Interview and pictures by Marko Syrjala
John Corabi has been a hard working musician for over two decades, building a solid career despite the fact that he has never truly been in a band that has reached worldwide success. There are many famous names like Motley Crue and Ratt in his resume which are widely known among the fans of rock music. John visited once again in Scandinavia with ESP (Eric Singer Project) in last April and we were lucky enough to talk with him about his current activities, past bands and his future plans. Read on !!!
UNION / ERIC SINGER PROJECT
Metal-Rules: OK. It’s been a while since you were in Scandinavia, last time was with Ratt in 2001 I think? I remember you were having a real hangover in Helsinki?
John Corabi: Yeah, I thought I was drinking Guinness, but somebody gave me Absolut Vodka, so I was drinking that a lot… it was very interesting “laughs”
Metal-Rules: You’re now here in Sweden with the band ESP. You first toured and recorded an album under the name ESP back in 1999. How did the whole project get started back then?
John Corabi: Well, they had a Kiss convention in Orlando, Florida, and this was when Bruce [Kulick] and I were promoting the Union record and so we went down to Orlando, Eric [Singer] was there, a guy named Karl Cochran and Gary [Corbett] keyboard player that played with Kiss on a few tours. We did a question and answer thing and they asked if we would just get up and jam a few songs, so we just played a bunch of cover stuff. So, Keith [Leroux] contacted Eric and asked if Eric wanted to do a record of all covers like this, and he asked Bruce and myself if we would be into doing it with Karl, so it’s kind of Eric Singer Project. So we did the record and did some show in the United States, went to Australia, played in Japan. You know, we haven’t done anything in a while, but they talked to us about coming over here and doing these shows and we were all available so we did it.
Metal-Rules: When did you first meet Eric Singer?
John Corabi: I met Eric years ago, right after I moved to Los Angeles. My dear ex-wife used to work at a hair salon and Eric used to come in all the time and I gave him my demo tape, and he actually tried helping me out, he thought I had a good voice and tried helping me getting auditions and things like that. So I’ve known Eric for 15… 20 years, something like that?
Metal-Rules: You recently did some Union shows in Japan with Eric on drums.Did you had originally plans to bring Union to Stockholm?
John Corabi: Yeah, originally that was the case. But Brent [Fitz] couldn’t do it, he’s now in a band called Theory of A Dead Man and they’re doing really well in the United States, so we asked Eric to do the shows in Japan, and originally I guess these were supposed to be Union shows, but Bruce and I talked about it, and we didn’t know if James Hunting’s schedule was gonna allow us to come here, so we got Chuck Garric to play bass, and then we though it’s not Union, we don’t want to do shows without Brent and James.
Union live in Stockholm 1999
Metal-Rules: Well because Jamie’s not here with you do you know what he is up to at the moment?
John Corabi: I don’t know, I mean Jamie’s going through some stuff right now, personal things like you know, as we all do, he just got a divorce, so he’s getting his life together. Even when I got through mine, I was married twice, I was married again in 2001 right before the last time I was here and it didn’t work out, and it kind of makes you a little scattered, you’re not thinking right. So we just figured that when James gets his thing together and maybe when Brent gets a break maybe Union could come over and do some more shows over here in the Scandinavian countries. We’ll see what happens.
Metal-Rules: I heard that you’re going to re-release the first ESP album next summer?
John Corabi: I don’t know what going on with that, Keith had talked about repackaging it and actually putting on all the songs that we recorded, because the American record had some, the Japanese record had different song on it, so he was talking about repackaging and putting on all of the song in one package. I haven’t talked with Keith about it, and it’s Eric’s thing so he pretty much handles all that stuff.
Metal-Rules: Did you tried to get Karl Cochran who did the album and past tours with ESP for this tour?
John Corabi: I don’t know? Eric had spoken with Karl about coming over here, but I think he’s doing something with Joe Lynn Turner right now?
Metal-Rules: Do you have you any idea about how are Union’s album sales figures?
