Interview and live pictures by Marko Syrjala
Transcription by Cindy Zhang
Douglas “Doug” Aldrich’s professional musician career started in 1985 when he joined the band Lion. Although they did succeed quite well, they never made it to the big time, and the band slowly disbanded after three albums in the late ’80s. Doug then worked briefly with such names as Hurricane and House of Lords before forming Bad Moon Rising with his former Lion band mate Kal Swan. Bad Moon Rising released three albums in the ’90s, but they split up in 1998. Burning Rain was formed later in the same year, and actually, they still exist, although there has not been too much news from their camp lately. In early 2002 Doug decided to agree to Ronnie James Dio’s offer to join as a full-time member of Dio. and soon he was in the studio recording guitar parts for the upcoming KILLING THE DRAGON album. Although the album and following tour was really successful, Doug surprisingly decided to leave Dio 2002, and joined David Coverdale’s new version of Whitesnake. The Whitesnake reunion has been very successful. The band has done several world tours and last spring they released a new DVD “Live … In the Still of the Night”. A new Whitesnake live album, “LIVE… IN THE SHADOW OF THE BLUES,” will be released later this year. The new album includes four new studio tracks, the band’s first new music in over eight years. This interview was done in July of 2006. I met Doug during Whitesnake’s stop in Finland a day after their sold-out concert in Helsinki, and here are the results of our lengthy discussion about his current activities, past, and future. The story continues…
Well, let’s start with the most current thing, which is Whitesnake’s European tour. This time you have done lots of big festivals like Swedenrock and Wacken Open Air?
Yeah, Wacken, we did Lorca in Spain, we did Aerorock, Aerorock was in Holland. And we did another one in Belgium, Graspop, I think it’s called? They’ve all been really cool.
How is it different to play a festival show compared to a regular gig?
Festivals, well, you don’t get a soundcheck ’cause there are so many bands that you just show up and play. Usually the festivals in Europe, we go on really late, we don’t even go to the gig until maybe nine o’clock at night or something. We get there at 10 and maybe play at 11. At Swedenrock, we played at midnight. It’s cool, you go there, and you see many friends from other bands, and you get to see some bands that you haven’t seen before or haven’t seen much lately’. We did this festival in Italy called Monsters of Rock. They also had Def Leppard and Journey, Queensryche, maybe? And yeah, it’s just cool. I got to see Def Leppard play. I’ve never seen Def Leppard, ever.
Have you seen Journey before then?
I saw Journey last summer, we played some shows with Journey, and they were amazing. They are very impressive live. We were on the same bill on some of those festivals this summer, but I missed them. I still think they’re amazing. I just feel really sorry for their singer that he had to go home. Did you know about that?
I heard about that. (Journey singer Steve Augeri had just left from the Journey tour because of health issues..)
Yeah, that’s too bad because I think he does a great job with Journey. I mean, I was reading online about fans wanting Steve Perry back…. sure, Steve Perry is the original guy and stuff, but the band needs to move to someone new instead, so you gotta support that. You know that’s interesting, with a lot of bands, they don’t have the original members always touring, such as Whitesnake, same with Journey. Most bands out there don’t have that. With Whitesnake, some diehard old school fans think the original line up with Moody and Marsden is better than the current one. Everyone got a different opinion. That’s ok. I think they’re great. I love early ‘Snake, but I’m not sure those guys could replicate some of the more modern WS songs. It’s a lot of ground to cover when playing live. Playing stuff from Deep Purple with Blackmore to Micky Moody, Bernie Marsden, to Sykes, and whatever, and putting your own thing in as well, you know. The point is, when band lineups change, such as with Journeys singer, you just gotta support the change come to support the band that’s there, you know? I think the current line up is getting better all the time.
That’s true. Fans should be grateful that the band is going, that it keeps recording at all, but in some cases, it would be better if the band just quits…
Well, it’s always best to have the original members. When I joined WS….well, originally I was working with Dio, we were on tour with Deep Purple and the Scorpions, and I heard that David was reforming Whitesnake and at the same time Scorpions were asking Dio, “Hey, we’re gonna go on tour with Whitesnake in 2003, do you guys wanna go?” Me and Jimmy Bain were like, “Yeah, let’s do it, that would be great! You know, I thought it was gonna be with maybe with Sykes or Vandenberg. But I got the job instead. I have much respect for those other guitarists. Sykes is a great guitar player and a great singer. But anyway I got a call from David to meet up. He said he had heard my playing. I said I don’t really think that Sykes and I together are gonna work for me, you know. Our styles are somewhat similar. But he said no, he was offering me the job.
This tour seems to be very successful in Europe and Japan, but how you are doing in the U.S?
It’s good….maybe it’s not as big in the States as in Europe. I think the States is kind of still just trendy. We did a couple of tours where we were playing arenas, but it was a package tour with Scorpions, and we did another thing that was with Warrant, Slaughter, and Kip Winger. We played some big spots, but it wasn’t the right bill for us, perhaps.
That was in last summer?
No, that was in 2003. Last year we did, in 2004 we only came to Europe and the UK. And last year we did a summer tour of theatres and smaller places, which was really great. But I think that the bottom line is that we need a new product now. We need new songs before we can get back out there. That’s been a goal of mine ever since the beginning. Now we are doing that. We’ve been writing, we just went in the studio a little bit, and we’re fixing to get in the studio next year or end of this year.
