While the musical CV of singer and guitarist John Corabi is impressively varied, his highest profile role has undoubtedly been his tenure as the vocalist of Mötley Crüe during the mid-90s.
When the Crüe parted ways with their original vocalist Vince Neil in 1992, Corabi was drafted in as his a replacement. Despite the fact that this line-up change came after a decade of success for Mötley Crüe, Corabi says he didn’t feel under too much pressure to fill the shoes of his predecessor. “In my head,” he says, “I didn't really understand the full scope of how big Mötley Crüe truly was. I was just hanging and creating something with a bunch of friends that were really talented.”
Corabi’s arrival marked a slight change of direction for the band. Corabi describes his vocal style as notably different to Neil’s. “Not better,” he hastens to add, “just different.” Corabi was also a songwriter, unlike Neil, and contributed heavily to the writing process of Mötley Crüe’s self-titled sixth album, released in 1994.
By this stage in their career Mötley Crüe had also entered a period of relative sobriety, following the heady excesses of the 80s which saw them labelled “the most notorious band in the world.” So had Mötley Crüe really settled down by the time Corabi came along?
“Let’s just put it this way,” he says, “Mötley Crüe will never truly ‘settle down.’ It’s physically impossible for that to happen. During my tenure with the band (when they were supposed to be clean and sober) we all got divorced, were ejected from commercial airlines more than once, arrested on several occasions, OD'd, got in fist fights, started riots at shows in Japan, remodelled a few hotels, were thrown out of clubs, and one of us shot a girlfriend while another one of us flatlined due to an abuse of substance. These were the ‘sober’ years.”
Vince Neil eventually returned to Mötley Crüe, and Corabi moved on to a number of other projects (including the band Union, which also featured Bruce Kulick of KISS). These days Corabi is touring with his new solo acoustic show. “I have always been a huge fan of acoustic music,” he says, “so I figured why not? I said: ‘Let’s do something that people wouldn't expect from me.’”
Anyway, he adds, “if you've truly followed my career, you'll realize, I've done at least one or two acoustic songs on just about every record I've done.”
Corabi says that he is “actually quite surprised at the response I've been given. I could literally do another 30-35 shows! The audience turnouts have been incredible and everybody's digging the acoustic thing.” Each show involves a mix of “songs from all of my bands from the past, as well as new songs, and a few covers that are special to me, in a storyteller kind of vibe.”
He isn’t interested in changing his sound either. “I don't really give a fuck if I'm considered out of step with what’s popular or happening at any given moment. I think any artist has a style or ‘thing’ they do. They can grow, but ultimately they will always have that ‘thing’. I am what I am, I write the way I write, and I'm totally comfortable in my skin.” And while Corabi loves the Foo Fighters, Sevendust and Kings of Leon, he “still can't get enough of the true classics. Zeppelin, the Stones, the Beatles, etc. The 60s and 70s were the most creative, eclectic time for music.”
What about Steel Panther, who are emulating the “hair metal” sound of bands like the Crüe without taking themselves too seriously?
“I know the Panther guys quite well, and I love what they're doing! It’s genius, honestly. They’re playing some great tunes, while poking a fun at the excesses of that time period in a tongue-in-cheek way.”
John Corabi plays The Pint in Dublin on November 15, Monroe's in Galway on November 16 and Auntie Annie's in Belfast, on November 17.