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MARk INTERVIEWS WHITESNAKE'S DOUG ALDRICH
ON THE EVE OF OUR TRIP TO SOUTH EAST ASIA TO CATCH A FEW WHITESNAKE DATES
Hi Doug many thanks for taking the time to catch up with us whilst out on tour! The Whitesnake Forevermore Tour is well underway and you are currently is Asia before heading over to Europe. What’s it like still being a band able to tour the globe?
DA- I feel very lucky for lots of reasons. Being able to see so many cool places is definitely a luxury. There are still places that Whitesnake hasn’t played so I hope that we can go. It’s sometimes hard to be away from home for so long, but we are having great shows and its pretty awesome.
How crowds differ around the world?
DA- Every country is or region is different. South America and Central America have very loud and crazy audiences. We went from there to Japan where the fans there are known to be quieter and polite. The Japanese people are very respectful. Its cool the way they respond. They never want to miss a note. We just played Korea for the first time and it was mental there. Great energy.
Forevermore has been seen by critics as the best album from the band in a while what was the writing process like for you?
DA- It was a great experience. Working with David is inspiring and very creative. We are on the same page and he trusts that I really want the best for Whitesnake. I work really hard on presenting him song ideas that will inspire him and add to the Whitesnake catalogue. There wasn’t really a plan in the beginning of 2010. We just sat down to write a bit and we both had some cool ideas. It just snowballed and before we knew it, the record was written.
I must admit that 'Forevermore' is personally one of my favourite albums of the year - I proclaimed that it might just be 'The Year of the Snake' when it was released , I loved 'Bad to be Good' but on this album the Aldrich/Coverdale partnership really has matured and bourne fruit.
What are your favorite new and old songs to play live and why?
DA- I would say right now that Steal Your Heart Away is really fun cause I play a little slide on that one. It’s a simple but effective riff and it sounds great live. For older tunes, doing Burn is awesome. We just started doing that again and it kicks ass.
You’ve been with Whitesnake eight years now, how do the band get along and does anyone’s little idiosyncrasies make you smile or grimace whilst on tour?
DA- You really find out about people when you go on the road with them. If someone kinda gets on your nerves, being on the road will magnify that! Everyone has some little personally things about them. I know I do. But the chemistry that the band and crew have right now is good. We have been on tour since May with only a couple breaks but we are still going strong and having fun. Yes, sometimes there are rubs between people, but overall this is my favorite band line up that I have been a part of. On tour there is lots of smiling AND grimacing, but that’s the way it always has been.
DA- I’m glad that we are still making records. Writing music and then recording it and playing it live are amazing. Being able to write some music that adds to the WS legacy that David started was very important to me.
Looking back a bit, we were big fans of Lion, what are your best memories of that band and why would anyone want to check them out?
DA- The early days when we lived in a old house in LA, it was something I’ll never forget. We didn’t have furniture so we used our gear. My speaker cabs would be used as our dinner table and tables in every room. Then we had to tear all the stuff out to go play a gig. It was very simple. All we needed was our band and a roof over our head. I love those times when it was simple. Lion was very influenced by Whitesnake and Thin Lizzy. Our first record came out in 1986 and although those recordings sound old now, they have a WS flair to the songwriting. In the end, our record company killed us so the band stopped and we split up. But it was a good time.
You played on two great albums in 1990: House of Lord’s ‘Sahara’ and the much underrated ‘Slave to the Thrill’ by Hurricane, who featured Kelly Hansen of Foreigner on vocals: what do you particularly remember about those two releases?
DA- I did Hurricane after Lion broke up. I had had offers from some other bands but I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I started writing with Hurricane and we made the Slave To The Thrill record. It was great except me and the producer did not get along at all. One day he said, hey can I take you out for dinner.... I thought, Cool, maybe we can bond a bit. He said he had bad news, that the engineer just erased a bunch of guitar parts and I would need to do them over! Haha.. I did the House Of Lords Sahara record just after the Hurricane one. I was hired as the guitarist but I was committed to Hurricane so I wouldn’t join House Of Lords. It was a fun record because it was my first time working with producer Andy Johns. He and I got along great and I loved working with him. We had a female engineer and when I was doing solos, Andy would get drunk and start making out with her while I was playing.... I thought that was so funny and very rock and roll, haha. I’m very proud of the version of “Cant Find My Way Home”
Bad Moon Rising was a great band and produced some really memorable albums but the attention just didn’t seem to be there. Why do you think that was in retrospect because the material is consistently great and at times unbelievably good?
