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Lightning Strikes Again. Don Dokken's Exclusive Chat with Deb Rao

By Newsferatu, Writer
Tuesday, April 24, 2007 @ 4:18 PM

"I could never play with Ge

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Over the last twenty years 1980ís stalwarts, Dokken have survived many obstacles. In 1997 guitarist George Lynch left the band. A few months after the Poison Ė Power to The People Tour, Jeff Pilson would also exit. Many wondered if Dokken could survive. Over the past decade, Dokken have seen many musical changes, including guitar stints from Reb Beach, Alex DeRosso, John Norum, and currently ex-Warlock guitarist Jon Levin. Don Dokken has weathered the storm and managed the evolution of the band he started in the early 80's. Determined to keep his music and Dokken alive, he has put together what he feels is the strongest line-up of musicians to date: Don Dokken on vocals, Barry Sparks (Ted Nugent, Yngwie Malmsteen) on bass, Jon Levin (Warlock) on guitar, and Mick Brown on drums.

Several stories were published on websites, including here on KNAC.COM that reported Mick Brown exited Dokken to tour with Ted Nugent. Don Dokken clarifies the situation by saying, "Mick did not leave, he's touring with Nugent this summer like he's done for 2 summers now. He is coming into town tomorrow to start recording with us. He likes to play and when were not, he goes out with Uncle Ted. So that's it. He's still in Dokken. He is just trying to make a living."

2007 is gearing up to be a very important year for Dokken. The band have recently signed to Rhino Records, and have released one of the first live recordings of the band, From Conception Live 1981. Also released is a DVD called, Unchain The Night, which features four previously unreleased early Dokken videos.

In this Interview for KNAC.COM, Don Dokken discusses the upcoming release, Lightning Strikes Again, the music industry, the rebirth of Dokken, how the band has survived to continue putting out quality music.

KNAC.COM: Dokken has just released one of their first recordings, From Conception Live 1981. Tell me how you first got involved in music and how Dokken burst onto the music scene back in the 80ís?

DOKKEN: My first band was called Airborn. We just kind of played the clubs in Los Angeles, including The Whiskey, and The Troubadour. Then I went to Germany to do a tour. On my first record deal, they wanted to sign me as a solo artist. The original album, Breaking The Chains originally came out in Europe and (the band) was called Don Dokken. It was pretty rare. There were 500 copies of it that said "Don" on the cover. So when we got the band together, I just dropped the "Don" and we became Dokken.

KNAC.COM: Tell me about your time in the studio recording your soon to be released Lightning Strikes Again.

DOKKEN: Our new album is going to be better than ever. You just have to write what you feel. I don't want to write the same record over and over again. These days are much harder to get promotion. Everybody downloads, and it is a whole new world. Record companies don't work like they used to. Now the Internet is taking control.

KNAC.COM: What kind of style will the new album have? Will it have that early Dokken signature sound?

DOKKEN: It will be a very heavy, progressive record. Just some cool songs, some dark songs, and some medium tempo. Some of the best work that I have done in years. I am not looking for any kind of sound. I am just writing whatever spiritual inspiration comes to me. You could say the sound is very heavy like "Kiss Of Death.Ē

KNAC.COM: What are your thoughts on your first solo album, Up From The Ashes? Do you feel the record company could have done more to promote it?

DOKKEN: They worked very hard on that record, and they pushed it very hard. It did very well. It came out right in the middle of the Nirvana cycle. When the Seattle grunge hit the scene, with bands like STP, Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam. All those songs came along in that one-year period. So Up From The Ashes from Bon Jovi, and Van Halen, all took a back seat to this new kind of raw, in your face, stripped down type of music.

KNAC.COM: How does you upcoming solo album, solitary compare and will it contain many ballads?

DOKKEN: I wouldn't say ballads are the proper word. It just a more mellow album. It is more geared around acoustic guitars, piano, sitars, percussions, and orchestration. Songs like that.

KNAC.COM: What inspires you to write a song? Do you write from personal experiences?

DOKKEN: The first thing...I like to do is to listen when Jon writes a riff, whether it is bluesy or rock that dictates what kind of lyrics I write.

KNAC.COM: You performed on the Metal Mania tour in 2005, and most recently at the Key Club for the "Metal Mania Volume 3Ē release show. Dokken appears on the latest, ďMetal Mania Volume 3Ērelease with the song, ďIn My DreamsĒ. What are your thoughts on the success of the Metal Mania releases?

DOKKEN: It is good to know some things never change. It doesnít get much better than this...at these shows. People want to have a good time at concerts. They donít want to listen to music that brings them down. The 80ís genre was about having a good time. These songs represent that genre of music. I know if I go to a concert to see a band, I want to be entertained. I donít want to pay money to listen to some guy who hates his life.

KNAC.COM: What is the secret to Dokken's longevity?

DOKKEN: The loyalty of the fans. We have been really lucky all these years. In our career, a lot of bands have come and gone. I think it is all about the music. As long as you keep making good music, people will buy it. I think a lot of bands from the 80ís and early 90ís made the mistake of writing the same record over and over again. Nothing fresh, nothing new to say. People got tired of it. That is why I always tried to change. Dokken is always trying to grow.

KNAC.COM: One of my favorite concert DVD's is "Live From The Sun". Actually, it is kind of like a concert movie. Was it hard to edit all of the different footage for that?

DOKKEN: As the director and producer, it took so much out of me. It took me three months to edit that film. Now I realize why it is so difficult to make a movie. It was a nine-camera shoot. I spent months and months (and) even after that I wasnít done editing. It was a lot of work. We just want to make music. It is more fun.

KNAC.COM: Hell To Pay is a really good Dokken album. It shows how Dokken has evolved over the years. It's the first album with guitarist Jon Levin and has that kind of modern sound and innovative guitar style that has always put Dokken on the cutting edge. What was it like working with Jon on Hell To Pay?

DOKKEN: Jon and I get along really good. It is ironic that he is an attorney. Most guys become a guitar player than an attorney, but he was an attorney and became a guitar player. You have met him. He is a great guy. He is very passionate about his performance. We got an ace in the hole with Jon Levin. Jon has a (George) Lynch influence. (But), all the drama and problems that we had as a band are gone. Jon is our Attorney and guitar player. It is great. We get free legal advice. You canít beat that.

KNAC.COM: There have been so many 80's reunions. Motley Crue have reunited. Some Dokken fans are still stuck in the George era. What are your thoughts on this?

DOKKEN: All those bands get along. I could never play with George. We donít get along and we never did get along. So what is the point? I donít have to tour for money. We have made our careers and our money. Now we do it for fun and if it's not fun then I donít want to do it. It is fun with Jon and Barry. But with George and Jeff (Pilson), they have their different musical styles, and it would not be fun. There is no reason to have George in the band. George has been out of the band for ten years .We have written some of the best records that we have ever done. I know that anyone who listens to Georgeís albums can see that he has gone in a completely different direction, and that is why we donít play together anymore. He goes for more of the Seattle sound like Tool. That is not what I do. So we couldnít make music together again anymore.

KNAC.COM: Do you feel that the grunge scene was a major factor in the demise of 80ís metal?

DOKKEN: The Seattle scene was cool for a when they first came out. There were cool bands like Alice in Chains, STP and Pearl Jam. But all of a sudden every single band sounded just like them. They were copycats. When you start doing the copycat thing, people look for something new again.

KNAC.COM: Over the years, Dokken has spent a lot of time touring in Europe. The Festivals are really incredible over there. I know when you first started out; you spent a lot of time in Germany. What makes playing Metal in Europe so fascinating? Why is the market so much better over there?

DOKKEN: Of course I love America. It is great audience, but I do love Europe. The fans I found in Italy, Spain, and Greece is very wild. My favorite country is where people come to see Dokken. There are a lot of new bands in Japan coming up now. We are very lucky to be so successful in The East. The Euro is obviously a lot better than the American dollar. It is just a different type of people. Europe has different fans that are more loyal and dedicated. You need to go and tour there every year, no matter what.

KNAC.COM: How do you feel the music industry has changed, with all of the downloading that is going on? Is it easier or harder for bands to make money?

DOKKEN: It is better for us because a lot of people are not going to Napster now. People go to Apple and download for 99 cents per song. There are a lot of bands out there that have put out a lot of crappy albums. They have one good song that you hear on the radio or MTV. It is all garbage. I know I bought these records. It is just a ploy to spend 15 dollars on a CD just for one song. I think it is a great idea. You pick the song you like, and download and pay a dollar to Apple or iTunes. There is so much politics involved these days. There is currently a Federal investigation going on about the payola in the business. People are still paying radio stations under the table to have their songs played. Record companies pay off people at all levels to get their new bands on radio. You wonder why you hear a brand new band and they are not very good? That is payola. Bands still deny doing it. But it is obvious that it is still going on. Radio stations even admit to it. There are program directors that can make up to $100,000 a year from payola.

KNAC.COM: How do you feel about smaller labels versus major labels?

DOKKEN: I think for these times Independent labels are the future. I think in five years, there will not be anymore big labels, because they don't spend time or interest. It is hard to have one label look after 150 bands. It is better for a band to be on a label with just 15 bands. You get more attention. They work harder for you.

KNAC.COM: It really seems like bands today have to depend on touring in order to get themselves established versus relying on records sales and radio airplay. Do you agree?

DOKKEN: Bands definitely make more money touring. If you don't tour nowadays you will starve. Record companies don't pay well. Today selling million and millions of records are over, except for the new wave of bands. Bands of the 80ís, unless you are Bon Jovi or Aerosmith still sell records but those bands that just sold Gold or 3 or 4 million like us have to tour to make money nowadays.

KNAC.COM: Back in the day Dokken videos were played in heavy rotation on MTV along with your peers. It is very different today. What are your thoughts on all of the reality shows that are playing nowadays?

DOKKEN: There have been a lot of specials on lately about reality shows and 80ís metal. But I havenít seen them. I donít watch MTV. I watch stuff that feeds my mind. I like watching the History channel. I like to learn things. I like trivia. I donít like the new reality shows. The show that I really like now is "Desperate Housewives". I like watching that when I get a chance. I think that show is hilarious.

KNAC.COM: Do you still race cars?

DOKKEN: I don't do that anymore. My hobbies are basically working on cars. I just bought a new toy; an antique 1958 Rolls Royce. It is just a toy and I am re-storing it.

KNAC.COM: Is there anything else that you would like to say about Dokken?

DOKKEN: Bands don't make themselves famous. It is the fans that make the bands famous. The fans keep the band alive. My goal is to make music people can relate to. It is not for the glory or the fame. We have already had that. Now it is just about the music. As long as the fans keep coming, we will keep touring.

A complete Dokken summer tour itinerary will be issued shortly. Dokken is slated to embark on a September through October European tour double bill entitled, "Defenders of Rock" with Kingdom Come.

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