WORKING WITH WHITESNAKE…
Isn’t it true that David had plans to bring John Sykes back in the band before you came into the picture?
I think he talked to him about it, but I think David just decided he didn’t really feel comfortable going back. He wanted to move forward.
That was probably because of their disagreements from the past. Actually, I talked with John some years ago when he was here with Thin Lizzy, and then he wasn’t too pleased to even talk about his past with Whitesnake.
Well, I can understand that, but you know Whitesnake has always been David and then whoever David had in the band. There are several versions of Whitesnake, all of which could be considered the original line up. When you’re talking about Sykes and Vandenberg, and Rudy Sarzo, and all these people, they’re not the original members to me. The original members are probably the first version with Ian Paice and Jon Lord?
In your opinion, what line up of Whitesnake is the most original then?
Maybe the next line up, the guys who did “Live in the Heart of the City”?
Have you ever personally met Bernie Marsden and Micky Moody?
No, Bernie came to a gig in Britain a couple of years ago, but I didn’t get to meet him, but I’m a big fan of both those guys, you know?
That’s a great thing. You recently had a line-up change in the band when bassist Marco Mendoza decided to leave. Can you tell us something more about the reasons which caused the break up between him and the rest of the band?
At the time, David was very upfront and explained that he wanted to work six months out of the year touring. Then have six months for family and stuff. But Marco was getting offers to do other tours, and he needed to commit to those things. I guess it was schedules and things that made it difficult for when Whitesnake wanted to tour. So David and Marco mutually agreed that Marco was gonna pursue some other things.
There were no hard feelings afterward?
No, not that I know of no. It was amicable. It was a mutual thing. I love working with Marco, Marco, and I are really good friends, and we got along great on the road. We used to hang out all the time and stuff, so I was gonna miss Marco, but then we ended up getting Uriah, Uriah’s doing a really great job, and he’s kind of similar to Marco in some ways.
Uriah Duffy. He’s a little bit younger than you other guys, but he has a fascinating past, working with Christian Aguilera, Pat Travers, and others?
Yeah, he has worked with different people.
Yeah, how much does Uriah overall knows about the rock scene, 80’s hard rock thing, and stuff like that?
You know I think that he knows about all kinds of music. He was playing with his thumb a little bit. He had a funk background too. He plays rock, all styles I think he really understands, and he’s getting more of that rock feel with Whitesnake. It sounds really good. He’s got a real fat tone. When I first met him, we went out for dinner. He said he didn’t sing much. I didn’t really sing much either before I got in Whitesnake, but you gotta sing when you get in Whitesnake! Anyhow, when he came to jam, Tommy and I jammed with him, kind of like a little audition. David had heard him and said, that’s the guy! And it’s funny, yesterday he came up to me, and he goes, “Man, I just heard the original “Fool For Your Loving” for the first time!” And I was like, “It’s really cool, isn’t it?” And it’s got, Neil Murray, or Colin. Uriah also really has respect for when he hears something, and he knows it’s good, like that Neil Murray bass stuff. It’s just solid, man. It just drives the song. Now Uriah’s is doing that. He can play circles around many people, but he knows the thing with Whitesnake is that he and Tommy are driving everything.
One question about your guitar playing, how much are you following the original guitar lines and melodies in this band because those are originally written by somebody else?
Yeah, you do some of it, and then you do it your own way, you put your stamp on it. You know there’s a way you can play a song and do a cover of it, but then there’s a way you can play that song, and it’s yours. You gotta own it. In the beginning, it was more of a cover thing almost, but now we’ve got a lot more time under our belts, and we are making those songs our own, stuff like doing arrangement changes to “Slide It In” and “Bad Boys.” Even within the songs, playing solos, a solo like “Is This Love” or “Here I Go Again,” you kind of have to play it pretty close because still in 2006, there are many people it’s their first time seeing Whitesnake. They’ve heard the songs, but they haven’t seen it, and they want to hear it played kind of similar, at least. You can change things a little bit, whatever, as long as it sounds good, but you need to play it close.
I got your point, and I agree with you that, but I can’t hesitate to ask why you guys keep on playing basically the same setlist on each tour? I mean, there have been only very slight changes since the reunion started. Do you think that fans really want to hear certain songs every night, or what is the reason for that?
No, it just kind of worked out that way. The way I see it is the way you see it, is the fans want to hear new things all the time, and we worked up “Mistreated” this year, we worked up “Guilty of Love,” we’ve got a medley that we’re sometimes doing, it’s “Walking In the Shadow of the Blues,” “Love Hunter” and “Slow An’ Easy,” so we made an effort to do it. Actually, I worked on “Ain’t Gonna Cry No More” it’s just that we haven’t had time on the road to get the band all on the same page with it. But as you’re out touring and stuff, people start to go, “Ummm, this song didn’t work that good, so let’s replace it with this one, and slowly you end up going back to the older setlist, you know? For me personally, I’m really happy we’re playing some new stuff periodically here. We haven’t been doing it at festivals, but we’ve been adding it at our own shows. I’m really happy that if we go to a festival, it changes it up. That being said, I do love playing the older catalog stuff. It’s weird, with Whitesnake, in different countries, people have their favorite songs, and it changes in the US. Lots of people in the US aren’t familiar with the early records. Last year, we worked up “the Gambler” in rehearsal, and it fuckin’ sounded great. It was so badass. A couple of guys said, Yeah, but who’s gonna know this song? Well, I still want to play stuff like that. People might not know it as much as the ’87 record, but it’s still badass!