We did our first record in 1990 after I got home from a Hurricane tour. It felt great to be working with Kal Swan again. That record did really well in parts of the world, but never broke other than Japan. I guess we were just a bit too late. Then as we were doing our second record. I thought, we would do well, but that’s when grunge took over the world.
Do you think we will ever get to hear any new Bad Moon Rising material?
DA- Never say never, but there are no plans.
Burning Rain was another project that seemed to tick all the right boxes but went under the radar. Again there’s a great legacy there for people to check out.
DA- Burning Rain is some cool stuff. I think the timing for that music was a bit off cause it was still grunge time when we started in 1998. But I have a lot of music that maybe would see the light of day if the time feels right in the future. The singer Keith St John has some great pipes and we get along well, but I am committed to all things Snake at this time.
Tell us a little about playing with Dio! Anything!
DA- Ronnie had offered me the job of guitarist first in 1989. We played together at that time, but it just didn’t feel right to me. I was kind of immature at that time and I still had a lot to learn. We started talking again in 2001 and then he offered me the job again. This time I jumped at the chance to work with him. He was very cool to me and very supportive. I feel honored and blessed to call him my friend. He taught me a lot and challenged me on stage and in the studio. If not for Ronnie, I probably would not had been in a place to work with David. The thing about Ronnie was he made his fans everyone feel close to him. He loved his fans.
Tell us a little about your friendship with Gene Simmons and the audition for Kiss?
DA- I was eighteen and just a new kid in LA. After about 6 months I was playing in my first original band at the clubs there when a girl said that I should audition for the guitar spot in Kiss. She said she was Eric Carrs girlfriend. At first I didn’t believe her, but the next week she brought Eric to my gig. He said he wanted me to come meet Gene and Paul. Anyway, they were very nice and it was interesting to meet real rock stars... We played a couple times but I was just way too young. They got Vinnie Vincent and I think for that time he was perfect. I run into Gene a lot over the years and he is always cool and very funny. He has a serious sense of Humor. Paul is always cool. I don’t know them very well except for when we do gigs with them but they are cool guys and have done a lot for music.
In such a lengthy recorded career what are some of your favorite projects to date and why?
DA- Forevermore record. It was really a time in 2010 when I wanted to be home and creative. My wife and I had a boy in 2009 and I wasn’t ready to go on the road. David and I sat down and started writing and that meant I could be home or take my family up to David’s place to work. I was changing diapers and writing Whitesnake at the same time!
How do you start the day and is there a guitar involved?
DA Coffee! On tour I wake up and see my Goldtop first thing in the morning. At home its a bit different with kids, I need to make time to go in my studio and play.
Who would you cite as among your main musical influences? AT what point in your life did you know you wanted to play the guitar and who was the primary influence in guiding you towards the instrument?
DA- Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix, Beck, Clapton, Blackmore, Iommi, Schenker, Gary Moore, Randy Rhoads, EVH, it goes on and on....David Gilmour, Duane Allman........ I started playing guitar in the summer when I was out of school. My younger sister Janet had a classical guitar and a book of songs. I started there and finally got an electric copy Les Paul about a year after.
What new music inspires you to play, or do you find that it's in fact the generations of music, which came before that really excites and inspires you?
DA- Foo Fighters, Jonathon Tyler, Joe Bonnamassa.... I get inspired by lots of things. Lately, been rediscovering a bunch of old Blues. David has a massive library of Blues. He is a real bluesman remember. He has blues playing all the time. I have Blues in my soul so it makes me feel good.
Are there any players outside of the mainstream who you'd recommend checking out?
