THE DEAD DAISIES – “This Album Is More About Vibe”
January 19, 2021, a month ago
“I’m really impressed with what Glenn did. He did something different,” begins Doug Aldrich, guitarist for The Dead Daisies. Of course, Doug is referring to Glenn Hughes (Trapeze, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath), who in 2019 became the new frontman for The Dead Daisies. Not only singing lead vocals, but playing bass as well, Hughes captains Holy Ground, the band’s fifth studio album, available January 22 via SPV.
“It’s a different side of Glenn, different than Black Country Communion (which saw Hughes playing with Joe Bonamassa, Jason Bonham, and Derek Sherinian),” enthuses Aldrich. “It’s got flavours of Black Country, it’s got flavours of his solo stuff, but it feels like something fresh for him, which is nice.” Playing alongside Aldrich and Hughes on Holy Ground are drummer Deen Castronovo (Ozzy Osbourne, Journey, Revolution Saints) and guitarist David Lowy (Red Phoenix, Mink).
The Dead Daisies have been sitting on their new album, Holy Ground, for a year, having completed it in January 2020. “Pretty much,” affirms Aldrich. “There were a couple bits that we had to do, a couple guitar overdubs and vocal things. But for the most part it was done, then it was mixed in February 2020.” The reason for not releasing it right away… the COVID-19 pandemic, which amongst other things, meant that bands could not tour, anywhere.
Unfortunately, concerts have still not resumed, but the time has come for The Dead Daisies to share their new music with the world. “I’m hopeful that later in the year we’ll be able to tour,” admits Doug. “We’ve got stuff (in Europe) in the summer that I’m told looks like it’s going to be okay. But we were wanting to tour before that, and that’s not going to happen. It’s frustrating, but everyone’s going through the same thing. It’s been brutal for the music and entertainment industry as much as anybody. We just have to find a positive to come out of it now, in terms of our growth. We didn’t release the album in April 2020 (the original release date), but as you know, we released a few songs here and there, just to give people something to look forward to. Now we’re finally here, we’re going to release the album, it’s going to feel good. It’s going to take away a little bit of that sting of not being able to tour yet.”
A lot has happened since the 2018 release of Burn It Down, the previous album from The Dead Daisies. In actuality, it’s like a whole new band now. Both vocalist John Corabi (The Scream, Mötley Crüe, Union) and bassist Marco Mendoza (Thin Lizzy, Whitesnake, Black Star Riders) quit, and Glenn Hughes replaced them both. A statement wasn’t issued by either John or Marco as to why they left. That being said, The Dead Daisies has always had a revolving door lineup with players coming and going. Was it as simple as Corabi and Mendoza both wanted to work on solo projects? “I think Marco definitely wanted to work on his… he would be touring all the time,” replies Doug. “He basically looked at this opportunity when Glenn came in, he spoke with management and they both agreed that Glenn was going to play bass. Marco felt like this was a really good thing for him. He can still be in the family, and depending on what happens, maybe we can be touring together. At the same time, Marco is a great frontman; he’s larger than life. He reminds me of a wild animal in some ways, he’s got so much energy! Super talented, super funny. But John… you’d have to ask him. I think John was feeling like he wanted a break from the constant touring pressure and scheduling. At the end of 2018 when we stopped, John had been working his ass off! It was a lot. I think he also wanted to go at his own pace with his acoustic shows. He’s such a great frontman… nobody else does it the way he does. John is very down to earth, and he cracks jokes… he brings people in like it’s his party. He’s like the mayor. He initiated it, saying ‘I want to step back for a bit.’ It was totally amicable.”
“Somewhere along the line, management reached out to Glenn,” reveals Doug. “I didn’t really think about Glenn because I thought he was busy; he was always touring. I asked if Glenn was excited about the possibility. They said, ‘Yep, seems so. He wants to talk to you.’ I had worked with Glenn in the past. I toured with him and we’ve been friends for a long time – we met through Ronnie James Dio (R.I.P.). When you go on tour with somebody, you immediately know if you can live together or not; Glenn and I obviously could. So, I called him and asked, is this for real? He said, ‘Yeah, Doug. I really believe it is our time now to make music together.’ I was like, that’s frickin’ awesome! I thought the perfect way to go was not try and replace John; but move in a different direction. It was like when Richard (Fortus, guitarist) and Dizzy (Reed, keyboardist) left to go back to GN’R. You can’t replace Dizzy – what he does is very unique. That’s when David Lowy (founding member and guitarist) said, ‘I don’t want to replace Dizzy. I want to focus more on the guitar sound.’ So, that’s what we did. Now, it’s a fresh start.”
