The Dead Daisies Interview; John Corabi on Instagram, Creating Music and Functioning in this Digital Age of Music

- Jan 11, 2017 at 10:08AM
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The Dead Daisies are a rock band comprised of veteran musicians who have all spent time with some of the finest hard rock bands in the world. Lead guitarist Doug Aldrich has spent time with Whitesnake and Dio. Vocalist John Corabi has been in Mötley Crüe and The Scream. Bassist Marco Mendoza has performed with both Thin Lizzy and Whitesnake. Drummer Brian Tichy has drummed with Ozzy Osbourne and Foreigner. And founding member/rhythm guitarist David Lowy has recorded with Red Phoenix and Mink.

With a no-nonsense approach to creating music, The Dead Daisies have been winning over audiences with their live performances and albums for four years now. Their third album, 2016’s Make Some Noise has the audio effect of finding a lost comfy article of clothing - a welcome surprise of something both new and comforting. The band boasts an established sound and feel that harkens back to the heyday of 1970s era arena rock, but with an undeniably modern take on the genre.

Vocalist John Corabi took some time to Skype with me during the final days of their European dates at the end of December, talking at length about the band, how they create music and function as a unit in this digital age of music.

Thanks for taking the time today John. I’m digging the new album (Make Some Noise). It’s good.
Corabi: Thank you. We’re incredibly pleased with the amount of support that we have been getting globally. The new record charted in something like thirty-three different countries. And it charted well. So it’s been wild. There are now sports teams playing some of the songs from the record. The response that we have been getting from critics at magazines, radio and online has been overwhelming. So we are very, very happy about all of it.

Cool. That’s awesome. The band itself is an interesting touch-point all on its own. The Dead Daisies is like a collective of veteran professionals, for lack of a better descriptor.
Corabi: Well, you know, it’s funny. I know a lot of people have brought up the fact that there have been so many members in The Dead Daisies already in only 3 or 4 years. It’s a little bit misleading. Right now, the band is as is: David (Lowy). Doug (Aldrich). Brian (Tichy). Marco (Mendoza). And myself. David is the one who actually started the thing in 2012 with a different singer named Jon Stevens. And for lack of a better term, they did everything ass-backwards. Most bands get together, and it will be four or five friends getting together, jamming and writing and trying to get the record deal. Then they do that, get the album released and then they go on tour. These two guys, they got together and wrote like 18 to 20 songs, went into a studio and recorded an album with session guys and then said "hey, we need to put a band together… let’s go do some shows."

Marco got involved early on. Richard Fortus was involved early on. But they have gone through some changes. And some people just didn’t work out along the way. But also David was realizing and knowing Marco was getting involved. Marco is a very busy guy. All of us are. We’ve all had other things that we were doing. So David always had the deal that if there was a conflict for touring and that musician couldn't get out of it, there would just be somebody filling in until that person could come back. There were a few shows that Marco couldn’t do, so they got Darryl Jones from the Rolling Stones. Last year, we did the album and then Brian had some prior commitments, so we went to Europe, and we did some shows with KISS, and we had Tommy Clufetos from Sabbath come in and fill in for him. But Brian came back, you know what I mean?

So a lot of the names that are on our ‘list’ are just friends of ours who just came in and filled in for a very brief time. A few shows here and there or whatever. We’ve all been doing this for twenty or thirty years now. Marco has played with almost everybody from John Sykes to Ted Nugent. Doug has performed with numerous legends in Whitesnake. Brian has played with Ozzy. We’ve all got a huge Rolodex of names and numbers in case somebody can’t make it for a few dates. If Brian can’t make a few days, we can call Fred Coury from Cinderella or Tommy Lee. If we need a week's worth of shows, we can find someone to fill in. That’s where the list of members gets a bit misleading because a lot of those names are just fill-in people. But, they are indeed part of The Dead Daisies family now. So it’s all good.


