THE DEAD DAISIES – Life Is As It Should Be

April 10, 2018, a year ago

Aaron Small

feature hard rock the dead daisies

THE DEAD DAISIES – Life Is As It Should Be

The Dead Daisies, led by vocalist John Corabi (Mötley Crüe, Union, The Scream), have released their fourth studio album, Burn It Down; and it’s a top-notch collection of solid, old school rock. “Not that we were going for anything… but all the stuff we listen to, all that great classic stuff from the late ‘60s and ‘70s: Zeppelin, Sabbath, Beatles, Grand Funk. That’s where our heads are at, and I think it translated pretty cool,” says Corabi. “It’s got old school riffs with a little bit of modern… Marti (Frederiksen, producer) figured out how to make it the best of both worlds – old school but with cool, modern tones.”

The big news surrounding Burn It Down is the change in drummers. Deen Castronovo (Journey, Ozzy Osbourne, Steve Vai) has replaced Brian Tichy, who left due to prior commitments. Deen already plays in Revolution Saints with Daisies guitarist Doug Aldrich, so he was the natural choice. “To be honest with you, one of the great things about being in The Daisies, is that everybody in the band is so accomplished at what they do,” boasts Corabi. “Now the curse, because everybody – like Brian, Marco (Mendozza, bassist), and Doug – are all as accomplished as they are, they’re constantly being asked, ‘Can you play on this album? Can you come out on tour?’ That’s one of the things man, it’s kind of hard. Brian was in demand! Last year he did some shows with Steven Tyler (of Aerosmith); prior to that he did a couple of benefit things with Steven and Joe (Perry). I know he was doing shows with Don Felder (of The Eagles). Brian was also in the process of recording his own Christmas album (Merry Tichmas), and he wanted to do a solo record.

“The thing with Brian is – a lot of people don’t realize – as great as he is on drums, he’s equally as amazing on guitar, bass and keyboards. It was just… Brian had a bunch of shows with Don Felder that he really wanted to do; he’s a huge Eagles fan! So, Don had asked him to do some stuff, Brian committed to it; and then he realized his schedule and our schedule were kind of overlapping. Brian just said, ‘Thanks, it was great playing with you guys.’ I think, this year he wanted to focus on doing the Don Felder shows, which are sporadic, and that would allow him to do some of these other sit-in gigs he’s doing, and then go home and focus on writing and recording a Brian Tichy solo record. I can’t knock the guy for that. He’s one of my dearest friends, I love Brian to death. He’s an incredibly gifted musician. So, we wished him well and he’s doing his thing. As you said, Doug had played with Deen before; Marco has as well. So, we called Deen. The only two guys who hadn’t met him were me and David (Lowy, guitarist). Deen flew out to New York while we were there writing, he met Marti, me and David. We just sat and bullshitted with him for a bit. He was beyond forthcoming about his little dark ages and explained everything that happened. He told us he’s totally in a good spot now, he’s feeling good about life; he was just happy for the opportunity. We said, come down to Nashville and let’s see how this goes. Honestly, he walked in, he listened to – well, he was there for part of the writing process – he went through everything, sat down at the kit, and just slayed the drum parts! Marti was like, ‘Fuck, this guy’s amazing!’ I’m excited too because now we’ve got another voice for backing vocals; it’s going to be sick.”

Lyrically, is the opening track on Burn It Down, “Resurrected”, written from Deen’s point of view, or about him? “You know, Deen and I were just talking about this. He didn’t realize it, but I kind of had Deen in mind when we were working on the lyrics; but I also had myself in mind. I had been through quite the experience when I was in Mötley. To go from pauper to prince, and back to pauper again, I couldn’t help but take some of those experiences that I had with Mötley and put it into the lyrics. The same with Deen – he had his little dark moment there, and he lost the Journey gig. Then he had a giant target on his back. And I get it. I knew when I was in Mötley, everybody wanted me to come to the party. Then when I wasn’t in Mötley, I basically lost all my endorsements, my phone just stopped ringing completely. I realized that a lot of things in this business are very fleeting. I just sat down and wrote these lyrics kind of with Deen and myself in mind. I’ve been up, down, kicked around, knocked down to the ground; but I’m here, I’m back. I never left; but if you think I did, that’s fine. I’m back to prove a point – love me or hate me, I don’t really care. I’m very happy at this point in my life. I’ve got a beautiful wife, great kids, a couple great grandkids. I’m in a band – again – very late in life that’s awesome. I’m having the time of my life and I’m happy. Nobody can take that away from me. So yeah, I’m resurrected!”

