John Corabi is a true Journeyman in the hard rock world, including stints as lead vocalist for The Scream, Mötley Crüe, The Eric Singer Project (ESP), Union, The Dead Daisies, and as guitarist for Ratt.
I recently had the opportunity to discuss his musical legacy …from past to present.
ANTIHERO: Good evening. Hi, how are you?
John Corabi: All right, how are you?
ANTIHERO: I’m good. I saw your little bit the other day about the reported Motley Crue thing. I just wondered how you generally cope with what you read about yourself online.
John Corabi: For the most part, I don’t really pay much mind to it. The only reason why I even remotely answered that one is because I got up in the morning and I was having some coffee and I was checking my emails and different things, and all the fans were writing to me like, “Hey, is there any truth to this?” I literally got, not that it’s that’s thousands, but I got like 20 or 25 emails in the span of like five minutes, and I just figured, you know what, I’m just going to respond to this, say what I got to say, call it a day, and whatever, but it’s just crazy to me, in the span of a week, especially that one site that actually reported it. They went from Vince Neil did a show and then apparently fans were clamoring to have John come back.
So, I let that one go, and then the next one was Nikki Sixx issuing an ultimatum to Vince Neil that if he doesn’t lose 50 pounds we’re bringing John back and I was just like, “God.” I was just laughing about it and I’m like, “Yeah, like that’s ever going to happen.” But then the last one, secret rehearsals, John Corabi, and more than anything I was just sitting there going, “How the fuck do you get off on just printing whatever?” There’s zero truth in any of that, it’s clickbait, but how do you get off on writing just whatever the fuck you want and you’re stringing people along?
Not so much me, so I just figured I’d respond to it and call it a day, and now oddly enough, ever since I did that, then they wrote another story saying that I’m trying to cover it up, that they know for a fact that I’ve been in recording and writing with Nikki and rehearsals and I’m like, “Well, that’s funny because the last time I checked I’m in Tennessee, Nikki’s in fucking Wyoming or wherever he lives.” It’s whatever, so I’m not even going to respond anymore. It’s a waste of time.
ANTIHERO: What’ve you been up to the last two years? Obviously, you’re a man that likes to tour, you’re on the road quite a lot. What about all this extra time that you’ve had on your hands over the last couple of years? What’ve you been up to?
John Corabi: I’m not digging that that’s for one thing, but honestly, obviously due to COVID a lot of people haven’t been working. So, I basically took some lessons on how to use Pro Tools to record myself. I wrote a book. I’ve signed a publishing deal. It’s been written, edited, and now we’re doing the layouts. So, they’ll probably do pre-orders late this year, early next year, and the book is coming out I want to say the second week of April. I was pretty productive. Obviously, I’m still trying to figure out how to use Pro Tools and how to make things work, so I’m still a beginner at it. So, it takes me much longer to do things and record things than it would have personally Marti Frederiksen for example, but I’m moving forward even at a snail’s pace. I’m still moving forward.
ANTIHERO: What about the book? Was that something that you’d been thinking about for a number of years? And obviously, you’ve been out touring, you’ve been recording music, you haven’t had the time to do it. Maybe just a publishing company came to you and said, “John, we’d like you to do a book.”
John Corabi: No, somebody had approached me about 10 or 12 years ago about doing a book and I thought about it. We started it, and then it was funny, the more I thought about it, the more I started looking at my life story, whatever. And I started thinking to myself that I don’t have a story that is… My life story, wouldn’t ever be a VH1 behind the scenes thing. Those things seem to have a format like a band gets a record deal, the band becomes huge, the band starts doing drugs, the band starts arguing, the band breaks up, they get clean, then they get back together again, and they have an even bigger resurgence. And I’m like, “I’ve never really been that guy.”
