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Stop And Smell The Daisies: An Exclusive Interview With JOHN CORABI And MARCO MENDOZA Of THE DEAD DAISIES

By Charlie Steffens aka Gnarly Charlie, Writer/Photographer
Thursday, September 15, 2016 @ 7:31 AM


"I told Marco that the last time he did drugs he should have stopped the one time before that."

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Interview Photos By Gnarly Charlie

THE DEAD DAISIES have been enjoying a banner season of touring in support of their recently released Make Some Noise album including a run as the direct support act for KISS on their recently completed "Freedom To Rock" tour. Singer John Corabi and bassist Marco Mendoza met with KNAC.COM at the Sunset Marquis Hotel in West Hollywood, California to talk about all things DAISIES over coffee and tea as the band preps for a headline engagement at the famed Whisky A Go-Go.

KNAC.COM: You’ve been touring extensively in support of the new album. How have the fans been receiving your shows overseas?

CORABI: Honestly, it’s been insane. It was funny. After we finished the record we went over and did a week… what was that thing called? Music, uh…

MENDOZA: The Musikmesse in Frankfurt.

CORABI: It was like their NAMM show, but it’s like a NAMM show on steroids. So we were the featured artist for the week. While we were there a promoter asked us to come back and do another show with the HOLLYWOOD VAMPIRES, a one-off. So we went over and we did that and then we immediately started rehearsing for the tour and we went back over to Europe and I think, God, we did every festival except for Download.

MENDOZA: Apparently we’re doing that next year. The big, big ones. You can only do these festivals; the Sweden Rock, the Download, you can only do them every other year. So we did it the year before and the response has been over the top. How can I say it? Much more than we expected it to be. Because we’re all veterans. We’ve been out here pounding the pavement for 85 years.

CORABI: With Marco it’s been since World War One, actually. It was infantry.

KNAC.COM: He was driving the Howitzer.

CORABI: He shot the guy who took the Howitzer.

(Laughs)

MENDOZA: So, you know, like we were talking earlier—you go out there—all of us are lucky enough to be involved with some pretty big bands, big projects, and all that. But you make a lot of mistakers along the way, and things don’t go the way they’re expected, la la la. Back then the record companies were a joke, with all due respect (laughs). It was like, “You’re on this week. Next week it’s off, you’re on your own. The roller-coaster. So there’s a little bit of experience in us, where I think, I can speak for all of us, we appreciate this opportunity.

CORABI: We’re kind of in control, though, too, of our own destiny.

MENDOZA: A little bit, yeah.

CORABI: We have our own imprint label and we just do the distribution thing. We do our own recording; we don’t have anybody looking over our shoulders. Like Marco was saying, they’re in this week, next week they’re out. You know what I mean? It’s like, everybody—record label, like the whole kit and caboodle, it’s all in-house, and it’s all-in, all the time.

MENDOZA: That helps a lot. Big commitments from everybody to take this album as far as we can. There’s already talks about the next one, which is amazing. It’s like a well-oiled machine, like I was telling you. A big part of it, I have to say, is cats like you—and I can’t say thank you enough, because you guys keep us out there. You keep us relevant and you keep the fans informed. We’re pitching all this stuff, video, audio…

CORABI: Blenders. (laughs) We got a George Foreman, DEAD DAISIES grill.

MENDOZA: Pretty soon. But everybody, if you really separate it, everybody’s got two or three books in them. There’s so much story and experience. I think we’re using that to our advantage now. We’re kind of learning. Every so often my ego gets in the way. “I don’t want to do this.” Then I go, “Just remember, bro, this is a great opportunity. Just keep your mouth shut. There’s a big team of people. Get along. Do what you need to do, and we’ll see how far we can take it.” So that’s where it is and it’s clickin’. The timing is perfect.

CORABI: In the short version: yes.

MENDOZA: Yes.