So how did you wind up getting into The Dead Daisies in 2015, John?
Corabi: You know, it was funny. I was doing shows on my own. I was touring with my solo band. At the time I was doing the Motley ’94 album. I’d just pulled into my driveway at home; I’d just got done, and I was home for like a day or something. It’s hilarious really; you get home from touring, and it’s like reality kicks in fast; my wife will be like "We need milk." So I was going to the store for some fridge supplies, and I was pulling into my driveway, and my phone rang. I just happened to look down and saw that it was Marco, and I realized that we’d not talked in what felt like forever. So I picked it up and we started chatting, and he told me about the Daisies.

Initially, I felt like I was pretty busy with my thing, and said that I was cool. But he said just to come and check it out - to come to L.A. and meet everybody. When I saw who was in the band (at that time it was Richard Fortus, Dizzy Reed, Brian, Marco, and David) I thought it was pretty cool, right? The line-up is incredible. So I went online and looked them up because I didn’t know who they were. I heard some of the tunes and realized that their songs were great too. So I started to think maybe I would come out. Their management called me, and we worked everything out. I flew to L.A., and I met everybody.

The first thing they asked me to do was to go to Cuba. They had some shows booked in Cuba. They had been working on those dates for about a year - going through all of the political red-tape you need to go through even to get down there. I think it was a ‘feel each other out’ trip. Everyone was eyeballing me to see what kind of person I was to work-wise. Whether or not I could handle being on stage in front of a lot of people or whatever. And vice versa. I was doing the same. At my age, and the stage I’m at in my career, I don’t want to deal with any ego bullshit. I went down there, and we hung out, and we did about eight days or so together and we had a blast. So then they asked if I might want to go to do a record. I said, "sure, when?" A couple of weeks later we did Revolutión. God, it was pretty quick. As soon as we got done that I came home and did some more shows with my band and then it was a call saying "we’re going on tour."

It’s just been that way from the start. It’s crazy. I was just telling somebody a couple of days ago that the amount of work that we have done from 2015 up to this point is pretty wild. I flew into L.A. in February (2015). We were in the studio in March in Sydney Australia doing the record. So from March of last year, we did the record, we toured all of Europe with KISS, then Australia, then went back to Europe with Whitesnake after doing American dates with Whitesnake as well. We did the KISS cruise. From March to December we worked, came home for the holidays and then went right back into the studio with Doug. Dizzy and Rich went on to Guns n' Roses, we went into the studio and did Make Some Noise and went right back out on tour again. I think we have been to Europe four times now and America twice, Australia twice, Japan and South Korea and we’ve done two records.

That’s crazy.
Corabi: It’s been pretty intense. But I’m not complaining man. I’m definitely not a person that you want bored in a hotel room with a marker and white walls. (laughs) I’m not that guy. It’s good that I’m busy.

Now, from that descriptor of time that you just laid out, it sounds like the writing and arranging of the songs on Make Some Noise went down pretty fast. Would you describe The Dead Daisies as a band that puts together music in a quick and proficient manner then?
Corabi: Well, yes and no. In the grand scheme of things, every band would love to have a gazillion dollar budget and fly to Hawaii and create a record over the course of a year. But we all understand the value of a dollar. David is an excellent money manager, very successful as a businessman. And we are geographically challenged. I live in Nashville. Doug, Marco, and Brian live in L.A. And David resides in Sydney. So, when we get together to do anything, it’s just organized. It’s business. We don't want to run the bill up to the point where we’ve spent a half a million dollars on hotel rooms and bullshit. So management says you’ve got a month - five weeks max - do a record.

We are constantly sharing things. Computers and iPhones are always on the go. We are always putting riff ideas on our phones. When we did Revolutión, we went to Sydney. This year when we did Make Some Noise, we did it in Nashville. Everybody just got into the room, and all of us play guitar, even Brian our drummer is an amazing guitar player, so we all sit there with guitars, we go through the riffs and the ones that kind of pop with everybody we take to the next level. We move those riffs aside, and we work on them. Everybody gets to throw in new ideas. We map out the rough songs that we have, and then we go. We work seven days a week from ten in the morning until about ten at night, and somehow we manage to make it all work. It’s a lot of pressure, especially writing the lyrics, but somehow we manage to do it.

