Singer and guitarist John Corabi has been in some bands. A lot of bands. Ratt, Brides of Destruction, ESP, Union, Angel City Outlaws, Twenty 4 Seven, and the Cardboard Vampyres. He most famously replaced lead vocalist Vince Neil in Mötley Crüe for a number of years in the early ‘90s.
But it was while on tour just prior to joining the Crüe with his band the Scream that he says he first came face to face with his two takeaways about the state of Texas. And both were daunting.
“I remember being in a van with all the guys and our manager and the crew and just driving along on I-10 going ‘Jesus Christ! How big is this fucking state! And it’s hotter than shit here!” Corabi laughs. “And all the signs said ‘Don't mess with Texas.’ There’s something scary about that, but something beautiful as well. I love Texas!”
Corabi’s next trip to the Lone Star State will come courtesy of a tour with his current band, the Dead Daisies. He’s been with them since 2015, and are now supporting his third studio effort as frontman, Burn It Down. It’s full of uncompromising hard rock reminiscent of the ‘70s and ‘80s, but still fully modern.
That’s not surprising, given the pedigree of the rest of the current lineup. That features lead guitarist Dough Aldrich (ex-Whitesnake/Dio), bassist Marco Mendoza (ex-Thin Lizzy/Whitesnake), drummer Deen Castronovo (ex-Journey/Bad English), and Australian guitarist David Lowy (ex-Red Phoenix/Mink).
The Dead Daisies are the brainchild of Lowy, who formed the band in 2013 and is its sole original member – though there has always been a sort of come-and-go outlook to the group. And when not with the Dead Daisies, Corabi also has his own solo band, with his son as the drummer.
Burn It Down is the first release with this specific quintet. But according to Corabi, no one would think that based on the speed in which the record was put together.
“The ultimate goal is to have a cohesive lineup, but things just kind of happen,” he offers. “What’s weird about this band is that we worked pretty fast in the studio. We get into a writing situation for a week or ten days and come out with 25 ideas. There’s no rhyme or reason to anything. Without sounding hokey, we kind of let the music go where it’s gonna go.”
The band started putting together material in R&B singer Alicia Keys’ studio in New York, and discussed a desire to have a fat bass sound like old Black Sabbath and Grand Funk Railroad records. An engineer ran out and brought back a special guitar pedal that Mendoza began riffing on, and those noodling runs became the basis of the songs “Rise Up” and “What Comes Around,” which Corabi says dictated the sound of the rest of the record. And Corabi says that the combined voices of Mendoza, Aldrich, and Castronovo have made for some amazing backing vocals.
Of course, the entire structure of the music industry and musical tastes have shifted since members of the Dead Daisies first became known to fans of hard rock and metal. Pop, rap, and hip-hop seem to rule the charts and public consciousness. Still, Corabi sees the Dead Daisies as sitting somewhere in the genre timeline between the older bands still touring like KISS, Judas Priest, and Iron Maiden, and the young guns getting most of the press today like Greta van Fleet, the Struts, and the Rival Sons.
The Dead Daisies probably share more in common with other newish groups, contemporaries in age and sound like Black Star Riders, Sons of Apollo, and the Winery Dogs. Not surprisingly, all three of those acts have also – like the Dead Daisies — been referred to as “supergroups.”
“The fans are still there, but it is a bit more underground. There’s no outlets for bands like us on radio or TV. The days of bands going out and selling a million records are gone,” Corabi says. “And my wife is guilty of it! She won’t go out and buy a record, but she’ll go on Pandora and listen to Dead Daisies radio. It used to be that the tour supported album sales, but now the record promotes the tour, and that’s where you make your money. You have to figure out how to adapt. So we use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.”
And while Corabi is disheartened that for every new band like Greta van Fleet that breaks through, a half a million other bands will fall by the wayside. He feels there’s still a huge audience out there for hard rock and metal, even if it’s not necessarily U.S.-based. He’s seen it with his own eyes.
“Rock and roll isn’t dying. They’re showing up to festivals. We just played a show with Guns ‘n Roses to 70,000 people in Estonia!”
A key component to any band that wants a lasting career, he adds, is establishing a base of dedicated fans. The one who will get the record, come to the show, and talk up the music. The Dead Daisies are keenly aware of this, and the interior booklet for Burn It Down features a collage of the group posing with fans.
More hardcore enthusiasts belong to both official and unofficial fan clubs with names like the Deadsies and The Daisy Chain Gang.
Corabi says they will routinely let the first 50 people in line at a show come in early for a meet and greet and hang out, while band members pose for photos, sign autographs, and hand out merchandise like posters and guitar picks. It’s a practice whose origin came a something of a mandate from the group’s founder, Lowy.
“David has made it very clear he’s never understood the concept of fans buying records and tickets for a band, and then get charged for a meet and greet,” the singer explains. “He wonders why would anybody charge the fans for us to say thank you to them? Without the fans, we’d be out there delivering pizzas. So we do the complete opposite.”
So after having worked in so many groups with so many big names over the years – like Mötley Crüe bassist Nikki Sixx, and pioneering producers Eddie Kramer and Bob Rock, John Corabi says he always takes a little lesson or nugget of knowledge from each of his encounters, storing it up just for when he needs it. And he is an ever-learning student.
“You just need to retain tings and put them in the rolodex and pull them out when you need them,” he sums up. “You learn from everybody you work with. Otherwise, you’re a moron!”
The Dead Daisies play September 6 at the Scout Bar, 18307 Egret Bay Boulevard. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. and opening acts include Dizzy Reed’s Hookers ‘n Blow, Tame Fury, and Hogleg. $21-$25. 281-335-0002 or ScoutBar.com. For more on the Dead Daisies, visit DeadDaisies.com
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