CORABI: (Laughs)

MENDOZA: There’s so much, man. The well is full. Short answer. Without sounding pretentious (points to Corabi), I’m a big fan of this cat and Doug (Aldrich). As a bass player, I couldn’t ask for a better drummer than Brian (Tichy). And then there’s David Lowy. He keeps everybody in check, brings a lot of great ideas, songwriting-wise. He’s a great guy… he respects everybody.

KNAC.COM: David has been the only constant in the band, right?

CORABI: You know, it’s funny. He started this thing in 2012 with another singer, Jon Stevens. If you really look at it, most bands—they get together, they lock themselves away, they write a bunch of songs, they go try to get a record deal. There’s steps that you take and then you get the deal, and then you do the record, and then you go on tour and you do all this other stuff. Jon and David kind of did it ass-backwards. So I know there’s been a bit of concern, or it was questionable, like how many members have been in the band or have been through the door. In all honesty, like I say, they did it ass-backwards. They went in, they wrote. They did a record with session guys, and then they went, “We need to put a band together. So there’s been some growing pains, obviously, in public that happened.

When Marco called me I was already out doing stuff with my solo band. I have my own thing that I do. We all do shows on our own as well. So I was out doing my thing and when Marco was telling me about it, as awesome as it sounded, I was a little apprehensive at first. I was kind of picking up steam with my solo thing—I don’t know if I want to do this. They said, “Just come out to L.A., meet everybody.” This whole thing is designed to be fun. Obviously, it’s a great band. All bullshit aside. It’s a great band. We have tons of material. But it’s almost like a boys club. But the thing that they said to me was that if there was ever any scheduling conflict, “We’ll figure it out. Don’t worry about it.”

MENDOZA: The DAISIES were opening up for BLACK STAR RIDERS, so I was trying to double dip.

CORABI: So to fill that tour we just called Darryl Jones. We all got a Rolodex of names and different friends that we’ve jammed with or hung out with, whatever. So a lot of the names on the list are just friends of ours who’ve filled in. Last year we did the Australian tour, and literally, like five days before the tour, Richard (Fortus) was riding his motorcycle and he went down and broke his collar bone and five ribs. So he couldn’t do the tour. So we called up Dave Leslie from BABY ANIMALS, and we said, “Hey, can you finish this tour?” And he’s like, “yeah, sure man.” So there’s misconception about, “Oh, my God. Every album they have like five new members or four new members, and it’s kind of been this building process to this point right now. This is THE DEAD DAISIES. Doug, Marco, Brian, David, and then myself. In all honesty it would still be Richard and Dizzy Reed if they didn’t get the phone call that they were doing the big GUNS N’ ROSES thing. David’s been trying to keep it together and keep something cohesive that would do multiple albums, multiple tours, and just roll forward. I think we’ve got it now.

MENDOZA: The word collective has been used by the press and with us at the beginning because that’s what it seemed like. Collective seems like, “Well, this is a bunch of cats getting together--the super band thing, the all-star thing. It’s a one-off. You do a run and that’s it. Then three, four years go by, you do another run.” But it’s not like that. This is solid.

KNAC.COM: It’s a band.

MENDOZA: Yeah. This is a band.

CORABI: You know, at the end of the day, there’s that old adage: the sum is greater than the parts. A lot of people want to know why we’re not doing any of his material or my material, Doug’s, Brian’s, whatever. DEAD DAISIES is the DEAD DAISIES. It’s separate and devoid of everything else that we do. THE DEAD DAISIES—that’s the sum. What was the question?

(Laughs)

MENDOZA: Just to back up what he said, we actually saw that happening, the more interviews we would do. “So what’s going on? Is this a one-off, a bunch of guys touring out there and doing dates?” So, last October on the KISS Kruise, we called a meeting so we could address all these things. That’s when Richard and Dizzy said, “We’re not sure. We’re talking to Axl, so we can’t do the commitment now. There was already a studio booked, a possible tour with KISS that was almost in the can, WHITESNAKE. Tons of stuff happening. Europe. So we had to have cats that are willing to let go and make this priority number one. And that’s what happened.

