The Dead Daisies Are Out
To Kick Classic Rock's Ass
Story by Shawn Perry
Concert Photos by Kimberly Annette
These days, music has become such a convoluted mishmash of tastes, trends, styles, corporate interests and politics. It wasn’t always this way of course, especially if your thing was the classic rock of bands like Aerosmith, Foghat, ZZ Top, the Who, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, et al.
There have been viable bands like Rival Sons credited with reviving “classic rock,” but as guitarist Scott Holiday told me in 2014: “‘classic rock’ is like our heroes…we have some traits and sounds like those heroes, but we aren’t that…we are rock n’ roll.”
The same could be said for Dead Daisies, although they take an entirely different approach. They want to kick classic rock’s ass “to the moon,” as bassist Marco Mendoza tells me. Before invading Korea, taking to the high seas in Mexico with KISS, then storming Europe through the holidays, I spoke with the veteran bass man in Los Angeles, where he was relaxing at the Sunset Marquis, THE hotel for upper-crest rock stars, and getting ready to play a warm-up gig with the Dead Daises up the street at the Whisky A-Go-Go.
The story behind the Dead Daisies is a little different than most. They started out as a duo with guitarist David Lowy and singer Jon Stevens. Then they took a left turn and transformed into a “collective” that’s included Guns N’ Roses guitarist Richard Fortus, keyboardist Dizzy read and drummer Frank Ferrer, players from the Rolling Stones — bassist Daryl Jones and singer Bernard Fowler — and legions of others.
This is definitely a situation with “Supergroup” written all over it. Mendoza, however, says the present lineup that he’s part of, which includes one-time Mötley Crüe vocalist John Corabi, two former Whitesnake members — guitarist Doug Aldrich and drummer Brian Tichy — and sole founding member Lowy, is in it for the long haul.
“We were on this KISS Kruise, we knew that we wanted to move forward and solidify what we had done so far. The foundation was there,” Mendoza explains. “We got on the map touring with Aerosmith, KISS and Lynyrd Skynyrd. We wanted to take it to the next level.”
When Fortus and Reed left to go back on the road with the reunited GNR tour, Mendoza says, “That’s when the wheel started to turn and we started talking. One of the things we talked about is we needed some cats to give us some commitment, make this priority one. We wanted to create a band with a band atmosphere.”
The group followed suit and signed a deal with SPV Records and recorded Make Some Noise, the third Dead Daisies album. Produced by Marti Frederiksen (Aerosmith, Def Leppard, Mötley Crüe, Buckcherry) in Nashville, and released in the summer of 2016, the record’s classic rock influences are rampant and deliberate, but the Daisies' presence and power transcends any easy labels.
Make Some Noise is filled with loads of digestible riffs — the all-to-obvious opener “Long Way To Go,” the title track, “How Does It Feel,” and “Mainline,” which I tell Mendoza is my favorite on the album.
“Thank you,” he replies wholeheartedly. “There’s something about that song, it’s a great hook.” He goes on to tell me the song has a double meaning — a combination of a train line into Philly that Corabi and Aldrich know about, and Mendoza’s past experiences with narcotics. “It’s definitely a live-performance song. We’re saving that for a single release.”
Where the classic rock factor comes to the fore is in the choice of cover songs. On Make Some Noise, there’s Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son” and the Who’s “Join Together.” When I attended the Whisky show, they performed those two, plus Free’s “Alright Now,” the Beatles’ “Helter Skelter” and Deep Purple’s “Hush.” Bits of Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin and even Survivor’s “Eye Of The Tiger” were sprinkled in throughout the night.
“Since we got together, we’ve always done covers,” Mendoza admits. “We grew up listening to the 70s stuff, we have the same likes, listening to the same bands. We’re flying that flag. That’s our mission.”
Mendoza says they went with “Join Together” because it fits well with the band’s vision of getting everyone to rock. On a more serious note, “Fortunate Son” is “so pertinent to what’s going on today.”
KISS is another band who has not only influenced the Dead Daisies; they have taken them under their wing, so to speak, as an opening band. Mendoza told me he’s been friends with the guys in KISS since the days he played with Ted Nugent. The Dead Daisies have been on four tours with the “hottest band in the land,” plus they landed another slot on KISS Kruise VI. It's almost like they're family.
Mendoza has the utmost respect for KISS. “They set the bar so high as far as performance, putting on a show, having a catalog of songs that just don’t quit, the fan base, reinventing themselves every time they go out,” he says. “They change the stage, they change the setlist. They’re relentless. And they sound better than ever.”
Support from KISS keeps the momentum going for the Dead Daises. “They understand what we’re trying to achieve,” Mendoza explains. “They’re full of compliments. They really support us and it’s a great place to be. And to play in front of a KISS audience: WOW!”
While we’re on the subject, I ask Mendoza about the possibility of opening for Guns N’ Roses, given that some of the members were once with the Dead Daisies. “It’s come up a couple times,” he assures me. “Let’s just say, we’re talking.”
Of course, opening for big bands is one thing. Playing in exotic and unusual places is another. This is what sets the Dead Daisies apart from other upcoming bands. Given their pedigree, there’s a certain demand to see these players in action all over the world. As of this writing, they’re in the midst of a three-date run in South Korea. Then it’s off to Mexico for the KISS Kruise. Since 2013, they’ve regularly toured the States, Europe and Australia. They’ve also ventured to such faraway destinations as Tokyo and Tel Aviv, and hold the dubious distinction as being the first Western band to play in Cuba. That, according to Mendoza, was the chance of a lifetime.
“The whole experience in Cuba was beyond mind-blowing. For me personally, Cuba’s always been a place I’ve always wanted to go. I have a background in Latin jazz, so I’ve played with a lot of these cats in Cuba. The Afro Cuban beat is in my blood. We just showed up. We couldn’t believe it was happening.”
Mendoza is quick to point out that Bernard Fowler and Daryl Jones came to Havana with the band, which helped “pave the way for the Rolling Stones” to follow up with shows of their own in Cuba.
“It was very fulfilling for all of us. We’re starting to looking at other situations. Maybe to the moon,” Mendoza laughs.
The goal for now is playing shows behind Make Some Noise and winning over converts. Whether it’s for the people of Havana, football fans in Phoenix, or rock snobs in Hollywood, Mendoza says he’s having fun playing with the Dead Daisies. “It’s a blast…very creative, a lot of focus. I’m enjoying the ride.”
Two days after speaking with Mendoza, I went to see the Dead Daisies at the Whisky. It was a packed house and anticipation was thick in the air. After Paul Rodgers’ son Steve played a short set, the Daisies hit the stage, and for the first time in a long time, I could feel a rush of adrenaline streaming to my brain. I hadn't felt this way at a show in ages.
I usually loathe the term “kick ass” when it is applied to anything connected to rock and roll, but tonight the Dead Daisies came across to me like they're out to kick classic rock’s ass and shake things up. It’s been a long time coming.