Former Motley Crue vocalist John Corabi could easily coast on his past glories. Instead, he's been very intentional in recent years about the things that he does career-wise. "I'm trying to be my own person, not the guy that sang with Motley 30 years ago," he tells UCR.

The same philosophy carries over to the Dead Daisies, the all-star collective that Corabi been part of off and on for close to a decade. As he details in the below conversation, while they could easily lean on music from the work they've all done collectively with bands and artists like Whitesnake, Ozzy Osbourne, Ratt, Dio and others, instead, they let the group's music speak on its own terms.

When you see the Daisies play live, you can understand why they've chosen that path. They'll throw in the occasional cover song instead. "We're just showing people some of the songs we grew up listening to," Corabi explains. Their own catalog, now seven albums deep, has also spawned a number of songs that are set list staples. Tracks like "Mexico" and "Long Way to Go" have road rock hooks that make them instantly memorable.

Recently during a brief U.S. tour building anticipation for their forthcoming album Light 'Em Up, due this fall, Corabi shared some further insight with Ultimate Classic Rock Nights host Matt Wardlaw regarding their journey. He also had a choice memory about an early encounter with Gene Simmons of Kiss.

While the Dead Daisies is an all-star band on paper, I like that you guys treat it as its own thing.
I mean, it kind of is. You know what I mean? I’ve had fans come up to me and ask, “Why are you not playing ‘Man in the Moon’ or ‘Hooligan’s Holiday’?” I tell them, “If you want to see that, come and see me when I do solo shows. This is the Dead Daisies. One has nothing to do with the other. It is what it is. But I mean, it’s funny, it wasn’t that long ago that Doug [Aldrich] and I were talking. We’re like, “Man, it’s so weird. We’ve got enough original material that we could literally go out and do a three hour set.” It’s crazy to think that we’ve done like seven records now. But yeah, we leave that stuff [material from other bands] off of the table. It’s not about the Scream, Motley or Whitesnake. Yeah, it’s great that we played with those bands, but right now, we’re just trying to get this thing off the ground, so it’s all about the Daisies.

But the band also nods to its influences. I was listening to the live album today. I love how you'll throw in something like "Join Together" by the Who.
Do you know what the best part of it is? In all actuality, we’re still fans. That’s our wheelhouse and that’s what we grew up with. We sometimes sit around a bar over a whiskey or a Guinness or whatever and talk about [the concerts we saw]. “Oh man, it was great in ‘84, I went and saw Van Halen at the Spectrum.” We talk about all of that. We’re very blessed to do what we do for a living, but it’s kind of geeky. We’re all like Rain Man with music. I grew up on Foghat, Humble Pie, Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie. That’s my stuff. We’re just showing people some of the songs that we grew up listening to and some of the things that we loved when we were younger. We did “Join Together,” “Fortunate Son” [by Creedence Clearwater Revival], “Midnight Moses” [by the Sensational Alex Harvey Band] and “Evil,” which is an old blues song, but Cactus did it in the ‘70s. This is all shit we grew up listening to.

Listen to the Dead Daisies Perform 'Join Together'

 

What brought you back around to the band?
I left for a couple of years, obviously. They got Glenn Hughes and did a couple of great records with Glenn and had a lot of fun. Glenn went back to do [his] Deep Purple [tribute] shows and Black Country Communion. His other commitments stepped in. [Band founder and guitarist] David [Lowy] called me back and said, “Hey dude, the door is open, do you want to come back?” So I know a lot of people don’t understand it, but it’s light. It’s great, The band has an identity, the Dead Daisies -- and we have a sound. But I think he’s got it kind of set up like Coca-Cola. It doesn’t matter who the CEO is, the recipe’s going to stay the same. It’s kind of an odd thing, but it works. And it gives us freedom too. If I just said to David, “Hey dude, I don’t know if I can do August,” he'd say, “Okay, thanks for the heads up. Are you going to come back in September?” “Yeah.” “Okay, well we’ll just get somebody to take your place.” It’s kind of easy that way.

I saw one of the more unique Dead Daisies concerts. You guys were playing an arena in Toledo in 2016, opening for Kiss. The Daisies got pulled off stage because of a tornado that was coming through.
That was odd. You know, it was funny, David was really bummed out. He goes, “Man, I don’t get it, why did we have to stop playing?” They didn’t want us to leave the building, they just wanted us to stop playing. They were making announcements and I couldn’t hear them. But apparently, people were walking in the concourses and they were afraid that the tornado [might cause injuries] because of the glass in the concourse. So they were asking people to go back to their seats. So they pulled us [off stage] so they could make the announcement to get everybody to go back to their seats and get out of the concourse. I said, “Well, I get it. Welcome to the Midwest of America. Tornadoes…I live in Nashville, so we get this all of the time.” But he was kind of bummed out that we had to clip that show. It’s funny, I just met somebody else a couple of days ago that they were at that same show. I remember that well. [Laughs]

When you and I spoke that year, you told me Gene Simmons wanted to sign one of your early bands.
The band that I was in when I moved from Philadelphia to L.A. was called Angora. Gene still comes up to me and he’ll go, “Mr. Corabi, Angora? Worst band name in history.” [Laughs] He loved the band, but hated the name. He goes, “I’m going to change your name. We’re going to have to call you guys Eight Ball.” I’m thinking [he’s talking about] the drug. “Wait, Gene, Eight Ball? Like a pool thing?” He goes, “No, four guys, two balls each. Eight Ball.” So I go, “Okay, whatever!” But he just saw the band and he loved what we did. Gene Simmons could walk in this room right now -- I wrote a song called “Hey Operator” -- and still to this day, he will tell me, “‘Hey Operator,’ great song. Just an amazing song.” He loved the band and he started Simmons Records and wanted to sign us. Unfortunately, something happened that soured him with our manager.

Watch the Dead Daisies' Video For 'Light 'Em Up'

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Gallery Credit: Matthew Wilkening, except as noted below.

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