CD Review: ZZ Top - La Futura

CD Review: ZZ Top - La Futura
Universal Republic
All Access Review: A-
ZZ Top - La Futura 2012
Almost as iconic as the long, scraggly beards they’ve steadfastly refused to shave off for anyone, ZZ Top’s “Eliminator Car” – a custom-built ’33 Ford Coupe with a powerful engine and beautiful contours – was not just a sweet ride. For three craggy, old guys from Texas, it represented the mother of all turning points. Though they seemed hopelessly out of step with the times in the synthetic, neon-lit early ‘80s, Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard had no intention of retiring to Texas to sip Jeremiah Weed, play grab-ass with waitresses and reminisce about the good old days. Come hell or high water, they were going to reinvent themselves, using synthesizers and sequencers to update their crusty, greasy-spoon blues-rock for a new generation with the sleek, stylish and mean-as-all-get-out Eliminator.
And what better symbol of this transformation than an old-timey, Depression-era car pimped-out to attract loose women barely clothed in micro mini-skirts and stiletto heels. Unlike most mid-life crises, this one worked out splendidly for ZZ Top, as Eliminator – on the strength of skintight, nitro-burning singles “Gimme All Your Lovin’,” “Sharp Dressed Man,” “Legs” and “Got Me under Pressure” – roared up the charts and did doughnuts in Billboard’s parking lot. They'd done more than simply assimilate with pop music’s paradigm shift; they’d conquered it, all while not losing sight of what made them great in the first place. Soon after, however, ZZ Top would go too far, as the emphasis on electronic flash made Eliminator’s futuristic successor, Afterburner, seem as bloodless as PVC piping, and that car with the great lines and striking paint job suddenly seemed emblematic of the excesses that had eroded their true character.
Despite the title, ZZ Top’s latest, La Futura, does not march boldly into some brave new sonic world, where computers have taken over and humanity has to serve its robot overlords. This is the ZZ Top of 1973 and Tres Hombres, when Gibbons and company were pit masters of a smoky, sweaty form of slow-cooked blues that dripped fat and practically fell of the bone, even if La Futura was inspired by collaborations with Texas DJs and hip-hop artists. And La Futura is a delicious, artery-clogging feast, with most of the entrées being reworked versions of others’ recipes. That includes the gnarly, sleazy bump-and-grinds “I Gotsta Get Paid,” “Chartreuse” and “I Don’t Want to Lose, Lose, You” – three seedy songs you don’t want to inspect with a black light. Even nastier is “Consumption,” a lusty Gibbons-penned joint that has the hip-swaying, cowgirl swagger of a sassy Dallas stripper, who goes home at night and cries into her pillow while listening to the bittersweet and soulfully rendered, Stax-influenced ballad “Over You," La Futura's most disarming moment.
Aside from “Flyin’ High” taxing Gibbons' strained vocals to the breaking point and the track taking too much of a liking to John Cougar Mellencamp’s “Hurts So Good” – by way of AC/DC, oddly enough – La Futura is classic ZZ Top from top to lovely bottom, where “Big Shiny Nine” and “Have a Little Mercy” evoke memories of “I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide” and “I Thank You,” respectively. His curmudgeonly, whisky-gargling vocals as mean and lascivious as ever, Gibbons’ guitar riffs growl with real junkyard dog menace, while his solos bite hard and have quite a bit of hair on them. As for Hill and Beard, they continue to massage the rhythmic, rumbling low-end to a very happy ending, indeed. Satisfying in almost every way, even if they could vary the pace a little or manage to make the proceedings not sound quite so labored, the organic and gritty La Futura could easily sit and have a drink with all the old ZZ Top master works … as long it doesn’t order a Zima.
-            Peter Lindblad