Why don’t you play too much stuff from SLIP OF THE TONGUE, which is one of my favorite Whitesnake albums?
Yeah, some of the stuff’, we do “Judgement Day,” and we had a great live version of “Deeper the Love,” it’s one we recorded, we did do some of that stuff, but we did it here last year or last time we toured in Europe, so we decided let’s not do “Judgement Day,” this time we’ll do something else, and put “Slide It In.” And we had worked out “Mistreated” I took all the versions I could find, the Whitesnake version, Deep Purple studio version, Deep Purple live, Deep Purple live bootleg, Whitesnake version from Moody and Marsden, I took the Rainbow version from onstage, I watched the DVD from California jam, I watched the DVD from Munich, I took all those versions. They were all 15 minutes long, too long for our set, so we needed to find a way to cut it down, so I took all those things, put it in Pro Tools, and I just chopped them up and made a version that was eight minutes long, and it was still really cool, it had a little more of the original Deep Purple flavor, it started off like that, and then the middle section was closer to the studio version, but there was a little guitar solo in it, and it sounded really, really cool. We played it a few times, but it wasn’t working in the set. For David, that’s so old for him, he’s done that song so many times, and it was still eight minutes, and we still had “Crying In The Rain,” and we had the medley that was eight and a half minutes, it was just too much. But maybe, you never know, we might break it out sometime, or maybe incorporate that into another song somehow. I think that would be cool. Because when you hear him sing that, even if he doesn’t really maybe get off on it anymore, which I can understand, it still sounds great…maybe it wasn’t the right setting for that song?
On the last few tours, you have done songs from Deep Purple’s BURN and STORMBRINGER. How about doing something from David’s last Purple album, COME TASTE THE BAND as well?
Only really the STORMBRINGER.. oh wait, STORMBRINGER, that was Blackmore, sorry…
David’s former bandmate from Purple, Glenn Hughes, keep on doing songs from COME TASTE THE BAND. He still does songs like “Keep On Moving” or “Lady Luck” live on these days!
David talked about “Lady Luck” maybe one time, and we never went there, but after this tour, maybe we’re gonna retire “Burn” for a little while. There are so many songs that we would like to play.
How familiar are you with Tommy Bolin’s guitar playing and music overall?
I’m not too familiar with his all of his stuff, to be honest, but…
He was a really different and unique player, in my opinion.
He was cool! I have a Deep Purple record that I don’t know where I got it, but it’s like bootlegs and in the studio stuff, and it’s with Tommy Bolin. It’s really cool. His playing sounds amazing. David is ripping! I only know about Tommy Bolin from some solo stuff he did and some stuff he did with Billy Cobham on Spectrum. That was him, right, on Spectrum? Stratus, that’s killer stuff. I love it. It’s very Jeff Beck.
Speaking about other songs I would like you to play with Whitesnake, how about “You Fool No One”?
Yeah, I love that song, “You Fool No One” is cool.
Okay, tell us something about how Reb Beach ended up being in Whitesnake. When I talked to him a few years ago, he said he did an audition for Whitesnake. He was then waiting for a call from David, but he decided to call his old friend Don Dokken and said that he would like to rejoin Dokken because he never got it. Suddenly, David called him and asked if he would still like to join Whitesnake because someone else had just changed his mind and didn’t want to participate in the new Whitesnake lineup. Reb agreed, and then he was in…
Yeah, that’s pretty much how it happened.
Was it possibly John Sykes who he was talking about then?
No, it was Warren DeMartini. In the beginning. David and I discussed Reb and Warren. I thought since Warren had worked with David previously, that would be cool. But Warren had other commitments. Reb was a perfect choice. He and I have a very different style, and it works out well together. I didn’t know all his work, just the MTV Winger songs, I guess. But he was obviously a great player. I talked with Reb in the early stages, and I asked, what do you think? He was really excited. He was happy to do whatever in the band. Whitesnake has been a twin lead guitar band mostly, so we figured out who would play various parts over the phone. We kind of split up stuff so the parts that suited my style I did, and if there was something I wasn’t sure, we tried it, and whoever seemed more comfortable with it we just did it like that, and it’s just been working out good you know, everything’s cool. And Reb’s a great guy, he’s really just a good-hearted guy, and I think our styles are different enough. It’s not like having two of the same guitarist.
You two have a really different sound and style.
Yeah, we have different influences, I imagine. I started with Hendrix and Page. My sister got me into Jeff Beck in the beginning. Pat Travers, Eddie, Randy Rhoads, Gary Moore, SRV, Michael Schenker, and I love Blackmore, Tony Iommi, different stuff. Maybe, Tony Iommi is a fuckin’ great guitar player.
Speaking of Reb, did you know that he just reunited with his old band Winger. They have a new album and tour in the works. They are even coming to Finland, in three months or something like that?
Yeah, I don’t know anything about it, really, to be honest, but I know that Reb was working on the record all year before we came on the road. I called him about when he could do some recording on some new songs…He was just wrapping up a secret project!
Do you follow the website Metal Sludge?
Not too much.
There was a rumor two months or something ago that a big “hair band” reunion was coming this fall. I thought it was going to be Ratt or something, but it was Winger!