John Corabi: The first one did about 60.000. The second one I’m not really sure, it was weird, because we actually had a better budget, I don’t wanna say better producer, because Bruce and I produced the first record with Kurt and we had a lot of radio airplay in the States. The problem of it was that the record came out in February, the record company sent advance copies out to all the radio stations and different magazines, so two months before our record even came out the entire thing was on the Internet, you could download the whole thing. So the first week ‘The Blue Room’ came out, I think we sold about 8.000 records, and we were like “Fuck. This is great.” You know for an independent label, it’s a decent start, and everybody was really excited. And then instead of a gradual tail off, it was like 8.000 records one week, the next week like 200 and were like “What the Fuck?”. It was weird going on tour and people actually coming up with bootleg copies, like can you sign this? For a new band like that trying to get going it really puts a ding in your pocketbook and record sales, it ultimately affects the band, that was one of the things that happened with us, we were touring on the second record and we were seeing definitely bigger crowds, we were up for a lot of different tours, we came over here, we played in Australia, we were doing really well in South America, but we were sitting there going “We’re not making any money. The records are not selling. What the fuck is happening here. I don’t get it.” We were playing in places, like in the States we were selling out most of the clubs that we played in, it was like 1300-1500, thousands of people a night, but we weren’t selling any records, so we weren’t seeing the money from it. Bruce got an offer to make money with Grandfunk [Railroad], I got the offer to go with Ratt, Brent and James went with Vince Neil, we never kind of split up, but we had to do it, we didn’t have a choice.
RED WHITE AND CRUE …
Metal-Rules: Let’s talk a little about Motley Crue, have you seen any of the reunion show so far?
John Corabi: No.
Metal-Rules: Are you planning to see any?
John Corabi: No. You see, I don’t have an issue with Nikki [Sixx], I don’t have an issue with Tommy [Lee], I tried calling them a few times before the tour started. You know they did ‘The Dirt’ [book] and I did some interviews for The Dirt and Tommy did a book and I did some interviews for his book. An you know I called them and just wanted to congratulate them and say “Good luck on the tour. I hope there’s no fighting and you can get throught it.” just small talk you know. Those guys, it’s funny man, they have a tendency, if your in the circle, everything is great, if your outside of the circle, there no thought there. So I called once, I called twice, I called three times, and no return call. I won’t go to the tour, my girlfriend wanted to go so I made arrangements and I got her a ticket but said I’m not going. She wanted me to go, it’s probably pride on my part, but I just felt like if I would have showed up or went backstage or something like that, it would have been like a dog hanging around a table for scraps, it would have appeared that way. Now Nikki’s started emailing Bruce [Kulick] saying “Tell Corabi I’m sorry about the Brides and he was right about everything.” So there’s communication there, but not directly, I’ve left my number with them a few times, so if they want to call me they’ll call, no big deal.
Metal-Rules: What are your thoughts on the book ‘The Dirt’?
John Corabi: What’s my view of it? It’s OK, I like the book, it’s well written, I think it was a little bit coloured to make it a little more exciting, but I think all writers kind of take liberties that way. It’s like you’re a writer, you want people to read your stuff, so you kind of elaborate a little bit, make it more interesting for you reader. It’s a good book, I’m actually doing one now aswell, we’ll see what happens.
Metal-Rules: You probably know that they’re about to make film of the book too? Will you have any input on the film?
John Corabi: Yeah, I know. I had input in the book, so whatever I said in the book is probably gonna come across in the movie, maybe, maybe not. If they cut me out of the movie that’s fine too. I did my part for the book, they asked me to do a part in the book and I did it. Now if they make a movie from it, great.
Metal-Rules: Who would you like to have play you in the film?
John Corabi: I’m thinking that if there’s a role for me in the movie, that I should play myself, and Penelope Cruz or Salma Hayek should play my wife in the movie so I get to fuck them a lot “laughs”!!!
John having a good time in Stockholm 2005
Metal-Rules: Do you still get royalties from Motley Crue, like from the new best of album RED WHITE AND CRUE which just came out and has already gone platinum?
John Corabi: I’m actually checking into that right now. You see I actually signed a publishing deal when I joined the band, so this record company gave me an advance years ago and since I’ve left the band I haven’t received anything from the record company, so I don’t know if Motley send them the money and they’ve just kept it or if Motley is not sending the money, I don’t know, I haven’t received anything from anybody, so my manager is actually checking into it, because I just realized that there was the record that I did, well there was three records that I was involved with: MOTLEY CRUE, QUARTENARY and GENERATION SWINE, and those three records have been re-realesed a couple of different times on different labels, and then there’s all these little compilation records like SUPERSONIC AND DEMONIC RELICS, there’s a video thing called Motley Crue Greatest Video Hits that I have three songs on, there’s the new one RED, WHITE AND CRUE, then there’s another one that was released only in Europe called LOUD AS FUCK!. I’m on that and the DVD, I didn’t even knew about these. So my manager contacted the record company that gave me the advance and said what’s the deal, why isn’t John getting any statements. So there is maybe some money, somewhere in the pipeline for me, but I don’t worry about it.