DA- Michael Landau, Derek Trucks. Two of my favorites. Michael Landau first for me though. He is just sick.
That's just one of those great conicidences - I just saw Michael play for the first time a few weeks ago with Robben Ford!
What were your biggest hurdles as an up and coming musician, and how does this contrast with the challenges you face today?
DA- Tough question.... You need to be dedicated when you are starting off. I was, and you need a bit of luck and I’ve been pretty lucky. I was too shy in the beginning and that held me back a little.... I often would think about the old saying that nice guys finish last.... But now, I think that I have been able to work a long time because of that... I don’t know. The challenges today are kind of pressures in life. Life was simple back when I was 18 in LA. Now, I have a bit more pressure on me, but I have been blessed to be able to wake up and play guitar to make my living. I wont complain about anything.
Your playing has so many tonal nuances and great control over dynamics, from the way you strike the strings, to the guitars you use and through to the music you write; do you think this is an overlooked and underrated element in modern music which seems ever headed towards becoming really homogenous with ALL imitation and replication?
DA- Maybe you are right about some of the new music repeating itself. But that’s more in the pop music thing I think. The boy band thing always makes me switch the channel There are some young pop stars that I just wish would sit down and listen to Hendrix.... OK somebody needs to say it.... Justin Beiber, you need to get some JIMI in your Ferrari!!! haha
What is your favorite ever guitar tone? Why do you like it so much? What is the favorite tone you’ve ever recorded?
DA-Too many to list..... Listen to Blackmore.... he has it all. Right now I love the sweet tones. Gilmour tops the list. I love acoustic guitar.... I’m still learning how to record it properly but I really liked the
You're known for using a wide variety of gear over the years to get your sound, although you've always been able to maintain and develop a signature sound. Do you find that your choice of guitar or amp will inform the way you choose to play on a given performance, or do you tend to be able to get the same results out of whatever equipment you choose?
DA- Pretty much, once a guitarist plays for years, you start to always get the same sound out of most any rig. Me, I have had the same rig for 30 years.... I’m always working on my tone, but I still use a 1979 Marshall that I bought in ’81
Eddie Van Halen famously said 'tone is in the fingers'. To what extent do you agree with this?
DA- Almost 100 percent.
Have you ever had the chance to play with Jeff Beck?
DA- Nope.... I’ve met him several times but never with a guitar in the room.
What’s the best advice you could give to someone picking up a guitar for the first time?
DA Have fun. If it gets you in the soul, then keep going and play from your heart. Don’t quit school and enjoy school while you have the chance. Go to college and get a degree in music.
Here’s a scenario for you: You've got an important gig booked but no band; if you can only take one guitar, one amp and pick from any drummer, bass player and another instrumentalist who and what do you choose?
DA- Bonham on drums, Entwisted on bass, and Jon Lord on the Hammond. I would love to get in that room!!
What advice would you offer to musicians, of any style, who want to make a living out of writing and playing their own music? What important lessons have you learned over the years that you still apply day in, day out?
DA- Like I said, School. I can’t stress it enough. When you are young, you think you can rule the world....and you do, but as you get older, the world gets more complicated and being smart makes getting through life easier. Your music will be better too.
Have you ever been blown away by a band or a musician you’ve seen live?
DA- Yes all the time
What are you listening to at the minute?
DA- Black Country Communion 2
What would we think of Doug Aldrich if we met him in the street?
DA- I don’t know.... Hopefully that I’m cool
If you could have been in any classic rock band over the years, who would it be and why?
DA- Haha, I don’t know. The Archie’s.... I would have helped them.
If you could have been involved with, or sat in on the creation of any piece of music at any point in history what would it have been and why?
DA- Stairway to Heaven...... That must have been pretty cool.
What is the meaning of life?
DA- For me, family is the meaning of life. I’ve had great moments in my life, but nothing compares to the times I’m with my son.
Thank you so much for taking the time to speak to us. We are now off to get on the plane to see you in Malaysia and Singapore, have a great tour.
DA- Thanks Mark! See you soon bud!
By Mark Diggins