The Urban Dictionary defines a nut-swinger as 'someone who hangs from someone else's nuts; someone who follows ever move they make'. Although such a description may ultimately lack originality and specificity, it does, for better or worse, accurately summarize my feelings for former The Scream/Mötley Crüe and Union frontman John Corabi. In fact, for as long as I can remember, I've been a disturbingly-dedicated follower of the multi-octave vocalist/guitarist's distinctive delivery. Although I may have become temporarily disenfranchised during the oddly-protracted Brides Of Destruction/Ratt era (am I the only one frustrated with the lack of music generated by these collaborations?), I continued to find solace amid my well-worn copy of Let It Scream and Union. Now, nearly twenty years later, I now find myself fascinated with the release of the mighty Unplugged…
Todd: What made now an ideal time for you to release an unplugged record? Had it always been your intention?
John Corabi: “There was no real rhyme or reason for it. I've just always wanted to do one. For the past few years, I've been doing a lot of acoustic shows on my own. I did a tour last Summer with Cinderella that went incredibly well and it opened or, re-opened the can, if I can say that, for it to happen. I've always wanted to do one. I always like the MTV Unplugged specials they did with Alice In Chains, Aerosmith and Eric Clapton, so I figured 'Why not?'. It's my first solo record and it was just too easy for me. I just figured 'Why not', ya know?”
Todd: Once the recording process began, was it easy for you to choose what material you were going to record?
John: “Yes and no. I could have gone the obvious route and did “Robin's Song” (from Union, 1998), but that was already acoustic. Part of the charm of this was sitting down and finding a way to make “Hooligan's Holiday (from Mötley Crüe, 1994) or “Love (I Don't Need It Anymore)” (from Union) work acoustically. Even some of the newer songs, like “Crash” and “If I Never Get To Say Goodbye”, I already have electric versions of, so it was just trying to find the songs that I could give a new face to. But again, I've been doing acoustic shows for the last couple of years, ya know? I did it for a lot of the songs that go over well with the audiences, ya know? For some reason, “Love (I Don't Need It Anymore)”, wherever I play it, everyone seems to know all the words and sing along with it. I tried to pick songs that get nice reactions from the audience. I just figured I'd do those.”
Todd: At this point, what are your touring plans? I'm assuming you'll be playing as much as humanly possible...
John: “I'm hoping that at some point I can jump on a tour opening for someone so I can support this record with my full band. I can go do acoustic shows by myself all day long with just an acoustic guitar and make it work very well. It goes over great, but I'd really like people to hear me play acoustically with a full band so they can hear all of the harmonies, solos and the percussion that's actually on the record. ...I've been talking with my Agent about a few different things, hoping that I can get on the top of a tour opening for a band like Tesla or anyone, really so I can get out and put this stuff across with my live band. Hopefully, this Summer we'll be out.”
Todd: When the touring does commence, what musicians will you be using? Who is actually in your band now?
John: “It's basically the same guys that are on the record. I have a guitar player from Rochester, New York named D.A. Karkos that actually co-Produced the record with me. He's a great guy and a great guitar player and Producer. I also have a great bass player name Topher Nolan, who's also a great guitar player and singer and I have Cheney Brannon, who used to play with Collective Soul, on drums. He's also responsible for engineering the record. ...Eventually, I may add another guitar player, but for right now, I can handle everything pretty well.”
Todd: What type of set list will you be working with? New material or will it be a Greatest Hits of John Corabi?
John: “A lot of the songs from the record, but there are some other ones. I did a run in Europe for about seven weeks and it went over amazingly. Depending on the crowd and what type of reaction I get from them, the set can last anywhere from an hour and a half to almost two hours. There's a couple of cover songs that I do that have special meaning. The shows are kinda set up like Storytellers, so there's a couple of songs where I stop and talk about why they're so important to me. So I do a bunch of the songs from the record and then I'll do “Robin's Song” and I do a shorter version of “Misunderstood” from the Mötley Crüe record. ...I tell jokes and I pick on people from the audience, so it's all good. There's a few more songs, but it's mainly songs from the new record.”
