The Dead Daisies - Spring 2021
The UK is currently in a position where thousands of people are unable to leave their homes. Whilst the COVID lockdown rules are of course playing a major part in our isolation, Mother Nature has decided to bestow another blow by bringing severe flooding across the nation. Those not affected appear to instead be enjoying deep snow. Whilst this may offer a picturesque view from the window, perhaps this is just a future flood in waiting. However, 5281 miles away, the people of Los Angeles are experiencing something very different: 25° C and glorious sunshine! And it’s one such resident of LA that we are catching up with today: Doug Aldrich, guitarist with The Dead Daisies. Interestingly, news of the UK’s weather has made it across the pond and Doug is not only politely apologetic but we sense that he almost feels guilty as he enjoys the sunshine. But that’s perhaps typical of the kind of guy he is: caring, thoughtful and with a huge sense of gratitude for all that he has achieved. There’s no ego with Doug. He’s simply a great guy with an enormous talent. And Doug is in fine spirits as we catch up with him today. Firstly, he is able to enjoy a day with his family on what is his wife’s birthday. Secondly, it’s the day before the new Dead Daisies album Holy Ground is released – and what an absolutely incredible album it is. Holy Ground sees rock ‘n’ roll royalty Glenn Hughes join the band on vocals and bass, and together with Doug, founder and guitarist David Lowy and drummer Deen Castronovo they have created 11 arena-ready tracks representing the very best in modern-voiced classic rock. With the LA temperature rising, our conversation begins…
It’s a hugely exciting time with the new album Holy Ground being released tomorrow 22nd January. What sort of thoughts are going through your mind at album release time?
I’m really excited, finally, that it’s going to be released. It was a year ago that we planned on releasing it, so finally it’s happening. We are very excited about that. It’s weird because 2020 felt like it just blew by although it felt like it blew by in slow motion. Right now it feels like I don’t really remember a lot from 2020 because we didn’t go anywhere. But we are very excited about this album, we had a great time making it, and it will be exciting when people get to live with it for a little while and then hopefully enjoy it!
Before we talk about the music, let’s talk about the new line up. The incredible – and Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall Of Fame inductee – Glenn Hughes has joined The Dead Daisies and together you have created Holy Ground, which is arguably the best Dead Daisies record yet, and that’s quite a statement given the massively strong back catalogue of the band. How did Glenn’s joining the band come about?
I actually hadn’t thought about Glenn because he was busy doing the Classic Deep Purple shows that he’s been doing very successfully. So we were just kind of touching round ideas and management kind of went ahead and reached out to Glenn and Glenn said he was definitely interested. He and I have a long history together and we’ve been friends for 20 years or so. So they talked about it and it seemed like it was going to be a possibility and then they called me and told me about it and asked “What do you think?”. I said “Are you kidding? That would be amazing! That would be like a perfect thing! It’s a really fresh start!”, you know? A brand-new beginning for the band which is kind of how David Lowy envisioned the band: we’d go through changes – musical changes and personnel changes – to grow with the fans. So Glenn was the perfect choice. I said “Is this for real?” and they said “Yeah call him!”. So I called Glenn and said “What do you think?”and he said “It sounds like it would be great!” Of course he and I have worked together before and he said “Doug, it’s time for us to make some music and we should do it with The Dead Daisies”. So that’s how it went.
You’ve just mentioned how you’ve been friends for 20 years and you have worked with Glenn before, most recently as part of his touring band in 2015. When we spoke back then you talked about your desire to actually write with Glenn. On a personal level, you must be elated that you got the opportunity to do so with Holy Ground?
Yeah, absolutely! Glenn is a great songwriter so as soon as he signed on I started thinking about things that I think I wanted to propose to Glenn that I thought he would like. The singer’s really got to be into it, he’s got to feel the music, especially Glenn because he can write his own music but the idea was to collaborate, to bring something new to Glenn and for Glenn to bring something new to us. So I started writing things like Like No Other, Bustle And Flow, Chosen and Justified and Righteous Days all with Glenn in mind, and then he finished them off. He topped and tailed them melodically and lyrically. I’m super excited about everything regarding Glenn joining the Daisies. It’s killer!
