Ready To Burn: A Conversation with John Corabi of The Dead Daisies

The Dead Daisies vocalist John Corabi is known in the media world as one of the nicest guys in hard rock. Ask him a question and he’ll deliver an answer that is as straight from the heart as it is unrehearsed.

So it was no surprise when Corabi called ListenIowa recently and apologized profusely for 60 seconds for his time zone mix-up that delayed the interview a few minutes.

“Man, I just wanted to call you and apologize,” he said before a single question could be asked of him. “I got my list and things went haywire with the time zones. I’m really sorry for that.”

No harm, no foul, John. You are forgiven, and your mea culpa was appreciated, though not necessary.

Shit happens. After all, it’s rock ‘n roll.

Apology complete, Corabi sat down with ListenIowa to discuss the forthcoming new album from The Dead Daisies, “Burn It Down” (April 6 on Spirfire Music/SPV), a knockout of an album featuring fresh compositions from he and bandmates David Lowy (guitar), Doug Aldrich (guitar), Marco Mendoza (bass), and Deen Castronovo (drums).

Corabi also spoke of his five years in Motley Crue, his brief stint working with Mick Mars’ (Motley Crue) solo album, and what it was like being on the shortlist to replace Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler. 

The opening single, “Rise Up,” is one of the heavier songs The Dead Daisies have released and is indicative of the overall vibe of the new album,“Burn It Down.” Was going slightly heavier something that was planned?
We don’t ever have a rhyme or reason as to what direction the band’s going to go in. We just kind of get together and write. This time everybody showed up with some cool, old-school Sabbath-y riffs, and we just started working on it. It’s not a heavy record where there are no melodies, but it’s a heavy record, and I dig it. We all listened to it from top to bottom and thought it was a good, old-fashioned punch in the face.

Lyrically, the track seems like a call to action.
I’m not one to take a piss at anyone viewpoints. The thing that irritates me more than anything is that, if you remotely say anything about the president, suddenly it’s borderline vicious. To me, things are so polarized and divisive here in America; it’s people sitting on opposite sides of a table just yelling at each other. I don’t care if you’re liberal or conservative, I don’t trust anybody who lives in Washington and works in our political system. I think they’re all shady, they all have secrets, and they all have agendas that don’t benefit the working class. The first three words in the Declaration of Independence are “We the people,” so I was just like, “Let’s stop being asses to each other, rise up, raise our voices, and keep everyone in check who are basically in charge of our lives.” That’s what “Rise Up” is about. Stop bickering with each other, and call these people out on their shit. I hate to see people bicker viciously because they have a difference of opinion.

Welcome to the Internet age, where people lob bombs at each other from behind their keyboards.
I saw something on Facebook where someone had an ad for a John Wayne bobblehead. You can’t make this up. Someone got on and said, “I’m a huge John Wayne fan. He’s an American legend and did all this stuff for servicemen. He’s a hero.” And that post ended up being like this giant ladle. (laughs) It stirred the pot. People were just ripping him, saying John Wayne wasn’t a hero, his acting was horrible, he never served a day in his life, and were just ripping him. After that, it was gloves off. I went to the bottom of the comments and was like, “Do you guys realize you’re arguing over a fucking bobblehead?” (laughs) It’s a bobblehead!

There are a couple of other tracks on the album that are kind of “come-uppance” in the lyrical tone, too. Did you write the lyrics in the same period of time where your headspace is kind of all in one place, or do you like to write over a period of time?
I’m not a guy that goes in the studio with a bunch of song titles. I can’t even write a lyric until I hear the vibe of the song. If it sounds angry, the lyrics are going to be angry. I have this weird thing where I don’t see lyrics, but almost like little vignettes in a movie. We really had no music or anything until we got into a room and started writing.

Is that your preferred method? Maybe more of a challenge?
Well, we’re so scattered all over the world. Doug and Marco live in L.A., Deen lives in Oregon, I live in Nashville, and David is either in Sydney or New York. We literally just got done touring in September, and three weeks later we were in New York writing for the next record. It’s kinda weird. We just get in there, and everybody will grab a guitar and start throwing ideas down. I had a few ideas that I had recorded on my phone. This record, we kind of let the music take us where we want to go. We had a few songs when we first started, and suddenly Marco played this riff that became “What Goes Around Comes Around,” and everybody jumped on it and were going, “Oh man, this is heavy.” Then Doug sits down and goes, “I didn’t realize you guys would be into something this heavy, so check this out.” So he plays the riff for “Rise Up.” It’s like old-school Sabbath. I was sitting down and noodling on guitar and out came what became “You Can’t Take It With You.” We had some cool things, but for some reason, everybody gravitated towards Marco’s thing, which gravitated toward Doug’s thing and my thing, and we started going in a little different direction. It’s loose and spontaneous — whatever comes out of our brains and fingers.

The cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Bitch” fit the record perfectly.
Traditionally, we do a song or two every record as a tip of the hat to all the legendary bands we grew up listening to. Everybody wanted to do a Stones song. But if we were to do “I’m Just Waiting On A Friend,” or Tumbling Dice,” I don’t think it would have fit with the rest of the record. But when we were sitting there and jamming stuff, somebody said the riff for “Bitch” could be really heavy. So we rearranged it, made it a little Daisies-ish, put in a solo for Doug, and as soon as we did it, everybody thought it was awesome.