Into the fire again with Don Dokken

Singer tells all about state of the band, ‘Broken Bones’
By Peter Lindblad
Dokken 2012
George Lynch and Jeff Pilson are out, drummer Mick Brown is still in, and Don Dokken is firmly in charge of one of the biggest bands to ever come out of the ‘80s glam-metal scene. Joined by guitarist Jon Levin and bassist Sean McNabb, the singer – and guitarist, having recently picked the instrument back up – has the good ship Dokken pointed in the right direction, with a new album in Broken Bones that might just be the best record the band’s made since Under Lock and Key, or even Tooth and Nail.
Mysterious and reflective at times, Broken Bones is immersed in luxuriant, yet impactful sound, and the intoxicating melodies – always present in everything Dokken’s ever done – are disarming, even as Levin launches into the kind of heavy, thermonuclear riffing and dynamic, agile solos that Lynch would be proud to call his own. It is still Dokken after all, with Brown’s brawling drums and McNabb’s flexible bass forming a pliable backbone in support. Though far removed from the heady days of platinum records and sold-out arenas, Dokken isn’t dead yet, and Broken Bones seems to have breathed new life into the band, with Don, singing more soulfully than he has in a long time, penning some of the most provocative and mature lyrics of his career – see the apocalyptic imagery and utter futility in the raging, anti-war lead single “Empire” for proof of his convictions.
Never afraid to speak his mind, Don Dokken unloads about a variety of subjects in this recent interview, conducted close to the release date for Broken Bones, which comes out Sept. 25 on Frontiers Records. Downloading, the making of Broken Bones, his own difficult recovery from vocal surgery, his thorny relationship with Lynch and the family tragedy that spurred his interest in charitable causes – all of it is fair game for a singer who is determined not to go down without a fight.
While the new record definitely has elements of the signature Dokken sound, it seems smokier, even exotic at times. Call me crazy, but it sounds Zeppelin-esque, especially on “Victim of the Crime.” Do you agree?
DD: Look at “Waterfall,” that weird drum beat … I’ve never done anything like that, or have a timing change in the middle of a solo – I’ve never done that in my career. But yeah, Jon and I wrote the record, and I just finally said, “I know what everybody wants, and they want the same thing we did last year or a few years ago, which sounded very ‘80s like.” And I just said, “Jon, I can’t keep painting the same picture.” I mean, what’s the point? I hate it when people say, “I wish this record was like Tooth and Nail.” Ok, then go buy Tooth and Nail.
Was it tough for you to do that last record, knowing that Jon wanted you to go back to that old Dokken sound?
Dokken - Broken Bones 2012
DD: Anytime somebody wants me to go back to anything, I say, “I’m not really down with that.” But, we did it. It was fine, but when they told me to do the same thing [this time], I said, “I refuse.” I mean, I was really being a dick about it. I didn’t want anybody near the music. I didn’t want the record company to hear one iota of the music until it was done. I’m not going to have some guy sitting in an office tell me what he likes or doesn’t like. I don’t think [French impressionist painter Claude] Monet, when he sat out in the garden painting in France, had some guy standing over his shoulder saying, “I think that needs some more blue or a little more yellow. Now it’s got too much light in there.” It doesn’t work that way, man. I think a song is a painting, you know. I don’t think that it’s right. I understand where our bread is buttered and Dokken fans and all that, but you know, we’ve done all that. I said what I had to say as far as that. I want to stretch my wings out a little bit, that’s the only way I can put it. I wasn’t trying to make a throwback record. I just wanted to put some ‘60s kind of harmonies on there. I love Cream and those Zeppelin kind of grooves … I just like that. I can’t help it. I’m getting old, man.
We all are …
DD: I’m still the singer, so it’s going to sound like Dokken, so what’s the problem? I didn’t write differently to be different. It’s just what was coming out of my head.
You produced the new record, which is something you also did with XYZ. Is it easier producing your own band, as opposed to another group?
DD: No, it’s much harder. I produced Great White’s first record, and I found them in a garage. So, I discovered that band – Great White and XYZ. And it’s easier when you’re on the outside because you can just say, “Hey, try that,” or “Try this.” And if it doesn’t work, “Try this.” But when you go to actually play it or sing it and listen back, you go, “Uh, I don’t know.” I mean, honestly, this record, we were getting ready to go to Florida to mix it, and the last day the album was completely finished, and I told my engineer, “Um, three of the songs, I’m not happy with the lyrics.” He said, “You’re kidding.” I said, “No, I can do better than that.” And at 4 o’clock in the morning I was changing shit. And it turned out better, you know. If you have a problem with that stuff, after so much time goes by, I have to make changes and no one will say that it’s better. So, I had to get away from it, and I was glad we were touring that weekend, so that I could get out and get away from the record for those two days and come back to it fresh. I had that luxury this time, you know. After a while, I just wanted to be done with it.
It seems like you’re feeling that you’re free of the expectations people have of you and free of the Dokken sound of old. Do you feel that way?
DD: I mean, Jon did some solos that were kind of Michael Schenker-ish at times, and I told Jon, “You can’t live in the shadow of George Lynch, and I can’t live in the shadow of the millions of records that I sold 30 years ago.” I can’t do it anymore. I can’t live in this box. I’ve said what I had to say and I want to move on to some new and interesting music. And I said, “We’re taking a chance.” And if people say, “Oh, it doesn’t sound like Dokken,” so be it. I took my chance, and there are some classic-sounding Dokken songs on there. Obviously, I must have done something right, because I haven’t had many bad reviews yet.
I think it’s a great Dokken album in that there’s a great variety on it. I don’t know if it’s because some of the atmospheres are different. I was also thinking that Levin seems to have such a great feel for grooves, and that’s especially prevalent on “Best of Me” and “Blind.” Did that have an effect on this record?
DD: Well, I’ve been coaching him for a long time to let him find his own way. He’s not just trying to emulate George. And then I kind of tried to educate him, because he was in high school when Dokken came out, and Dokken was one of his favorite bands. But I gave him a CD and I go, “Listen to Led Zeppelin II. Just put this in your car and listen to it. Now, listen to Houses of the Holy. Check that out. Listen to ‘Kashmir’ …” You know, “Listen to this, listen to that, check out some of these songs,” just trying to ingrain a broader spectrum of writing. And I told him, I said, “Jon, there is not one Dokken CD in my car.” “That’s weird,” he said. Well, I don’t need to listen to it. If I listen to it, I’ll start plagiarizing myself. It infects you, you know.
So, we just started listening to a lot of stuff from way back, ‘60s and ‘70s, just thousands [of songs], and as a producer, I slip in different stacks of harmonies and different arrangements, different time signatures. I just wanted an album where I wanted all the songs to kind of stand alone. And I think I accomplished that, but if I didn’t, I at least tried. I gave it my best shot. I like an album to be [good from] top to bottom, and not have it be like, “Well, that’s a good song,” and then the next song you’re starting to fast forward, and then, “Oh, this song is pretty good, but I don’t like the chorus – fast forward.” I hate that. I do it, I’m guilty of it. I hate it when you hear a killer song on the radio, and you buy the CD, and there are like two good songs and the rest is a bunch of filler. That really annoys me. I can think of a lot of bands that are doing that these days.
It doesn’t seem to be an album-oriented world anymore.
DD: No, I understand. The world has changed. There are no more platinum or gold records on your walls, because people can’t sell those amounts of records anymore because as soon as a record comes out, it’s on file-sharing. I understand that. It still doesn’t mean you should write crappy shit. At the end of the day, when I’m dead and gone, at least I can leave a legacy, a body of music that people will love.
With this one, you’ve done that. I really like “Empire,” the lead track and the first single. It’s got those familiar searing guitars Dokken fans are used to, and some not so optimistic lyrics. Explain the inspiration behind that song and how the music for it was conceived.
DD: Well, you know, we wrote like fast, burning kind of riffs, but we were at the house here, the guesthouse on my property in the country, and it has a studio. And I have this flat screen on the wall, and every day, I’d take a break, watch some TV for a while, and it was just the Syrian government is slaughtering their own people, and Pakistan was bailed out, and we got rid of Muammar Gaddafi, but they hate our guts and they’re murdering our own soldiers, and I just got so pissed. That was why I came up with the line, “What do you have in the end? You’re burning empires.” So, you’re going to destroy your own country and your own people, so that way in the end, what do you got? You got nothing. You’ve got nothing left. It doesn’t make any sense to me. It’s mind-boggling. So it inspired me to write it.
