JOHN CORABI - “If I Don’t Remember, It Didn’t Happen”

January 1, 2013, 2 years ago

By Aaron Small

john corabi feature

JOHN CORABI – best known as VINCE NEIL’s replacement on the 1994 self-titled MÖTLEY CRÜE album – also made a name for himself in THE SCREAM and UNION. Now at age 53, he’s released his first-ever solo album, simply titled Unplugged. However the shot of a clean-shaven Corabi on the album cover was taken several years prior; he’s currently sporting a full goatee, as evidenced by the pictures inside the booklet. “That photo is actually from The Swedish Rock Festival, but for some reason – I don’t know why – everybody loves that photo,” says John on the line from Tennessee. “But I don’t look anything like that, it’s all good though.”
“You know what’s funny,” continues Corabi. “I had an album cover designed, and I think the last time we talked, I told you I had already finished the record and it was going to be out on Universal. I’ve had so many fucking roadblocks trying to get this record out! First, I did it with an indie label here in Nashville, and then Universal wanted it. So I was going to put it out on Universal, I signed a contract with them, I did the artwork. It was weird, my manager Larry Morand and Joe from Rat Pak Records were like, he’s been talking about this record for a year, maybe we need to change things up a little bit and just do something a little different. So Rat Pak put that album cover together, and at that point I didn’t even care, I just wanted the record out. If they would have taken a picture of a dog’s asshole and said, John Corabi Unplugged, I would have said, fine, awesome, go. I just wanted to put the record out.” Facial hair or lack thereof aside, the cover of Unplugged depicts Corabi smoking a cigarette. In 1982, nobody would have cared. But now in 2012, the “anti-smoking police” are everywhere; it’s become so taboo. Yet the potential negative consequence wasn’t ever a concern. “No, I’m proud to admit that I’m part of the leper colony, so it’s all good. Actually, honestly, I quit smoking for probably three and a half years, and I just recently started again. It’s hilarious! I went to Europe on the last ESP (ERIC SINGER PROJECT) tour, and my tour manager asked, ‘have you ever had Grappa?’ And I hadn’t. So he says, ‘come on, you’re fucking Italian and you’ve never had Grappa!’ So he took me to this bar in Italy that had 11 different flavours of Grappa. If you don’t know what Grappa is, it’s literally the residue of the bottom of the fucking barrel when you get wine; so it’s really strong! But John Corabi doesn’t know this ‘cause he’s a fucking idiot. So I say, yeah, I’ll try it. And they set up 11 shot glasses and pour me a little bit of everything. I’m thinking, it’s just wine, how much damage can this do? So I drink all 11 flavours – vanilla, lemon; all these different things. Well, Grappa is kind of like bourbon; but wine. So I get completely inebriated, and at some point in the evening, I caved after three and a half years of not smoking – and I decided to have a cigarette. So I had my cigarette, and then I decided to buy a pack of cigarettes. So the next morning, I wake up with a hangover and this really weird, familiar taste in my mouth. Fuck, I totally smoked last night. I roll over, pack of cigarettes in my room. So, fuck it. I don’t remember buying them. I don’t really remember smoking them; so if I don’t remember it didn’t happen. So I throw the cigarettes away, at which point I checked out of the room with Eric Singer and Bruce Kulick. We got on a train and went to Milan, and literally two hours later, I swear to God I would have blown a farm animal for a fucking cigarette! I am totally hooked again. How did that happen? So I’ve been smoking now for the last seven or eight months again, but my New Year’s resolution – which you know is, whatever – is to try and quit again.”
