2012 is an interesting moment in the 30-year plus career arc of Dokken. This year not only saw the release of Dokken’s final studio album, Broken Bones, but also the re-grouping of his former bandmates in a new venture, T&N. While the dysfunctional on/off relationship with his former band mates is hardly new, the fact that Don himself is calling this album their last does come as a surprise. Both 2008’s Lightning Strikes Again and Broken Bones were both well-received and lauded as returns to the classic Dokken formula and the relationship between Don and guitarist Jon Levin is 10 years strong. Don is gearing up for some solo acoustic gigs he does around this time every year which begin this Friday night in Arizona. This time out he’s taking along Mark Boals (ex- Yngwie Malmsteen) for what should be a great show featuring a ton of stripped down Dokken classics and much more. We talked to Don about the state of the band, his upcoming tour and much more. Read on…
Legendary Rock Interviews: I wanna check out one of these new acoustic shows you are doing Don. Is this always a fun time for you?
Don Dokken: Yeah, it is. That’s the whole reason I do it. We do it every year, I go out and play a few acoustic shows just for fun. I’m taking out Mark Boals (ex Yngwie vocalist) and he’s doing harmony vocals and we’re both playing guitar. I did 40 shows with Queensryche a couple years back the same way just myself and an acoustic guitar. We’re going to be playing the Dokken stuff but also a lot of other stuff like Beatles songs, Three Dog Night, stuff like that. It’s interesting because a lot of songs, without the pomp and volume don’t really work or stand up but these Dokken songs are really stripped down to the way they were originally written with acoustic guitar and vocals.
LRI: 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 Dokken: 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: Between the amount of time between the last album, how well it was received and your vocal surgery, I was interested in seeing the reaction to this album. The reviews for “Broken Bones” have been very positive.
Don: Yeah, it’s nice, I feel lucky. You never know, you work so hard on these albums but we could have come out and everyone could have said “Ehh, it’s okay or it’s boring or whatever”. You just never know. Then I started seeing the reviews coming in and I was like “Holy Shit, I guess we did the right thing because everyone likes the album”.
Legendary Rock Interviews: You also do a lot of charity shows and events, dating way back but you also recently did one to benefit wounded policemen. Are charity shows like that just important to you?
Don: I think it’s an obligation. I think not just for me but for any artist or person in the public eye, whether it’s a musician, an actor, athlete, anyone who has been blessed with a skill or talent they can donate to raise money or awareness for a cause. If you can donate your time, it’s just time, to help a cause you are really paying it forward and it’s important. I like singing, I sing for free. The economy is in the toilet, a lot of these charitable organizations have had funding cut, if there’s anything you can do to help even a little bit it is the right thing to do. You’ve gotta pay it back man.
Read Full Don Dokken Interview at http://www.legendaryrockinterviews.com/2012/12/07/don-dokken-talks-early-days-michael-wagener-acoustic-shows-broken-bones-and-much-more/