I don’t write political songs usually, but “Empire” is just about, “You guys have lost your minds, you know?” They’re killing everybody. In the year 2012, you’d think we’d be a little more spiritually enlightened by now. Sadly, it seems like we’re going backwards, and all we do is keep coming up with new ways of killing each other. And this morning, they killed the U.S. ambassador [Chris Stevens]. They just blew him up. And the point of that was? It frustrates me. I guess when I was younger, we got famous, you get caught up in the limousines and the girls and you’re staying in four-star hotels, you’ve got a private jet … it’s narcissistic. To be famous, there’s some narcissism in there and ego and you don’t really concern yourself with all that crap going on. You’re just wrapped in your own little rock star world. But when I got older and you have children, you start realizing there’s some crazy shit going on out there.
You’ve definitely touched on some different lyrical subject matter on this record that you haven’t addressed in the past – “Blind” being that way as well.
DD: “Blind,” too. Yeah. Like I wrote that first line in “Empire”: “I sit above and watch below as we burn this city down” – it’s actually a metaphor of somebody standing on a hill watching their town annihilated, and for what? And the line that says, “A child only sees the gun as the trigger of disease.” Well, it is. Children are innocent, but it just frustrates me, so I had to write about it and get it out of my system – “Blind” and all that stuff. It just seems that it’s getting worse, and it just frustrates me. I could just ignore it all and go, “I’m just going to sit up here at my estate in Beverly Hills and it’s not my problem.” But I can’t do that. I feel morally responsible to at least voice my opinion and my outrage and frustration to people, and what’s a better vehicle than to do it through music.
Did you want the music to reflect that as well?
DD: No. I mean, it’s weird. Sometimes I write … the way I write, I just write stories. And I have a tape recorder. Everyone has always told me that, “Your stuff is always on that tape recorder,” and they call it the “Book of Don.” And I’ve got literally hours and hours and hours of me just babbling into a tape recorder. Like, I’ll get up in the middle of the night to go pee – and I hate that when you’re half asleep – and I always get inspired about 3 o’clock in the morning. I asked my doctor about that once. I said I usually get inspired when I’m half asleep, and he goes, “That’s what’s called a pure stream of consciousness.” You’re not thinking about your kids or the car loans, and your relationships or your bills. You’re just kind of in a pure stream of consciousness, like in a meditative state, and that’s when the ideas come.” Wherever they come from in the universe, God or whatever you want to call it, your mind is wide open to receive the information.
The problem is you start to think, “Oh, that’s a killer riff.” I hear this guitar riff in my head and I think, “That’ll be awesome. I’ll remember that in the morning.” And you’re like, “How did that go again?” I hate that, and Jon does that, too. So, for this album, I said to Jon, “Okay, now Jon, we’re going to both buy little tape recorders, we’ll put them next to our beds, and if you have an idea, just blurt it out. I don’t care if it’s just a little riff …” So, Jon had his guitar in his bedroom and this little amplifier, and he’d plug it in at 3 o’clock in the morning and wake his chick up, and he’ll turn the tape recorder on and say, “I’ve just got to bang out this quick little riff.” The next day, he’ll call me on the phone and say, “Hey, check this out.” And sometimes I’ll say, “Eh, that’s all right.” But for a couple of songs he wrote like that, I said, “Hey, that’s a really killer riff, except I wrote that 30 years ago – that song ‘Sleepless Nights’ on Tooth and Nail.” I have to say, “Jon, stop listening to those Dokken records. They’re brainwashing you.”
Sometimes you get something down that late at night and you wake up the next morning wondering, “What the hell is that?”
DD : Yeah, I went to bed thinking, “That’s brilliant.” And then I wake up and listen and I go, “Ugh, what was I thinking.” It’s a long process. We wrote 30 songs for this record, and we just narrowed it down to the 12 best. It’s a real hard call to figure it out, because the record company says we have to take one song off for a bonus track in Japan, and my opinion of bonus tracks is that they’re always the leftover songs that aren’t any good. And they call it a bonus, and I said, “I don’t want a shitty bonus [track]. I’m happy with all the songs. So how do we take a good song and take it off the record? I’m not happy about this.” And we ended up taking a song called “Can’t Touch This Love,” and it’s really a classic … kind of like “Just Got Lucky” meets “The Hunter.” It’s pretty cool, but we had to take it off the record. And it’s a shame. People can buy it if they want the Japanese DVD – we did a “making of” film while making this record. So that’s a bonus track, and you have to put a bonus track in Japan because the records over there cost $8 more than in America.
Did you ever have a song like that on any of the older albums from Dokken that you had to leave off?
DD: Yeah, it was “Dancin’ the Irish Song” and there was something else. I put two bonus tracks on Japanese albums a couple of years ago on one of my records. I can’t remember what it was. It might have been Erase the Slate. There are a couple of killer songs that we had to take off and use them for bonus tracks, and that was a bummer, because they’re never going to hear these tracks here because they’re never going to buy the import. But you have to do it, because records are still too expensive, $15, $17 in America and a record costs $25 over there. So, to encourage the fans not to buy the American version and save $8, you’ve got to give them bonus tracks. It’s just business, you know. 
You had vocal surgery in 2010. Your voice seems to have come through it remarkably well. What kind of rehabilitation did you have to do and how would you compare it now to what it was in the ‘80s?
DD: Well, you know, I’ll never be able to sing as high as I could back then. I mean, I could name a dozen singers who can’t sing like they did back then. It’s like a car. You put 100,000 or 200,000 miles on it, it doesn’t run like it did when it was brand new. I’ve done 7,000 to 8,000 shows in my career, but yeah, I tore my vocal cord in Germany. It was my fault. You know, most bands are two days on, one day off or three days on, two days off. We ended up doing 27 shows in 34 days I think, and I started having this funny taste in my mouth, like iron. And I realized it was blood. And I went, “Oh, shit.”
You know, I was in Germany and I went to the hospital, and the doctor went to an EMT guy, and he looked at my throat and he said, “You tore your vocal cord.” And I still had 10 shows to go, and he said, “Stop.” And I didn’t. I kept going, and that was it. And I thought, “Okay, I’ll just heal. I’ll just stay here.” But it just got worse and worse and worse and worse, and I had the surgery, and I thought, “Okay, three months from now, I’ll be good.” And I started playing again, and I was singing like crap. And people on the Internet were going, “Boy, Don can’t sing anymore,” or “He’s lost it,” and well, I can’t deny it. So, I was really struggling to try to hit any of the notes, and people see it on the Internet, on YouTube, and “Ish … he ain’t what he used to be.” It’s depressing. It’s like saying, “Here’s a guitar. It’s out of tune. Now go play.” So I just told the band, “We have to stop.”
On this record, which we started writing last September, I didn’t sing a note the first six months. I mean, I had to go back to my old vocal teacher, warm-ups … I had to put three humidifiers in all the rooms of my house to keep the house humid all the time – warm up for an hour, do scales, keep my mouth shut, quit smoking … blah, blah, blah. You know, don’t talk a lot. I’ve got more at stake, so I’ve been doing press for four days straight, six hours a day and I’m horse from doing it. And sometimes, we get together and I go to sing a song, and I say, “You know, guys, I can hit the note, but my voice will have a little too much buzz in it.” And some days, Jon will go, “Wow. Your voice sounds like it did on Tooth and Nail. Your voice is nice and clean and clear.” And I go, “That’s the way I like it.” But it is hit and miss – sometimes you have good days, and I’ve had bad days where I couldn’t figure out why [my voice] was doing what it was doing and it wasn’t good. The insanity of the thing is after I spent tens of thousands of dollars on my voice, it turned out to be hit or miss because I was snoring. I was overly tired, because we were working 14-hour days, flying to gigs, getting two to three hours of sleep and going to Europe. We flew 16 hours to Bulgaria, and we did the M3 Fest where we had two hours of sleep. We sucked at that show, but when you’re really tired, you snore. And when you snore, it’s like … haven’t you gone to a club and you’re trying to talk to somebody over a loud band, and you wake up the next day and your voice is all raspy?
Yeah, absolutely.
DD: And you wake up and you’re hoarse, and you try and talk loud for conversation. Well, that’s what snoring is. So I had to go get sleep studies done, with the cameras on me watching me sleep, and as it turned out, I was snoring with sleep apnea and that was trashing the cords, too. So, that bites. But, I don’t snore anymore.
I didn’t realize that was something that could damage your vocal cords. Did you at all think back to when you sang rehearsals with the Scorpions for Blackout while Klaus Meine recovered from his vocal surgery?
DD: Yeah, it’s like I went through the same thing. And you know, when I sang on that, I was young. I mean, I was in my 20s and my voice was fresh and golden, and I hadn’t toured. I was a nobody, you know? And I had a virgin voice, basically. It had low miles. And the surgery Klaus had, he had like two or three surgeries in his career. Tom Keifer, he didn’t sing for three years.
Could you ever imagine taking that long off?
