From his days with The Scream, Mötley Crüe and Union, we’ve followed John Corabi through each stage of his career. It’s all led to what might be his best gig yet—fronting The Dead Daisies, one of the best pure hard rock bands in the world today. It’s no surprise given the pedigree of his bandmates—guitarist Doug Aldrich (Whitesnake, Dio), bassist Marco Mendoza (Whitesnake, Thin Lizzy), drummer Deen Castronovo (Bad English, Journey) and guitarist David Lowy (Red Phoenix, Mink). On April 6, the Daisies will release “Burn It Down,” their third studio effort since welcoming Corabi to the fold. Two days after that, the band will be in the U.K. to launch what surely will be an extensive world tour. But that’s not all Corabi is up to. In February, he released his long-awaited solo album, “Live ‘94 (One Night in Nashville),” capturing him and his band playing the self-titled Mötley Crüe record, the only album Corabi did with the Crüe, in its entirety. (Read Live Metal’s review here.) Live Metal’s Greg Maki recently spoke to Corabi about the two new releases and more.
LIVE METAL: The Dead Daisies seem like one of the hardest working bands out there. You finish a world tour, and then you’re immediately in the studio with a new drummer. And now, in less than a month, the new album’s coming out, you’re going on tour again. Is that just how you like to work, or is it an effort to keep the momentum going?
JOHN CORABI: I think, in this day and age, momentum is key, and I think our management is very aware of that kind of stuff. We’ve got everybody kind of interested in what we’re doing, so let’s not let ‘em down; let’s just keep trudging forward. Obviously, I don’t mind. Technically, I’ve had off since we finished the album—I think we finished it in early December. Since then, I took a little vacation with my wife, and then I’ve gone out and I’ve been doing some acoustic shows. I have a record, also, a live solo album that just came out. So I’ve been dealing with a lot of press and stuff for that.
I don’t know, man, it’s weird. I get home, and I just kind of veg out. I don’t like vegging too long, because I become one with my couch and my remote. I definitely have to keep moving a little bit. So it’s a good thing.
What was the writing and recording of this new album, “Burn It Down,” like? Did you have any material prepared before you went into the studio?
Nope. (laughs) We never do. One of the things I’ve actually realized with the Daisies—pretty much everything else that I’ve done—The Scream, Mötley, Union—all of those bands pretty much took a year or more to write material for whatever record we were doing. And since I’ve joined the Daisies, we’ve gone into the studio, pretty much every record, with nothing more than really simple riff ideas, and we’ve kind of built as a team—all of us in a room will build the songs, get ‘em into maps, we go into the studio, track ‘em. As we’re tracking, we’re tweaking the maps a little more. Then I’ll go in, either by myself or sometimes even with the other guys in the band, and I’ll start writing lyrics and working on melodies—getting that together—and then I start singing. And even still, especially with (producer) Marti Frederiksen, even while I’m singing, we’re changing words, we’re playing with the melody even more, and adding things and taking things away.
It’s a very quick process. So the three studio records that we’ve done since I’ve been in the band, we’ve literally gone into the studio with nothing, and within between four and six weeks, we’ve actually written, recorded, mixed, mastered the record, and done the artwork and had it prepared to hand to a record label in a very short period of time.
It’s pretty impressive.
You know what? It’s a combination of, obviously, the talent that’s in the band. Not to blow smoke, but being in a band with Marco Mendoza, Doug Aldrich, David Lowy and now Deen—those guys are so quick with tracking stuff. Those guys will do stuff in one or two takes. So having those guys, but also the fact of the matter is David lives in Sydney, Australia, and New York City. He’s bouncing back and forth between those two places. Marco and Doug are in L.A. Deen’s in Oregon. I’m in Nashville. So when we do get together to write, we know, OK, hey, we’re getting together, we’re gonna start writing for the next record. And we’ll go to New York and write there so David can still deal with—he’s got some business stuff that he has, as well. So we’ll go to New York, and it’s very focused. We’re like, OK, here’s the job. This is what we need to do, and we knock it out.
