It has been more than three years since my last interview with singer Jon Stevens. A lot has happened in that time. Back then, Jon was recovering from open heart surgery and recharging his batteries, getting back into performing again, which he has been doing consistently ever since and now, as he tells me, “I’m fighting fit and ready to rock!” With a new band, a role in a hit stage production and numerous other projects always on the boil, he certainly hasn’t slowed down, that’s for sure. “No,” he agrees, laughing. “In fact, I’ve sped up. Must be the reconditioning I had three and a half years ago.”
Nowadays, he has a new lease on life and it’s called The Dead Daisies; and why The Dead Daisies? “Pretty much because of what I’ve been through,” Jon explains. “We had a ton of names to choose from and the ones we liked were generally all gone. But the Dead Daisies… it just made sense to me. There’s a story behind it and obviously, it’s a new band and new music and all that stuff. It’s just all very exciting for me.” In other words, in spite of what he has been through, he is still here, still kickin’ and nowhere near ready yet to be ‘pushing up daisies’, as it were… “Exactly!” he confirms.
Jon, on vocals, is joined by such talented and sought after musicians as guitarist Richard Fortus, and keyboard player Dizzy Reed, both from Guns N Roses; bassist Marco Mendoza (Thin Lizzy), drummer Charley Drayton (The Divinyls, Cold Chisel) and, on rhythm guitar, David Lowy who has played with The Angels and Red Phoenix.
And right now, The Dead Daisies have some exciting news, says Jon. “We’ve just been announced to do the Uproar Festival in America, starting in August with Alice in Chains and Jane’s Addiction and a bunch of other bands, the Dead Daisies being one of them. So that’s very exciting. It’s a great opportunity and it’s going to be a lot of fun and they’ve just decided to put out a four track EP which you can download off the Uproar site so people get an idea of the music so there’ll be four tracks for free plus there’s the single, ‘Lock n Load’ so there’s five tracks that will be available to people.”
The Rockstar Uproar Festival is in its fourth year and will see an impressive line-up of rock acts touring the U.S. for a massive 25 shows through August and September. With the band being in the States for a couple of months, when will Australians have another opportunity to see The Dead Daisies perform here at home? “It’s one of those things where we’ve got this opportunity overseas and we’ll hopefully build a story,” he explains. “That way people won’t have preconceptions here in Australia. We’ve done a couple of gigs here in Australia. We’ve done a couple of shows with Aerosmith. We’ve done some shows with ZZ Top and that kind of kicked things off so we’re definitely going to be doing Australia. Absolutely! But it will be nice to get the album out and people will be a bit more familiar with it here and if we get some traction overseas, then I’m sure Australia will be loving us because we’re an Australian band.”
Well, from what I can see, it seems that Australia is loving The Dead Daisies already. “We’re going against the grain, you know. We’re not young guys. We’re old blokes but everyone’s going nuts for The Daisies!” he laughs. “I don’t know why that is. Maybe it’s because we’re old blokes and we’re playing honest, straight ahead rock n roll, with no frills. It’s melodic and it’s riffy and it’s fun. Maybe that’s the thing. We’re fresh. In this world of programmed music, we’re actually musicians! We’ve become a bit of a novelty!”
The Dead Daisies came about when Jon got together with rhythm guitarist, David Lowy, with a view to write some songs. “We got together half a dozen times and we had all these songs and the chemistry was crazy, so we said ‘Let’s go in the studio and record this stuff!’ So we did. And that’s The Dead Daisies. We became a band. Charlie Drayton was an old friend and Richard Fortus and Marco Mendoza are real good friends. Everyone kind of came along at different times for different reasons. If Slash was available, he’d be doing it too. We wrote some songs together and ‘Lock n Load’ was the one that I decided was good for The Daisies. We’d already recorded the album so I ended up just doing it myself down in Melbourne and got Slash to play his guitar in Los Angeles.” Due to touring commitments, it simply wasn’t practical for the two to be in the studio together. “He didn’t have time and I didn’t have time. I was on the road and he was on the road. But with technology nowadays, you can do shit! It’s amazing! He came into the studio and he took time out on his day off, God Bless him, and went and did it.”
And Jon believes there is a good chance that Slash might join the band on stage during their American tour. “Certainly, if the song is successful in America or the band is successful, I would love that to happen.” That would certainly be something to see. “Indeed it would,” he agrees. “But he’s a busy man and he’s doing his thing and he and I will catch up at some point, for sure. Meanwhile, Richard Fortus is certainly no slouch!” I couldn’t agree more. Having been fortunate enough to see the band in action at their first public performance, supporting ZZ Top at Sydney’s Metro Theatre in March, I mentioned to Jon how impressed I was with Richard’s guitar playing. In fact, it is a great line-up of musicians. It’s little wonder The Dead Daisies have often been referred to as something of a ‘Supergroup’. “Thank you,” replies Jon, humbly. “They’re good guys too. We’ve all seen the movie before. We know what to do and we’re just going to enjoy ourselves whilst doing it.”
But, as usual, Jon has more going on than just one project right now. “Oh yeah!” he laughs. “I’m always doing something!” He is also performing in the current production of Superstar. “It’s a great show. It’s good to be involved in it. I’m playing a different role this time; Pontius Pilate. But it’s really cool. The people who are in it are awesome. And it’s selling out everywhere. All I can say is I’m really honoured to be a part of it twenty one years after the last one. That’s pretty wild.” Jon played the role of Judas in the 1992 Andrew Lloyd Webber production, starring alongside John Farnham as Jesus. Now taking on the part of Pontius Pilate, he admits he did find the new role a little nerve wracking. “In as much as the role that I’m playing is more of an acting role and not a singing role, per se. But it’s appropriate. It’s a U.K. production and they wanted to get me in it and that was pretty much the only role left that was worth playing.”
While Jon continues to do solo shows around the country, he is not currently writing or recording any solo material. “Everything I do,” he tells me, “I’m doing towards the Dead Daisies.” He is, however, putting the finishing touches on the latest Noiseworks album. “We’ve done all the songs for that and I’ve just got to get into the studio at the end of this month and finish a couple of vocals and just tidy a few things up before we mix it. And that will be something that will happen towards the end of the year or certainly next year.” Noiseworks fans have been waiting a long time to hear that! And Jon is confident that they won’t be disappointed. “It’s worth the wait,” he assures me. “It’s got some great songs.” He is adamant that the guys will still get together from time to time to perform. “For sure! But The Daisies is my first priority so whatever we’re doing, that comes first. Noiseworks is an old love and we’re giving it a new coat of paint, whereas The Daisies is new and fresh and exciting.”
Jon admits that he has had a pretty good journey so far but he believes that the best is yet to come. “Whatever has happened before is the past. I’ve had some awesome moments but I think there are some even more awesome moments coming. It just feels really exciting. I’m so excited about the Daisies and their record and all the things that are happening now. Everything is in front of me.”
by Sharyn Hamey
Copyright © 2013 Sharyn Hamey All Rights Reserved
You can download The Dead Daisies’ ‘Man Overboard’ EP from the RockstarUPROAR website here
To find out more about The Dead Daisies and the RockstarUPROAR tour, check out the following websites: