There are three things you need to know about Wild Mick Brown, drummer for both Dokken and Ted Nugent: First, his moniker is not by chance. The man knows how to party wild and there are many, many stories to prove it; most recently his little incident involving a “high speed” chase on a “stolen” golf cart last year in Maine, producing the best mug shot ever. Second, he speaks his mind. He has absolutely no qualms saying what he wants to say, as long as it’s the truth as he knows it. He fears not you or me or Don Dokken. He has been rich and he has been poor because of his actions and he holds no one accountable but himself; but he’s going to say just how he feels about things, whether he loves you or not. And third, do NOT get in the way of this man and his PlayStation. With his wildest days somewhat behind him, Brown loves to race on the Gran Turismo on his big screen TV and he will run you over in a heartbeat with a laugh as big as thunder.
Wild Mick Brown, I found, is a big ball of boisterous boy. He is in his fifties now but has never lost his boyish love for fun and games and telling stories. He peppers his memories of his days as a young rock star on the Sunset Strip with belly laughs so hard neither the interviewer nor interviewee can breathe. He talks about his ordinary daily routine at home in Arizona and while out on tour. He shared with us memories of recording with Dokken and playing shows with Nugent. He talked about Ratt’s Robbin Crosby and taking drum lessons from the Grateful Dead’s Mickey Hart. He explains being broke and having to move back in with his family and why he loathes making videos with a storyline. Plus everything in between, over and under the rock & roll world he lives in.
But what was the Wild Mick Brown doing on the night we had our interview? “Leslie, I’m sitting here watching Palladia,” he says with all seriousness before breaking out into that big laugh of his. “I think I’m watching Motley Crue’s Carnival Of Sins right now.” So with the Crue on in the background, while waiting for his friends to come over to play PlayStation for the rest of the night (“When my friend comes knocking on the door, we are going down (laughs). This conversation is over. Bye bye Honey”), and a promise to talk again in the future, because Brown loves to talk about himself and share his stories, we begin what turns into almost two hours of more fun than a barrel of monkeys … or a drummer on a golf cart.
So the notoriously Wild Mick Brown is sitting at home watching Palladia?
Leslie, I have the Palladia Channel and Palladia is this rock & roll constant, constant, live concerts. I think I’m watching Motley Crue Carnival Of Sins right now. Yeah, I’m definitely watching them cause I can see them (laughs) It’s a wonderful channel and I can’t stop watching the damn thing. It was like when back in the early eighties and MTV came out and back then MTV was nothing but music videos. You never stopped watching it and I can’t stop watching this Palladia Channel. It’s just awesome. I love watching groups, especially live, and Palladia is mostly old live concerts from the big festivals. A lot of huge European festivals and I love watching them.
And I am enjoying this wonderful 88/90 degree weather we’re still having. I was at the pool earlier. I rode my bicycle a little bit for some exercise. I got my car washed. I went to Safeway and bought some groceries. Groceries? Jim Beam, thank you (laughs) and I’m sitting here waiting for you to call and watching a little TV. My friends are going to come over later. I’m a race nut. I love anything racing on the PlayStation games and we’re going to do some racing later.
I was just in Arizona in September for the Uproar Festival, which Alice In Chains headlined.
A ha, Alice In Chains, well, I love that group. Who wouldn’t? I watched an Alice In Chains video, not video, excuse me, one of these Palladia things on the Palladia channel the other day, live at a festival. I remember in 19 – Oh God, I’m going to date myself here – I think it was 1990. Ozzy Osbourne, Lynch Mob, a band that I was in, and Alice In Chains and I think LA Guns, and we all played the Long Beach Arena. I remember it was one of Alice In Chains’ first appearances, you know. They weren’t a big band. I mean, people kind of knew who they were but they hadn’t been out a long time, and I remember standing there watching their performance. I was pretty excited about it. It was great. And I remember in the dressing room area, Layne and what’s the guitar player’s name? They came in and we’re smoking lots of pot (laughs), there were still lots of heavy drug use going on around that time, but I was deep in my Jim Beam and Coke and just enjoying the whole thing. But I’m not afraid of the drug abuse thing cause I’ve been around a lot of that in my lifetime, especially coming out of the sixties, which I’m old enough to be a part of that. You want to hear a funny story?
When I was about thirteen, I went and saw my first rock concert. It was Santana, and the opening group was Tower Of Power, and back then everybody would sit down cross-legged, like an Indian, and wait for the band to come on, and they would pass bottles of wine and everybody would drop acid or whatever into this wine and you’d take a sip and pass it on. And then joints, marijuana joints, would just come by, I mean, every four or five seconds, you know (laughs) and you just take a hit and pass it to the next person. Could you imagine how that would go now in a concert these days? I mean, you can’t even smoke a damn cigarette in a frickin’ arena anymore. Could you imagine bottles of LSD wine – we called it the electric wine – and the marijuana and stuff that would be coming by? It would just fill the room with marijuana smoke.
