Former Motley Crue and Union singer John Corabi is now fronting rock “supergroup” The Dead Daisies, whose track “Dead and Gone” finds itself on the latest installment of StripJointsMusic.
- story by Dave Manack
The history of rock ’n’ roll could not possibly be written without noting the impact of so-called “supergroups.” Though the moniker is fairly self-explanatory, these are bands made up of previously solo musicians or guys from existing bands who come together to form a new unit—think of them as an “all-star” team. Perhaps the best example of a rock supergroup is one of the very first, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young (David Crosby of The Byrds, Stephen Stills and Neil Young of Buffalo Springfield and Graham Nash of The Hollies).
Two years ago, Rolling Stone published their “readers’ poll” of the top 10 rock supergroups, and of course there are many of the names you’d expect: Classic bands like Cream, Bad Company, Blind Faith and Traveling Wilburys, and more “modern” acts like Audioslave, Them Crooked Vultures and Mad Season (I’ll assume that #11 on that list would have been the southern/doom metal quintet Down).
Truth is, there have been loads of rock supergroups over the decades, and while some flourish, many more do not. With supergroups, ego is almost always at play, and all-star bands sometimes produce too many chiefs and not enough indians, as the saying goes. As far as what type of career The Dead Daisies will experience—flourish or falter—only time will tell. But they do boast some genuine rock ’n’ roll pedigree, as evidenced by their current lineup of guitarist Doug Aldrich (ex-Whitesnake/Dio/House of Lords), drummer Deen Castronovo (ex-Journey/Bad English/Ozzy) and bassist Marco Mendoza (ex-Thin Lizzy/Blue Murder/Whitesnake).
For now, they’re enjoying a crest of popularity as their fourth full-length studio album Burn It Down was released this past April. The ED Pub had the chance to catch up with Dead Daisies frontman and rock veteran John Corabi, who’s played with a host of acts over the past 30 years—including the impossible gig as the replacement for Vince Neil in Motley Crue—about their latest album, as well as the advantages (and possible pressures) of being a so-called “supergroup.”
THE ED PUB: Because all of your names are known in the rock community—you’re known as a rock supergoup—that has to help when it comes to establishing yourself as a new-ish band. But your pedigree must also create expectation, so how do you look at it? Do the positives outweigh the negatives?
CORABI: Pretty much all of us think it’s positive. I kind of feel bad for these new bands that are starting out that are incredibly talented that a lot of people will never hear about because they don’t have MTV or radio. Let’s face it, record companies are dying off by the day. They haven’t quite figured out how to keep people from file sharing or they haven’t quite figured out how to pay on things like streaming services.
Twenty years ago, you would do a record and you would go on tour to support your record and there was a possibility—if you had a good record and you could sell five million—you made some money. But now, it’s changed where it’s not about records but it’s about the touring. You put a record out to go out on tour and that’s where you make your money. But new bands that don’t have the pedigree have to go out and prove themselves and it’s hard. I hate to say this and I don’t want to sound morbid, but we’re kind of teetering right now. I think there will always be live music, there will always be a bar band, but if you look at it now, you’re losing people like David Bowie. A lot of those (popular rock musicians) are in their sixties, seventies, they’re going to be gone soon and this generation I’m in is going to take their place, but we’re all in our fifties and sixties, too. All of this music at some point in the next 20-25 years, it’s going to be gone.
THE ED PUB: With the new album (Burn It Down), I’m sure you’ve enjoyed being able to get the new songs out and play them live, as it’s some of the strongest material you’ve done.
CORABI: It’s been awesome. Right from the get-go, we flew over to our first six or seven shows in April in the U.K., and while we were flying over our management gets a call saying, “Hey, congrats, the entire UK tour is sold out.” And then Europe followed suit. I couldn’t believe it. The reaction that we’re getting from the new stuff is insane, people are already singing word for word. We’re ecstatic about everything. Here in the states, we’re starting to crack some of the radio markets and we’re charting in some cities. We’re all blown away.
THE ED PUB: One thing that’s evident about The Dead Daisies is that every song is crafted to have a hook and a chorus. And while that’s something every band shoots for, not everyone can pull it off. The Dead Daisies produce these catchy riffs and big, bold, real sing-along choruses. Who gets all the credit for that?
CORABI: It’s a group thing. Marti Frederiksen, our producer, is a freaking genius as well. Marti’s not just a producer and the “doctor of tones,” a lot of people don’t know this about Marti but he co-produced Def Leppard and he did some Mötley stuff and Ozzy stuff. He also produced like three Aerosmith records and co-wrote a lot of that stuff with those guys. Marti, unbeknownst to a lot of people, co-wrote the (Aerosmith) song “Jaded.” He’s got an ear. I’ll disagree with him sometimes, but he’s like our secret weapon. He’s the guy that sits in the studio and says, “Nah guys, I think you’re pulling your hair out. The song’s done. You’re overthinking it.”
