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8/18/2014

The Dead Daisies will be opening the KISS/Def Leppard show this Wednesday, Aug. 20. photo credit: Katarina Benzova

The Dead Daisies will be opening the KISS/Def Leppard show this Wednesday, Aug. 20. Photo by Katarina Benzova.

The Dead Daisies have just come off the road with the likes of Bad Company and Lynyrd Skynyrd only to go back on the road with Kiss and Def Leppard. The trio of bands will be making a stop in Des Moines on Wednesday, Aug. 20, and Cityview’s Mark Skaar spoke with The Dead Daisies vocalist Jon Stevens a few weeks prior to the show.

CV: This group is quite amazing in that there is a lot of “star power” contained within. I’m sure a lot of people are familiar with you due to your history with bands like INXS and also the things you’ve done in your home county of New Zealand and Austrailia. How did you get together with folks like Richard Fortus and Marco Mendoza and Brian Tichy and Darryl Jones before that? You’ve released a great album.

Jon Stevens: Thank you very much. It was certainly fun making it, certainly with all of the guys you mentioned that are playing in the band or have played in the band. It’s been a great experience and everyone brings such great history and a playing ability and the camaraderie with The Dead Daisies. We’re sort of one of those bands that is sort of respite from everybody’s day jobs I suppose. We’re sort of writing together and doing new stuff, and you know, it’s great. We started rehearsals in New York a couple of days ago. We’ll go out on the road and we hit Iowa with Kiss and Def Leppard in August with you guys, and we’re looking forward to that.

CV: You just finished a run with Lynyrd Skynyrd and Bad Company. What a great opportunity.

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J.S.: Unbelievable. Paul Rodgers is one of my all-time favorite singers. When David Lowy and I started the band, we sort of put down our favorite bands, and we just wanted to make a record that was kind of harking back to the days of Bad Company and of Free, which is real playing and leaving the technology to the side and put something together that is better live. Keep it simple. Big choruses and big guitar riffs and blues-ish.

CV: I love it. It’s a real common denominator. It’s very meat and potatoes, and the best thing is great songs. If you have great songs, and you have them in spades, then you’re going to be in it for the long haul.

J.S.: Thanks mate! I guess with all the people you’ve mentioned, we’ve all been doing it for awhile, and it’s really kind of satisfying to be in the band because of the sheer fact that we’ve all done so much. It’s a real enjoyable experience because it’s very collaborative, and you’re not having to be someone else. You’re doing your own thing.

CV: You mentioned that you and David (Lowy) started this off. How did you meet Richard Fortus?

J.S.: Richard came through a friend of ours named Charlie Drayton. Charlie used to play drums in the X-Pensive Winos with Keith Richards. Charlie spent a lot of time in Australia, and he was married to a lady called Chissy Amphlett who was very famous in Australia with a band called The Divinyls. I’ve known Charlie for 20 years. We got Charlie in the band initially, and we were talking about guitar players, and Richard happened to be on the road in Australia with Guns N’ Roses. Charlie called Richard and said, “Come over and have a jam.” Richard came over and fell in love with the band and the songs and just really wanted to be a part of it. It kind of went from there, and Marco Mendoza came via Richard, so it was like the musos club, I suppose, with one person calling another person to come and check this stuff out. Dizzy Reed has been playing with Guns N’ Roses for many, many years, and I met him for 20 years and we talked about doing some stuff together back then, but we ended up on different sides of the world, so it was really great to finally get Dizzy in the band as well and do some writing and playing together. He’s a fantastic guy and a great keyboard player.

CV: Brian Tichy is the newest piece of the puzzle isn’t he?

J.S.: Brian is, yes. Last year when we were touring on the Uproar Festival with Alice In Chains and Jane’s Addiction we had a drummer dilemma and Brian stepped in for 3 shows and pretty much no rehearsal. We just sort of ran through the songs on the bus before going on stage and Brian just nailed it. Unbelievable. He’s always sort of been at the back of our minds as far as when we come over for this trip because Charlie was unavailable. Charlie did Europe with us and Darryl Jones played bass. It depends on peoples’ availabilities and peoples’ schedules. Brian was available for this trip and Charlie wasn’t so it’s gone from one amazing drummer to another. It’s a pretty good dilemma.

CV: You have a new EP, right?