Then I talked to friends who had been to Doors concerts and they told me the Doors at Long Beach Arena, that same arena I played many times, the audience took the seats somehow and arranged them in a circle and had a bonfire in the middle (laughs) Had a huge bonfire in the middle of the Long Beach Arena while they danced around like Jim Morrison, like Indians around a fire, and I thought, Oh my God, in today’s world, it would never ever fly. We’ve become so, and I’m not saying that’s good or bad and obviously drug abuse is not a great thing, but wow, could you imagine? You know, that’s what made me a little bit scared about going when you’re thirteen. You had to have your mother or father take you to and from a show, you know, drop you off, pick you up, and as much as I wanted to see these bands and see people play guitar really well and drums and stuff, the scene around it was so frightening. When you’re thirteen it’s not so bad because they knew you were real young and, “Look at the thirteen year old digging it,” but if you got a little bit older, you were in the middle of it and then all of a sudden it became a very strange event and you can imagine what that must have been like.
My first concert, when I was thirteen or fourteen, we were all sitting around on the floor and everyone was getting high and stuff.
Yeah, same age group. See, a very similar experience with the drugs and alcohol and the excitement level. Anytime any concert happened with any band, it was the biggest event around and everybody went. Not so much these days. I mean, there’s still big events and things but any concert was just really something to just go to. And days and days before you went to the concert, the local radio stations would play nothing but those bands, just hype it, and to this day, I play with Ted Nugent who gets real, real upset, and I understand why. He goes, “I’m going to a radio station but they’re not going to play my music before I go. And the worst part is that when I’m there, they don’t even play my music when I’m there or when I leave.” And he goes, “What’s the deal? This used to be a big event, you’d play my music and nothing but my music for the whole day before, the whole day of and the day after.” He was just like, nowadays the DJ can’t even, there’s a format laid out. They don’t even touch the computer and it just plays. And he was just sickened by it. I thought the same thing, I thought, well, there it is. It used to be a big thing and it’s not that Ted Nugent isn’t any big of a performer that he was ever; in fact, his band is probably the best band he’s ever had (laughs). So sayeth me (laughs).
I’ll tell you what, this will be my tenth year and Ted and his son Toby looked over at me one time in the dressing room and they had a funny look on their face and looked at me like I was stinking or something (laughs) and I thought, “What?” and they both said, “You know you’re the longest member other than Ted.” I said, “I’m the longest member other than Ted Nugent?” Normally, he’s had this drummer or that guy. Derek St Holmes was in the band just for a couple of years and then he left and you know Derek came back in different moments and things. But I was straight through and it struck me so funny. I thought, Oh my God. I remember listening to Ted when I was fourteen, fifteen and now I’m in the band and I’m the second longest member (laughs). I could own this group, you know (laughs)
I heard you’ve been on the radio
I have a friend here in Phoenix from KDKB named Mike Gaube who kind of brought me under his wing and he said, “Mick, I want you to come down and do some interviews.” He had me down for a few Friday nights and I did it and he goes, “Would you like to be a regular on the show?” I said, “Well, you know, I got nothing better to do” and I said yes so I did that for quite a while and I have an open invitation now to come down to the station anytime I like and do whatever I like. But I did come down and I would kind of co-host the show with him. But you know, as you can tell, I’m not short of words (laughs) and my allotted time with him was only an hour on the radio but it was all music and then me trying to talk (laughs).
I think you’d be a great radio host
Well, listen, I agree with you, Leslie. I mean, I hate to say, I love hearing myself talk, obviously (laughs) and I thought it would be a lot of fun and I thought the station might have grabbed on to it and went, “Oh wow, we need this Mick guy on the radio more often, like Alice Cooper and Nikki Sixx.” Nikki Sixx’s show, wow, fantastic. When I go on the road, get on the tour bus, our tour driver, he listens to him constantly, and I really enjoy his banter with Casey Kasem’s daughter. I think it’s just a wonderful show. Especially when I got arrested in Maine and they talked about me all night (laughs). The bus driver goes, “Mick, you’re a star, you’re a star now.” What do you mean? “Nikki Sixx talked about you all night long about you in that golf cart drunk.” (laughs)
You’re right up there with George Jones on his lawnmower now
(laughs) You know, I mean, a high speed chase in a golf cart with two girls on it and me and I don’t know, eight miles an hour. Really, if they can’t catch me running, those cops need to get in shape.
Did it all work out?
Leslie, it didn’t work. I mean, it worked out as whatever time will do but I ended up with a DUI from the experience. I had four charges against me. My bail was $40,000 and I thought, Oh my God, I’m in a lot more trouble than I know. My lawyer said, “Listen, you need to just take this DUI charge and get the rest of them gone and we can be done with this.” So I thought, I didn’t want to do that. So it didn’t work out that well for me. And it was very expensive. In yesterday’s world, the world I grew up in, it would have been, “Oh, shame on Mick.” Now, it’s like, “Oh, he’s a hero.” (laughs) I mean, every rock star emailed or phoned me, texted me, whatever, saying, “Don’t ever stop waving your freak flag, Mick. You’re carrying it for all of us. We’re getting older and you’re out there stealing a golf cart with two chicks on it with the cops chasing you down.” (laughs) And they just loved it. I’m glad I kept them happy but at my expense, you know what I mean (laughs)
Remind me not to get on a golf cart with you
No, please come. It will be fun. It won’t hurt you. It will cost me money (laughs). Listen, if you do a little more than ride with me on the cart, maybe you’d get your name put in the paper (laughs). It’ll be great, Leslie and as long as you don’t get the DUI, you’ll be happening and listen, it’ll go freaking worldwide (laughs). Everybody on the tour bus was like, “Oh listen Mick, they just said your name …” And, “They’re talking about you.” Oh man, this is really not going away. But listen, being in a rock band my whole life, I’m fifty-seven years old as of last September, and it’s actually the only gigantic trouble that you get into from living life anywhere in an artist kind of world, where you push that box and question authority or whatever, that’s not bad. I mean, look at Ozzy Osbourne. He had rabies from biting the heads off bats and rehabs and things. I skipped through all that. And ok, I got a DUI in a golf cart (laughs). So not bad.
