DOUG ALDRICH (WHITESNAKE) INTERVIEW:
March 21, 2011
Journeyman guitarist Doug Aldrich has played with the likes of Lion, Hurricane, House Of Lords and Ronnie James Dio. It wasn’t until 2002 that Aldrich found a home in the revitalized version of Whitesnake and since then he and David Coverdale haven been inseparable. Nine years into his tenure with Whitesnake Aldrich and Coverdale have issued their second studio album together entitled Forevermore, due for release in North America on March 29th through Frontiers Records. The new music is a nod to the old school ‘Snake, as the duo incorporate elements of their ’80s glory with modern production. Sleaze Roxx caught up with Doug Aldrich and talked about the new album, David’s recovery from vocal injury, splitting guitar work with Reb Beach, past work with the aforementioned bands, auditioning for KISS and Ronnie James Dio.
Sleaze Roxx: “Steal Your Heart Away”, “All Out Of Luck”, and “Love Will Set You Free”… what a trio to set up Forevermore. Like with past Whitesnake albums, the ballads on Forevermore are also the highlights. Congratulations on a great album, it edges out Good To Be Bad.
Doug Aldrich: Maybe I’m too close, but I do know there are some very good moments on both albums. After Good To Be Bad it’s kind of hard not to get stuck in a rut. Fortunately we didn’t and we had a great time working on the new album. Everybody got involved and we had a great time and a lot of laughs, we kept our heads down and worked hard. The record starts off with a vintage Whitesnake sound — there’s a very heavy blues vibe on this record, more so than on the last record. I agree with you, it starts off with a blues vibe and then takes you to a lot of different other places that maybe other records haven’t in the past.
Sleaze Roxx: Before we get deeper into the new album, I’ve seen the clip of your performance in Colorado when David Coverdale blew out his voice. That was a prime tour you were on with Judas Priest and your stomach must have sunk when that happened.
Doug Aldrich: (long pause) Yes, I’ve never seen David in that position before. It’s very rare that you see someone stop in the middle of a song like that. That is way out of character for David, he’s one of those guys that just doesn’t give up. He also doesn’t want to fake it and sell the fans short. David had to pull the plug on it because he didn’t want to sell the fans short. I said to him, “David take it easy,” he said, “I just can’t… this is what I do.”
David, along with a number of select singers, are like race horses, you can’t tell them to slow down. That incident was very unfortunate, but I’ll tell you what, he is singing better than ever. The challenge with David has been capturing his voice in a regular microphone. Since I’ve been working with him we’ve not yet captured the full vibe onto a record. If you heard him singing next to you, it would be like ‘holy shit, that tone!’ Having said that I think we got pretty close on this album.
Sleaze Roxx: I’m glad David is back, I was worried when I saw the clip. It was surreal, like Superman being exposed to Kryptonite.
Doug Aldrich: I see what you mean. I’ve seen the clip too, it took some time for me to be able to watch it. I think you nailed the vibe of what was going on there. It was very disheartening for him, but I’ll say this, he stopped it just in time. He was later told by his doctor that he stopped just in time otherwise he would have done serious damage.
Sleaze Roxx: You’ve been in Whitesnake since 2002 — were you a fan of the band or Coverdale’s work?
Doug Aldrich: Originally I signed up for a two month tour in 2002. I’ve been a fan since I was about 16, I recall my mother had dropped me off at my friend’s house because we wanted to learn how to play “Mistreated”. There was no way that I could have played “Burn” at that time! I’ve been a fan since I was a teenager. I really love David’s voice, I was definitely influenced by Deep Purple and later on by Whitesnake. When David left Deep Purple it would have been easy to do a Deep Purple Jr. kind of a thing but instead he did Whitesnake. The music was very different, it was blues based, it was gutsy, and had a sound that was influenced by bands like Slade, Status Quo, Thin Lizzy and stuff like the Allman Brothers. As you know, it wasn’t until Slide It In that Whitesnake found success in America, but there were several records released in Europe before that. I was fortunate enough to have been turned on to those records early on.
Sleaze Roxx: How was the song writing handled on Forevermore? Was it mainly you and David Coverdale?