DD: Yeah, when we could play again, I was shocked. We played with Cinderella a year ago, and I said to Tom, “You sound exactly like you did in the ‘80s. What did you do?” He said, “Oh, man. I had to have surgeries, I couldn’t talk, I had to re-train my voice and sing differently” – he went through a whole thing for like seven years. And now he sounds awesome, better than ever. There are always people that are blessed – the Glenn Hughes’s of the world, the Bruce Dickinsons, the Ronnie James Dios. Those guys are blessed. They just open their mouths and it comes out and it sounds awesome. But, I don’t think I was blessed with that. I have my tonsils still. Most people don’t have their tonsils. I have my tonsils, I still have my adenoids, I have some bad sinuses, and the doctor said, “You’ve got everything a singer shouldn’t have. Your tonsils can get infected, you’re flying, you’re dehydrated, your sinuses are dripping, and your vocal cords get inflamed.” He goes, “You’re just getting hit every way – every direction, you’re getting hit and it disturbs your voice, and we just have to knock out the problems one at a time.” It took a long time.
What did you learn from working with Tom Werman and Roy Thomas Baker on Tooth and Nail and Neil Kernon on Under Lock and Key and Back for the Attack that you’ve incorporated into your own production work?
DD: Um, I was like a real “Dennis the Menace.” When I was working with Michael Wagener [producer for Dokken’s Breaking the Chains, Skid Row’s first album and Ozzy Osbourne’s No More Tears, he also mixed Metallica’s Master of Puppets], I’d ask, “Why are you using that mic? Why are you putting the mic there? Why are you doing that? Why are you putting the overheads over there?” And [Geoff] Workman, God rest his soul, he was a great engineer. He just passed away [2010]. With all these great guys, I just picked their brains. I’d go, “Why are you doing that? Why are you doing this? Why are you putting the mics there? Why are you using that mic?” I just learned over 30 years, and I owned my own recording studio for 10 years. I mean, besides other things, I produced the Dysfunctional album and recorded it in my studio and just did everything – recorded everything and put the mics on myself, and like I say, just years of experience to learn why, because I had all these great people telling me why … you know, “How come you can’t put this microphone on the kick drum?” And Michael would say, “Because this microphone has a lower register, and it picks up the kick drum better and it’s a tighter sound.” And I’d say, “Oh, okay. How come you’re using this?” And Michael would tell me, “Most people will put a mic on top of the snare drum.”
Michael always put one on top and the bottom to get the track, but the problem with two microphones that close together is they go out of phase and it sounds weird. And he showed me how to fix that by putting one out of phase, and putting the snare back in phase. It’s just decades and decades of all these tricks I learned. I think this album has a killer guitar sound, killer drum sound, great bass – it’s just a punchy record, you know. I wanted it punchy. I wanted it powerful. I wanted it loud.   
How did having Bob St. John [Extreme, Duran Duran, Collective Soul] and Wyn Davis [Black Sabbath, Dio, Whitesnake] do the mixing and Maor Appelbaum [Halford, Yngwie Malmsteen, Sepultura] as the engineer affect Broken Bones. How did the three of them affect the final product?
DD: Well, Wyn and I have been best friends for like 30 years, through the Dokken stuff and then my solo record, Up from the Ashes, which I love – it just came out at the wrong time. And my recording studio was literally a thousand yards from his recording studio. So we were always going back and forth from my studio to his, and then we started the record and we started working together, but then I was taking such a long time with the record. I kept pushing him back – like, “Okay, next month we’ll finish it,” and then, “No, I’m going out on tour. Okay, next month.” And then Wyn got booked.
He goes, “I’m booked solid, I can’t do this record.” So, I said, “Well, I guess I’ll do it myself.” And I was like, “Oh, shit. Now I’m really going to put pressure on myself.” So I ended up doing the record by myself, recording everything that was left at my house. And then we went to Bob St. John because Jon is good friends with the guys from Extreme, and he’d done Extreme, and Jon knew him. So he said, “Yeah. Meet me in Florida.” So I decided to go down to Florida to meet with him, and I decided to be the producer, and then with St. John, I wanted to get something new. I’m always using the same people over and over and over again, so I listened to Maor Applebaum’s records, and he seemed to know what the hell he was doing as far as making records loud. He does a lot of the heavy bands, or heavier, like Sepultura and bands like that. And I thought, “Well, with these songs, we’re not thrash metal or a speed-metal band. Our music is melodic hard rock, but I want the aggression from the mastering that he gets from these kinds of heavier bands. I thought it would be a good combination to get Applebaum to do the mastering, just as he approaches these bands like Sepultura.       
Why did it not work out with George and Jeff for a return to the classic Dokken lineup?
DD: Well, do you want the lie or do you want the truth? We’ll there’s about 20 versions from George – ‘I’m just an asshole, I want all the money and I’m hard to deal with.’ Well, that’s just about the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard in my life. I mean, Mick will tell you that … and Jeff. We got together. We were going to do it last year, and we were excited to do it, and it was going to be great, and we thought it would put the exclamation point on our career. We had an offer to make an extreme amount of money to do it, so that was nice. And the truth is we got back together and Mick flew down, we all met, and Jeff said, “I want to do this, but I’m committed to Foreigner for two years.” And I said, “Two years? That’s the last of that.”
I couldn’t sit around waiting for two years, so that’s the truth. I know George posted all this shit that I held it up and I wanted too much money, and he didn’t want to be a hired gun and all that. I don’t know why George does all that stuff. There’s something wrong with that guy between the ears. He’s always been a little weird. Someone asked me when we started not getting along, and I said, “It wasn’t toward the middle. We didn’t get along from the day he joined the band.” He’s two different people, man. I mean, we played a couple of shows with him this summer, and he’s always nice to me, saying, “How are you doing, Don?” I said, “You know what George? You’re always, ‘Hi, hi. How are you doing?’ And then the very next day you talk shit about me on the Internet. What the f**k is that all about? Why do you keep this up?” And if you say something, he’ll lie. Just tell the truth. Practice what you preach. The truth will set you free. He’s just a different personality. I don’t hate. I don’t worry about it. And I gave up trying to defend myself on the Internet a long time ago. You get a guy, he goes to the show and then he blogs, “I saw Dokken and they sucked.” I just say to people like that, “Well, that’s your opinion, and don’t skimp on the avocado. If you think you can do better, here’s the microphone. Knock yourself out.”
The “Monsters of Rock Tour” in 1988 is such an epochal moment in heavy metal history. What was the most memorable moment for you?
DD: There were a lot of memories. It was the highlight of our careers. It was a tragedy, too, because we didn’t get to do another album, and we were going to go on a world tour, because we’d gotten to that level. We could have taken on the whole world … We couldn’t get to the stage without a helicopter bringing all the musicians in, and I remember the first day I thought I was going to throw up because we’re in this helicopter, and I see helicopters flying over the field and you see a hundred thousand people, and I was just going, “Oh, my God. This is the dream I’ve had my whole life.” I was so scared, you know. Even though we’d toured most the year, we were going up against Metallica, Scorpions, Aerosmith … man, we’d better step up to the plate. That was a lot of pressure on us, but it was a highlight just flying over that and seeing all those people and seeing my name up there on a 50-foot banner, it was pretty exciting.
Did it feel competitive, like everybody was trying to outdo one another?
DD: No, I didn’t feel any competition. It was really interesting, that tour. I thought there were going to be orgies going on backstage, like it had always been. I thought, “Well, a hundred thousand people, how many girls are going to be backstage? 300, you know?” But the truth was, by the time we got to it, I had kids, everybody had kids, everybody was married … Eddie had Valerie Bertinelli. And everybody had their wives. Backstage, it was really pretty chill, just barbequing, you had the catering, and you’d be barbequing steak one day and there were just kids and family around. There was no groupie stuff going on; it was really just chill backstage, just really low-key. It wasn’t what I expected, just a blowout going on every day. I mean, there were still drugs flying around pretty heavy on that tour. The road crews were under a lot of pressure, because they had to set up this massive amount of equipment, and I know we had 10, 15 semi-trucks – a pretty big operation. And I saw a lot of road crews who would be there one day and gone the next because they had just burned out on drugs and drinking and stuff. They’d let the pressure get to them. 
Were there things about that tour that you enjoyed and other aspects of it that you didn’t?
DD: Well, the worst part of it was going on after Metallica. I mean, we had the same manager [Cliff Burnstein] and even though we were making more money than them, and we were supposedly more famous, I kept saying, “Can you put them on after us, because they are kicking our ass.” I mean, they were. It’s pretty hard to go onstage and sing “In My Dreams” after they’d just closed with “Kill Them All.”
That is tough.
