Former Motley Crue Singer John Corabi Talks New Live Album, Mick Mars Collaboration and More: Exclusive Interview
One of our favorite concert experiences of 2015 was getting the chance to see former Mötley Crüe vocalist John Corabi perform the self-titled Mötley Crüe album — his only release with the group — in its entirety during a January show in Northeast Ohio.
Corabi and his solo band began performing the album, a longtime fan favorite, during concerts in 2014 to mark the 20th anniversary of the release of the record. They delivered a tight, well-rehearsed performance of the album that was a dream come true for fans of that short-lived era of the band.
“People were coming to me, and they were saying things like, ‘Dude, I’ve waited 20 years for this.’ So I started thinking,” Corabi explained at the time, adding that as he looked back on Mötley Crüe’s tour in support of the album, he realized it only amounted to a few months’ worth of dates. “There were a ton of places in America we never even played. We never played Canada, South America, we never came to Europe. We never did anything. So I sat there and I went, ‘You know what? There are probably a lot of people that want to see this.’”
Thankfully, Corabi’s Mötley 1994 tour was documented for an upcoming live audio and video release that will come out this fall.
This summer, he’ll be out on the road with the all-star collective the Dead Daisies, supporting the band’s third album, Make Some Noise, which will be out on Aug. 5. The group will play a month’s worth of shows in Europe prior to coming back to the U.S. for a run of dates opening once again for Kiss.
We caught up with Corabi a few days before he left for the European touring run for an interview to talk about the new Daisies album, and he was very enthused about what they had captured in the studio earlier this year.
“We walked into the room and we all had riffs, we had ideas, but not one finished complete song,” he revealed during the conversation. “It’s just weird. We got together and we wrote, recorded, mixed and mastered the entire record in about five weeks.”
We had the chance to see you in January 2015 in the Akron area when you played a show at that bar that [former Judas Priest singer] Ripper Owens has here, and you were playing the self-titled Mötley Crüe album in full. I know that you recorded one of those shows both video and audio. When will that be coming out?
I wanted to wait, obviously because [of the Dead Daisies album]. My manager and I sat down and we discussed everything with the Daisies manager and said, “When is the Daisies record coming out?” Basically, they said, “Well, we’re going to try and get it out Aug. 5.” We talked with my manager and my record label and we just said, all right, why don’t we wait until after the Daisies record comes out and it has some legs and then we’ll release this thing? So I think my record is going to come out in October, like the beginning of October. It’s basically one show. I didn’t record [a bunch of shows]. I didn’t want to make it a big deal. I really wanted this thing to be, for lack of a better term, like kind of reminiscent of Aerosmith’s Live Bootleg. There’s some warts and blemishes on it, but that’s what I wanted. I didn’t want to make a big production out of it, I didn’t want to do a lot of overdubs. We went in and literally recorded in October, we were here and we did one show from top to bottom. We miked the room, so we did all of the audio. … There’s going to be a video as well, so we did audio and video. Right now, we’re just kind of going through the video stuff. I want to play around with it a little bit. We did it on a bunch of HD cameras and all of this other s— and I like it. It was really cool, but I wanted to kind of screw it up a little bit and make it look bootleg.
It’s called ‘94 Live: One Night in Nashville. It’s going to be out at the end of September or beginning of October and it’s awesome. That’s another great thing. I love my solo band, and I get to do shows with my son [Ian Corabi], who is my drummer. He’s been all over the United States with me, and we did a couple of shows down in Mexico and that was great. That’s also a treat as well to be able to stand onstage and turn around and see your kid, you know what I mean?
Yeah, and it speaks to his talent that he was able to take on that material. That was the thing when we saw the show, you and the band — you really did the material from that record full justice. There’s obviously a lot of folks who love that record that were really excited to get the chance to see you play that record in full. There’s been experiences where maybe somebody goes out and does that and they just kind of hire some players and go out and do it. Watching you play that record, it was evident how much time you guys put into actually getting it right.
