I talked to John Corabi a year or so ago and he was still in the stages of recording his next album but had mentioned that it was going very well and would be an unplugged album representing all phases of his career. Since then, John has toured the world, finished that album and released it to overwhelmingly positive reviews. It’s no wonder why as the album retains a lot of the loose and fun elements of his shows. In other words, it’s a studio acoustic album which amazingly captures all the spontaneity which has made Crabby such a confident and capable live performer for over three decades. John can talk and talk about pretty much any subject and we did just that! We also took a few questions from readers of LRI and the Motley Crue Shout Forum as well….Read on….
Legendary Rock Interviews: How was your 2012 John?
John Corabi: The beginning of the year was a little slow and I was doing some stuff here and there but now that’s all changed since I turned the record in. I’ve just been slammed with stuff, as much as I were busier at the beginning of the year I have been whining for a day off here in the last quarter (laughs). I had a deal with a small indie label here in Nashville and then Universal got involved and they wanted to put it out and wanted me to tour and then release the album in November. I had the thing done and just wanted to put the fucking thing out, I was getting nervous because I always want to have the CDs with me when I do these shows but they wanted me to put this tour together so I did. I put a tour together in Europe, 32 shows in 35 days and literally about two weeks before the tour was set to start I finally got word that Universal Europe pulled on doing the album, which, in all fairness seemed to piss off the guys at Universal here in the states.
LRI: So the tour went well and you got to see some great places?
John Corabi: Yeah, although, I always say this, I like to travel but I don’t see much. A lot of fans and friends even just are like “Dude, that’s so goddamn cool, you get to go to France and Italy and Prague and all that shit, what’s that like???” and I’m always like “I don’t know but the hotel rooms are fuckin awesome” (laughs). That’s all you see you know? You don’t really get to go out. The last tour I did went to fourteen different countries and I literally had one day off in my tour manager’s hometown. I flew from Nashville to Geneva, Switzerland, we had some lunch, we got completely inebriated on all different types of wine. We woke up, got on a train, took the train thru the Alps and my first show was in Pisa, Italy. From that point on it basically goes like this….you check into your hotel, you go to soundcheck, back to the hotel, eat dinner, go to the gig, play the gig, go to the bar and sign and take photos with everybody and then you go back to the hotel at 1 or 2 in the morning and you get a few hours sleep because you’re up at six in the morning in order to catch a flight at nine or ten. So you get up, have some coffee and repeat that same process every day for the next 33 days. So, to be truthful, I really didn’t see shit.
LRI: Are you surprised at how well your material translates overseas?
John Corabi: It still amazes me, I mean to be fair, most of these countries second language is English but still, it’s amazing to go there and have them try to talk to you because they know your stuff and wanna communicate that to you. Their English is there, but still it’s minimal and you struggle to understand them, so it is so amazing to me that I can walk onstage and sit down with an acoustic guitar and a microphone and play a song that they all know and look out and see them all singing. They sing every word, perfectly, word for word. That still freaks me out and it also freaks me out that there are people in Italy, Russia and all these places who actually know who I am (laughs). That’s even more of a trip.
LRI: I think your album “Unplugged” is so amazing because a lot of times when people do the acoustic thing it’s generally done live which can be hit and miss sonically. This is your debut solo album, it’s acoustic with all of the percussion and all that flavor and it’s almost got a loose, retro “Rubber Soul” feel to it. Was it always your idea to capture this in the studio?
John Corabi: I did the album right before I went out to do the Cinderella tour which went over really, really well. It did a lot better than everybody thought it would but I have a great band, a really, really great band. My guitar player D.A. is a fucking maniac when it comes to harmonies and everyone in the band has a lead vocalist quality so we knew we could put all that into the album. I really just wanted to strip all of these songs down to the bare minimum which is why we didn’t even use drums, we just used percussion. You can’t get any more stripped down than what we did you know? (laughs). Unless it was just me with an acoustic guitar singing into a microphone but I didn’t want to do that because I really wanted to put the songs across with all of those harmonies and have people really be able to sit down and really listen to the lyrics and really grasp the melody and performances of everybody involved. To be honest with you, my guitar player is a producer, my drummer is a producer and we just set up shop in my house and said “Fuck it, let’s knock this out” and I recorded the whole thing in my living room in about a week.
LRI: Wow. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard an artist say they’ve recorded like that but this is the best sounding result I’ve ever heard. That’s amazing.
John Corabi: Thank you. It came out great, we did a lot of the rhythm tracks live and reworked some of the solos if we didn’t like em, we’d go back in and take another shot at em.
LRI: It sounds so full, even as an MP3. I’d love to buy it on vinyl.
John Corabi: I’m hoping we can do that. I already talked to my manager about it, especially after going to Europe because there are still a lot of people over there who collect vinyl. I would really like to do that, even if it’s a very limited run of a few hundred. It’s not just Europe either like you said, I have friends here in Nashville who are into that. My girlfriend has a hair salon and one of the hairdresser girls is all tatted up and into rock and roll and she has an iPod and all that and a bunch of Mp3s but she collects a lot of classic rock on vinyl. I’d like to do a run just for the fuck all of having it, just to see how it does.
LRI: Do you have a turntable?
John Corabi: No, unfortunately I don’t. As much as I love vinyl and love the way it sounds compared to mp3 I don’t anymore. I used to have so much vinyl too, tons and tons of it when I was married to my first wife, we had boxes and boxes and boxes of vinyl. I lost my virginity to side four of “Song Remains The Same” and we had all of those and just saved them all. For the life of me, I don’t even know what happened to them. I ended up going out and buying them all on CD, the whole Grand Funk, Beatles, Aerosmith catalogs and then I spent like a week transferring everything from my CDs to my computer and saving it that way. I don’t even have my CD’s anymore, I just left them with my last girlfriend. I’m like “Here, just take em, I don’t need em, I got everything on my hard drive, I’ll talk to you later, bye” (laughs). Someone told me that like 70 or 80 percent of all music sales are through downloads on itunes and Amazon and hard copy is such a small portion of it all. The hard copy that does sell isn’t being purchased by Amazon or Best Buy in the amounts they used to either, they’ll order like 50 or 100 and then sell them and then order more, sell those and then order more. My label guy Joe is always bitching about it (laughs).
LRI: I think this album would be a perfect introduction to people who’ve never even heard you with The Scream or Motley or Union. Does that sit well with you that this could be someone’s first exposure to your stuff?
John Corabi: Yeah, and I’m not stupid either, like I have always wanted to do an acoustic record and for the most part anyone could tell you, Bruce (Kulick) could even tell you that I rarely pull my electric guitars out at home. I have acoustic guitars all over my house so any song I’ve written whether its “Hooligan’s Holiday” or any of the new stuff it’s always started from an acoustic guitar for me. For that reason, I’ve always wanted to do a record like this, full on acoustic and just get it out of my system but the other thing too is that I am in a weird position as an artist where there are a lot of people who have heard my name or seen my face but never heard my music. I knew that if I did do an acoustic record there was a chance that a person who may not follow or buy a Motley record or a Union album might hear one of the songs on this album and think “Hey, what is this” and it’s like “Oh, this is that John Corabi guy who used to be in Motley or The Scream or whatever” and they might have never heard of me before because they didn’t care about those bands but hear these recordings and think “Wow, this is really good”.
LRI: You’re not boxed into a heavy metal/hard rock format by any means here. There’s tons and tons of melody and emotion on this album.