Tell us where you grew up and how you got into playing music.
I was born in the northern California area and when I was about five, I really thought I wanted to play music and I saw something on TV and I thought, Oh saxophone. My parents looked at me like, “You’re only five, your fingers can’t even.” Then as time went on, I think I was seven, and I thought, Oh guitar. So I went to take the guitar lesson and I found out my hands were much too small and it didn’t seem right for me. Then I saw The Beatles on Ed Sullivan and I said, Oh wow, I could do the drum thing. I thought that would be a safe bet. Instead of being in front of the screaming fans, I could be behind these drums, which I regretted later because I wanted to be in front (laughs). So on my eighth birthday, my parents go, “If you’re really serious about playing drums, would you learn how to do it, actually take lessons?” So they took me on my eighth birthday to a guy named Mickey Hart, who two years later he was the drummer in the Grateful Dead. So I did this in the South Bay area of San Francisco. I think it was called San Carlos and I went there and took drum lessons. On my tenth birthday, I think, I went there and the shop said, “Closed, joined the Grateful Dead.” And I never saw him again.
How was Mickey as a teacher?
Well, you know, back then, teaching was all out of books but his dad was a state champion rudimental drummer, which means you had to play these rudiments a certain way and pattern. Also, Mickey had some trophies of the same thing and I mean, they taught me some basics, although I don’t think many of them applied. Well, they still apply but I don’t know I used them in rock & roll. I mean, they’re there, I know what triplets are called (laughs) but now you don’t think about what Mickey Hart taught you. You just go, I’m going to play this.
You have a very boisterous personality. Were you like this as a kid?
Yes, very much so. You know, that’s what amazes me. A lot of times I meet young people backstage and you know when I was young back then you didn’t get to meet your favorite rock stars. In fact, you couldn’t get anywhere fucking near them. I have pictures of The Beatles on stage at the Cow Palace in San Francisco but I had to give my camera to a girl going to a concert cause I was nine and I couldn’t go. I was just too young to go and she took pictures of The Beatles on stage. You didn’t get to go backstage and meet them. You didn’t get to go backstage to meet the Who. You didn’t get to go backstage to meet Led Zeppelin. You didn’t get to go meet Queen. You didn’t get to meet anybody that I grew up with, in my generation, when it started. You didn’t get to do this. And I thought, well, if I had gotten to meet those people, I would’ve been asking every question in the world (laughs) and I hate it when they do it now (laughs). Well, listen, I don’t hate it but really most kids don’t really ask. They just stand there and go, “Uhhhh” and I think, you have nothing to say? Nothing?
Here’s the best thing I’ve heard from young people who have gotten to meet the band backstage: “Wow, your band,” and this is like a thirteen year old kid. He comes back with his dad and “This is Mick Brown. He was in that band blah-blah.” “Oh wow, man, your band is so awesome. You know my dad is in a band. He thinks his band is good but your band is so much better than his band. His band sucks. And you guys are older than my dad and you kick ass.” (laughs) And I just go, “Ok, well thanks Jimmy, that’s a wonderful thing.” At least he gets it, you know what I mean. I know his dad gets it but when little Jimmy comes and says, “You’re so much better than my dad’s crappy band,” you just have to laugh at it (laughs). I normally look over and see the dad talking to Ted Nugent or Don Dokken or whoever and I go, “Don’t say it to your dad but ok, yeah.”(laughs) “Now, Jimmy, you got any good drugs?” (laughs) And normally Jimmy does (laughs). I’m kidding, I’m kidding (laughs).
Who was the first rock star you ever met?
Gosh, that’s a good question. Listen, I’ll tell you what, I don’t know if this is a rock star but when I moved in the seventies, Rodney Bingenheimer, he had this club called Bingenheimer’s and he was in Life Magazine, and so when I moved to Los Angeles with George Lynch, we went to Hollywood and we walk in this club and we said we were this new band, you know. We muscled our way backstage and Kim Fowley – Kim Fowley was the guy who created the Runaways, and he was also kind of a pop, I don’t know if he was a pop star but he had this song in the fifties called “Alley Oop” (starts singing). Kim Fowley wrote that so anyway, him and Rodney Bingenheimer were there and I think we were in the dressing room with this band called Sparks, a strange band (laughs), and Kim Fowley and Rodney Bingenheimer were really big news to me. After that I can’t remember but the list goes on and on from there to forever.
