The Dead Daisies have done it again and released another phenomenal record entitled “Holy Ground” this past January via SVP/Spitfire Records.
The Daisies are starting 2021 on a high note and moving to the next chapter of their career by welcoming Glenn Hughes to the band on vocals and bass, joining Doug Aldrich [guitar], David Lowy [guitar], and Tommy Clufetos [drums]. “Holy Ground” has the same energy that the band has conjured on their last four albums while treading in this new territory. Eleven songs were written in the classic 70s rock vibe filled with blues bravado and raw riffing.
Glenn has brought his unique and distinctive style of songwriting and bass playing to the band, blending the finest elements of hard rock, soul, and funk. Adding Glenn‘s signature vocals is continuing to make the band shine. The record is packed with songs that offer big riffs and even bigger grooves like on “Holy Ground,” “Like No One Other,” and “Bustle and Flow,” along with a large dose of swagger due to Glenn’s groove.
Correspondent Robert Cavuoto spoke with Doug about “Holy Ground”, his passion for the blues, how the singer’s voice and style can influence the songwriting process, and seeking the ultimate expression from their songs.
I’m loving the record and find the sound of this album very unique yet fits in nicely with the band’s catalog.
Thank you, we are pleasantly surprised at all the gracious reviews we have been getting. I’m just looking forward to playing them live sometime.
You have some great guitar tones on this album as they seem thicker and edgier, like on “My Fate” and “Bustle and Flow.” Was there a lot of tuning down to get them?
We are a half step down for almost everything. On “My Fate,” it’s a drop D making it a little heavier. The only song that we dropped down a whole step was “Holy Ground” we dropped the tuning to D on every string, along with a drop D, making it a C.
Did you drop down like that on the last two Dead Daisies records with John Corabi?
Maybe on a couple of songs. Some of the heaviness comes from Glenn and our producer Ben Grosse who should get a lot of the credit. I played through my same Marshalls and used my same guitars; he just captured it differently.
Glenn adds his groove-oriented classic rock sensibilities, which is so authentic you can’t fake what he brings to the band?
Glenn not only sings and writes on the album, but he plays bass, and his bass playing is just insane.
I know that you were friends with Glenn from some previous touring and through Ronnie James Dio. Did you help introduce him to David Lowy?
No, I think they knew about Glenn because that was where I came from before I joined The Dead Daisies. I think they thought about it and contacted him directly. When they called me and told me that they were talking to Glenn about joining, I thought it would be pretty amazing. I called Glenn and asked him what’s happening, and he said, “You and I are going to make some music with The Dead Daisies!” He had some songs like “Far Away,” “Holy Ground,” and “My Fate.” I started writing songs with him in mind and came up with “Bustle and Flow” and “Like No Other.” We also wrote some songs together like “Come Alive.” We then need to capture them and put our stamp on them.
Is that typical of the writing process for The Dead Daisies?
We always write in a room together. You never send in a completed idea because it would get shot down, not in a bad way, but in a creative way. We would want to get together and see where it goes together. In this situation, I knew Glenn and knew what he likes. Glenn knew what the Daisies were doing and tried to put a little different spin on it. What’s interesting was that David and I wrote a couple of things before Glenn got involved. A few of those things ended up working out. We didn’t have a singer in mind, so we didn’t know what we were doing. When Glenn got involved, I knew immediately and exactly what I wanted to do.
It seems like with The Dead Daisies, the singer’s voice helps create the vibe of the music.
Yes, in some way. You still get the heavy guitar that David played even before I was in the band. On Revolución, it was the same kind of thing as tones changed, but David still maintains that heaviness thread. I definitely write songs with the singer in mind, whether with John Corabi or Glenn. Same with David Coverdale of Whitesnake, I was thinking of his voice all the time when I was writing. I would send my songs to David or Glenn to show what I have and what I was roughly thinking with the melody, and nine out of ten times, they would like and give some input to make it better with proper vocal. I turn it over to those guys, and if they are inspired, then we work on it; if not, we move on to other things.
You are like the orchestrator of the band for the last few years, taking all these people with their different musical influences, and styles putting them all together, and making them blend seamlessly. Is that a tough job?
I’m just part of it; management is very involved in that sort of stuff. You have to remember all these guys are friends. When Deen Castronovo came in, I knew him and knew how he plays. Same with Glenn. When I came into the band, I knew them as well, and they knew what to expect from me. I have to tell you going to the South of France at the La Fabrique Studio to live, write, and record made it really good. It expedited the honeymoon phase rather quickly [laughing]. It was like we were married [laughing].
That sounds like a great experience!
Yeah, they had this great property in the middle of nowhere in the South of France. They get projects in there, but they are not booked back-to-back all the time. So the people who do go there want to live there while recording. They put up 15 guys. Rooms in Europe can be $300-$500 a night. I think it ended up costing a lot less than had we gone to New York or LA. You have to work out hotel rooms, food, and transportation back and forth to the studio. This was all one package. We had a couple of guys cooking for us every day, and overall that saved us a lot of money. I don’t think I have ever done anything like this before. It was great. It wasn’t modern; it was old school and comfortable. We would focus to do good work and then got together for a proper sit-down meal. From there, we would either work after dinner or call it a day.
Speaking of the honeymoon phase, is there ever a concern that things might not gel musically or personally with members?
Only if we didn’t know each other, a person’s reputation goes a long way even if we didn’t know them. If someone said that working with this or that person and it was a good experience, then I would be totally comfortable. When you travel with people, you get to know them well. There is always that chance people can rub each other the wrong way for a minute, but I think we respect each other as people first. Everyone has the strengths not to step on each other’s toes and to help be supportive. If you approach things that way, it’s respectful. It’s not too difficult.
I’ve interviewed you several times through your career with The Dead Daisies from when you were the new guy in the band. Now being the tenured member, was there any advice you gave Glenn?
I told him that we have a way in which we do things, and it works for us. We will adapt to you, and you can see the benefit to the way we do things too. No pun intended; it is an unspoken thing, like how the band likes to rehearse; we like to start early and end at dinner time. Sometimes you will find musicians who are night people who want to start at 3:00 pm and work until 9:00 pm. We have our techs come in early so we can rehearse, put down what needs to be done and start it all over the next day. Same with recording. We wanted to find a way that was comfortable for everybody. Ben actually has been very respectful and didn’t have a set agenda either way. Once we locked into a groove, we just stuck with it. I didn’t really have to give Glenn any advice. Maybe, in the beginning, he asked about who makes up the setlist and if we change it all the time? I told him we change it a lot because we can go from a headline gig to an opening slot. We have to be flexible in those situations. He was used to being a headliner did things himself.
You’re an extraordinarily accomplished and versatile guitarist, is that one of your strong points as a guitar player?
Funny, everything you said, I don’t think its true [laughing]. I think I’m not versatile, I do one thing, and I do it with everyone. I’m a blues-based guitar player with a certain style that is inherent in my personality, so it comes out in my playing. I go by ear, and what sounds good not what the book says I should be doing. I didn’t learn a whole bunch of different styles, I played classical for a while back in the 80s and was digging it, but I started to get into Stevie Ray Vaughan and blues stuff like that. Gary Moore was my perfect mix of everything. I love Michael Schenker, Neal Schon, David Gilmour for their melody. Every time I do it, I do it my way. I didn’t change much; maybe the songwriting changes. For Whitesnake, we went for the groove blues-based style, and with The Dead Daisies, we went for more of a straight-up aggressive Rock &Roll style that went deeper on “Burn it Down.” Now with Glenn, I’m back to the heavy blues groove thing, which he likes. My advice would be; to be fun to be around. You need to be a relaxed person to work in the music industry because there are so many challenges outside of the music or band, so when you are working with the guys, you have to make sure you are not adding to the drama that’s happening. I’m able to help manage situations, stay calm, and have fun. That’s the best way.
When you guys play live, will Glenn be singing songs from the back catalog, and how does he sound on them?
We want to focus on the new stuff a lot, but there are certain songs that people want to hear, and we want to present them. Originally we thought that Deen would take over the vocals on some of them, but you probably heard he is not in the band anymore. Glenn went through five or six songs, and they sounded great. It was him doing it his way, which was a different approach than John. Not that it was better or worse, it was just different. We went over “Mexico,” “Long Way to Go,” “Make Some Noise,” “You and I,” and “Midnight Moses.” For me, “Midnight Moses” is really a John song. He made that song happen, and that is something we might put on the shelf for a minute. Initially, Glenn thought that “Make Some Noise” wasn’t his style. I told him if he were to sing that verse with his swagger, the song would come alive. He did, and it sounded really cool classic Glenn.
What is the status of playing live?
I think it’s touch and go, but I’m hoping that we can get some shows under our belt this year; we just don’t know where