And then to boot, everybody and their grandmother were doing books, even to the point where I think I saw a book from guys that were roadies for Kiss in the 70s wrote a book, and I didn’t want to feel like I was jumping on a bandwagon. So, I didn’t even think about it, and then in 2019 I was in Australia, and I was doing some shows and I really had a nice long talk with a gentleman named Paul Miles, who has a website called Chronological Crue. He’s published a few books and he was also credited for doing a lot of the research timeline stuff for “The Dirt.”
And I was just talking, and we were telling stories and just kind of laughing and he said, “You should do a book.” And I was like, “No.” But he kind of talked me into it and he said, “Look, man, The Dirt was very successful. Regardless of whether you want to admit it or not, you were a part of Motley’s career and I think that for a large portion of those fans you’ve gone…” Not unrecognized, but he’s like, “You’re still kind of this mysterious little character. Nobody really knows a lot about your youth when you were growing up.” And so, I just said “okay”, so it’s literally a book for my whole life as a child, going through the Uncle Jack shit as a kid, marriages, failed marriages, bands, failed bands, and it goes right up to the present day.
ANTIHERO: Outside of this new single release-the last I hear from you musically is when. you and Marco were in the Dead Daisies. We haven’t read much about actually why you left the Dead Daisies. What happened there? I saw you guys live quite a few times and you seemed like a tight unit, and you seemed to have a lot of fun in that band.
John Corabi: To be honest with you, prior to me getting the call… Everybody has to kind of remember, prior to me getting the call from Marco to join the band, I was already out doing something with my son and some friends here in Nashville and we were doing okay, and it’s just how it played out. Once I did that first record with the Dead Daisies, man, it just really kind of took off. The first record I did was in 2015 Revolucion, and that whole year we were immediately on the road with Kiss. We did Europe with Kiss, we came back to the States, we did the States with Whitesnake and we did some more shows with Kiss, then we went back over to Europe with Whitesnake, and then that whole year we were slammed and then Dizzy and Richard got the call to go back to Guns N’ Roses.
So, we got Doug Aldrich in the band and management said, “Okay, let’s do another record.” And I’m like, “What the fuck? We just did this one.” And I mean this in no disrespect, the work ethic for the Dead Daisies was awesome, but it was kind of hard. I had just gotten married in August of 2014. Early 2015, I’m in Australia, I’m doing records, I’m on tour. I rarely got to see my family and my son was calling me on the phone going, “Dad, when are we going to fucking tour again?” So, I did it for like three years. We didn’t part ways on bad company. I’m still very good friends with all of the guys, including Glenn. I still talk to the management quite a bit, but I needed a breather.
I just wanted to hang with my family. My son has two beautiful identical twin daughters. I just wanted to kind of hang with my wife and my dogs and my kids, and maybe go do some shows with my band. Unfortunately, COVID hit, I haven’t had the opportunity to do so, but I’m hoping once… 2021 has also been a little bit of a wash, but if I can get a couple of songs out, I’m hoping 2022, I can get out and start playing with a full band again and go out and do my thing, and you never know, maybe I’ll do some touring. My band will open for the Daisies. Who knows? I don’t know how it’ll play out.
ANTIHERO: I was going to ask there, you talked about new music, of course, you’ve got a new single out, I just wonder, is there going to be a John Corabi solo album, have you got other songs there that are going to form part of a single album?
John Corabi: There’s a bunch of stuff recorded already and I’m leaving tomorrow for LA for a week and that’s not to rehearse with Motley, but I got to get these files over to Marti. It’s two brand new songs that I’ve been kind of playing around with here at the house and I want my son to lay drums down on it. I recorded everything, kind of mapped it out, now I want Marti to do what he does, and then I’m going to have my son come in and do drums on them, but I’ve done a bunch of shit recorded already. I’m going to do one song maybe every two months with a video, do three, four, five songs, and then I would like to do a record, vinyl, CDs, whatever, but it’s just a different way of doing things. I’m just kind of figuring it out, but there is more music to come.
