John Corabi is the lead singer of The Dead Daisies, who have recently released their 4th album, Burn It Down. The Daisies are set to hit the road in August for a North American tour. Corabi has also been in several other bands, including The Scream, Union, and Motley Crue. In this chat, he talks about the new album, eating horse, visiting troops in South Korea, rockin’ out with a bluegrass band and much more. Catch The Dead Daisies on tour this summer. Enjoy!
John Corabi: Ken, how are you doing? John Corabi.
Let’s Rock: Hey, how are ya?
JC: Alright, buddy. How you doing?
LR: Can’t complain. Can’t complain at all.
JC: So, you’re up in Ottawa?
LR: I am. You’re heading up this way.
JC: Yep, eventually. We’re coming up there With The (Dead) Daisies. I’m looking forward to it. Should be a good time.
LR: Oh, it’s gonna be great. That’s at the end of August.
JC: We start in August. Half of August and half of September, we’re going out, doing about 20-205 dates, so it’s gonna be cool.
LR: Yeah, I’m really excited about that. I’ve been listening to your album non stop for the last two days. I’m really diggin’ it.
JC: That’s cool man. Thank you. We had fun, man. You know, we had fun making it. It’s always interesting to see where these records are gonna end up once you start with writing and recording em, you know? But we’re getting great feedback on this one and it’s entered a bunch of different charts all around the world, so we’re very happy. Life is good in Daisyville.
LR: Nice to hear. When you start recording, do you have a certain sound in mind or is it just kind of what comes out? Do you discuss this or do you just get together and jam?
JC: No, it’s just kind of what comes out, man. I know this sounds really cliched, but we just kind of let the music take us where it wants to go. When we were doing this record, it was no different. We went in…we started writing, we had about three or four songs and we were doing the writing process with (producer) Marti (Frederikson) in New York and her engineer basically handed Marco (Mendoza, bass) a bass pedal and said,” hey dude, you gotta try this. It’s gonna change your life. This pedal’s awesome.”
So, he plugged it in and he was suggesting because he was saying “Oh yeah, that old school tone like Grand Funk Railroad or Sabbath. So we plugged the thing in and Marco just started doodling around and he started playing the riff which eventually became What Goes Around, Comes Around. And we were like, “Dude, what is that. That’s killer.” We were all freaking out. So, we literally mapped out that whole song, What Goes Around Comes Around.
And we’re sitting there, man this is great. It’s like old school Sabbath, Zeppelin, Grand Funk kind of thing. So we did it. And then (guitarist) Doug (Aldrich) goes, “well, I didn’t know we were gonna be that heavy. I’ve got this other riff.” Then he started playing what became Rise Up.
At that point, those two songs kind of dictated the whole rest of the record, and the first three or four that we worked on? We never even looked at them again.
JC: Yeah, it’s just kind of this fluke thing…the pedal helped spark something and we just went in a completely different direction.
LR: So, what was the original direction?
JC: I mean, when I say completely different direction, it wasn’t like we were doing like Captain and Tenille or anything like that. (laughs) It still had balls to it, it just took on a completely different vibe, you know what I mean? I don’t know. IT was weird. We’re just kind of firm believers in, you know, great songs just have it. And that’s just kind of what happened.
LR: Yeah, I find this album really raw and bluesy compared to the other ones.
JC: It is. It’s weird. The thing I love about this record…I think it’s more eclectic than the Make Some Noise record was. Make Some Noise, I think, was a great album as well, but it was just kind of non-stop. It’s like we got into the car, we stomped on the gas and we never let up. And the thing that I personally, I can’t speak for all the guys, but me personally, I’m a huge fan of albums that have different vibes through the whole thing. That’s why I personally love bands like Zeppelin or Queen, where they would do something like Black Dog and then turn around and do the Battle of Evermore, or Going to California. So, I like more eclectic personally and I think that we did that the first Daisies record I did with the guys was pretty eclectic and then we got away from it, and then we kind of came back to that again, where we have a ballad on it. Burn It Down to me is kind of bluesy but heavy. And the Judgement Day is the same thing. It’s kind of bluesy with an acoustic guitar. So there’s all these different flavors all through the whole record. I personally, love that. I’m pleased with it.