Doug Aldrich: David and I have great chemistry, initially it was supposed to be people sending in their ideas, as it was on the last record. It turned out that David and I got on a roll with the songwriting that continued from the last record. It’s very organic and easy. I show him something and he takes it further, or he shows me something and I take it further. So to answer your question — we have written everything on both of these records, but it didn’t start out that way in the beginning — it just turned out that way.
Sleaze Roxx: As a fan of Whitesnake from all eras it sounds like you locked yourself in a room and you didn’t surface until you came out with classic ‘Snake riffs. Was it that simple?
Doug Aldrich: You know we didn’t really think about it that much. We didn’t sit around thinking that we needed to write a ballad for instance that sounded a certain way, because it would be cutting off a lot of other inspiration. We would just write. There are songs that naturally sounded like the classic Whitesnake blues sound and then David added his touch to it. We approached all of the songs in the same manner as we did with the last album Good To Be Bad. I definitely didn’t sit down with a goal to write another “Still Of The Night” or another “Slide It In”… I just couldn’t do it. I just had to let the songs come out the way that they are. That’s actually the advice I have for anyone that writes — don’t put any constraints on yourself, just see what happens.
Sleaze Roxx: As mentioned there are some great bluesy riffs, slide guitar, and even some harmonica on the album. Forevermore will draw some comparisons to ’70s era Whitesnake.
Doug Aldrich: Aside from the classic Whitesnake there are aspects of other bands that David and I like, stuff like… there’s a Rolling Stones influence on “I Need You (Shine A Light)”, “Fare Thee Well” has a Faces type of vibe to it as does “Steal Your Heart Away”. Our bass player Michael Devin plays harmonica on “Steal Your Heart Away” and it makes that guitar riff great. The riff is cool, nothing too complicated, but the flavor of the harmonica really lifts that to another level. I’m a huge fan of bands like The Black Crowes, The Allman Brothers and a new blues guy named Johathan Tyler — the song has that kind of vibe but heavier.
Sleaze Roxx: How did you split the playing time with Reb Beach on Forevermore? How is that different from Good To Be Bad?
Doug Aldrich: It was a lot different on this album, Reb was more involved this time. He’s featured on five or six of the songs on the album. Originally he was going to come in a lay down some rhythms and he was going to lay down background vocals, because David wanted everybody to sing on this album. Reb has a great voice, so does Michael Devin. So we brought in Reb and we featured him on some songs playing a solo and he sang on everything. Reb and I really hit it off on this album, one of the songs that he soloed on was “I Need You (Shine A Light)” which was initially going to be the single for the album. I had a demo of that song that I had Reb listen to and he completely turned it around. He made it into this kind of sing-a-long type solo — which is really great. Reb did a shredding solo on the song “Dogs In The Street” which is a song that is a throwback to the ’80s sound. That solo that you hear just slayed me. Originally we were going to trade off on it but I just added a little melodic thing at the end because his solo was just so burning, I didn’t want to fuck with it (laughs)!
Sleaze Roxx: You’re not kidding about “Dogs In The Street”, that could have come off the 1987 album.
Doug Aldrich: Right, and that sound is considered vintage now. We didn’t plan it that way, it’s just the way it happened. “Dogs In The Street” wasn’t going to make the album but in the end David and the record label wanted to release everything. In the end the song goes together very well with the rest of the album.
Sleaze Roxx: The production on this album has a bit more grit than the previous CD yet it was produced by Brutal Brothers — which is Michael McIntyre, David Coverdale and yourself.
Doug Aldrich: Let me explain a little bit about the name Brutal Brothers. Michael, David and I were very hard on each other when we were working on Good To Be Bad. We were also very hard on the musicians that played on the album. That was good because it was David’s first album after being gone for a while, so we needed to raise the bar. On the new album we had a lot of fun, there was no drama of any kind — we laughed, we played, and everybody went into the studio to record together rather than doing a session in another state or something. You’re right, the album sounds more raw and we did it in a shorter amount of time. There wasn’t a lot of time to get too anal about it. We threw it down, tightened it up a little, and that was it.
Sleaze Roxx: You’ve gone through a couple rhythm sections in your time in Whitesnake and you added Michael Devin and Brian Tichy, who I saw not too long ago playing in Lynch Mob. The album is one thing, but judging from what I saw with Lynch Mob these guys are going to take the live show to an entirely different level.