ANTIHERO: What about those songs that you mentioned there? Because the single was something totally different from what we expect from you, what about the other songs, are they going to follow a similar pattern or going to be…
John Corabi: No, and that’s the beauty of doing one song at a time. There’s no rhyme or reason to anything. I know I’ve got a couple of songs that are very reminiscent. You know what, dude, I’ve always loved just music. I love Led Zeppelin, but I also like artists like Glen Campbell. I like heavy rock shit like Sabbath, but I also like folk stuff like Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell. So, the cool thing about this is there are no real parameters. You’re not locked into one particular thing or style.
… This is what The Scream does, or the Dead Daisies, or Motley Crue. And we can’t go out of this box. Do you know what I mean?
And even this song, it’s funny to me though, a lot of people go, “Oh, it’s really kind of Beatles-ish, not what I would’ve expected from you.” But then I sit there and I go, “Wait a minute, listen to Misunderstood by Motley. That’s got Beatles stamped all over it.” There was a solo song that I did when I was in Motley for the record Quaternary, there’s a song called Friends. You cannot get any more Beatles than that fucking thing.
So, I’ve kind of touched on this throughout my career and I’ve done things… I even did a song in Union that was a tip of the hat to the Beatles. All the lyrics were written using Beatles’ song titles and I made sentences out of them. So for me, doing something like this is really not that unusual. Maybe for the fans, they’re used to hearing Man in the Moon or Power to the Music or whatever, but there’s more to John Corabi than what I did in the past, which is another reason why my first solo record was an acoustic record. I just wanted to say, “Hey, there’s more layers to this onion than most people think.”
ANTIHERO: Do you prefer having full creative freedom, being the captain of your own ship, rather than having to conform to those parameters that you would have had if you were in a band?
John Corabi: Well, I don’t mind writing with other people at all. The thing that’s a drag, but I understand it is the parameters when you’re in a band. You have to remember, I wasn’t involved with the Dead Daisies from inception. They already did a record, and then I came in later. So, they already kind of had a formula of what they wanted to sound like. So, the drag is the parameters, but I also find it to be a drag like that… And, I don’t know, how old are you if you don’t mind me asking?
John Corabi: So, I’m a little older than you, but when I was a kid, when you listened to music there weren’t parameters. It wasn’t unusual for a guy like me to go… I was born and raised in Philadelphia, and we used to go to this place called The Spectrum in Philadelphia, and it wasn’t unusual for me and my friends to go and see Black Sabbath on Monday and then go see Yes on Wednesday and then go see somebody like Cat Stevens or James Taylor on Friday. And I think that’s one of the drags about music now is there are so many little boxes that everything has to fit into. It drives me crazy. I’m like, “No, dude.”
As much as I love Soundgarden, everybody’s like, Grunge rock.” I go, “Really? Soundgarden to me was nothing more than an amazing singer-songwriter, but they sounded kind of like Sabbath meets the Beatles.” Why are there all these parameters all of a sudden? Why is it so unusual that I wrote a song like Cosi Bella? And, if you really go back and look at my thing, like I said, I have always said… Because people say, “Hey, what made you want to play guitar? What influenced you when you were younger?” And, I’ve always said, in order, the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, and then a really strong fourth would be Queen. So, I don’t understand how it’s that unusual.
ANTIHERO: I’m just wondering, you’ve had a long career in music. Do you have any personal goals, ambitions that still drive you on, maybe targets?
John Corabi: We all have targets. If I can be blunt, I think that I have been… Here in America, we say “a household name.” I’m not a household name yet. I think if you ask most music fans, “Oh, hey, have you checked out this new song Cosi Bella by John Corabi?” If there were 10 of them, I think more than half of them were going to go, “Why does that name sound familiar?” I’ve just been one of these guys that’s just in everybody’s collective mentally, but they can’t really put their finger on where they heard the name before. So, I think like anybody, I would like to have that song that defines me and puts me over the hump and allows me to come to England as a solo artist and play Hammersmith Odeon. I don’t even need to play the bigger… Just come over and just do kick-ass business and play the theatres, maybe an arena, but I just want to get over that hump and become more a little bit recognizable.
