Interview and pictures by Marko Syrjala
John Corabi has been a hard-working musician for over two decades, building a solid career even though he has never indeed been in a band that has reached worldwide success. There are bands like Motley Crue and Ratt in his CV, both widely known among rock music fans. John visited once again in Scandinavia with ESP (Eric Singer Project) last April. We were lucky enough to talk with him about his current activities, past bands, and future plans. Read on !!!
UNION / ERIC SINGER PROJECT
Metal-Rules: OK. It’s been a while since you have been to Scandinavia. The last time was with Ratt in 2001, I think? I remember you had a nasty 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 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 me if we would be into doing it with Karl, so it’s kind of Eric Singer Project. We did the record and did some shows in the United States, went to Australia, and 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 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 planned 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. Still, Bruce and I talked about it, and we didn’t know if James Hunting’s schedule was going to allow us to come here, so we got Chuck Garric to play bass, and then we thought 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 a different song on it, so he talked about repackaging and putting on all of the songs 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?
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 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 sure, was weird because we had a better budget. I don’t want to 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 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 excited. And then instead of a gradual tail off, it was like 8.000 records one week, the next week like 200, and we’re like, “What the Fuck?”. It was weird going on tour, and people were coming up with bootleg copies, like, can you sign this? A new band like that trying to get going 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 saw 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 didn’t see the money from it. Bruce got an offer to make money with Grand Funk 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. As you know, I called them and just wanted to congratulate them and say, “Good luck on tour. I hope there’s no fighting and you can get through it.” just small talk, you know. Those guys, it’s funny, man, they have a tendency, if you are in the circle, everything is great, if you’re 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 on 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 had shown up or gone 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 colored 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 your reader. It’s a good book. I’m actually doing one now as well. We’ll see what happens.
Metal-Rules: You probably know that they’re about to make a 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 will probably come across in the movie, 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 to play you in the film?
John Corabi: I think 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 had a good time in Stockholm in 2005
Metal-Rules: Do you still get royalties from Motley Crue? The band just released a new Best-of album RED WHITE AND CRUE, which went platinum, and there are a couple of your songs included as well?
John Corabi: I’m 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. Since I’ve left the band, I haven’t received anything from the record company, so I don’t know if Motley sends them the money. 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 checking into it because I just realized that there was a record that I did. Well, there were three records that I was involved with: MOTLEY CRUE, QUARTENARY, and GENERATION SWINE, and those three records have been re-released a couple of different times on different labels, and then there are 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 know 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 about 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 it. Somebody else will figure that one out. Now, if somebody reaches into my pocket and takes money out, I’m going to break their arm. Take the money that I already had, and I’m going to break your arm, but you can’t lose something you never had.
Metal-Rules: Have you any idea how many copies the ‘Motley Crue’ 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 Mötley Crue, the tour didn’t go 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, Mötley is doing well in America right now, and even this tour that I’m going to do this summer with Ratt, apparently the ticket sales are fucking fantastic. I don’t want to 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 listened to when they were young. Maybe it will turn around. Perhaps it won’t. I don’t know.
Metal-Rules: The thing with these people is that they will not 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 Mötley, you know when I was in the band it was called Mötley Crue, maybe it shouldn’t have been, perhaps we should have picked a different name, which we considered doing anyway. If a band doesn’t grow, people give them shit for it, but if they grow, too many 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 going to be like, “I hate the new stuff. I wanna hear more like ‘Shout at the Devil.'”. You’re not going to 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 would be some egos involved. I don’t want to say who, but I just said there’s a member in this band that I just do not get along with, which 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 knew that you and I could 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 thought 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 was 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 going to 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 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? I honestly told Nikki that when I left, I said the best song on the record is a song 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 going to 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. 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 your 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 not what I want… we’ll see what happens?
Metal-Rules: Overall, it should be quite a big tour?
John Corabi: Yeah, it will be about sixty shows 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 lineup? Would you personally like to do some?
John Corabi: No, I’ve no desire, not at all. I want to do my own solo thing, and I’ve been talking about it for a while, and I start writing. You know it’s weird, I did the Mötley 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 going to do this now. Still, it’s been weird, like I’ve been trying to find the right people to do it with because I don’t want to be in a band… you know, when you’re in a band, you tour at times for a long length of time in a bus. 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 want to 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 know 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, etc.
Metal-Rules: Kind of a jam thing?
John Corabi: Pretty much, and we only do it 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 you 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 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 Mötley 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 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 to sign the band.
Metal-Rules: Have you run across Gene recently?
John Corabi: I’ve seen Gene many times. When I got the Mötley Crue 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 Mötley, were you still a member of Scream?
John Corabi: No, not really, because as soon as I got the Mötley 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 some time 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 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, did a record, 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 going to come out?
John Corabi: When I get home, I’ve 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 thought 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 going to be done for a while, he’s going to be done for a while, Billy and Jerry will both be available, so I’m going to 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. I 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 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] and Nicolas Kostadimas from Mother Management.
CHECK OUT SOME MORE PICTURES FROM ESP SHOW IN STOCKHOLM !!