INTERVIEW AND LIVE PICTURES BY MARKO SYRJÄLÄ
TRANSCRIPTION BY ANDY OSBORN
Dokken was originally formed in the late 1970s when guitarist George Lynch and drummer Mick Brown joined forces with vocalist Don Dokken and bassist Jim Montaneras. Together they recorded BACK IN THE STREETS. In 1978, future Ratt bassist Juan Croucier joined the band’s ranks and released BREAKING THE CHAINS in Europe in 1981. Jeff Pilson replaced Croucier soon and started to write TOOTH AND NAIL. That album was released in 1984, at it became a huge success. It included several hit singles: “Just Got Lucky,” “Alone Again,” and “Into the Fire.” It sold over one million copies in the US alone and peaked at #49 on U.S charts. One year later, the band released their next album, UNDER LOCK AND KEY, and it was also very successful, including such anthems as: “In My Dreams” and “It’s Not Love.” Dokken did many successful tours and opened for bands like Aerosmith, Twisted Sister, and the Scorpions.
Dokken returned to the studio in late 1986 to record another mega-successful single, DREAM WARRIORS, for the horror movie NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3 – the soundtrack, but it wasn’t until late 1987 before they released another album, BACK FOR THE ATTACK. This became their most popular release, and it reached #13 on U.S charts with the help of such smash singles: “Burning Like A Flame” and Heaven Sent.” Dokken was on top of their game, but unfortunately, they broke up due to “creative differences” between Don and George soon after the release of live album BEAST FROM THE EAST in late 1988. Don Dokken recorded his first solo album UP FROM THE ASHES with an all-star lineup including guitarists John Norum (ex-Europe) and Billy White, bassist Peter Baltes (ex-Accept), drummer Mikkey Dee (ex-King Diamond).
Around late 1993, Don started to talk again with Mick Brown, who had recently left Lynch Mob, George Lynch’s band at that time. They joined up with Jeff Pilson, who was fronting his own War and Peace band and started to write new songs. In 1994, they sent new material to George Lynch, who was impressed with the material. Together, they decided to reform Dokken and record a new album DYSFUNCTIONAL which was released in 1995. Unfortunately, old problems resurfaced, and the band lost George again after another release of the album SHADOWLIFE in 1997. Dokken decided to continue with new guitarist Reb Beach (ex- Winger, Alice Cooper), and ERASE THE SLATE was released in 1999. A live album and awarded DVD LIVE FROM THE SUN came out in 2000, but Reb decided to leave and join Whitesnake. Soon after, Jeff Pilson decided also to leave, and they were later on replaced by bassist Barry Sparks (Ted Nugent, ex- Uli Jon Roth) and Don’s old friend John Norum. LONG WAY HOME was released in 2002, but Norum was gone in the middle of the tour, and Italian guitarist Alex DeGrossi temporarily replaced him. Jon Levin (ex-Warlock) joined in 2004, and since then, he’s been a permanent guitarist and stayed on Don’s side. HELL TO PAY was released later on the same year, and since then, the band has been more or less active doing a lot of touring and working on a new album titled LIGHTNING STRIKES AGAIN.
I managed to meet Don himself in October before their show in Copenhagen, and here are the results of our interesting chat. ENJOY !!!
LIGHTNING STRIKES BACK AGAIN
What is happening with the new Dokken album LIGHTNING STRIKES AGAIN? It’s been in the works for about two years now?
Yeah, it’s been two years. There have just been a lot of setbacks. We toured in America and did festivals and things like that. I lost my voice for a while, and that was like, what can you do? The record was written like two years ago, and I had about seven or eight songs, but the record company didn’t like them. They thought they were too modern, and Jon agreed and said we should do more old-school stuff, so he rewrote the album and made it more classic with catchy guitar riffs and catchphrases. Then I had to rethink and try to go back twenty years, and I understand. It’s difficult, you know, you get older, and you change. So, we basically wrote the album twice. I spent a year writing it out, then threw it out and started over, which took a couple of months. And just life stuff; everyone has life stuff and families and things that slow you down. This summer was just like doing shows, making quick money, and we did the same thing every weekend. You go out and play Friday or Saturday night, come back on Sunday but then you’re tired on Monday. Then you have a couple of days to write and then do it over again. Right when I was ready to do the album and finish it, my voice just died because I was just stupid. I was being an idiot and wasn’t taking care of myself and getting out of shape. I thought we would go to Europe to promote the record, and that’s why we’re here. We promised we would come, so here we are. My word is my word.
