No question, The Dead Daisies are the domain of guitarist, aviator and Australian business magnate Dave Lowy. But this top-flight collective has always had within its ranks some esteemed collaborators, including, previous to Glenn Hughes, vocalist John Corabi as well as drummer Brian Tichy and bassist Marco Mendoza. Now onto their fifth album, titled Holy Ground, Lowy is joined by Hughes, Doug Aldrich — this is his third with the band — and drummer Deen Castronovo, making this latest lineup of the consortium their tightest yet, a fearsome foursome, as it were.
[Note: Drummer Tommy Clufetos (Black Sabbath, Alice Cooper, Rob Zombie, Ozzy Osbourne) is scheduled to join the band on a June/July tour with Foreigner and a few dates with Judas Priest.]
GOLDMINE: Congrats on the new record, Glenn. Is this a whole new lease on life for Glenn Hughes?
GLENN HUGHES: You know, for me, it’s another chapter in my career, if you will. I’m very fortunate to be able to do what I do. And joining The Dead Daisies was an opportune moment for me to express myself with my music.
GM: What surprised you about writing with these guys versus past bands? I know you’ve toured with Doug.
GH: Yes, and primarily, coming into the band, knowing Doug was there, I feel really comfortable with that. Doug played in my band five years ago for four or five months, and it was great. Doug and I had been talking about doing something like this, and here I am in this band. As you know, it’s been difficult to do anything, but we made the album exactly one year ago. And here we are; I’m talking to you.
GM: Do you feel like this is ticking off a lot of boxes for you, you know, based on the frustration level of Black Country Communion? Is this basically a neat replacement for you?
GH: I don’t think I would use that terminology. I appreciate that, but there’s no band like Black Country Communion. And it’s not finished. I will do another album with Jason (Bonham) and Derek (Sherinian) and Joe (Bonamassa) in the next couple of years, of course. And I am a solo artist, despite being in two other bands. Black Country Communion doesn’t work too often — you can’t hide that. But hopefully that will change, and we’ll do more shows. And Dead Daisies is an opportune moment where we can start touring. This is a global touring band.
GM: Tell me a little bit about Dave Lowy and his life in Australia. Also, any cool flying stories?
GH: I had dinner with him a couple of months ago and we talked about flying, and about how we started, and how he started his business, etc. He’s really, really, really interested in flying. It’s his first love, flying. And I know the David Lowy story, as you do, but I know some other stuff as well about him, how hard he has worked. As we all know, he’s a very successful businessman. But what really makes me happy is that he really works hard to play guitar, here in this band. I spent some time with him, too, and I wrote specific guitar parts for him, which I thought would be appropriate. I wanted to make sure he was comfortable in that setting.
GM: How is he different from Doug?
GH: David, if you will, is more, if I can say, the Malcolm Young of the band and Doug is the Angus, although we’re nothing like AC/DC. But in general, David is a really old-school rhythm guitar player — that’s his forté. Chunky, no fear, really aggressive, raw, and I kind of like that. I don’t like anything to be too polished. So he ticks all the boxes for me.
GM: Where are you in terms of your lyrical hot buttons these days? What are your major themes here?
GH: I’ve been on a spiritual journey now for 15, 17 years, and I’ve been sober almost 30 years, and for me, I write about the human condition. What happens between life and death, and the glory and the defeats, the failure and the celebration, the wonderment, the wanderlust. I only write about stuff that goes on between my ears and in my gut. And we all go through this. So what I’m writing about normally is what’s going on with me and that may have been going on with you and everyone else. And you can hear it! If you follow my lyrical trip throughout the sobriety years, you can hear it. I’m all about the giving back, if you will. I always say, “Hashtag music is the healer.” It’s a huge thing for me. Music may never change the world but it’s going to help a lot of people.
GM: Nice. And what does producer Ben Grosse bring to the table?