Yeah, I had no idea, I mean, I don’t know much about Winger, I mean, I heard their hit songs on the radio, but that was more of the American side of stuff. They were on MTV a lot.
Yeah, in my opinion, their music in the ’80s was more mainstream pop than rock music?
But that’s cool, nothing wrong with that.
What is the state of Burning Rain band at this point?
Well, it’s kind of been on hold for a while because of writing with David and last year getting a call to help Ronnie, and you know, just touring with Whitesnake too. But we have a record that’s pretty much written, and I’m really excited to get it out. As soon as I get home, I’ve gotta finish it because the record company said, “We really want to get it out this year,” and they said, “Please make an effort to do that.” I very much want to get some new Burning Rain out there. People have been waiting, but I can’t be in two places at once. Whitesnake is my main gig. We have a little bit of stuff to wrap up on the new Whitesnake record. Hopefully, soon after, I can get that Burning Rain stuff wrapped. It’s gonna be cool, and it’s a bit different than our old two records. I just want it to sound like the best Burning Rain yet.
When I first heard Burning Rain music in 2001, or something like that, I remember that it sounded like a mix of Van Halen and SLIP OF THE TONGUE.
But my playing doesn’t sound like Steve Vai’s playing though “laughs.”
I know! Who are in the band at this point, of Burning Rain? Keith?
Heï¿½s a great singer. Kind of undiscovered talent. Keith is definitely in the band, and I’m not sure what’s going on with our drummer. We’re gonna have to figure that one out. Maybe this guy called Chris Fraser that I worked with on some solo records, and he’s done some gigs with us in California. And bass player, maybe Ian will play on some stuff. I might get Uriah to play on some stuff. He said he wanted to so. I think it would be cool.
Do you think you’ll have time to do some shows with Burning Rain this time because, as far as I know, you’ve only done a handful of shows in your whole career, maybe 20 or even less?
Not even close to 20′ not even!
You’ve done shows in Japan, in the States, in the UK?
We did some little shows in California and stuff that weren’t publicized, but yeah, not many. Keith and I used just to go and jam all the time, we played at some club, we’d show up and just take over, we’d play a bunch of those songs, and I would love to have the opportunity to come to Europe, especially with that.
How about someday doing a double gig with Whitesnake and Burning Rain?
I would love to, but I don’t think that’s happening! “laughs.”
I think so also” laughs” But how about doing a club gig at the same town where you have a Whitesnake show in the evening then have a club night in the middle of something like that?
That would be cool, but it would probably be really expensive. I think the way it would have to be is I’d have to come over separately with Burning Rain, and we’d have just to get a van and really make it back to the bare basics, get a van, sleeping the van, rent the equipment. Keep it real.
I know, but still, I have to say that it would be amazing to see Burning Rain on stage someday …
I agree, “laughs.” I don’t know, but it’s still a really small band. I don’t know how many people would know about it at this point?
Do you think that Burning Rain record sales are now increasing because you are playing with Whitesnake?
Definitely, that’s true. It definitely hasn’t hurt Burning Rain, “laughs.”
THE KISS AUDITION AND LION
Correct me if I’m wrong, but you’ve also auditioned for KISS in the early ’80s, right?
True. That was when I was 18.
Wow, how was that audition?
It was weird, man!
What year was it?
It was “82” or “81”?
It must have been after Ace Frehley had left?
Yeah, this one girl came and said that her boyfriend was Eric Carr and that they were auditioning guitar players and would I want to check it out, and I was like, “You’re kidding me.” I couldn’t believe it. I thought she was bullshitting me. But the next week, this band, we were playing Gozares, it’s a club in Hollywood it was called Gozares, the next week we played, and Eric Carr came. He called me later and said, “Come down to the Record Plant. I want you to meet Gene and Paul”. At that time, nobody had seen them without their makeup. It was kind of like this really weird thing. My sister was the biggest Kiss fan…she was freaking when I told her. I did some jamming on the songs they recorded in the studio. They were working on “Creatures of the Night,” I think. Gene said, put some solos on this song so we can see what you do. I did, and it was funny cause Gene goes, “Do you ever play major scales?” And I go, “Major scales, what’s that?” And I remember feeling this like, you know in your spine when you get something like, “Oh fuck!” And he goes “Major scales.” I’m like “What is that, what is a major scale?” And he goes “Do Re Mi Fa Sol’ … and I go, “Oh that, yeah I know how to do that!” Brrrrrrrrrrrr and I start playing. I didn’t know what it was called, you know. I was young. He wrote down some songs, and he goes home and learns these songs, and we’ll call you, and we’ll play. It was like “Dr. Love,” “Firehouse,” and “Black Diamond,” or something. I didn’t have a phone at the time. I was just living in this little room, but I was working at a music store, and that’s the number they could reach me at. And they called and said, Okay, we’re gonna jam tomorrow at SIR studios in Hollywood. I come in, and it’s this massive, looks like an arena, a huge rehearsal room where people could set up their whole show, and there are just stacks of Marshalls. All this, I’m just like “Holy shit!” And I plugin and we played the songs, and it went pretty cool. About a week later, they called me back and told me to come back again. I went back, and we jammed that day. It went well. It sounded good, but I was too young. Anyway, after that, I started to get serious about practicing and things. It was five or six years until Lion started recording. Did you ever hear that stuff?
Yes, actually I have all the Lion albums in cd and vinyl format “laughs” But maybe you can tell me the story of Lion?