LR: Yeah, it’s a really nice sounding album. So, you do do your writing
LR: I’ve interviewed a bunch of guys and they do all this e-mail writing. You know, I’ll write a bit, I’ll send it to you. You add your bit…
LR: You’re in a room…
JC: Everything we do, we all show up. We’ve all got ideas on our phones or on our computers and we just set up shop and we get in we just go around the circle. Everybody’s got an acoustic guitar and we just start throwing ideas onto the table and whatever ones everybody is blown away by, that the ones we work on. And it’s all done together.
Even lyrically, there’s times when I’m just like ‘man, I don’t know what to write about.’ And somebody will say something or throw an idea at me and it’s like, oh OK, I’ll be right back. So everybody helps with every aspect of this thing.
There’s no ego or anything either. Like, there’s times where Doug will go do a guitar solo and then he’ll come
in and he’ll talk to me or Marco or (drummer) Deen (Castronovo) and he’ll go, ‘hey guys, check this out.’ And you’re like, “oh yeah, that’s cool, but what if you did…’… ‘OK cool.’ So we all help each other. Doug will come in with lyric ideas or even some melody or phrasing things. We all help each other, every step of the process. It’s pretty cool.
LR: That’s fantastic. Where do your lyrical ideas come from?
JC: Life, dude. There’s never a shortage of shit to write about. Honestly, you turn the news on everyday, there’s something going on there. Even past things, if you can go back and put yourself in a situation or scenario that you’re in. Even years ago, when we were writing Resurrected, I just went back and I thought about how everybody wrote me off after the Motley (Crue) stint that I had. And now here I am, 25 years later and I’m still going. So, Resurrected was just kind of like a polite way of saying, you know pardon my French but Fuck you…you were wrong. I ain’t goin’ anywhere, you know what I mean?
LR: Holy shit, was that 25 years ago?
JC: Yeah, dude. You believe that shit? Well, it’s 24 right now, but I joined the band in 92, so technically it would be 26 years ago I joined the band. Next year, 2019, will be 25 years that the record came out.
LR: Good lord. That’s insane.
JC: I’m an old fucker.
LR: (laughs) Aren’t we all.
JC: Ah, you know, I’m just speaking for myself. I didn’t want to throw you under the bus
LR: No, I’m there with you. Why did you take so much shit for that? I don’t get it.
JC: You know, who knows, dude? Honestly, that’s the thing about the music industry. If somebody said, ‘Here’s a bottle. I’ve figured it out. I can take any record and make it successful’, that guy would be a multi-billionaire. There’s so many variables in this. The band can put a band together and try to find the right guys. Then it’s finding the right feel. Then it’s writing the right material. Then it’s finding the right sounds in the studio when you’re recording the record. And all you can do is the best you can do up to that point. And then, it’s like you hand the record to somebody and hope that they’ve done, or they will do everything right. Whatever ‘right’ is, they need to do everything right. And there’s the one thing, the one variable that nobody knows about, and that’s luck. Luck plays a huge part of this. If I can give you an example…years ago when Mr. Big was doing their thing, they did their first record. And then they went back into the studio and they did another record, their second record, which was just as good. And they went out on tour, I believe with Rush.
LR: I saw that tour.
