John Corabi – The UNION Asylum Interview
©Elizabeth Sneed/Elizabeth A. White – Please do not reprint/reproduce without express written permission.
John was incredibly open and down-to-earth during our conversation and shared his thoughts and opinions on topics as varied as: Mötley Crüe and the pending lawsuit, videos and MTV, relationships and fatherhood, karma, and of course all things UNION.
UNION Asylum (UA): John, thanks for calling. Before we get rolling with any questions I just wanna let you know that we appreciate you taking the time to do this interview. I’m sure the fans are gonna love hearing what you have to say.
Cool. Not a problem.
UA: Great. UNION is in somewhat of a unique situation in that you and Bruce are both bringing an established fan base into what would otherwise be a “new” band. For the fans who might be coming from the KISS point of view and who aren’t as familiar with you, would you mind going over some basic background information?
Well, I’m originally from Philadelphia, PA. I moved out to LA and I’ve probably been here about eleven or twelve years now. I did the whole cover band thing back in Philadelphia and started to do some originals but there wasn’t really a market for it back there, so I came out here with my wife actually. I was married at the time, and I came out here on just kind of an anniversary trip and I just fell in love with it. I thought it was great. That was back when like Guns n Roses were just playing in clubs and Poison was like the biggest thing. None of these bands had really gotten a record deal yet, but I was just looking around in what they call the Sunset Strip now, just looking at all these people with like big hair and crazy clothes, and it just wasn’t happening like that Philadelphia so I came out here and said, “I need to be here.” I guess that was in May 1986 or something, we moved out here in October, so I’ve been here ever since. And basically the band that I was in in Philadelphia we kind of came out one by one, and we reformed out here.
UA: That was Angora?
Yeah, that was Angora. We had a pretty decent following at the time, we did okay. Not that it means anything, but we had won some different awards for best new band in the clubs, they have kind of a club trade paper out here, so we had a pretty decent following. But it was weird, everybody started to fall apart due to their social lives or whatever. My guitar player had a really bad problem with drugs and the bass player wound up doing them too, and the drummer was fighting with his girlfriend… things just fell apart. That’s when I put The Scream together with John Alderete and Bruce Bouillet. We were together about two years. We got signed to Hollywood Records and did that one album and toured for almost a year. It was a great album, great tour, and we had a lot of fun.
It was weird, toward the end of the tour, I guess I had like two shows left, and Nikki had done some interviews and stuff in a couple of different magazines and they would ask him what bands are you listening to now and he kept saying in these interviews that he just loved The Scream. So I called him up to thank him for the plug, and like the day I called him he was trying to get in touch with me you know, trying to have his manager get in touch with me and I just happened to call while he was on the phone with his manager! I guess they had fired Vince like the day before or two days before, and they called me and asked me to come down like the following week and just jam with them and stuff. I went down on a Monday and jammed with them and we got along real well. I did a couple of their tunes and just noodled around and stuff and they asked me to come back the next day and I played for them again and their manager and I believe their lawyer and they just told me that night, “No, doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this out, you’re the guy.” So.
UA: Right place at the right time, huh?
Yeah. It was pretty funny when we used to tell the story, ’cause God’s honest truth Nikki was on the phone with his manager going, “Well I’d really like to get in touch with the guy from The Scream,” and his manager’s going, “I can’t call their record company and say ‘Hey we wanna steal your singer.’” And just as they were talking about it I called and said, “It’s John Corabi,” and the secretary that answered the phone knew what was going on, she knew they were trying to get in touch with me. She went running into Doug’s office, Doug Thaler was their manager at the time, and she handed Doug a note and she’s like, “Corabi’s on the other line!” I hung the phone up and my phone rang like two minutes later and it was Tommy and Nikki. They were cruising around in Nikki’s car, it was actually Valentine’s day of 1992 cause they were out buying presents for their wives, and we talked for a few minutes and it was cool. I went down a couple days later and the rest is history.
UA: Were you a fan of the Crüe before you got in there?
Yes and no. I mean, I like some of their stuff, but the one that always intrigued me was Tommy. I play drums a little bit and I just thought Tommy was, in videos and any concert footage that I would see on the TV, I just thought he was fucking brilliant the way he played his drums and he’s spinning the sticks and just the ultimate showman. And no disrespect to Vince, I don’t mean this in a bad way, but the type of style that Vince sings in was not my bag. I don’t mean that in a bad way. As much as I think Steve Perry from Journey is brilliant, it’s just not my kind of thing. I could never sing their kind of songs because I have a different voice, you know what I mean? I was always looking at guys like Paul Rogers, Steven Tyler, Steve Marriott, so I just wasn’t real into it ’cause if I don’t dig the singer I just can’t get into the band. But I told them that too. We were talking at rehearsal one day and the guys asked me, “Have you ever seen us live?” and I was like, “No.” And they asked, “Do you have any of our records?” And I’m like, “No.” And it was funny, they were pissing themselves laughing because they had just hired this guy that actually didn’t really like the band.
UA: I can see where that could be kind of a weird situation…
It was kind of weird, but in another way it was like they were trying to do something different and so it was good cause I didn’t go in with, like in the writing, I didn’t go in like saying, “Okay we gotta be like ‘Shout At The Devil,’” cause I didn’t have any of it.
UA: You helped give ‘em a little kick in a different direction.
In a different direction, yeah. It was like, “This is what I’m into and if you guys are hip to it then cool, if not, then I’m not your guy.” And I just played ‘em a couple of riffs and they played me some stuff, and the stuff that I dug is the stuff that we worked on, and the stuff that I didn’t get or didn’t dig we just kind of put aside and it was like, well fuck it maybe next time.
UA: Cool. I think it did work really well because personally, and a lot of people I know too, we liked early Crüe but kind of fell out of ‘em for awhile, then got back into ‘em with the Crüe ’94 album. That was real exciting for a lot of people.
It’s really cool. The response that I’ve been getting at some of these KISS conventions, even after I’ve been fired from the band, the kids have been really, really supportive. It’s been really positive, so I know that there’s a fan base at there from the Mötley days. I’ve been getting some really positive feedback from everybody and a lot of these guys are going, “Man I was never a really big Mötley fan until that record you did,” or “You know they kind of lost me there for a little while but I thought that record you did with em kicked ass!”
I met a kid from Luxembourg while we were doing UNION album, him and his girlfriend were at a bar and when I walked in and I didn’t even notice the guy sitting there. I was just hanging with Brent and this guy kept staring at me and finally I just turned to him and said, “Hey dude, what’s up?” And this guy was just freaking out and he opened his shirt and he had this big black square tattooed on his chest with the red Mötley Crüe letters across it, the cover of the Crüe album I did. I was like, “Fuck!” I couldn’t believe it. He was like, “That was the best album,” and I’m like, “Cool, thanks man.” So we took them back to the studio and let them hear some of the UNION stuff and they were just freaking out. I gave them my address and they send me letters and shit, so it’s cool. We still talk.
UA: Speaking of Crüe album cover tattoos, is it true that you ended up with the “wrong” tattoo on your leg based on what you thought was gonna be the Crüe ’94 album cover?
Well, it was weird. Before we had started doing the record, we took our time before we went in and did the whole album thing, the guys were really, really cool and we just went out one night and said, “Fuck it, we’re gonna go get some ink.” They wanted me to get a tattoo where they got a tattoo you know? So I said, “Alright, that’s cool,” and we went down to this place called Sunset Strip Tattoo and this guy Greg James, he does all of their work for them. And we kept saying, “‘Til death to us part.” We had this one song that, if you have the record it was on the album, and we were sitting there going, “‘Til death do us part man, ’til death do us part ’92.” So we were gonna call the album that so we all went, the four of us, went and got these tattoos. Tommy’s I guess was around the bottom of his leg at his ankle, Mick got it tattooed around his arm like a band, and then Nikki and I got the exact same one. It goes from, it’s on my left leg, from the cheek of my ass all the way down to my knee and it’s like a banner that says “‘Til death do us part ’92.” So we were gonna call the album that, and then this guy Greg who did the tattoo actually designed like an album cover while we were doing the album and I was like, “Fuck, this thing is amazing!” It was really cool, it was very animated but it was a, it was a death card. I don’t know if you’re into tarot or anything, but the death card doesn’t mean death it actually means like rebirth, like…
UA: Like some kind of change or evolution.
Yeah! Like trying to get rid of your old skin to have the shiny new one. I thought it was really cool just from some of the personal things I was going through so it didn’t end up mattering whether it was the album cover or not, I just thought it was cool. So I had that tattooed on my right leg from my ass cheek all the way down to my knee. And it was funny, we were laughing about it because we wound up not using “‘Til Death Do Us Part” as the album title and we wound up not using that album cover, but if you listen to the lyrics to the song you know it’s a pretty valid song anyway, whether it was the album title or not. I just like what it stands for.