DD: It’s a different energy level. I learned a lot from Metallica, man, because I think we were getting complacent. We toured with Aerosmith that year, and all these other bands, like Judas Priest. I mean, we were on the road for 18 months, and we were really tired at the end. But, we were getting kudos, and we were doing really well, and then, all of a sudden … Metallica just had this attitude like, “Every show is our last show.” They just went out there, and they would slay it. People would rush the stage, and I think we were caught up in the rock star thing, where we said, “We’re Dokken, we’re cool, don’t worry about it.” And I kept saying to the boys, “We’ve got to step up our game a little bit, because we’re getting our butts kicked.” That was my opinion. And that was when we were finished.
Do you have any memorabilia from that era that’s special to you?
DD: I gave all my stage clothes and everything away in the last 15 years to charity. The only thing I have left that’s worth something is the sequined, velvet, long trench coat I wore in “Dream Warriors.” I had that custom made jacket with all these sparkly things on it that I wore for “Dream Warriors.” And I still have it. I tried to put it on about a month ago, and it doesn’t fit. I must have been a little skinnier. I tried to get my arms through it and I ripped it. I was about 30 pounds lighter, you know. So, I’ve still got that and I don’t know what to do with it. The Hard Rock [Café] wanted it. They wanted to do a Freddy Krueger/Dokken thing at the Hard Rock, but I thought maybe it’d be better to give it to a Cancer auction or something like that so the money can go to cancer research. I like doing that. The last show of this tour is a cancer fundraiser, and then I’m going to Washington D.C. in November to do concert in Washington that’s being put together called “Fallen Blue” [Nov. 10 at the Recher Theatre in Towson, Maryland] for officers that have been killed in the line of duty. I like doing those things to pay it forward. When anybody asks me to go to Fort Bragg or to go do a concert to play for the troops or to play for Iraq [War] veterans who’ve just gotten back I like to do it. We don’t get paid. It’s not about the money. It’s about paying it forward.
And you’re a big contributor to the Los Angeles Children’s Hospital.
DD: Yeah, I mean, you what happened, how I got involved in that was unfortunately through a tragedy in my own family. My brother had a beautiful daughter, Michelle, and I loved her dearly. We used to take care of her a lot. She went to school right across the street from my house, and she’d hang out with her uncle Don. And she contracted cancer at 8 and passed away. And so, when I was going to the hospital to see her, and we were all there hoping she’d make it, I started seeing all these kids, you know. And I just thought they needed some cheering up. So that’s when I started donating my money and time. I spent Christmas Eve there. I spent Thanksgiving. I’d eaten cafeteria food at the hospital, no thanks to them, because I didn’t think the food was very good. So I would go to and buy turkeys and a bunch of dressing, pies – and I just put it in the back of a truck and hauled all this food down to the hospital, this awesome gourmet food for the kids and they got a kick out of it. And I gave them all Dokken stuff.
They must have loved it.
DD: Yeah, we had wheelchair races, and the nurses hated me. They’d say, “You can’t be doing that. These kids have got cystic fibrosis, and it could kill them.” I’d say, “Look, they’re dying already.” I mean, they were terminal, so what do you mean? I mean, Jesus, let’s have some fun. It’s a tough thing. It’s depressing. I would take a couple of my rock-star buddies along, down to the hospital, and they lasted about a half an hour, because it’s very hard. You’ve got to a have a … it’s hard. It’s sad. To be around 40 kids and you know they’re all terminal, it’s hard. And sometimes you’d go next year, and a couple of them would still be there, and I’d be like, “Awesome! You’re still here.”
Back in the early ‘80s, you approached both George and Jeff about being in the band, and you had this record deal in place [with Carrere Records, the German label that first released Breaking the Chains]. Why was it so important to you to get those two onboard?
DD: Well, actually, you know, Juan was the original bass player. Juan and I toured Germany in 1979 together as a three-piece. Juan Croucier [known more for being in Ratt] was the bass player, and if you look back on Breaking the Chains, Juan was on there, because that was before Jeff’s time. But, we had the same problems. Juan is a really mellow, nice guy, and he didn’t get along with George either. My skin was thicker, but Juan was like, “God, man. This guy is always complaining. He’s always just fighting with everything we want to do and get going. He’s just fighting us all the way.” And George quit the band, I think, probably three or four times the first year and a half. He was quitting like every other month, or at least every two months. I mean, Warren DeMartini replaced him for a while, and I wanted to keep Warren, and then Juan was playing with Warren, and Ratt was starting to get popular. And then when the LP came out, Juan just said, “I can’t play with George.”
And unfortunately, when he left, like two days later, we had an offer to do the Blue Oyster Cult tour, our first arena tour. We had no bass player. So I called Mike Barney, and he said, “There’s this guy, Jeff Pilson. He’s a singer and bass player.” And he was playing in some little bar with this chick singer, and he was just playing bass, doing like “Little Red Corvette.” And I went down and auditioned him, and that was it. I was desperate to get a bass player, and that’s how Jeff got in the band. Jeff got lucky. He was literally playing in a bar called the Shot of Gold for like 20 people, playing like Prince and we were going on tour in literally … we were making the video in like five days and touring in two weeks. I mean, we needed a bass player like right now. And we just grabbed him. He was in the right place at the right time. I didn’t know the guy.
What was the biggest difference between Breaking the Chains and Tooth and Nail? Did you sense that Dokken had taken a big leap forward?
DD: Well, we had to. Breaking the Chains came out. “Breaking the Chains” was one of the most requested songs in the country and nobody bought the record. The record stiffed. They call it a “passive hit” – like, “Yeah, I love that song. Buy the record? No.” Loved the song, didn’t buy the record. So the record company wanted to drop us, and I said, “Well, I guess it’s over.” The album only sold a hundred thousand copies, which these days would be a success. Back then, it was a dismal failure. And we basically – my managers and me – begged the label to give us one more chance. And that’s why I came up with the title Tooth and Nail. I said, “Boys, this is it. Tooth and nail. If we don’t bring it on this next album …”
When I met George to join Dokken, he was driving the Gallo Wines truck, driving Gallo Wine to liquor stores. And that’s the truth. He was driving, and he got kicked out of his house, he was living in the back of his car, and he was making a living driving Gallo Wine to liquor stores. So they had nothing going on. I had a record deal and no band. Went to Germany, got my record deal, and I always liked Mick. I thought he was an awesome drummer, I liked seeing him play in The Boyz, and Mick kept saying, “Why don’t you get George in the band?” And I said, “Well, I’m the guitar player, really. I’m the guitar player and the singer.” The manager said, “We think you should put the guitar down and front the band,” because when you’re playing guitar, you’re kind of stuck on the mic. And they wanted me to move off the mic. So, I thought, “Okay, George is a great guitar player. We’ll try it.” Unfortunately, it started out on the wrong foot and never got back on the right foot.
It’s amazing you made it as long as you did.
DD: Well, my manager said to me … he was the most famous manager in the country; he was with Metallica, Tesla, Queensryche – you name it. Cliff Burnstein is the like the guru of all managers. I remember him saying to me – and actually, the first band he ever signed, an American band, was us. Def Leppard and that was it. His partner was handling them in England, and Cliff’s first band to pick up was us before all those bands. I was with him the night he went to The Troubadour to see Metallica [in 1984], to pick them up [for Elektra Records and Q-Prime Management]. But, he said to me, “Don, you guys are famous despite yourselves.”   
With the state of the music industry, what are your hopes for Dokken going forward
DD: Well, you know, we’re in that strange situation – like everybody is – where you don’t make your living off selling records anymore. You make your living off touring, because nobody sells records anymore. Metallica is not selling 10 million records like they used to, or a hundred million, like the Black Album. Those days are gone because the Internet came along and changed everything. Napster changed the world. I was really proud of Lars [Ulrich] that he actually went to Congress and fought to get this thing stopped. People had this attitude like, “Well, what do you care? You’re making millions of dollars. What’s the big deal if a person downloads music for free?” Well, if you make a painting and spend 11 months on it, you pay for your brushes and you pay for it with your sweat and blood, and you go sell it to pay the bills, and the art gallery sells it to somebody sitting outside the art gallery and made 500 copies of it and posters of the painting, you’d be pissed. It’s your art. It’s your art!
This attitude of kids going, “Well, I’m not going to spend 10 bucks, even though it’s a bad copy and it sounds like shit, I’ll just download it for nothing” … Lars fought to stop that, and I respect him for it. And so now, it’s just touring. You have to tour. And somebody said, “Why are you making a new record?” It’s because it’s my love, it’s my passion. I don’t think painters or artists paint to make a living. If they make a living it’s a bonus, but they do it because they love to paint. If you can make money at it, that’s great. I never got into this business to get rich or to live in mansions. That wasn’t the point. I was a musician. My mom was a musician, my father was a musician, my brother’s a musician, my daughter is 25 and a classically trained pianist – it just runs in our blood, you know. It’s our family.