JC: Yeah, they were out on tour with Rush and they’ll be the first person to tell ya, they were doing shit record sales. It just was not translating. And they went home to possibly start, there was talk that the record label might drop them. They went back home to start writing and recording a third record when some DJ started playing I’m The One That Wants to Be With You…To Be With You, I think it’s called. And for some weird reason, that song just took off and it gave that band and that record a while new life again. That song just started playing in, I think it was like Iowa…they started playing the song, then Iowa went ape-shit, then Minnesota picked it up and Illinois picked it up and it blew up in the Midwest and then the East coast caught on and the West coast caught on and it wound up being this massive hit single for them and it went right back out on the road again. They toured and they had a great year. So, there’s a lot of luck involved in this. (laughs) In this whole scenario as well. It’s just, the stars have to be lined up, dude.
I have no idea why the Motley thing didn’t take off. All I know is that everybody, at the time, when we recorded it, when we turned that record in to the record label, everybody was like, this record is going to be massive. And it just didn’t work.
LR: And it should have been. It’s a great album. In my opinion, I think it’s just…people don’t like change.
JC: They don’t. And I get it. Listen man. If anybody said to me, Aerosmith is going back out on tour and they got a new singer, I would not be a happy camper.
LR: Exactly. No matter how good the new album is.
JC: I get it.
LR: Anyways, I don’t wanna keep talking about that. Just to let you know, I thought it was a great album and I thought you were great on it.
JC: Well, just for the record, if you get a little side note here, I just released in January, and we actually did a show at The Brass Monkey (in Ottawa, where The Dead Daisies will be performing on August 25th) I believe it was the Brass Monkey. I have a side, solo band with my son, and we were doing the Motley ’94 record in its entirety and we came up there and we did a show. I had to stop doing it once I started doing The Daisies, but we basically recorded on of the shows here in Nashville and I just released it in January. So that’s out there as well…the live album.
LR: So you’ve been at the Brass Monkey before?
JC: I have, yeah.
LR: That’s a good little club.
JC: Yep. And hopefully it will withstand the amount of abuse The Dead Daisies are gonna give it that night.
LR: They’ve been getting some really good shows there. I just saw Richie Kotzen there. Steve Harris is coming there with his British Lion. So yeah, they’re getting some really good shows at that place.
JC: That’s cool.
LR: Now, the new album, you have a Rolling Stones cover and Beatles cover. It takes some serious balls to cover those bands. When you’re covering a band like the Beatles or the Stones, how do you approach that. I mean, they’re so legendary.
JC: You know what? A good song’s a good song though. You know, a good song will lend itself to any treatment. I’ve learned that actually doing a show here in Tennessee. I did a charity event a few years back. This guy contacted me and it was like a halfway home for kids with cancer. I went and they knew my setlist, so he asked if I’d play. And it was funny. About a week later, the guy called me back and said, ‘ya, I got some buddies here. They’re like bluegrass guys but they’d like to sit in with you on a couple of your tracks. So, I basically sent them all the songs and I said ‘yeah dude. You guys figure out what ones and we’ll get together before the show.’ I sent them all the songs that I was doing and I showed up and we just kind of did a quick little rehearsal. It was weird. I’m sitting there. I’m looking around. I rehearsed with these guys, then I went back. My wife came with me and I said, ‘Man this is either gonna be awesome or people are just gonna stone me alive cuz I’m literally…we wound up doing the entire set with me on acoustic guitar with a bluegrass band behind me. And we did a bunch of Scream stuff and Union and Motley stuff and they just kind of interpreted it their way and it fucking came out amazing. I got off stage and I kind of looked at my wife and I go, ‘uhhhh, how did it go? What did you think?’ And she was just like, ‘That was fucking amazing.’ (laughs) ‘That was unbelievable.’ It worked. It was awesome. I had a great time with those guys. And then to boot, one of those guys made the most amazing moonshine I’ve ever had in my life so we just sat around and got completely obliterated with them afterwards. It was awesome. That was up in the mountains in this town called Ashville, North Carolina. John Corabi played with a fucking bluegrass band and did Hooligan’s Holiday with them and it was insane. It really was unbelievable.
LR: Very cool.