But I’ll tell you my favorite story, what I think is the biggest rock star moment in my life. There was a time in my life where I had a huge debt to the IRS and I’d lost everything that I’d worked for – my home and everything. So I moved back to my mom and dad’s and they said, “Well, you need to come here and we need to show the IRS that you are zero as a person in life and that we are supporting you.” And I thought, oh God, that’s where I’m at? I mean, I’d lost everything I’d worked for, lost down to zero. When you’re zero as a person on paper, it just means you’re scum, you know. And there I was. So I was thinking maybe I should get out of music and become something else. And my father said to me, “Maybe you should start where you know. Become something in the music business area, a stagehand or something.”
So I had a friend and he got me in pushing cases, literally being a stagehand, the guys who shove the stuff on stage. I did a Prince show in Reno, Nevada, and at the end of the night, I’m just literally standing right outside the arena backdoor area where the trucks would come through. And I’m just waiting for the show to end and I’m having a smoke and all of a sudden, and I’m kind of dreary like life sucks, and I look down and I see this wonderful pair of shoes followed by this beautiful high dollar suit, and I look up and it’s Paul McCartney. He’s just walking literally two and a half, three feet in front of me. I thought, Oh my God, my whole life I always thought I’d love to meet one of The Beatles. So something just jumped out at me and I went, “Mr McCartney” and he turned around and walked right up to me, and I discovered I’m the same exact height as him, and we shook hands and I could tell his hands just didn’t have that work feel. I’m not going to say it was a fish grip but it was definitely an artist grip. I said, “Hi Paul, my name’s Mick.” “Well hi Mick, how ya doing? Is everything going ok?” And I went, “Well, yeah, Paul, how about yourself?” And he had this funny look and he kind of looked around and goes, “Actually, it’s funny, you know. No one’s ever asked me that. Yeah, things are good.” And he started to walk away and I said, “Listen Paul,” as he’s walking away. I said, “Paul, thanks for all the great music” and he turns around and gives me one of those thumbs up like he does, you know (laughs). Like, “Alright man, cheers mate” and walked away. And I was like, Oh my God, I just had a moment MYSELF with Paul McCartney and it was wonderful.
And I came home that night, and I got home really early in the morning cause I lived far from Reno, and I said, “Mom, out of all the people in the world, guess who I met?” And she goes, “Paul McCartney.” Cause she knew that I wanted to meet one of The Beatles and I said, Yeah. Then about like a day later, she pulled out the paper and she goes, “Look, Paul had dinner at this place in Reno and then went to the Prince show.” But she was so thrilled for me that I got to meet Paul McCartney. Listen, can you imagine who Paul McCartney is and for him to just take that time out, turn around and come right in my personal space and right there face-to-face. I just wanted to say hi and thanks and he knew it and that’s what he did and he took that time out to do that. My goodness gracious, I don’t think I’ll ever, ever doubt anybody who wants to take the time to meet me again. It was fantastic. I’ll take that one to my grave. It’s just unbelievable that a person of his stature, how can he walk the streets. How can he do anything without cameras, people screaming at him all day long. And there I was another one doing it and it was just the right moment where he took that time to say hi. And you know, I think he would take the time to say hi to anybody, even in a large group, he would take the time. It was freaking amazing. So that’s my biggest rock star experience.
There’s been some others, a lot of them have been letdowns. A lot of them, when you grow up you think your favorite rock star is this way or that way and when you meet them or someone in their band and that guy’s a jerk to you, it just pops your little bubble.
I’m sorry to hear that
Oh no, the truth is the truth and it’s better to know the truth than not to, you know what I mean. Be glad that I discovered the real thing. Listen, a lot of it isn’t the person. A lot of it has to do with their fame and the pressures of this business. They can be gigantic and maybe somewhere in your career you will interview somebody and you think they’re a total jerk but if you meet them twenty years later in a bar, you’ll probably have the best time of your life (laughs) It’s just one of those moments. You never know. Like today, if my washer or dryer wasn’t working, I’d be the biggest dick to you right now (laughs) But everything’s ok today so you’re getting the best of me.
How did you meet George Lynch?
Well, I lived in northern California, and I was still living at home. I think I was sixteen, put an ad in the paper. I was playing with these guys, we were going to be a glitter rock band, or we were a glitter rock band, and we needed a guitar player. Well, he answered the ad and it turned out he lived very close to me, where my parents lived. He was seventeen, maybe eighteen; I think we’re two years apart. And I became pretty serious. I mean, I was serious at a young age of wanting to chase this dream that I had, which I’m living now, WOO (laughs). He had never met anybody like that and thought, “Wow, I have that in me but I never met anybody like you that wanted to go there.” I said, “Well, let’s stay together and follow this through.” He was originally from Los Angeles, California, and we were in northern California at the time, so he said, “Listen, I’m going to go back to LA and I’m going to live there and you should come down.” So when we did, that’s that night we went up to Hollywood and met Kim Fowley and Rodney (laughs) and being the fact that we could even get in those dressing rooms and meet these people. And we had a look, we were thin, we were young, we looked like Leif Garrett and Ron Wood (laughs). So these people picked up on that and were like, we’ll rent some studio time and rehearsal time and come down and play for us. So that started that ball rolling and George saw that you can do this. I don’t think George ever had it in his mind; it must have been in his mind, but then I was the one who sparked it. And I thought, you know, dude, you can – did I say dude? (laughs) That’s LA – and I said, dude, we can. I just had no fear or was too young and too stupid to know any better. I just thought there was no way they were going to stop us, let’s go. And you know what, we just followed that path. It took a lot of weird turns and you know God has his way, like, you’re going to be a rock star? You can but you got to play with Don Dokken (laughs) Well, there’s where the trouble began. I mean, no one wanted to play with Don and there we were: You’re going to be a rock star but you’re going to be in this band. And George hated that, you know. He hated playing with Don.
