INTERVIEW AND PICS BY MARKO SYRJALA
TRANSCRIPTION BY ANDY OSBORN
David & Doug came over to Europe last November to do a promotional tour supporting the band’s recently released “Live.. In The Shadow Of The Blues” live album. What made this promo tour extremely cool was the fact that in addition to doing tons of interviews Doug and David spoiled their fans with playing selected acoustic gigs and Sweden Rock kick-off party in Stockholm was luckily one of those places. There are lots of activities in Whitesnake camp and which is the most important thing is the news that the band is currently working on a brand new studio album, bands first in ten years, which should be released next summer.
There is really going to be a new Whitesnake studio album next year?
David: Yes, tentatively titled “Good to be Bad”, so there’s a clue of what it’s gonna be like.
The new songs on “Live In The Shadow Of The Blues”, the studio songs, went back to the seventies kinda sound with the eighties touch and the nineties feel to it. Do you agree with that opinion?
David: With respect, that’s up for you to describe it, we just wrote Whitesnake music. There was no…. the only thing we actually did was make sure that the songs stood up to the early stuff and we’re confident that it does. One of the things that a lot of our contemporaries do that we hear when they make new music now, it doesn’t sound as exciting as their original stuff and that’s not what we’re interested in.
Some years ago, you said that there will be no more new music from you. What made you change your mind?
David: What made me change my mind? Circumstances. The big problem is when you make statements through the years, whenever I have said something, it’s absolutely true for that time. Then something changes, like in any aspect of life, you know “Shall never fall in love again with a blonde woman.” You know, fuck it, that’s when God laughs. When you make plans, God sits up there and has a good laugh.
You’ve been going through quite a few guitar players in your career. What is it that kind of makes a guitar player click for you?
David: Well, let me tell you what this guy has, he’s got all the ammunition that I have always looked for in a musician and also great potential for so much more and I’m honored to work with him and the fact that he’s decided to work with me. We’ve been through ten years of no guitar heroes and if ever there was a guy designed to be a guitar hero, it’s this guy. He’s got blues, rock, technique, emotion, it’s all there. And the biggest bonus, he’s a fuckin’ nice guy. [looking at Doug] It’s your turn, go.
Doug::Thanks, brother. It’s an honor to work with him as well. Obviously it’s a great opportunity for someone like me myself and I’m like a sponge, you know, he’s bringing me up the way he wants to. I’ve established something for myself but we’re definitely bringing it to a different level now.
David: Yeah, and that’s a big deal with us, you’ll hear this a lot in interviews or whatever, the “big level” and the comparison we make is that kind of sporting thing when you see somebody run a race in the Olympics or the long jump or the high jump and they, because of the circumstances, the incredible event, it inspires them to jump their highest or longest or run their fastest. And then you have a choice of going well, I have a new personal best, or can I make that better and that’s exactly what we intend to do. Every time we go on tour we say let’s take it up a notch, let’s go into the next level of this. This is the first band I’ve been with that the intensity of a performance at the beginning of a tour was exactly matched by the same intensity and consistency and enthusiasm at the end. It’s a great, great band.
David, how do you like the Coverdale-Page album now afterward??
David: Oh, I love it. Jimmy and I were planning to meet recently in London but circumstances prevented it. I think there are another four or five songs that didn’t come out and I think what we may try to do is I dunno, what’s the anniversary? It’s ten years since “Starkers In Tokyo” and thirty years since I left Deep Purple. I’m in an age now where every fuckin’ year is an anniversary or something. But yeah, if that comes out that’s fine. Right now, the focus or the future focus is on Whitesnake. Of course, the past is always there and I just approved the final three masters from the early Whitesnake; “Come and Get It”, “Saints & Sinners” and “Live….In The Heart Of The City” and next year is the twentieth anniversary of the “1987” record so were doing a special thing on that. But it’s really important to…that’s just going to be there if you want it. Now, we’re seeing 15, 16, 17-year-olds at shows, it’s amazing and they’re singing all the words so I’m happy that these CDs are being remastered because the originals don’t sound so good with modern technology. But yeah, it’s great now if you got a good stereo system which pretty much everyone has that this old stuff is being remastered. If you want it, it’s going to be there which is a bonus.