* Photo by Devin DeHaven

CD Review: Dokken - Broken Bones

CD Review: Dokken - Broken Bones
Frontiers Records
All Access Review: A-
Dokken - Broken Bones 2012
Some Broken Bones never heal quite right, no matter how long they’re immobilized and allowed to set. Don Dokken is not a doctor, but perhaps he has finally concluded – after fairly recent attempts at reconciliation failed miserably – that he and guitarist George Lynch simply can never coexist together in Dokken, that their creative relationship is fractured beyond repair and that the book on the quarrelsome classic lineup that fought like hell and forged such ‘80s melodic hard-rock touchstones as the LPs Tooth and Nail and Under Lock and Key is permanently and forever closed.
As for the band that bears his name, the last chapter in the life of Dokken has yet to be written. In fact, if Broken Bones, out Tuesday on Frontiers Records, is any indication, Dokken, the sequel, could at least rival the original. With drummer Mick Brown the lone holdover from the glory days, and guitarist Jon Levin and bassist Sean McNabb filling the large shoes of Lynch and Jeff Pilson, respectively, Dokken hasn’t completely reinvented itself on Broken Bones, and yet, there’s something different about it that speaks to a subtle, yet perceptible, shift in philosophy.
Smoky and exotic, though fully engorged with the kind of hard-charging, testosterone-fueled guitar riffage and lightning-strike leads on “Best of Me” and the blazing lead single “Empire” that have always carried Dokken into battle, Broken Bones has more of a heavy blues feel than past efforts, with the weighty, groove-driven “Blind” and “Waterfall” owing a debt to late-‘60s/early-‘70s British rock royalty it cannot possibly repay. On the Middle Eastern-flavored snake charmer “Victim of the Crime,” Dokken manages to channel the spirits of both Led Zeppelin and The Beatles in a seductive, almost psychedelic attempt at reimagining “Kashmir” with kaleidoscopic vocal harmonies and slinky guitar. And they succeed.  
“Today” is even more of a departure, an enchanted, mysterious piece of boggy, candle-lit acoustic folk that could be a distant descendant of “Stairway to Heaven,” were it not for the gentle tape manipulation coloring the meditative mood in mind-altering, Hooka-sucking fashion. And just when it appears that Dokken is ready to slump down in its Lazy Boy and drift off in a sunny haze of golden guitar tendrils that curl around the intro to “For the Last Time,” Levin mounts a steed of stampeding power chords and spurs Dokken to ride deep into the night, where the decaying metallic beauty – interrupted by a searing Levin solo – of “Fade Away” awaits.
There’s a kind of heavy-metal yoga at work on Broken Bones, where limber melodies conform to pleasing, but unusual shapes – at least for Dokken they are. No longer able to soar to those high notes, after serious vocal surgery, Don Dokken drops to a lower register to add richness and body to these songs, soulfully delivering surprisingly affecting and powerful lyrics that express outrage over the stupidity of war and violence and heartfelt regret over lost love and bad choices. Too subdued in tone overall, Broken Bones would benefit from more attacking, vigorous rock workouts like “Empire.” But there’s more than enough of that on Broken Bones to please the old guard and new converts. No longer beholden to a commercially viable hit-making formula that major record labels would require them to reproduce on command, Dokken is branching out into new territory, while not entirely abandoning what made them famous in the first place. That’s a balance not everybody can maintain.
-            Peter Lindblad

Neal Schon finds his 'Calling'

The Journey guitarist recalls colorful times with Roy Thomas Baker, Geoff Workman
By Peter Lindblad
Neal Schon - The Calling 2012
Some are simply eccentric, a little strange but ultimately harmless. Others are complete loons, absolutely certifiable and more than a bit scary – Phil Spector comes to mind. Down through rock and roll history, some of the most interesting figures have been music producers. Journey’s Neal Schon has run across a few in his time.
Roy Thomas Baker, famed for his work with Queen and his innovative method of stacking harmonies, made sweet music with Journey on 1978’s Infinity and its follow-up, 1979’s Evolution. For 1980’s Departure, as Journey put its nose to the grindstone and put out three hit-laden records in three years, the band was put through its paces by Geoff Workman. Though different, both men were uniquely talented studio artists, capable of wringing the best performances possible out of their clients. And both were a little … different.
“I remember we did have a great time with Roy Thomas Baker and Geoff Workman; they were two characters – I mean really strong characters, both individuals,” said Schon, who will release a new solo instrumental album on October 23 on Frontiers Records titled The Calling. “You know, Roy was very flamboyant. He always had this king’s chair and he wore this king’s crown – you know, it was like Monty Python, for real. And Geoff Workman was like a pirate, and you know, he was always smoking a French cigarette and drinking a case of Elephant beer. It got very colorful in the studio.”
For Schon and the rest of Journey, whose direction had shifted somewhat with the addition of Steve Perry as vocalist on Infinity, as the band morphed from a collection of jam-band hippies from San Francisco to architects of a pop-infused hard rock Hoover Dam that generated hits instead of electricity, Evolution was made at Cherokee Studios in Los Angeles at a time when they were feeling their oats.   
“We had some late nights, all-night benders (laughs), I remember that,” said Schon. “We were partying a lot as a band back then. I remember that the studio we were working in, we came in one morning, and I believe that Woodie – Ron Wood – and Keith Richards were in there the night before, and a couple of the guys were still sleeping on the floor. So, it was funny. I met them that way, and the studio was down there. We just waited for them to get up and got out, and we got our studio time started.”
Schon waits for no one anymore, as the rushed recording process of The Calling so aptly demonstrates. On a break from his duties with Journey, Schon made the most of his time, working quickly with former Journey mate, drummer Steve Smith, to create a surprisingly heavy and progressive set of tracks that travel through diverse musical terrain.
“I went in with a completely blank canvas, and a lot of colors, and the colors were all the guitars and amps I brought in, and obviously, the musicians that I played with,” said Schon. “And Steve Smith, it’s been a while since him and I got together and played, and the creative juices were just flowing. Really, I came in there unprepared. I hadn’t written any material. I had a few riffs here and there, and we sort of went at it day by day, and went about it in a similar way to when I’m working by myself at home, where I’m sort of playing up the instruments like on a demo, where I took a drum loop and instead of using a drum machine – which I would use at home – I had Steve Smith there, which was much better. I had him do a tempo for a certain riff that I would come up with, and I’d have him loop it for like eight bars, on the Pro Tools, and I’d say, ‘Give me a half an hour or 25 minutes to map this thing out.’”
Briefly repairing to another space, Schon continued to sketch out the mental musical blueprints he and Smith would follow.
“And so then I’d just take a rhythm guitar and have these definite drum loops going the whole time and I’d arrange what I’d need till the end of the song and all the different sections – the solo section, the intro, the heavy section … you know, all the sections and so forth, just like you’d arrange any song,” explains Schon. “And then, at that point, Steve Smith would come back in and would write down on paper musically what I played on guitar, the arrangement; then we’d talk about which was the heavier section, which was the solo section, and there’s the groove section, where the melody happens, you know, and then he’d play with different velocity. So he’s essentially a musician like that where he can see the landscape far in advance as well as I can.”
Working with Smith, who was trained in jazz at the revered Berklee College of Music prior to his joining Journey, was a revelation for Schon.
“It was a joy to work with him; he’s actually the perfect guy for me to work with on a project like this,” said Schon. “And so we would then go in, replay the drum loop, play the whole song together as if we were playing as a band, with all finished parts. And then I, immediately after that, before we went on to another song, would slam down the lead guitar, like we’d always do and do a couple of things, all the way through what was in my head. We didn’t have anything written. We just kind of winged it, you know. And it came out. It just came out. To me, that’s the beauty of this record – that it just kind of fell out of the sky, and you know, there wasn’t a lot of thought put into it. So whatever did come out, it was completely from the heart and soul. It was very organic, and I love the organic way of recording where it’s not so thought out – the old blues thinking, from all the old cats, like if you’re thinking, you’re beaten, you know (laughs).”
Schon had more to say about his days in Journey in our interview, and we’ll have more on that later. So, keep watching this space for more with the guitarist, a teen prodigy who played with Santana at Woodstock, and his incredible history.  