Todd: Based on the success you've had as a solo acoustic artist, do you have a preference in regards to performing live? What are the main differences between performing acoustically and with a full-fledged group?
John: “I like doing both. There's obviously a lot of power behind playing electrically. ...The thing about playing acoustically is that I sit down on a stool and tell a few jokes. I make it fun and lighthearted for everyone. With an electric set, there's a lot more structure, ya know? We'll do three songs, stop and talk, bang out the next two and then switch guitars, ya know? With the acoustic thing, it's a lot more laid-back. Some nights, the songs are a little longer, ya know? (laughs) It's pretty much a free-for-all. The other thing that I want to do is entertain. It's just a guy with an acoustic guitar, so I want to make sure I entertain everyone as well, so I'll kid around a little. Someone may yell out a song title and, as a joke, I'll start playing it and then say 'Nah, I'm not gonna play that one' and kind of tease them. It's a lot of fun. When I was a kid, my Dad and Uncle told me 'If someone wants to hear your music, they can just put your CD on and not deal with tickets, parking, T-Shirts and buying drinks.'. You want to entertain them, so I keep it fun and lighthearted, ya know? ...You don't have to worry about getting into the car, driving to the club and paying fifteen or twenty dollars to get into the club. Then you gotta buy drinks and worry about driving home or getting a cab if you've had too much to drink. ...I just want people to be able to walk way and say 'That was entertaining. I had fun', ya know? I've met (Aerosmith frontman) Steven Tyler, (Led Zeppelin frontman) Robert Plant and (AC/DC frontman) Brian Johnson and one of the first things I asked all of them were questions like 'What is (the Aerosmith song) “Seasons Of Wither” (from Get Your Wings, 1974) about? And people do the same thing with me, so I try to be lighthearted and fun with it. It's a great time.”
Todd: What have you done to keep your voice 'in shape' over the years? Is there a particular process you utilize?
John: “I just warm up a little. ...The other night, I went to this club here in Nashville that does these Metal nights where a bunch of touring musicians. One night they might do a bunch of Kiss songs and they'll have fun with it. They'll dress up like Kiss and playing nothing but Kiss all night. ...The other night, they did (the Aerosmith albums) Toys In The Attic (1975) and Rocks (1976) in their entirety as they appeared on the records. ...I went with my girlfriend and had like eight or ten friends come down and they were all like 'Crabby, let me buy you a drink' and I was like 'No, not until I'm done'. Even if it's a fun, goofy jam night, I still don't want to have anything to drink until I'm done. I just warm up and warm down. On show nights, I won't have anything to drink before I go on at all. It's not gonna happen. As soon as I'm done, I'll have a cocktail with you at the bar. That's about it. I hate to admit it, but I've been a smoker my entire life, so I haven't been entirely kind to my voice (laughs), but I know what works for me and I've somehow still managed to continue to deliver the goods.”
Todd: In hindsight, what are your feelings in regards to your tenure with Mötley Crüe? Do you harbor any resentments?
John: “Honestly, it was a really great time. I had a great time doing those records. We did three records and a tour and had a great time with them. It was a very creative time for all of us. I try to not look at things in a spilled milk manner. ...I've got that tag now. There's only been two singers for Mötley Crüe. Vince (Neil) and me and it allows me to go to Europe a couple of times a year with ESP (i.e. The Eric Singer Project) and my solo acoustic stuff. I'm going to Russia and I'll be jamming with a couple of the guys from Rainbow, who I've actually paid to see live, plus a guy from (Black) Sabbath and we're going to do an all-star jam over there. So that name tag has helped me to keep doing what I love for a living, and I've got nothing negative to say about it”
Todd: You mentioned recording three records with Mötley Crüe. Is there material out there we have yet to hear?
