söndagen den 20:e februari 2011

Intervju med Doug Aldrich i Whitesnake!



För några år sedan hade jag nöjet att sitta ned med den genomtrevlige Doug Aldrich på Grand Hotell i Stockholm. Den här gången blev jag uppringd från LA och fick ett ganska långt samtal med Whitesnakegitarristen om bl a allt jobb med senaste plattan, ny setlist, förhållandet till Reb Beach, överblivna låtar, svenska vänner och gitarrköp på Ebay.

Doug Aldrich: Hey Niclas, it´s Doug Aldrich!

Hey, how are you?

DA: Good! How are you?

I´m good! Are you calling from LA?

DA: Yeah, I´m In LA on Skype. Thank you for talking with me!

Man, I had the pleasure of meeting and talking to you last time you and David were in Stockholm, at the Grand Hotel.

DA: Yeah, that was a good time and that hotel is awesome. I love it!

I was looking at the Whitesnake website and going through all the pictures there from the studio and you all look so relaxed and like you had a ton of fun.

DA: We did! I think it really reflects in the sound on the record. It´s a little more loose overall in a good way, I think. I think it was set up that way by David in the very beginning of this record where he said “Let´s involve everybody as much as we can on this record!”. “Good to be bad” was more David and I holed up away at his house, whereas this one, David rented a special house for us to work at and everyone could come and it was great.

These places Snakebyte and Grumblenott, are those David´s own studios?

DA: That was the places we rented. Grumblenott was the place we rented. There were two houses that David rented. The first one had an amazing view of the lake and a beautiful home and because of that view, you never felt like working. You just wanted to go out on the deck and drink beer. Then we got Grumblenott studios and it was funny because there was no view, you were just stuck in the middle of these big pine trees and we got a lot of work done.

Cool! What was it like recording in Lake Tahoe?

DA: It´s awesome there man. It´s a really small village and there´s not much going on, so there´s not much distraction. You´re able to focus on what you´re doing and I actually got a real love of Lake tahoe, because it´s in this part of California and Nevada where a lot of westerns were shot there, a lot of western tv-shows and I like that vibe.

Yeah, I went through Lake Tahoe three years ago on a five week road trip of the US. A great place!

DA: What kind of road trip was it? By car or bike or…?

By car. It was me and my dad and my three brothers all through the us.

DA: Oh man, that´s great!

Yeah, we loved it! We had a blast and saw it all. Grand Canyon and everything.

DA: Whose idea was it?

It was actually my dad´s and he brought us all along and we stayed in really nice hotels.

DA: Did you go through Texas?

Yeah, we went through Texas. We were in Houston and got to see the Johnson Space Center.

DA: Cool! Grand Canyon is awesome!

It is! We went down to New Orleans and then up through Utah and everywhere.

DA: Great! Did you get some good food on this trip?

Everywhere.

DA: Yeah, that´s why I was asking you about Texas, because they´ve got this Texas barbeque that´s really good. On Interstate 40 which runs east to west and on the southern side, near Texas and Okalhoma, when you get near Oklahoma and Texas, they´ve got this place where they say if you can eat the whole steak it´s free. It´s a giant steak. I´ve never tried it, but I know people who´ve tried it and they couldn´t do it and you have to eat all the potatoes and everything that goes with it. That´s funny! But back to the interview! That´s cool though, that you guys took a family trip.

When did you start writing for the album?

DA: We started… well, really I started at the end of 2009 working on ideas on my own. David had said that he might wanted to make a record and maybe it could be more acoustic based. I started working on a lot of acoustic stuff and the first song we wrote was in January in 2010, which was “One of these days” which is kind of acoustic based and then little by little we started getting into some heavier stuff. Somebody else told me that maybe the record´s not quite as heavy as “Good to be bad”, but they enjoy it more, so I think that´s kind of how I feel too.

I think it´s got a bit more of the classic Whitesnake sound. I´ve been listening to it for the last couple of days and I´ve got some favorite tracks on there. Especially the title track, “Forevermore” where David sings really good and there´s a really cool melody to it.