J.S.: Yeah, correct! It’s called “Face I Love” which is the first single and it’s got four new songs that we recorded last year in New York, finished them off in L.A. and then we sort of went off to Europe and the U.K. with Charlie and Richard and Darryl Jones from The Rolling Stones and with this tour we wanted to get something out and have some new songs ready.

CV: I heard that there is already talk of another EP after this one?

J.S.: Yes. We’re going to finish it up in L.A. and finishing songs up there. We recorded in Australia on the Australian leg of the tour in February and March so you know, there’s a lot of creativity going on in this band with different musical styles, and it’s great because it’s pure. It’s rock n roll. It’s just straight ahead.

CV: You voice is perfect for this style of music.

J.S.: Thank you! I’ve been singing for many years, and when you’ve got an engine room like The Dead Daisies has, and you have the caliber of players, it’s just really inspiring. You know, you have to step up, and that’s always a challenge. You can never be complacent. It’s never all great; it’s what you put in and your own personal satisfaction with what you’re doing, especially when you’re playing live. You can’t really have a bad day. It’s not an option.

CV: Jon, are you responsible for the lyrics?

J.S.: Pretty much, yeah. I just do what I’ve got to do and work within the framework of songwriting. Write a song with melodies and we just chuck ideas around until it feels right. But with this group of people, with their experience makes it a lot more natural. There’s nothing forced or nothing that we can’t do live. That’s the sort of blueprint, I suppose, as I said earlier. It’s better live. We’re just that type of band.

CV: I would imagine with these arena tours you are only getting 25 or 30 minutes to connect with an audience. How much of a challenge is it to do that as opposed to doing a 90-minute or 2-hour headlining set?

J.S.: Well, you’re playing to a virgin audience, I suppose. They are not familiar with who you are and wouldn’t have a clue, so really, I guess, we have to get their attention without any bells and whistles so it comes down to music and performance and that’s the way it should always be, really, as far as I’m concerned. I guess from our experience last year touring through America with the Uproar Festival and returning to the support band. It’s a great challenge because you’ve got to go out there and kick butt, you know, and be committed. There’s nothing worse than going to a gig and someone goes through the motions. With The Dead Daisies, it’s an “all or nothing” band. Everyone knows how to roll and everyone knows how to rock.

CV: I know you can’t believe everything you read on the Internet, but it says here that you escaped a crocodile on a fishing excursion in Australia. Is that true?

J.S.: (Laughing) Yeah, that’s true. That was just prior to the tour last year in America and Down under. It’s just one of those things you grow up in. Fishing for me is a great pasttime. When I get a chance, I go out with my son, and we go on the Great Barrier Reef and fish and just chill out, and we were up on the top end of Cape York, which is on the top end of Australia. Miles and miles from anywhere. We went mudcrabbing this particular day, and when the tides out on the mainland there’s crocodiles and it’s not really a big deal. I slipped on the rocks and fell over, and that was that, but I’m on two legs now and everything’s working. I basically did the Uproar Festival with a broken leg and a broken thumb and was in a wheelchair.

M.S.: The show must go on!

CV: The show must go on. There was nothing wrong with my voice so I had no excuse.

CV: I noticed that David Lowy played with Red Phoenix, and I would imagine that you knew Doc Neeson (the singer of the great Australian band The Angels and later, Red Phoenix, who recently passed away) pretty well?

J.S.: I knew Doc Neeson very well. I go way back from when we first toured with my old band Noiseworks. We toured with The Angels and you know it’s just sad that Doc passed away recently. He’s one of the true icons on Australian rock ‘n roll and certainly The Angels carved out a massive live reputation. The were one of the great live bands Australia has ever produced. In the mid and late 80s as a young bloke and touring with The Angels and Doc Neeson was a great learning experience for me because, I guess what I learned to this day from watching Doc perform was just the commitment to performance, the sheer, utter energy being put in. It was 190 percent every time. That has always stuck with me, and that’s how I like to roll as well. You only get that one chance, every night is different, and you’ve gotta put in. You can’t be half-assed. That’s just way it is.

CV: How can people find The Dead Daisies online?

J.S.: Go to www.deaddaisies.com. Pretty much all the info is on there. The EP is on there. You can see the adventures that we’ve been on in the last 18 months since we sort of started. It’s been quite a ride. CV

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