CORABI: We’re still doing our own things. Like, before we started this tour, Marco did a huge tour in Europe with his solo trip. When I get home on the 19th, I’m just going to chill for three days and then I’m coming back out here with my solo band and I’m doing the Monsters Of Rock Cruise. Every time we have a break I have shows with my own thing. Like, January and part of February we have off, so I’m going to book my solo band. With this thing it’s been out of control. It’s definitely taking off and everybody seems like they’re into it.

MENDOZA: I think what happened too, Charlie, is the names—again, without sounding pretentious--the names, man, draw attention. ‘Oh, that’s John and Doug, and Brian… Let’s check it out.” So the doors open and now we have to deliver. All of us have played with a lot of bands. We know how to entertain. We know how to have fun onstage. The good singing, the songwriting, the hooks, the power-riffs—we kind of have the formula. So were tapping into that.

CORABI: My personal beauty and physique…

KNAC.COM: Absolutely. The hair.

MENDOZA: And I’m going… (points to his chest)

KNAC.COM: No manziers. Topless?

MENDOZA: Yeah, I’m going commando. (laughs)

CORABI: I’m throwing up in my mouth right now.

(Laughs)

KNAC.COM: The album really does seem to cross all generations. That’s kind of unusual these days.

MENDOZA: Well, three generations with KISS, man.

CORABI: Many generations with KISS, but the other thing too, I’ve been noticing, even at our shows, we do a meet and greet after each show that we do. Like, immediately offstage, dry off—we sign the photos and some of my old records, his records, whatever. New records. I gotta be honest with you, man. There’s a lot of, like, 17, 18-year old kids going, “Fuck. You guys are awesome.” Especially in Europe. I think there’s kind of a resurgence of classic rock. You look at some of the bands now that are just killing it in Europe. RIVAL SONS, THE ANSWER, who we’re touring with in November and December. There’s a band called INGLORIOUS that we just did a bunch of shows with. It’s a new band out of the UK.

MENDOZA: INGLORIOUS. If you close your eyes, it’s like PURPLE, WHITESNAKE. Frickin’ all of that. ZEPPELIN. All of that joined together. So people dig it.

CORABI: So all these younger bands are listening to the classic rock stuff and translating it their way. Unfortunately, they still haven’t quite cracked the surface in America. But everywhere else it’s being embraced by these young kids. My son is one of them. My son is my drummer in my solo band.

MENDOZA: Great drummer, by the way.

CORABI: He’ll go online—he’s like, “Oh, my God, Dad. This guy, Ian Paice. Unbelievable drummer!” I’m like, “Dude. Keep lookin’. There’s John Bonham, Tommy Aldridge, all these cats. Don Brewer. Michael Derosier. You could go on and on and on.” So I think with these newer, younger bands coming out and killing it, and then the whole YouTube, Google. You know what I mean? All these younger kids now are really starting to get into the classic thing. So then they see us, and we’re just doing what we do. There’s no real format here. We just love the music we love. The ZEPPELINS, the QUEENS, all that stuff.

MENDOZA: GRAND FUNK. CCR.

CORABI: We’re doing all this stuff and they’re coming to see us and they’re like, “Fuck, this is awesome. It’s great. It’s killer.”

KNAC.COM: John, is that a nod to Ian Gillan I hear when you sing “Mainline”? Good stuff.

CORABI: You know, it’s funny. I’ve had… let’s call a spade a spade. I’ve had some people listen to “Last Time I Saw The Sun” and they go, “Dude, it’s total AEROSMITH. You’ve got this AEROSMITH vibe in your voice, or Ian Gillan. David Coverdale. But honestly, this is all the shit I grew up listening to. On the last record we did a song called “Sleep”, and it was kind of like BEATLESDavid Lowy as well. Sitting in your room, with a little stereo, listening to records, trying to figure things out. This is all the shit we grew up listening to.

