October 16, 2013 Interview – Jon Stevens Of The Dead Daisies
When music is in your blood it’s hard to ever fight those feelings. New Zealand born singer Jon Stevens has that blood flowing through his veins and it’s more evident with each passing year. Stevens achieved massive success in the late 80’s and early 90’s in Australia with his band Noiseworks including the number 1 album Love Versus Money (1991). In 2000 Stevens became the vocalist for INXS which would last 2 1/2 years. Eager to spread his creative wings Stevens continued to make music as a solo artist for the next decade. Yearning to be part of a band again Stevens and David Lowy came together to form The Dead Daisies. With their first record out the band found themselves on this summer’s Rockstar Energy Drink Uproar Festival here in North America. Recently we caught up with Jon Stevens for a personal look at The Dead Daisies, his love for music, maintaining a positive outlook, and much more.
CrypticRock.com – The Dead Daisies is a relatively new project for yourself. Briefly tell me how yourself and David Lowy came together to form the band?
Jon Stevens – David Lowy and I met a few years ago. We just got together one day and tried to write some songs. Within half a dozen sittings of getting together we had 34 songs and ideas. We were really excited about it so we decided to go and record them. It really happened so fast, we recorded them so quickly. The creative process was really a positive experience. It was one of those things, we just had this great chemistry. Before you knew it we were on the road playing the songs and we are here in America touring. It’s been crazy.
CrypticRock.com – It sounds like a crazy ride indeed. Richard Fortus, Dizzy Reed, Darryl Jones, and Charley Drayton are part of the fold now along with you and David Lowy. What is it like working with these other accomplished musicians?
Jon Stevens – It’s great. They are good guys and at the end of the day to me that is all I care about. I’ve worked with a lot of different musicians over the years, spent a lot of time touring around the world, been in studios, you kind of like to work with nice people. Fortunately they are great players but they are also nice people. The Dead Daisies kind of music, these guys became involved because they dug the music and they just wanted to be involved. The first record was already done so the spirit from those guys came from the right place. We have been in the studio just writing as a group and it was pretty interesting to see how that would develop. It’s very exciting actually, we got some great ideas down already. Just having like minded people in the right spirit and environment stuff happens.
CrypticRock.com – It is very exciting when you have that chemistry. You were on the Uproar Festival with Alice In Chains, Jane’s Addiction, and with loads of other great rock bands. How exciting is it for you to be on this premier North American hard rock festival tour?
Jon Stevens – It’s amazing. Granted we are a brand new band and nobody knows us. It’s always a surprise when we go out and see people go what the hell (laughs). That’s always fun to see their expressions because we come out of the gates pretty hard. The people that are on stage and the level of musicianship is up there. We are not a young band, we are older guys and it’s great to still have that energy and be invited to be on Uproar Festival here in America is awesome. It’s a great opportunity for the Dead Daisies and one we certainly appreciate.
CrypticRock.com – I want to point out that you are currently playing the tour with a broken leg and thumb. How did you obtain these injures and is it difficult to perform live with them?
Jon Stevens – I injured myself when I decided to take a week’s holiday before coming up to America because it’s such an extensive full on tour. I thought I’d just have a break because I had been working pretty hard in Australia. I thought I’d go fishing so I went to far north Queensland up in the wild. Pretty much 5-6 days and on the 5th day we went to do some mud crabbing. With mud crabbing, the tide goes out and the Mangroves are exposed, you go in there and there are these big holes and you get out these big mud crabs which are delicious to eat. I was going down in the hole to get this mud crab out and a crocodile came out of the water just about 10 feet away. Of course I jumped up and ran the other way and my foot got caught in a hole and I fell face forward and snapped my thumb and broke my leg. The crocodile got as much of a fright from what I did so he wasn’t chasing me or anything. It was just one of those things. I was in the hospital for a week. I got back to Sydney and pretty much got out of the hospital and got on a 1 pm flight to New York. Twenty-four hours later sitting in a rehearsal room with a broken leg and thumb. I also got a staph infection. To tell you the truth I don’t actually remember the first 2 weeks of the tour, I was on serious pain killers. As far as performing, my dance steps aren’t so good but singing-wise there is nothing wrong with my voice. My doctors said I was ok to go, the staph infection went down and they put me in a boot and I was all good. I certainly didn’t want to let anyone down. I was kicking myself for even getting injured, it was such a stupid thing, but it’s just one of those things that happens.