UA: Do you remember how old you were when you got your first tattoo and what it was?
Actually the first tattoo I got was my wife’s name. It said “John and Valerie” on my arm and I got that when I was about 22 or 23 years old.
UA: It gets addictive doesn’t it?
Yeah! It’s weird, I had one that was right on the muscle of my arm and I just thought it was fucking amazing. I’m like, “Wow, this is cool!” And then, like a dumb-ass, you get out of the shower and you’re standing there in a towel and you’re flexing and stuff in front of the mirror and you go, “I’m kind of lop sided,” (laugh) “I got one over here but…” So then I went and had “Rock n Roll” and a bunch of music notes and shit printed on my other arm and I balanced out… then I just fucking went nuts! It was weird, I had a bunch of ‘em before I even joined Mötley and then, obviously it cost quite a bit of money, so when I joined the band I just went out and I got – both of my arms are just completely covered, I’ve got one on my chest, one on my stomach, two on my legs. And I’m still not done. I’m addicted to it.
UA: I hear ya! As far as UNION, do you feel more involved with UNION than you did with either of the two bands that you were with previously, or is it just more a matter of control?
Well, The Scream I was very involved in because it was a group thing and it was everybody’s first big record deal you know what I mean? So we were all involved, and we were kind of cocky and wet behind the ears so we learned and we made some mistakes, the record company made mistakes, they were new too you know, so you learn. Then when I joined Mötley Crüe it wasn’t about that I wasn’t involved, I was involved and we would talk about everything, but I just felt like the guys knew better because they had done this for so long that I was probably wrong in a lot of things. And now I know differently. I can’t say that I would ever do that situation again, stepping into someone else’s shoes cause I don’t like that feeling. But the fact of the matter is that there were a lot of things that I felt as a band we did wrong and I just didn’t say anything because I thought they knew better. They had sold millions and millions of records they were a very successful band and I just assumed that they knew what they were doing and, well, you learn as you go. If there was a patent on putting a record out and having it sell a couple of million, you know everybody would be doing it. You just gotta kind of live and learn from your mistakes and move on.
I find myself to be a very intuitive person and for some reason I’ve got this gut feeling about this record. I really think that all the hardships and everything that everybody’s gone through in the last year, year and a half, especially Bruce and myself, our lives are like carbon copies over the last year, I just think that it’s really gonna pay off. I think that the fans love an underdog, and Bruce and I have both been underdogs now for the last year and a half two years of our lives. I don’t know, I just really have a good vibe about it. We’re not promising some newfangled way of making music, we’re just sticking to what we love. This is the type of music that we love to play, this is what we listen to, this is what we grew up listening to, and this is where our roots are and that’s it. You know and we just tried to really take our time with the music, we tried to take our time with the lyrics, we did the best that we could with the demos, we did the best that we could with the record with the budgets and different things in mind, you know the business part of it. I just really dig the record, and everybody that hears it, they see and feel our enthusiasm, and the record company’s enthused… I don’t know how to explain it, but this is record where I feel there’s that little tingle. I didn’t have it with the Mötley record, I was unsure, and I definitely didn’t have it with The Scream album, but there’s something here with UNION and I really think that this one’s gonna take off, I believe it.
You know, Bruce and I have gone through a lot a lot of shit a lot of people don’t even know about, and for me it was a reality check. I learned a lot. I’ve become so fucking wise about people in general and things with bands, things with the business, things with relationships, everything, life. I just really tried to use a lot of the songs as a journal of what I was seeing, what I wanted to talk about, what I wanted to say, and Bruce and Curt helped me. It’s just really cool man, it’s from the heart, the record is definitely from the heart.
UA: And that’s a good transition because I did want to ask you about that. I remember at the Electric Village chat Bruce joked that the lyrics, like to “Robin’s Song” and that sort of thing, he jokingly said that writing lyrics is cheaper than therapy for you, but I was wondering in all seriousness how much of what you’re writing about really is a kind of reflection on and a working out for you of things that are going on in your life?
Well, just for example there are a few songs I can tell you right now, probably several of the songs on the record, that are directed toward Robin. I mean it was it was really hard in the last in the last two years of my life right before I was fired. First my mom passed away.
UA: I’m sorry to hear that.
Yeah, and the money situation from the band, me and Mötley had a little disagreement on the money thing. I wasn’t making any money for the last couple of years that I was in the band so I was kind of hurting, but I was trying to make ends meet. Then the band fired me and I guess about a month after they fired me, well, you know, Robin left me. And out of everything that happened that was the one thing, ’cause I was prepared for my mom’s thing, and I was prepared for the financial thing, you just gotta do what you gotta do, and with all the rumors and shit that were flying around with the Mötley thing I was almost expecting that also.
UA: So it wasn’t like the Mötley thing was out of left field.
No. And to be honest with you, the last six or seven months that I was with the band we were just constantly arguing so it was a relief. I’m like, “Well fuck it! I’ll just do my own thing.” But the thing that really threw me the curve ball was this girl. I was absolutely, totally – anybody that knows me knows to this day that I’m still absolutely madly in love with her. So “Robin’s Song” is a letter that I wrote to her but I never sent it. I just sat down I guess about a week or two after we split up I wrote her the letter, and I was sitting there and I was working around with some chords on the guitar and I read the letter, and I kind of I put the two of ‘em together you know what I mean?
And there’s a song called “Get Off My Cloud” that was, I hate to say that it was directed toward Mötley Crüe, but there was a point in my life where they had Vince back, they were in the studio, but they were calling me on the phone and they’re telling me these horror stories about how they hate working with Vince and he’s an idiot and Nikki is telling me he’ll never do another record again with Vince Neil or Mick Mars, just all this bullshit! You know they’d sit on the phone and they’re going, “Man we miss you bro, you’re fucking awesome! We love you.” Blah, blah, blah.
UA: And you’re thinking, “So why’d you fire me then,” right?
Right! I’m sitting there going, “What the fuck is the deal here?” And even to a degree Robin was calling me and telling me that she wanted to see my son and all this other stuff, and I just thought, “Wait! These are people that don’t want me in their life, but they won’t let it go. If it’s over then it’s over. Just go away and cut the fucking umbilical cord here and just let me drift off into space.” You know? And it’s just really hard. So I wrote “Get Off My Cloud” and I guess it’s a pretty snide song, the lyrics are “Get off my cloud/I’ll be fine without you/Get off my cloud/Your world is on the ground.” It was just like, at that moment I was pissed. I just said “Fuck this!” and I sat down and wrote the song.
Then some of the other ones, like “Pain Behind Your Eyes” inevitably go back to Robin again. I’ll meet someone out the clear blue who I’ve never met before and they’ll go, “Hey man, how’s Robin doing?” Then they’ll tell me they heard she’s not doing that good, or that they heard she’s doing amazing or whatever. So that song, if you listen to the lyrics, I’m basically saying in my own stupid little way, “I’m here for you. If you need me I’m here.” When you cry I got the towel or when you bleed I die, you know what I mean? It’s just one of these things, like in my life I’m connected to her somehow, it’s just weird. And I just write these things down and the chorus is: “You run, you hide/But I know right where you are/You live, you laugh, but I see through your disguise/You bleed, I die/’Cause I always feel the pain behind your eyes.” Like when you’re crying or whatever? So it’s just, I don’t know, you just kind of write what you’re feeling at the time… sorry I just went off on a twenty minute explanation.
UA: No, that’s cool. That’s the kind of thing that, if you’re willing to share, people really like to know the story behind the lyrics. Like for me, the song that I like best so far is “Heavy D,” and I was gonna ask you about the significance and inspiration of that song, or what that song means to you because that song just blows me away every time I hear it.
Well let me just ask you this, what do you think the song is about?
UA: The song to me seems to be about a guy who’s battling with inner demons of some kind, that’s the way I interpret it.
Right. Well the inner demons could be anything, but that’s actually a really good explanation. Part of it is also the fact too that Curt [Cuomo], who helped write a lot of these songs with us and he helped produce with me and Bruce, he had a very good friend of his that, I guess a year or two ago, it just devastated him but his friend had OD’d on heroin. And Jamie, if anybody’s familiar with his background, he was in a band with a guy named West Arkeen called the Outpatients. West did a lot of writing with the guys from Guns n Roses, and right before we met Jamie, I guess maybe a couple of months before that, Jamie came home and found West dead in his house from an O.D. And basically it’s the same thing. People who do those things have some kind of turmoil or inner demon or something in their lives and they’re just looking for a way out. But they look for a way out and think that’s their only way out, but they don’t realize that they’re really checking out. So what I do in the song is, lyrically, I took the persona of heroin or whatever the inner demon is.
UA: (lyric)”You know you can’t quit me.”
UA: The inner demon could be whatever it is for anybody, but once whatever it is grabs a hold of you like that you can’t “quit” it.