We come to Nashville, and it’s the same thing. The gear gets set up, we walk into the room, we start tracking, and we don’t take a day off until the record is done. We’re literally in the studio every day around 11 in the morning ‘til 8, 9, 10 o’clock at night, every day. And then we come home, recharge, back into the studio, every day—Sundays, everything. So it’s quick, but we know, too, if we—pardon my French—if we dick around, it’s just gonna cost hotel rooms, food, studio time. So this is the job, this is what needs to be done, let’s get it done.
What was it like working with Deen on this album? Did you know him prior to him joining the band?
I didn’t. Marco and Doug were very familiar with Deen. I met Deen when we were doing the writing part, and he’s a gem. I’ve actually become really good friends with Deen. He’s an amazing player. He went through a little bit of a dark period, but he came out of it. He was very honest about everything—what happened, how his life has changed—and he’s just happy to be here, and we’re happy to have him. Obviously, he’s talented. Everything he’s done with Journey, and he’s a very accomplished session guy. I’m excited about having that voice, as well, doing backing vocals with Marco. It’s gonna be sick. He just came right in. He’s energetic, and he’s positive, and he’s just super stoked to be doing this. It’s kind of given all of us a little bit of a B-12 shot in the ass.
The album is called “Burn It Down.” There’s a song with that title, too. Why did you choose that as the album title?
We were trying to come up with different things, and then we just started looking at the titles. I don’t even remember who suggested it. “Rise Up” was another title thought we had, which is another song from the record. We were trying different things, but across the board, everybody involved in this thing—management, co-management, record label—they had a vision for the artwork, and they just thought, “Well, this ‘Burn It Down’ thing would work.” So they came up with artwork for the album cover, showed it to us all, and we were like, “Yeah, this is fuckin’ cool.” So we were stoked about that. And I think, too, even lyrically what the song means, it’s all kind of relevant. So we just went with that one—”Burn It Down.”
The new single came out today, “Rise Up.” That’s kind of about the people standing up for themselves, right?
Yeah. One of the things that I always say, especially here in America with things being the way that they are, it’s really sad. I see it on Facebook all the time. You get somebody that is pro Trump on Facebook, and they’re just gushing about how awesome he is and all the great things that he’s doing, and they call the liberals “libtards” or “snowflakes.” And then you talk to the liberals, and they just can’t believe that anybody voted for Trump—”he’s an idiot, and you’re a moron.” The thing that irritates me is that these are all adults. And I’m like, what kind of fucking example are you setting for our children? It’s just all this shit about, is it gun control, is it gun confiscation, is it pharmaceutical lobbyists—all of these things. They’re just sitting on opposite sides of the table yelling shit at each other. They’re not making anything happen. They’re just yelling at each other, insulting each other.
Even as far as now, the news networks. There’s certain networks that are pro conservative, and there’s certain networks that are pro liberal. And it’s the same thing. I could see an event happen, and I could turn on one channel, and they will have a completely different spin on that event than the other channel. I’m just like, OK, why are we yelling at each other? Why are we insulting each other?
What I think we need to do is we need to hold every person that’s in Washington or in office or in power—what’s the first thing in the Declaration of Independence? “We the people.” And it’s just like, we need to hold all of them—I’m not taking a piss out of conservatives or liberals, but they’re all in power, and they’re all fuckin’ morons that are just there for the benefits. That’s it. They’ve got nothing to do with us, and I’m just sitting there saying, hey, we need to stop arguing, we need to unite and rise up together, and hold all of these fuckers accountable for the state of the world.
Without getting too crazy and political, one voice can start a bunch of voices, but a bunch of voices will definitely, absolutely—you’re starting to see minor, little gun changes with bumpstocks and all this other shit, because now this whole generation of kids that are in high school, somebody said, “You know what? We’re gonna make public every senator or congressman, Republican or Democrat, that took money from the NRA. We’re gonna make your shit public, and we are gonna vote you out of office.” And now suddenly you’re starting to see everybody go, “Well, maybe we should change this bumpstock thing. Maybe we could do this.”
That’s my point. If everybody gets together and goes, “Well, I know you’re Republican and I’m a liberal.” Or vice versa. “What are your concerns?” “Well, my concerns are health care, taxes, cost of living.” “Well, oddly enough, they’re my concerns, too.” “OK, well let’s get together and fucking yell and say you need to change this.” So that’s what “Rise Up” is about.
