Stones’ male backing vocalist of choice, and Stones bassist Darryl Jones.

“Yeah, it was incredible. I mean, contrary to popular belief, especially in America, we have been so – unfortunately, since the early ’60s – we have been kind of convinced that politically Cuba was on the wrong side of the fence or whatever. It’s unfortunate but we went down and now that our government, our President is trying to lift a lot of sanctions and different things like that, we wanted to go down there and we wanted to play some rock and roll for them.

“I’ll tell you, man. We went down and everybody was so cordial and so nice and so grateful that we were there. We did two shows. We did a bunch of TV stuff, radio interviews, regular interviews, press conferences. We went and we did the two shows. The fans that were there were just unbelievably amazing. We went to some music schools and we met these kids and just – it was very eye-opening experience. It was incredible.”

No doubt it was also a good opportunity for the newly aligned band to bond with each other?

“Yeah,” he agrees. “I’m still new, you know what I mean? It’s like I’ve hung out with a few of the guys. I mean, mainly, we get up in the morning, I try to work on lyrics or whatever for a little bit in the morning, then I’m here at the studio. We’re working hard. We work 12, 14 hours a day then we go home, maybe go get a drink, and then back to bed. Repeat the next morning.

“Even still, we haven’t really had time to just go to the beach or just have a barbecue and just sit around and talk and get to know each other and have a beer and things like that. It will happen in time.”

Corabi onstage with The Dead Daisies in Cuba

Corabi onstage with The Dead Daisies in Cuba

The trip South of the border even saw The Daisies jamming with Cuban musicians, and some of that flavour may well make it onto the new record.

“Yeah, we actually did – we recorded a couple of things while we were down there. One song that we did, we had this girl, she was amazing – Cuban percussionist. We had her come in, lay a couple of tracks down, and then during the shows we basically had a couple of singers come up. I took turns. We did a couple of covers that they were familiar with, like we did All Right Now by Free.

“We had this one Cuban singer, I can’t remember his name but he came down and he sang a verse then I sang a verse. We both shared the choruses. We had two Cuban percussionists. We had a guy come out and play saxophone. We did Helter Skelter and he played saxophone on it. So it was very cool and then we did –

“Obviously, we had Darryl and Bernard from The Rolling Stones with us, so we just did this big jam at the end. We did Sympathy For The Devil and Jumpin’ Jack Flash and then we had all the musicians come out at the same time. It was such a great time. They were so moved by the whole experience. Like the second show that we did, I think we played for 8,000 or 9,000 people.

“There was a ton of people outside that couldn’t get in,” he says with no little awe in his voice, “so they were just like, ‘oh, my God. We’re in front of all these people and we’re playing music.’ It was just great. The whole thing was amazing. It really, truly was amazing.”

When The Dead Daisies played Perth in early December 2014 they featured a couple of new tracks – Mexico and Critical. Have they remained on the band’s playlist for the new album?

“There were a few songs that they had that they said, ‘these are songs that we wrote already. Let’s sit down and write some of our own stuff.’ So there’re a couple of songs from the record that were written prior to me being involved in this,” the singer explains. “I don’t know if it’s the same ones that you heard. I don’t know if the titles have changed. I don’t know.

“I just came in. Some of the stuff, I kind of added some lyrics or took some things away but it’s been awesome. The songs are great. And even the new stuff that we just kind of literally sat down for five days in a room and just jammed with acoustic guitars and we came up with another 12 or 13 ideas so it’s going to be pretty cool. I’m excited about it.”

Corabi says the album will definitely be out by the time the tours get underway.

“I can’t be sure but I think I overheard the manager, David Edwards, I thought he said that they were shooting for an early June release, kind of in sync with when we split to go [to Europe]. We’re doing Europe with Kiss and we’re doing quite a few huge festivals, Download and some festivals in Austria, Germany, just all over Europe. I think they wanted to have the record out around that time.”

John Corabi 05

It certainly makes sense to have the album available for the tour!

“Yeah,” agrees the singer, “but I don’t like saying — a) I don’t know for sure; and b) in this business, there is always some sort of a glitch, so if I said to you, ‘hey, it’s going to be out June 3rd’, and it doesn’t come out until the 11th or whatever…”

These things happen in rock and roll, of course, as Corabi knows better than most.

“This is true, my friend!” he says dramatically.

Since we’re referencing the turbulent past, what are Corabi’s thoughts about Motley Crue committing to a “Final” tour?

