With a career spanning the better part of three decades, multiple charting contributions to the rock world, and a brief walk on the alternative side, Don Dokken continues to satisfy legions of loyal fans with an inspiring diversity tough to come by today. As metal as ever with a return to the classic Dokken sound in the recent release of the band’s latest studio album ‘Lightning Strikes Again’, as well as an almost simultaneous release of his new-age, emotionally driven solo project, ‘Solitary’, Don’s work strikes a balance among generations of listeners through a progressive, multi-genre approach reflecting an ongoing worldwide popularity.
Needless to say, with months of solo performances as part of a tour with Queensryche, and now with Dokken as part of a triple bill with Poison and Sebastian Bach this summer, and the success of two new CDs, we were as curious as everyone else as to what the future holds for Don. So hang with us here as he sheds light on that and more....
Blast: How's the tour going? Everyone doing ok?
Don Dokken: Yeah, it's going really well, everyone's getting along and behaving. Sebastian and I have always gotten along really well, but it's a little different this time. It's like I'm looked upon differently now.
DD: Because I'm the oldest guy on the tour and I've been around since way before these guys even had a record deal.
Blast: You think they look at you with regard to age difference? I would think with respect considering the influence your music has had.
DD: Oh yeah, but I'm one of the guys who started this whole thing, you know, I was out in '81. With respect, though, yes. Actually, I was talking to Sebastian's wife and she was saying their 16-month old likes 'Alone Again'.
Blast: My kids do, too. 80’s rock is timeless.
DD: Yeah, well it’s cool, it's melodic, it’s not dark. But it’s funny, the Poison guys used to come and try to get backstage to see us at the arenas and now we're the old guys.
Blast: They were all trying to emulate your music and stature at that time.
DD: Yeah, and now I’ll see interviews and it's like 'the legendary singer, Don Dokken', or 'Icon, Don Dokken' and I'm like legendary? Icon? I don't see myself that way. They see me as some sort of plateau because I sold millions of records and played stadiums. Then I disappeared for five years and retired, dropped off the face of the earth, now I’m back.
Blast: That you are, in a big way. Congrats, by the way on both of your new CDs. Lightning Strikes Again’ is fantastic and it’s getting an impressive response everywhere we look.
DD: Thanks, I'm really happy with it, it's very retro. I tried to make it a combination of Back For The Attack meets Tooth And Nail with sprinkles of the ballads. It's old school. It's hard.
Blast: "Standing On The Outside' sounded awesome live. That one grabbed me immediately and watching the crowd tonight it looks like it had the same effect on everyone else. You and the guys were sounding great out there.
DD: Thanks, I had surgery recently, because my voice kept going out on me. I was actually supposed to be off the road resting longer, but I’m really happy to be out here. Yeah, 'Standing On The Outside' works very well live, it fits right into the set. We're playing it and Mick's like, 'It sounds like we wrote this song in '85.'
Blast: The CD, overall, is very aggressive. I wasn't expecting it to be as heavy as it is.
DD: Yeah, it is aggressive, with big harmonies and it’s very melodic, but very up front, loud, and in your face. It was hard to do, though. It was the hardest record I've ever had to do.
Blast: Really? Did it take a while?
DD: Yeah, I'm not 28 anymore. I wrote 'Breakin' The Chains' when I was 27, a long time ago, half a lifetime. So, to go back in my mind spiritually and go, 'where was I?' You know, like with 'Breakin' The Chains, "Sit there thinkin', in your room, you feel the pressure..." I don't feel that now, I'm comfortable, I have a good life. I go out in my garden every morning and have my tea, pet my dog, so it's like, what well do I dig from? I don't write about struggle. I do write about love and the failure of love; how love hurts and love is hard. That's always been a Dokken thing. Like 'Standing On The Outside'. I still write about angst, love angst, and the frustration that goes with it.
Blast: How long were you working on it?
DD: Two years.
Blast: You released your solo project, ‘Solitary’ fairly close to this one. You must have been up all hours working.
DD: Yeah, I'll be up sometimes at night writing poetry, pages of it, or writing songs. My studio has no windows, so it's always dark, no clock. I don't even want to know what time it is, and then I'll open the door and it's light, the sun's shining, and it's like, no wonder I feel tired. But I write some great songs at four o'clock in the morning. Most of this album was done between 12 and 3am. It was hard on Jon, though. He's done around eleven. We'll be at his house or my house, and we'll work til eleven, then he'll crash, and I'll just keep banging it out til about three, then crash myself, get up in the morning, grab some coffee, and back at it. Out here, too, I’m up all night. The guys all get up grab coffee, they're like 'Hi Don' and I'm like 'you guys getting up? Okay, 'night.', get in my bunk and fall asleep. I'm up watching, Conan, Carson Daly, AMC. Sleep all day; I'm a vampire. I'll nod when everyone's getting up for breakfast.