Honestly, I have to give credit where credit is due. I would have to give the credit to the guys in the band. I really didn’t have s— to do with it. It was literally those guys those guys picking apart the entire record and figuring out what parts to play. When we first started talking about it, the guys, Jeremy [Asbrock], my son, Topher [Nolen], all of the guys in the band, they sat down and they figured it out and I said, “Here’s the deal: I want this to sound like a band [playing] live. Figure out what parts we need to do and I just want it to sound like a band that’s stripped down and playing the song.” It’s not ever going to sound exactly like the record. But the one thing I can say is that I think the guys did a great job and it sounds pretty full. There’s a couple of spots where I have to pick up a guitar and I have to play along with them to cover a couple of parts, but it’s really only like four or five songs out of the 12. The rest of them, I just front the band and we just go for it. That’s what I wanted. I wanted it to be a stripped down version of the album and I think it sounds great.
Folks were really excited to hear that you and Mick Mars were recording some stuff together. I know that it seems like that might be a little bit on hold at the moment. I’d love to hear a bit about the stuff that you guys did record.
Mick called me probably about two years ago. Honestly, it was before they started the farewell tour. I had no idea, and I got an email from him and he’s like, “Crab, it’s Mick, give me a call!” He gave me his number and I called him and I was like, “Hey dude, what’s up?” There was a lot of things in my departure of the band that Mick never really understood, and there were some things that I never really understood. So first, we sat down and we talked for about two hours. And then he said, “Hey listen, the reason why I’m calling is because I moved to Nashville and I want to do a record and I would love for you to sit down and write with me.” I said, “Okay!” So we were talking. But then I went on tour with my solo band and then I wound up getting the Dead Daisies thing. Mick was on tour with Mötley and we were just going back and forth. Honestly, for the last year and a half or two years, we would talk and then we wouldn’t talk for a couple of months. It was weird, I was working, he was off and he went into the studio with Tommy Henriksen, who plays with Alice Cooper. My guitar player came back and he goes, “Hey, I heard some of Mick’s new stuff” and I was like, “Oh, okay! Well, okay, obviously he’s got a band.’ You know what I mean? Like, cool! I split and I went on tour again and I ran into Bobby, Mick’s tech at the Download Festival. And Bobby was like, “Dude, Mick needs to talk to you” and I’m like, “Oh, how’s everything going with the band?” He goes, “No, no, it’s not a band. He just did some demos.” Fast forward, they finish their tour and I finished my stuff.
We both had off this year together at the same time around the holidays. I know Mick went to L.A. to do the final show. He got back and we just started talking, and Mick’s like, “Well, I’ve got a couple of songs already that I wrote with other people, I’d like you to come in and listen to them and just do your thing.” So I kind of rewrote some lyrics for one of the songs. And then I just went in and I sang the two songs that you’ve heard snippets of. The problem of it is, I talked with Mick and he was like, “Man, I really want to get going on this record.” In January or February, I had a talk with him and I said, “Dude, I don’t know when you want to have a record out” and all of this other stuff, but right now, I’m in the process of doing a record with the Daisies and we’re going to be slammed and it’s not going to be constant. It’s not like I’m going to leave my house and be gone for eight months or anything like that. I will have some breaks here and there.” I said, “If you can bear with my schedule, I would love to help you out to some degree.” He’s like, “Okay, cool.” We’re just honestly really trying to figure out what the deal is as far as the schedule. Because I don’t want to hold Mick up and I also don’t want to, without being cocky, I don’t want to do it for the money. It’s not about money. I want to be able to sit in a room with Mick. It’s his first solo record that he’s ever done outside of Mötley Crüe. So I want to be able to, when I sit in a room with him, I want to be able to sit there and it’s going to take a little bit, I’m going to have to sit there for a little time and we’re going to have to put material together. I want to be able to give him 100 percent. Right now, between his schedule and my schedule, I’m just going, I’m struggling to find chunks of time where I can go in and do it.
More than anything, it’s probably good for you just to have that line of communication and that friendship going full throttle again.
You know what? Honestly, I love Mick. It’s been 17 or 18 years since I’ve been out of the band and honestly, anybody that’s ever asked me about Mötley Crüe– and I don’t mean this as a slight to Tommy, Nikki or Vince, but I’ve always said that not my favorite guy, but the nicest guy, I think in the band, that kind of tends to get overlooked, is Mick. Because he’s as nice as he is, I think he’s had incidents in his life. You know, he’s very trusting and he’s very quiet. He keeps to himself, but I know Mick well enough to know that he would give you the shirt off of his back. I think because of that, he’s been taken advantage of a few times. He called me and I was like, anything I can do to help, I would love nothing more than to do that. I just really respect him and I think he’s an underrated guitar player and he’s just a nice guy. Nothing would put a bigger smile on my face than to have Mick do a record that people just embraced and kind of opened the door for him to have a very healthy, long successful solo career.
