Don Dokken – Exclusive Collider Interview

     May 13, 2008

Written by Michael S. Robinson

On May 13, Dokken is set to release Lightning Strikes Again (read my review here), a triumphant return to the melodic, hard rocking sound that made them one of the most successful bands of the genre. I had a chance to interview lead singer Don Dokken on the eve of the album’s release, and following is what transpired:

Collider: Your new CD, Lightning Strikes Again, has been out for a little while now overseas and is set to be released here in the U.S. this week. Reviews have been quite favorable – how was the decision made to return to your most famous, melodic hard rock sound?

Don Dokken: Actually Jon pushed me into writing in the style I did in the 80’s.

Collider: It’s hard not to notice that Jon Levin, who is brilliant throughout, emulates George Lynch on the majority of the record. The songwriting, playing, and even Jon’s sound is so close to that of your former guitarist, what can you tell me about the songwriting and recording process for the new CD, and how deliberate it was, or wasn’t, to try and capture some of Lynch’s previous contributions to the band, channeling through Levin?

Don Dokken: We did not try to emulate George. Jon grew up listening to Lynch, so he is influenced by him. George was his favorite guitarist in high school.All players are influenced by someone. For Jon, it just happened to be George.

Collider: Songs like This Fire (my favorite on the record), Standing On the Outside, and Heart to Stone sound like they could have been written and recorded back during the days of Under Lock and Key or Back For the Attack. As a songwriter and vocalist, how did you put yourself back into that mindset where you clearly set out to continue on with a sound that you last visited, really, twenty-plus years ago?

Don Dokken: It was difficult to write this CD. I am older and see the world through different eyes. Yes, it was a trip back in time, but I knew this is what the fans wanted so we gave it to them. This Fire is also my favorite.

Collider: From both a fan and journalistic point of you, Lightning Strikes Again is a triumphant return to that classic sound that made the band famous. How do you feel about the record, personally, and what does it mean to you knowing that fans and critics alike are so enthusiastically embracing this return to the classic Dokken sound?

Don Dokken: I am very happy about the response L S A is receiving. This will probably be our last studio record, so I’m happy to leave the fans with this musical offering.

Collider: Would you have made this ‘return’ to the classic sound earlier on, had you known it would be so well received, or was the timing/band lineup prohibitive for that to have happened on previous records? You seemed to be flirting with that direction on Erase the Slate (one of my favorite Dokken albums), but subsequent efforts went off that track.

Don Dokken: We could not have made this CD with John Norum – his style is very different from the Dokken sound. Jon Levin fits the band perfectly.I would say it was timing mostly I guess. I wanted to put an exclamation point on our music catalogue.

Collider: Although I do like the song as it stands on its own, “Disease” seems to stick out like a sore thumb on the record. In the grand scheme of the entire record, what flavor were you trying to add to the album with this song’s inclusion?

Don Dokken: Mick wrote “Disease” as well as “Sunset Super Star.” Even though these songs are not my style they are good songs, so we recorded them.

Collider: With the warm reception that Lightning Strikes Again has received, is the next Dokken record likely to carry on in this same fan-friendly direction, or was this record a one-off “thank you” to your longtime fans?

Don Dokken: It is a one off thank you CD to our fans.

Collider: This summer, Dokken is hitting the road with Poison and Sebastian Bach. What can fans expect to hear in the set from the new record, in addition to all the classics?

Don Dokken: We will be doing “This Fire” and “Standing On The Outside.” This is all we can do with a short show. We will be playing more new songs when we headline.

Collider: Many of your 80s melodic metal counterparts continue to record and tour. Do you keep up with other bands’ recent recordings to hear what they’re releasing today? The new Whitesnake album is particularly strong, and bands like Def Leppard, Extreme and Motley Crue all have new CDs coming out this year. Do you still try and keep up with the “competition?”

Don Dokken: Honestly, I do not keep an eye on what is coming out. I am not in competition with my peers; I am in competition with myself.

Collider: Thinking back to the 80s, were there any specific bands, singers, guitarists, drummers, etc. that you found to be particularly impressive? Your classic lineup with Lynch and Pilson could clearly hold their own against anyone; however, did you ever find yourself saying, “wow, that guy is really amazing!” about anyone back then, or perhaps looking back now?

Don Dokken: Peter Baltes was the best bassist I ever played with. Billy White was also amazing. I would love to work with Billy again. He was a genius as well Mikki Dee is a blast to play with.

Collider: Looking back at the Dokken records from that period, and just music from that genre in general, how do you feel those songs hold up today? Do you have a favorite Dokken record and/or song?

Don Dokken: “Under Lock And Key” is my favorite from the 80’s but “Dysfunctional” is my all time favorite Dokken CD. I would say that 70 percent of our songs still hold up.

Collider: I had the Dream Warriors cassette single and remember loving the B-Side song, “Back For the Attack,” yet the song never appeared on the album Back for the Attack. Any chance this song will ever be made available as part of a new greatest hits package or box set?

Don Dokken: It was a bonus track on the Japan release. Yes, it’s a cool song

Collider: Who are you listening to these days? Who would we find on your iPod?

Don Dokken: I don’t own an iPod! Honest, I listen to classical mostly. It keeps my mind fresh to write rock songs.

Thanks so much, Don, for taking the time to answer my questions. Dokken’s Lightning Strikes Again is available May 13 on Rhino Records.

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