John Corabi: Well, I just write the way I write but again, I always write in that stripped down format to begin with, even going way back. I would come up with a melody and a part on an acoustic guitar and maybe a catch phrase or something and then bring it to the band. My influences are all over the map too, I love The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, the blues. I can’t say I have an encyclopedia type knowledge of the blues but I like it just like I like Motown, Prince and all kinds of stuff. The one thing is, I like stuff that has a great melody in it, something that really gives you goose pimples and makes you feel like “Man that’s a great fuckin song!”.
LRI: Have you EVER felt boxed in by the hard rock/metal genre when writing, even going back?
John Corabi: Nope. I don’t think about it until after the fact and the bottom line of it is that I can honestly tell you when I wrote the “Let It Scream” record we just wrote whatever gave us a hard-on. We figured we would put the record out and people would either dig it or they wouldn’t. It was the same with Motley. Motley never once sat down and said “Well, the music scene’s changing, we need to make this record a little darker or heavier musically or lyrically”. It was just four guys sitting in a room like a bunch of 16 year olds in a garage and jamming on riffs. Shit just went. Tommy used to say “If it doesn’t knock your dick in the dirt don’t even bother putting it on the record”. That was all we did. It doesn’t bother me when someone is totally unaware of anything I’ve ever been in or done and says “Hey man I really like your music, I’ve never heard of you”, that doesn’t bother me at all. What I can tell you is, the thing that bothers me more than anything is when you do a record, and I’ve had this happen by the way, you do a record and you’re touring and people come up to you and go “Man, dude you are one of my favorite fucking singers what have you been doing since Motley?”. Okay, that bothers me. I would rather have someone come up and say “Hey dude, I bought your record and I fuckin hated it” then have them not even be aware that I had a record out.
LRI: Or five!
John Corabi: Yeah!….That’s the thing that drives me absolutely crazy and there’s a reason why if you don’t mind me going on a bit…
LRI: No, go right ahead.
John Corabi: Okay, the reason that pisses me off so much is there was a time where Bruce and I were doing the “Blue Room” album and we finished the tracks and rough mixes and sent them to one of our managers, a guy named Larry Mazer. Larry heard three or four songs from the record and was like “I fucking love this record, it’s amazing” based on those tracks he heard. Now the deal that we had with Spitfire Records was that they would put our records out and basically man the ship until we got to a certain level of sales. If we sold 50,000 records then Atlantic Records had the option, as Spitfire’s distributor, to pick it up and run with the ball. Larry decides that he would try to bypass that whole “50,000” sales figure and takes our CD, unlabeled, just a blank CD to a guy who I’m not a big fan of but will remain nameless at Atlantic. Larry says to the guy “Hey, just listen to this band and let me know what you think.” The guy from Atlantic was like “Wow, I love this, this is fuckin great shit, who is this??” and Larry was like “No, nope, I just wanted to have you hear it and see whether it was worth me working with this band”. Basically, he was teasing the guy to get him excited about this unknown band and this went on for about ten days. The guy was calling our manager every day like “I gotta have that band, I gotta know more about that band” and basically after a while Larry caved and he said, “It’s Union, it’s Bruce Kulick from KISS and John Corabi from Motley Crue”. Now, after ten days of blowing smoke up Larry’s ass and all this other shit the Atlantic guy hears it’s us and his opinion does a complete 180 and his response to Larry was “Well, that sucks. I really like that band but I will never sign a band that features guys who are older than me”. That story ties back to what we were talking about when people say “What have you done since Motley Crue?” because it proves the point. It is damn near impossible for guys like me, or Bruce or Tracii Guns or Warrant or any of a long list of bands to get a major label or a major corporation like big radio or big media to pay attention to our shit and let people even KNOW that we are putting records out. So what you have to do is just basically pray that all the stars line up just right, you do a bunch of interviews for internet sites and internet radio, you promote however you can and you just hope that the entire world is watching or listening to that interview that day. It can be frustrating because at the end of the day I am just an entertainer, I sing my songs and play my guitar and drink my tequila and I’m the town jester just trying to show everyone a good time. I was not aware that there was an age limit on that. The artists I grew up with, Paul McCartney, The Who and a shitload of other bands didn’t get that memo to retire either.