DA: You know what? That was the last song that we wrote. That was at the very end. I said to David “I´ve got this idea for an acoustic thing that could potentially turn into a real epic, because there´s so many places that song could go.”. It could´ve been a heavy song or do one verse and then when it got to the chorus, you´d bring the band in. There´s a lot of different ways to do it, but I showed him the basic stuff and the melody that he sang was pretty much exactly the melody that he did. Obviously he had real lyrics to write, but his melody was so cool. The first chord to that thing is major and then it goes to a minor chord on the second chord. He just hit that note right away and his tone is so huge, so then the song just kind of stayed on its own until we got control of it and then it got heavy. We´ve taken a couple of weeks off, so I haven´t talked to David about it, but we did do a straight acoustic version of “Forevermore” and it´s just amazing. I hope you get to hear it! It´s super good and no drums or electric guitar and it´s just really cool.

Nice! How do you work together? Does he bring stuff like melodies and riffs as well or is that mainly you and he brings the lyrics?

DA: No, no! It´s very organic. A lot of the stuff that is more guitar based, the heavier stuff, I might give him the basic ideas but then we work on it together and he goes “Hey, let´s work on that part!” or “Let´s work on this a little bit and try this!”. David´s a great musician! He plays guitar great and he plays keyboards great. He plays a lot of percussion too, believe it or not. For some songs he said “I have this idea, take it away and see what you can do with it!” and I just take it away and do my best and see if I can develop it. I know what kind of sounds he´s looking for and one of the songs that turned out really cool was “Fair thee well”. He said “I´ve got this little melody thing and I don´t know if it´s Whitesnake or not but I want to see what you think!”. He played it for me and I said “Honestly I don´t know until we work on it. We should just see where it goes.”. We took it downstairs to the studio and started working on some guitar parts for it and then we found a drum beat that was nice and a bass part. I said “I don´t know if this is a Whitesnake song or not, but it´s really cool!”, but once he started singing on it properly it was like “Yes, it does sound like Whitesnake!”.
Sure does. It´s a good song. Was it your plan from the beginning to produce it yourselves and who´s this guy McIntyre, who´s also producing?

DA: That´s a guy that´s been working with David for probably 25 years. He was part of David´s road crew actually in 1987. He was part of the touring party and then little by little he… I think he started assisting David around the time when David did Coverdale/Page and it turns out that he´s a super valuable guy, he´s a very tech oriented guy so when it comes to Pro-Tools and computers, he´s very intelligent about that. He´s got a great metal ear. He´s more interested in the heavier things than the acoustic stuff. He´s just very valuable. We played him songs that we were working on and he´d go “Yeah, that was cool!” and we´d play him another one we were working on and he´d go “It needs to be more heavy, man! Let´s get some balls to it!”. There were a couple of songs where I could tell that he thought it might be to light for Whitesnake, but when it got down to recording it got more like Whitesnake.

Ok. What was it that made you guys sign with Frontiers, or was that all David? Were you in that business part as a band?

DA: The reality of Whitesnake is it´s David Coverdale. That´s his brand and with regarding to that business, It´s got nothing to do with me, but I know that David was really inot finding a label like Frontiers that was supportive of him and decided on them. This kind of relates to your last question because when Frontiers asked David of whom he wanted to produce it and David said “I want the Los Bros Brutalos, same as the last record!” and they were like “Oh, who´s those guys? We´ve never heard of them!” and he said “That´s me and Doug and Michael McIntyre. You liked ‘Good to be bad’, right? And they went “Yeah, we really liked it!” and David was like “Well, there you go!”. They were really supportive of David´s decision and to be honest Niclas, we´re just experimenting in the studio. We´re just trying and we´re no experts or anything. I think we´re good at finding the sound that David is looking for and once he´s happy, that´s what it comes down to.

Well, it sounds really good!

DA: Thanks, man! I´ll tell you one thing that really helped a lot this time, and that was that we got a new computer rig that´s more efficient. The last record we were sitting there trying to mix it and the thing kept crashing all the time and it was driving me nuts, you know. It would crash and then you opened the song back up in the program and it wouldn´t sound the same. It was like “Whooh, is it the same or is it just my ears playing tricks?”. This time, with the new computer, it worked out really well.

Do you know if this deal with Frontiers is a one album deal or are there options for another album?