Blast: Hmm…thought I was the only one who did that. When did you work in writing ‘Solitary’? Were you working on both projects at the same time?
DD: I wrote Solitary before that, like three years ago. That was awesome.
Blast: I love that CD, too. It's obviously different for you and I think the new age approach was a little unexpected by your fans, but clearly appreciated, and it only takes one play to see why. It’s really beautiful work.
DD: Thanks, I'm very proud of that album, I love every song on it. It's definitely a different vibe. Jon thinks it's some of my best work yet. It’s actually very sad, it's a tear-jerker. If you've ever had any heartache in your life, any bad memories, one of these songs or stories will just bring it right out in you.
B: Absolutely. You know, there’s never been a time, even on the really heavy stuff, that total emotion doesn’t come through in your work, but this one’s on a whole different level; pretty intense, really.
DD: Yeah, I definitely had a bleeding heart on that one. I was going through a rough time, and I just said 'fuck it, I'm going to put it all out there.' I had to get it out of my system.
B: Did it work?
DD: Yeah, it's done, it's over; everyone has them. You move on.
Blast: Where is it available? .
DD: Online. You can get it through the Dokken website or the myspace page.
Blast: A lot of people are asking what happened to your website?
DD: I took my personal one down; that and my myspace page; everything's through the Dokken site and the Dokken myspace page.
B: Are you going to do any solo dates for ‘Solitary’?
DD: Yeah, I'm trying to. That's why I did the Queensryche tour; it was an experiment to see if the fans would embrace me. I had a blast on that tour; just me with my guitar doing 'In My Dreams', 'Into The Fire', and some solo stuff. We went everywhere from here to the west coast and it was awesome, so I'd like to go out again and maybe bring in some special guests, do the Dokken stuff, and some new stuff, all acoustic.
B: How much of your new music will you do?
DD: Oh, a lot of it; like half the album
B: Good, make sure you bring it back here; I’m looking forward to hearing it live.
DD: I'd love to. I got a great response on the Queensryche tour. The agent said 'you know, you can do a whole run by yourself if you want.' but I'd like to get a percussionist, another guitar and just do a whole acoustic set as 3-piece band. Kind of like the 'Storyteller's' thing, that was fun, cracking jokes and stuff.
B: That was a cool show. Ok, we have some fan questions, too. New music--any new stuff you're really into?
DD: Yeah, some stuff. I really like Chevelle and Tool. There's some talent that's pretty aggressive out there, but it's also a lot different now with what it takes to make it. You used to have to really be able to write and play to get signed, and those days are just gone.
B: How do you feel about the overall projected vibe and response? You can still go to see an 80's metal show and it's happy, still a trip. With some of the newer bands the vibe is a lot angrier, more negative.
DD: It has gotten negative. I'm not going to pay to go see some guy bitch on stage. I mean, I’ve written some dark songs, and we all have some dark moments, but I'm not angry. Why? (Flipping the window open). Look, what’s to be angry about? It doesn't get any better than this--light, sky, air, rain....this is awesome!
B: Not too many people stop to appreciate that stuff these days.
DD: I do! I was down at the harbor at, like, seven this morning. It was great! I could smell the ocean, the seagulls were squawking, no one around; so nice.
B: Yeah, it’s beautiful down there in the morning. You mentioned special guests with your solo tour. If you were to take other bands out with you, who would you want to be on the road with?
DD: Bands I'd like to tour with....Tesla....Y&T, to name a couple.
B: Are there any particular places that you like to play?
DD: America, Italy, and Spain. It's crazy in Italy. They won't let you leave the stage! They do their ‘Ole, ole’ chant after every song. We do two or three encores with every show there.
B: Lucky Italy. They weren’t ready to let you guys leave the stage tonight, either. What are you doing when it's not music?
DD: When I'm home I'm in my garden, and on the beach a lot, or out riding my motorcycle, I love to ride. And playing with my dog. I have a new puppy, a Cavalier King Charles puppy. Still working on a name for him. It was Nigel when I got him, but that just doesn't work. It'll come to me.
B: Ok, now I'm curious....you'll have to let us know. Any words for your fans.
DD: Yeah, thanks for being with me for so long, and I will see you out there!
Ok you guys, that about wraps it up. While you’re waiting for more live dates, grab a copy of ‘Lightning Strikes Again’ if you don’t already have it. Instant classics like ‘Standing On The Outside’, ‘Heart To Stone’, and ‘Point Of No Return’, make this one a must have for Dokken die-hards. Visit our CD review section for a complete review, then stop by the Dokken store (link below) to check out Don’s solo CD ‘Solitary’ where you can listen to samples of the tracks and download them. From ‘Venice’ to ‘Someday’, this one’s a total package! Go get’em! We’ll be back with more news and tour dates as info comes in.
Many thanks to Don for a great interview and to our readers for their input and support!
Til next time….