CrypticRock.com – You are clearly very passionate about the music and dedicated to performing live in that condition. You have been involved in countless projects over the years including the bands Noisework, a time as vocalist of INXS, as well as solo material. How does your work in Dead Daisies differ from these other projects you have been involved in over the years?
Jon Stevens – With Noisework that was my band, so it was my songwriting. During the 80’s and 90’s we toured around the world and were certainly very successful in Australia. Then the band imploded eventually as you do when you are younger. Obviously INXS , they are friends of mine, Michael Hutchence was a good friend of mine for years. Then he passed, it was 4 years after he passed and they decided to do something and they called me. I spent 2 1/2 years with them touring around the world. I had written all these songs and they weren’t really very interested in doing anything new so I left, I had enough. It’s ok when you touring 2-3 months here and there and you’re doing your own material. With INXS I was singing their songs and 2 1/2 years is a long time to not be doing anything new. Meanwhile I was writing and accumulating songs and they weren’t interested so I kind of just had enough. Then I decided to do my own thing. The Dead Daisies is me sort of putting a band together again, and going you know what I miss being in a band, and I want to do that. I missed the energy a band brings when it gets on stage is just a force. Doing the solo thing in Australia was great and I still do that and enjoy it. I guess linking up with David Lowy, just him and I writing these songs, getting excited, and putting a band together. We got offered to be put on a tour with ZZ Top in Australia just on the strength of their promoting hearing our songs. Then all of a sudden Aerosmith came to Australia and New Zealand and they heard some of our stuff and invited us to play. We did that and got right on the Uproar Tour. It has been a word of mouth thing really. That’s the best way to be, to be accepted by word of mouth. We are older musicians, we are under no illusions, it’s just great to play and we are very passionate about it.
CrypticRock.com – Yes and you guys are rock veterans and are playing for the passion.
Jon Stevens – Yea I always play for the passion, but I’ll tell you the truth, I never know what to expect. I don’t expect anything ever, I learned at a very young age when you have high expectations you inevitably get disappointed. Therefore, have no expectations, just do the best you can do for your own self and the people you are working with. You always try and be the best you can be and do the best you can do. No matter how you feel… broken leg, broken thumb, and full of pain killers, I’m going to give every ounce of strength I have to that performance. That’s just the way I am and the way I was taught. Growing up in the pubs of Australia and New Zealand it was do or die.
CrypticRock.com – That is a very positive and great outlook to have. The Dead Daisies debut album is out now. The record is loaded with soulful powerful gritty rock n roll songs. What was the writing and recording process like for this record?
Jon Stevens – Pretty much all the songs David and I wrote on an acoustic guitar. The first song we wrote together was called “Man Overboard”, we were sitting on a boat at the time and it just happened real quickly (laughs). That was the first day we got together to write and I love that song, it kind of got us excited to want to do more. The writing process is really simple, acoustic guitars, I sang, wrote down some lyrics, and we record them on the iphone. Just get the ideas as they are happening, as they come out just capture it. I’ve become very good over the years just deciphering my gut. It’s kind of weird but there is no real formula… only instinct, passion, and feeling. When I hear a chord or melody or come up with a line I just follow the pathways until all of a sudden there is a song there. There are a lot of ideas that don’t grow into fruition. I don’t really procrastinate over little things. They either just happen, or it’s the right time, or they sit in a bag. “Lock N Load” is one of those songs that I’ve had quite a long time. It just didn’t belong anywhere for me until the Dead Daisies. Then I did the Dead Daisies and I was like oh that’s right that song I wrote with Slash, that would be good on this record.
CrypticRock.com – The first single off the record “Lock N Load” features Slash on guitar. The song is starting to get heavy airplay on stations such as Sirius XM Octane. What was it like working with Slash?