ANTIHERO: I see you commonly referred to as a journeyman. How do you feel about that term? Do you not feel it’s a little bit disrespectful?
John Corabi: There’s nothing I can do about it. I don’t know how to explain this, but I could have, when I was with The Scream, who knew that I was going to get a phone call to join Motley Crue? Now mind you, when I got the phone call, I could have said, “I’m not interested, thanks,” and hung up, but I didn’t. I went and I checked it out and I got to be honest with you, mate. The only reason why I fucking did it, and I’ve said this a million times too, I was just thinking I wanted to thank them for an article that they had done where they mentioned my band, so I wanted to thank them for it, so I called, but when they called me I was just thinking, “There’s no fucking way I’m going to get this gig because I don’t own one Motley Crue record.”
I own zero Motley records. So, I’m just going to go and hopefully we get along okay to the point where maybe I can write a song with them for my next record or their next record. That was it, and that’s the way the cards or the way the universe handed me my deal, and then who knew that they were going to bring Vince back and in every band that I was in after that, for one reason or another, it was just the cards that I was dealt. I didn’t plan on being in that many bands, but you make the best of it, and you do what you do. I’m the Gary Moore of vocalists.
ANTIHERO: You’ve worked with many top musicians. I just wondered if any of the musicians you have worked with, you’d say would have taught you the most. What’ve you learned the most from any of the people that you’ve worked with? Is there anybody that stands out?
John Corabi: No, to be honest, I think you learn as you go. If you look at my lyrics now, my lyrics aren’t the same as they were when I was in The Scream or prior to it. You kind of grow, so you learn from all of the different bands that you’re in. You figure out what to do and what not to do. I think I actually, to be honest, I learned more from the producers that I’ve worked with. How do you get this sound? Why do you want to go from this verse right into this chorus? Because a lot of producers are helpful in arranging and even writing to a degree. So, I think I’ve learned more from the producers than the actual bands, but you do, you pick things up as you go. And like I said, you pick things up like, “Okay, this is what we should do.” And, then there’s been things even with my solo band now I go, “Trust me, I’ve done this. We do not want to do this way.”
I can’t really put my finger on any one thing because there are things that I like… Even songs that we developed in The Scream, there were ideas that Juan Alderete had or Bruce Bouillet that I would’ve never thought of that were in their own right very clever. So, I learned a little there. I learned a little from Motley and then so on and so forth throughout my time, but it’s just the cards I was dealt, mate. I can’t really say. I kind of hate the journeyman tag as well.
ANTIHERO: What about the Union? Do you feel that the Union should have been much bigger?
John Corabi: Again, I can’t explain why. That’s the one thing I think that a lot of people don’t realize is you can work hard, you can write the best songs you can write, you can sing the best that you can sing, play guitar the best that you can play, you do the best record you can, and then you turn it into a record label and you just got to kind of pray that they do their job right. And the other thing is, the one factor in all this that everybody kind of forgets is there’s a huge amount of luck involved and everything has to line up perfectly, and then at the end of the day when the fans turn on the radio, well now it’s streaming, if the song doesn’t connect with them, that’s it. It’s going nowhere. So, you just keep throwing songs out there doing your best and hoping and praying that one of them connects with the world.
ANTIHERO: It’s difficult in the current global situation of COVID to make any plans. Do you have any sort of rough schedule for the next six months to a year? Are you going to be promoting the book, working with music, doing both?