Do you feel an extra sense of personal accomplishment with Burn It Down as it marks the first time you’ve recorded a third studio album with the same band? “Yes. But dude, honestly, a lot of people ask me, ‘Why were you in so many bands?’ It wasn’t planned that way. Some guys have… like Eddie Van Halen, he started Van Halen when he was 18 or 19 years old, and he’s been in the same band for 40 years. More power to ya. I unfortunately, when I was in The Scream; it’s like being in a relationship. Every chick that I’ve ever been with, dated, lived with, married – whatever, you always go in thinking, this is the one. And shit just happens sometimes. So, when I was in The Scream, I was completely convinced that band was going to dominate the world. We were – in my mind – going to be the ‘90s version of Led Zeppelin. We were going to be around forever. Who knew that I was going to get a call from Mötley Crüe? And they were going to ask me to join, at the time, one of the biggest bands in the world. Even my own bandmates in The Scream, were like, ‘Dude, if you don’t do this, you’re fucking high!’ At the time, my son was just diagnosed with diabetes, and Juan Alderete (bassist for The Scream) was the one who said, ‘This is a way for you to play bigger places, travel in style, and take care of your family.’ And I did it. When I was in Mötley, the way they were talking, they were never going to get Vince (Neil) back again; but then Vince came back. I had no control over that.”

“Then I put Union together and once again everybody was like, ‘Oh fuck! The dude from KISS (Bruce Kulick), he’s been with them longer than Ace (Frehley). He did all these Gold and Platinum records. Now you’ve got the guy from Mötley Crüe.’ Everybody thought it was a shoe-in. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get arrested. But, that band never really split up. It just got to the point where, let’s face it: we’re all married, we’ve all got kids, we’ve all got bills. Bruce got offered the Grand Funk gig which was steady pay. I was offered the Ratt gig. Brent (Fitz) and Jamie (Hunting) got offered the Vince Neil gig. We just did things to make money. It’s an odd path… in hindsight, I wish it wouldn’t have happened the way it did. But I don’t regret anything. I have a saying tattooed on my chest, in Italian, it basically means Life Is As It Should Be. Here I am, 30 years later, I’m on my fourth record (three studio and one live album) with The Dead Daisies, my solo career is going through the roof as well. I just released the Mötley Live 94 record in January. On a little side note, before I get off base too far, I seriously have to congratulate all the guys that played that show with me: Jeremy Asbrock, Topher Nolen, Tommy Daley; and as a Dad, I couldn’t be more proud of my son Ian for just nailing those drum parts. One show, recorded it, gave it to Michael Wagener and said, ‘I’m going for Aerosmith – Live Bootleg vibe, just make it happen.’ Now, I just got a call from a label called Rock Candy over in London; they just bought the rights to The Scream album. They’re repackaging it, putting some live tracks in there with it, and they’re re-releasing The Scream album this year. This is me at 58 going, fuck, life is awesome! Life is fucking good in Corabi Land, I have nothing to complain about at all.”