LRI: As long as an artist can come out with new material that bends my ear I could give a fuck if they’re a hundred. You have stuff on this album dating back to your Philly metal band Angora all the way on down but to me the best thing about your new album is actually the new material, particularly the song “Crash”. Was it a question of how much new material do you release here and how much do you hold out for the next studio album?
John Corabi: No, not really. I just wanted a balance. I’m also a firm believer too that people would want to hear a lot of that familiar material they like but with an acoustic twist. I also wanted to give everyone a taste of a little bit of all my catalog and what these songs could’ve sounded like had they been released in their original acoustic format and throw in 4 or 5 songs I knew no one had heard. “Crash” was a relatively new song that I hadn’t released but even the Angora song, “Are You Waiting” is a song that had never been out. I always thought it was a great song but I was the only person who thought it was a great song. I tried pitching that song to “The Scream” . They didn’t like it. I tried pitching it to Union, nobody liked it and it just never fuckin went anywhere but still I just always though that it was a great song. I kind of forgot about it for a while until I thought about this record and thought hey, wait a minute, now I can do “Are You Waiting”!! I could pull a “Hey, it’s my album, I’ll do what I want thing” but I want my band to be enthusiastic so I showed it to the guys and for the first time they said “This is a great song, let’s do it”.
LRI: It sounds like you are real happy with your current band, was that something that you were real aware of based on other less than ideal situations in other bands?
John Corabi: Yes, I am, really that sort of explains some of the delay in me putting together another project after Union and all this shit. At this point, I might look at things on a grand scale, some may say delusional, but at this stage I don’t wanna go on tour with a bunch of people I don’t like. I don’t wanna spend that much time and be on a bus with guys I don’t like. I’ve done that before, I’ve sat on a bus for months and months and months on end where the entire time you are just thinking “Aww fuck…just kill me, these people are fucking driving me nuts” and it is not fun. When it’s not fun I don’t wanna do it and right now it is fun because I have great guys who are great players who I can hang with and we all enjoy playing. I have D.a. Karkos on guitar, Topher Nolen on bass and Cheney Brannon on drums and I’d like to have it almost become like a Tom Petty or Springsteen thing where you might know the name of the lead singer but eventually you get to know all these great people in their band because they’ve kept that band together so long. I want to keep this band going so that although it’s the John Corabi band or John Corabi and the Heartbreakers or whatever (laughs) you know the guys in my band. It’s been a long process of trying to find the right people for this band and it sucks like people find out about me touring over in Europe or whatever and I’m like “Man, you should bring my band over, they’re chompin at the bit” and they’re like “Well, who’s in your band?” because everybody wants the all-star band or whatever because it’s easy to sell and it will guarantee them ticket sales. My thing is, I’m not into that, so I’ll take the long way around and go it alone or it’s gonna be my band. Having a great group of guys is priceless. I’ve been in Nashville for about five years and I’ve been trying to put a band together since I was in L.A. It’s finally settling in, I’d still like to find a second guitar player so I could do a little bit more of the frontman thing but this is working out well where it’s not just the guys getting along with me but also with each other.
LRI: You’ve always said that when you were in Motley it was a real tight knit family situation and it was real. Does that ever dawn on you how difficult it is to maintain that when life events happen to you or one of the other guys in Crue like Tommy’s mom passing or Nikki getting engaged or anything?