GH: Ben came in, he’d worked with the band before, and we needed a guy that was a great engineer, but that also had a musical ability. The Dead Daisies sound somewhat different to the bands I used to be in before. Look, David Lowy wanted me to come in and change the game. They needed … can I say radio? They didn’t have radio-friendly material. I don’t think they had real, real strong songs. So they had been following my work in BCC and other things that I’ve been doing, and they wanted a stronger appeal to get a bigger fan base. That’s a heavy thing for me to tell you, man, because I must say that I’m not saying the songs weren’t good before. But there was something lacking, I think, in the reason they didn’t expand to a larger audience. So what I did when I was writing the material, I kept playing the songs, like “Unspoken” and “Holy Ground” — I wrote six or seven songs, alone, far away — and I was always running to them saying, “Is this what we’re looking at here? Is this a good kind of place for you guys? Do you feel comfortable going there?” And after some thinking they said, “Yeah, we really think this is the right way to go.”
GM: Can you think of any adjectives to describe how you would write differently, knowing it was going into a Dead Daisies situation versus a BCC situation?
GH: The Daisies is not blues-based. With BCC, although Joe and I rock it pretty strong, in general, when I’m writing with and for Joe, I’ve always got a blues head on my shoulders. With the Daisies — and I’ll say this out loud to you — in my opinion, in their opinion, they were very ’80s-based before I joined, and they wanted to be more ’70s-based. I’m a ’70s man, early ’70s, and when I write songs in rock music, I just write what is natural. And for me, I think the songs on Holy Ground are more in that general direction of what we would’ve done in the mid to early ’70s. I think this is where the band wanted to go, but they weren’t able to do it before. Although I do think John (Corabi) is a ’70s fan, I just don’t think they were able to get there until now.
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GM: Interesting. OK, how about this: How are you feeling about this band being considered a collective of sorts?
GH: You know me well enough: I always do one day at a time. I just made an album with the band. We’re going to go on tour. Hopefully we start in May, in Japan. We’re doing the States in September. So for me, I’m doing an album cycle, touring cycle. I would love to tell you I’ll be here forever. But you know me. I’ll do another Black Country album for sure, and I’ll tour with that. I’m going to do stuff that really, really makes me feel I’m doing things for me. I only do things for music. I don’t think anything other than what makes me happy musically. The way I feel about The Dead Daisies’ new album is great, and I’m sure the live show will be fantastic. I’m eager to see what happens.
GOLDMINE: What surprised you about working with Glenn on an album like this, versus John Corabi?
DOUG ALDRICH: Totally different situation. With Corabi, he’s more of a riff guy, guitar player. He’s a great singer, but as far as what we did writing-wise, there was a lot of stuff that John would get help with for lyrics and everything. With Glenn, that’s something that is very dear to him; he’s really into it. Every word, he really owns. Every word has got a meaning to him. Not taking anything away from John at all — because he’s amazing and the stuff that he did write is right on — but it’s definitely a different process. Glenn would come in with pretty much a melody and a set of lyrics from the get-go. What we would do with the last version of Dead Daisies, we would get together with the guys and come up with the music. And then John would go away and work on stuff. So it was different that way. But they’re both great. You know, we loved John and it was an amicable split, but I was super excited about Glenn and what he brought to the band.
GM: How do you feel about this band being described as a collective?
DA: It’s kind of cool and different having it as a collective, where it might be a roundabout, which is something Deep Purple did. We have Mark II, Mark III, Mark IV Deep Purple. This is a new version of The Dead Daisies, a new beginning, a fresh start. Whether it’s Mark III or Mark IV, we’re excited about it. When you change a singer, it’s definitely going to be big change.
GM: Tell me about David Lowy as a guitarist, versus yourself, in terms of style.
DA: He’s a very honest, straight-ahead player, plays with a lot of angst. It’s a very innocent style, and there’s a raw power there. He’s got a big guitar sound, and he pretty much sticks to what he does, which is rhythm guitar. My style, on the other hand, is something that has evolved since I started playing the guitar at age 11. I’ve gotten to the point where I realize that there is something to learn from everybody I’ve played with, and not just guitar players, but everybody. I see how David plays, and I don’t play that way. I have my own style, which has been an ongoing thing. Although I’ll hear tape of myself back from the ’80s and I’ll think I still play the same licks. I love those kinds of minor blues, heavy riffs, like what I did with Whitesnake — that’s just what I lean to. And David Lowy definitely comes from the AC/DC or Rose Tattoo way of playing.
