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    Articles Home » Music Talk » Interview With Dokken Guitarist Jon Levin By Thomas Amoriello Jr.
    Interview With Dokken Guitarist Jon Levin By Thomas Amoriello Jr.

    Levin's Law

    Interview with Dokken Guitarist Jon Levin

    By Thomas Amoriello Jr.

    Boston Rock Radio

       

     

    You gotta love a story of an entertainment lawyer turned lead guitarist for a classic 80's metal band!  Sounds like a story for a cool biopic.  Well if you have attended a Dokken gig anytime during the last 17 years then Jon Levin would have been covering those soaring guitar leads live.  Just Got Lucky, Alone Again, In My Dreams and many more hits of the classic lineup that Don Dokken, George Lynch, Jeff Pilson, and Mick Brown released to the MTV generation, sold millions and has kept the band with various lineup changes on the road ever since.  Jon is a fan favorite appearing on the last three studio releases in addition to his stellar live performances from clubs to cruises.  Additionally, Jon is an educator who mentors guitarists online who are looking to explore new avenues in their playing styles.  Jon is a cum laude graduate of Loyola Law School, and is admitted to practice in both the California state courts, and the United States District Court for the Central District of California. Jon has also drafted and negotiated numerous music recording agreements and merchandising licensing agreements involving TV shows such as Dog The Bounty Hunter and Orange County Choppers and entertainment companies such as Sony, Warner Brothers, Epic, Elektra, and other major entertainment companies. Boston Rock Radio would like to thank Jon Levin for this exclusive interview.

     

     

    You have officially been a part of the Dokken camp for close to 20 years appearing on recordings and many tours.  What is your proudest moment to date related to your part as lead guitarist in the band?

    Well I'm very proud of all those recordings we did. Certainly I love the Lightning Strikes Again record and I think the Broken Bones record was my favorite. I spent a lot of time on the solos on that record. In the past at that up to that point I would usually just take one or two passes and pick the one I would like best, and then just do some "punching in" from there. But on the Broken Bones album instead, I set it up so that I could just record over and over on a track as much as I wanted to and I would do that over the course of weeks, and then when I go back and edit it.  It was really interesting to see how different my approaches would be from a day-to-day basis or others like I'm through a whole set of them on one day, then two weeks later without listening to what I would do a whole bunch more. Then I was able to pick you know of what I felt was the best vibe for that particular song so that really worked well. So I could really think that the Broken Bones was my proudest moment in terms of the guitar soloing.

     

    In addition to your work with Dokken, you are also a sought after teacher.  What is something unique that you feel you can offer students as an instructor?  Also, do you currently teach guitar lessons either in person or via Zoom/Skype and where can interested students go to find out more information?

    Yeah I love teaching! In fact, I started an online website called https://www.jonlevinguitars.com/  and it started out as something that I was really not intending on taking it as far as I ended up doing. I played riffs and I broke them down into beginner, intermediate, and advanced and I would play them again close up and then I would slow it down. Then I give a detailed explanation and after that I started putting on the site some of the Dokken solos I played on and practice exercises and it also has the ability to offer Skype lessons, so anybody that is interested in taking lessons should definitely check out https://www.jonlevinguitars.com/ and I think they are really going to like that!

    You are originally from Long Island, New York before you had your first break in the industry playing with Doro, what was your early musical training like growing up in NY? 

    My early musical training in New York I was in a club band called Devious and I dropped out of college after 2 years of attending.  This was in 1986 and I joined a Long Island club band and it's amazing how everything in life is a stepping stone because after a couple years of doing that, a friend of mine, Tommy Henriksen, who still a dear friend of mine today, saw me play at a club and he was in a band called Warlock. Then when they started the Doro Pesch project when they needed a guitar player he called me and got together with him a few times, rehearsed went down to SIR, auditioned then I ended up getting that and that was a great experience me because all of my other musical experience experiences were as a result of that, in other words everything was as a step in the chain and sure enough ended up playing on the Force Majeure record which was a great experience and at 23 years old I got to do a headlining tour of Europe and it was just a wonderful experience there!

     

    Were you in school music programs?  Did you take private guitar lessons?

    I never was in any music school. I did take some private lessons from some local players in Long Island where I grew up, we had a number of really great guitar players so I was exposed to some wonderful players at an early age which would be the source of inspiration for me 

     

    You have been in Dokken through a few changes in the bass lineup studio wise and for touring (Barry Sparks, Sean McNabb, Greg Smith, & Chris McCarvill) during your tenure.  What have you admired in the variety of bass playing styles within the band unit that you have experienced? 

    All the bass players that I got to play with were wonderful. Greg Smith was with us for a while. I was in my first Long Island Club band and he was the bass player in that band I mentioned earlier. Greg was, in my eyes, a Long Island hero. I saw him playing a band called Citron and it was just too me the cream-of-the-crop so playing with him early on was a wonderful experience and he still has the cream-of-the-crop. Anyone who hasn't seen Greg play you should go see him with Ted Nugent.  He is just a wonderful player and singer. Barry Sparks is an incredible talent, really any band that Barry is in is a better band, he's just a great player. Sean McNabb has an excellent feel and can play funk stuff and is really super versatile and an amazing soloist player. And of course Chris McCarvill as well, a great player that really keeps the band moving forward, great drive and soloist. I've been very fortunate as they're all great guys and all wonderful players so great playing with all those guys!

     

    As a co-writer with Don a few Dokken studio recordings, what approach to songwriting did you take when working within the framework of the band's history?

