The Dead Daisies gather no moss

An Australian-based supergroup consisting of members of The Rolling Stones, Guns & Rose and INXS touches down in Tel Aviv.

Dead Daisies 370 (photo credit: Katrina Benzova)
Dead Daisies 370
(photo credit: Katrina Benzova)
It’s not every day – actually never – that a member of The Rolling Stones comes to Israel to perform. But on Saturday night, one of the Stones will be joining mates from Guns & Roses and former members of INXS for a retro evening of 4/4 rhythms, bluesy “Sticky Fingers” riffs and classic rock vibes.
It may be a disappointment to some that the Stone in question isn’t Keith Richards but longtime bassist Darryl Jones. But that regret will only be temporary when the power and shambolic charm of the band Jones’s bass is anchoring – the Dead Daisies – becomes apparent.
A supergroup of sorts, Dead Daisies is the primary vehicle these days for veteran Aussie rockers Jon Stevens and David Lowy.
Stevens, an alumni of ‘80s band Noiseworks and the replacement for Michael Hutchence in INXS for four years, and Lowy, late of Mink and Red Phoenix, teamed up earlier this year with Jones and current Guns & Rose guitarist and keyboardist respectively, Richard Fortus and Dizzy Reed, and former drummer for The Cult and Richards’ side project the X-Pensive Winos, Charley Drayton, for a return to the early 1970s riff-driven rock of groups like Free, The Faces, and of course, The Stones.
“Those groups were the blueprint for what David and I set out to do,” a jovial Stevens told The Jerusalem Post last week from Leeds, where the group was in the midst of a UK tour performing with the Black Star Riders, the latest incarnation of former Thin Lizzy members.
“The idea was to keep it simple, it’s rock with big choruses and guitar hooks. In this day and age of technology, musicianship is not so common. You’re not even sure if a lot of the music you hear today is real, and when you go to concerts, you think ‘are they really doing that?’ And more often than not, you find out that they aren’t.
“David and I decided to make an album that was simple and that we could play live – it’s old school, like the Stones, the Faces and Free. We’re older musicians, what else are we going to do? Press a button and sing along? That’s karaoke.”
And that was the farthest thing from Stevens’ and Lowy’s – both Australian rock staples – minds when they got together to write songs last year.
After succeeding as a pop star in his native New Zealand in the 1970s, Stevens moved to Australia where he continued his streak in the ‘80s with the Sydney band Noiseworks.
When INXS decided to carry on in 2000 following the 1997 suicide of lead singer Hutchence, Stevens was a natural choice and he fronted the popular band for three years. Meanwhile, Lowy was making his name as a guitar hero for popular bands like Mink and Red Phoenix. Although they had crossed paths many times, Stevens and Lowy only got down to the business of making music together after a mutual friend matched them up.
“We had talked about doing something together six or seven years ago, but we both got sidetracked. But when we got together last year, we decided to try writing together,” said Stevens. “Man Overboard” [a rouser from their eponymous debut album] was the first song, and we said, ‘man, we’ve got something here.’ I think we wrote five more songs that day. There was a great chemistry between us.”
The project quickly morphed into a full-fledged album, recorded in two weeks with LA-based engineer, producer, and multi-instrumentalist John Fields and featuring some top studio musicians and old friends of Steven’s and Lowy’s.
It included a song Stevens had written with ex-Guns & Roses guitar-slinger Slash years earlier called “Lock and Load” that brought a high-profile element to the proceedings.
Even before the album had been released, the nascent band had created a buzz in Australia and Stevens and Lowy had been invited to open tours for both ZZ Top and Aerosmith.
“It was one of those things where we went – ‘whoa, we had better put a band together,’ said Stevens. “The first thing I did was call an old, dear friend, Charley Drayton, and asked him to join us as drummer.”
Drayton, who’s played with everyone from The Cult and on Richards’ solo albums and tours to The Divinyls and Fiona Apple, suggested some other names for the group, including his friends in G&R, guitarist Fortus, who was on an Axl Rose-induced hiatus from the group. Fortus brought in his bandmate, keyboard player Reed.
“It was like an old boy’s network, with one person bringing the next one in. And together, it’s new music, a new band and new vibe. It’s fresh,” said Stevens. “We’re all experienced musicians, and it’s a good easy hang together.”
With Jones, who was also on hiatus from The Stones proving to be the missing link, the Dead Daisies have spent the last few months bringing the album to life in concert, as well as few well-placed covers like The Beatles’ “Helter Skelter.”
The Yorkshire Evening Post lauded their “tight, professional set” last week in Yorkshire and called their music “stylish classic rock melded with blues... there is nothing dead about this band.”
Stevens said that he and Lowy were cognizant of the fact that their band mates would eventually have to return to their “day jobs” and force the Dead Daisies into a hiatus of its own, or into finding new players.
But it hasn’t prevented them from enjoying each other’s company and talent.
“The main thing is that everyone wants to be part of this,” he said. “The reality that everyone has to return to their main bands is always there. Darryl goes back to the Stones early next year, and Guns & Roses are going out on tour in March. So we have an open door policy regarding the band. In fact, our show in Tel Aviv might be the last time for a very long time that this lineup performs together.”
The group arrived in Israel earlier this week, and Tuesday night were slated to perform a closed, invitation-only show at the Shabloul club in Tel Aviv (broadcast on 88 FM) to heighten the interest for Saturday’s main event at the Barby Club. For the veterans of mega-shows at arenas and stadium, performing in small confines in close proximity to the audience is made to order for their type of music.
“It’s so refreshing, it’s really back to the trenches,” said Stevens. “In many of our shows in the UK, the audience doesn’t even know us and we have to win them over.
That’s what’s great, we all love that – seeing the audience reaction up close.”
“When people kind of realize who they’re looking at and listening to, they go ‘oh shoot, no wonder.’”