We didn’t have too much problem making music. Anything else would be a hassle. Although even the music, it got involved but I don’t think the musical fights were anything different than any other band has. But these personal things, you know, who’s who and the name of the band, it became horrible. I think George still carries tons of that around, I know Don does, and Jeff and I were just lucky enough to sort of skim through it. I mean, we were scarred from it as well but whatever. It was horrible, very horrible.
So what is the secret to playing with Don?
Well, the secret for me was to finally give up my membership to the band and have Don buy me out as an owner. So Don literally owns the band now, the name, the whole bit. At the time there were so many lawsuits, and I just had the IRS so far up my ass that I couldn’t believe it, and my father told me, “Even if you get this IRS off your butt you have these huge lawsuits with Don Dokken. Maybe you should consider giving that up.” And I thought, “Well, my career is sown up with Dokken, I could probably let that go and take a chance.” In other words, I’ll be an original member but you got to pay me (laughs). And I think it was one of the best things I ever did cause literally Don was never a team player with anybody anyway. So being a member with him you were just going to incur everything he’d done wrong. So I thought, let this go. And since then, I’ve never worried about it. Now, I consider myself a member of Dokken but I’m really just a hired gun.
And it’s ok playing with him? No problems?
Because of that, I don’t have any of his problems. I adore the guy but I hate the guy and I adore the guy at the same time. I think he’s a kick, I think he’s a mess, I think he’s a horrible businessman. I don’t have a lot of great things to say about him but I try to keep it so light that I can have something good to say about him like, “Well, have a drink with me at the bar” and we have fun after the show. But anything else besides that (laughs), getting him anywhere on time, it’s a nightmare.
And I would say this to his face and he knows that (laughs) I don’t think I’ve said anything bad here. I think it’s just the truth. He’s a strange person, he doesn’t make great business decisions. But Listen, he will say that himself. He knows. But some people can’t control themselves. You are what you are.
And I don’t care what people say and that’s the best part of being free with the truth. When you don’t care, when you’re really doing the truth, whatever, and whatever people say, that’s what they want to say. I don’t really care. I’m fifty-seven years old. I have tons of regrets, everything I’ve ever done wrong in my life I regret but it doesn’t mean I’m afraid of anything I’ve done. Listen, I’m still playing with the guy so if I sit here and talk bad about Don Dokken, well, how much better of a person could I be by playing with him? You know, there’s a lot of love there too. I mean, I am in a band with the guy, we play lots of gigs together. I could bad mouth the guy all I want but I’m still playing with him. That doesn’t make me that much better of a person, you know (laughs)
What was it like on the Strip when you guys were first starting out?
It was the most fantastic thing, ok. Christmas, your birthday, Easter, Thanksgiving, Columbus Day, Lincoln’s Day, Washington, all in one (laughs) First off, drug abuse was HUGE and drugs were phenomenal. Oh my God, cocaine was the ticket. Not only were we doing cocaine, we were smoking pot, we were drinking, we were fucking, anything you could possibly do. And I will tell you what, drug abuse isn’t good for anybody but I enjoyed every second of it. It was wonderful. It was the funnest time of my life (laughs). It was phenomenal and we had the best time. You were a rock star and you were wearing clothes that we knew you couldn’t wear in any town except on the Strip (laughs). We were the shit. Our hair was creating new hairstyles. It was fucking phenomenal, absolutely phenomenal. It was like, Oh my God, this is insane. Everything was going according to plan, up until later in life with the IRS and it came crashing down. As high as the high was, the low was as low, and even lower, than the high.
What was the difference between Dokken with Juan Croucier and Dokken with Jeff Pilson?
Well, Juan was only in the band a short time and he played better with Bobby Blotzer, who is the drummer in Ratt. They had a better style together. I mean, we would have left him in the band, but Juan goes, “No, I got a chance to be in this band called Ratt” and at the same time they were making their way towards fame as Dokken was with the record companies and things. So we decided, well, we need a new bass player and that’s when we got Jeff. And Jeff did wonderful for us. I couldn’t be much luckier with a guy who’s personality was that kind of way because, thank God, I needed someone, and I’m not going to say be on my side, but to be on that same space I was, while George and Don went at it. Jeff and I would kind of go, Oh God, let’s try and pull this together and figure it out somehow.
How do you and Jeff connect so well musically?