How did you come up with the name for your new album? You have an old song which is called LIGHTNING STRIKES AGAIN. Does that mean that this album is some back-to-roots album for you?
I always have a habit of doing that. When we did the album TOOTH AND NAIL, there was a song titled “Lightning Strikes Again.” Album was originally called “Lightning Strikes Again,” but we then decided to change it to “Tooth and Nail,” which is another album track. It has always been my thing; I always name the album after a song. It makes sense too. Well, God-willing, we’re trying to hit it again. I really had to change my mindset on the writing for this new album.
How about the latest Dokken album, HELL TO PAY? That album didn’t receive too many positive reviews, and many people were considering it more like your solo album than an actual Dokken album. How do you like that album now afterward?
I don’t know what happened. As a producer, I just got kind of lost; I didn’t know where I was going. It was too medium-tempo. What do you do? Jon came into the band, and we didn’t really know where we were going. You hear Nickelback and Hinder, and you get these new influences in your music, but then it doesn’t really work.
CURRENT TOUR IN SCANDINAVIA
I have heard that this current DEFENDERS OF ROCK –the tour has been doing very well. Where did you get an idea to tour together with Kingdom Come?
Our sound man, Frank, is their manager. So he knows Europe, and he’s from Germany, so he knows all the places. The last time we played here, when you book a club you don’t know if it has good equipment or not, they say we’re playing here. You show up, and oh shit! So Frank knew the better venues that have good sound, and he told us where to play. We wanted Kingdom Come on the bill, and they wanted to build their audience, and they’re big in Germany. We’re pretty big in Spain and Italy, and Greece. We had some good shows in Germany too.
Have you noticed that things have changed into much more positive for hard rock and metal bands here in Scandinavia?
We played here five years ago, and the tour was terrible. All this death metal and black metal are popular, but they didn’t want to know our kind of music. Things have changed, and they have festivals with all these classic bands. It all changed. Five years ago, it was all about Slipknot, and now it’s Mötley Crue and Iron Maiden again. Good for us! It’s good that our music can stand the test of time. The biggest compliment to us is that we wrote songs twenty-five years ago that people still like. You see some bands and have to think if people will remember them in twenty-five years.
SOLO ALBUM AND TOUR
Besides touring and working on a new Dokken album, you are busy with your solo career. I just heard you are doing some gigs under your own name supporting Queensryche in the spring?
Yeah, I did some acoustic things by myself with Queensryche. A few months ago, I did a show with them that was a VH1 unplugged thing with Queensryche, Tesla, and people. I went on stage and did a few songs by myself, and it’s all ballads. Then Queensryche called me and said do you want to go on tour. But they couldn’t afford to put the whole band on tour because they are playing like House of Blues, and you just don’t get enough money. So I said, well, I have to go on tour with Dokken and record the album, and we can do it later. I said I don’t want to come back and play the clubs; I want to do the festivals. If you do ten clubs with a thousand people a night or you could do one show for thirty thousand. And everyone is sick and tired, and it just makes more sense. Have you seen our tour schedule?
Actually, I have, and I think it’s sick!
It is sick! Frank is trying to kill the band in Europe. You know, I almost didn’t make it. I’m worn out and tired and just done. Tonight I’ll do the best I can, and my voice is almost finished, but I can’t take any more pills. I’m not twenty years old anymore. I’m old dude, you know?
I understand, and your schedule looked very tight…
That’s almost impossible. We did eight days off, eight, one day off, seven, one day off, eight. This is our eighths show in a row. We’ve been traveling for 8 hours. You lay down in the daytime, but you can’t sleep, so you just lay there.
How is the status of your solo album? When will it be finished?
It’s finished. It’s been finished for a year now. Jon played with it, but people don’t understand it because it’s acoustic. People think it’s out from the ashes and heavy, but it’s not. It’s acoustic all the way. There are no drums on it.
MICK BROWN: It’s really great quality sound, and it’s mellow. It’s relaxing. That shows Don’s melancholy side.
THE SCORPIONS AND HERMAN ZE GERMAN
One day I went through my record collection, and accidentally I found a solo album of former Scorpions drummer Herman Rarebell. You do a couple of songs there. How did that thing come about back then?