I’ve talked to Mick, and you mention he’s a nice guy and he’s a quiet guy, and I feel like because of the quiet part, he’s kind of stayed in the background of what is, I guess, a very intense and over-the-top band, but you’re right: Out of all of the guys, he’s just a really, really cool dude and I think that’s why I’ve been excited to see where he’s going to go with this record that he’s going to make. Because nobody deserves a little bit of the spotlight more than that guy.
Yeah, and it’s just weird. I used to just laugh and look at these top 100 guitar players of all time [lists] that all of these magazines [do] and he’s rarely ever mentioned.
Which is crazy.
It is crazy. Because even the two guys in my solo band, they’re incredibly accomplished guitar players and one of their favorite guitar players, both guys, is Mick Mars. They’re like, “Love Mick.” You can hum most of Mick’s solos. He wasn’t flashy, he wasn’t like Yngwie [Malmstein], you know, it wasn’t about notes with Mick. It wasn’t about speed. It was about melody and tone. At the end of the day, I think a lot of people are going to realize just how many guitar players Mick Mars influenced. I didn’t join the band and dump my wife and kids — that’s not how it played out. But I was kind of going through a little separation thing, and Mick’s like, “Well, I’ve got a guest house, come and stay at my house.” So I basically rented Mick’s guest house from him. Mick set it up where he had a line put in from his house to my house. Every now and then, the light would blink and I’d pick it up and he’d be like, “Hey, what are you doing, ya bastard, c’mon over!”
So I’d go up to Mick’s house, walk up the driveway and he would literally be sitting there on a black leather couch and he had a big giant TV screen and he’d either be playing video games or watching … the Three Stooges on DVD. We’d have a couple of cocktails. He always had all of these guitars lined up within arm’s reach. I go in and I sit down with him one night and he had this beautiful Fender Telecaster sitting there. I picked up the guitar and I just started noodling around with it and I started playing a riff. He goes, “What is that?” I go, “I don’t know, I’m just kind of jamming.” He goes, “Okay.” He gets up, takes the guitar off of me, puts it in a case and he walks it and puts it by the front door and he says, “You can have that guitar.” He goes, “I’ve been playing that guitar, I bought it and I’ve been playing it and it’s just not speaking to me.” He goes, “You’ve been playing the guitar for like 10 minutes and you came up with a riff and it’s a cool riff, so obviously that guitar is talking to you. You’re bonding with that guitar.” He believes that when you pick up a guitar off the wall, it will speak to you. I go, “No, Mick … ” and he’s like, “Nah, shut up, blah blah blah, whatever.” We start talking again and then about five minutes later, he had a couple of guitars laid out and I grabbed a Stratocaster and started playing it again and we’re talking while I’m sitting there playing it and I just start playing a different riff and he goes, “What the hell is that?” I go, “I’m just noodling, dude!” Same thing, takes the guitar, puts it in the case, throws it by the door and he says the same thing again. The next day, I go into the studio and I’m there with all of the guys. Mick wasn’t there, but I go in and Bob Rock’s sitting there, and Tommy and Nikki and I’m noodling around on the guitar and we were recording a song and it had a little bit of a slanky funk part in the middle of it and I go, “Oh, wait, you know, I’ve got these two guitars. Hold on.” I pull the Strat out and I hand it to our tech at the time, Bobby, and I go, “Tune this one up.” I grabbed the Tele and I handed him both guitars and said, “Tune ‘em up, check ‘em and make sure the intonation is good.” Bob Rock is sitting there and he’s looking at me hand the two guitars off and I go sit back down, I put the headphones on and Bob goes, “Crab, where did you get those guitars?” I go, “Oh, Mick gave them to me yesterday. I was jamming with Mick and he just gave them to me.”