Doug Aldrich: Yeah. I was talking to Michael Devin the other day because there are times on records where you have to work within the framework of the song. If you have a ballad that has a lot of melodies, or a heavy song that has a lot of melodies, you don’t want to hear a ripping solo every time… sometimes you want to hear good melodies. We were talking about doing what is best for the song and capturing the band on the album, but we are excited about the live show.
Like you said, playing it live will be a great opportunity for us to put more into it. Those two guys made a huge difference in the making of this album, because they came in before we started recording so they were part of the process. The last record we were in transition, we had changed drummers before we hit the studio. Brian Tichy had a huge role in the design of how the vibe of these songs came together and Michael Devin is a real blues aficionado and it was a real pleasure to work with him. I loved watching him play in the studio.
Sleaze Roxx: He played with Kenny Wayne Shepherd for a while.
Doug Aldrich: Right, how cool is that? Michael Devin is the baby of the band but he’s got an old soul. He plays like it, you can hear it when he plays. You can hear it on the harmonica parts that he did on “Steal Your Heart Away” and “Whipping Boy Blues”. Listen to those songs, he sounds like a seasoned blues player.
Sleaze Roxx: You played in a couple of my favorite bands in the past. You played on House Of Lord’s Sahara, Hurricane’s Slave To The Thrill and Dio’s Killing The Dragon. What do you recall about the Slave To The Thrill album?
Doug Aldrich: Hurricane started writing the album without a guitar player, then I came in and brought a couple of songs with me. My role was to help them finish out the design of the album that they had started without me. There were some fun times on that album and tour. That was my first real tour I was pretty immature back then. I still see some of the guys in the band periodically — I saw Kelly Hansen last year.
It’s funny, I was listening to the radio and “Can’t Find My Way Home” by House Of Lords came on. That album was recorded around the same time. I guess at that time I was the ‘go to’ guy for hard rock session work. I had some demos that I brought to House Of Lords for the Sahara album and as it turns out they released the demo of “Can’t Find My Way Home.” The version that you heard on the album is my demo with drums on it. We cut that in a little house in Studio City, California in a garage that had a studio in it. House Of Lords was a good time too.
Sleaze Roxx: At one point you auditioned for KISS didn’t you?
Doug Aldrich: I did. I moved to Los Angeles and I was playing at Gazzarri’s every couple of weeks. I met a girl who said she was Eric Carr’s girlfriend and that KISS were looking for a guitar player and she thought that I might be a good fit. Eric came down and watched me play and eventually I wound up going down to jam with them three times, that was just surreal. I was stylistically a bit different than them. I love KISS more now than I did back then. In the end I was just very young, but that did motivate me to become a better musician.
Sleaze Roxx: Why didn’t Lion make a big splash in North America? Lion was a great melodic hard rock band that found success abroad and Asia.
Doug Aldrich: We were probably a couple years too late I think. A lot of labels passed on us — there was one label that enticed us, we signed with them and in the end it was the kiss of death. The deal was horrible and there was no way that we were going to make any money. The worst part is that there was no way to get the band on the road. In those days you’d release the album and you’d go on the road to support it vs. these days where the record helps promote the tour. We did have a label in Japan that took the album and worked it. Like you said, we did well there and some places in Europe. In a last ditch effort we got an attorney, he looked over the contract and said, “I can’t work with you.” We said, “Why?” He said, “You guys basically signed your lives away on this.” We didn’t know, we were just kids — that’s the way it goes.
Sleaze Roxx: Lastly, you recorded Killing The Dragon with Ronnie James Dio. What was that like?
Doug Aldrich: It was awesome man. I wouldn’t be in Whitesnake if it wasn’t for Ronnie, he put me out there. I’m a late bloomer I guess, but he really helped me out. He was very good to me and he had so much faith in me and in my playing. We had a great time designing the album that would become Killing The Dragon. Once again it didn’t work out with their guitar player and I was asked to come in and I started from scratch on everything. We put together an album that was, for him, a new beginning. In the end, through Ronnie and Wendy Dio, I was noticed by David and the rest is history. I will say that I miss Ronnie tremendously and we got close toward the end. He was upset when I joined Whitesnake full-time, but he kept asking me to participate in certain projects with him here and there. We were really tight. I was out of the country when he passed, but my wife and my son went to his service to pay their respects on my behalf. He was a great singer and an even better person.