John Corabi: I’m going to be doing both and just sitting here and-
John Corabi: I’m going to be slaughtering baby seals on an altar hoping that fucking COVID goes away so that we can get back and start playing really live music again. It’s crazy, right now the Dead Daisies are on tour. Hopefully, knock on wood for them, they’ll be able to finish the tour unscathed, and the two guys in my solo band or out on tour with Ace Frehley right now and Alice Cooper, but for some weird reason, I’m booking smaller cafe shows, acoustic, and I just had a bunch of them drop out. The cities I was supposed to play in went on lockdown or they’re having a spike. So, I don’t know, there’s really no rhyme or reason to anything. So, I would love to get back to work, but right now, get the music done, get the book done, and just do this, promote the new song and get the next song ready.
ANTIHERO: When the book comes out, do you see yourself going out to promote the book with the acoustic guitar, maybe reading bits from the book, and playing some songs? Is that a format that you think?
John Corabi: That was something that was mentioned. I told him, I said, “The easy thing would be to just go out and maybe do a book signing in the afternoon, take some photos, take some pictures, and then later that night somewhere in town do an acoustic performance and talk about some of these stories.” But, it’s just talked about right now. Again, any sort of live performances with me are kind of… Maybe a week or two ago, I was supposed to go down to Mexico and do like seven shows. Of the seven shows, five of the cities went into lockdown again. So, there’s no point in going and doing two shows and then going back. So, I just postponed the whole thing, and then I was supposed to do some shows this month with the band Zebra and Molly Hatchet, and that got postponed for the fifth time. Five times it’s been postponed, so I’m just kind of at a loss, man. I don’t really know.
ANTIHERO: Just the final one, you’ve done many interviews over the years, but if the rules were reversed, who would you like to sit down and interview?
John Corabi: Paul McCartney.
ANTIHERO: Really? Why particularly him?
John Corabi: I just saw that interview that he did with Rick Rubin. I think it was on Amazon or Hulu or one of those things, it’s called Paul McCartney 3, 2, 1 and there were six episodes and it’s just a producer who’s very adept at being around a board and literally just dissecting all these Beatles tunes and there were six episodes and it could have been 25 more and I would have watched every one of them. I was so enthralled by that thing. And to be honest with you, call me what you will, I consider myself a musician, but I’m still a fan. So, if I could interview some of these guys that I grew up with… A lot of them are gone now, unfortunately, but I would love to sit down with Robert Plant.
I would love to sit down with any of the Beatles, Paul, John, George, Ringo. Freddie Mercury, what fucking planet was that guy from? Bohemian Rhapsody is just otherworldly, and there are so many artists that I grew up with… David Bowie is another one. I just thought he was a genius. So, any one of those guys that I remember as a kid putting a quarter into a jukebox and picking their songs, I would love to sit down with David Bowie and go, “Dude, how the fuck did you come up with that chord progression on Life on Mars? Freddie Mercury, for fuck’s sake, how did you write Bohemian Rhapsody?” It’s mind-boggling. So, there are quite a few.
ANTIHERO: That’s about me finished. Good luck with getting out and playing live again, and hopefully we’ll see you back in the UK with the book, with some music.
John Corabi: Where are you from?
ANTIHERO: I’m originally from Northern Ireland, but currently living in Bury in England.
John Corabi: Oh, okay. I was wondering. I’m hearing the Irish, but I wasn’t sure.
ANTIHERO: No problem.
John Corabi: And I don’t want to offend anybody. The last time I was there, it was funny, I was traveling from… I forget, I went from Northern Ireland, I went into England, and I had visa papers to go into Scotland, Northern Ireland, and England, and then I went into Ireland and at the passport window I gave them my passport and the papers and the passport officer, he goes, “What’s this?” And I go, “That’s my work papers for the UK.” And he was not having it, he goes, “You’re in fucking Ireland. You don’t need them fucking papers.” And I’m like, “Sorry, dude. I didn’t mean anything, don’t shoot.”
ANTIHERO: I know exactly what you mean. Sums up the political turmoil going on over there at that particular time. Anyway, thank you very much for chatting. Good luck.