    I usually like to write by starting with a riff that I like and I'll build off that and I record it on my iPhone and then I play them for Don and see what he likes. When he likes something I'll start building it, working on a verse and chorus with handle, rebuild it into a song we're ready now for this new record because of the COVID-19 thing we're doing things a bit differently. I'm actually just taking the riffs that I've written on my own and putting down a verse and a B section and sending that to him all at once so he can get a better picture and he is sending me more completed items everything because you know, the current state of the world is so chaotic that it warrants everything being different. It's still going to be great. I'm really excited about this new record.

     

    Will we ever get a Jon Levin solo album?

    I feel like the solo artistic stuff that I'm doing is expressed really well on the Jon Levin Guitars website and that's what it really meant for me like a lot of those advanced riffs. I feel like I just get to play any riffs I want on that and it exposes a whole other side of what I do.  Maybe at some point I'll do a solo record, I don't know that I can bring anything to the table, something that hasn't already been done with a guitar solo record. Frankly a lot of them I feel don't really have much to offer and get boring quickly when you don't have singing on them. But if I find out a way I can do it in a new and creative way maybe at some point I would attempt it. If it's not even a whole record, maybe I'll just do a track or two and see how it goes.

     

    What are a few of your favorite musician documentaries that you have recently viewed on Netflix that you found inspiring and really enjoyed?

    My favorite musician documentary was definitely the one on Jimi Hendrix. I think it was like an hour and a half long documentary and he's one of my all-time favorite players so I watched it like three times. It wasn't just his playing that was so inspiring, a lot of the quotes that he said in that documentary were also equally as inspiring so I really took a lot out of that.  Anyone who hasn't seen it go to Netflix and type in Jimi Hendrix and the one that I am speaking about is an hour and a half long.

    Jonathan D. Levin - BEVERLY HILLS,, California Lawyer - Justia

    Do you still work in the field of entertainment law?   What are the highlights and pitfalls that one would encounter if they wanted to explore that field for a profession?

    I'm still an attorney. I practice entertainment law and family law.  I do a lot of divorce because I find a lot of my musician friends and clients end up getting divorced.  As far as the world of entertainment law, the music industry is a lot different than it was years ago.  20 years ago there were a lot of record deals and publishing deals which was really the lifeblood of that profession.  Now things are different. There is still work in it, but if you're a new attorney and you want to just practice entertainment law I think you're going to have to be more well-versed in just limiting yourself to music.  Probably need to learn film and television and do everything but that's pretty much it!  Thanks so much for having me on this and I really appreciate it. Rock on! 

    https://dokken.net/

    https://www.jonlevinguitars.com/

    https://www.facebook.com/officialjonlevin/

     

    Boston Rock Radio Music Journalist Thomas Amoriello Jr. is a heavy metal guitarist, children's picture book author, educator and recording artist who resides in Lambertville, New Jersey, USA. You can learn more about Tom at https://thomasamoriello.com

     

    Editor's Note: Latest news from Dokken from New Ocean Media -May 29, 2020

    DOKKEN ANNOUNCE RELEASE OF​ THE LOST SONGS: 1978-1981​

    FIRST SINGLE/VIDEO FOR ‘STEP INTO THE LIGHT’ AVAILABLE NOW

    Watch/Listen to ‘Step Into The Light’​ here

    Pre-orders available​ here

    It wasn’t always multi-platinum sales and stadium gigs for Dokken.​ There was a first-phase and there were early days, and it is those bold first steps to stardom which are celebrated comprehensively on Dokken’s​ The Lost Songs: 1978-1981​ album, out on August 28th​ 2020 through Silver Lining Music. ​​

    Featuring spectacular sleeve art by renowned US artist Tokyo Hiro (Motörhead, Motley Crüe),​ The Lost Songs: 1978-1981​ show the crackle and craft of a hungry young Don Dokken as he embarked upon a journey which started in Southern California and Northern Germany. It is a trek which is testimony to the sheer endeavour and perseverance Don Dokken showed in those few years between 1978 and 1981, starting from when he spent time at a guitar store called Drake’s Music, owned by Drake Levin in Manhattan Beach, California.

    A fair selection of the treasure on​ The Lost Songs: 1978-1981​ are​ from these early European days.​ “Felony” carries a thuggish fuzz-coated riff -think early Van Halen in really greasy embroidered denims- while “Day After Day” showed that Don could pen a radio-slaying ballad.​ ​

    The writing and creation of​ The Lost Songs: 1978-1981​ are further tribute to enduring early days of struggle in both Germany and LA, Don would return to LA for a spell after those brief European gigs, and he worked with Croucier on material, including perhaps the truest view of Dokken’s then-future “Hit And Run”, which incredibly did not end up on the eventual​ Breaking The Chains​ release.​ ​ From the sunbaked SoCal hook of​ “Step Into The Light” to the furious, fledgling, late-Sunset Strip sound of “Back In The Streets,”​ The Lost Songs: 1978-1981​ shows Don in his unfettered early days of balls-out attitude, qualities doubtless forged in the sheer nature of the adventures undertaken in writing, recording and deciding Europe was the place to keep cutting his teeth.​

    The Lost Songs: 1978-1981​ not only shares that magic with the fans, it gives them the final, vital and undeniably missing (until now) early album in the Dokken collection.

    Musicians who appear on​ The Lost Songs: 1978-1981:

    Don Dokken – vocals, guitar

    Jon Levin – guitar

    BJ Zampa – drums​

    Juan Croucier – bass

    Greg Leon – guitar

    Gary Holland – drums

    Mick Brown – drums

    George Lynch -guitar

    Rustee Allen - bass

    Bill Lordan – drums

    Greg Pecka- Drums

     

    The Lost Songs: 1978-1981​ track-listing:​

    Step Into The Light

    We’re Going Wrong

    Day After Day

    Rainbows

    Felony

    No Answer

    Back In The Streets

    Hit And Run

    Broken Heart

    Liar

    Prisoner

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