Originally I sang on that whole record, but it didn’t sound very good. There were some stupid songs like “Wipeout” and stuff like that. The only reason they even got to put out that record was because I was singing on it. They were telling me I had to sing some, and they had to sing some. It was a silly record. I just did it for fun and to help them. That was a long time ago.
You did record vocals for the demo tracks of Scorpions album “Blackout.” Back in the day, there were all these rumors about you replacing Klaus Meine in Scorpions because he had some serious problems with his voice. Was there any truth behind that rumor?
No truth at all. I just did it because his voice was hurting. I mean, we just had a guy come sing on our record. So what? I had Kelly Hansen sing background vocals. He has the low, more husky voice, I’m in the middle, and Jeff Pilson has a higher voice. Why would I scream my ass off all day and stack my vocals when I can have someone else come in and do it?
So at any point, you were not going to replace him seriously?
Well, that’s stupid. Even if they had asked me to replace him, I would have said, “Are you crazy?”
Mick Brown: We may have started that rumor ourselves. Just to get more popular “laughs.”
If they asked me to sing in Scorpions, which would be a dream, I would say no because you can’t have Scorpions without Klaus. I just went in and sang a couple of lines, and trust me; they killed me. They kept telling me to sing higher and higher. After eight hours of work and it just sounded like a buzzing.
THE FORMER DOKKEN MEMBERS
Is it okay to ask something about the former Dokken member here?
Of course, it’s okay.
First of all, Jeff (Pilson), how is he doing now?
He’s doing great, making the bucks in Foreigner, and he had a baby. I think he even had the baby himself! He’s in Foreigner, and that’s great for him.
What about George Lynch?
I wouldn’t want to be a guitar player in this band. It’s a hard shoe to fill, and I can’t do it, but the truth is that it’s kind of a joke to me now because whatever George once was, he’s not that anymore…
How about John Norum? He was out from the band in the middle of the LONG WAY HOME tour. What really happened for him back then?
He wanted to do more like a blues-type thing. Actually, what he wanted to do, was really weird. It was something like Black Label Society meets blues kind of thing? I said it doesn’t fit Dokken. I said that has nothing to do with Dokken. When he came into the band, he wanted to change things, so I’ve been struggling with him. And when the guitarist lives in Sweden, how do you have a guitar player in another country? It was difficult and expensive. Then his visa would expire, and he would have to go home and come back. I told him it’s not going to work.
Then you had Alex DeGrossi in a band for a while….
In the middle of the tour, John’s hand was getting worse and worse. It’s this nerve because he hurt his hand, and I said, what do you want me to do? He told me about Alex, who knows all of our songs, so I said okay. He finished four shows in Europe, and then John came back, and we did the Scorpions tour, and his hand started getting bad again. I said we might as well keep the other guitar player. But Alex lived in Italy, and it’s hard when you live in America. Logistically it’s impossible. Thousands of dollars spent on airplane tickets and visas didn’t make any sense.
What about Reb Beach? He was brilliant in Dokken, and ERASE THE SLATE is one of the better albums you have ever done?
Reb was awesome. He was great. He was going to do another Dokken tour before John joined the band, but Reb’s favorite band was Whitesnake. On Friday night, he was part of Dokken, then on Saturday, Whitesnake called him. It was like shit. He said, “I like Dokken, but I like Whitesnake more.” I think that now he’s not in either band?
I actually spoke with him some time ago, and he had nothing but good things to say about Dokken!
Yeah, he regrets it now because he was never happy in Whitesnake. He wasn’t happy, and now I think he’s out? I think he left Whitesnake. He was a great guitarist and songwriter! It’s a shame.
Well, because your show will start in twenty minutes, this will be the very last question. What’s going to happen in the world of Dokken in the next few years?
Well, we’re going to finish the record, hopefully, keep the band together, and go out in June. I’m looking for a tour. I’ll try to tour America and play some European festivals. Play some new songs, tell people to buy the record, then go back to America. But we are Americans, and when we tour, we can go home. Europe is very expensive and very difficult. We don’t speak any of the languages, and it isn’t easy. I don’t know what to say to the audience sometimes. So we’ll hopefully get an American tour, play some festivals, but I don’t know. Maybe the album will come out in March, but if we don’t play festivals, we’re fucked because then the record will just come out and go away.
FOR MORE INFO GO TO: WWW.DOKKEN.NET
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