Metal-Rules: So they never tried to buy you out?
John Corabi: No. The thing of it is, I have nothing in my hand right now, so I can’t lose anything, it’s only on paper. I don’t even think about, somebody else will figure that one out. Now if somebody reaches into my pocket and takes money out, I’m gonna break their arm. Take money that I already had and I’m gonna break your arm, but you can’t lose something you never had.
Metal-Rules: Have you any idea how many copies the ‘M?tley Cr?e’ album has sold to date? I know that it was certified gold pretty quickly back in 1994, so it must have sold some more since then?
John Corabi: It’s weird because about five years ago I got a platinum record for it in the States, so it has sold a million at least. It went gold and did about 600.000 or so and then it took another year or three years to sell the rest I guess. But like I said I really don’t know, probably stupid of me, I’m not a very good businessman, you know? I did the record and then when I started Union, I didn’t think about that anymore.
Metal-Rules: When you toured with M?tley Cr?e, the tour didn’t went too well, but not too bad either, since hard rock at the time was really down in the States. Nowadays things seem to have turned around a bit at least in Europe.
John Corabi: Well, M?tley is doing well in America right now and even this tour that I’m gonna do this summer with Ratt, apparently the ticket sales are fucking great. I don’t wanna say it’s turning around again, everybody says that, but just this summer for some reason people are getting nostalgic and want to see these bands that they grew up with that they listed to when they were young. Maybe it will turn around, maybe it won’t, I don’t know.
Metal-Rules: The thing with these people is usually that they are not going to buy the new album and primarily just want to hear the old stuff.
John Corabi: You know, it’s weird, it’s the same with M?tley, you know when I was in the band it was called M?tley Cr?e, maybe it shouldn’t have been, maybe we should have picked a different name, which we actually considered doing anyway. If a band doesn’t grow people give them shit for it, but if they grow too much people give them shit for it, it’s like you can’t win either way, so you just do what you do, I don’t even like thinking about it. If I sit down and write a song, it’s either a good song or it’s not a good song, you write it, record it, throw it out there, see what happens and I’ll write something else in the future. You might want the band to expand a little bit more and move forward and he’s gonna be like “I hate the new stuff. I wanna hear more like ‘Shout at the Devil’.”. You’re not gonna please everybody all of the time, so fuck it, whatever!
BRIDES OF DESTRUCTION
Metal-Rules: Whatever happened to you with the Brides of Destruction?
John Corabi: To be perfectly honest with you, I get along with Nikki [Sixx] splendidly, but when I left the band I told Nikki that there was gonna be some egos involved, I don’t wanna say who, but I just said there’s a member in this band that I just do not get along with, that I do not write well with. First of all they basically told me that they don’t need me to write at all, so I was like I’m not into that situation, and I told Nikki “Dude, I love you to death. I known that you and I can write a great record and so I’m out.”. And as it turned out he just sent Bruce [Kulick] an email like a week ago and said “Tell Corabi I’m really sorry about the Brides of Destruction thing and he was right.” Because Nikki is having an issue now with the person that I was having an issue with? So we’ll just leave it at that.
Metal-Rules: What’s your opinion of the finished record?
John Corabi: To be honest with you, I’ve written with Nikki Sixx and my whole beef with that record was… and I like London [LeGrand], I don’t dislike London at all, everybody though I left, even London though I left the band because I didn’t like him, that’s not an issue, but I felt like there were certain members in that band that were trying too hard to be cool and there’s an American saying you can’t fit a square peg into a round hole, you know, it’s just not gonna go.
Metal-Rules: I’m starting to get the picture?
John Corabi: So we know who we’re talking about then. But you know it’s like when I came in, I spoke with Nikki at length and he told me “Yeah, you can write, you can do this, you can do that, I really want you to contribute.” So I started to contribute and started to get pushed aside. After listening to the record I was just scratching my head, like I don’t know what we’re trying to do here, are we trying to be punk, are we trying to be AFI, what the fuck are we doing here? An honestly I told Nikki, when I left I said the best song on the record is a song that Nikki wrote with an outside writer for somebody else, a song called “Life”.