Delving back into The Dead Daisies, anybody who’s seen the band live knows you love to jam on classic rock songs from the ‘60s and ‘70s. Burn It Down features an outstanding cover of “Bitch” by The Rolling Stones, which originally appeared on their Sticky Fingers album in 1971. The Stones have such an enormous catalogue, why that song in particular? “It’s just… a lot of people don’t understand why we do this. Like I was saying earlier, we always want to include in our sets and on our records, a track or two of some of the songs and bands that we grew up listening to. I’ve got to be honest with you, when I first hooked up with the band, I wasn’t against doing any covers at all. When I first got together with them in LA, before I went to Cuba or anything, I met with Richard (Fortus, guitarist) and David, and they were doing a song called ‘Evil’. It’s an old blues song that Cactus had done. I wasn’t real familiar with it, I went back and listened to it; fuck, it’s killer! So, we did that. Then I suggested ‘Midnight Moses’ by The Sensational Alex Harvey Band, which I’ve stated a million times in the press. It’s so funny, on the road, still to this day, there’s people saying, ‘That song is fucking awesome! Which one of you guys wrote it?’ So, I kind of feel like to some degree – you’ll get a kick out of this as you’re very knowledgeable about music – even when we were doing the Make Some Noise record, we did ‘Fortunate Son’ and ‘Join Together’. I spoke with a woman from somewhere in the mid-west who was a music writer for a newspaper. She was going track by track with me through the album, then she says ‘Join Together – what a great song! Which one of you guys wrote that?’ Now, I can understand the Alex Harvey thing, but I’m like, ‘Dude, that’s a fucking Who song!’ I’m really kind of finding that there’s a lot of younger kids coming to see guys like me now. And there’s a little bit of a disconnect. They don’t know some of these songs. It’s our tip of the hat to our heroes, the guys I used to look at on the wall in my bedroom. Not to sound weird, but I feel like we’re kind of educating people – you’ve got to check this band out! This isn’t ‘My Generation’, but ‘Join Together’ is another staple Who song. We just do stuff from bands that we all like and dig. When we’re sitting around, you’re right, there’s a gazillion Stones tunes we could have done. But we all felt like, if you really sit and listen to the entire thread going through the rest of the record… I don’t know who picked it, but somebody went, ‘Bitch! We could totally rock that riff out and really make it Daisies.’ So, we jammed it, and it was fucking awesome! We tweaked it a little bit, rearranged it to make it a bit heavier, and we just went for it. Marti, the record label, everyone thought it kicked ass!”

Corabi is completely accurate saying “Bitch” fits within the flow of the album. It doesn’t sound like a bonus track or something exclusive for Japan. It sounds like it belongs on Burn It Down. “Yeah, and it was weird. I would have loved to have done ‘Tumbling Dice’ or ‘It’s Only Rock ‘N Roll’ – one of those classic Stones songs. Even though ‘Bitch’ is obviously The Rolling Stones, it took a minute. We had to sit down and say, when you listen to ‘Resurrected’ and ‘Rise Up’ and all these other songs on the record, which Stones song could we do that… and ‘Bitch’ jumped out at us cause of the riff. I always thought that riff was – even back when the song came out. When that riff comes in, it’s a heavy riff; and it’s relentless. So, we Daisified it, put it in with the rest of the record, and like you said, it doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb. Where ‘Tumbling Dice’, which is an equally great song, I think it would have been a little more difficult to make it flow with the rest of the record.”

However, there is a bonus track included on the digipak CD, a cover of The Beatles song “Revolution”. “We did the same thing; we kind of tweaked it, because it’s such a fucking classic song! It’s really hard to do, and the original one’s got a little bit of a bounce to it. We were going, fuck, it still sounds too nice. We’ve got to fuck it up some more. We kind of took it in a little bit of a dark place; the lyrics are genius, and they’re still somewhat relevant now. You could replace Chairman Mao with Kim Jong Un… the thought is still very relevant to what is going on in world politics and all this other shit. Again, we said, let’s try and Daisify this as much as we can; and Doug just went ape shit on it. But we wanted to save it and make it a bonus track; we went with ‘Bitch’ for the record.”