Jon Stevens – I’ve known him for about 16 years. We’ve wrote a bunch of songs together and “Lock N Load” was one of them. As I said I had it kicking around in my bag. Even though Slash and I did a recording of it I wanted to redo the song. I called him and said look man I want to do this song, I have my new band the Dead Daisies. I sent him all the Dead Daisies stuff that we recorded because I just wanted him to hear it for a proof because him and I wrote the song. He could have said no I don’t want you to do it and you can’t do it out of respect. He loved the Dead Daisies stuff and he said yea man record that song, it sounds awesome, and I have to play on it. I recorded it and god bless him he found some time off his busy schedule and went in the studio and put down some guitars in Los Angeles. I couldn’t imagine another guitar player playing his bits and he felt the same way too. It was great and I am really stoked and honored that he showed up and did it. He did it out of love, he did it completely out of love. There was no money exchanging hands. It’s our song, it’s his guitars and it’s all him.
CrypticRock.com – The song is catching quite a buzz here in North America and the record is getting a buzz as well. I’d like to know what some of your musical influences are?
Jon Stevens – I grew up in a family of 11 children, I am the youngest of 11, the same parents (laughs). I heard everything my siblings were listening to so I had no dibs on the record player until they all left home. I heard everything from The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, The Kinks, to Marilyn Monroe, and Tom Jones. Everything you could think of you heard it in our house. My mom loved Mahalia Jackson, so she used to play it all the time, Otis Redding and Motown was big in my house. I grew up listening to Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye. On the rock front Paul Rodgers, Bon Scott. I heard it all. I guess I kind of morphed into a bit of everyone. I guess at the end of the day I am a rock singer but I could easily sing a Marvin Gaye or Otis Redding tune. Songs to me are what turn me on really. My favorite song in the whole world is “What A Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong. Every time I hear that song it provokes a memory in me on such a deep level from when I was a kid. The tall emotion of that song, I can hear the atmosphere, I hear the room. I can just feel it, every time to this day, when I hear that song.
CrypticRock.com – That is a timeless classic song. It’s interesting you say that because it’s true that certain songs and music can provoke a certain emotion inside of you from years ago, no matter how long ago it was. You can feel the room, you can feel the atmosphere. I can completely relate to that and I imagine many music fans can. It’s amazing that music has that effect on you.
Jon Stevens – That is the beauty of music isn’t it. I guess for me as a song writer/ singer/ performer, for me if I can have that effect on one person then I’ve done my job. I know that probably sounds really quite corny. That is what I still live for. That is why I am still so passionate about it because people respond on a positive level.
CrypticRock.com – That is very redeeming as a musician and a music lover. My last question for you is regarding films. Crypticrock.com is a rock/metal and horror news site so we like to focus on all genres. Are you a fan of horror films and if so what are some of your favorite horror films?
Jon Stevens – Back in New Zealand when I was a kid we used to go to the midnight to dawn showings. We used to sit and watch the Dracula movies with Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. I used to love those. Carrie when it first came out, it scared the bejesus out of me. Now a days I am not such a horror film fan. As I get older I just don’t want to know about that murder, mayhem, and butchering. Psychic sort of adventures I am certainly into it. Not so much the blood and guts anymore.
Friday 22nd Nov O2 Academy, Bournemouth
Saturday 23rd Nov O2 Shepherds Bush Empire, London
Monday 25th Nov O2 Academy, Bristol
Tuesday 26th Nov Junction, Cambridge
Wednesday 27th Nov UEA, Norwich
Saturday 30th Nov Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton
Sunday 1st Dec Solus/University, Cardiff
Monday 2nd Dec O2 Academy, Oxford
Tuesday 3rd Dec O2 Academy, Liverpool
Thursday 5th Dec Ironworks,Inverness
Friday 6th Dec Picturehouse, Edinburgh
Saturday 7th Dec O2 Academy, Newcastle
Sunday 8th Dec O2 Academy, Leeds
Tuesday 10th Dec The Assembly, Leamington Spa
Thursday 12th Dec Rock City, Nottingham
Friday 13th Dec Ritz, Manchester
Saturday 14th Dec Academy, Dublin, EIRE
Sunday 15th Dec Limelight, Belfast