The words “life is as it should be”, are tattooed across John Corabi’s neck, but written in Italian; so for those who don’t speak the language, only he knows what it says. He looks at it every day in the mirror when he brushes his teeth as a reminder to keep forging ahead. This motto has helped him with some major setbacks throughout his personal life and in his career. The man is best known for his involvement in Motley Crue and Ratt, but he’s played in a handful of other bands, including The Scream, Union, Eric Singer Project (ESP) and Brides of Destruction. Sitting in Adirondack chairs outside the Krazee Kafe, Corabi explained a little of his background growing up. From ages eight to ten, life was good; he described it as growing up like Fred Savage, the kid from, The Wonder Years. But once his parents divorced, “everything went to shit.”
After the divorce, his mom got a job to supplement the child support payments from his father. During that time Corabi’s brother and sisters were molested by their uncle. “My uncle was a fireman in Philadelphia.” Corabi states. “The fire station he was stationed at was four blocks from the house. He used to come by the house to just check on us. He never did anything with me I guess because I was a little older and street-wise. But he molested my two sisters and my youngest brother, who was probably five or six. I was the one that blew the whistle on the whole thing.”
Growing up like that could not have been easy; at 12 years of age, Corabi walked in on his sister with his uncle’s penis inside her mouth. The incident divided the family and mounting legal expenses forced them to live with their grandmother and then in his aunt’s basement. “It was a hard time, man,” says Corabi without missing a beat, “I was probably 12 or 13 years old. It was weird. We lived with my grandmother for a while. When my grandmother passed away some of my other relatives were like ok you guys need to get out. We didn’t have anywhere to go so we wound up living with one of my other aunts. But she didn’t have room for us so we basically lived in her basement. My mom passed away in ’96, but she is one of my heroes. She never missed a day of work. She totally sacrificed everything in her life for her kids.”
The inception of Motley Crue’s song Uncle Jack, came from Corabi’s experience with molestation. “I wound up doing the music thing. Uncle Jack kinda just disappeared for a bit. There’s more to this story. It’s crazy. Even after being convicted and going to prison he came out. His probation officer and somebody else helped him get a job as a janitor in a catholic elementary school. Figure that one out. But he kinda disappeared. Years and years went by and I didn’t even think of him. When we were recording the Motley record, we had that riff from Uncle Jack. We had all the music together and a melody, but no topic to write it about. We used to call that song the evil d song because it just sounds mean. My mom called me and she goes ‘I gotta tell you your uncle Jack got arrested again for molesting two little boys.’”
As far as Motely Crue is concerned? “I just happened to be some lucky fucking kid that got a gig, a great gig. And there’s not a motherfucker on this planet that wouldn’t do the exact same thing that I did at that moment in my life. A lot of people say Motley Crue screwed you over or Motley Crue was really good to you and you tried to fuck them. I got the gig. I didn’t call them for the gig. They called me. They asked me to come down and audition. I did three great records with them. The bottom line is its on my resume. And I still travel all over the world because of it. It’s not a bad thing. I really don’t give – not to sound callous – a fuck what people think of me. I have two great kids. Lot of great friends. To me that’s all that matters. I do what I do because I like what I do. To me at the end of the day it’s about the songs. It’s about the lyrics. It’s about the music. I still get emails from people saying you’re a fucking loser, I can’t believe you were in Motley. Look newsflash Vince has been back in the band since 1998. Get a fucking life. Leave me alone. I’ve done other shit with Nikki since then. I love the guy to death. I love Tommy. Mick is one of the nicest people you’ll ever fucking meet. I still talk to the guys. I just texted Tommy three days ago and asked him the name of the sushi place we used to eat at in Vancouver. We call and talk to each other. We’re totally fine. I’ve been in Vince’s company many times. Vince and I are fine. We don’t hate each other. We’re totally cool with each other. If Vince was to walk up here right now he would give me a hug and go ‘Hey buddy, let’s go have a drink.’”
Corabi new solo project is almost like starting over for him. His record has been in the works for a while, but he’s faced some legal setbacks. A manager with an indie label contacted him originally about recording an album. “He said I think you should do a record, throw it out there and see what happens. I told him I want to do an acoustic record. I started the record. Most of it was done. And then I got the call to do the Cinderella tour last year. While I was on the Cinderella tour I got a new manager. I played him the record and he was like ‘dude, this is a really great album, I don’t think you should just put it on your website, throw it on iTunes. I think you should get a little help from a record label.’ So I went back to the first guy that I initially did the record with. I told him at this point in my career I think I need that machine behind me. I told him I want to go with Universal. I want you to tell me what you have into this thing money-wise. I want to make sure you get all your money back, with interest. From September we kept going back and forth. He wasn’t budging.”
Corabi talked with his drummer, Cheney Brannon (formerly with Collective Soul) and his guitar player, and they decided they didn’t need to go into a studio. Corabi has a recording studio in his house, and with what they all could bring to the table, they were able to re-record the album at his house. “First week of June we went in and tracked the whole thing in 10 days at my house. Took it to Atlanta and mixed it there in a studio. Rodney Mills mastered it for us. Oddly enough it turned out even better than the original record. I had to put my foot down. It’s not often in the music business that you get to say fuck you to somebody and go around them. So I just said here’s the deal I want my fucking masters or I’m going to re-record the album. And I did it.”
Corabi usually tours twice a year internationally with ESP. They typically tour when everybody is off from their other projects; taking two weeks to do as many shows as they can. ESP doesn’t have any current plans to tour as Chuck Garric is currently touring with Alice Cooper, Eric Singer is on tour with Kiss and Motley and Bruce Kulick is busy with Grand Funk Railroad. Corabi is primarily doing solo weekend gigs right now.
When he’s not working on his own projects he’s busy encouraging his son in his music career. His 25 year-old son, Ian, plays drums in the band Mureau, currently touring with Spineshank. Tommy Lee was the first to recognize young Ian’s musical talent. “Tommy came to my house when I lived in Hollywood. My kid was sitting there, watching Motley Crue Decade of Decadence videos. He would take boxes and set them up on the floor. He would beat along to the music. Tommy was watching him. Tommy says, ‘Dude, most kids are in sync.’ But Tommy noticed he was mimicking the drums and he had separation. Tommy said ‘he’s going to be a drummer.’ After we finished the record Tommy got him a mini-kit from his drum company. It was the same as Tommy’s, but a mini-version of it. I went on tour and he couldn’t play a lick. We set up a little area in the back of the house. We set his drums up with the stereo. I was gone for five months on tour and I came home and he was playing Spoonman and all this Stone Temple Pilots shit. He was six or seven. He could hear the bass drum, the snare, the high hat. He just figured it out.” Corabi is currently working on an autobiography titled Life Is As It Should Be, which details more about the molestation and other events throughout his life.