It’s interesting how you mentioned that lyrically, ‘Revolution’ still applies today. The same sort of timelessness exists with “Rise Up”, the second track on Burn It Down. It could be about political turmoil in any of the last five or six decades. “It’s weird because I just had a friend of mine, Andrew Treadwell from Australia, he just wrote to me and said, ‘I was listening to your Union record, The Blue Room. There’s a song called “No More No More”. It’s amazing to me that you wrote that song in 1999 and it’s still relevant in 2018.’ It’s sad that it is, but it is. Honestly, I’m so fascinated by human nature and politics. I watch the TV constantly; all the different news networks. I think I’ve always had at least one song on a record, I’ve kind of touched base with… on the Revolucion record I wrote ‘You And I’. It’s just crazy to me. It’s not America against North Korea. Right here in America, there’s a complete disconnect with Conservatives and Liberals, that just fucking drives me crazy! The minute you go on Facebook and you say anything from a Conservative point of view, or a Liberal point of view, the other side comes at you with fucking guns blazing. And it really fucking drives me nuts! All of you people are fucking dumb asses if you don’t realize that you don’t start a debate or a conversation – ever – with an insult. Seriously! Why am I wrong? Why am I an idiot? Or why am I a snowflake if I say, I’m into everybody having guns; I just think that we need stricter gun checks. Why am I an asshole? It’s horrible to me that people are fighting over skin color in 2018. People are fighting over the political thing. It’s just getting so out of control – on both sides.”

“At the end of the day, ‘Rise Up’, and all these songs, are basically saying, we put them there in Washington. We can take them out. That’s not a threat, that’s a promise. We can vote you out just like we voted you in. It’s like, come on people, wake up and smell the coffee. You always get more flies with honey than you do with vinegar. Sit down and learn to accept that somebody isn’t going to have the same opinion as you, they’re not going to have the same viewpoint as you. But you also need to learn how to find the grey area in between the two points, and that’s where you settle. It’s just sad to me, so, maybe I tend to write a little bit more about it than I should, but if one person can get something out of something I sing about, then awesome. But I don’t see it happening anytime in the near future. I just keep on chipping away at the stone and hopefully someday it’ll come true.”

“Set Me Free” slows things down on the album. It’s a great song that tells the age-old story of a musician leaving his girl at home while he goes on tour. “Yep. But it’s unfortunate, as with anything. I got married in August 2014 to my wife now. Shortly after, we were just motoring along, I was doing my solo shows and I suddenly get this call to do The Daisies. And I’ve literally found myself, over the last three years or so, I’m gone – a lot. My grandkids are here, it’s like, I leave and I’m clean shaven. I go on the road and come back with a full beard. It’s like, who are you? But it’s weird. I just kind of realized, it does put a bit of a strain – and not like a jealousy thing. My wife sat down and talked with me, she said, ‘I’m really happy for you and everything but fuck, I miss the shit out of you when you’re gone.’ It’s one of those things that anybody can relate to. Marco had the title idea. Marti and I sat down and wrote the thing… I love you, but I also love doing what I do; I’ve always done what I do. I know it’s hard for you, it’s hard for me, but I’ve got to go do what I do. I’ve got to go on tour, I’ll see you in four months, eight months.”

“That’s the difference now. I didn’t understand when I was married early to my first wife Valerie; Ian’s Mom. She would complain about things and I was like, ‘Fuck! Just shut up, leave me alone!’ But now, cause I’m older and I’ve been through a lot of shit, I can go back and look at it. I’ve talked with other girlfriends I had in between Val and my wife now, and they all kind of said the same thing, ‘I don’t know how trusting I would have been if we were married and you were leaving for months at a time with the notoriously bad boys of rock.’ I guess in hindsight I just kind of looked at it… I talked with my ex-wife about a year ago, she was going through some stuff and we just had a really good heart to heart. She was like, ‘You were always a good Dad and a good husband.’ And I can honestly say in hindsight, you were a great wife as well; it just didn’t work out. But I can see that now. Where before, when I was younger, I was like, ‘Will you just fucking shut up?’ I didn’t want to hear it. It’s one of those things. I’m older now, I’m wiser, and I get how hard it must be for a wife to sit at home while her husband is running around Europe in a pair of skin tight leather pants acting like a jerk-off. How difficult it must be to see shit on Facebook and keep her cool. So that’s basically what the song’s about.”

(Band photos by Danny Jungslund)

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