The first song on the album, “Resurrected,” toward the end, on the outro there’s some orchestration going on there. Was that inspired by the show you did with the orchestra last year in Poland?
No. To be quite honest with you, that was the madman, Marti. There was the big jam at the end, and Doug was doing some soloing and all this other stuff, and for some reason, Marti kept going, “I don’t know what it is about this song, but something about the end of this song kind of reminds me of ‘Live and Let Die.’” And he goes, “I think I want to put some strings on it.” And we’re like, “Awesome. Knock yourself out!” (laughs) So he went batshit crazy. But it’s cool. It’s a heavy song, expressive, and then it’s got this trippy little orchestrated ending.
Yeah, I was not expecting that at all. It’s really a dramatic ending.
Mmhmm. Marti’s such a genius anyway. He’s such a great producer, but he’s a great songwriter. He’s our, for lack of a better term—I was talking to quite a few people up to this point. I’m just like, all of these historic bands that I grew up listening to and admiring, they all had that guy that was not in the band, but he was part of the band. Jimi Hendrix had Eddie Kramer. The Beatles had George Martin. Queen had Roy Thomas Baker. Aerosmith in the very, very beginning had Jack Douglas. Alice Cooper and KISS had Bob Ezrin. So they had that guy that was like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, I totally understand what you guys want to do. I get your vision.” And he was able to help them translate it from the brain to—back then—vinyl, and Marti’s that guy for us.
Covers have always been a part of what you do with The Dead Daisies, and this album you do “Bitch” by The Rolling Stones. I’m sure between the five of you, there’s an endless list of songs you’d like to do, but how did you choose that one?
Honestly, we had tried a few, and at this point, I don’t even remember what they are. If you listen to the thread through the whole record, there’s different moods on this record, but in a kind of classic sense, it’s still pretty heavy. We wanted to do a Stones tune, and we went, “Well, let’s do ‘Tumbling Dice’ or ‘Sympathy for the Devil.” There was something about “Bitch,” that riff (hums riff). It just kind of lended itself to the rest of our record. So we just went in and jammed it, and then Doug kind of made it his own, and he did some really cool guitar work on it. It’s always been a tough riff, but we kind of gave it some steroids and toughened it up even more.
Coming up in less than a month from now, the world tour starts up. Do you still get excited about going out on tour, seeing the world, meeting people and things like that?
Yes. We’ve actually become friends with a lot of our fans, so going out on the road, we’re gonna see a lot of old faces that are friends of ours, meet some new people. Honestly, I love getting on stage. I’ll go do five weeks, six weeks on the road, and I’ll go out and play rock star, and that’s a lot of fun. You have a bunch of people like, “John, do you need anything?” And you’re like, “Yes, I’m the lead singer! Bask in my glory and my presence!” Then I come home, and my wife kind of slaps me back down again and goes, “Hey, take the trash out!” (laughs)
It’s a good balance. I still love doing what I do. I’m still here 30 years later. I’m not making Michael Jackson money or anything like that, but I’m having fun, man. I’m enjoying myself. I’m able to take care of myself and my family. I have a couple cool little toys, and life is good. I have a great band, we’re doing great albums, and we’re gonna go out, and I think this year we’re doing Europe a couple of times; we’re doing Japan, South America, America. The fact that I’m still able to do it—I’m not quite delivering pizzas yet or I’m not a night manager at 7-Eleven—it’s a good thing.
When can we expect to see The Dead Daisies here in the U.S.?
I was told that they’re trying to put together a six- to seven-week run, and it’s gonna be in August and September. Right now, I think they’re just trying to lock up a cool opening act. And we’re gonna go out and hit the road.
I also really want to talk about the solo live album that you put out last month, “Live ‘94.” I’ve always been a huge, huge fan of that Mötley Crue album. It’s one of my all-time favorite albums, and I’m just happy that you’re keeping those songs alive. Is that why you did the tour and put out the album?