“Well, that’s – look, I’m happy for the guys. I get their thinking. They don’t want to be a band that overstays their welcome and they don’t want to fade off; they want to go out with a bang and they want to go out on a high note. So I’m all for it. You know what I mean?

“But the cool thing is they’re not saying that they’re not going to do anything in the future; they’re just not going to tour again. So I imagine there will still be Motley music coming in the future but they’re just not going to go out and do these big, huge, extravagant tours and things like that. They’ll probably do a few songs a year or an album every couple of years and whatever.

“But, look, we’re all getting older,” he says with a touch of sadness. “We all know – it’s common knowledge – Mick hasn’t been in the best of health. I think it would cheapen their value if they were to go get another guitar player. Obviously, I know about the whole ‘replacing a member’ [deal] of that band. I think it would cheapen their value so I get the fans, I get why they were upset when I was in the band. I understand it. I don’t disagree with them.

“So it’s probably best to go: Look. Let’s knock it on the head now. We’ll still write, we’ll still record, and still the same musically in the future, but let’s not tour anymore. Touring is very tough. Like I said, especially in Mick’s condition, it’s got to be very difficult for him.”

Is Corabi involved in the oft-rumoured movie of the Motley Crue book the Dirt that may or may not be finally getting made after years of speculation?

“No,” he says. “I’ve heard about it. Obviously, I was a part of the book. Whether or not they include me in the movie, I have no idea. I hope it’s a grand success and I just hope that they get some really good-looking, suave, debonair, well-hung guy to play my part.”

Perhaps Johnny Depp in a wig, what do you reckon?

“No,” he deadpans, “I’m looking more at Cuba Gooding.”

Throughout the interview it’s been obvious Corabi has very amicable thoughts about the Motley Crue guys nowadays even though, reading The Dirt, being in the band kind of cost you your previous band. It cost you your marriage. Does he harbour any bitterness towards that, and would he join the band now at that time if he knew what would happen?

“Not like…” he says, pausing for thought, “look, you know, at the end of the day – and I just want to clear this up. Probably about 90% of the things that you read that supposedly came out of my mouth in regards to the Motley guys, usually most of it is incorrect. At the end of the day, I have no ill will. Honestly, not just the Motley guys, anybody I’ve ever played with. I had a great run with those guys. I was in the band for five years. My only regret about that is that I’m not still better friends with them. When I say ‘better friends,’ it’s not that we hate each other or anything like that, it’s just the fact that because of our schedules and the fact that I’m not involved with them anymore, I just see never see the guys. It’s very rare.

“Mick, on the other hand, I live in Nashville, Tennessee. Mick lives there too, so I do get to see Mick probably more and talk to him more than the rest of the guys. But I’ve always been cool and Vince has always been cool with me. Tommy and I every now and then will have, like, a little texting session. Nikki on occasion will write to me via email and vice versa. But that’s the most unfortunate part of it is not being able to see them and hang with them like we used to.

“But I don’t really have any ill will about anything, man,” he says like a man completely comfortable in his own skin. “I think that everything you do, everything that you start and everything that you end, it does that for a reason and it’s to move forward onto the next thing or the next road or the next path or whatever. So I don’t look back. It’s all good. Everything is groovy. Everybody that I’ve ever played with is awesome and I’ve learned from all of them so it’s all good.”

It’s a lovely attitude to have, especially in an industry which is just full of backstabbing and bitching and gossiping. It’s nice to hear someone just be nice…

“Well, and that’s the thing too, in regards to your original, very first question [about whether he knew why Jon Stevens left The Dead Daisies], that’s why I don’t want to know. I don’t want to know what happened prior to me being in the band. It’s irrelevant to me. People ask me all the time about Jon and I’m like, ‘it’s got nothing to do with me’. I don’t know the guy. I have nothing but good things to say about him; I have nothing bad to say about him. I don’t know the guy other than the fact that I think he’s an incredible talent.

“So I don’t like getting into drama,” he explains further. “I don’t like getting into any of that stuff. I never have. I never will. There’s way too much stuff to get accomplished in a 24-hour period than wasting my time bitching about somebody, you know what I mean? It’s irrelevant. It’s all good. Life is good. My life is anyway.”

The Dead Daisies support KISS around Australia this October.

Saturday October 3 PERTH Arena
Tuesday October 6 ADELAIDE Entertainment Centre
Thursday October 8 MELBOURNE Rod Laver Arena
Saturday October 10 SYDNEY AllPhones Arena
Monday October 12 NEWCASTLE Entertainment Centre
Tuesday October 13 BRISBANE Entertainment Centre

Category: Interviews

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