You can’t quit it period. And it could be gambling, it could be drugs, it could be whatever your vice is, and let’s face it, a lot of people have ‘em nowadays. But the bottom line, there’s some just really key sentences in that song like where it says, “You can’t quit me” or it says, “And all I give I’ll take from you.” There’s just certain lines in there that are just fucking amazing. I love the one line in there, “Reflections in the mirror show/You’re a face without a name/You’re spinning on my carousel…” You know what I mean? And it’s just things like that to me, in a kind of faint way, it paints a really cool picture you know?
UA: It really does. The word that comes to mind for me over and over about that song is “haunting.” The song just grabs you and will not let go, it’s very powerful. You guys did something really special with that song.
UA: One of the lines I like in “Around Again” is the one about karma: “It won’t be long until karma comes around again my friend.” And also, “It won’t be long until the wrath of truth has had its day.” Those lines sound like perhaps a subtle “screw you” to KISS and Mötley?
Well, you know everybody gets a different thing from the lyrics. I mean I could sit down and read the lyrics to a song and get one interpretation and you could sit down and read the same lyrics and get a completely different vibe from it. The thing is I don’t consider myself to be a spiteful person, I think the most spiteful I’ve gotten on the record was with “Get off my Cloud.” I mean, you have to understand there’s two guys from two very successful bands who, whether you want to call it fired, got dumped, quit, whatever, they went through the same circumstances almost at the same time with their bands. Bruce doesn’t really talk about it that often but he went through a lot of bullshit too with a relationship. He was married for a very long time and it didn’t work out. I’m with this girl for three years, a person I’m crazy about, I ask her to marry me, and then all the sudden it’s pulled out from under me. You know what I mean? And it makes you think, you know?
All the adversity and all the negative shit just really makes you think and evaluate your principals, your life and just things in general. And I believe to some degree I did something wrong, whether it was intentionally or unintentionally. I just felt that the last year of my life was like my karma payback. But now after it is all over, now I’ve taken my slate and I’ve wiped it clean with everything that I’ve gone through. Now it’s time to do things right. And I’m so anal about it! I don’t consider myself to be a religious person, but I think I’m spiritual to a degree. I believe just in doing the right thing, being a good human being, and things will work out. And that’s all a lot of this stuff is about. “Around Again:” for the most part, if you fuck somebody over, if you jerk somebody off, it’s gonna come back, it’s gonna bite you in the ass and it’s gonna come back twice as hard.
UA: And sometimes it comes back from areas you don’t even expect, but it all balances out somewhere.
Exactly! I’m just saying that a lot of the shit was just self evaluation, just life. Things were happening with me and I couldn’t help but be reflective with the lyrics, you know?
UA: Absolutely. The lyrics really do mean something, and I think that’s obvious when you listen to the album. The lyrics are not just fluff, there’s a real story behind them.
Every song. I can explain every song on this record, and that to me is the coolest thing. Nothing on this record is a made up or contrived thing, you know.
UA: There is no, “This is what’s hip right now so let’s write it like this.”
Absolutely not! This is exactly what the fuck I was going through, what Bruce was going through. Even the songs that are B-sides, even the cover song! I don’t think I’ve ever sung lyrics as intensely as “Oh Darling.” In that song Paul McCartney is begging someone, he’s telling this woman how much he loves her, asking her please don’t ever leave me cause I’ll never make it alone, nothing will be the same without you. This UNION album is lyrically a fucking diary. It’s amazing, because now I look back at it and I think these are some of the best lyrics I’ve ever written in my life.
“October Morning Wind” is another one. It’s weird… you ever hear a song from your past and you just get a fucking knot in your stomach because it was something like really happy that was going on when you were hearing the song and you totally remember it? A song where you can pin-point an exact moment in your life ’cause it just hinges onto something? Well I was listening to the TV last night, I was putting up Christmas decorations, and I had the Billboard Awards on and they were talking about Toni Braxton. And she did that song “Unbreak my Heart” and I got a fucking knot in my stomach because I totally remember the first time I heard that song was like three days after I split up with Robin, and for about 30 seconds, I was like uuggghh. God I totally remember how I felt, like I felt it again. Listening to “October Morning Wind” and “Robin’s Song” and all that shit, I just can’t help but go, “God I remember exactly how I was feeling at that time.” It’s an amazing thing, it’s really cool.
UA: I think people are gonna really connect with these lyrics, and like you said they can read their own interpretation into them. You wrote from what was going on with you, but they’ll take it and make it their own.
Right! I mean everybody can relate to it. As personal as the lyrics might be to me, everything that I went through people can relate to. It’s just life things, and that’s the coolest thing about the lyrics and the music itself. The whole album is just like take a look around, this is what’s happening right now, this is what happened in my life and I’m sure everybody at some point in their life has been jilted by somebody or fucked over or had their inner demons. Am I talking too much?
UA: Not at all! This is great. As long as you wanna stay on the phone, I’m here.
Well darling, as long as you wanna ask questions, I’m here.
UA: Great! Alright, let’s talk about the name UNION. Bruce said in an interview that you got to one point where you were all just sitting around in a room going through dictionaries and thesauruses, but then UNION just kind of presented itself and made sense. What’s your recollection on how hard it was to come up with the name?
Well, actually, we were all there to begin with but I left early, I had to go do something with my son. We wanted something that was cool, something that wasn’t contrived. An Brent was looking through I guess a dictionary on the computer or something and it mentioned something about California joining the Union on such and such a day. And it’s just got so many cool connotations you could put to “UNION.” It’s the union of Bruce and I, it’s a union like the UNION Workforce Paula’s got going. It’s fucking awesome, it’s just so cool. It’s like it could be a union of just people, you know, like our fans and us and we’re just celebrating life! That it’s got so many different things to it, as soon as we heard it I went, “Fuck, that’s awesome, lets do it!”
We told the label and the managers and they thought it was great and really cool. There’s a lot of things we can do with it, maybe doing some “free shows” when we go on tour and try and get radio stations involved and have where the kids get to come to shows for free if they bring in maybe some clothing or some cans of food. They’ll have to bring something and we’ll give it to like the homeless people or something unwrapped for kids for the toys thing.
It’s a union of people getting together showing that they care about themselves, their life or whatever. There’s a lot of cool, positive things that the name represents and I’m just really into that now, you know? A lot of the adversity that I went through has made me change the way I think about things. So as much as I wanna be successful and I wanna be responsible to myself and to my family, I also really wanna try and do some things for people that don’t have it as good as I do.
UA: And that’s very decent. You know, a lot of people get to a certain level and I think they forget where they come from and start taking themselves a little too seriously.
Exactly! But, It’s just rock n roll. It’s just way to get into like everybody’s homes and to meet a lot of people in a short period of time and tell them what you think. I know there’s a lot of people out there that are curious about what I think about this or what I think about that, you know, and I have it a little easier in that in that respect, than a pizza delivery guy. And I just wanna make sure that I do the right thing. That’s all life is about, working hard and doing the right thing.
UA: As far as the song writing goes, what was it like working with Curt and Bruce? Did you find it to be a natural process?
Absolutely. I’ve got to honestly say that I’ve worked with some egotistical guitar players. Now Mick Mars actually is not, he’s not an egotistical guitar player at all. But you know Bruce, well you think Bruce was in KISS for thirteen years and there’s gonna be a little bit of an ego there, and that guy is actually one of the sweetest human beings I’ve ever met in my fucking life! I mean it’s weird, I would say, “Yeah, yeah, do a solo there,” and he’d say, “Nah, I don’t really think it needs it.” You know there were some things that he just didn’t think really needed a solo, where you know somebody else would have just fucking put solos over everything, you know?
UA: He was just more into the song as a whole and what it needed, not what he could do to show off.
Exactly! He’s really, really easy to work with. You know there’s a bunch of other songs that we’ve got, and we worked on ‘em and it was like pulling a tooth you know what I mean? And some of the songs are fucking amazing but we just couldn’t find that one last ingredient to put it all together, so there’s a bunch of shit still on tape. We’ve probably got another ten or fifteen ideas that are unbelievable and you know what it will come when it comes. But a lot of this stuff like “Heavy D” I can honestly tell you that I think we wrote that song, all the music and all, in half an hour.
UA: ‘Cause it was right, it was just flowing.
Yeah! It was just right, it was perfect. We sat down and I started to scat a melody, and then Curt and I sat down and we were talking about lyrics and we said, “Yeah, it’s got kind of a dark vibe to it.” And we just went off, and Curt came up with some lyrics and I came up with some lyrics, and we put it together and it was just fucking magic. I sang the thing in Bruce’s room with like two takes and there it was, boom. And all we did to it when we did the album, we listened to it and said, “No, you know what man, it’s magic.” A lot of people like that vocal performance and a lot of people like that guitar performance that Bruce did.
UA: That guitar is just incredible.