How has the reception been to your “Live ’94 (One Night In Nashville)” album, a live recording of the self-titled Motley Crue album been? You did that a couple of years ago but just put out recently, correct?
I recorded that two years ago, and every time I wanted to put it out, it was just too close to a release date on a Daisies record. Initially, I wanted to put it out in December, but there was a delay in the vinyl and the cassettes they did, so we put it out in January. It had to be then, because the Daisies were coming out in April. I told the guys that I wouldn’t have my guy (publicist) go out and solicit press for this. I’ll wait for the Daisies to be done, do what it’s going to do, and maybe after that’s done I’ll go out and start doing press. But the crazy part of it is, we just did some stuff on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter that it was out. And it immediately sold out. It was gone within 48 hours. Those fans of that Motley record have single-handedly gone out and reposted every post, every review, and are continuing to talk about it. The record label just contacted me and told me that, by complete word of mouth, no press, the record entered four or five charts in Billboard. Mind you, it’s different these days. You probably sell 40 copies and you’re a Heatseeker. (laughs) But, it is what it is. I can’t thank the fans enough.

Did you have any concern revisiting this because it was, and still is, apparently, a lightning rod in Motley Crue history?
Yeah. At the end of the day, being in Motley the five or six years I was there, I’ve got skin like a rhinoceros now. Being up there on stage and having people holding up signs that say “Eff You,” you learn to get over it. Somebody said it was a polarizing record. You like it or hate it, and I get that. I just had another fan do a review on the record a few days ago that said, “Why doesn’t John Corabi just go out and do something on his own instead of cashing in on Motley Crue? All he talks about it Motley Crue, and now he’s doing a record from 20 years ago that nobody gave a shit about. Why is he doing it again?” I’m never going to please everybody all the time. I don’t think about it. I did it for the 20th anniversary of the record in 2014. I stopped in 2015 and said, “That’s it, I’m done. Let’s record one show. Anybody who didn’t get to see it the first time, or with my solo band, can now hear what it sounded like live.” And that was it. I co-wrote all those songs with Tommy, Nikki and Mick, so I have every right to do that. Honestly, I wanted to get to Europe or Japan or Australia, to tour on it, but after weighing out the fact that I have six or seven guys in my band and crew, after five to seven rooms, meals and paychecks per day, plus visas, airline tickets, I would have had to ask for an astronomical amount of money from promoters, and I just didn’t want to do that. The easiest thing for me to do was a record.

You’re John Corabi. Vince Neil is Vince Neil. Really, what did people expect with that Motley record in ‘94?
In their defense, I’ll play devil’s advocate. I get it. A couple of years ago, I got a phone call from someone working in the Aerosmith camp, and they were mad because Steven (Tyler) was doing American Idol, and they were going to check out other singers. Well, my name was on the list. I had a come-apart. I was like, “Dude, it’s not Aerosmith without Steven Tyler!” I’m not saying he’s the whole band, but they can’t go out and call something Aerosmith without Steven Tyler. And then the lightbulb went off. That’s how everyone felt when I was in the band (Motley Crue). In hindsight, and in defense of all those fans who didn’t approve of me being there, I get it. We should have never called that record “Motley Crue.” But the reason why we did call it Motley Crue — and we did have a discussion about changing the name — was because we had a record label that just gave us $40 million. You can’t change the name! And then we had a manager and a booking agent that were going, “You guys are making a $500,000 a night. If you change the name, you’re going to make $25,000 a night.” Everybody who had his or her hand out was telling us we couldn’t change the name. At the end of the day, I didn’t really have a choice in the matter. This one fan, he wrote me and was being brutal. I got angry, but then I sat down and wrote the guy a letter that said I was in a band called The Scream that was doing really well, and I got a call to join, at the time, one of, if not the biggest, bands in the world. I dare you to say that you would have done anything different than I did. And at the end (of the letter) I wrote, “You’re thoughts?” And he wrote me back and said, “Until you wrote me that, I had never thought of it that way.” I dare anybody to do anything different than I did. I made the best of it, I think we did a pretty good job with the couple of records I did with the guys. We did that record, “Quarternary,” (E.P. released in 1994) and what eventually became “Generation Swine.” I did what I could. When they told me they were bringing Vince back, I was happy for them. I was at the studio while they were tracking the record. Vince lives here in Nashville, and I see him all the time. It’s cool.

Things must be fine, as you’ve worked with Mick Mars on his solo album in the last few years, right?
I did a couple of tracks with him, and he wanted me to do more, but he had just gotten done with the farewell tour, and I was actually out doing my ’94 thing when he asked me to do his record. But then I got the gig with The Daisies, and I had been so slammed that I talked to Mick and told him I would love to do his record, but between my solo career and The Daisies, I don’t have the time. I said, “This is your first solo record, it has to be amazing, and I don’t want to give you 40 percent of my time. If I do this, I have to be all in.” He understood. I’m really happy for him. He’s got a really great partner who he is writing with, and just like you guys, I’m excited to hear with what they come up with. I’m not at liberty to say who he is working with, but it’s a friend of mine, and I’m really stoked to hear what they come up with.

“Burn It Down” Tracklisting:
1. Resurrected
2. Rise Up
3. Burn It Down
4. Judgement Day
5. What Goes Around
6. Bitch
7. Set Me Free
8. Dead and Gone
9. Can’t Take It With You
10. Leave Me Alone