Lion was a band I had with this Scottish guy called Kal Swan singing. Lion was like a Whitesnake type of thing, and Kal was a huge David Coverdale fan. But we signed a record deal in the States that was just a really tough deal.
I remember that it was a label fronted by some brothers, right?
Scotty Brothers. It just killed the band. We couldn’t make any money, we were selling records, and we had a video that was getting really good airplay every week, but they wouldn’t put any money into us. They wouldn’t put us on the road. We went to Japan, and we kicked ass over there. We sold out a 2500 seat place on one tour. We went back and did two shows and sold a lot of records, and we could make a little bit of money from there, but it was just heartbreaking to go home, and no one knows about us, and people are wondering, “Why don’t you come to New York?” Because we can’t, we just physically don’t have any money even to get there, you know? The band went downhill, and we got off that deal, and we tried to show other record companies that we were free, we put out a record of just.. you know? After we got the attorney to get us off the Scotty Bros, we still had labels afraid to sign us. They thought they would be sued…so we recorded TROUBLE IN AGEL CITY for an indie label. To show that we were free, ya know? We put that out kind of just to show people that we’re free and no ones gonna sue you, you know, so sign us, and no one would at that time, it was too late, and people were still kind of afraid to get in the middle in case there was some kind of legal problem. So anyway, that band broke up around that time. Fortunately, I got some other offers, so I was looking at those.
LIFE AFTER LION AND MEETING WITH DIO
After the Lion thing split up, what did you do next?
This is right when Lion broke up; Slaughter asked me to be their guitar player. They were recording that first record and wanted me to join the band.
Was Tim Kelly already a member of Slaughter then?
No, it was before him. A few bands were looking for guitarists, I guess. Jeff Pilson was putting a new band together, and he asked me, and Ronnie was auditioning guitar players. I didn’t even know about it, but Grover Jackson said: “Hey, you should send a tape.” So I sent this little four-track tape, I didn’t think anything of it, and Wendy Dio called me and said, “So we want you to come down and play,” and I was like, “Okay, so how many people are there?” I thought there might be like a thousand, you know. And she goes, “Oh, there’s just two, you and one other guy.” I was like, “Wow.” So first I go down there, and before I even plugged in, Ronnie goes, “Hey mate, how you doing,” he goes, “Let’s go to the pub and get a beer.” So we show up to rehearsal, and before we even play a note, we go to the pub, and we had some beers, and then we come back, and we played a few songs, “Holy Diver” and maybe “Heaven and Hell” or something? Actually, I take that back, what it was, as I got there and they were walking out with the other guy they were auditioning, he kind of looked like old Ritchie Blackmore, I don’t know his name, but he was cool. I have never seen the guy again. I don’t know who he was, but he kind of had a cool vibe, but he didn’t look real happy when he was walking out of the audition. So they were rehearsing with him, and then I walk in, and they said: “Let’s go to the pub.” So we go to the pub, and we have a couple of beers, and we get in, and we play. Ronnie just goes, “Well, the gig’s yours,” and I was like, “Well, I need to see what’s going on,” I was really caught off guard. I did not expect to go there and have the gig offered to me, especially that fast, and I was just kind of freaked out. And because my band, my real band that I loved, just broke up, I was kind of like I don’t know what the hell I want to do, so I just told Ronnie, “Just give me a few days so I can talk to Wendy and we’ll figure it out.” I asked Grover Jackson, “Would you help me because I don’t know what I’m supposed to, I don’t know what the deal is I don’t know what to say or ask for or whatever,” and he told me, “This is what you should expect to make.” “Well, that’s fair. We can probably do that”, but I just wasn’t into it. I hung out with Ronnie a couple more times, and I was like, this isn’t the right gig for me. And I think in hindsight I was wrong, I think it was the right gig for me, I think it would have been really, really cool, and I told that to Ronnie lots of times, I said: “Yeah I should have done that at that time I just was too immature, too young in the head.” We would have made a good record together. At that time, I was really hoping that Lion would maybe, something would work out, but it just didn’t. Besides, Lion hadn’t officially broken up yet.
When did this happen?
I think it was in 1990?
Was it before or after he asked Rowan Robertson to join Dio?
It was before.
After Lion split, you played with many bands, and one of those was Hurricane. I happened to meet the band’s drummer Jay Schellen last year. He was in Finland with ASIA. He said that SLAVE TO THE THRILL, which you also played on, sold more than 500 000 copies in the States, but you have never received a gold album because Capital owns some things? He also said that he and Kelly Hansen are working on it, and Hurricane should get their gold album someday. Do you know anything about that?