I know! So all we did was, you know because we did it in a smaller place, we only had like four tracks of drums so when we went into the studio we obviously had more tracks of drums to play with, so Brent went in and he just played the song over again. I mean he had played it once for us in the demo version, but then we went back and he just played it over again in the studio. We got a bigger drum sound and then James came in, obviously we wanted James to play bass on it and put his two cents in, he came in and he played bass and we left it as is. But a lot of the other shit like “Love (I don’t need it any more),” Bruce and I were working on another song, I don’t even remember what the hell it was called, but we were working on one song and I just started noodling around. He was getting me a guitar sound you know, he was playing around an amp and we were gonna record one other idea that we had and I just started going (sings melody) and he’s like, “Wow, what’s that?” and I go, “I don’t know, I’m just fucking off,” and the whole thing was like boom boom, boom. We sat down and put the music together, and we actually we did the lyrics while we were recording it in the studio so… it just worked.
UA: It sounds like everything is falling right into place.
Yeah. Well, you know, it’s weird. I think that good things come to those who wait if you keep your nose clean and you’re a genuinely nice person. There’s that old saying that nice guys don’t finish first, you know, but I definitely believe they might not finish first but they’ll definitely have the big smile at the end. And I’m not saying that sarcastically, ’cause I said it to somebody yesterday or the day before and they kind of took it the wrong way like I was being sarcastic against Mötley Crüe or some of these other people that were in my life and I didn’t mean it that way. I meant it in a positive way, not sarcastic, because you know it’s the truth. I think Bruce, and no disrespect to KISS, but he’s been in Ace’s shadow for ten, twelve, thirteen years you know? This whole make up thing has been looming over his head since he’s been in the band. And let’s face it, it’s Gene and Paul’s band. And you know you’re kind of walking on eggshells when you join a band like that, you have to do what they wanna do, when they wanna do it, how they wanna do it. And now here’s an opportunity for two guys who’ve been through the same thing to go, “Let’s do what we wanna do, no rules.” Who knows? I mean we don’t even know! The next album Bruce and I might just decide to say fuck it and do a whole album of acoustic shit, but we can do that, you know?
UA: You’re doing what makes you happy cause you’re the one you have to live with.
Right, yeah, I’m the one. And you know it’s funny because I remember saying this when I was doing press with Mötley Crüe about the song “‘Til Death Do Us Part.” Everybody kept asking what it meant, and I’d say, “Well, why make somebody else’s mistakes cause you’re gonna feel like shit.” In that song there’s a line that says: “It’s me myself and I ’til death do us part.” You know, it’s just like, “Fuck everybody. I’m doing what I’m doing and if it’s the wrong thing I’ve got nobody but myself to blame.” And I’m not saying that you feel any better when you make a mistake, but…
UA: At least you know it was yours.
Right, exactly. It’s your mistake, it was your doing.
UA: A little earlier you were talking about how you came in and had Brent do the drums again to get a bigger sound, and Bruce has said that the bass on most the original demos was either him or you. Did Jamie go back and lay down bass on every track again for the actual recording?
Yeah. Everything. He’s playing bass on every song. I think there’s only one song that Jamie didn’t play bass on and he thought that Bruce had a better feel for it than he did, and it’s actually not even on the record. There’s a song that Bruce sang called “For You,” and it’s a great tune but it’s a little “left” of everything else that we were doing. We’re gonna actually use that as maybe a B-side or a bonus track or something like that. We’re not even sure yet, cause there’s actually like three for four extra tracks, so we’re just going to play it by ear. But Jamie played on everything and besides “For You,” there’s another song that we had called “Walking In Your Sleep.” We always liked the song, it’s a great song, but it just sounded more like something that maybe Billy Squire or John Waite or somebody would do. It was a little too, and I hate to use the term, but it was a little too “80′s pop” for us. So we sat down and we were listening to it and Bruce and I kind of came to conclusion that maybe we should just sit down and, you know we’re still doing some stuff, and eventually we’re gonna do some more stuff. But this one song we’re probably gonna go in and just do a really cool acoustic version of it, and that’ll be a bonus track. And we covered The Beatles tune “Oh Darling.” It’s awesome! You should hear it, it’s fucking amazing. You know, it’s weird the only thing that we did different to it is actually Bruce did a guitar solo.
UA: Otherwise you just basically straight covered it?
Yeah, we just covered it. It was weird because everybody’s been in cover bands, so it’s hilarious. If you saw us at rehearsals you’d laugh your ass off! One day we’re sitting there and I just started the riff to the song “Free Ride” by Edgar Winter, and because everybody’s been doing covers and things for so long everybody just started playing it. Everybody just jumped in and we did the song from top to bottom perfectly. And then we did “Good Times, Bad Times.” One day we did the entire KISS Alive II. We did like every song on the fucking record and it was funny, if I didn’t know the words Jamie would sing it or Brent would sing it or Bruce, but it was perfect. Just fucking around and kidding around, and we were laughing like, “This is insane!”
It’s funny, we know so many cover songs it’s stupid. So when we were in the studio, we were rehearsing, and I started the chord to “Oh Darling” and everybody’s like, “Oh, oh, oh!” and they all ran and grabbed their bass and guitars and we played it down, it was amazing. So we were getting ready to track something, I don’t know what, but we started “Oh Darling” in the studio and we tracked it twice. We did like one take down from top to bottom, and then we did another one top to bottom and just left it as it is. There’s a couple little mistakes or something in it, but for the most part… (phone rings in the background) Wait, hold on one second.
[Gets a phone call from one of his son's friends]
UA: One of your son’s friends?
Yeah, he’s got his little friends and shit calling and stuff. It’s funny, he’s like 10 and he’s got little girls calling for him and stuff.
UA: Well, like father like son, right? (Laughs)
Well you know (laughs).
UA: So he plays drums, right?
He’s awesome! It’s scary how good this kid is on drums.
UA: He’s got a couple of kids his own age he plays with or something right?
Well, yeah. First of all Tommy got him a kit.
UA: A downsized kit?
Yeah! It’s the same as Tommy Lee’s, but it’s smaller. It’s made the same company, DW, they made the drums for him and all the hardware, and Tommy gave it to him for his birthday. But he just locked himself in this room in the back of the house, and we got a ghetto-blaster back there for him, and he just listens to Soundgarden and 311 and all this different shit and… uh wait, we’re having a power failure here and the phones are ringing… I’m sorry. But he just went in the back room and he just started practicing and he loves like old Stevie Wonder, Motown stuff, loves Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith. The Beatles, forget it, he’s a huge Beatles fan! So he’s in the back room and he’s practicing and I’ll go back there with him every now and then and we jam stuff like “When The Levy Breaks” and all these cool Zeppelin tunes. You know, he’s only ten but he plays ‘em pretty fucking good I tell you that. He was in the back room and one of his buddies is taking guitar lessons now, and they were in the back room and they were playing that Green Day song (sings melody) you know the one?
UA: Yeah right, right… “Geek Stink Breath.”
Yeah! So he’s doing that and I can hear him in the background, he’s going, “Okay Steve, that was pretty good but let’s take it from the top.” (Laugh) He’s like totally arranging the whole thing and I’m like, “That’s cool.” We were still looking for a band name, and one day he came out and he’s like, “Hey Dad, you got a band name yet?” And I’m like, “No.” He’s like, “I have one.” So I asked him, “Yeah? What’s your band called?” He goes, “Paper Cut.” I go, “Paper Cut?” He says, “Yeah, ’cause paper cuts are small, but annoying,” and he just walked away. And I’m thinking, “You little shithead… way fucking cool!”
UA: That is cool. So I guess we’ll be reading about him in six or eight years.
You know if he keeps it up… let’s face it the Hansons are what, six? (laughing)
UA: Yeah, exactly.
Who knows? Johnny Lang is what fifteen or sixteen?
UA: Yeah. Hey, keep taking him along to rehearsals and the studio and father and son will have recording contracts together.
There you go! I was actually going to do that but we didn’t really have the time, we were trying to get all this shit together. But I was actually gonna have him sit down and just play a drum beat for about a minute and then put a riff to it and just have it be like a hidden track on the album called “Ian’s Bonzo” or something weird… Maybe the next time.
UA: Cool. Getting back to daddy’s band, do you know much at this point about the details of the radio promo tour that you guys are gonna be doing?
No. I just know that Paula said probably the second week of January Bruce and I are gonna go out and we’re gonna hit a bunch of the radio stations and give ‘em an advance copy of the record and talk with ‘em about our pasts and how we met, maybe do the stuff like “October Morning Wind” or “Robin’s Song” live for them over the air. Obviously you have to go and work with different sections of the record company. If they have an office in Chicago you hit them there and thank everybody for working real hard, you do all that stuff. It’s supposed to start the second or third week of January and it’s gonna be I believe like 25 or 30 cities.
UA: Wow! So you’re really gonna go all out on that.