Holy Ground retains the Dead Daisies DNA but also feels like a new band with Glenn massively making his mark, perhaps very clearly on the second track Like No Other (Feel My Bass Line). What an absolutely stunning track this is. Would you agree that this feels like a new band and overall, do you feel like this is the band taking a huge step forward?
Well, it’s very kind of you to say. I agree with you – Glenn, he played amazing and sang amazing on the whole album. It’s slightly different to the Glenn Hughes that we’ve been accustomed to. All in all with Like No Other, I knew Glenn loves heavy grooves so I just went with 2 notes and put it into a groove with the strum thing. I mocked up a demo of it and I had envisioned the verse being no bass so Glenn would basically drop out his playing and just sing, and the music would be carried by my guitar on one side and Davids on the other. I passed that demo on to the guys and they said “Yeah, that sounds cool!” and Glenn basically just started singing Like No Other and he needed a fill in line. Can You Feel my Bassline was his fill in line and the producer Ben Grosse said “Man, that’s a really good hook!”. I had also envisaged a bass solo in that track anyway so it was really cool. I don’t know if he remembered there was a bass solo when we started tracking it. We just dropped out and he kept playing (laughs!) and that’s the solo that’s on the record.
A new line up and a new a chapter in The Dead Daisies story. Tell me what is was like when the four of you came together in the same room for the first time.
The first time was August 2019. We went into Sunset Sounds Studios in Hollywood to basically do some test writing and stuff, just to kind of get our feet wet. So Glenn brought in Holy Ground and Unspoken and I brought in Righteous Days, and we did demos for all those songs. We ended up as a band feeling like the most collaborative song at that moment was Righteous Days. That was the first time we got together. It takes a minute for a band to gel so we got our feet wet with that. As I said, Glenn brought in Holy Ground. When we got to the south of France (to record the album) we wanted to make some changes on some of the stuff so that we could put our fingerprints on it a little bit more. So we slowed the track down a little bit, made it a little heavier, I worked on the guitar treatment so that it was a little more punchy and it turned into a great opening track. But it was the south of France where we really started to gel. We stayed there, we slept there, we ate there, we didn’t go anywhere except to the studio down the hallway. So it was a great experience for us to gel.
When you were recording the album in the South of France it was wonderful for the fans to be able to follow the band’s journey with all your video postcards and updates. Why the South of France and was there anything specific about the location that inspired the music?
Well, it was perfect! I think there’s obviously lots of places you can go and stay and record – you could go to someplace like south Florida or the Bahamas or a lot of other places, but that place was perfect because it was pretty isolated. We stayed in a small town outside of Marseille. There was really no distractions, there were no friends around – we were completely focused. I think that the studio is also technically exactly what we were looking for in terms of the quality, vintage gear and the set up. We had a chef that cooked for us so it was awesome!
For Holy Ground you worked with producer Ben Grosse who has the most incredible CV having worked with bands and artists such as Dream Theater, Marilyn Manson, Alter Bridge, Thirty Seconds To Mars and so many others. How did this collaboration come about and how did Ben get the best out of the band?
It was really bizarre because we were kind of thinking about producers and who was going to be involved and it happened that David Lowy was walking in the street in New York and he bumped into Ben. It was just by chance! Ben had worked on the Revolucion record before I worked with The Dead Daisies and he asked David “Hey, what’s going on?” and David said “Hey, Ben, how are you? Well actually we’re working on a new record.” And it was just like that. They literally walked past each other on the street. So we connected with Ben and he heard some of the music, he heard some of the rough ideas that David and I had started working on, and then Glenn and I met with him. He’s just the perfect fit for this, with the new line up and the new people involved. And what he did bring out, he created a good environment for us to have our space and figure out things for ourselves. He had an agenda of exactly what he wanted but he was really passive about implementing it, if you know what I mean. He would like lead us to the water.
