Interview: John Corabi
Ahead of their co-headline show at Corporation (14th November), Chris Lord caught up with John Corabi of The Dead Daisies and formerly Mötley Crue, to talk touring, the latest Daisies record and good old fashioned rock ‘n’ roll.
What do you make of the ‘supergroup’ label?
I think we’re all kinda flattered by the tag, you know? In all honesty, we’ve all known each other for so long. I’ve known Doug Aldrich since he was sixteen or seventeen years old, back in Philadelphia we grew up together. It’s just five really good friends who have known each other forever, who are into the same type of music. We’re just having fun with this, and we’re all excited about the response that we’ve been getting. We don’t really take ourselves all that seriously, but at the end of the day it’s really all about the record. We just wanna get better with each record, collectively and individually.
In Mine All Mine, you sing: ‘I scratched and clawed to pay my dues on time, I must admit I almost quit, I can’t deny’. What’s the secret to surviving a career in rock ‘n’ roll?
For me it’s not just a musical thing, there’s been some personal let-downs. Let’s face it, joining Mötley Crüe was such a weird thing for me. At the time, The Scream were making noise musically, but we weren’t this huge entity yet, we were just scratching the surface. And then all of a sudden I’m the lead singer in Mötley Crüe. You gotta remember, this was the first studio record after Dr. Feelgood, and they were probably one of, if not the, biggest rock ‘n’ roll band at the time. I have to admit you get caught up in the lifestyle. There were a few moments after Mötley where I kinda sat there and went ‘fuck, man, did I peak in 1994? Is that the best that I’m ever gonna do?’ I had to take a step back and look at things, and go ‘you know what, there’s fans out there who do appreciate what you do. Just be yourself. Don’t get caught up in all the bullshit, and just go out and fuckin’ write your music, and do your thing’, you know? I’m very blessed to be able to do what I do for a living, and I get to travel all over the world. It’s awesome. But at the end of the day, it’s really about keeping your head on, and family, and a small group of friends who keep me in check. If I’m being an asshole, trust me, my wife and my son are the first two people to tell me that, and I like it [laughs].
In terms of the lyrics on Mine All Mine, the thing that irritates the shit outta me is when you’re riding a wave, or peaking, or whatever, everybody wants to give you free shit, everybody wants to have you come to the party, everybody wants to be your best friend. And then when you’re in the valley, no one wants to know you, it’s like you’re a fuckin’ leper. It’s funny, the minute I started playing with The Dead Daisies, and there’s all these photos of me opening for KISS last year in Europe in front of ten thousand, fifteen thousand people, everybody immediately thinks that you’re a fuckin’ multimillionaire again. And that’s when everybody starts calling ‘hey, can you lend me three hundred dollars for this?’ or ‘can you lend me five thousand dollars for that?’ I’ve got my own things going on, my own family that I need to worry about, what the fuck is wrong with those people? Like, go away! [laughs] So “Mine All Mine” is kind of a ‘fuck you’ to those people who come and go in your life.
Favourite tunes from the new record? The riff on the title-track is absolute filth…
When we were doing the record we had about twenty-two rough ideas. We’d gotten to the point where I’d scattered some melodies, but the majority of the stuff was just pretty much straight ahead rock ‘n’ roll, no frills, and we decided to stick with that. Not a lot of overdubs, let’s just go for the kick in the balls music. So there was a few ideas that we left off to the side that were gonna need a little more production, but while we were sitting there tracking, somebody in the band said ‘we need a fuckin’ anthem!’ I’m a huge American football fan, and at the games if they’re getting ready to score, or the opposing team is playing in the defence, they always flash these signs in the stadium saying ‘make some noise!’, you know what I mean? It’s just a fuckin’ simple statement that you can use at a political rally, a football game, a rock concert; it’s just one of those broad statements. So we went a little caveman and wrote “Make Some Noise”. It goes over awesome at the shows.
Your performance on the Creedence Clearwater Revival cover stood out for me in particular. Who are your vocal heroes?
There’s a million that you pick up along the way, but I even like some stuff like Stevie Wonder. Ray Charles is amazing. Even guys like Frank Sinatra, I can respect their vocal delivery. When I was growing up my mom had it all, she listened to everything. But the three guys who really kind of made my ears perk up when I was a kid, I would have to say hands down, were Paul McCartney, Steven Tyler and Robert Plant. When I was very young I had the Abbey Road record, and still to this day, hands down, the vocal performances that made me wanna be a singer were “Oh! Darling” and “Golden Slumbers”. He’s singing very mellow in the verses, and then all of a sudden he kicks into that bridge section on “Oh! Darling”, and he gets that grit in his voice. I was like ‘what the fuck am I hearing right now? This is insane!’ And after that, I was in. I was sold.