Bob goes, “Bring ‘em in.” I bring them into the control room and we sit there and Bob’s looking at the guitars and he’s just like,[looking at them] like it’s the holy grail. He goes to his bag and he pulls out a vintage Fender catalog. He’s looking through this thing and he looks at the serial number and he goes and he’s looking it up. He says, “Crab, Mick gave you these?” And I go, “Yeah.” He goes, “Dude, that Telecaster is an original 1961 butterscotch like Keith Richards plays.” He goes, “Dude, the guitar is worth nine grand.” And I go, “What?” He’s like, “It’s worth nine grand.” So I’m freaking out, I put the guitar on the stand. He takes the Stratocaster and he’s looking at it and he looks at the numbers and the quotes for it. “Okay, and this one is an original 1954 non-tremolo Strat, it’s worth about 10 thousand more than the other one.” So I used them, I recorded the parts with them, I put them back in the cases and I gave them to Bobby and I go, “Give these back to Mick — I can’t take these!” That’s Mick Mars. He was like, “Crab, I love you buddy, those guitars are speaking to you, they’re yours. You need to have those.” He just basically handed me like $28,000 worth of guitars because he thought they were speaking to me and he wanted me to have them. I was just so blown away. I will never forget that. And then there was a Christmas too that he had met my son and when I was living at his house, I was going back and forth for Christmas, and Mick called me and he goes, “Hey, bring the kid over to the house — I’ve got some stuff for him.” My kid came over to his house and he had a video-game system, whatever he used to play on his big TV, so when I would bring my kid over on the weekends, my kid wanted to just go up and play video games with Mars, so Mars bought him the same system, a TV, all of this s— and I’m like, “Dude, I got him a bike at, like, K-Mart for like 89 bucks! You’re killing me here!” But he’s just that guy. He will literally give you the shirt off of his back. I just never forget it, and I would still love to help him do the record. I just want to make sure I can give him the time, [because] I just want his songs to be awesome.
Right now, I’m literally booked with the Daisies and a couple of shows and things that I’m doing with my solo band, I’m leaving to go to Europe and I’m going pretty much hardcore between my solo band and the Daisies until Dec. 22. So I’m going, God, when am I going to be able to do this? And I’m still getting calls from other people too. I can’t really explain too much about it, but there’s a possible opportunity for me to do a TV show. So I’m just sitting there going, “Oh God, when it rains, it pours!” It’s just crazy. But it’s all good. I’m very grateful for all of it, but I just want to make sure that if I can do something with Mick that when he’s got me at his house, I’m not doing anything but focusing on the job at hand and that’s Mick Mars’ solo record.
It really does and seeing some of the stuff that was swirling around the internet, I really didn’t want to touch on it in a way that was “controversial.” I just wanted to talk about two guys making music.
Yeah, and you know, the thing of it is, without getting into another big controversy, over the last month or two, everybody knows that Nikki [Sixx] did an interview and basically said that the ‘94 record that we did was painful, that it was unfocused and all of this other stuff. Honestly, I wasn’t worried about it. That’s Nikki’s opinion and he’s entitled to it. I don’t have any ill will for Nikki, Tommy [Lee], Mick or Vince [Neil]. I had a great run with them for five and a half years. We did a lot of s— together, and because of that, I’m very grateful. It has actually opened some doors for me later on in my life. So I don’t really have anything negative to say about those guys. It just seems like every time I open my mouth, somebody will ask me a question about it and then I retort like, “Hey man, you know what honestly? I really don’t care.” One guy asked me about the thing with Nikki and it’s just the way I talk. I go, “I have no idea why Nikki Sixx all of the sudden feels like I’m the biggest piece of s— on earth. I don’t know.” I probably should have broken it down detail for detail, but I didn’t. I go, “I don’t know why he feels that way and I don’t really care.”
It’s okay, man, it’s fine. I honestly don’t think about it unless somebody asks me about it. I was just hanging out with Vince, and I’ve seen Mick on several occasions. Vince and I just did a festival together here in Nashville, and Vince has never been anything but cordial to me and I’ve never been anything but cordial to Vince. It’s just weird, there’s this preconceived notion that we’re all supposed to hate each other and I don’t. I’m still traveling around doing my thing with the Daisies, doing my solo record. If the Daisies tomorrow said, “Hey, we’re not going to do this anymore,” I’d still be okay, because I’ve still got my solo band and we’re actually doing quite well as well. It’s all good. Life is awesome.
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