DA: I have no idea! I would imagine it depends on how this record goes and if David is happy with it and everything, maybe he would consider doing something else. I know he´s got another release, “The Monsters of rock at Donnington 1990” and I helped him work on that a little bit from an engineer standpoint. I think that is coming out on Frontiers as well. It´s a great show!

The title of the album? You said the song “Forevermore” was the last one, did you have that title before the song came?

DA: No, it was interesting… we knew the song had potential to be special, but it wasn´t until David texted to me one day, and I was back in LA working on stuff, he texted me “The song we worked on last is gonna be called “Forevermore” and wait till you read the lyrics!” and I was like “Oh, that´s so cool!”. So next time I went up to Lake Tahoe, I was basically going back and forth to Lake Tahoe every week, and when I got up there he showed me the lyrics and it was beautiful. I don´t know who it´s about or what it´s about exactly. I have my own ideas, but that´s what I like about his lyrics, they´re open for anything, but I could tell it made the song complete and it was very special. Like in any of these songs the lyrics are a massive part of it. I mean, you can have a great melody and stuff and a great chord, but without a great lyric it doesn´t mean anything! You need a great lyric, so I was blown away by it and the he said “I´m thinking of titling the record “Forevermore”!” and it´s perfect. It´s one of those things where David is so clear about making these types of decisions and it´s great to have a leader like that. I might not have thought of it, but it´s obvious. “Forevermore” is a great way to title the record and it really encompass the feel of the songs. Maybe it encompasses his whole career and hopefully it will last forevermore.

True. Were there a lot of leftovers from the recordings? Stuff that you decided to let it be?

DA: There was a few. Then a song like “Whipping boy blues” was kind of a leftover from “Good to be bad” and it was the second song that we wrote for this record and it used to be called “Crazy about you”, because the lyric went “Crazy about you” and we had a version of it but it wasn´t blowing either of us away, but David said to me at the end of “Good to be bad”, “What do you think, should we work on that song and include it on good to be bad?” and I said “I don´t think so! I think we should come back to that and I think we´ve got enough things that are like that already.”. Then we got together this time and started working on it and I was a little hesitant, but then we kind of found the chord progression and it started to make sense and then the lyrics started to make sense and it just turned into a really cool song and it´s probably one of my favorite songs on the record now. It´s just got that old kind of bluesy thing to it and I really enjoyed it. Once I got it done guitar part wise, David worked on his parts and I was really happy with how it turned out.

Definitely! You´re releasing the album in a special version with Classic Rock Magazine and is that the new way to reach out to the audience? There was a pretty big band here in Sweden that did that last year and it sold pretty good actually.

DA: I guess. It´s a kind of multimedia thing and they´ve been supporting Whitesnake for a long time and supporting David´s career, so I think it´s gonna be great for the record and it´s also gonna be interesting for the fans of David to read about all the different variations of Whitesnake and the different people involved in the records and tours and also Deep Purple and probably Coverdale/Page too, I would imagine. It should be pretty cool.

You´ve worked closely with Reb Beach now and you´re a great guitar duo. Is there something special that makes work so good?

DA: I think we´re just really different. We had a little bit of growing pains in the beginning where there were a little bit of… you know, it´s always hard when you´ve got two guys that are used to being the only guitar player on stage. When you put those two guys together there´s gonna be a little bit of competition and there´s no way around it and then sometimes that can turn into a little bit awkward situation here and there, and I really don´t like that. It´s not comfortable. The competition part can bring out some fire in you. This has pretty much always been a two guitar band from the get go and David made that clear. I really couldn´t think of anybody else I´d rather work with in Whitesnake than Reb, really. Our styles are so different. He covers one aspect and I can cover another and he´s just a brilliant guitar player. He´s very schooled and I think he went to Berkley College in Music for a while and then it seems like he basically let all that stuff go, because now he´s a total feel player. He plays off the cuffs and we really bonded a lot more on this record I think, than we ever have before. I´m really happy about that. I´ll tell you another thing Niclas, that makes it cool. In the beginning we used to butt heads on how to play this part or how to play that and now we both relaxed a lot and speaking for myself, I really appreciate how Reb plays differently. For exampla, a song like “Fool for your loving”, the main riff, he plays it his way, I play my way and together it sounds really cool live. When it came to the studio record, “Forevermore”, on the first single for example, we worked on that together, me and David and Michael and when Reb came in to do his parts I showed him the ideas that we had and Reb took it and did it his way and I really loved it his way. I wound up learning it how he played it. Then on “All out of luck” I had a basic solo idea that I showed Reb and he asked “What songs do you think I should play on?” and I said “I don´t know! Just play on whatever you want and just play the progression of the solo section and see what feels good!” and I really looked forward to hearing his take on how things would be played and then he basically did it his own way and it was awesome! It was really cool to watch that. We´re in a good spot right now and we´re both really happy about playing this stuff live.

