John Corabi can’t stop rocking.
After high-profile stints with The Scream and Motley Crue in the ‘90s, the vocalist performed in Union (and The Eric Singer Project) with guitarist Bruce Kulick (Kiss) and Twenty 4 Seven with drummer Bobby Blotzer (RATT). In the mid-2000s he fraternized with members of Alice in Chains and The Cult in Cardboard Vampyres, and hung with old Crue pal Nikki Sixx in Brides of Destruction.
Now Corabi’s got a new beat: Since 2013 he’s been front man for super-group The Dead Daisies, an all-star ensemble boasting current / former members of Thin Lizzy (bassist Marco Mendoza), Journey (drummer Deen Castronovo), Whitesnake (guitarist Doug Aldrich), and Red Phoenix (guitarist David Lowy). \
The quintet followed up its acclaimed eponymous debut in 2015 with Revolucion and 2016 with Make Some Noise between tours with ZZ Top, Kiss, Bad Company, and Aerosmith. Last year they dropped the in-concert set Live & Louder.
Now the Daisies are back with the Marti Frederiksen-produced (Ozzy Osbourne, Buckcherry) Burn It Down.
We called Corabi recently to discuss the new disc…and the Dead Daisies’ upcoming headlining tour, which stops at the famous Agora Ballroom in Cleveland on August 15. They’ll be performing on most dates with Hookers & Blow—another powerhouse unit featuring members of Guns ‘n’ Roses (Dizzy Reed), Quiet Riot (Alex Grossi), and Enuff z Nuff (Chip Z’Nuff).
AXS: Hello, John! Is the band on a break right now?
JOHN CORABI: Yeah, we leave for Japan at the end of this month. Then we head up to the Agora and kick things off. It’s gonna be cool! I don’t think we’ve ever played in Cleveland. Maybe we played there with Kiss, but not solo shows. So I’m looking forward to it.
AXS: Tell us a bit about the new album, Burn it Down.
JC: Well, we started writing in New York in October. We went up and wrote for about ten days, then came back down to Nashville and locked ourselves away in the studio for about four more weeks. Five weeks. Something like that! We just knocked it out.
AXS: Does everyone contribute to the writing process?
JC: Yes! If you look at the caliber of everybody’s playing ability, there’s never a shortage of ideas. Like, Marco’s not just a great bass player, he’s a great songwriter. Same with David and Doug, and even Dean! Then you bring Marti Frederiksen—our producer—into the works, and he’s an amazing producer but also an incredibly talented songwriter as well. Most people don’t know it, but he not only produced a couple Aerosmith records, he co-wrote “Jaded” with Steven Tyler. A majority of the writing in most bands is up to one, maybe two, guys. You look at the writing teams of The Beatles or Queen or something like that. With us, we do everything together. We’re very collaborative. We’ll say, “Here’s my riff. Could you put another guitar part with it?” We’re all in the same room writing, and all together when we record. Even Marti. Once we’re together, you can’t stop it. Doug will show someone a riff, and I’ll be like, “Well I’ve got this!” Marti’s job will be like, “John, stop! Let Doug finish first, then we’ll get to yours!” There’s never a shortage, and it’s incredibly collaborative—but fast! We’re constantly throwing ideas out so that it works!
AXS: “Rise Up” is a terrific lead-off single, not unlike “Make Some Noise” in that it’s a party-atmosphere song that’ll play well in sports arenas.
JC: “Rise Up” actually just cracked Active Rock Radio Top 40. So we’re ecstatic about that! But it’s funny, on the last record we were contacted by a couple sports teams about “Make Some Noise.” We had a couple football teams using it, and now—so far this year—we put the record out, and everybody starts hearing “Rise Up,” and they’re like, “This is even better!” I was recently back in the studio to rewrite some of the lyrics to some of the verses and chorus, they won’t use the whole song in most cases. They’ll just use a portion. So I rewrote some of the lyrics to make it a little more sports-friendly. But it’s taking off now!
AXS: It makes sense these days to customize the music a bit, for maximum exposure. It’s a different world than it was in the ‘80s and ‘90s!