As far as our choruses and the way we put songs together, it’s just what we grew up with. I grew up with Grand Funk Railroad’s “We’re an American Band,” there’s a chorus! Aerosmith has a million of them, “Tie Your Mother Down” by Queen. That’s what we grew up listening to, that’s what we all got in our DNA. We just take all these different bands that we have listened to since we were 10, 12 years old and we take all these ideas, throw them in a pot, stir it up and then we dish out new bowls of soup. That’s it, but it’s a total group effort between six of us, with Marti being the secret weapon.
THE ED PUB: Speaking of “group effort,” you’ve had a few different, well-known guys who’ve played in the Dead Daisies outside of the current lineup including John Tempesta, Dizzy Reed, Richard Fortus and Brian Tichy, among others. How do you feel about the progression of the band’s music; has it stayed the same, or with different guys, has that changed the dynamic at all? How is that reflected in the new album versus previous ones?
CORABI: The thing about this band is there’s no rhyme or reason to anything. We share everything equally. The writing is shared together, we’re all in the same room when we’re writing, when we’re tracking and then at the end of the day, no one guy makes more than the others. All the publishing and everything is equal. We don’t walk into the studio with finished songs, we basically go in, start throwing riff ideas on the table and start working on it together. And without it sounding hokey, we just write a bunch of songs and we let the music or the album go where it wants to go.
Even the new one, Burn It Down, there was a bit of a fluke in the songwriting process. While we were writing in Alicia Keys’ studio in New York, her engineer brought out this pedal. He hands the pedal to Marco (Mendoza, bass) and says, “This pedal is going to change your life.” So Marco plugged into it and he literally started noodling on the bass with this heavily distorted, growly bass tone. And he started playing the riff that eventually became a song on the new record called “What Goes Around Comes Around.” And it just continued to develop.
“Trust me, having been in all the different bands I’ve been in, I’ve been in quite a few strip clubs. There’s going to be the stripper that goes in, knows she’s good looking, grabs the money, goes to her car and immediately smokes it. But I’ve also met girls who were fucking brilliant.” – John Corabi, The Dead Daisies
THE ED PUB: You play guitar and sing; do you feel better when you have a guitar around your neck and you’re playing live or do you prefer the freedom of not having a guitar?
CORABI: I don’t mind either or, whatever the song calls for. I like being the frontman, I can be a goof-off, tell jokes, and be like the master of ceremonies. I like being the clown up in the front. Now The Dead Daisies, when we do acoustic stuff, I like playing acoustic guitar so the majority of the stuff I’ll play along with the guys, sit back and strum, give a nice percussive rhythm thing in the background. To me, you do what the song requires. That’s the beauty of The Dead Daisies, really nobody in the band has an ego, we just do what we need to do.
THE ED PUB: As the national business magazine for the strip club industry, we also promote music directly to strip club DJs through our friends at StripJointsMusic.com. Specifically, we’ve told DJs about your song “Dead and Gone,” which is not only a great song, but the attitude and the vibe of the song really applies to people in an industry like ours (lyrics from “Dead and Gone”: “I ain’t a man to cast a stone/Brother I believe to every man each his own/Yeah I ain’t here to preach/Well I just wanna live my life, live the way I choose”). You have to be a bit of a rebel to work in our industry, and “Dead and Gone” really expresses that idea. Tell me about that song and the inspiration for the lyrics.
CORABI: It’s exactly that. With anything, there’s good and bad. Trust me, having been in all the different bands I’ve been in, I’ve been in quite a few strip clubs. There’s going to be the stripper that goes in, knows she’s good looking, grabs the money, goes to her car and immediately smokes it. But I’ve also met girls who were fucking brilliant. We met a girl who was putting herself through college, she took everything she made and she was smart about it. People tend to judge the whole based on a few bad apples, and it’s not that way.
You may see my long hair and tattoos, but I just want to have fun. I want to live my life, I don’t want somebody standing over my shoulder telling me what to wear or how to wear my hair. As long as I’m not hurting anybody, and I’m just having some fun, don’t judge. That’s what the song says: “Let the devil be my witness/for everything I’ve done/I’m not the only one/So let’s fire it up and turn me on/Till I’m dead and gone.” My thing is, don’t judge everybody on the scruples of one or two.
ED: I can’t let you go before I ask you about Motley Crue. Fact is, I don’t know anyone that doesn’t like, or at least have great respect for, the album you sang on (self-titled), and time seems to have aged that album well. But you were also involved in the writing for the album that would eventually become Generation Swine (1997). At what point in the writing process of Generation Swine did you find out Vince (Neil) was coming back? That must’ve been weird, you’re writing a new album and all of a sudden they’re kicking you out.
CORABI: We worked on that record for a year and a half before Vince came back. There were rumblings and I kept asking about it, like “Hey, so and so said they saw you guys talking to Vince…are you guys…?” “Nope, nope, nope.” I didn’t know anything until one day I showed up in the studio and the manager was there, and everybody was sitting down and I walked in and management said, “We’re calling a meeting and I hate to be the guy to inform you, but it doesn’t matter at this point if Paul McCartney was singing for this band, the record company ain’t backing it, so we need to bring Vince back.”
This is what I tell people: You can practice, practice, practice and have perseverance, perseverance, perseverance. At the end of the day the one main ingredient that nobody takes into consideration, and it’s a huge part of being successful, it’s called luck, luck, luck.