Cool! Playing stuff live, how do you put together a setlist for this tour and do you have any idea what songs from the new album you´ll be playing? Are you gonna pull out some old Whitesnake gems?

DA: That sounds like a good idea to me! I think there are a couple of Whitesnake gems that really need to see light of day this year. I´m not gonna say which ones, but I have some favorites. There are a couple that I´ve been talking about for years, like this one song “Lonely days, lonely nights” (Come an´get it 1981 Editor´s note). I love that song and maybe we could do something like “Wine, women an´ song” (Come an´get it 1981) or… I love “The gambler” (Slide it in 1984) and that would be cool. We did do a medley for a while at one point that had “Lovehunter” and “Walking in the shadows…” and “Slow and easy” I think and so maybe a medley, like we did with “Burn” and “Stormbringer”.

Absolutely! A friend of mine suggested you pull out “Steal away” from the “Snakebite” EP and that you play the slide guitar.

DA: That sounds cool to me! I´ll check it out! Basically it comes down to David. We´ll go “Dude, we gotta try to do ‘Burn’ or something!” and he´ll play it a few times and if he likes it then it stays and if he can´t feel it, then we´ll just dump it. I was actually really pushing to do “Mistreated” and he did it. We did it a couple of times and sang amazing on it, but he just wasn´t… it was just kind of slow and it didn´t really seem to fit the Whitesnake set and he said “I´m just not feeling that song!”. I always look too and I was joking around and started playing “Mistreated” on an acoustic guitar with a slide and he started singing it and it was like “Whoa, that´s cool!”. You never know. A little piece of a song might end up on an acoustic part or something.

Nice! Were you involved in Devin and Tichy joining the band or was that all David as well?

DA: No, no, no, I was definitely involved in that! I was a huge cheerleader for Tischy. David said that he might wanna make some changes on the lineup and I said “If you do, Brian Tichy is the best drummer out there right now!” and he said “Well, that was the original drummer that we talked about to get in 2003.”. Marco Mendoza who played bass with us at that time had been tight with Tommy Aldridge and we thought that made sense at the time. They were friends and they´d played a lot together. So Tichy came in and I was so happy. I´d seen him and met him a couple of times. I´d seen him play on TV with Foreigner and I´d never heard Foreigner sound so bad ass. It´s a great band, but it was heavy, man! He´s just a killer player. We did some jamming together in the beginning of 2010.It was a benefit for a friend of ours who had a child who had a problem and I was blown away with his playing and playing with him was amazing. Then when we got him, he suggested a couple of friends of him who plays bass and one happened to be Michael Devin. Michael´s got a real blues background, because he played with Kenny Wayne Sheperd and some other blues guys as well and he´s like a real blues aficionado. He really knows it and he´s got a really good voice. His playing is super fat, very simple and he just lays it down. Those two guys are friends and they´ve been playing a lot together and that´s one of the major points this record has, Tichy and Devin.

It sounds like you clicked right away?

DA: We really did. I mean, from the get go. When we got into pre production and rehearsals, I told the engineer that was gonna be recording drums, to come down and check it out, because if we could capture the sound that he had in that rehearsal room, then we would be rocking. He came down and heard it and said “Yeah, that´s doable!”. We got him in the studio and messed around with microphones for a little while and finally we agreed that it sounded pretty good and we started recording and then when we took the tracks away from the studio and started doing overdubs, we could really hear that Brian set the tone for the record. He really did.

