Don Dokken is a metal madman. As lead singer of his namesake band, he has sold more than 10 million albums and toured the world. Some 35 years into his storied career, he shows no sign of slowing down, with a gig Friday at the M3 Rock Festival in Columbia, Maryland.
But the road to the top hasn’t always been easy, as Mr. Dokken said in a chat about his legendary career, the bitter fights between himself and Dokken guitarist George Lynch, knife-wielding female fans and what “Rockin’ With Dokken” is really like.
Question: Where was Dokken’s first real live gig?
Answer: The first real gig was in the red light district of Reeperbahn, Germany. I wanted to play where the Beatles had played. We were nobody. Some guy owned a club and said, “Come over.” [This was] 1979.
That was where I met Lemmy [Kilmister] from Motorhead for the first time. I said, “I’m from LA, and man, you’re Lemmy!” He said, “You buying?” We drank all night.
Q: Who is in the band these days?
A: It’s kind of fractured right now. [Drummer] Mick [Brown] and I are the original members. [Bassist] Jeff [Pilson] left years ago and went to Foreigner, which is a good, steady gig for him. And [guitarist] George [Lynch] and I have always butted heads.
I now have Jon Levin on guitar and Mark Boals on bass.
Q: What happened to the rumored reunion with all the original members?
A: We’ve been talking for years now. The fans have been begging us to get back together. Awhile back, we all met. What a meeting!
[We] went to Jeff’s studio and banged out three brand-new songs [and] met with a promoter. Jeff can’t do it [because of] too many commitments with Foreigner. And George has a new thing with Michael Sweet from Stryper. So
Q: What do you and George fight about?
A: I finally realized what it was all about when we played a reunion tour of Japan in 1995. It all started again: him playing with his back to the audience. Every time I talked to the audience, he would make these little noises with [his] guitar like a child. I said, “What is the problem? What can I do to make this work?” He pointed at the 20-foot backdrop hanging behind that read “Dokken” and said, “That’s the problem. The name.”
It’s my name, but it’s also the band’s name. Nothing you can do about it.
Q: In the 1980s, was there pressure for you to wear makeup, be styled and be more commercial?
A: I look back at the pictures of us now and think “I saw us on ‘American Bandstand’ with Dick Clark, and I’m wearing a tiger-striped blue leotard with my hair all poofed up.” Horrible. When I started playing, I just wore jeans, a motorcycle jacket and the same boots I’ve had for 20 years. Once we hit arenas, we saw the thing with Motley [Crue] and Ratt, and we started putting on makeup to go on stage. We looked like chicks.
Q: Did you ever have any crazy fans?
A: I had a stalker in 1992 — this Japanese girl who saved up all her money and came to America. She somehow found my house. I had this place with big old Spanish gates and a 10-foot wall. I came home from the studio about 7 in the morning, and this Japanese girl was sitting in my driveway waiting for me with a big butcher knife. She actually scaled the wall.
I asked her what was up, and she said, “You lied to me. You lie to your fans. You have children. You’re married. You say you’re this available bachelor.”
I had kids but wasn’t married. She started coming toward me. I backed out the gate, closed it and jumped in my car [and] ran into a cop car a few blocks away. They went to the house, and she was just sitting there with a butcher knife. They got it away from her, put her in the psych ward and shipped her back to Japan.
Q: Where did the term “Rockin’ With Dokken” come from?
A: That was the record company, because people had a hard time pronouncing the band’s name. They said “dough-ken.” They thought we were German because I had sung background on the Scorpions’ album and our debut album came out in Germany first.
They were having a problem with that, so we started doing this thing “Rockin’ with Dokken” so people would know how to pronounce the name. And it stuck [and] still [does] today. I saw Adam Sandler a few months ago, and he said, “I love your band. I’m still ‘Rockin’ with Dokken.”
Q: Do you have any regrets?
A: No. I’ve made millions and spent millions. I’ve made some mistakes, but I’m an artist. I learned that if you want someone out of your life, all you have to do is loan them 20 bucks.
IF YOU GO:
WHAT: M3 Rock Festival, Day One with Dokken, Dio Disciples, Quiet Riot, Trixter
WHERE: Merriweather Post Pavilion, 10475 Little Patuxent Parkway
Columbia, MD 21044
WHEN: Friday, 4 p.m.
INFO: Tickets $35 to $55 by calling 410/715-5550 or visiting MerriweatherMusic.com