Yeah. I believe it pays off if you go out there and you meet people and you shake hands and you get down there on your hands and knees with the kids that are buying the record and the people that are out there sweating bullets to try and make me a living. You know what I mean? Let ‘em know, “Hey man, I fucking appreciate what you’re doing.” Just hang with them so they get to know you. I mean it’s weird, but one of my best friends is a lady that used to work at Hollywood Records when I was in The Scream. I still talk to her almost on a daily basis. So you do get to be friends with some of these people, and you let them know that you appreciate it, and then they go, “Fuck man, he’s a nice guy. He’s an alright guy,” and they’ll work that much harder for you.
UA: Exactly, yeah. People will really respond when they think you care about them, and when they meet you at the conventions or online at a chat and see that you are really enjoying it and you really wanna be there with the fans, that means something. Fans like it when they can identify with you as a person.
The bottom line of it is, I haven’t had the major successes that maybe Nikki Sixx or Tommy Lee or Gene and Paul have had, I have no idea what that is like. All I can tell you is the reason I got into this is because I was a little guy and I turned the TV on one day and my mom pointed out The Beatles and I just thought they were fucking awesome. From that day on I got a guitar and my whole life has been about music, you know what I mean? I’ve been doing this since I was fourteen years old and I just love playing music. I would love to have some success, some stability so that I could be a good dad. Music is what I do for a living, but I also just love it! I can’t think of myself doing anything else. But I know there’s that whole rock star element, and I think a lot of people forget that they only do this for a living.
I don’t care where I’m at, what I’m doing, if somebody wants an autograph or just to talk to me for a minute, it’s cool, you know what I mean? When I do that it’s like I’m thanking them and I mean it from the bottom of my heart. To be perfectly honest with you, if I wasn’t doing this I’d be washing fucking dishes ’cause I quit school. Every wrong road you could take I took it, okay. And here I am today just loving what I do. I love playing music. I love playing and it doesn’t matter to me whether it’s arenas or clubs, I could give a shit because I’ve done ‘em both. I actually like clubs better ’cause it’s more intimate. But you know I just appreciate what I’m doing. I appreciate the fact that I’m being given another chance, another opportunity to do a record. I’m a normal person you know? I’ve got a family. Though I think at times I do have abnormal tendencies! (laughs)
UA: (laughing) Well who doesn’t every now and again?
Right! I mean, I’m no different than Joe Blow in Iowa. I had a girlfriend who I was absolutely crazy about, who I still love unbelievably to this day. Whether or not I’ll ever be with her again that’s for the good man upstairs to determine, but you know I do the same things everybody else does. I have a kid, I have a dog I drive my Jeep, I was in love with someone and it didn’t work out and I was bothered by it when it didn’t, you know what I mean? So I’m the same as everybody else, this is just what I chose to do for a living.
UA: It just so happens that your job puts you in a spotlight that the TV repairman’s doesn’t.
Right. It’s the same. But I can guarantee ya the TV repairman or a computer guy or a guy that fucking mows lawns for a living is probably got a little bit more stability in his life than I do. I’m not complaining about it, I’m just saying that this is what I chose to do for a living. And I think Bruce realizes that too, and I think that’s why we come across as… I don’t wanna say “nice” or whatever, but, you know what I mean?
UA: Down to earth?
Down to earth about the whole thing. Because I know tomorrow we could put this record out and it could sell ten copies and Bruce and I are gonna be right back at the beginning again going, “Fuck! Okay, now we gotta write another record and keep our fingers crossed and hope we get another record deal.” You know what I mean?
UA: Yeah. It just sounds like you’ve taken stuff from your experiences and have got a level head about you is what it sounds like to me.
Right. You know, shit happens. That’s one of the things I told you I learned being in Mötley Crüe and not being in Mötley Crüe. You figure things out. It’s life – you can write songs about it, you remember some things, you make some mistakes, and it’s just all about life. I’ve actually learned to appreciate some things that I was maybe taking for granted. So I’m kind of glad that I went through everything that I went through.
UA: Not necessarily that you would choose to do it that way again, but having lived it you at least took something from it and are moving on.
Exactly! Exactly. You know, nothing’s guaranteed. The only thing that’s guaranteed in this fucking life is that you’re gonna be born, you’re gonna pay taxes and you’re gonna die, and that’s it. And the tax thing you could probably evade if you wanted, but you’re gonna be born and you’re gonna die. Period. In a perfect world I would hope that Bruce and I would do really well with this record, and I believe that we will. I believe in what we’re doing, and Bruce believes in what we’re doing, and the four of us will argue and bicker and fight with anybody because we all as a group believe in what we’re doing. And in a perfect world I hope that we can go out there and show everybody that we’re having a great time, just do our thing, go out and play some shows, make enough money so that we can survive and get all of our personal lives straightened out and everything will be okay.
UA: Yeah. Wow, we’ve been talking awhile. Do you need to go, or can we keep talking?
No, we can talk, that’s cool.
UA: Cool. You’ve got an incredible voice. It’s not just the stereotypical metal screeching, you actually sing. And it’s got a lot of power too. You’ve got this huge voice coming out of you. It seems like recording an album or particularly a tour, day after day, month after month, that’s gotta take a toll on your voice. I was wondering if you’re just blessed that you don’t have to worry about that or do you have any kind of special things that you do to take care of your voice?
I actually have to worry about that a lot more than I used to. It’s a muscle, and like any muscle the more you use it you’re gonna break it in, it’s gonna hurt for a little while and then it kind of builds up some strength. The problem that I’ve been having over the last year or two is that I don’t use my voice enough! To be perfectly honest with you, I’m actually looking forward to the next record because if you guys think I sang great on this record, the next one’s gonna be stupid! I don’t wanna take any down time when we’re done with that tour. I wanna start rehearsing, start writing and recording the next record, because it’s gonna be four, five months on the road, sing, sing, sing, and you just get so much stronger. I haven’t done that in so long you know? I have my problems now I sing too much, my voice kinda craps out. But anybody goes through that, so you just kind of have to do your thing and try and take it easy, not talk afterwards or talk quietly have some tea, just kind of pace yourself. So there are some rules.
UA: As a singer it must be really nice for you to know you’ve got Crue ’94, The Scream, and the KISS catalog that you can pull stuff from to fill out a set. I’ve heard that you’re really into “Rain” off of Carnival of Souls.
I love that fucking album!
UA: I’ve also heard that you even expressed maybe wanting to do something like “Hard Luck Woman” acoustically in the set. What other songs would you, as a vocalist, like to do?
Well, besides the back catalog stuff, I have these moments where I’ll just get up and go, “Fuck, I just love such-and-such tune, I wanna cover that!” Every band I’ve ever been in I’ve wanted to cover “Oh Darling,” and now finally I did it. I love The Beatles, so just about anything by The Beatles I would do. It varies. I would love to do a heavy version of an Ohio Player song called “Fire,” I don’t know if you’re familiar with it, but it’s an old song, actually they’ve been playing it on the Burger King commercial… (sings melody) I just think that’s a great tune! I mean even something like “Free Ride.” It just depends on the mood that I’m at the time. The cool thing about it is we could probably go out and learn 25 covers too. I’ve always loved “Chip Away The Stone” by Aerosmith, so who knows. I love funk stuff. I love Prince, I think Prince is a genius. I love Aretha Franklin, there are a couple of songs by Aretha Franklin that I thought were just fucking brilliant. There’s another song that my manager has been trying to get me to cover called “One of the Boys” by a band called Rose Tattoo, so it just depends.
UA: Right. You said you loved Carnival of Souls, so what songs off of that disc or any other KISS songs would you be interested in singing?
Well I knew a lot of the KISS songs that were on MTV and stuff like that, I heard em. I’m not a real big like radio guy. I think one of the first concerts I ever saw was the first KISS Alive album. I was so blown away that I bought that record, and two or three records after that. I bought Destroyer… I think the last KISS record I bought was Rock and Roll Over. Then after that I started getting into guys like Zeppelin and Free and Humble Pie and Bad Company. So there’s a really long period of time like I didn’t listen to a lot of KISS so I would really have to go back and listen again. The songs that I really know are the songs like “Hard Luck Woman,” “Firehouse,” “Black Diamond.”
UA: How about “Deuce?” It seems like your voice could really lay into something like that.
I love that song! But you know, no disrespect to Gene or Paul, who is amazing, but I always thought Peter had a fucking amazing voice. Like they actually had a song too called “Hooligan.” I just thought he sang the shit out of that stuff! And that is the kind of voice I think I have, so even like “Hard Luck Woman,” and I think Peter sang “Hard Luck Woman” if I’m not mistaken?
UA: He did.
Well maybe that song or something like that. But also, in all fairness to Bruce, I wanna do some of the stuff that he’s done with KISS, the stuff that Bruce played on that he helped write. We’ll pull a couple of those out of the hat for the KISS fans.
UA: Cool. Do you think there’s a possibility the fans could ever see any of the Personality #9 stuff done live by you guys?