JC: So, yeah. We just sat down and you know the Stones tune…there’s so many to choose from, but basically when we picked the Stones tune, we kind of went with Bitch, cuz it was the one song, that guitar riff just really lends itself to the rest of our record. Revolution was a little harder. We kind of wanted to do something a little different with it, instead of doing that little shuffle thing that they do. So we kind of toughened it up a little bit. But the lyrics…honestly, that was written in 1968 and they’re still a prevalent today as they were back then, so we just said, ‘Let’s do it.’
LR: That’s awesome. Yeah, they sound great.
JC: Thank you.
LR: So, here’s what I’m gonna do now. I’ve done this with a couple people. What I do is I get my daughter to write some questions. She’s never heard of you. She doesn’t know anything about you. She saw one picture of you and she wrote down some questions that she wanted to ask you. She was born and raised in South Korea, so she wanted to know if you’ve ever been there and what you thought about Korea if you have been there.
JC: Actually, to be honest with you, we were just there about a year and half ago. We went over to do a bunch of shows for the military guys at the military bases. We were over there. Loved the food, people were very cool and it was pretty awesome visiting some of those military bases that are over there. It was really trippy cuz we went to one that was in South Korea, but it’s right there in the DMZ zone. You could literally look across this field and there was North Korea. Obviously, a year and a half ago, tensions were running pretty high. We were like this is trippy. This is crazy. We’re here and right there…that’s the guy. It was pretty trippy.
LR: It’s pretty intense up there.
JC: Yeah. But it was great, man. People were awesome. Obviously, the soldiers were very pleased that we came out to play for them. So, we had a good time, man. It was cool. Love it there.
LR: Awesome. What do you focus n when you’re on stage?
JC: Ummm, that’s a good question, man. You know, it’s funny. Most of the time, I still get very nervous before I go on because as a singer, you can do the exact same thing, the exact same way every day and you just never know if your voice is going to co-operate with the rest of your body.
Usually, the first song or so I can pretty much judge in the first tune, whether it’s going to be a rough night or a good night. So that’s what I’m focused on prior to the show. And then during the show, I’m usually just focused on trying to remember all the fucking lyrics. (laughs) I could never understand why a lot of artists use teleprompters on stage with their lyrics. I’m just like, ‘why the hell do they need the fucking teleprompter. They wrote the goddamn thing. They can’t fucking remember their own lyrics? That’s bullshit.’ Now I’m going, ‘Oh, I get it.’ Especially when you’re old and senile like I am. (Laughs)
LR: Do you look at the crowd a lot?
LR: Do you focus on a certain person?
JC: Um, periodically. You’ll look at somebody and they’ll either say something…I notice like, what’s that thing girls do now? They make the little heart sign with their hands. So, there’ll be a girl in the audience doing the heart sign and you’re like, ‘Oh, that’s sweet.’ I’ll start talking to them or I’ll bend down and shake their hand. So, I try to make eye contact as much as I can.
LR: OK, here’s a very Spinal Tap question, but she wants to know, ‘what’s the most embarrassing thing that’s happened to you on stage?
JC: I can tell you this. How old is your daughter?
LR: She’s 16.
JC: Ok, so you may want to rephrase this. I bought a brand-new pair of…when I was in The Scream, or maybe it was Motley, but I bought a brand-new pair of black, suede, skin tight, tie up the front pants. And about three songs in, I did this jump and I’m like ‘Ooh, it got really chilly suddenly.’ And people were just staring. They weren’t staring at me, but they were staring. And then I realized I sang about three quarters of the song with my fucking dick hanging out because the entire ass of my…So, I’m like ‘fuck!’ I kind of run backstage, tuck it over into one leg. I was literally swinging away, just out in the open and I was like, ‘oh, that’s not good.’ So, that would be the most embarrassing…yeah.
LR: Alright, one more for you and I’ll let you go. I know you’ve had a busy day. This is a really fun question. What’s the craziest food you’ve eaten in all your travels around the world?