Book Review: KISS FAQ

Book Review: Dale Sherman – KISS FAQ: All That’s Left to Know About the Hottest Band in the Land
Backbeat Books
All Access Review: B+
Diving headlong into a seemingly bottomless pool of KISS-related minutia without any regard for how deep it really is, veteran writer Dale Sherman rarely comes up for air in this exhaustively researched tome. Densely packed with information, “KISS FAQ” explores – in painstaking fashion – everything imaginable under the KISS sun, from the trial-and-error evolution of their costumes and makeup to marketing and merchandising schemes that would put Madison Avenue to shame.
It’s a big, big job, and Sherman handles it admirably, organizing this mountain of material into fairly easily consumed chapters that seek to answer every controversy, every bone of contention that fans of KISS have fought over for decades. And while the writing is a bit perfunctory and dry, it’s not entirely humorless or bland, and Sherman certainly does not always treat KISS with kid gloves. Gene Simmons receives some lighthearted derision for the headband he once used to hold his wig in place for a KISS tour the band went on sans makeup, with Sherman comparing it to a “neon halo.” Furthermore, a chapter on drug references in KISS songs confronts head-on the somewhat confused stances Simmons and Paul Stanley – both famous for being rather straight-edge in their approach to such things – took regarding intoxicants, citing the classic “Cold Gin” as an example. Sherman notes that while the song, written by Ace Frehley about his battles with the bottle, certainly paints a cautionary tale about drinking to excess, “… it seems to also celebrate that level of despair.” And, in no uncertain terms, Stanley’s introductions to “Cold Gin” in concert often encouraged indulgence in mind-altering substances.
Ultimately, however, “KISS FAQ” – the 12th in Backbeat Books’ FAQ series – revels in all the blood-spitting excess and crass exploitation of KISStory, exploring in great depth the link between KISS and the world of comics, key career-changing turning points, TV appearances (a whole chapter is devoted to “KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park”) and attempts to immortalize the band in celluloid. Context is provided for a list of those explosive, impactful live performances that not only put KISS on the map but made them rock gods, and Sherman, in heroic fashion, tries to figure out just what the hell “Duece” was all about – this after an insightful, revelatory talk with photographer Neil Zlozower about shooting the Creatures cover.
All manner of rumor and innuendo have contributed to the KISS mythology over the 40 years of their existence, and Sherman, who has written about KISS since 1980, addresses as much of it as possible in nearly 400 pages, sometimes falling short in his quest for truth simply because of conflicting testimony, lost evidence or failed memories. Though a somewhat arduous read, “KISS FAQ” - from Backbeat Books - makes good on its promise to provide a fair and balanced look into KISS’s somewhat checkered past, but more than that, there is a seriousness of intent to Sherman’s work that speaks to his obsession for covering all things KISS and getting the story right, even if that’s an impossible task – see his cataloging of all the changes, no matter how small, in KISS’s makeup for proof of his attention to detail. Consider most of your frequently asked questions about KISS answered.
-            Peter Lindblad

Why did the Dokken reunion fall apart?

Don Dokken explains what really happened, talks new album 'Broken Bones'
By Peter Lindblad
Dokken - Broken Bones 2012
It was time to let bygones be bygones, to beat swords into ploughshares, to put the past in the past and start anew. Those masters of melodic glam-metal, Dokken, were getting the band back together – that is to say, a reformation of the classic lineup of Don Dokken, George Lynch, Jeff Pilson, and Mick Brown was afoot.
The first sign of a thawing of tensions occurred in November, 2009, when Lynch and Pilson joined Brown and Dokken for two songs at Dokken’s House of Blues performance in Anaheim, Calif. Jumping the gun before all the “i’s” were dotted and all the “t’s” were crossed, Lynch and Dokken went on “That Metal Show”in May, 2010, to share the joyous news with the world.
Sheepishly, in December of that year, retractions would be issued, and Lynch, Pilson and Brown later appeared again on “That Metal Show” to explain how their best-laid plans had gone awry. Everybody seems to have their own version of what happened.
Don Dokken has his, and in a recent interview, he was asked what ultimately scuttled the Dokken reunion. He responded with, “Well, do you want the lie or do you want the truth?”
Of course, we wanted the truth, and so Don continued, “We’ll there’s about 20 versions from George – ‘I’m just an asshole, I want all the money and I’m hard to deal with.’ Well, that’s just about the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard in my life. I mean, Mick will tell you that … and Jeff. We got together. We were going to do it last year, and we were excited to do it, and it was going to be great, and we thought it would put the exclamation point on our career. We had an offer to make an extreme amount of money to do it, so that was nice. And the truth is we got back together”
Everything was going swimmingly until, “Mick flew down, we all met, and Jeff said, ‘I want to do this, but I’m committed to Foreigner for two years.’ And I said, ‘Two years? That’s the last of that,’” said Don. “I couldn’t sit around waiting for two years, so that’s the truth.”
Not everyone seems to see it that way.
“I know George posted all this shit that I held it up and I wanted too much money, and he didn’t want to be a hired gun and all that,” said Dokken. “I don’t know why George does all that stuff. There’s something wrong with that guy between the ears. He’s always been a little weird. Someone asked me when we started not getting along, and I said, ‘It wasn’t toward the middle. We didn’t get along from the day he joined the band.’ He’s two different people, man. I mean, we played a couple of shows with him this summer, and he’s always nice to me, saying, ‘How are you doing, Don?’ I said, ‘You know what George? You’re always, “Hi, hi. How are you doing?” And then the very next day you talk shit about me on the Internet. What the fuck is that all about? Why do you keep this up?’ And if you say something, he’ll lie. Just tell the truth. Practice what you preach. The truth will set you free. He’s just a different personality. I don’t hate. I don’t worry about it. And I gave up trying to defend myself on the Internet a long time ago. You get a guy, he goes to the show and then he blogs, ‘I saw Dokken and they sucked.’ I just say to people like that, ‘Well, that’s your opinion, and don’t skimp on the avocado. If you think you can do better, here’s the microphone. Knock yourself out.’”
Whether Broken Bones, Dokken’s upcoming new record, due out Sept. 25 via Frontiers, will get such a frosty reception remains to be seen. Early on, however, it seems even factions of the metal community that haven’t always embraced Dokken’s brand of hook-friendly hard rock are ready to embrace Broken Bones, which features the band’s current lineup of Dokken, Brown, Jon Levin and Sean McNabb.
“Yeah, we’re getting even the diehard, hardcore metal [publications] … like Metal Hammer and all these people who don’t really like [bands], unless they’re thrash or something like that, gave us nine out of 10,” says Dokken. “We wrote 30 songs, but I just said, ‘Jon, I don’t know, but I’m going to take every fucking producing skill I have for this record and put it in there.’ I started hearing my peers – my peers – putting out these records – I’m not going to say who they are – and I just go, ‘Man, the shit’s boring.’ Same old shit, you know. People are like … I don’t know. They just get their advance and they just go and knock out a Pro Tools record, and it doesn’t have much production, it sounds kind of cheesy. I mean, I just heard that new TNN … that Pilson, Lynch, Mick did that TNN thing – oy, yoy, yoy. It’s been out three days and it’s getting crucified.”
As for Broken Bones, Dokken believes it shows a different side of the band, one that draws from a number of classic-rock sources while trying out a whole dazzling new range of tricks. 
“Look at ‘Waterfall,’ that weird drum beat … I’ve never done anything like that, or have a timing change in the middle of a solo – I’ve never done that in my career,” said Dokken, again playing guitar in the band with Levin, his longtime collaborator. “But yeah, Jon and I wrote the record, and I just finally said, ‘I know what everybody wants, and they want the same thing we did last year or a few years ago, which sounded very ‘80s like’ … and I just said, ‘Jon, I can’t paint the same picture.’ I mean, what’s the point? I hate it when people say, ‘I wish this record was like Tooth and Nail.’ Ok, then go buy Tooth and Nail.”
We’ll have more with Don Dokken in the coming weeks. In the meantime, visit Frontiers Records site to get the lowdown on Dokken’s latest record.