Unplugged houses a wide collection of music, including five new originals and seven re-recorded classics - consisting of two Mötley Crüe songs, three songs from The Scream, and two Union songs; thereby spanning Corabi’s entire career. This could have easily been a greatest hits package made up of previously released material, but these are all-new versions of those older songs. And to hear the Crüe song ‘Hooligan’s Holiday’ stripped down and done acoustically, is really enjoyable. “It’s funny; it’s been hot and cold. Some of the people I’ve done interviews with are like, ‘I don’t know if I like Hooligans? I’m so used to hearing it the other way.’ Of course you are, ‘cause that’s the original way and it’s electric with drums. This is a different version; acoustic guitars with a conga. I don’t expect everybody to like everything on the record. But I’ve been doing a lot of acoustic shows lately, for the last year and a half or two years. And I’ve always wanted to do an acoustic record, so I figured, fuck it. Let’s give it a shot and see what happens.” Two of John’s brand new songs, ‘If I Never Get To Say Goodbye’ and ‘Crash’ are co-written by Corabi and Hannon. The common misconception is that’s TESLA guitarist Frank Hannon, as the two have played together in the past, but John sets the record straight. “No, no, oddly enough, it’s not with Frank Hannon. It’s with a friend of mine here in Nashville named Gary Hannon; he’s an amazing songwriter. I should probably put Gary on the thing, ‘cause a lot of people think it’s with Frank. And Frank and I have talked about possibly doing a little run together. He’s got a new record (Six String Soldiers) out as well, and by the way it’s amazing. The last show we did together was in Michigan, and we had a great time. We did some of my stuff, some of his stuff, a couple covers, some Tesla shit; it was awesome. I love Frank, he’s really laid back; all the guys in Tesla are. To be honest, I’m a huge fan of that band; I think they’re fucking amazing! It would be an honour for me to go out and play with any of the members of Tesla.” Former KISS and UNION guitarist Bruce Kulick appears on two songs on Unplugged: ‘Man In The Moon’ and ‘Hooligan’s Holiday’. “Yes, absolutely, Bruce did a solo record in 2010 (BK3). He asked if I would be interested in helping him write a song (‘No Friend Of Mine’) and maybe sing on the album. We’re great mates; I still do the ESP thing with Bruce, we still tour Europe quite a bit. So I did his thing, and then Bruce came back to me when he found out I was doing a record and offered to help with the guitars. So I took him up on it. Both of those songs, we kind of trade off; I do one solo, he does another. It was great to have Bruce involved in it; obviously we’ve got a long history with Union. We’ve been friends forever, so why not?”
A video for one of the new tunes, ‘If I Had A Dime’, has been released and can be viewed below. It’s not a big-budget production, but rather home-movie type footage showcasing this heartfelt composition. “It was funny… my bass player’s brother just came along for the ride, that weekend we were playing. He does a lot of TV commercials, filming and editing them. His name’s Scott Nolen and we love hanging out with him, he’s so funny it’s ridiculous. He just video-taped a lot of the backstage stuff, the drive, and the performance; then he went home and made the video for us. We all watched it and thought it was pretty fucking cool; so we put it on YouTube to show people the band live and uncut; no overdubs. Basically it’s a hand-held camera and he edited a video together for us.” It’s a rather unusual move to tack a 14-minute audio interview onto the end of an album, but John went ahead and did exactly that with Unplugged. “Just to give anybody that’s a fan a little bit more. I had a conversation earlier about ticket prices, and prices for meet and greets. I know what it’s like, I’ve had success in the business but to be perfectly frank, my career, along with a bunch of others has been up and down over the last ten years or so. I know what’s like to have to get up and go to work and bust your ass to go see a show. I just want to give people as much as I can for the amount of money they have to pay for a record or a download. It was just something extra to throw in there to give people something else to listen to. If you don’t really know John Corabi or his sense of humour, here’s something fun at the end of the record; enjoy it.” During that bonus interview on Unplugged, John discusses his forthcoming autobiography. “I’m my own worst enemy to a degree. I don’t like putting things out that I don’t feel are amazing. I’ve tried this a couple of times, and in my mind it wasn’t quite right yet. Not that long ago my girlfriend said to me, ‘you know, you’ve tried writing this book with several different people and it’s never quite your personality. You tell your story with a certain flair; you should just tell your own story. Write it down and then have somebody come in to check the grammar and spelling and put it into book form for you.’ So that’s what I’m doing now. I’ve honestly tried to do this book three or four times, and unfortunately I’m one of the slowest typers on earth. So we saw this thing on TV called a dragon where you talk into it and it prints everything out, then you can go back and edit. I’m in the process of doing it that way, but the last two or three months I’ve been absolutely bonkers, crazy busy. I’ve got a month off in January so I’m going to try and get back on the book again for a couple weeks. I want to try and get it out, we’ll see what happens.”