To be honest with you—and I’ll try to make this as compact as possible—but I was out doing shows, and I’ve got so much material to choose from, so I was doing Scream, some Mötley, some Union. I was on stage, and this was in, I think, March of 2014, and somebody yelled out, “Happy anniversary!” I’m sitting there going like, “OK … What the fuck are you talking about? What do you mean, anniversary?” So I asked the girl in the audience, “What are you talking about?” And they were like, “Oh, you dumbass, you’re fuckin’ record came out today 20 years ago. The Mötley record.” So that was that—whatever.
Mötley announced they were going on their farewell tour. My manager called me and said, “Hey, you’ve still got three quarters of the year here. Why don’t you talk to the guys in the band and go out and do a Mötley ‘94 thing.” At first, I was like, “Nah, no.” Then I talked to the guys in my band, and they were all like, “Yeah, dude, let’s do it.” My manager said, “Yeah.” I talked to my booking agent—they didn’t really give me a choice; they just went out and booked a bunch of shows—and they said, “Well, too late. It’s already booked.”
So I went and rehearsed with the guys. We sorted it out. We did a ton of shows, and it kind of carried over into 2015. I just said, “You know what? Let’s just record this last show.” I was kind of done with it. One of the reasons why was I didn’t want to continue—It was cool in 2014, early ‘15, but I didn’t want to keep it going. Now it’s getting a little redundant. The other thing, too, was I would promote these shows as John Corabi doing the Mötley ‘94 record in its entirety, and then I would walk off stage, go do a signing and people were like, “I’m a little bummed out you didn’t do any Scream or Union.” So I’m like, OK, I’m done with this. Let’s move it aside. Maybe I’ll do some more on the 25th anniversary.
What I did do was I told my manager, “I wanna record the show. I’m gonna record it. I’ve got a company all set up. I’m gonna record one show in Nashville, see if Rat Pak wants to put it out, and at least that way if anybody wants to hear what it would’ve sounded like, they can hear.” And Rat Pak was like, “Yeah, let’s do it.”
To be honest with you, I’m a little surprised, ‘cause I haven’t really gone out of my way to promote the thing because it was so close to this new release with the Daisies. It’s just word of mouth. And I just got word from the record label, Rat Pak, they just sent me this thing and the record is actually charting in four or five different charts in Billboard. It’s just the fans going out, word of mouth, which to me, I love that. I’m not buying any ads. I’m not actively seeking interviews for the thing. It’s just kind of getting out there on its own, and it’s doing well. That, to me, is even cooler.
Those aren’t exactly simple arrangements on some of those songs. Were any of them hard to work out to play live? I’m guessing some of them hadn’t been played much or at all before this tour.
The only ones that we did from that record were “Power to the Music,” “Uncle Jack,” “Misunderstood” and “Hooligan’s Holiday.” Mötley would occasionally do “Smoke the Sky” depending on how my voice felt.
This was a bit of a challenge to literally go, “I’m gonna go out and do almost a two-hour show, just this record.” And then we did the bonus track, “10,000 Miles Away.” We did that, as well. And then there was another one, “Babykills,” we would do once in a while.
The biggest challenge for me was—I sat there, and I listened to all the melodies, and I’m like, “What the fuck was I thinking 20 years ago when I was screaming my ass off? Am I gonna be able to do this?” A couple of the melodies, I kind of tweaked them a little bit and made ‘em a little bluesier. But I gotta give credit where credit’s due: The guys in my band, they all sat down, and they figured out like, “I’ll do this guitar part. You do that guitar part. We got it.” Then there were some songs, like “Misunderstood,” “Welcome to the Numb,” where they were like, “I’ll do this part, you do this part. Crab, you’re gonna need to play guitar on this song, because there’s a third part that’s really kind of imperative.” But all the guys in my band sorted it out. I think they all did a great job. I’m extremely proud of my son ( Ian Corabi), the way he handled Tommy (Lee)’s drum parts; he just nailed it. I can’t tip my hat to those guys any more than I have the last couple weeks with the press that I’ve done on the record. They did a great job.
I know you have more interviews to do, so I’ll let you get going. Is there anything else you’d like to say?
Just thank you to everybody that’s been supporting me over the years, and hope to see you out on tour this year with the Daisies.