John: “It was weird. In America, the EP (i.e. Quaternary) came with the initial Mötley Crüe record, but they only did like ten thousand copies and you had to send in a bounce-back card to get it. About a year later, Europe and Japan were like 'What is this other record' and we're like 'Oh, it's Quaternary'. They didn't know what it was, so what we basically did was give them four or five other songs, some demos and other stuff and it became another full record everywhere except America. I count the Mötley Crüe record and Quaternary as two separate records and then I basically worked with them for a year on what would become Generation Swine (1997) and then they got Vince back and they just re-did all of the vocal parts, so it was kinda like three records, ya know?”
Todd: At what point did you realize your time in Mötley Crüe was coming to an end? Was it and obvious move?
John: “There were rumors the last eight or nine months that I was in the band. People were coming to me and telling me different things. My only beef with that whole thing was I wished the guys had actually told me, because they did not. I didn't really see it coming until the day I was at rehearsal and they told me that I was out. There were rumblings about it, so it was kinda floating around in my head a little bit, but every time I would hear something, I would bring it to the guys and they would say 'No. That's not true'. That was one of my beefs with them, ya know? I understand the business. I'm not stupid. If they had just come to me and said 'Look, we're thinking of getting Vince back in the band and we're gonna try and work it out'. I have no ill feelings about the guys or any of that stuff. It is what it is. We had a great run and it's let me do what I do, so onward and upward.”
Todd: What are your commercial expectations for Unplugged? Is the goal to reestablish yourself as a solo artist?
John: “Everybody's tryin' to figure out the music business these days. It's not what it was fifteen or twenty years ago, ya know? Everybody's trying to figure out how to manipulate or work the market. Obviously, ninety percent of the advertising is done on the internet, which is still new for a lot of people, even with me. My last real record was with Union and it came out in 2001, so it's been twelve years since I did a record. Things have changed drastically in those twelve years. ...I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to sell one more copy than Michael Jackson's Thriller (laughs), but at the end of the day, all you can do is do what you do and hope that somehow somewhere someone latches onto it. Obviously, I'd love to be standing of the stage somewhere and hear 'And the Grammy goes to', but you never know. We will just have to wait and see what happens with it all.”
Todd: There have been a lot of rumors that Union will never again release new material? Is there any truth to this? It would seem the group would do rather nicely amidst a reunion tour, even if it was a scaled-down affair...
John: “When the Mötley Crüe record came out, so many people didn't know if they were supposed to love it or hate it. It was kinda the same way with Union, ya know? When we were out and touring, we could barely get arrested and now, we're constantly being bombarded by people all over the world for a reunion. I'm like 'This is crazy. Where were all of you when we were out touring?', ya know? Technically, we never split up. The band never said we hate each other. If I can be honest, we were struggling to make ends meet and we all got offered gigs that paid better and moved on. I went to go do Ratt, (ex-Kiss guitarist) Bruce Kulick went to do Grand Funk Railroad and, oddly enough, my bass player and drummer, Jamie Hunting and Brent Fitz went on to play with Vince Neil. It's a very small world. Bruce is still doing Grand Funk and I'm still doin' my stuff. Bruce and I actually still play together from time to time in the Eric Singer Project in Europe and Japan. Brent is now playing with Slash and Jamie just finished a run with (The Who frontman) Roger Daltrey in Japan, doing (the The Who album) Tommy in it's entirety, so everyone's been staying pretty busy. We still all talk and we all still E-Mail each other, ya know? We've talked about maybe doing a few weeks on the road here and there when we all have the time. It would be fun to blow off the dust on some of the Union stuff. It could happen. We will see.”
Todd: When you were a member of Ratt, did it seem unusual for you to not be the frontman? Did you feel comfortable not being the lead singer after spending the vast majority of your career as the focal point of bands?
