Don Dokken Doesn't Want To Make Dokken Records Just For the Money
'80s rocker Don Dokken will make a special appearance tonight at Club Red for an intimate acoustic performance featuring Dokken hits, cover tunes, and the stories behind some of the band's greatest hits. Dokken fans were prematurely promised a full fledged reunion last year when the singer and guitar god George Lynch paid of visit to VH1's That Metal Show to make the announcement that they were getting the band back together.
In true Dokken fashion the reunion never happen and Don Dokken has continued releasing new music under the name (it's his last name after all), issuing the well received Broken Bones this year.
Up on the Sun: What made you decide to do an acoustic tour and what kind of tricks do you have up your sleeve?
Don Dokken: Every year I go out and do it, and it's an intimate thing with storytelling and I talk about what the songs are, and about and where I was [when I wrote them]. Sometimes I like to hear the songs without ripping the head off. We do some older material and some newer material and some Beatles. We just kind of mix it up. Sometimes the songs already convert into acoustic songs, [but] we kinda rearrange them and rewrite them. I have Mark Boals singing with me -- he did some of the Yngwie Malmsteen records. He does the harmonies and plays acoustic with me.
Some of the tracks on the latest Dokken release Broken Bones have the signature old school Dokken sound to them. Can you talk about the making the record and the reception?
I'm super happy. Obviously, when you make a record you never know if people are going to like it or not like it but I've done dozens of interviews and people seem to like the record a lot. They say its got some old school classic Dokken sound, but then again there are some songs that have a little more of a Zepplin feel and different groves. It was a tough one because people always say give me another Tooth & Nail and my comment to them is always "Go buy it [laughs], I already did it." If the Beatles did "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" for five records they wouldn't have been as big as they were. I just wrote what I felt like and on this record, and I didn't want to get pigeon holed and Jon [Levin] just wrote songs we liked. If it sounds like Dokken, it's because I'm the main songwriter.
Your cover of Jefferson Airplanes "Today" was quite a departure from your Dokken material.
That's a 40-year-old song and I think it's kinda sacrilege to take a person's body of work and change the song around like a lot of bands do, but I also wanted to modernize it. It's the bastard child on the record.
The original band is really known for the first four releases. How do you get people to listen to listen to what you're doing now?
In the '80s the challenge was to keep making records, and it was like you're only as good as your last record. Every time you make a record it gets harder and harder to out do yourself. When we made Dysfunctional is the '90s is sold 400,000 copies and the last couple of records we did sold well, but I'm not in competition with myself anymore. I just write good songs and it's up to the fans to decide. When I listen to a lot of the bands that broke out in the '80s the songs sound like the ones they wrote 20 years ago and they just kinda changed the words around a little bit. I try not to do that.
In the Unchain the Night home video there are scenes of crew members lugging huge amounts of recording gear into George and Jeff's hotel room. Talk about how recording has changed.
It's bizarre now; all you need is a Macbook and you can record all you want. That road crew would lug all that equipment up to the room just to record eight tracks. Sometimes we'd stay in hotels without elevators and we'd drag in this 300 pound recording studio [up to the room]. We used to make records for a quarter of a million dollars. The days of platinum and gold records are gone, unless you're Justin Bieber or Lady Gaga. Our records come out and we sell 20-30,000 records, and we see that we have 60,000 free downloads.
Can you name a singer in the history of rock 'n' roll that has been better off without his original band members and got the same reception from fans?
We're getting to where Jon [Levin, bassist] has been with us 10 years, and it seems that people aren't that concerned if it's the original bass player or whatever if the bands great. You look at a band like Foreigner and [there's] no original members, not even Mick Jones is playing with them. I guess there is a lot of nostalgia involved. Not everyone gets along great -- they make it work like it's a job and a business. I got back together with the original guys in 1994 and we did two albums together. I think Shadowlife was a bad record, so maybe the magic was gone at that point. I think fresh blood is sometimes good.
How do you think your voice has held up over the years?
For three years my voice was crap; it was terrible. I lost my voice in Germany four years ago and tore my vocal chords [after] we did 27 shows in 32 days. I had to have surgery and learn how to re-sing. I quit smoking, no Jack Daniels, and I don't talk a lot. I was snoring and I had sleep apnea and my voice was trashed. I talked to Tom Keifer from Cinderella who couldn't sing for three years. When I was on tour with him he sounded as good as ever and I asked him what he did. He told me he went to a vocal coach and had to learn to re-sing and not push as hard. It's like anything: if you put 100,000 miles on a car it's not going to run as good as it did. That's the bad thing about vocal chords, 'ya can't change them and as a vocalist you're screwed. There are a million singers that can't sing like they could when they were 28.
Why was the reunion tour that you announced last year on That Metal Show scrapped?
There was a lot of George going on the Internet saying that I nixed it, which completely was a lie. We got together and we were supposed to do it, and the bottom line is that we met in front of agents and managers and they were all witness to the whole thing. We had a big meeting about getting back together and Jeff [Pilson] said, "I'd love to do it in two years." He said he was busy with Foreigner for the next two years and I thought "what the hell was the point in going on That Metal Show to tell everyone we were getting back together?" He could have told us that three months ago and not even bother with this. It seemed kinda ridiculous to go through all the motions and then for him to say he was going to be with Foreigner for the next two years. We flew Mick [Brown] in from Arizona and went to Jeff's house and I was ready to. I told the guys I couldn't wait two years to do another record, so I went and made Broken Bones.
How was Jeff Pilson able to work on the T & N project with George and Mick if he was busy with Foreigner?
The T&N thing happened a year after we were supposed to get back together. I don't know what that project's about-- it's a strange record. I was pretty surprised because Tim "Ripper" Owens and Sebastian Bach and all the guest singers would make it interesting, but to me it just sounded like a karaoke record. I think it was a financial thing because when Foreigner's tour got canceled, I don't think Jeff planned on being off the road for six months. If you listen to that record it doesn't sound very good, there isn't good sound, there aren't good performances, and even the solos. It sounds like they took a laptop and threw it all together, and you can't compare Broken Bones to it, because it blows it away sonically and musically.
Do you think that this was the last straw in ever getting the band back together? I'd love to play with Jeff and Mick, and I'd do it with George too. I'd love to put an exclamation point on Dokken and make another record. I think that George is at such a place in his life that he can't be a team player to make a good record. I don't want to make a record for the money, because it will be a bad record. If you just crank out a bunch of songs for the money the fans are just going to be disappointed, so whats the point? What people don't realize is that in our heyday George and I never wrote a song together ever; there isn't one song. It was always Jeff, Mick, and George writing songs and I wrote my songs by myself. George and I just couldn't be in a room together and write. Whenever we'd try to write together we were on two opposite side of the planet as to where the song was going. The bummer about making those records is that it was always a fight and a struggle. If a band gets along they have a long career.
Don Dokken is scheduled to perform tonight at Club Red in Tempe.
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