How did you find Doug in the first place?
David: A mutual friend of ours, Chris Ridmeyer used to work with Whitesnake years ago, he has also worked with Courtney Love and Exodus. He told me about Doug years ago and I said well it’s too late, I was retired. And when I decided to go back and celebrate the 25th anniversary of Whitesnake he was the first person I contacted and at that time he was with Ronnie Dio, but I didn’t care. [laughs]
Well, in my opinion, there’s a big Whitesnake influence on Burning Rain. Do you agree with that Doug?
Doug: Well, it’s been there for a long time, I had a friend that showed me the earlier Whitesnake records before they were released in the states so I kind of had that background. All my influences, with the exception of Hendrix and the guys in Aerosmith, but everybody else: Page, Beck, Clapton, Gary Moore, Michael Schenker, all these guys are English….
Doug: European, yeah.
David: Michael wouldn’t like you saying he’s English. [laughs]
How’s the writing process between you guys?
David: It’s easy. It’s absolutely natural, it’s absolutely fresh, very organic. It’s four songs out of a bunch of ideas that we have. We just decided to give these three rock and rollers and a power ballad for the ladies, although a lot of guys like it too, I think they’re in touch with their feminine [side]. But that was it, we’re keeping the epics; the bigger, longer, more….yeah epics is the best idea, like seven-minute songs or whatever for the new studio record. Just wanted this to be very similar to the original start of Whitesnake which was four songs, the EP “Snakebite”. So it’s come full circle. Doug has been very patient with me because I had no plans to make….many interviews have said I have no plans to make a record so he’s been really patient with me. But we socialize. We’re very good friends, our wives are good friends. And one of the things that happen whenever we get together; he’ll be playing guitar and oh, what’s that? It’s something I’m just messing around with because I write music just because I enjoy it. And he’ll say Oh well what about this and we play with this idea so we were actually writing when I had no plans to do anything. It’s just a natural extension. The way some people sit down and have a coffee and a conversation, we have a conversation with guitars; it’s very, very natural.
Do you keep old songs in drawers which you’ll pick out many years later and work on those?
David: Sometimes, yeah. Two of the songs from the new record were old ideas of mine that he ripped all the insides out and changed them around and it was “All I Want Is You” and “If You Want Me”. He made them very fresh now and very inspired. I think “You Want Me” was much more keyboarding, but yeah, it’s terrific. These ideas, he has old ideas too. One of the things that are a bonus for us is that Doug is, as he said, a fan of Whitesnake so there was never a problem for me to say, well, that doesn’t sound like us. If you listen to “Ready To Rock” it’s got elements of Deep Purple and elements of Coverdale-Page and Whitesnake, of course. And it’s fun, and that’s the bottom line.
In the booklet from the promo version of the live album, it says that you’ve already written most of the songs for the new album?
David: Well, the ideas, we have about another eight pretty much complete.
Doug: Well yeah eight complete and then we’ve got about another twenty that we haven’t finished yet.
David: Big power riffs.
Are you going to include those already released four new songs for the album?
David: No, it’s fascinating; I’m a big Beatles fan and I thought it was amazing that the Beatles would never put their singles on an album which I thought was unbelievably courageous because any record company would say, we have to put the hits on here. I thought that was amazing. Unless we have something like from what we do where’s there’s a good live version of something like bonus tracks or whatever but the main beef of the record will be, I hope anyway, all new stuff. It’s very strong.
The booklet says also that Reb Beach is also working on some music for the new album and he’s working on some song which would be a new “Still Of The Night” …
David: No, he told me that his intention was to write a new “Still Of The Night” and I’m still waiting for it [laughs] but everyone has an opportunity. I send out an email saying we’re getting ready to put the songs together and if you have any ideas, get them to me now. Unless some things have happened while I’ve been over here….but that’s not a problem. I usually find somebody within the band who I will partner with and this is just very natural. It has nothing to do with Doug being my favorite, it just happens this way; it’s unfolding.