We connected well as people and he has a sense of humor and I do and he could see that I was very passionate about it and I was focused enough. Jeff, back then, seemed to be a bigger personality. When it got confusing with recordings and tapes and things, I would get a little bit like, I don’t know what’s going on; I’m confused with the amount of tape or recordings that we’re doing. And I would come back at a different level and focus altogether and Jeff was good with sort of keeping it focused along the way.
What about on stage? What is the magic?
I don’t feel that there was a magic between Jeff and I. I just think we knew how to focus better live, we were on the same page every time we worked together, focused more than the other guys. Don or George would get very confused and lost and we would wrangle them up and go, “No, no, look, you got this going on here and here’s what you need to do.” Jeff and I would see the outcome. And Jeff and I liked The Beatles and we could sing together. Like I said, we were just from the same page as musicians.
When “In My Dreams” was huge and everywhere you turned, did you ever get sick of it?
Never, ever. Believe me, back then when you heard anything that you did, it was always great to hear it as much as you could. Sick of it? No. And anytime you played it, that was one of the crowd favorites. “Alone Again” when that exploded, that became the big song, that was the one I heard more than anything. And I never thought that song was going to be it. I didn’t hear that song until it was on the radio, and then I went, Oh my God, what a song. But never “In My Dreams.”
I heard a long time ago, when “Heaven Sent” came out and you did the video, that you filmed it in New Orleans. Is that true?
Yes, it is true. In fact, it was at a plantation, all on site there, and it was about 175 feet below sea level. There’s something about being below sea level, weird pressure, moldy, and that’s where all that weird weeping willow shit looked like in the video. And there was a girl who was in it, and they kept saying there was going to be this Cajun girl, and I was like, What’s a Cajun girl? And she showed up and she had hairy armpits and the whole thing (laughs) and that was her. And everything was all voodoo and whooooo (laughs) but listen, we got into it a little bit. Ok, cut, where’s the booze? Put the stinky Cajun girl over there and shut up, you know. And that’s how it went.
Did you like making the videos?
Some of them I did, some I hated. Most of them I didn’t like. I didn’t think they were very creative. You know, you spend a long time in the studio creating music and then, well, I didn’t like how commercial it had become. It was the same video no matter what band. Here, do this and we’ll do a cut on the drummer and then there was something else like the girl. Who needed a fucking girl in the damn video? Nobody. Let’s just fucking play and show the band playing. Show more of the band live, show the band playing. I don’t give a shit about the girl in the story or answering the phone or fucking walking down the street. It was all bullshit, you know. It was so boring, man. The only thing anybody who wanted to watch MTV is for those bands playing with those amplifiers and those instruments and these cuts on the drummer and stuff. I just didn’t want to see any of that other shit, you know. I hated waiting through the latest Pat Benatar video to watch the latest Whitesnake video. I hated it, I hated it.
Even the “Dream Warriors” video with Freddy Krueger?
I hated it. It was stupid. I mean, that goofy looking Freddy, oh God. That’s the one of all that I hated the most. It was god-awful (laughs). It’s silly. Now today it’s silly-funny, but we were being serious while it happened and I thought, Oh God, this is horrible.
As a drummer, what is the hardest thing about playing live?
I don’t know as a drummer. When I’m playing with Ted Nugent, it’s not hard. The hardest thing is, at my age, is getting my body up to speed where the first show I’m not going to hurt myself, because later in life when you play drums that long for a living you can hurt ligaments and wrists and things. I know that sounds old man but, ok, I’m an old man. These days, when I play with Dokken, I never use my own equipment, I’m always at the mercy of rented gear that is there and that’s the hardest part, trying to set it up so that I can try and be comfortable to play, which is never, ever, comfortable, and I have to play in front of these large audiences and try and get that across. That’s the hardest part.
Nugent has a new live DVD out, Ultralive Ballisticrock, and the first thing I noticed was that he talks so much during his shows.
In the old days, he never did talk that much but nowadays he does.
Have you ever been caught off-guard by him when he’s called you out?
(laughs) Every night. I’m telling you, if you don’t listen to every word he says, he somehow has eyes in the back of his head where he’ll do something just to see if you’re listening. And yes, it’s one of the most remarkable things for me to play with him because it’s very challenging, it’s a wonderful experience, he’s an original and you want to back him up. And he’s real sharp so you must be on the ball. I’ve learned over the years to keep my eye on him cause he can still throw you a curb.
What has surprised you the most about your career?
The fact that I wasn’t rich, wealthy, totally wealthy. It didn’t surprise me cause I saw where the demise came but even in today’s world I thought I should be paid ten times more than what I’m being paid now. It just amazes me how artists don’t get paid near as much as sports figures. I mean, some guy dribbling a damn basketball down the court and throwing it at a hoop? Forget it. That’s nothing compared to a guitar player or drummer of a band who can create music and give some art to people. They should be paid hundreds on top of what they do. I think we should be paid far more than [sports stars]. That surprises me the most.
We brought up Ratt earlier. You guys were on the Strip and becoming famous at the same time. Do you have a special memory about Robbin Crosby?