JC: I’m usually pretty open with trying things, but there are some things I just won’t…like if you hand me a plate of deep fried chicken rectums, I’m pretty sure I’m not gonna eat it. You know what I mean? So, can’t really say that I’ve eaten anything outrageous. Although, I did have in Switzerland this thing called ‘cheval.’ I had no idea what it was. A friend of mine ordered it for me.
He said, “Do you eat meat?
And I said, ‘yeah yeah.’
He goes, ‘Do you like steak?’
I go, ‘Love steak.’
He goes, ‘OK, let me order for you.’
In Switzerland, it’s kind of divided. There’s a French section, a German section, and Italian section. We were in the French section. So, he ordered me this steak and potatoes, I don’t know, asparagus or whatever. I eat this meal and he waited til I was done and I was having coffee afterwards.
And he goes, ‘Did you like your steak?’
And I go, ‘Yeah it was fucking great, man. It was like no fat. It was killer.’
He goes, ‘Do you know what you ate?’
I said, ‘No, not a clue. You’re obviously getting ready to tell me and I appreciate the fact that you waited until after I was done.’
He goes, ‘You had horse.’
And I was like, ‘Horse?!’
It’s horse, which is common in French restaurants. So obviously for the rest of the night, I was (makes horse sounds), stomping my feet on the floor. I need more wine, whatever…That would probably be the most awkward thing that I ate and I didn’t realize I was eating it til afterwards. Which is probably best.
LR: That’s what happened to me with dog when I was in Korea.
JC: Oooh. I don’t know if I’d be happy about that one though. It’s one of those, ‘why are you good with eating a cow if you’re not good with eating a dog?’ kind of a thing. But you just look at it in a different light. I’m like, ‘nah! Can’t do it.’
LR: No matter how good it is. I don’t know how to thank you for this. This has been great. I’ll be at the show in Ottawa. I’m looking forward to it. It’s gonna be great.
JC: Well, when you get back there, be sure that you say hello and hopefully if we have a minute or two, we can grab a beer or whiskey.
LR: Sounds perfect. And thanks again. Good luck with everything coming up.
JC: Alright, buddy. Thank you.
Doug Aldrich (Whitesnake, Dio)- lead guitar
John Corabi (Mötley Crüe, The Scream)- lead vocals
Marco Mendoza (Whitesnake, Thin Lizzy)- bass
Deen Castronovo (Bad English, Journey)- drums
David Lowy (Red Phoenix, Mink)- Rhythm guitar
Official website: http://thedeaddaisies.com/
Wed 15th / Cleveland, OH / Agora Ballroom
Thu 16th / Fort Wayne, IN / Piere’s
Fri 17th / Joliet, IL / The Forge
Sat 18th / Flint, MI / The Machine Shop
Sun 19th / Louisville, KY / Diamonds
Wed 22nd / Rochester, NY / Montage Music Hall
Thu 23rd / London, ON / Harris Park
Fri 24th / Toronto, ON / Phoenix Theatre
Sat 25th / Ottawa, ON / The Brass Monkey
Sun 26th / Montreal, QC / Foufounes Electriques
Tue 28th / New York, NY / Highline Ballroom
Wed 29th / Warrendale, PA / Jergel’s
Thu 30th / Cincinnati, OH / Bogart’s
Fri 31st / Lancaster, PA / Chameleon Club
Sat 1st / Albany, NY / Upstate Concert Hall
Tue 4th / Nashville, TN / Mercy Lounge
Thu 6th / Houston, TX / Scout Bar
Fri 7th / Dallas, TX / Trees
Sat 8th / Austin, TX / Come and Take It Live
Wed 12th / Las Vegas, NV / Fremont Country Club
Thu 13th / San Diego, CA / Brick by Brick
Fri 14th / Pomona, CA / The Glass House
Sat 15th / Phoenix, AZ / The Marquee
Sun 16th / Los Angeles, CA / Roxy Theatre