Knowing that we have a deadline and that we have to come up with something amazing and awesome, we seem to just knock it out together. It’s kind of cool. I like it because we seem to always go with our first initial gut reaction to our ideas. There’s not a lot of time to rethink and undo things. It’s not like we can go back on a song like Make Some Noise three months later and wonder about adding a bridge to it. At this point, It’s done. It is what it is. We write the way we write. The songs come out the way they come out. Everything works. I think anybody could go back and listen to a genius song like "Hey Jude" or "Stairway To Heaven" and try and add something to them to maybe make them a little bit better, you know what I mean? But it won't necessarily make the song better. It’s just tinkering. I think our stuff is honest. We went with our first thoughts - and usually, that’s the most accurate output.

Cool. Make Some Noise sounds like an album that was put together on the floor - with you all sitting in a room performing together. I’m not sure if that’s accurate or not. But it sounds that way to me.
Corabi: You’re spot on. That’s the other thing I dig about this band. With modern technology, it wouldn't be that hard to create an album individually and share our contributions from our respective homes. The guys could totally send me all of their stuff, and I’d just write the lyrics and put my vocals on them and go from there. But we typically sit in a room together, and we write the songs and get them mapped out, and they are always developing and evolving as we get further and further along with the process. Once we get our mapping all done, we go into the studio, and we record.

I sat next to Marti (Frederiksen) and I was Scatting things (improvisation with wordless vocables). The band was altogether in the recording room with Brian while he was doing the drum tracks. All of the drums, guitars and bass on our songs, we all play off of each other. We all try and accent each other as we move along. We all kind of feed off of each other as we write and record. That is one of the things that I think makes The Dead Daisies work. We all feed off each other and we tend to go with our gut reactions to our songwriting. That’s why I think the record is as honest as it is.

Check out the song "Make Some Noise"



I usually talk a little bit about musical influences John. But you are all in a band with musicians that likely helped influence each other in many ways, right? A curious scenario to be sure.
Corabi: Well yes. Yes. I totally respect these guys. In every capacity. But to be honest, for me personally, I think one of the things that ties us together isn't so much the bands that we were all in, but the groups prior to that that we all mutually love. We are all into Zeppelin. We are all into Queen. We are all into the Beatles. We are all into AC/DC and Aerosmith. The list of great influential bands goes on and on and on.

We’ve all kinda got the same roots. And we have all known each other for 20, 25, in some cases even 30 years. I’ve known Doug for a long time. Doug and I grew up in Philadelphia. Doug used to come and see me play when I was in a cover band that was somewhat popular in the Philadelphia / New Jersey area. He would have been 16 or 17 years old. God, I don't know how old Doug is now, but that’s a while. I’ve been playing music and making money at it since I was 17. I’ve been at this for 40 years now. I’ve known Doug a majority of those 40 years. BUT, I’ve never played with Doug. I’ve watched him forever. He moved to California and was in Lion. Then over to Dio and then Whitesnake. I’ve always admired Doug’s playing. He’s got a great look, and he’s a great dude. An awesome dad and husband. We’re pals.

So, every night we play, we are in the dressing room, and about an hour before we go on, it’s like a boys club - someone asking where the tuneage is to psych us up. Brian usually winds up being the DJ. And he’ll be like "Doug. Corabi. Check this out." and he’ll break out some old deep-cut Aerosmith song and then we’ll go into Zeppelin and Sabbath and AC/DC. As much as we’ve been in these big bands, we are still music fans, and we still have that connecting thread of the classic late sixties and early seventies rock that remains untouchable. That’s the thing that kind of holds the whole project together. We are all buddies, and we all love the same era and type of music.

For context, I’m eight years younger than you are, John. And I’m not a musician. So from the outside looking in, I’m continually amazed at how the record industry has changed over the past 30 years. I can't even imagine what that would be like being in the industry as an active musician. It’s something I wonder about often. So much is so different - now more than ever.
Corabi: It is. Yes. Here’s the rarity about The Dead Daisies. I came into this thing, and they had already started, right? They already had a map laid out for the band. With all due respect, we have a very smart manager - he managed INXS - he went from being Eric Singer’s drum tech in the early eighties to managing INXS. He came into this thing and he was like "Guys, Honestly, radio doesn't exist. MTV? Might as well just lose the ‘M’ - it doesn’t exist. The new thing is social media." And he laid it all out for us.