JC: We have management and PR and all this other stuff, all the labels and band do. Our guys are just really…they’ve got their finger on it now. Obviously twenty years ago you had radio, you had MTV, and you had all these things. MTV doesn’t even exist now like it did, so that’s not even in the conversation anymore. Radio is slowly starting to grasp the band, thanks to our fans. They’ll call up and request a song and say, “No, I won’t take no for an answer. You’re my radio station, and I want to hear this band now.” And that’s starting to pay off. Our management is like, “We don’t have radio or MTV, so we’re going to utilize YouTube, Spotify, Pandora…” Even at the record stores. We support the mom and pop stores, but the places where you buy your records now is the Best Buys and K-Marts and Wal-Marts, and even they don’t sell much in the way of records anymore. It’ll just be the Top Ten Billboard records or whatever. Everything else falls by the wayside. So now our management is trying to figure out how to market the band with Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Amazon…all these avenues that didn’t exist when I first got into the business. For example, my wife owns a hair salon here in Nashville. She’ll come home and say, “I played a Beatles Pandora thing, and there’s this great band called Badfinger!” [Laughs] You know what I mean? It’s funny because she’s actually been turned on to some older bands that she wasn’t aware of because she’s younger than I am, and she was turned on because of the way they categorize that music. So it’s pretty cool. It’s a cool new way to get yourself out there.
AXS: Does having a band full of all-stars help grow your audience? Like, do fans come and see you because they know you and the other guys from your other bands?
JC: There are a lot of people who’ve come to the table knowing that Doug Aldrich—the guy from Whitesnake—is with the band. But honestly, we’ve met a ton of fans who never knew us before, but who happened to catch us on the Kiss tour or Whitesnake tour. We go out, we have fun. We’re a no-frills band! If you’re looking for stuff to blow up, or some dog and pony show, it ain’t gonna happen! Two of our favorite bands were Aerosmith and AC-DC. They went out and just threw down. That’s what we do. It’s loud, it’s aggressive. We like to have fun! So there are little raps that I do that are on the humorous side. We make it a point to get the audience involved. At the end of the day, we want the audience to be drained when they leave…but leave with a smile on their faces and go, “I had a great time! That was fun!” It’s like a party!
AXS: The Dead Daisies have done some great covers over the last five years, including songs by The Who and Creedence Clearwater Revival. Your version of Grand Funk Railroad’s “American Band” goes over great in concert. How do you guys choose which covers to play?
JC: The Grand Funk thing kind of came about in an odd way. We did a little run in South Korea for the troops. We knew we were going over to see the servicemen and women, and we just wanted to do a few songs that represented home. So we did “American Band,” “Sweet Home Alabama,” and just some good old classics during the encore. “American Band” just went over really well. Then we went overseas and did it all through Europe, and the response we got to that song was crazy! When we did the Freedom to Rock tour with Kiss, it just made sense to throw it in there. I felt what Kiss was doing was amazing, how they had some servicemen and women come up during the show. For our part, we decided to have fun with the tour and do “American Band.” Those songs are all by groups we grew up listening to, so it’s a tip of the hat to them. Plus, in our little screwed up way, we’re educating people! Pretty much we’ll do two cover songs on every record for that reason. Even on Revolucion we did “Midnight Moses” by Sensational Alex Harvey Band and an old blues song by Cactus called “Evil.” We just did it a little heavier. It’s amazing because these songs have become staples in our sets, but people are like, “I love your song ‘Midnight Moses!’” And we’ll tell them it’s an Alex Harvey cover, and they’ll go off and do their own research. Same thing with “Join Together” by The Who, and songs we do by Creedence Clearwater Revival and The Rolling Stones. People go check out the original versions. It’s kinda cool!
AXS: Well, we look forward to catching The Dead Daisies in Cleveland next month. You were terrific when you opened for Kiss in Youngstown a couple years back.
JC: Yeah! It’s gonna be cool. The American run is going to be a lot of fun. We’re looking forward to it. Plus we’ve got our dear friend Dizzy Reed and his band Hookers and Blow with us! I played guitar with those guys a few shows back, like in 2004 or 2005. There’ll be a bit of debauchery having him and Alex there. I just found out that my buddy Robbie Crane from Ratt is coming out to play bass with them. It’s going to be a hoot. It’ll be a blast!