John Corabi: Yeah, and if I can be honest, one of the things that disturbs me is like, when I was in Motley, it doesn’t seem like it was a long time in the grand scheme but I spent five years of my life with those guys, almost every day. You start looking at these guys a year or so in like “Wow, Tommy Lee is one of my best friends, Nikki Sixx is one of my best friends, Mick Mars is one of my best friends” and then all of a sudden it’s like….you know, cut off…that was…that was a really hard thing for me to deal with. It’s like I didn’t just lose the gig but I lost my friends too. It’s just weird. It is a very weird fuckin business. It’s so funny to people when I say this but things are cool between Vince and I. If I ran into Vince tonight he would come over and give me a hug and we would sit down and drink together all night. We get along great. But, you know, it’s the same with Nikki if he and I were to see each other. He’d walk up and give me a hug and say “Hey Crab how ya doin….blah, blah” same with Mick, Tommy I just heard from not too long ago. It’s not so much that there’s no friendship at all there it’s just not at all what it once was and that is kind of disturbing
- Mr. Nikki Sixx and Mr. John Corabi
LRI: I wanted to get an update on how your book project is coming along before I get to the reader questions.
John Corabi: The book. Dude, I am such a fuckin procrastinator sometimes like I’ll start reading something and I’ll pick it to shreds. I’m my own worst enemy because I will read something and be like “Oh, it’s not good enough” or then I will start thinking about that story of the Atlantic Records guy I told you and second guess myself like “Well, I don’t know, does anybody really care about the autobiography of John Corabi? Is anybody really gonna even wanna read this thing”. It’s been finished like four times already but I keep finding shit I wanna add to it. I have all these papers and all of these transcripts and people who were working on it and my girlfriend just says to me “You’re such a good storyteller, why don’t you just tell the story yourself, write it yourself, in your own words and just have someone edit it or correct the grammar and little things?” That actually sounds like a good idea to me so I have started doing that but I am probably the slowest typist on the planet so I’m gonna try this Dragon speech recognition software and give it a shot.
LRI: Okay….Alyssa from Winterville, Georgia asks—-On the new album I hear a slight country influence, what country artists do you like or is that just a byproduct of living in Nashville?
John Corabi: It’s really not a byproduct of anything honestly it’s more about the influences of the guys I grew up on if that makes sense, The Beatles, if you really sit down and listen to them there is a country influence. They even covered Buck Owens “Act Naturally”. Led Zeppelin also, they were massively influenced by old country and blues and Elvis Presley’s guitarist Scotty Moore. I just think it wasn’t a Nashville or country influence as much as it was the artists that I grew up listening to having that influence. If you listen to “I Never Loved Her Anyway” on The Scream album it’s not that much different really, we just had a little bit more fun with it this time and added a little more stomp to it. I even told my guitar player “Do a little bit of chicken pickin in it”. If you listen to all of those classic rock guys they were all influenced by artists that came up through Nashville or Memphis.
LRI: Karli from Ewing, Illinois wants to ask—-Are you planning on doing anything with Frank Hannon in the future. I know you talked about it after jamming together over the summer. I would love, love, love this to happen.
John Corabi: Frank and I talked after doing a show in Mt. Clemens,Michigan together and we both talked about doing something like that if we had some time off to tour together. He’s got a new record out which is fuckin great. We did talk about doing some stuff together and we’re both fans of each other so why not?? We just have to find a way logistically to make it happen. I wanna start doing more shows with my band instead of just acoustic, so there’s a number of ways we could do it. My manager has been talking to his manager to see how we could make it happen.
LRI: Last Question….thanks for talking to us again John….this one is from Allan from Scotland—-During the recent acoustic tour what song did you get the most surprising reaction to and why?
John Corabi: Well, it’s not on the new album but very early on in the tour somebody just yelled out “Misunderstood!!!!!” and I started doing that song. I couldn’t figure out and still haven’t figured out how to do that whole entire song but I just thought “Fuck it, I’m gonna play it” and I swear to god every night I played it was fantastic, it was just such a good response even though I was just doing the acoustic part of the song. It really went over well.
If you haven’t read our In-Depth Interview with John Corabi from June 2011, CLICK HERE!
John Corabi will be on the 2013 Monsters of Rock Cruise. Limited space still available. Visit http://monstersofrockcruise.com