Let’s talk about specific tracks. Fans have already been teased by the release of tracks such as Holy Ground, Unspoken and Bustle and Flow and the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive with comments such as ‘this is bad-ass’, ‘awesome song’, ‘good grief this is fantastic’, ‘2021 will be The Dead Daisies’ year’, and the list goes on with thousands of similar comments. How does it make you feel to hear such wonderful praise for the new music?
Very happy and it means a lot, we really appreciate the support. When you go in to do something, you always try to do your best for yourself. You can’t think about what people are going to want to hear because you never know. If we did a different thing, somehow maybe people would’ve been even more happy or maybe they would’ve been disappointed – I don’t know. You just do your best and be happy and thankful if you happen to get good responses. I knew we could potentially get some new fans because we were coming up with a little different sound. I’m just very happy and feeling lucky that the fans that have been with us a while are feeling good about it.
The Dead Daisies are no strangers to doing cover versions of great songs. It always surprises me is when people think they are Dead Daisies originals! On Holy Ground you have been brave enough to take on Humble Pie’s 30 Days In The Hole. This is a track that sees Deen (Castronovo – drums) providing lead vocals alongside Glenn, and the band have absolutely smashed it! Why did you choose this track? Could it perhaps be the perfect reflection as to how the band members may have been feeling during COVID induced lockdowns?
Well, this was an opportunity for Deen to sing a little bit on the album. Deen’s got a great voice! He’s one of those multi-talented guys that basically can do just as well with his singing as he can with his drumming. So we gave him a couple of verses there. Of course, Glenn is the front man but we wanted to have an opportunity for Deen to sing because he hadn’t sang on a Daisies album before. In terms of choosing this track, I think management came up with that. We weren’t really thinking about any kind of cover really because we had just been working on original music. Management said “Why don’t you give that song a shot? It’s a cool song!” so we did! We tried it and it felt good. And Glenn was friends with Steve Marriott (Humble Pie frontman) and he thought it would be kind of a cool tribute. They sang and cut the track live for the most part and then I revamped the guitars a little bit. My original take on it was just very similar to the original but I wanted to Daisy-fy it a little bit so I asked the guys for help and said here’s a couple of different ways that I was thinking we could try it. They wanted it to be a little bit heavier so we went heavier and a little bit more simple than the original track.
Let’s move on to live plans. Plans for the band to tour last year were of course shelved. What plans do The Dead Daisies have to tour in 2021? With the band not being able to play live for such a long time, how much are you looking forward to this tour and what can fans expect?
My favourite part of the whole process is rehearsal and to prepare for a tour. I get kind of nervous and a little bit of anxiety when the tour is starting because I’m leaving my wife and kids – I get a little stressed, you know. But being in rehearsal is my favourite because I can either go back to my house or I’ll go back to my hotel and practice and prepare for the next day, and every day I can tweak my gear and practice the parts, I can record it, I figure out whether that’s the best I can do or if I could do it better another way, and I get to make sure all my guitars are tweaked properly. Then, of course, playing live once you get into a groove and after the homesick part it’s great and playing live is the best. There was a tour that we just postponed until next year actually that was starting in Germany. It was the European leg. We, at this moment, don’t know what is going to happen in terms of travel. I think we need to get vaccinated and we have to hope that some of the open-air stuff that we are scheduled to do later this summer will happen. I think when things start to get better they’re going to get better quickly because as we get more vaccinations done and people who are sick get better... it’s horrible that people are dying. It looks like the numbers, certainly in the US, seem to be flattening out a little right now and we hope that continues and that as the numbers start to go down that they will go down swiftly. I know that England is completely locked down right now. We will just hope for the best that this year we can make it over there.
As our conversation draws to a close, we reflect on what an absolutely stunning record Holy Ground actually is, and we ponder, taking everything into account, what the future might hold for the band. With Glenn Hughes centre stage, the most gifted musicians and a new album which may already be a contender for album of the year, The Dead Daisies must surely now have the launch pad to take them to arena status. For more information, check out www.thedeaddaisies.com.