DON DOKKEN Says DOKKEN Members Split Money Equally In Early Days: 'Looking Back, I Could Say It Was A Stupid Thing To Do'

December 30, 2023

In a recent interview with the "On The Road To Rock With Clint Switzer" podcast, DOKKEN leader Don Dokken explained why he and his bandmates decided in the beginning to split their songwriting royalties equally between the four members of the group. He said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "DOKKEN was a very unusual band. When I formed the band, even though I'd been DOKKEN for years and years before I met George [Lynch, former DOKKEN guitarist] and Jeff [Pilson, former DOKKEN bassist] and Mick [Brown, former DOKKEN drummer] — I'd already toured Germany twice — but when we finally came together, I said, 'Let's make it simple. You write a hit, you write a hit, you write a hit, we'll just split it four ways. It doesn't matter who writes what. May the best songs win.' And that's how it was. Now, looking back, I could say it was a stupid thing to do, because I wrote a lot of the hits and I gave up 75 percent to the three of them. So instead of me getting four bucks, I got a dollar and Mick got a dollar and George got a dollar and Jeff got a dollar and the management took theirs and the accountants took theirs, and I thought, 'Jesus.' I go, 'I lost millions' writing 'In My Dreams' and 'Just Got Lucky' or 'Alone Again'. I mean, I can name a bazillion songs that I wrote by myself on the guitar and wrote all the music. But that's the deal we made. We were nobody. We weren't famous. Hey, if George wrote a hit, I get money. Jeff writes a hit, I get money. Mick's the one that scored. He didn't write. We rehearsed the songs for a week, go into a rehearsal studio, flesh it all out, pick the 12 best songs, Mick comes in the studio for four or five days, knocks out his drums and he goes to the drug dealer and then he heads off for the Rainbow [Bar & Grill in West Hollywood]. I said, 'Mick, you scored. You made millions of dollars and all you had to do was spend a couple of weeks playing drums.'"

Almost a decade ago, Lynch spoke about the breakup of the classic DOKKEN lineup in 1989, telling Guitar Interactive magazine: "Here's the things that happens in a band… especially in our era, in the '80s, and I don't know, even now probably… But if you have a record deal, or a master deal, for a certain amount of time, and you have increasing record sales, and then you get to the point where the deal ends, your managers come in and renegotiate and you get paid. Then you're set for life — possibly. That's when everything changes. That's what you worked for for those however many years. This is where all your… Everything you've invested in time and energy, you get paid back for. And the singer [Don Dokken], at that point, decided that he wanted it all, he didn't wanna share it with [the rest of] us, and he let us know that. So after this [Monsters Of Rock] tour [in 1988 with VAN HALEN, METALLICA and SCORPIONS], where we were gonna go out and play in front of hundreds of thousands of people and get paid lots of money, [he basically said] 'I'm gonna try to take the whole thing and run with it, and you guys are gonna get left in the dust, and if you're lucky, I might hire you [to play in my band].' And you have to go on stage like that."

He continued: "The reason that we were on fire before that — we were so dedicated, we kept persevering — was because we were all working for something. It wasn't even for the money, it was just to get to that point. And success on all levels — musically and financially, so we could be secure, and all these things, for all the right reasons. And we took care of each other, and we were an equal-split band, and I fought for that. And by Monsters Of Rock, when Don announced that he was gonna, basically, try to grab the negotiation brass ring and keep it to himself, that backfired on all of us. Financially, it backfired on all of us, 'cause we didn't get that massive… At that point, I think, that year MÖTLEY CRÜE got a 25-million-dollar deal, ANTHRAX got a 12.5-million-dollar deal, we would have been fine. Basically, we had a lot of leverage. We were gonna be a free agent, so it was really a shame. It just didn't go right for anybody. So I went on to form LYNCH MOB, which did pretty well."

DOKKEN's current lineup consists of Don alongside bassist Chris McCarvill, guitarist Jon Levin and drummer BJ Zampa (HOUSE OF LORDS).

DOKKEN's 13th studio album, "Heaven Comes Down", came out in October via Silver Lining Music. The follow-up to "Broken Bones" was produced by Bill Palmer and Don Dokken and was mixed by Kevin Shirley (AEROSMITH, IRON MAIDEN).

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