I don’t even think they have gold albums anymore. They have like gold CDs. By the time we get one, it will be a gold microchip, you know, a gold iPod or something. But no man, I dunno, I’ve never seen any statements or anything, I don’t know about that stuff. That’s the thing about the music business that you get into it because you just dig the music and you like playing, that’s why you do it; you don’t get into it, I didn’t get into it for the money, or to meet girls or any of that shit, I just like playing guitar, I just like being around guitar you know. So what happens is you’re young. You learn how to play, get into a band if you’re good some people give you a break, and then get more breaks, and you get more breaks. But what happens is for me, I didn’t go to college, I didn’t know about shit, I mean when I was on my own and 18 I never had paid a bill before in my life. Now they’re sending me bills in the mail. It’s like, “You gotta pay this” well I don’t have it, so you know what, I ain’t even gonna mess with it, which means they turn off your electricity, they turn off your heat, they turn off everything, and you just go, screw it, I’m playing music, and I’m on my own, and I’m having fun. And then you get some more breaks, and you get in a band, and maybe you’re making a little bit of money, but you don’t know about contracts or statements and all that stuff, and you end up not getting paid what you should get paid, and it happens to so many people you know? Think of all the bands we know that sold millions and millions of records, and they’re broke. How does that happen? How is that possible? I would recommend for anyone getting into the music business to stay in school, to go to college and learn about shit, and then you still got plenty of time. I mean, I’m 43 years old now; you still got plenty of time to play music and do things but try and get an education about stuff so that you can get on with life in the right way and not get caught up in being broke and making great music but not getting paid for it, it’s tough. So at the time with Hurricane, I never even knew about any of that stuff. All I know is I got paid 400 dollars a week to be in the band. Every week I’d get 400 dollars, and when the money ran out, the band broke up.
You did quite a lot of touring with Hurricane back then?
We did like three or four months in the States. We did about a couple of weeks in Japan. We didn’t come to Europe. But it was good, it was really a cool thing, a fun time and Jay is a great guy, I saw him last year when I was with Ronnie, and it was really cool to see him.
Have you seen Kelly recently? He’s now touring with Foreigner?
No, I didn’t see him this year, I didn’t see him since we’ve been in Europe, but he’s doing a great job on that stuff. He sounds really great on it. I saw him play in LA, and I didn’t go backstage or anything. I just went and hung out, checked the show, and then left, but I sent a message to him to say that I thought he kicked ass and he was great. And I and Kelly kind of had our problems in the past. We got in some fistfights and stuff on the road.
That must have been during the Hurricane years?
Yeah. One time we were on the road, and we had done soundcheck, and we went to get some food. And we were having dinner, and I was just screwing around, I was making noises and stuff, and he was trying to eat, and he got really pissed off, and he took his plate, and he went and sat over in the corner. And I looked at Tony and Jay, and I said. They were doing it too, it wasn’t just me, but I said I’m kind of a real sensitive person to people’s feelings, I never want anybody to have a bad day or something, I like having fun you know. Still, I saw him. He was pissed off, so I got up to apologize, and he didn’t want to know about it. So I went back to eat with the guys. Long story shorter, we went outside after dinner to get a taxi. While we were waiting, we got into it again. But this time, we started fighting. During the fight, I happened to punch him hard in the throat! I thought, what did I do? I hit him hard right here, and we had a gig that night, but he sang his ass off, man. He’s got one of the strongest voices that I’ve ever heard, Kelly. There was one time on the bus we got in a fistfight, and the bus driver just took the bus and locked it up, and it’s starting to go sideways, you know, “Take that shit off the bus!” Good Times!!!
HOUSE OF LORDS
Another band you worked briefly in the early ’90s was House of Lords. You actually recorded the album SAHARA with them, but you were never given any credits. Then you did a tour with them. Was Lanny Cordola out of the band at that time?
Lanny was out, and I was in Hurricane at the time, but I was free because we hadn’t started touring, and so Gregg Giuffria called me and said, “Hey, we’re doing these demos. Will you come to do them?” So I went and did the demos. I think I did it for free, I dunno, but one of them was “Can’t Find My Way Home,” and they liked it, so they asked me to join up with them. But you know I was already working in Hurricane. We did a record, and we did two videos, and we spent a lot of money, and it would have been uncool of me to leave at that time. I ended up doing the record as a session guitarist for hire. It turned out to be really cool, they got a person called Mike Guy, and he put two solos on it, then they just made him the guitar player, but pretty much the majority of it was me on that. One of the best things about that session was working with Andy Johns. He and I hit it off and are still friends now. I saw Gregg Giuffria last year. He’s a funny guy. He would always joke, you know we’re in pre-production working on the record, and he was like, “Did you hear the news?” I’m like, “What news?” He goes, “The Hurricane has been downgraded to a tropical depression!” And he’d start laughing. I enjoyed working with those guys. That music was really cool for me to play on. They called later and asked me to tour.
BAD MOON RISING AND JOINING DIO
Lion reunion never happened, but in late 1990 you formed a new band with Kal Swan. It was called Bad Moon Rising,
One of your biggest influences on the first album, Michael Schenker, is making a guest appearance. How did that thing actually happen?
He just came to the studio.
How was that?
It was great! It was great, the producer was a guy called Mack, a German guy, and Mack had worked with Michael before, and he said, “What do you think about having Michael come and do a duel thing?” I was like, “That’d be great!” He came down with his flying V, and he sat down, and he played through my rig, and he played his solo, and then I played mine, and he left. And then we decided we need some more fills, but it needs to have like, I would play this fill, and then Michael play this fill, but Michael wasn’t there, and this is before Pro Tools where you can actually take something and stick it, so I took the wah, and I cocked it just like Michael and I tried to play some Michael type parts, so it sounded kind of like him. But it was a great man. He was really nice. And I saw him a few years later when Bad Moon Rising was doing the BMR record, and UFO was doing that “Walk On Water” record at the same studio. I walk in the studio, and he’s got like 25 wahs all lined up, and they’re all probably just slightly different, but you know, he’s German, and he’s very technical. And then you’d hear him practicing, and he’d just be like do doo doooo, do do doooo just like three notes, just practicing three notes to get it the right way he wanted to, and I love that, he was just so technical about it.