Metal-Rules: The one that the drummer [Scott Coogan] sings
John Corabi: Right. I said to him “You and Tracii are sitting here telling me that this singer is gonna be the next big thing, he’s a rock star.” Everybody was going “London is this and London is that…” and I go “What kind of an impression are we leaving here if the best song on the record you wrote with somebody else and our drummer is singing it, where does that leave the singer?” It didn’t make sense to me. So I was saying my piece, I was stating my case, and I guess that I rubbed somebody the wrong way, and it came down to… it was weird, I was sitting at the phone dialing a number and I’d hang the phone up and think and the phone rang and Tracii called me and said “Listen dude, we got to let you go, I hope you’re no upset.” But it was cool, we left on good terms, Nikki and I left anyway, apparently Tracii’s got an issue with me.
Metal-Rules: He seems to have an issue with everybody, like Ginger at the moment…?
John Corabi: You said it, I didn’t. But I heard that Ginger was in the band for like a minute and then he quit, I guess he couldn’t get along with Tracii either.
Metal-Rules: You still got full credit for you guitar playing on all of the tracks on the album?
John Corabi: Yeah, I played on everything. They listed me, and I appreciate it, and they even gave me a writing credit for ‘Gotta Gun’.
RATT & ROLL
Metal-Rules: Let’s talk about Ratt for a minute.
John Corabi: Yeah. As it turned out, I’m going on tour with Ratt this summer, they called and said “Hey, can we do some shows?” and we’re still negotiating about money but we’ll see what happens?
Metal-Rules: I met Robbie Crane when he was here two months ago with Adler’s Appetite, and he too had been offered to do the tour.
John Corabi: Yeah, unfortunately there is a little bit of a business side to it, we have to sit down and negotiate with Warren [DeMartini] and Bobby [Blotzer], they want us to do the tour, but if it’s not cohesive and if it’s not what I want… we’ll see what happens?
Metal-Rules: Overall, it should be quite a big tour?
John Corabi: Yeah, it gonna be about sixty show in the United States and Puerto Rico, and Cinderella is basically headlining and then Ratt, Quiet Riot and Firehouse.
Metal-Rules: By the way, are you an official member of Ratt or just a hired guy?
John Corabi: A hired guy.
Metal-Rules: Do you have plans to record any new stuff with Ratt with this current line up? Would you personally like to do some?
John Corabi: No, I’ve no desire not at all. I wanna do my own solo thing, and I’ve been talking about it for a while and I start writing… you known it’s weird, I did the M?tley thing and then I hooked up with Bruce and we did the Union for like three or four years till 2001. I’ve been doing the Ratt thing for the money, I went through a divorce and I have a son, so you know I took a little time off and now in the last year I’ve been like I’m gonna do this now, but it’s been weird, like I’ve been trying to find the right people to do it with, because I don’t wanna be in a band… you know when you’re in a band, you tour at times for a long lenght of time in a bus and I’ve been in so many different bands where the guys didn’t get along, there was fighting, the girlfriends fought and I don’t need it anymore, if everybody can’t get along and go out and have fun, then I don’t wanna do it.
Metal-Rules: You recently did some shows with Starfuckers. What’s that thing about?
John Corabi: You mean who’s in the band…?
Metal-Rules: I know last week it was you Gilby [Clarke] and Slim Jim?
John Corabi: You known it’s a bunch of different people, it’s kind of whoever is in town. So the last month or so, Gilby hasn’t been doing it, he’s been doing other stuff like producing, Slim Jim did some shows and left. You know maybe Eric will come and play, and this guy Mike Fasano, the drummer from Warrant. It’s a different cast, like whoever is available at the time, Dizzy Reed…
Metal-Rules: Kind of a jam thing?
John Corabi: Pretty much, and we only do it a the Cat Club in L.A. and then this other place called The Lighthouse down in Hermosa Beach, California on Mondays. It’s fun, we just play like old Rolling Stones or whatever. Somebody will yell a song and we’ll play it if we know it. But it all just depends on who’s in town. I’ve been doing it with Eric Dover, Ryan Roxey, and he was doing it for a while, but then he moved over here so he’s not available anymore.
Metal-Rules: Do still have that one project going on with Bill Duffy and Mick Jelinic called Cardboard Vampyres?