Well you know to be honest with you, some of the Personality #9 stuff wound up being on Generation Swine.
UA: And that’s kind of what the lawsuit’s about right?
Yeah. I mean, to touch base on it, I’m not upset that the guys got Vince back in the band, I’m more upset about the way it was done. I was the last person on the planet to find out, and then even afterwards they were calling me and asking me to come to the studio and play guitar and different things. The bottom line of it is that I was promised certain things. A few days after I was fired they called me into the manager’s office with my managers, and they proceeded to tell me I was gonna have like six or seven songs on the record, that I was gonna make more money being out of the band than in the band, and then the manager asked me to continue to go to the studio to help them finish the record, which I did. I didn’t sing, I just went up there if they needed a guitar part or something. They would call me and say, “Look, you know we had Mick here last night for four and a half hours and we didn’t get anything out of him, maybe you could come up today and kind of fuck off with this tune and help put it together.”
So I would go up and I’d play guitar, use these weird tunings and try shit and they were freaking out, “Oh fuck dude, that’s awesome!” I was doing all this shit and there had even been some rumors flying around on MTV and in a lot of the newspapers that I was gonna be a fifth member of the band, which I wasn’t really counting on. I’m just saying a lot of the things that happened were done from that side of the fence, and so I waited ’til they were done the record. See a lot of people ask why I waited so long to do the lawsuit, well I waited because I waited to see what was gonna happen, you know? I waited to see how many songs I was gonna have on the record. I waited to see if they were gonna give me credit for playing guitar.
UA: Because you don’t know if there’s anything to sue about until it comes out.
Exactly! So I waited and then finally my manager called and said well you know the Mötley record came out like a couple days ago…. they never sent me one. I had to go buy it.
UA: You had to go buy Generation Swine?!
Yeah, I had to go out and buy Generation Swine! And then I opened it up and my name was nowhere on the record, except for a writing credit on two songs. And the publishing company I had, they had advanced me some money for that record, and it was a decent amount of money, and now they’re pissed off at me now because they advanced me money and I’m not even on the record! And I’m sitting there telling them, “Yeah, I’m gonna have like five or six songs on the record.” But I was only telling them what I was told. And that’s why everything is the way it is right now. You know, the funny thing is I still love Nikki, I love Tommy, I love Mick, they’re great fucking guys. I know all their kids, their families, their wives, and they’re great people. It really bothers me, especially with Tommy cause him and I used to hang out all the time, that I can’t call or I can’t stop by and say hello or go have a beer or shoot pool. But at the same time I gotta do what I gotta do. Like I said, this is what I do for a living, you know?
UA: It is a business.
Yeah, and I mean fans might understand it, but they don’t want to hear about the business part getting involved in their favorite bands. But the bottom line of it is that it is a business unfortunately. And I hate that. Believe me, if some record company guy came to me and said, “Hey John, you need to do a fucking record that sounds like Nine Inch Nails if you wanna be successful,” I’m gonna tell him to go fuck himself. I’ve been known to do things, business wise, that were wrong because it’s not what I believe in. So the business part is a pain in the ass, but I gotta do what I gotta do. The fact of the matter is I was promised certain things and they didn’t come through, whether it was the band, the management, the record label I don’t know, but the lawsuit that I have with them right now covers everything. It’s not just directed at the band, it covers the whole conglomerate over on that side of the fence. The label, management… somebody needs to fess up and admit they fucked up.
UA: You just want them to do right by you.
Exactly. And unfortunately, because of the way of it is, Mötley’s gotta be involved in part of that. I’m sorry about it, but that’s just the way it is.
UA: Well like you said, it is a business, you do have a family, you have a son, you’ve gotta do what you need to do to take care of you and yours.
Right. I mean, I’ve got a beautiful little boy, he’s an amazing kid! He’s been through so much bullshit. He’s a diabetic, you know, he takes insulin shots two or three times a day and I need to look out for his well being. I can’t just sit there and go, “Well daddy didn’t get paid that X amount of dollars that he was promised so you’re just gonna have to like try not to get sick buddy cause I don’t have health insurance now.” You know? I mean that’s just the way it is. It’s life. So you gotta do what you gotta do.
UA: Some people just don’t wanna take their heads out of the sand and realize that you guys have the same problems that everybody does. Just because you’re in a band and they see you on the TV and they listen to your record doesn’t mean you don’t have a son who needs shots or you don’t have a car that breaks that you gotta get fixed. You have the exact same things going on that they do.
Exactly! And I mean I’m not cruising around in a Ferrari either! I’m not cruising around in a Mercedes. I’ve got a Jeep. That’s what I like, that’s what I wanted, I got a Jeep. But it needs gas, it needs tires, it needs things. And my son needs to eat, my son needs his medicine. And as much of a great time as I had with the guys, and as amazing as they were to me, they gave me things but I gave them things back. There’s a lot of things people don’t know. The whole time I was on tour with them we weren’t selling any tickets, and I was on tour for five months with the band. Even before that I talked to the manager Doug Thaler and I was told they were having a problem with monies and different things like that. Now technically, by contract, I was supposed to be paid anyway, but I said, “Look, don’t worry about it. I’ve got money in the bank, just catch me later.” I tried to work with the band, I invested money into that band. And that’s all I’m saying now, just give me my investment back, I’ll go on my way, you guys do your thing, I’ll do my thing, and let’s still be friends. Didn’t work out that way. So I’m just sitting thinking I need to get this shit straightened out. Fortunately I’ve not had too many fans give me a hard time about it. But the bottom line is unfortunately it is a business. I love the guys and I hate doing this. I feel like I gotta take two fucking showers a day because I’m suing someone, you know what I mean? But like I said, it is business.
UA: Right. And I think the fans are gonna really appreciate your willingness to put that on the record and really lay it out for them where you’re coming from. On a lighter note, what are some of the groups you were influenced by and listened to a lot coming up?
There’s only maybe a few bands like Zeppelin, Aerosmith, The Beatles that I dove into hard and I could sit here and probably play you every song.
UA: And that’s the stuff that you’re still primarily listening to today?
Yeah, but now there’s also a lot of other bands that I really dig. I’ll hear a song I think is really cool and I’ll got out and I’ll buy the record, but I’ll just listen to like two or three songs on the record and I don’t even listen to the rest of the record. Like a dumb-ass I buy the whole thing but I only listen to maybe two or three songs (laughs).
UA: What are some of the newer guys out there that you listen to or you have listened to in the past couple of years?
I love the Crows, the Black Crows are just fucking amazing. I like acoustic music too, so I’ve really been into like bands like Counting Crows, Wallflowers. I love a lot of the stuff that the women are doing right now, like Jewel, Fiona Apple I think is brilliant. I love that song “Bitch” by Meredith Brooks, I think it’s fucking awesome! There’s a band out now called Big Wreck, they’re on Atlantic, I just got that CD and there’s a lot of really cool shit on there. Foo Fighters I think I are great. I met Dave Ghrol in Paris and he was a really cool guy, that was when he was still with Nirvana.
One band I think should’ve definitely been huge, I think they’re brilliant but for some reason they’ve never really taken off, is Enuff Z’ nuff, who actually now winds up being label mates with us. I think those guys are amazing. They write some really cool harmonies and melodies and I don’t get it, I don’t understand why they’re not bigger than they are. It’s just timing or whatever. I mean Enuff Z’ nuff has done what they’ve done now for the last probably ten years and they’ve done like five, six or seven records and they’re still struggling. I mean they’re doing okay, they’re not complaining about it, but they go out and they do what they do and they do it well and I just don’t understand why they’re not a bigger band. Their first album I thought was brilliant, with “Fly High Michelle” and “New Thing,” all that shit. Unbelievable stuff! I’ve met the guys, they’re really nice guys. Cry of Love is another band I think is amazing. I don’t know, it’s just weird. There are so many great bands out there that really they don’t even see the light of day sometimes, and it just kind of bugs me.
UA: (Laughs) Well, how about “Crab.” Where and how did you get that nickname?
Everybody can thank Mick Mars for that one! It was weird, ’cause my name is Corabi you know, and he used to go “Hey Corab.” It was, first it was, “Hey Corabi” then it was, “Hey Corab,” then somehow “Corab” turned into to “Crab.” Then he would always go, “Hey Crab, what are you doing you bastard?” It just kind of took off, Tommy and Nikki all started calling me “Crab,” and then we would have a party or something and everybody would be standing around and they were sitting there going, “Hey Crab, you bastard, come here.” And everyone’s asking, “What the hell are you guys calling him ‘Crab’ for?” And they’d be like, “It’s his last name!” It just kind it kind of morphed into that, and so that’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.(laughs)
UA: (laughs) Okay. And it’s something that you obviously don’t mind because I know you even have a necklace that says that on it.
My son made that for me.
UA: He did? Cool!