OPUM FOR THE MASSES was the third and last album Bad Moon Rising ever did. It was a very different and heavier album compared to older albums. You also changed the band logo then. It was only three letters, BMR, right?
Yeah, like STP… We were signed to a Japanese label. They said you guys are doing well here in Japan, but you’re not gonna get any bigger unless you get a deal in the US”. No one wanted to know about us in the US because it was like Nirvana and all that stuff, so we tried to make a record with that OPIUM FOR THE MASSES that was kind of a little bit modern sounding but still had guitar solos and stuff, but all it did was, we still couldn’t get a deal in the States and Japan, they were like “It’s cool, but we like the old stuff better.” In the end, we did a tour in France, and we did a tour in Japan for that record, and then when we got home, Kal said, “I’m done, I don’t wanna do this. It’s just heartbreaking,” you know. And I didn’t have a choice. But I had done some solo records in Japan, and they offered me to make a new band, so that’s how I got Burning Rain together. I was doing a lot of different things around 2000. I did some Rap stuff, engineering sessions. Did a tour with Tiffany even. I didn’t know rock person she was. She could belt out stuff like Janis Joplin really well. On one of the sessions, I was doing. I did one with Jimmy Bain. He said Dio was looking for a guitarist. Craig Goldy was leaving so. I met with Ronnie, and we decided to go for it. They only had eight songs written when I got in the band, so we did “Scream” and “Alone Comes A Spider.” I looked at the songs they already had and just wrote the type of songs missing, which was a heavy type of thing and another fast song. “Killing the Dragon” was cool, and “Rock and Roll” was kind of a Zeppelin-y vibe. “Throw Away Children” is one of my favorite songs on that record. Craig co-wrote that one.
How much did Goldy writing for KILLING THE DRAGON?
He co-wrote, I think, three of the songs?
Wasn’t Push” was one of them?
So had Craig already recorded some guitar parts before you came in?
No, he didn’t. Craig’s a great player, and I have a lot of respect for him, but he was already gone. He was going through some things and decided to leave. So I came in, and I rewrote the guitar parts with Ronnie, but I did a lot of it at home. I used the scratch guitar parts so I could learn the basic thing of what they were used to cause I didn’t want just to come in and go, “Okay, here’s this,” and have it be completely different. I didn’t want to piss Ronnie off. I was just coming in to get started on this. And so I said, “Well, here’s the way the song goes, but this is the way I’d like to do it, what do you think, Ronnie?” And he would go, “Yeah, I really like that. Why don’t you try and make more out of this part?”
Did you play all guitars on the album?
Yeah, I did everything on that one. Nothing guitar-wise had been recorded. It was just scratch stuff.
How do you like the EVIL OR DIVINE DVD?
How do I like it? I like it a lot! That’s really the way the show was. It wasn’t fixed up; there was nothing overdubbed or fixed, that’s like the real live thing except at the very, very end of “We Rock” I broke a string. I was playing the gold Strato, and it was at the very end of the song it was just like a high note, and I went REEHHN, and as soon as the string broke, the tremolo went back like this, so the whole thing was completely out of tune, I mean it was just unusable. So I just punched that part, I took the amp, and you can hear when the tones change, and I fixed that part, but that was it.
That’s still one of my favorite live DVD’s. Well, how about the making of a promotional video for “Push.” Do you have any memories from that session?
Well, Ronnie was pissed off. He hated it. I just remember him going, “What the fuck is this?” It’s kind of a funny video, I think, it’s kind of cool in a way, and the front part with the Tenacious D guys is hilarious. But Ronnie was pissed when he saw it, he was all white, and he was like, “This is not Dio!”
MORE DIO TALK AND JOINING WHITESNAKE
When KILLING THE DRAGON came out, it was really refreshing to hear up-tempo songs from Dio because the music on previous albums MAGICA, STRANGE HIGHWAYS, and ANGRY MACHINES was mostly heavy, slow, and mid-tempo stuff, which is actually quite boring, to be honest?
Well, Ronnie loves that stuff, though. Sometimes Craig got criticism for not playing with a lot of fire, or whatever because maybe Ronnie doesn’t want that, you know? Ronnie was going for faster songs at that time, so that may be the reason why KILLING THE DRAGON ended up being more up-tempo and more guitar shred stuff.
We already talked about this earlier, but you mentioned that you are not too satisfied with the HOLY DIVER LIVE album?