I do. Robbin, to me, he had a really cool hip charisma about him. So when you were with him you thought you were in the know. No matter where you were, you thought you were standing on Sunset Strip with him. And he was tall, he had that smile and he talked to you very personable. He was right there in the moment with you. Don took me to his house one time. This is a great story (laughs). He took me to his house and we were just sitting around his house drinking or getting high or something and there was this Dingo dog running around the house. I kept playing with this dog and Robbin goes, “Mick, that dog’s been in movies.” I don’t know if he told me if it was Mad Max or whatever, but he goes, “This dog knows some tricks.” So he said, “Give me your pack of smokes.” (laughs) I pull out my pack of smokes and he had the dog sit and he put this pack of smokes balanced on his nose. So this pack of cigarettes standing straight up on this dog’s nose and here’s this dog looking cross-eyed right at it (laughs). And he goes, “Don’t say anything.” And I go ok and I’m standing there and he walks a few steps back, and he goes, “Watch, watch” and then he said the dog’s name and the dog flung the cigarettes up off his nose and caught them in his mouth (laughs). I thought it was the coolest thing ever. And you know what, that was a great story and I have many with Robbin but that one struck me as funny cause it was a dog involved.
But I think Don had a soft spot for Robbin and I didn’t know it until Robbin died [in 2002] and Don wrote this song called, oh what was it called, “Last Train Ride” or something like that [“Bitter Regret” off Shadowlife]. It’s on one of our records but it was about Robbin and Don told me, “It’s about Robbin dying” and there was a lot of passion and sorrow in the lyrics in that song. Normally, Don gets me involved in a lot of lyrics so this was the one he did on his own and I thought, wow, Don had a lot of love for Robbin and that one touched me quite a bit.
It’s sad that he passed away how he did
Sad, yes it is. But actually I never saw him through any of the suffering or death period. I only knew him in the fun period. And when he was dying, I heard these horrible stories and everything and he ripped off guitars at Guitar Center when he was working there and he was a fat slob and you discover all this shit and it was horrible. And I’m glad I missed all that cause all I have is good memories from the guy. It was always strange to me, and we weren’t real close, but it was wonderful the times we were together. And he seemed to get a big kick out of me cause we’d laugh and I think outside of the box a lot and he got that, you know. And the trick with the dog (laughs).
I bet you’re the life of every party, Mick
I am but listen, I’m fifty-seven now. I got to tell you, I’ve slowed up. I’ve made some mistakes. Listen, I’m fun but it’s not about sneaking in the bathroom and doing blow anymore. All those days are gone. I’m a different guy. I’m a living human being that’s been through the ups and downs and falling off that big horse was not easy, man, when you’re famous and coming off that and then having the IRS up your ass and losing everything. Then starting over and now trying to make a living out of it. That’s where I’m at and I’m enjoying the good times; not the stuff that almost killed me. I’m glad to say I did it all and I don’t feel like I missed a minute of it cause I never did (laughs). I never missed a second of it. But I don’t want to do that again cause it would kill me.
When I interviewed Don last year, he said that Broken Bones was going to be the last Dokken album. Have you heard anything more?
No, I haven’t heard anything different. I mean, what’s the inspiration to record anymore. No one pays for it, it’s all stolen. I mean, the worst part of it is the artists have tons of music that they would love to do but if there’s not a reward for it and to actually make a living, that’s how you survive in life, then what the fuck, why give them all that shit, give them your soul, for free. Fuck everybody who takes and steals music. Everybody’s done it, I’ve done it. I try avoid doing it at any cost because it costs a lot of money to make those recordings and these days you can’t recoup that.
Who is in Dokken now? It’s you, Don, Sean McNabb and Jon Levin, correct?
You know, those members have been in the band longer than any of the original Dokken members. Jon Levin has been in years and years longer than George Lynch, and is far better of a player. He is just a wonderful guitar player and to play with. And Sean McNabb has been in the band longer than any of the original members. Recently, the original members said, “Oh we have a big offer to do next year in Japan and stuff,” and Don said, “I just don’t want to do it. I don’t want to play with you guys and I don’t want to split up the …” It just didn’t work out and it’s not going to happen.
What would be one thing that fans would be surprised to know about you?
I’m very neat and clean (laughs). Listen, especially being Wild Mick Brown, all my fans think maybe I’m out of control. I HAVE been out of control in my life. But I’m very much in control; I’m out of control in my musical life. Here’s something that might be surprising, I have two lives: One is in music and it’s that rock star thing; and the other one is my home life. When I am here sitting in my home, like I am right now speaking to you, I can walk over to my kitchen over there and grab that sponge and just wipe down the countertop and just sponge away talking to you and that will make me feel oh so comfortable (laughs). I’m a Virgo so I know where all the forks are, I know where all the batteries are, I know where all the candles are, I know where all the plates go, I know where all the paper for the printer goes. I’m very, very organized. Most people don’t know that I’m that organized. I live by myself. I’ve never been married and I don’t have any kids. And this is by choice. And that might surprise some people.
Let’s talk PlayStation. I don’t think I want to get between you and your PlayStation.
(laughs) I know, isn’t it silly. Fifty-seven years old and a big night out to me is playing that PlayStation with my buddy. I’m telling you, we get in here, we put the drinks down and we just start going, man. I’m telling you, I love it. PlayStation to me was one of the things that kept me in my home instead of going out to nightclub, nightclub, nightclub. You know, this nightclub scene is turning into nothing, especially in Phoenix, where there really is no scene. I thought, you know, I’m pretty much burned out on it and I really didn’t like the people I was meeting and things. So PlayStation brought me home and thank God for that. I rather enjoy being home. I mean, home’s not so bad (laughs). It’s got everything you want, you know what I mean.