Yeah. Last Christmas Robin got him a little, it’s like this kind of thing that’s got the little ball chains? Well it had the ball chains in it, and it had all these beads with letters and stuff, so he wrote “Crab” on my necklace. And then he while he was making it he had “Crab” on it and then he put a heart you know and then he wrote “Daddy” in front of it.
UA: So now you’re “Daddy Crab?”
Yeah, and he put the heart in it too like, “I love my daddy crab.”
UA: That’s cool.
So he made it for me and I put it on last Christmas and haven’t taken it off. I still have pictures and shit that Ian drew me. Robin and I put Ian in an art class cause he showed some interest in drawing, and the first picture that he drew was of a fish and he did a really good job with it, he’s a really creative kid. He drew this picture of a fish and the seaweed and little bubbles and stuff like that so we had it framed, and we used to have it in our bathroom. I still have it. It’s just, you know, he takes the time to draw me pictures and shit and so I just keep it, I save it you know. He gave me the necklace and he took the time to make me a necklace so I take the time to put it on and I haven’t taken it off.
UA: Cool. When you’re just home, when you’re not recording or you’re not on the road, what sort of things do you do just to amuse yourself? What kind of things do you do just to relax and unwind?
Well, you know depending on the weather I like to do things with my son. Occasionally I’ll sit down and help him with his homework when I’m here. I am pretty simple. To relax or unwind I would just go out and rent a movie. I go to movies, I like taking Ian to the movies and shit too, but I’m the type of person that really for the most part I don’t like leaving my house, you know what I mean? So I just kind of go rent some movies. And it’s funny ’cause I’ll lay on the couch and I’ll prop a pillow up behind me and then I’ll throw like one leg on the back of the couch and the other one on the side and then I’ll prop a pillow in between my legs and then Ian will lay there, you know what I mean?
UA: Yeah, just use you as a cushion.
Right. And it’s just cool you know. We’ll talk. I find myself being on the phone a lot anymore doing business or trying to get personal shit straightened out, doing interviews and stuff like that. But I’m pretty simple, I like just kind of hanging out. I listen to music. Last night and tonight I’m just putting up Christmas decorations and it may sound boring, but you know it relaxes me. As far as playing music, I play it when I feel like playing it, but I’m not the type of person that can just make myself sit down and everyday between 4 and 8 and write a song. Some people have that gift, I’m just not one of them. You know, I always admired these guys that could sit down and write 40 or 50 songs for each album, but I’m just not one of those guys. If something catches my eye or I hear a catch phrase on a movie or see a commercial that just goes “bing” I’ll remember it, and then a couple of days later I’ll pick a guitar up and I’ll just write a song. Or I’ll hear a song that will inspire me to write another song like that. You know what I mean? So, I don’t know, it’s just weird, I’m a weirdo.(laughs)
UA: (laughs) Well I think a lot of people connect with the “weirdo” then, ’cause a lot of people are digging what you do.
UA: As far as your guitar playing, is there any kind of guitar that you’re particularly into?
Gibson Les Pauls. Even more than Stratocasters, I think Fender telecasters, which I have, and Gibson Les Pauls are the rock n roll guitars. I’ve got like two or three Les Pauls, a couple of telecasters, and basically that’s it. I also have like three different acoustic guitars because I really love acoustic guitars. I gave one to Bruce last year for his birthday.
UA: Speaking of which, this won’t be going up until after his birthday, so is there anything special you’re gonna do for him on Friday for his birthday?
I’ve really been trying to think about it but I don’t know. He’s like a such a hard individual to buy for. I don’t know what to get him, I’ve got to think about it and see what the deal is. Last year I couldn’t think of what to get him, I gave him an acoustic guitar, but I don’t know. What I was thinking about doing is this, my ex-wife usually does a lot of photo sessions with different bands and stuff and this guy Neil that she worked with, he’s got file cabinets full of old Jimmy Page pictures and old Jimmy Hendrix pictures and people like that. So I’m just thinking about maybe getting like a really cool picture that nobody has, maybe Page or something, and framing it and giving it to him. I don’t know, I might do that.
UA: Cool. You said that when you first went to L.A. that you really like it and ended up moving there within like six months of the first time that you ever went out there. Do you ever miss Philly and things like cheesesteaks and South Street?
Absolutely! I love Philadelphia and I’ve learned to appreciate it now that I’ve been out here for so long. I think that the one thing that I really miss is the family thing. I’ve watched a lot of my friends come out here and the city has this incredible knack of ruining people. And it really makes me sad when I think about it. Like the first band that I was in, two or three of the guys were smoking crack, they were doing this, they were doing that. I watched this beautiful woman that I was totally in love with come out here, and she was an angel, the girl was an angel when she came out here. She wanted to be successful and everybody out here was giving her their two cents and all of our problems started happening when her agencies and agents and managers and all started giving her the bullshit like you need to go this party and that party and you’d probably be better off if you didn’t have a boyfriend because you know the producers aren’t really gonna wanna talk to you if you go in there with your boyfriend, you know what I mean? And I just watched her turn into this other person and it just really makes me sad. I miss the fact that you know you can always count on one thing, love ‘em or hate ‘em your family is always gonna keep you in check. They’re always gonna go, “You’re a fucking idiot!” you know what I mean? My family still does it to me. I mean they admire the fact that I’ve done what I’ve done and I’m kind of looked up to to a degree, but…
UA: But to people like your uncles you’re still just “Little Johnny.”
Right, “Little Johnny.” And if I do something wrong they are not gonna think twice about telling me that I’m a fucking idiot, and I love that. Everybody needs to be put in check every now and then, and this town’s got a a very plastic kind of a facade where people tell you what they think you want to hear to get something out of you. I went through it. You gotta do what you gotta do and hopefully and everybody comes out of it and they’re a better person and they’re that much smarter.
UA: Yeah. Speaking of Hollywood type things, let’s talk about videos. Didn’t three videos actually end up coming off The Scream album: “I Believe In Me,” “Man on the Moon,” and “Father, Mother, Son?”
Right, three from the Mötley record also.
UA: Right. And wasn’t there a little bit of controversy about “Smoke the Sky,” like MTV wouldn’t play it or something?
Yeah, ’cause of the lyrical content of the song. It was weird, me and Tommy and Nikki at the time, everybody said alright we’re gonna quit drinking, we’re gonna quit doing this, we’re gonna quit doing that, but we’re just gonna smoke pot. And I don’t even know why I did it because I’ve never really been much of a partier. I mean I party, but like I’ve never been like a big drug guy, you know? I go out and I socially drink or whatever, but so we went on this fucking pot kick and, like everything that was done was Motley, everything was done to an extreme. We were like getting bags of pot, we all went out and bought like personalized pipes and bongs and all this other bullshit. We read a story in this magazine called Omni, about how back in the 60′s they took someone who couldn’t retain things, who would read a book and wouldn’t retain it, didn’t have very good marks in school, and asked the same person to smoke a couple hits of pot and then study. And they found that they were just so focused on like reading and getting into what they were reading, that it actually helped them remember, it’s a proven thing! I mean Omni Magazine did like a ten page story about it. And pot’s good for glaucoma and it’s supposedly good for cancer and it’s good for this and good for that, so we just kind of did this pot smoking anthem, you know. And it talked about how Clinton said he smoked it but he never inhaled it, who the fuck are you trying to kid? You went that far and kind of told the truth, tell the rest of the truth: I smoked it, I inhaled, I got really high, I got laid and I loved it. It’s that simple.
UA: (laughs) Right.
It was just one of those things we had a little fun with. But when we did the video there was like some images of pot leaves and stuff. And when we read the Omni thing, they said that President Kennedy used to smoke pot a lot, and so we just wanted to kind of take the piss out of a few people. So when I was singing, I sang part of the song wearing a Kennedy mask and I put on another one and I had a Clinton mask on you know what I mean? It was just fun. They saw it they were like “No, nope, sorry. Can’t be doing that pot smoking.” Okay, so they don’t want to condone the pot smoking, but they will condone the gangster wrappers talking about killing each other, that’s cool, we’ll talk to you later. Bye. And at that point I think we had already pissed ‘em off by throwing ‘em out of our rehearsal room anyway, so it didn’t matter.
UA: (laughs) Do you enjoy the video making process?
Yes and no. I’d be lying if I didn’t say doing a video can be cool, if it gets played. If I had a video on in heavy rotation and it really helped sell my record, I think I could earn to love it. But I think too, on the creative part, it does kind of take that element out of music. It’s like what we were talking about earlier, I’ll read a set of lyrics and I’ll get something out of it that means something to me, then you’ll read a set of lyrics, the same set, and it will mean something completely different to you. A video is the producer/director’s interpretation of the lyrics, and they kind of shove that down everybody’s throat. This is what the song means. So nobody gets their own viewpoint on it, you know what I mean? To this day, I remember listening to songs like “Kashmir” or “Seasons of Wither,” or listening to that Beatles lyric where he says, “Sitting on a corn flake,” you know what I mean?
