John Parks of Legendary Rock Interviews recently conducted an interview with DOKKEN mainman Don Dokken. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
Legendary Rock Interviews: Your last album "Lightning Strikes Again" was probably my favorite since "Back For The Attack" or at least "Erase The Slate" and your new album "Broken Bones" is a little moodier but with much better sounding vocals. Do you think people underestimate how much vocal surgery can impact your delivery as a singer?
Don: Oh, yeah. Just listen to my voice now; it's a lot more husky since the surgery. I damaged my vocal cords about four years ago in Germany. I remember I had this funny taste in my mouth every night, it tasted like iron and then I started spitting up blood and I was like, "What the hell?" Then I came to find out I had really damaged my voice and I should have stopped right then and cancelled the whole tour and come home, but I didn't. We had ten shows to go and I kept going and really did some damage. The surgery is pretty straightforward; they just take the cord and stretch it a little bit and cauterize it, but it does take a long time in healing. It took about two years for me to be able to sing like you hear on "Broken Bones". It sounds a lot more like the old days. I just don't hit the high notes like I used to, but I don't know many singers who can continue to do that their whole career. It's a long road and you have to start over from scratch. You have to go to a vocal coach and instead of warming up for a half hour you have to warm up for an hour. You have to do things like not talk to people before a show and people think you're being arrogant or a primadonna but the fact is you just can't talk to people before the show, you'll lose your voice. Talking is worse than singing, especially when you're trying to talk over really loud music in the background from a support band or something. You have to learn how to re-sing your material, Klaus Meine (SCORPIONS vocalist) has had three surgeries and he had to learn how to sing lighter. More in your head tone and less putting pressure on your vocal cords. The bottom line is, we get older and it's like a car, you put a hundred thousand miles on the engine and it's not going to run the same as it did when the car was brand new so you have to find new ways to drive it. You have to sing lighter and if you feel like you can't make the note than you can't try to, you have to modify the note and change it a little bit. It's not a good idea to stress yourself to hit a note you shouldn't be hitting but some fans just think you should sing exactly as you did thirty years ago, which is impossible.
Legendary Rock Interviews: I just talked with George [Lynch, ex-DOKKEN guitarist] about his new band with Jeff [Pilson, ex-DOKKEN bassist], T&N, and we spoke about your interview on Eddie Trunk where you said T&N had already broken up.
Don: Well, they are broken up.
Legendary Rock Interviews: George said they're not. He said they're already working on a second record.
Don: Yeah, well, OK. I can't wait to hear it. Why make another record when the first one was as bad as it was?
Legendary Rock Interviews: I really like the new material but I skip over the re-recorded DOKKEN stuff. I like Ripper Owens but I don't need to hear him singing "Kiss Of Death".
Don: Or Sebastian Bach singing "Alone Again" or Doug Pinnick doing "Tooth And Nail". It's karaoke. I thought "Well, okay I'll listen to Jeff sing the new material." Now, Jeff has a great voice. I don't think he's a lead singer or a frontman.
Legendary Rock Interviews: Do you think Jeff is trying too much to sound like DOKKEN?
Don: No, I think he's trying too much to sound like everybody. I used to always tell him "Man, you've got a nice voice, if you can ever figure out your style or be confident in your own skin, I think you could really be successful at it," but he's all over the place on that album. One song he's in a raspy voice, another he's trying to be bluesy or soulful, and on and on it's like, "OK, what do you want to be?" I don't sing that way. I just sing one way which is the way I sing, the way I always have.
Legendary Rock Interviews: I know you have other musical interests beyond the old school hard rock style. Is it just a matter of you wanting to climb other mountains or do other styles?
Don: Yeah, I'm done. I think Jon [Levin, DOKKEN guitarist] and I both agreed when we finished this record. We did 30 songs and narrowed it down to 11 and I think my exact words were "I think we've said what we have to say as far as writing within this 'DOKKEN box'; I think that's it." It's just too frustrating to make a new album under all of these creative restraints. I'm so tired of record companies telling me "OK, make sure it sounds like 'Tooth and Nail' or 'Under Lock and Key'." My response is always the same, I say, "Well, people can go out and buy that record, I already did it, what's the point?". I wanna play with other people and do other things. I'm working on an acoustic album with Michael Schenker and there's a few other musicians I've always talked about working with that I want to take the time to work with. I don't want to do any more records where there are all these people giving me rules or expectations, whether they are record companies or even fans. I don't want to be really excited and writing a song and think to myself, "Oh, I gotta be careful, I don't wanna branching out too much here or trying something new there. People will be disappointed if it doesn't sound like old DOKKEN from 25 years ago." I can't do that. I just can't, I wanna write songs without boundaries. How do you as a journalist interview a band and then have someone tell you how you have to ask the questions or that you have to ask the same questions of every band. You'd think that was ridiculous and you wouldn't wanna do it.
Legendary Rock Interviews: Is the idea of being free of a record label kind of appealing in general at this point?
Don: I'm liberated. My next record, all I have to do is what I want because I won't be doing it under the "DOKKEN" name. If I wanted to do it for money or get money out of a record label I would do it as DOKKEN, I could do it but I don't want to. I wanna sit down with my guitar and write a song without me worrying about "Does it sound like DOKKEN?" I just want to write from the cosmic universe or God or whatever you wanna call it, I just want to write without rules. Whatever inspires me.
Read the entire interview from Legendary Rock Interviews.
Photo credit: Devin DeHaven