What are your favorite games?
I love Gran Turismo. I love anything Grid – Grid 1, Grid 2 – anything racing. I’m a race nut. I do Superbike, I do all the MotoGPs; anything racing. I’m not a gun guy. It doesn’t mean I don’t like guns, it’s just the games bore me with the shooter kind of thing. That gets old to me fast. So racing is everything. You can ghost race with your friend. You get a full screen with the ghost car and racing against your buddy. I think that’s really fun. I love the competitiveness. That’s what I really like most.
And I bet you have the big screen TV
Of course I do (laughs). You know what I never understood? Why don’t girls get involved? This isn’t just going to be a guy thing, it should be a girls world too. Girls just don’t get PlayStation. They’re busy, wives, tending house, I guess. Listen, I feel like I’m a wife. I got to take care of my own ass, I do my own fricking laundry, I got to go to Safeway to do my grocery shopping, I got to vacuum the floor, I got to clean the mirror. But I got time for this damn game (laughs) Where’s the women? There are none. Women are not involved in it.
I’m trying to picture you shopping at Safeway.
You know what, here is the picture: Grocery store, late night, no one in it, Led Zeppelin is playing in the stereo speakers and you’re just marching around going, “Oh, I didn’t know there was brown rice like that” and you throw that in. “Look at this, this is some turkey cranberry stuff” and you just wander around. Then you go up to the counter, ding-ding-ding-ding, “Anybody here?” and they run down to meet you cause late night there’s no one there. So I do all my shopping late night. That’s the picture (laughs)
Is that because after all these years you’re naturally a night owl?
Yeah, absolutely. My parents and I talked about that when I lived with them for a short time. I said, “I can’t sleep at night.” And they were like, “What do you mean?” And I go, “Well, my whole adult life has been nighttime.” Here’s my day, my normal day when I’m playing: Wake up at six or seven, take a shower, get outside the hotel, van picks you up and takes you to the show. You got an hour there to get your clothes on and kind of stretch out and talk about what you’re doing. You play the show, then you sit around there waiting for the crew to pack it all up, which is hours, then you go back to the hotel, take a shower, jump back on that tour bus, ride all night to the next place. 8:30/9:00 in the morning, get myself, the guitar player and the bass player off the bus and in the hotel, sleep all day until noon when you wake up, do lunch, come back, jump back in bed and sleep again. And then start that whole routine all over again. So it’s all nighttime I’m awake, you know. So I’m a very good day sleeper.
Like today, I got up early in the morning. If I get up early, I can tackle some stuff, if the stores are open and you know, I got to buy socks here, do this there, got to get something there. Ok, bam. I come back. I play drums for a couple of minutes on my drum set which is by my bed (laughs). I might have a cocktail at 10:30 in the morning with my sushi or something. Then BAM, I’m out, just out till maybe 1:00, when I know I’ve got to get up and get some sunshine on me, cause it’s sunny here, why not take advantage. Jump down to the pool. I go in the pool and do ten laps of some exercise and then I lay in the sun for an hour. So 2:00, I’m back up. I do another lunch, or eating again, followed by more cocktails (laughs) then pass out till I talk to you. I’m looking at my cocktail right now, which needs refreshing. I’m going to do that and I’m going to say goodbye to you, and my friend is going to show up at 10:00 and I’m going to play PlayStation all night and start it again. Isn’t it a wonderful life? (laughs) I mean, Jesus Christ, that’s not so bad.
Cause it makes you happy
You know what, you just said everything. If I wasn’t, I’d figure another way to do it. My happiness comes from exactly where I want it to come from. It doesn’t mean it’s always right. I suffer a lot in life because of my happiness. I don’t know how to deal with the real world that well, and I call it the real world, meaning anything other than my rules, and I have a lot of trouble with that. When I’m in my element, it’s wonderful. I try and stay in my element, which is within the rules and boundaries, other than golf carts, of the real world, but boy it’s tricky for me. It’s very tricky for me. I don’t think a lot of artists have ever had luck with that. But there I am.
Life is short
That is so true and some of the things I’ve been through some people never come out happy and drag the baggage around forever. I was born, obviously, very lucky with this happiness thing in me. Everything to me is funny, everything to me should be humorous. It hasn’t always been fruitful for me to think that way but boy I tell you what, it keeps me happy. And that’s enough. You can never laugh enough and you can’t smile enough. Listen, if you’re doing it, there is no such thing as too much. That’s the one thing I don’t think you can do. You have to be realistic in life but if you can do any of that in it, Oh my God, don’t ever let that go – ever, ever, ever. And I don’t think you will if you are born with it. Because if you’re still doing it now, it’s already installed in you; just like it is in me. I’m just too much for the normal people. You sit around with the family down the street, I’m like a circus freak to them but my energy levels are ten times compared to theirs. And theirs seems like minus nine, you know.
Live photos by Jo Anna Jackson