Nah, it just doesn’t sound like what we sounded like together before. I mean, Rudy’s great, and Simon played great on it. I thought Simon did a great solo, Simon’s great, and Scott Warren sounded great, but Ronnie was tired, and Ronnie doesn’t sound his absolute best. He still sounded kick-ass, but he was under stress man, he had to make a guitarist change mid-tour. I had been in the band for a total of seven shows, I think it was, before that thing, and I wasn’t up to speed. I couldn’t even remember what song came next. I kept having to look at the setlist all the time, “What song is that? How does it start?” I couldn’t remember, you know. I came over to help, fill in, and see what would happen in the future, but then all of a sudden it’s like “Doug’s in the band, we’re doing a DVD,” and I was like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa.” Originally I thought that was gonna be some footage for a live something,… a tribute to Ronnie or like something from his whole career, but it turned into a full-on DVD, and I didn’t play my best It was not my rig. I was using rental amps. It just sounded like crap, man. We didn’t even do a soundcheck that day for that DVD. And I got onstage, and both Rudy and I were really freaked out by how it sounded on stage. It sounded really bizarre. So he had to turn down because he was so loud. It was freaking him out, and my sound, I was having trouble with the rentals. It just sounded really uninspiring, and I tried to do my best and play through it. I think there were a couple of spots where I played pretty cool, actually like some of the Rainbow stuff. I thought it was pretty cool cause it was different, and a couple of like “Gypsy” and stuff like that, but “Stand Up and Shout,” I wasn’t happy with that, it’s just… and “Don’t Talk to Strangers” was another one, on EVIL OR DIVINE I had been playing that song for the whole tour, so I had got something in my head that worked. I sounded good, kind of sounded like the record a little bit, but it was in my style, my own thing. But on the HOLY DIVER LIVE, I couldn’t remember the solo. I just was like, “Okay, what key are we in? Okay, I’m just gonna jam”. And it just wasn’t as good for me, plus the mix I don’t like.
One interesting thing was that during the “Holy Diver” tour, it was announced that you were again going to be an official member of Dio, but maybe one day later, they took off the statement and denied the whole story. Remember that?
Well, they asked me about the possibility of doing more work with them, doing a new record, and I thought, I’ll just keep the option open, and we’ll talk about it a little later. I was just trying to remember the songs at that point!, Playing guitar is my business, you know, this is what I do for a living. When it comes to the other parts of the business, I need help. I love working with Ronnie, he’s a great guy, and he’s the greatest heavy metal singer there is, tome. There are many great guys, Halford, newer guys, and amazing stuff, but for me, Ronnie is the king. He’s on stage, and he’s 60- something years old, and he’s hitting notes that he hit 30 years ago, the same thing, he’s doing it, and that’s pretty amazing, and he’s got lots of energy, and he just loves music. The bottom line is, I was committed to Whitesnake and very much into what I have been doing with David. He and I really have a strong kind of mental connection, and I understand what he wants to do. He and I musically see things very similarly. I understand that with new Whitesnake songs, there’s a balance you have to get between, we had been writing, and we were both into the songs, but when I got home from that tour, he said, “Alright, let’s get serious.” The first batch of songs are really interesting, and those have a rawness that makes them fresh. I can’t wait ’til they are recorded.
Maybe that was a good kick for him to really start writing with you for Whitesnake?
Well were writing before that tour. But I don’t know. David just decided he’s ready. He wasn’t really ready to get into all that business stuff before this. We spent a week together. We wrote four songs, then we spent another week together and wrote two songs, and then we recorded four of them, and they’re gonna end up being included on a live record package that’s got different songs on it like “Deeper the Love” and some stuff that’s not on the DVD. The new stuff sounds really cool, like if there could be a cross between some aspects of Deep Purple, some aspects of Coverdale-Page, and old Whitesnake, bluesy-ness but with the fire of “87 type stuff and even with some kind of like, something different you know, ’cause it’s a different person writing and playing on it, or different people. I’m really happy about it, it’s just a start, you know, the beginning, but we have some new stuff we’ve worked on that’s just amazing, which we will work on when we get back off this tour.
Yesterday you played one brand new song, “Ready to Rock.” I would say that sounded like a mix of “1987” and old Whitesnake stuff. Do you agree with that?
The riff is actually kind of almost like a Coverdale-Page meets Deep Purple thing or something, to me.
Yeah, actually, it really sounds like “Blackmore riff” to me?
Yeah maybe? Ritchie would be pissed off if you said that “laughs”…
How about your solo career. So far, you’ve released three solo albums. The first one came out in 1993, or something like that?
1993 I think, is the first one because the Japanese record company came to me and said we want you to do a solo record. And ’cause we were big in Japan for a while, we’re not just an average band, it would be an average band now, but we were really doing good at the time. So they were trying to milk whatever they could, well when they said solo record to me, I kind of thought, well, that’s not cool; I dunno if I want to do a solo record. Still, Kal said, “Yeah, why not, man, do it,” and I thought it’d be fun because I could just do whatever I wanted. I didn’t have to ask anybody’s permission. So I just experimented with some different stuff and different styles, and it was cool. It worked out pretty well. There were some pretty cool pieces of music, I thought. The next one, called ELECTROVISION, that was in 96 or 95, was more like self-indulgent. Me and this drummer Chris Frazier, we jammed for hours, and we would just record stuff, and it would turn into a song, you know?
You have interesting guests on these albums like Dizzy Reed, Ron Young, and Kal Swan.
Yeah, Kal, well, that was like a leftover BMR song that didn’t make it to the record, but I always liked that song cause it had kind of a Hendrix-y vibe a little bit, so I liked it, and I thought it would go good with that other stuff. Ron Young was on that record, he did a really cool song, and I had been working with Matt Kramer from Saigon Kick, we did a little project called Coma. There were four or five songs we did, it was with Ray Luzier playing drums and a guy called Miguel Fernandes I think his name was, on bass, a Cuban guy, and we did some crazy stuff, it was really like, it was like Hendrix meets David Bowie meets, I dunno, just weird stuff’, I would love to see that stuff come out some time. It’s really interesting!
Well, Doug … So far, we have talked for almost 80 minutes. Maybe this is enough now. Maybe we can continue on next time, right “laughs.”
No problem, Marko. See you the next time!
Thank you, Doug!
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