John Corabi: Yeah.
Metal-Rules: Is it only a cover’s thing?
John Corabi: Yes and no, it’s songs from each guys band, so we do like a bunch of Alice in Chains, a bunch of Cult stuff, some M?tley stuff, and then we do some covers, but songs that you wouldn’t normally hear a cover band do, like old Sabbath, “Hole in the Sky”, “Draw the Line” by Aerosmith, like heavier stuff, it’s really heavy. And we don’t really play that often, I think maybe in the last year I’ve done like 10 or 12 shows with them, just once in a while, you know.
EARLY DAYS AND THE FUTURE?
Metal-Rules: Can you mention some of your early influences?
John Corabi: Obviously I love The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, all those bands from the 70s, Grandfunk, Sabbath, Aerosmith, Humble Pie, Free, all that shit. Then the obvious bands like Day Eleven, Hanoi Rocks, Negative… long live Finland!
Metal-Rules: Back in the ’80s when you were in the band Angora, Gene Simmons was interested in the band, isn’t that right?
John Corabi: Yeah, he wanted so sign the band.
Metal-Rules: Have you run across Gene recently?
John Corabi: I’ve seen Gene many times. When I got the M?tley Cr?e gig, Gene came up to me and said “Mr. Corabi, I told you you would be a star.” So, he’s been a quiet supporter of mine all through my career, and even when we did the Union shows, anytime we played in L.A. Gene usually came to every show, Paul [Stanley] would come to some, the first show that we did Gene, Paul and Ace [Frehley] came, so it was very cool, they were very supportive of Union and it was funny, they came to the first show that we did and we did ‘Jungle’ and Paul was busting my balls and said “You sang that pretty good, like it was written for you.” They’re good guys, I like them.
Metal-Rules: Once you joined M?tley were you still a member of Scream?
John Corabi: No, not really, because as soon as I got the M?tley gig, they wanted me at rehearsals every day, but the Scream guys were cool with it, they were like “Dude, go and do that!”.
Metal-Rules: Do you know what the Scream guys have been up to since?
John Corabi: There was a Racer X reunion tour sometime ago in Japan, the drummer Walt [Woodward], I don’t think he’s doing anything at this point, because he had to have his hip replaced, so he’s not playing much anymore, Bruce [Bouillet] is actually just producing a lot of stuff right now and John Alderete is in the band Mars Volta, he’s doing well.
Metal-Rules: Did they even try to continue with the band Scream with another vocalist?
John Corabi: Yeah, with Billy Scott, a guy from Florida. Unfortunately they did a record, Hollywood Records gave them more money, they did a record, they did a video, and Hollywood Records didn’t put it out, it was weird. It was different than the record that I did, it’s more like, it’s hard to explain, if you can take the Black Rose and the Chili Peppers, it’s kind of strange, it’s cool though, it’s a cool record. I think it was called… well they changed their name too, it was DC10 for a little while and then they were called Stash and then they went back to The Scream, I don’t know, whatever.
Metal-Rules: There has been a talk of your solo album to be released for years.When do you think it’s really going to come out?
John Corabi: When I get home, I’ve actually been talking with Billy Duffy about writing some stuff. Billy and I got together and he’s got a lot of great ideas and I played him some of the stuff that I was working on and he though it was cool. So I talked to Billy about helping me out, even Jerry, and I’ve got a guy in Florida that’s a great guitar player Jeff Blando, he played with Saigon Kick for a while. After this tour this summer I’m gonna be done for a while, he’s gonna be done for a while, Billy and Jerry will both be available, so I’m gonna sit down and see if I can just write with a couple of different people and get this thing finished and get it out. And I want to put a band together, I definitely want Jeff Blando involved in it, he’s really mellow, funny, he’s not uptight or moody and wants to go out and have a good time and rock.
Metal-Rules: All right. Can’t wait to hear the results soon … Thank you very much for the interview!
John Corabi: No problem guys.If you see Andy McCoy or Michael [Monroe], tell them I said hello. I really want them to come to America and kick ass over there!
Marko and John before the show in Stockholm
Special thanks to the whole ESP band [Eric Singer, Bruce Kulick, John Corabi and Chuck Garric] as well as Nicolas Kostadimas from Mother Management.
CHECK OUT SOME MORE PICTURES FROM ESP SHOW IN STOCKHOLM !!