Doug: Also, to be truthful about it, when we got off the road in 2003 I started sending him my ideas. He didn’t tell me he wanted ideas, I started sending them anyway and then he said hey come on, we’ll do some writing.
David: This is the difference between somebody who’s inspiring to me; enthusiastic, and motivated. For me to chase around… I’ve had this before with musicians, it’s very easy for musicians to say “Well, I never had a chance at writing songs ” But yes they fucking did! They just didn’t take the opportunity and I’m not going to run after people, I’m fucking busy! If you have ideas, bring them to me as long as you accept me saying I don’t think this is something I want to sing. That’s the bottom line because I won’t pick a song just to keep someone else happy. It’s got to inspire me, it has to motivate me. The ideas that Doug presented to me we recorded vocals immediately without any plan.” Ready to Rock” is a jam melody that is exactly the same now with different lyrics as when he first played the song to me.
How much time do you spend on the Internet because I saw you had a MySpace and you’re on your own home page a lot…?
David: Well, I don’t do MySpace.
Is somebody else doing that one?
David: Well, they put that on because everyone says you gotta get that cyber real estate. You know me, I mean you’ve known me for many years. The circumstance is it’s like taking me to the dentist to start a website. But now I’m very passionate about it. This is the first time in thirty years as a professional musician that people can actually directly communicate with me. They can ask me questions and with respect to journalists, they don’t always ask the questions that a lot of people are interested in. Inevitably when I come to Europe the first question is [in a Russian accent] “So David, how was it with Deep Purple” And of course everybody’s fucking heard that. So, it was great, okay!? Fuck! Next! But, they can ask….like today somebody asked where I was born and somebody came on and got it wrong and then somebody corrected him. But I don’t have the time to go on as much as I used to. Before, I had a much more interactive way. They are getting their desire. It’s a very popular website, we get 70,000 hits a day; very popular. They are getting their wish that I am working again. When I was more active on there I had more time so I would go on every so often.
But, the “Starkers In Tokyo”…
David: So how was it with Deep Purple?! [laughs] Sorry!
“Starkers In Tokyo” is very…
David: Simon and Garfunkel! [laughs]
I love it, it’s an acoustic thing and in Scandinavia, we have just seen acoustic tours from Jethro Tull, Uriah Heep, and…
David: No, no, I’m sorry this has got nothing to do with that. I promise you, Whitesnake isn’t back because the hard rock is popular again. Whitesnake is not driven by fashion or the mood swings of the industry, not at all. This is a situation where we have a new partner in SPV and their enthusiasm is fantastic so when we agreed to make a promo rather than….you have no idea how boring it is to sit down and answer fucking questions, so how do we make it more interesting? Let’s do in-stores, let’s sing, let’s meet the people and sign new copies of the CD. Immediately, why don’t we do two songs? It’s not an acoustic tour. We’ve been in Spain, Germany, and France. I don’t know what tonight’s gonna be because one of the things we’ve had is interaction with people in the in-stores. I’m hoping we can do something like that tonight but this has got nothing to do with, I don’t know. Who fucking does those unplugged tours? This is called unzipped.
Do you have any plans to come back to play in Russia at some point?
David: Oh, I hope so. You know, when we toured last time, I asked, I promise you I always ask. There’s great support for us in Russia but when we were touring I was told that wasn’t a good time for Russia. I can only buy what my agent tells me. The last time particularly, what was it 2004? That was fantastic, that was great.
In Moscow and St. Petersburg?
David: Yeah. What, is there more to tour? I know Russia’s pretty big but all we can do is…my agent is in London. He sends the emails and makes the phone calls: Whitesnake’s going back on the road, are you interested? And if people don’t get back to him, or say no, sadly we don’t get to play there. That’s the scenario. Whitesnake doesn’t go to parties without being invited.
In Russia, Deep Purple is very popular and Whitesnake is as well.