I saw you guys support Whitesnake in Berlin last November. Both bands were fantastic. How different are European audiences to American?
To be honest, I just think the culture is different in general. I don’t know what it is, and I’m not taking the piss out of America or anything like that, obviously, but I think the difference is that when bands strike a nerve with the audiences over there, you guys are just kinda lifers, you know? Once Europe embraces a band I think they’re just kind of in it for life, and it’s more of an event when the bands come to town. If you look at the cultural differences in general… my tour manager’s from Switzerland, and he laughs. He’s just like ‘I don’t understand Americans, everything you guys do is fast’. We have drive-thru food, drive-thru coffee, drive-thru everything! Us guys need to learn to just sit down and relax and socialise for a few minutes, and I think there’s some truth to that. America does do things fast. And when we do them it’s very typical, especially American radio. A new band will come into play, and American radio plays it so much, that they burn the audience out very quickly. You hear that band twenty times a day everyday for months, and America’s tired of ‘em already. It’s hilarious to me. 5 years ago, Nickelback could fart on a record and it would sell ten million copies, and they just got so burnt out. But we’re like that with everything, we want everything yesterday. There’s a cultural difference between Europe and America in that sense, we don’t stop to smell the roses, if you will. Sitting down and actually taking ten or fifteen minutes to just chew the fat about your day with your friends is unheard of here [laughs], and I think it carries over into the music business as well.
Fondest memory of playing the UK previously with The Dead Daisies?
I would have to say playing Download, because for me personally, growing up and always reading Kerrang! back when it was called the Monsters of Rock festival, that was a bucket list thing. I was supposed to do it with Mötley in ’93 or ’94, but we ended up cancelling to play with Aerosmith, and I was devastated. So coming over last year we had a very early slot on the Sunday, I think we played at like 11 in the morning. I remember showing up for soundcheck and there was nobody there. I was sitting there thinking ‘fuck, this is not how I played this out in my brain’. But we went backstage, changed, and thought ‘fuck it, let’s just go out and have a good time’. And when we walked back out onstage there was like thirty thousand people there! So that is probably my favourite memory of playing in the UK.
I know you guys played some festivals with The Answer over here during the summer. How much are you looking forward to returning to these shores with them?
I dig their vibe, so we’re very excited to get back out and start doing some shows with them. A lot of the people I’ve spoken with in Europe tell me that this is a great bill, and it’s gonna be awesome.
With your old band Mötley Crüe recently hanging up their boots, and many other household names coming towards the end of their careers, do you believe rock has a sustainable future?
I think the industry as a whole has to figure out how to stop the bleeding. With file sharing and streaming, right now they’re scurrying in America to figure out how to pay the artists money that’s just falling through the cracks in different ways. It is very difficult now to sell records. Technology allows you to branch out though. I can literally respond to emails that I receive from fans in South America at the touch of a button, and that part it amazing, but there’s other parts of it where it’s hurt the artist when it comes to making a living. A lot of bands have to figure out how to use the internet and social media to broaden their horizons, but at the same time it’s hurting. We’ve done a few tours now with bands like KISS and Whitesnake, and the fans still show up, they’re still there. But because of the lack of radio support, and the fact that there is no such thing as music on MTV anymore, you have to figure out how to use new technology to get out there to the audiences, and let them know that you’ve got new music out, or you’re on tour. I think the days of Mötley Crüe and Bon Jovi and these bands going out and selling five or ten million records…I mean, it can be done, I just don’t see it happening as frequently as it used to. When I first got into this you would have a record label, you would get a record deal, and then you would get an advance to go do a record. It varied, but there were some bands out there that would get five hundred thousand dollars, and it just doesn’t happen now. We’ve kinda got a leg up because of the history of everybody in our band, but when I first played the new record for a few of my friends everybody’s like ‘oh, dude, this is the one!’ I think it’s a great record, but the obstacles that you have to get through to be able to walk away with a platinum record, it’s unbelievable. Honestly, if this thing goes platinum, I will literally go outside, sit in an intersection and suck my own dick! [laughs] Back when I started, you made your money from the record and the touring was just to support the album. Now it’s kinda flipped, the record is like the invitation for the tour. Everybody makes their money now on the touring part, and the t-shirts, and all that other shit. But at the end of the day, for me, the fact I’m still here doing it thirty years later is awesome; and I’m doing it all playing the guitar and singing songs. It’s killer.
The Dead Daisies come to Corporation on the 14th of November, on their co-headline tour with The Answer. Tickets available here.