UA: Right, and it’s just all you; you can conjure up whatever you want in your head.
Exactly! It’s like okay what does he mean by that? Well what’s the season of wither, seasons of wither what does that mean? Or “Kashmir,” it’s such a heavy tune! What’s a kashmir? Well I know it’s a little country or a little city somewhere, you know, but what made them think of that for a title, or what does this song mean? To me video is a good tool to get a band across to the masses, but it kind of takes the picture away. It’s just one person’s interpretation of what the song is about, and it’s not necessarily always the point, so I kind of have a love/hate relationship with those. I just wish that MTV would blow up and no one would play any videos and that things would go back to the way that they were when I was growing up. It was magazines, seeing a band live, it was just a completely different thing. And lyrics were left to the listener’s imagination. You know what I mean?
UA: Yeah, it’s to the point where you see the video and then in your head you can’t help but associate the song with the picture you’ve seen on the TV every time you hear the song after that.
Exactly. MTV has taken the uniqueness out of almost every aspect of music. When they do these live broadcasts and shit from the road, you see the band setting up, you see the lights back stage, you see all the guys working, you see the band on stage, you know what I mean? There’s not that magical thing anymore like when I used to go see Aerosmith. I used to think, “Fuck man, what made Tyler do that? Why does Joe Perry play the guitar this way?” Now it’s just always there, it’s in your face, you know someone’s opinion of it. There is no mystery, there is no imagination left in music anymore, none. I think one of the few bands that really intrigues me is Chris Cornell and Soundgarden, because even their videos for the most part are kind of vague, and I think that is so cool. I’ve met the guy three for four times, and I just look at him and totally sit there in awe of the guy and wonder what the fuck is he thinking. He draws people in because he’s so vague, you just wonder what the hell the guy is thinking. I just think that is too cool.
UA: Well having said all of that then, I guess you have the same love/hate thought about possibly doing videos for UNION?
Well, again, I really don’t see the point. I personally believe that to me whether you have a video or you don’t have a video a band becomes successful through one avenue, and that’s the fans. To me the fans build up like a chain letter, one person hears the record and they go, “Fuck this is awesome!” Then they tell two people and those two people tell two more, you know what I mean? And it just builds. I think that if the record company believes in an act, and the act believes in the act, and they do the record and then they just go out and kick peoples ass on a nightly basis, and they just keeping doing this over and over and over again, you’re gonna have a successful career. It’s gonna work. You don’t need MTV, and to be honest you don’t even need radio. It’s so funny you’re asking me this ’cause I’m reading that book “Walk this Way,” the Aerosmith book, and they had nothing in the beginning, nothing. They went out and did their first record and then they toured. But the record company believed in ‘em, they gave them the opportunity to do a second record, and they kept touring, they played any fucking place: they played high school parties, they played dances, just doing their originals and a couple of covers, and they just went out there and they rocked peoples faces off.
They were building up this following, and it went from Boston, down to Philadelphia, to Ohio, then it was Detroit, they were huge in Detroit, then they were huge all the way down to Atlanta. And it just kept growing and growing and growing and growing until by the time they did Rocks, Rocks and Draw the Line I think were two of the biggest albums coming out of the gate. They sold a million and a half records, like a million and a half records were sold in a matter of weeks. This was a band that up until “Walk This Way,” really had no air play. Even after “Walk This Way,” they really didn’t play Rocks that much and they definitely didn’t they didn’t jump on Draw the Line, so they just did it the old fashioned way – they went out and promoted themselves by playing and it was word of mouth. The bottom line is that it all boils down to the faith factor. How much faith does this label have in this band? You know what I mean? They just did a big story on a lot of the bands and examined if things were always the way that they are nowadays how so many amazing bands would have never been in existence. Bands like Aerosmith who didn’t connect, didn’t really have a radio song until “Walk This Way,” and that was their third album.
UA: Well for that matter, KISS. Until Alive nobody for the most part except for the people in the halls and clubs really knew who they were.
Right! They couldn’t care less. Actually Aerosmith mentions those guys in the book. Bands like KISS didn’t take off until the first live album, Aerosmith didn’t take off until like their third album. David Bowie had like seven albums out before he even had a number one hit single and the guy’s worth like 900 million dollars today, he’s a genius. Nowadays you could put out a record and if it doesn’t go platinum or better, you’re fucked, you’re done, end of career, talk to you later. Go back to waiting on fucking tables pal, you know? And that’s what I really believe that we have here with Mayhem. I believe that they believe in us and I think that it’s up to Bruce and I now. I think we’ve a delivered a great album, we’re gonna go out and do the promotional thing, and we appreciate the fact that you guys are taking the time to do web sites. That’s all word of mouth, you guys are circumventing the guys that have the power.
UA: Yeah and it’s weird because in this day and age you’ve got the Internet, which is high tech so to speak, but boiled down it’s still just people on the street.
Exactly. It is so cool. I just love the fact that a lot of the Internet stuff is for the fans by the fans. And that to me is way more important than any fucking disc jockey telling me, “Yeah dude you’ve got a great album.” Well you know what, you got you’re fucking album for free! I don’t give a fuck what you think, I wanna know what that kid in fucking Iowa who saved up a week what he thinks, or what you think! You’re going out of your way for KISS and you’re going out of your way for UNION with your webpages, and I appreciate what you’re doing, ’cause you’re a fan. And the coolest thing of this is if we play our cards right, if we get enough people like yourself to get on our band wagon, you’re gonna go out and you’re doing these interviews and you’re gonna put ‘em on your website, and the fans the fans are getting it first hand: coming from my mouth, to a fan’s ears, and from your mouth or your fingertips right to their…
UA: Right to the computer screen.
Right. All I’m saying now is that we don’t need the fucking radio stations, we don’t need fucking MTV, we don’t need anybody, we’ve got our fans. Period. That’s it. And I think the more our fans believe in us they’re gonna tell their other friends. I mean look what everybody did for “Jungle.” “Jungle” was the biggest song that KISS has had in 15 years on the radio. And why did it happen? Because of you guys. Because if it was up to program directors or MTV that song would have never seen the light of day. It would have been played at 3:00 in the morning in Des Moines somewhere, and that would have been that. But you guys weren’t taking no for an answer. And that proved to me that my theory on this whole thing is right. If every fucking song that KISS comes out you guys all do the same thing it’s gonna be undeniable, they’re gonna have to play ‘em you know what I mean?
UA: Yeah. And it’s gonna happen for UNION too.
I believe that. The fan support we’ve gotten has just been overwhelming. I know that there’s thousands and thousands and thousands of kids out there that adore Bruce Kulick.
UA: And John Corabi!
Well… I know that they’re out there they adore Bruce, and I know that there are some, maybe not as many as for Bruce, but I know that there’s a lot of kids out there that adore what I’m doing and I just think it’s all about the fans. We wanna try and cut out the fat cat at MTV that goes, “You know guys this UNION act, that’s not really the flavor of the month right now, so that’s not the cool thing to listen to.” Fuck you. You know, it’s just bullshit. My managers are handling Ratt and I went and saw them in Las Vegas and it was packed. So I asked my managers how they are doing on tour and he said they’re playing really large clubs and theaters so there are anywhere between six, seven hundred eight hundred kids to, at times, up to three thousand and they’re packing ‘em in everywhere they go. And that’s another thing that just lets me know that there is a market out there for this type of shit. If you stay true to yourself your fans are gonna notice, and they’re gonna come and they’re gonna rally. I believe it’s there, it’s all there. It’s all in place, you know.
UA: Right, absolutely. Your online fans, especially the people on the UNION board, are really curious as to whether or not you’re gonna get back online anytime soon.
Yeah, I would like to eventually. I would like to get like a home computer system. I had one. I used to go online all the time. Robin and I had a home computer system and I bought parts of it and she bought some of it. When we split I said, “Well my scanner and my printer ain’t no good without your computer so here just keep everything.” But I would like to eventually get another system ’cause I could get on there and I could talk to people. I miss it. There’s a lot of my friends that I don’t get to see or talk to much because I don’t have a computer. So I would like to eventually get another one. The last I was on under the name CrabCrue, that was also when I was in Mötley, but I haven’t been on since.
UA: I know the fans really appreciate it when you guys do things like the AOL Nightclub chat and the Electric Village chat and come on the bbs and answer E-mail, and I certainly appreciate you taking the time to do this interview. We’ve been on the phone an awfully long time now, and I hear people coming in there so I feel I should let you go. Is there anything else you would like to say before we hang up?
(Laugh) No, I think we just about covered everything!
UA: We sure have! Thanks again for taking the time, John.
- UNION: Do Your Own Thing Live DVD Promo Clip -
Note: This interview was originally posted on the website UNION Asylum, which I was co-owner/content manager of from 1997-2002. ©Elizabeth Sneed/Elizabeth A. White