John: “No. Not at all. They asked me to be the frontman and I told them no, because I didn't want to be. I didn't want to be the lead singer. It was no disrespect to them, but I had just gotten out of the Mötley Crüe situation and had dealt with it. I had bought that shirt and it didn't fit very well (laughs). I'm not interested in replacing anybody. I don't wanna be that guy, ya know? My old Tour Manager, a gentleman named Pete Merluzzi, who's out on tour with Slash right now, was working with Slash when he was out with Velvet Revolver and they were having trouble with (former frontman) Scott (Weiland, of Stone Temple Pilots fame). He called me and said 'I just want you to know that your name is being thrown around to audition for Velvet Revolver'. I was flattered for a minute and then I thought about it and I realized that I could write and entire album of songs like (The Beatles classic) “Hey Jude” and still always be compared to Scott Weiland and I didn't want to do that, so I said 'No', ya know? I really appreciated the offer, but I an just not interested at all. ...Ratt was a touring band and had recently done runs in Europe, Japan and America and tours with Cinderella and Poison and I was like 'No, I'm not interested in doing the singer thing' and then I found out that they needed a guitar player because we have the same Manager. I said 'I can do that and then I can also bolster your background vocals'. So I went and met with (Ratt lead guitarist) Warren (DeMartini). He just wanted to see if I could play low enough so I could double some of the dual leads that they do. I met with Warren, we jammed a little on guitar and he loved my vocals, so it was like 'Okay, we're good to go. Let's do this'. So we went out and I was with them for eight years. Honestly, I love those guys. We had a really great time and I had a lot of fun with them, but it was just a paycheck. I wanted to go out and play music, but I didn't want to take anyone's place. I had bought that T-Shirt.”
Todd: What led to your departure from (the Tracii Guns/Nikki Sixx quasi-Super Group) Brides Of Destruction? There always seemed to be too much drama surrounding the group. Were you never a true full-fledged member?
John: “Actually, I was. We went in and we co-wrote some music together and we did the record, but in all honesty, I wasn't sure about the direction of the band or what they were doing musically. They already had a record deal, so I could have just stayed there and not wholeheartedly done it and collected a paycheck, but I didn't want to do that. ...I just couldn't stand onstage every night and play the music if I didn't believe in it, ya know? I didn't want to be the anchor, the miserable guy in the band, so I just told them that I didn't think that I should do it. ...(ex-L.A. Guns guitarist) Tracii Guns and I have butted heads about this as recently as a year ago. We were on tour together and we had a disagreement. I was like 'Tracii, I'm not putting the record down. I just thought that in my opinion, it was a little all over the place', ya know? And one of the things I believed, and I said this to Tracii again about a year ago, was that we we're all sitting there telling the world that (Brides Of Destruction/Souls Of We vocalist) London (LeGrand) was the greatest fucking thing since sliced bread as a singer and the one song that had the most potential to get on the radio was a song called “Life”...and it was being sung by the drummer. I just didn't get it and there were a few people that agreed with that. ...I'm not one to blow smoke up anyone's ass. If someone asks me what I think about a record, I'm going to tell them and the last thing you want is a guy that's touring with your band telling people he's not a fan of his own record, ya know? I just felt the best thing for me to do was to get out so they could either get a new guitar player or just go out as a four piece or whatever. I just didn't think it would be particularly beneficial if I was still a member of the band.”
Unplugged (2012) ******
ESP Live At The Marquee (2007) ***
Live In Japan (2007) ***
Do Your Own Thing Live Concert (2005) ****
Destination Everywhere (2002) *****
Live At The Galaxy (1999) ****
The Blue Room (1999) ****
ESP (1999) ***
Union (1998) ****
Lost And Spaced (1998) ***
Quaternary (EP) (1994) **
Mötley Crüe (1994) **
Let It Scream (1991) *
* as a member of The Scream
** as a member of Mötley Crüe
*** as a member of Eric Singer Project
**** as a member of Union
***** as a member of Twenty 4 Seven
****** as a solo artist
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