Check out Dokken videos:  Dokken's Official You Tube Channel

DVD Review: Queen - Greatest Video Hits

DVD Review: Queen - Greatest Video Hits
Eagle Vision
All Access Review: A-
Queen - Greatest Video Hits 2012
Donning a studded, black leather jacket in the video to Queen’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” Freddie Mercury vamped around the air-brushed set like a cabaret version of Marlon Brando from “The Wild One,” strutting down a runway with a smoldering quartet of sexy male and female dancers in tow. In paying homage to rock ‘n’ roll’s envelope-pushing past, the always dramatic Mercury cut a very Elvis-like figure, coyly straddling that line between innocent, fun romanticism and explicit sexuality – much as Elvis did.
Where the King was only filmed from the waist up in certain TV performances, Mercury and his “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” playmates only hinted at the lascivious desires boiling up inside of them. Two years later, when Queen needed a visual accompaniment to “Body Language,” Mercury – largely responsible for the video’s steamy content – held nothing back, letting all of his deepest, darkest sexual impulses loose in a writhing orgy of sweaty skin and nubile bodies . As Roger Taylor and Brian May reveal in the surprisingly candid commentary included with “Greatest Video Hits,” the engrossing new compilation of Queen videos from Eagle Vision, the racy imagery was reflective of Mercury’s extreme nature and his increasingly reckless immersion in a homosexual subculture that laughed at prudish convention. And while that side of Mercury’s life may have provided titillating fodder for tabloid exploitation, there was more – much more, in fact – to Queen’s ever-evolving marriage of musical and visual artistry than stylized carnal fantasies, as “Greatest Video Hits” so magnificently illustrates.
Spread across two discs, this collection gathers 33 of Queen’s most inspired cinematic adventures – “Flash” and “A Kind of Magic,” influenced by the movie “Highlander,” being two of the most brilliant – vividly restored and fit into a widescreen format with remixed sound. There’s the lighthearted comedic romp “I Want To Break Free,” an infamous cross-dressing parody of the British soap opera “Coronation Street” directed by David Mallet that was banned by MTV, and the highly conceptual “Under Pressure” and “Radio Ga Ga,” which mixed vintage shots of Queen’s past and scenes from the visionary 1927 science-fiction film “Metropolis.” Evidence of Queen’s cheeky nature is found in “Bicycle Race,” featuring clips of comely naked lasses riding 10-speeds around a track without a care in the world, while the simple, straight-forward performance video of Queen playing “Hammer To Fall,” “Killer Queen,””Friends Will Be Friends” and “Another One Bites the Dust” – in all its grainy 16mm glory – remind one and all of the power and majesty of Queen’s prowess as a captivating, dynamic live band.
And we’re just scratching the surface here. Iconic videos of “We Will Rock You,” “We Are the Champions,” “Bohemian Rhapsody” and, of course, the aforementioned “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” are included, as well as later works from when Queen tried to hold it together through May’s marital problems and Mercury’s disintegrating health, such “Breakthru,” which sees the foursome enduring a rather dangerous ride atop a train, and the joyously adorable “The Miracle,” with young children enthusiastically mimicking the roles of May, Mercury, Taylor and John Deacon.
These treasures alone would make “Greatest Video Hits” essential viewing, although what renders it priceless is that savagely honest and witty commentary track. So full of great anecdotes, unflinching opinions and rare insights, it goads May and Taylor into discussing the unvarnished truth behind every single video and song in the collection. Taking viewers behind the curtain, they are brutal when assessing “Scandal,” with Taylor admitting he was bored silly while making both the song and the video and May wishing it would have been more substantive considering how emotionally invested he was in the subject matter – namely, how gossip and rumor can damage not only reputations, but lives as well, as his was by the English press. Even more scathing when the subject turns to the staging of the ridiculously decadent “It’s a Hard Life,” May and Taylor can’t help chuckling at how “stupid” they look in ostentatious costuming that made a horse of Taylor and a colorful bird of paradise of Mercury. Even Queen, evidently, knew when things had gone too far.
Providing the perfect coda to “Greatest Video Hits” is the rousing anthem “One Vision.” Directed by Austrians Rudi Dolezal and Hannes Rossacher, the video is memorable for its innovative morphing of Queen’s famed 1975 pose from “Bohemian Rhapsody” into an updated portrait of the band in 1985, but, in “fly on the wall” fashion, it also peeks in on recording sessions for the track at Musicland Studios. While May remembers the sort of bunker atmosphere of the place being rather drab and depressing, the guitarist points out how galvanizing the song was for the band and what a unifying message it had for fans, as well. Even if it’s not entirely thorough – the videos for “Innuendo” and “The Show Must Go On” are missing – “Greatest Video Hits” is, in a sense, a similar vehicle for that communal vibe May found so appealing. Watch them all and bask in the warm Queen-related nostalgia that, chances are, someone else is also experiencing in a place that, suddenly, doesn’t feel so far, far away.
-            Peter Lindblad

CD Review: World Fire Brigade - Spreading My Wings

CD Review: World Fire Brigade - Spreading My Wings
Entertainment One
All Access Review: A-
World Fire Brigade - Spreading My Wings 2012
World Fire Brigade is certainly not low on Fuel. This trio of post-grunge renegades counts Fuel front man Brett Scallions, Smile Empty Soul lead singer/guitarist Sean Danielsen, and Eddie Wohl – best known as a producer/mixer for both bands, as well as Anthrax – among its members. And then, adding more Fuel to the fire, there’s Ken Schalk, Fuel’s current drummer, working in the trenches doing all the percussive dirty work for World Fire Brigade. On Spreading My Wings, their debut LP, these fire bugs have ignited a barely contained burn of riff-hungry, commercially accessible hard rock set ablaze with heated passion and intense emotions. They have no intention of putting out the blaze.
Decidedly heavier and more metallic than Fuel, World Fire Brigade was originally conceived as a sort of songwriting collective established to create material for other artists. In the end, they just couldn’t bring themselves to give away the product of their sweat and toil. No, this stuff, caught in the grip of hooks that simply don’t let go, was too good to pawn off on someone else.
Unexpectedly bracing, Spreading My Wings is a grinding, explosive work order that World Fire Brigade carries out with surprising vigor and guitars stuck in overdrive, especially on the gnarled, growling “Don’t Walk Away” and the slamming, groove-oriented serpents “All My Demands” and “Never Saw the Wall” – all of them red-hot furnaces of ferocious, prison-riot riffs and sizzling, screaming guitar leads, possibly inspired by the appearances of Anthrax’s Rob Caggiano and Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready. More radio-friendly, “All You Know,” “Weight of the World,” and the title track all go through their periods of almost thrash-like intensity and rage, but when they dissipate and the vast, big-sky choruses that made Fuel famous come into view, plumes of melody fan out across the great expanse and take your breath away, as they do in “Shell of Me.”
Falling into predictable patterns, World Fire Brigade simply can’t help itself when it arrives at those choruses. They have to be vast and emit retina-scorching UV rays, the soaring vocals must be laid out on blankets of swaying, sustained guitar chords lightly fried with distortion, and they have to arrive right on time, as if they have to stick to a tight schedule. A welcome anomaly is “Fly,” a tender, delicately sketched acoustic ballad that goes by quickly, but is terribly affecting. So are the introspective lyrics of Spreading My Wings, which seek to leach the toxins of hurt, betrayal, anger and world-weary resignation from World Fire Brigade’s body and spirit. The cleansing starts now.
- Peter Lindblad