He came into this thing with an idea - Be a great band. Write great songs. Do great album covers. Do great merch. And have a team around us of PR people who understand social media and we’re going to be great at it. If you actually follow the Daisies, you know they are always posting on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter. Any social media platform that will have us, we are on. We do Facebook Live events. Once we got rolling he grabbed legendary photographer Ross Halfin and his son is following in his footsteps. So we hired Oliver Halfin to travel with us every day, and he documents everything via video and photography. He pretty much sends in stuff every day - and this team we work with taking what he sends in and pushes it out on all of these platforms.

You have to. It has changed. When I came in, and bands were getting like half a million / to million dollar record deals - radio promo tours - do the videos up for MTV so they go into rotation and fans would see those videos and then flock to the gigs - those days are gone. Now? It’s a whole new animal. Lord knows, I wouldn’t have figured it out. Because I am horrible on the internet. (laughs) I’m horrible. Our team has it all figured out. They make it work. We focus on the music, and we concentrate on the shows. We know that we may be needed to go to interviews and 9am the next morning. But they orchestrate it for us. It’s pretty impressive.

Back in the day, you didn't know what a band looked like when you walked into a room to see them. A club, Theatre or stadium, I can remember going to shows with an inclining of getting an actual look at the band first hand, you know? Occasionally there would be a clear photo on the back of an LP that would help - but line-up changes, touring musicians, and the wear and tear of touring could often mask what those album jacket photos looked like. Now, you know what everyone looks like thanks to the interweb.
Corabi: It’s funny. Every night that we play, we announce that we will be at our merch booth after we play. We don’t charge money for it. We sign a few autographs. Occasionally we’ll do post-show interviews / Q&As. Everybody is just so blown away by it. We get thanked continuously for inviting fans into our world for an increment of time. It’s so weird. But it’s working. We get good feedback. About our music and our online posts on Facebook and Instagram. Just in the last two years, I’ve noticed an increase in traffic on my posts. On Instagram, once I figured out how to do it, I would throw a photo up, and I’d get 50 or 60 likes or whatever. Now it’s always 400 or 500 or more. A video goes up and gets 2000 views. it’s wild. And fans like it. It’s working. We are out doing a tour of Europe with an amazing band called The Answer - co-headlining with them. Every show has been sold out.

See, that’s nice.
Corabi: Yeah. Now we are starting to find companies like Live Nation going "Wait? Who are THESE guys? They are making a lot of noise. What’s going on?" They are starting to show up at the shows. We find we are moving up on the festival rosters. No longer the first band on, we are like the fifth or sixth band on these bills. It’s all working. And I thank God for the management team we have that has all of this stuff figured out. I’m not the guy to be doing multiple tweets and posts every day on all of these social feeds.

There’s a formula to it. You’re right. God forbid you hashtag something wrong, or you spell someone’s name wrong on your posting. You might break the internet. (laughs) It’s all got to be done in a concise and planned fashion.
Corabi: Oh yeah. I had to learn all that. I’d just throw images up on my Instagram page, and that was it. And then management would phone and ask for hashtags for the tour, and hashtag this and hashtag that and I was like "what the fuck are you talking about man?" So I sat down with Oliver, and he laid it all out for me. How to post an image and tag everyone and hashtag after that. He got me all straightened out there. (laughs) So now I post with the intent to interconnect everything. I didn't have a clue. It’s all kind of interesting, really.

So let me ask you this: in 2017 what are we looking at for The Dead Daisies? Will we see a North American tour?
Corabi: We’re working on it. We are home for the holidays. And we are off until April. We have been recording all of our shows in Europe. We are going to release a live album in April or May (that’s tentative). It’s called Live and Louder. And we have been fielding offers from Japan, South America, and North America to do the United States, Canada and I’m just hoping that we can fit it all in. I would love nothing more than to do a tour that starts on one coast and works the opposite way and gets in as much of the continent as we can. There’s a tonne of places that I’ve never hit, with all of the respective bands that I have been a member of. Even in America. I recorded an album in Vancouver, Canada with Motley - I lived there for six months with Motley, and I’ve never played a show there. There’s a bunch of places in that part of the world I’d love to get to and be able to make some noise.
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