Downsizing from a five-piece to foursome, when it comes to live performances, could have been problematic. “No, the thing that’s interesting is… with Glenn, it’s a different kind of bass sound. When I was touring with Glenn, I was blown away by how huge that sound was! It was almost like, you don’t even need a guitar player. You can just play bass and sing with the drums, and it’s complete. All I knew was it’s going to be a really big sound Glenn brings. Also, Glenn never had an opportunity to work with two guitar players. So, I definitely started thinking, how can we utilize that to make it more interesting and cooler for Glenn?”
When it came to the lyrics on Holy Ground, “Glenn wrote every single word. He did an amazing job! His lyrics are so cool because he doesn’t paint the picture so that you can’t have an imagination; he leaves it open to interpretation. Glenn leaves this grey area where you can figure out what you think it’s about. The title track, ‘Holy Ground’, to me, ‘Holy Ground’ is my soul or my family; things that are important to me. That’s my ‘Holy Ground’. Other people might look at it as ‘Holy Ground’ is planet Earth. He did a great job.”
The actual recording of Holy Ground was a whole different experience for The Dead Daisies. The band went to La Fabrique Studio in the South of France, which looks like a mini castle! Why was that picked as the location, and how significantly did it impact the budget? “Believe it or not, it was really reasonable; that’s why we did it,” states Doug. “We did spend money… we had to get there, so there were flights involved. But the studio itself, either they cut us a great deal or… but what you got was insane. It’s well worth every cent because when you make a huge change with a lead vocalist, who’s also going to be playing bass, it takes time for a band to gel. We were talking about getting together, making a record, without playing a live show yet. We had to make sure we’re on the same page, we had to get to know each other musically and personally; not so much Glenn and I cause as I said, we’d already toured together. So, we basically locked ourselves inside that chateau. We didn’t utilize the whole place. It’s big and giant, we basically stayed in one section of it where we were living, and the kitchen was there. Then we would go directly down the hallway into this… they call it La Fabrique because they used to do textiles and fabrics there; they still have some of those old machines inside which is really cool to walk by and look at. They also have one of the largest classical music collections, at least in France, maybe in Europe. It’s an interesting spot. We’d go down the hall and start rocking out. Working hard, playing through ideas, playing together. Just getting to know each other on a musical level; it was perfect for that.”
Ben Grosse (Dream Theater, Marilyn Manson, Sevendust, Alter Bridge) who The Dead Daisies previously worked with in 2015 on the Revolucion album, was enlisted as producer for Holy Ground. “Yeah, I had never met Ben. We had a couple of meetings prior to him meeting the rest of the guys; I live down the road from his studio, so I went down there and played him a few things I was working on,” says Doug. “Just broke the ice, got to know him a little bit. He’s a super cool guy! Right from the get-go, really mellow, down to earth, pretty much open for whatever. He really wanted to make sure the songs were there, that was his biggest thing in the beginning. So, collaboratively between all of us, we immediately got working on each other’s ideas. And it came together pretty quickly. He’d diffuse… there were never any fights, but there would be times when there might have been confusion, we didn’t know how one song was going to work out. Ben would say, ‘Let’s try it this way, then we’ll try it that way. We’ll record both and check it out together.’ He’s very democratic about it, he was really great. He left us enough room to where we could feel free, then when we didn’t know exactly which way to go, he’d help us figure it out; exactly what a good producer does.”
“I’ve got to say, Ben is… I’ve worked with a lot of different producers, and he’s very unique. Ben didn’t remind me of anybody. First of all, how calm it was. Sometimes producers come in and they’re barking orders, or they’re putting on a show… he was really subdued with all that stuff. He was very organized. He had lists on his computer of what he wanted to achieve; he was definitely a good leader. A leader that didn’t micromanage us, and he also mixed it. He did a great job with the mix and the sounds; he was super into it! The guitar sounds, for example. He said, ‘I’ve got this clean amp I really love! I think you’re going to dig it.’ I said, ‘Well, I’ve got a Marshall that’s got a killer top end for clean.’ He goes, ‘Cool, man! Let’s try’ em (both) and see which one (sounds best).’ The way it might have gone in the past was, I want to use my amp, and he would say he wanted to use his amp. But it wasn’t like that with Ben, he wanted to use whichever one was better; and that’s exactly what I wanted too. We ended up using them both.”