GM: Has David ever articulated what kind of band he wants this to be?
DA: I don’t know how it was when it started, but when I joined in 2015, he wanted it more guitar-oriented. He didn’t really want to pursue having keyboards anymore. So I came into the band and we started working on music; we did a couple of records and it’s been great. Now with Glenn coming in, it’s definitely taken a turn on the melody and lyrics — it’s a whole new bag.
GM: What would be a couple of your favorite tracks on the new album Holy Ground and why?
DA: I like everything for different reasons. If I was forced to pick, I really like the title track; it’s a really kick-ass opener. And then the second track, “Like No Other,” has a groove that I really dig. I actually put the music together specifically for Glenn, which I wouldn’t have necessarily been able to do with the old Dead Daisies, because we sat and wrote everything together — every note, we would do together. This is a situation where Glenn was coming into the band, Glenn was going to be writing some stuff, and I was going to be writing some stuff instead of just stopping at the riff and going to the guys like I used to, “Hey, what do you think of this? Let’s go from there.” And we would build the song. I put together an entire demo that was done with Glenn in mind — the verses, the bass — it would drop out, he would be able to do his thing, and then it kicks in heavy on the chorus. It’s really simple that way. But I love that kind of groove.
And then stuff like “My Fate” is very simple, heavy and riffy. I love that. All the vocals … I mean, he sings his ass off. I really love “Chosen and Justified,” because it’s almost a poppy-type thing — that’s got an almost ZZ Top vibe to it. And then “Far Away,” at the end, I feel is definitely an epic track. Glenn brought that. He brought the parts, and I knew from past experience of working on songs like that, that if you got the arrangement right, it would be really, really great. I spent a lot of time working through the arrangements. I told Glenn, “Dude, if we can get that right, it’s going to be amazing.” It took a while to get it cut properly, because it’s got tempo fluctuations in it. We did it six or seven times and it wasn’t feeling right. But once we got the feel right, then it was just a matter of layering the instrumentation.
GM: Why did you record the album in France? And what kind of environment were you in?
DA: It was pretty extravagant. It was a château with a studio in it. I mean, it was a really good deal for what it was. The price of that kind of thing … in the States it would be three times as much. We got to live together, we ate and recorded and played every day. We slept and worked under one roof, so we didn’t have to get in a vehicle to go to a studio every day. Little things like that, it’s no big deal, but it can be distracting if you’re really in the thick of it. We’d go to bed and there would be things on our minds musically or whatever. We’d wake up in the morning, have breakfast, discuss it, and we’d go in the studio down the hallway and start working through it. It was a luxury. I definitely didn’t take it for granted at all.
GM: And finally, what are your thoughts on the artwork, with the skull and the daisies, plus the title of the record? What is the messaging of this facet of the band?
DA: I mean, it seems as though there’s a bit of a tip of the hat to the Deep Purple thing, now that Glenn is in the band, which I think looks really cool. “Holy Ground” was initially titled “Shake the Memory” and then Glenn decided to change it. But the visual I get from Holy Ground is not as in-your-face as just a skull or something, on the ground. “Holy Ground,” for me, is about soul. It makes me think that you’ve got to start taking care of yourself emotionally. Really, it could be about this weird time that we’re in. We’ve got to better ourselves and be more prepared and more careful and take care of each other. That’s one other thing I want to mention in terms of what I love so much about Glenn’s work. Everyone knows he’s a fierce bass player, and he’s got an amazing voice and he’s a great songwriter. But the thing is, Glenn’s lyrics are just so awesome for me. And what I love most about him is he leaves room for interpretation for each and every listener. You could listen to this song and you could say it’s about this. I could listen to it, “No, it’s more about this.” And then Glenn would tell you, actually, what it’s about. But I love that he leaves that gray area for us.