MENDOZA: We’re having a good time waving the classic rock flag. And we’re saying to the new generation, especially the new generation. We’re all coming from that era, the 70s and 80s. We’re trying to represent. There’s a lot of bands that they’ll never get to see live. Us, either. So the kids? Forget it. They’ll never see…

CORABI: GRAND FUNK

MENDOZA: Yeah, the GRAND FUNKs, the ZEPPELINs. So that’s what we’re doing. We believe in it. There’s a market for it. The reception has been over the top, so why not? Let’s go. Me, I never finished high school. This is a lifetime gig.

CORABI: You do not want to see him with a power tool in one of his hands.

(Laughs)

MENDOZA: Exactly. With a name like Mendoza, we do lawns and we do blowers. Great dishwasher.

CORABI: Also, he’s a burro breeder. He’s cornering the market on that one.

MENDOZA: (Laughs) So, for me personally, it’s really great to hook up with these bunch of guys and have an opportunity to make a difference out there.

KNAC.COM: “Last Time I Saw the Sun” is a personal favorite of mine. I heard the title was Brian’s idea from a time when you guys were out all night.

MENDOZA: Brian and Dizzy.

CORABI: Last year, I don’t know where the hell we were—somewhere in Europe and the bus was pulled over. I think we were just finishing a gig and we were loading up. Brian, Dizzy, and I were standing on the side of the bus, having a cigarette, and Brian said something like, “Fuck, man. I can’t remember the last time I saw the sun.” And Dizzy went, “Dude. That’s a great title.” It’s a great track. It literally tells the story of what we do on the road.

KNAC.COM: “Song And A Prayer” has a message that seems to be pointed at the youth.

CORABI: Lyrically there’s two different stories in it. There’s the first verse that basically explains a kid, basically a good kid, a little rough around the edges, looking for a way out, and he signs his name on the dotted line and he goes off to war. I don’t say whether or not he was killed or whatever. But the whole concept of the song is basically not just about the kid, or the girl that’s missing in the second verse. Like, you don’t know whether she’s died or she just changed her name and went into Pornville or whatever. It’s about them. But it’s also about the people that are left behind. The mom, the dad, the family, the friends. It’s basically about people who are being swallowed up, if you will, by life. It’s a song and a prayer for them and it’s a song and a prayer for the people that are left behind.

MENDOZA: The story we’ve all heard, time and time again.

KNAC.COM: To me it shows that you have a bleeding heart for humanity.

CORABI: You know what? Honestly, a lot of people ask me what I write the lyrics about. I’m kind of an idiot. In every hotel, around the world, I know on every TV somewhere, there’s CNN. And I just kind of leave it on. It’s background news and I’ll sit and watch it for a minute, and you can’t help but be influenced by things that we’re bombarded with every day. At the same time I don’t want to do anything where the audience will listen to the record and go, “Holy fuck. Like, I want to kill myself after hearing this. So I do try to change it from song to song, like we were saying. The “Last Time I Saw The Sun” is about our life on the road. “A Song And A Prayer” is about what I just said. Now, “Long Way To Go” is kind of in the same ballpark. It’s talking about the things we saw in Paris. We just saw it again in Orlando. The world is changing.

MENDOZA: "You And I" from the last album.

CORABI: “You And I” from the last record. So I do try to make a statement every now and then but I don’t want to beat everybody over the head with a political club. So I do try to make sure that I’m not overstaying my welcome on the whole record—maybe just drop a tidbit in here—and then, ‘Okay, let’s talk about the band, chicks, life…

MENDOZA: Harleys

CORABI: Harleys.