Talking about guitar sounds, from a guitar player’s perspective, Doug shares his top three songs off of Holy Ground. “I think the title track is cool. It was a song that Glenn brought in. We did a demo of it back in the summer of 2019; it was our first time getting together writing. He played that on acoustic, but we weren’t sure if that song was actually going to make the record. Glenn allowed me to hit it from a fresh angle with the guitar treatment, especially the rhythmic stuff. I really like how it turned out. This album is probably more about vibe than technical ability. The guitar solo was a one-take. I didn’t know what I was going to do, and I just went for it. Everybody was standing around and I was like, ‘Well that sucked.’ They’re all, ‘No, no, no, that was really cool.’ It was just the end I messed up, so I punched-in and fixed it. It was pretty natural.”
“‘Like No Other’ – I really love that song because that was one I brought in. Specifically, I started writing with Glenn in mind. I knew Glenn loved these heavy grooves – two notes, and there’s your heavy groove. I envisioned that Glenn would lay out on the bass in the verse. I’d hold the rhythm down, and David would play the chords. That’s something I wouldn’t have done if Marco was in the band. I would have never said to Marco, ‘Dude, during the verse, can you just lay out? Clap or something?’ I wouldn’t have done that. It would have been a different direction. But with Glenn there, I knew he’d be singing. Then when the chorus kicks in, it gets heavy and it’s got a nice groove to it.”
“Lastly, I would say… there’s little moments all over the place I’m really happy with. I really like ‘My Fate’, the bluesy feel of that song. And in the outro, there’s some real moments of slow-hand blues things. I would say those three. But the most challenging one was the last track, ‘Far Away’. Glenn had all the components to the song, it just basically needed to be arranged. He played the parts for me on the second trip back to La Fabrique. We stopped for a week or two, cause Glenn had two shows he needed to do to wrap up his Deep Purple stuff. He said, ‘We don’t have anything slow yet, what do you think?’ I was like, ‘Dude, that could be insane!’ So, we kind of roughed it up together. We had a good feeling about it, but we didn’t know if it was going to fit with the vibe. We ended up cutting it, and it took a while to cut cause it’s got some different notes, like tempo changes. It’s not a song you can do with a click-track. We had to get the feel right with Deen (Castronovo, drummer). Then, once we felt like we got it, I said, ‘Let me go in and redo the guitar now, cause the drums are cool.’ As I tracked it, the sound wasn’t quite right for the clean. I didn’t really know exactly how I was going to do certain parts. So, I went in with a cleaner (sounding) guitar and played through it to make sure the transitions were good. Once we got that together, it was just a matter of layering it properly. It was really fun to work on that track.”
The Dead Daisies are no strangers to cover songs. In fact, in 2019, an all-covers collection, Locked And Loaded was released. The new album, Holy Ground, is comprised of ten originals and one cover, that being “30 Days In The Hole” by Humble Pie. How did that particular song get chosen as the one cover tune? “That’s something, I can speak for Glenn, he’s never been that kind of guy who really wants to focus on a cover; neither am I when it comes down to it. Especially when you’ve got songs (of your own) that you’re really passionate about. We had more than ten originals, we probably had 15 things that we had worked up. So, some stuff had to go in order for us to do that cover. That’s something I had got used to, cause The Daisies have always done one or two covers. It needed to be a song that Glenn was going to be excited about. Management found that and presented it, and we agreed to do it. And it was a tune that would also showcase Deen’s singing a little bit. So that was kind of cool. We tracked it together – we tracked the whole album together. When we did it and I started to put the guitars on it, I got a version that I felt was a little bit too close to the original. It was cool, but it wasn’t taking me anywhere different. So, I asked the guys, ‘I need a little help here. I could do it a little heavier, a little funkier.’ Everybody really liked the straighter, heavier approach, so that’s what ended up going on it.”
Given Glenn’s history with Deep Purple, when The Dead Daisies return to playing headlining shows, as opposed to opening gigs or festival slots, do you foresee a Deep Purple medley happening on stage? “I don’t think it would be a medley, I think we would do a couple songs. We were doing Deep Purple songs before Glenn started with the band. We did ‘Hush’ – I love doing that song! And we were doing ‘Highway Star’; I’ve done ‘Highway Star’ with Glenn a couple times. There was a project for saving dolphins, and Glenn’s super close to all that stuff. He invited me to jam with him and we played ‘Highway Star’, so I’d love to do that with Glenn. But also, touring with Glenn, we had a blast playing stuff like ‘Burn’ or ‘Stormbringer’, ‘Mistreated’ – some of that stuff would be cool.”