David: Well yeah, Deep Purple was always popular there. In 1974, when it was Soviet Russia, the Soviet culture attaches in London invited Deep Purple to Moscow to represent western music. And we went, well fuck, why not? And then they started to get a bit nervous so they asked us to make some audition shows in then Yugoslavia and Belgrade. But, it was Beatle mania. It was totally crazy so they canceled the Moscow show and they took Cliff Richard instead. Rock and roll, baby, rock, and roll! [laughs]
What are the plans for the release of the new album, when is it coming out, next summer?
David: Hopefully next summer, yeah. There is a lot of activity. We have new partners with SPV, we’ll be discussing it with them. That’s our plan, to have the record ready for June and tie that in with a tour.
Doug: After this, after this trip, we’re gonna have a little break and get write to work, piecing together whatever needs work.
David: It’s like a jigsaw puzzle; we have all these pieces of ideas and some very positive ideas, the centerpiece. Then we put all the pieces together and the album takes shape.
Do you have any idea who will produce the new album?
David: You’re looking at him!
Is it just you or Doug too?
David: Doug and Michael. And we may involve a Norwegian guy named Björn Forswood who has worked with us for…..he’s pro tools, a genius. And now he (Doug) is pro tools and I’m just…
After the album comes out, what touring plans do you have?
David: Well, not yet. Quite honestly we talked yesterday with Rob McSween, he’s the agent that we work with in London. We’ve worked with him for over twenty-five years. We’ve been in Europe for two weeks and I haven’t even called him so I don’t know what’s going on. Well, we’ll be calling him to ask him what Christmas present he has for me. [laughs]
So are you going to headline Monsters of Rock next year?
David: Oh, I don’t know. Do you know what we would love? Doug and I would love to be with Def Leppard, Road Star, and The Answer. I would love to take those guys out, you know the young and the not-so-young. My favorite shows, if you’re going to do that kind of show are where people can have a good time at the shows. Recently in America, we saw the Def Leppard and Journey package. The audience just had three hours of singing and just having a great time, it was fantastic energy.
Doug: Europe could be cool too, the band Europe.
David: Well, I think they’re here.
Someone from the side: Yeah, I’m playing in the all-star band after you.
David: Are you in the band?
Guy: Yeah. [laughs]
David: Oh, excuse me, Europe would be great!
Doug, I heard that you auditioned for Kiss once upon a time. Would you tell me some more about that?
David: He kept that very quiet from me!
Doug: I was asked to, it wasn’t something that I went….it wasn’t a cattle call. I didn’t even know they were looking for somebody but the drummer at the time, who is passed now, came to see me play when I was seventeen when I first got to LA and he said I think you’d be great in the band. He kind of was encouraging, but I was just a kid. So, I was at a music store working and he called and said, come down to the record plant. So I met Paul and Gene did a little test recording to one of their records and I jammed with them a couple of times. You know I’m just this little kid with Marshall stacks and there’s Gene and Paul. That was not necessarily my favorite band at that time, my favorite bands were Zeppelin and Jeff Beck but I figured, hey, I came to Hollywood and this is something I should check out. Obviously, I was too young but it made me realize that I was doing something okay and I should keep doing it and work harder and try and progress more.
Did they use any of the stuff which you recorded with them?
Doug: Well, I dunno what they used, I just played some stuff and obviously they liked it enough to come down and play and a couple of weeks later they called me back to play again. And I was surprised because as young as I was I could tell I wasn’t ready for that. David will tell you I’m kind of an immature guy and I had to go through a long process to get the opportunity to work with him. So, I feel this is like, the start of something really special for me.
Last question for you Doug, you have played with Ronnie James Dio and Whitesnake so what’s the biggest difference between Ronnie and David?
Doug: I have a lot of respect for Ronnie, he’s a great guy and we’re still friends, and David and he are friends but I feel at home; I mean I’m at home now. I’ve been in Whitesnake three times as long as I’ve been with Dio.
Okay, Merry Christmas guys, thanks.
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