MENDOZA: Just staying relevant. I think that’s the bottom line. Again, without sounding pretentious, as two artists, that’s the world we live in. I’ve always been that cat, “I don’t want to get involved with politics,” but if you really look at the state of things today, how can you not hurt? Look what went down in Paris. We were there a week before.

CORABI: A week after.

MENDOZA: A week after, but the week before we were on our way there and we almost pulled the plug. It was like everybody else. “Do we pull the plug, or do we grab our balls and show up and play for the audience, which they need?” In my opinion, you don’t want to react to these cats, man?

CORABI: Because they win.

MENDOZA: That’s what they want. To be paralyzed with fear.

CORABI: I have to tell you. One of the most amazing things I ever got, ever, in the thirty or so years that I’ve been doing this, I got a letter from a fan. I think I forwarded it to everybody. I got a letter about a week after we did our show in Paris. It was completely sold out. We had the greatest response from everybody—literally a week or 10 days after the Bataclan thing, and they were so overwhelmed. I was literally looking at people in the audience crying. It was unbelievable. But I got a letter from this kid, this guy, I don’t know how old he was, but he just wrote me this very sincere letter and said, “Man, I really want to go on the record and thank you guys for coming to Paris and playing. Everybody else canceled.” And he goes, “I give you guys kudos for that. It took balls.” And then, as I’m reading this letter, he’s thanking me for being, like, his hero. Then he starts to explain that we really needed this. “I especially needed this. I was one of the hostages at the Bataclan.” He was locked in the building while all the shit was going on. And I wrote him back. I’m like, “Dude, are you fucking kidding me? You’re my hero. The fact that you can fucking leave the house a week or so after that happened takes fuckin’ balls of steel.” That was probably the greatest e-mail I ever received from anybody.

MENDOZA: Yet, another example, again, where music does make the difference. I’m like everybody. We get jaded. It’s all about more. The venues aren’t big enough. The hotels suck. The transportation sucks.

KNAC.COM: The catering sucks. But it’s almost like you guys are going back to your roots and grinding it out, being road dogs again. With maybe a little bit of posh accommodations here and there.

CORABI: I know everybody was down on Gene Simmons a couple years ago for saying Rock is Dead. I can’t totally speak for Gene but I can call the guy a friend now. I’ve known Gene now since 1987. I think he’s brilliant. In his own way—he’s funny about it. He’ll take the piss out of himself before you will. Do you know what I mean? But at the end of the day what I think he was talking about was not that the fans are gone. I think the fans are still there. We’ve been seeing it. Like, we’ve been going to festivals and we’ve been doing shows with KISS. And on a consistent, steady basis, there’s been… if it’s an 8,000-seater, there’s been 8,000 fans. If it’s 10,000 seats, there’s been 10,000 fans. We did a fucking festival in Poland that’s called Woodstock. It’s a free festival. It’s a charity. And, over the course of a weekend they had 750,000 fans there. The “Join Together” video was filmed there. I guess what I’m getting at is the fans are still there, so the rock and roll is not dead. It’s not dead.

The medium of getting our music to those people is gone.

MENDOZA: The industry. The record company.

CORABI: So you have to learn to adapt. That’s why the social media, the touring… It’s kind of back to the way it was with bands like AEROSMITH. My favorite band ever. One of ‘em. Those bands would do a record, they’d put the record out, and they would just go out and they would tour. And that’s what we’ve been doing for the last two years since I’ve been in the band.

MENDOZA: Solid.

CORABI: We’ve just been going, going, going. We put a record out and we just go out, we hit everybody. We’re doing morning shows, kissing babies. Interviews. All the stuff. So it’s kind of gone back to a little old school that way. But you don’t have the record labels anymore. You don’t have MTV. Most radio, especially here in America. Some radio stations are playing us, but it’s hard for a radio station to take a band like us seriously. They just don’t do it anymore. So you have to figure out, “Alright, what do we do now?” Well, we don’t do a video for MTV. We put it on YouTube, and we just bombard every social media outlet and go, “Hey, check out the new video over there.” It’s working for us. We did “Midnight Moses”. I just looked at “Midnight Moses” and it’s got like a half a million views. And we did “Long Way To Go” and I think we got a couple hundred thousand views on that. It’s building. I think the method is dead, but the rock and roll isn’t. It’s still there.