Cool! So far you´re just playing one date in Sweden, you´re back at Sweden Rock Festival, but do you have any idea if you´ll come back for more dates later on?

DA: I think we will. We´ve got to! Sweden Rock is such a big festival for Sweden and all of Scandinavia really or whole of Europe really. It´s a massive festival. I´m sure we will. There´s nothing like spending some time in those cities. One of my favorite places in 2009 was up north in Umeå. It´s beautiful and real traditional, or I don´t know, it just seems very traditionally Swedish and I´d love to go there again. It´s a little difficult to get there, but it´s a really beautiful town. So maybe at the end of the year, who knows? Maybe in the wintertime we´ll come back.

That would be awesome! A whole other thing, the latest guitar you bought? Do you still buy guitars?

DA: Yeah, I do. The last one I bought, and I used it on the record a lot, was a 1970 Martin D 28 and I got it really cheap on Ebay. I checked the serial number and the guy didn´t really say what it was, but I knew it was Indian and I got if for a really good price. It showed up and I thought it was a bad deal in the beginning. It was in a soft case and it was just beat up and it smelled like an ashtray. It looked so bad, but I took the strings off and scrubbed it down with polish and worked on it for an hour or something. Then I put new strings on it and tuned it up and holy shit it sounded amazing! It really sounded great! It still smells a little bit and it really had like dirt on it and stuff. Then recently, some guitars got lent to me. I´ve got a friend from Sweden who´s a real close friend. He and I will always go on Ebay and look at guitars and collect guitars together a little bit. He lent me a 12 string and that was cool. I´ve gotta tell you a funny story. He´s my Swedish connection really. I´ve got a lot of friends in Sweden like Michael from Opeth is a really good friend.

Alright! He lives not that far from where I live.

DA: He´s a great, great guy! The Europe guys are friends and Mikkey D from Motörhead and Oscar and those guys in Hammerfall. This buddy of mine lives in LA and I was at a party at his house, he was having a Swedish party and we had some miniature lobsters and all that stuff. We were on line and he has a Les Paul and there were only about 200 of them made. It was Gary Rossington´s guitar, so we´re looking online and looking at the serial number and he starts freaking out “Oh my God it´s the sister of my guitar!” and he got so freaked out that he signed and he bought it. He hit the button. He hit the button to buy it immediately, which means you have to buy it. I said “Hey Peter, you just bought that guitar!” and he goes “What do you mean? Are you serious? My wife is gonna kill me!”. So I ended up writing that guy a letter and the guy let me buy the guitar, so I got the sister guitar. It´s so funny, because he´ll bring his guitar over and we´ll set up all the guitars in the backyard and take pictures of them and we got the brother and sister together. (laughs) Yeah, so he lent me a couple of guitars for the recording and actually Paul Reed Smith lent me a couple of guitars and they´re really nice.

Who´s playing keyboards on the album and who´ll you bring on tour?

DA: We´re figuring that out right now. Rehearsals start in a couple of months, so we´ve got a little time to figure it out, but the guy that played on the record was our last keyboard player, Timothy Drury. He played on most of the songs, but there are really four songs that he gave a little heavier treatment which was “Forevermore”, Fare the well”, “One of these days” and “Easier said than done”. He did a great job and came in for like three days and one of the remixes… we´ve got about ten remixes and we did a remix of the single “Love will set you free” and I redid the guitars and put a really classic, bluesy guitar sound to it and with the keyboards cranked up it sounds really nice.

One last thing! Have you got anything else going besides Whitesnake? Any projects you´re working on?

DA: I´m pretty much 100 percent dedicated to Whitesnake. I have a project that is pretty much written and it´s called Burning Rain. I´ve had this band for like ten years, but this time I´m really just working with David. I´m involved in the live show and helping get everybody prepared for the tour and helping David with what we should play.

Well, it´s been a great pleasure talking to you again Doug and I hope you get to play Stockholm again!

DA: Absolutely! I would love that, man! We did some shows with Europe and that´s a pretty great bill, Europe and Whitesnake together, so maybe we could work that out.

Yeah, that would be cool! Thanks again Doug!

DA: Hey Niclas, thanks for your time man and have a great night and we´ll see you in Sweden!

/Niclas