Don Dokken: "With Dokken it wasn’t tension, the problem was drug abuse"

The Don (second from left) and his new-look band
The Don (second from left) and his new-look band

Although US melodic hard rockers Dokken sold millions of albums during the 1980s, simmering differences between vocalist Don Dokken and guitarist George Lynch meant they would never last. As their latest incarnation prepares to fly into the UK for Ramblin’ Man Fair, leader Dokken says there will be no further activity from the classic-era line-up after last year’s brief reunion in Japan.

Dokken played at the inaugural Rockingham Festival in 2015. Did you enjoy that?

Yeah. Coming to England involves a lot of travel but it’s always fun. We were never too successful there, but the band has its hard-core fan base.

There was some confusion when Dokken were confirmed for Ramblin’ Man Fair. Somebody mistakenly said you’d be appearing with George, Jeff Pilson and ‘Wild’ Mick Brown.

Nah. That won’t happen again.

Wasn’t it a possibility, despite the 2016 reunion shows?

I won’t be playing with those guys again. Mick is still in the band but he, myself, Jon Levin [guitar] and Chris [McCarvill, bass] are Dokken.

It’s sometimes said that internal tension can be a positive thing to drive a band. Look at The Who.

I don’t agree with that. Who wants to be stressed out in their career? There’s a difference between tension and competitiveness. Daltrey and Townshend were competitive writers. With Dokken it wasn’t tension, the problem was mostly drug abuse, which I wasn’t into.

Ramblin’ Man Fair. Somebody mistakenly said you’d be appearing with George, Jeff Pilson and ‘Wild’ Mick Brown.

Nah. That won’t happen again.

Wasn’t it a possibility, despite the 2016 reunion shows?

I won’t be playing with those guys again. Mick is still in the band but he, myself, Jon Levin [guitar] and Chris [McCarvill, bass] are Dokken.

It’s sometimes said that internal tension can be a positive thing to drive a band. Look at The Who.

I don’t agree with that. Who wants to be stressed out in their career? There’s a difference between tension and competitiveness. Daltrey and Townshend were competitive writers. With Dokken it wasn’t tension, the problem was mostly drug abuse, which I wasn’t into.

Should we expect a ‘best of’ set‑list at Ramblin’ Man?

Yeah. I’ve done thirteen records, but I choose not to play the songs from those big-selling records over and over again. It’s not interesting for me.

Five years ago you said that Broken Bones would be the last Dokken album.

I’ve changed my mind on that, and we’ve just started writing a new record. I’m a musician. It’s not about money or glory. The bottom has fallen out of the business, but I’ve gotta write. I also want to do a blues record, maybe.

You also railed against those advising how Dokken should sound, saying: “Do you think someone stood over Picasso telling him [how to paint]?”

When Paul McCartney makes a record, would somebody tell him he needs to write another Long And Winding Road, or another Sgt Pepper? It’s kind of silly, don’t you think?

Seven years after your surgery for vocal nodes and tears, how is the voice holding up?

It’s really good, the best it’s been in years actually. I’m taking better care of myself. We were good at Rockingham but we’ll be way better this time. Coming in straight off the plane, my voice was a little tired. This time I have a day off before the show.

Dokken play the Ramblin’ Man Fair on July 29

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