The day after this interview was conducted; John flew to Australia for a series of shows – not as a solo artist, but as a member of LOST ANGELS. Alongside Corabi in this outfit is guitarist/vocalist Eric Dover (SLASH’S SNAKEPIT), bassist Eric Brittingham (CINDERELLA), and drummer Troy Patrick Farrell (WHITE LION). “They called me, and initially I told them I couldn’t do it ‘cause I was just getting back from Europe and I’m trying to promote the record. Then they came back again, so I said alright, cool. It should be fun; we always have a good time. It’s so mellow; there’s really nothing serious about it at all. We just jam a bunch of songs from everybody’s career, as well as stuff from THIN LIZZY, QUEEN, ZEPPELIN; it’s just fun!” In January, Lost Angels are heading to Europe, but John isn’t going with them; Ryan Roxie (ALICE COOPER) is replacing him. Furthermore, in February, John is joining CLASSIC ROCK ALL STARS – another super group that includes drummers Bobby Rondinelli (RAINBOW) and Chris Slade (AC/DC), bassist Greg Smith (ALICE COOPER), guitarist Craig Goldy (DIO), and keyboardist Geoff Nicholls (BLACK SABBATH) for ten shows in Russia. Did Classic Rock All Stars trump Lost Angels? “Well, it was a combination of a few things… Rat Pak just put the (Unplugged) record out, and I’ve got a ton of interviews to do so I’ve got to get caught up with that. There’s talk of me possibly doing a video in January for one of the songs on the acoustic record. And I had already committed to doing the Classic Rock All Star thing. A couple months ago, I got asked to come over and do a NAMM show in Russia, it was called The Moscow Music Festival. I went over and it was Bobby, Chris, Greg, Ryan Roxie, and myself. We each did individual clinics or performances, and then the guys asked us to jam at the end. So we did a bunch of classic rock songs – some ZEPPELIN, ALICE COOPER, DEEP PURPLE, RAINBOW. We just had fun, and there was a promoter on the side of the stage. This was a bunch of guys who had never jammed together before, we never even rehearsed. We just talked backstage and said, ‘do you know this one?’ ‘Yeah, I know that one.’ We just kind of flubbed our way through it, but we got such a great response from the fans, that the promoter wanted to bring us back over for another ten shows. Not a lot of American or English bands go over to Russia that often, so I said sure, let’s do it.” Most people have a pretty good idea of what touring North America and Europe must be like, but touring Russia is hard to fathom; questions abound. What are the accommodations like? How’s the food? Is the transportation reliable? And it must be cold! “It’s so funny. I tell all my friends this – being from North America, we’re so used to… Russia was always the enemy. I’ve got to be honest with you; I had visions of driving through Moscow and seeing old women in babushkas, walking around with baskets, trying to sell potatoes. So I didn’t know what the fuck I was getting into? But at the end of the day, the fans were fucking amazing! The hotels were amazing. Everybody over there was so happy to have us there; they treated us like fucking kings! I’ll go play Russia anytime. Even just for a little jam thing, we did two jams in one day, and I bet you we played to three or four thousand people each time. I came home and… Russia’s really not that fucking bad. It’s not what we’ve been spoon-fed our whole lives. Those people were fucking amazing, and it’s really sad that we’re led to believe they’re the evil empire. I’m sure they kind of feel the same way about America. But when you meet them person to person, they’re just like you and me. It was a brilliant fucking trip, and I was very stoked to go back over and do it again.”

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