KNAC.COM: I see it. I’m glad you clarified that about Gene. I love KISS.

MENDOZA: They really set a precedent for a lot of bands.

CORABI: I’ll tell you this right now: since I’ve been in the band we’ve done three tours with them. We did Europe, we did Australia, and we just did the States.

KNAC.COM: And you’re doing the cruises.

CORABI: And we’re doing the cruises. But I’ll tell you this right now--it’s been about a year and a half that we’ve done three tours with KISS. On all three tours was a different stage, different lighting rig, different set list, different moves, different pyro whatever, and…

MENDOZA: Different shows.

CORABI: It’s a different show. I just sit there and I go, “Fuck. These guys deliver. I don’t know how old Gene and Paul are, but Gene is walking around onstage, at this age, whatever it may be… He’s walking around with what probably might be about 30 extra, 40 extra pounds of shit on. Those boots that he wears are 10 pounds. The same with Paul (Stanley). Paul’s boots are probably eight or 10 pounds. And that motherfucker doesn’t stop the whole time he’s onstage. Say whatever you want about the boys. Say whatever. But at the end of the day they deliver a great show. They’ve figured it out. They’ve got it. There’s no tapes running. It’s just them.

Me, personally, I saw them when they’re album came out on September 10th, 1975. That’s when the Alive! record came out. On that tour I saw them at the Philadelphia Convention Center. And I just sit there and I go, “These motherfuckers have been doing this for 40 fucking years.” And they’re still selling out. They have great songs. Great show. Now it’s weird. I’m seeing these little kids come in with the KISS makeup on and that kid—he’s in for life. I gotta bow to that. That’s pretty fuckin’ impressive. But the fact of it is too, that they don’t rest on their laurels, either. The fact that we’ve done three tours with them—full tours—in a year and a half—and every tour had a different stage layout… that’s a huge financial undertaking. But they fuckin’ do it.

In a million years, when I was fourteen of fifteen-years old, I knew I wanted to do this. I knew I wanted to do what I’ve been doing. But the fact of the matter is that I was sitting there looking at KISS… if you would have told me when I was fourteen that I’d be touring with them and be friends with them, I’d be like, “Fuck! Can’t wait!” (laughs). It’s still very surreal. We’re fans. We’re still fans, man. Brian will come to me, “Dude. Check this out.” Pop up YouTube and it’s the 1972 Shea Stadium GRAND FUNK RAILROAD concert, in its entirety. We’re constantly doing it to each other. This whole thing—it’s been awesome. The fact that we’re being recognized and accepted by a lot of people… the whole thing is very surreal for me sometimes.

KNAC.COM: Is the Whisky show on Thursday night going to be a star-studded affair?

MENDOZA: We decided that we wanted to go out there and do our show. On our own. Did we think about it? We all have a lot of friends. On the bass chair, there’s going to be four or five I would love—me personally—to get up and play a song or whatever. But then it turns into something else. The purpose is to showcase what we’re doing, and why not do it at the Whisky? But we’re also going to be shooting video so that’s another piece of business that we’re doing. We wanted to just get up there and do our thing and that’s it. And have the fans in L.A. say, “Wow. These cats are cool.”

I will say this, a little note: I had been trying to get the boys to do “Tiptoe Through The Tulips” by Tiny Tim and it didn’t fly. (Marco sings Tiptoe through the tulips…)

CORABI: You just had to ruin the whole fuckin’ interview.

(Laughs)

KNAC.COM: What was in that coffee?

CORABI: I told Marco that the last time he did drugs he should have stopped the one time before that.

(Laughs)


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