David Coverdale Ready an’ Willing, Speaks About All Things Whitesnake
It’s not every day that a true rock legend rings you up to talk about his latest release and it’s even rarer that he be a gentlemen as well. But Whitesnake frontman and CEO, David Coverdale is the exception. Both gentlemen and rock legend, David took time out of his busy schedule to get us caught up on the latest news and, of course, the new Whitesnake Live In The Still Of The Night DVD/ CD set and the Whitesnake – The Definitive Collection CD (both released by Universal Music). COVERDALE: What can I do for you my Canadian pal? It must be cold in Montreal at this time of year. I have to tell you I enjoy your city immensely. Vancouver I’ve experienced more than anywhere else in Canada and I was there with Pagie (Jimmy Page) making the Coverdale/ Page record and we were experiencing great heavy emotional depressions and we found out it was the high pressure from the mountains and, of course, we were at sea level and in the winter time it’s a really difficult place for people to live.”
KNAC.COM: You have to be hearty to be Canadian.
COVERDALE: A hearty perennial mate. My beautiful guitarist, Doug Alrich, is recently married to a Montrealer. She’s a total doll, a fantastic hostess and very welcomed to the Whitesnake family.
KNAC.COM: Let’s talk Whitesnake and let’s start off with the line-up. How is it playing with Doug and Reb (Beach) ?
COVERDALE: It’s fantastic. We have a new bass player, Uriah, who’s fitting in perfectly. It’s marvelous. It’s an added inspiration for me to reach notes that only dogs can hear. If it wasn’t, there would be a new Whitesnake (laughs).
KNAC.COM: How do they compare?
COVERDALE: Well, I don’t compare. They’ve lasted longer than the previous guys. So, that should be a clue that things are pretty good in Whitesnake.
KNAC.COM: You’ve had some great guys like Steve Vai…
COVERDALE: Are you serious? I’ve had the pleasure of working with some of the best players in contemporary music and continue to.
KNAC.COM: What’s the future for this line-up? Are you going to get into the studio?
COVERDALE: Doug & I have finessed a bunch of tunes, but we’ve narrowed it down to the four that we are going to present to the guys. We’ve got a live album (which we are currently shopping) and just about to start mixing… The three most requested projects from my very active website (www.whitesnake.com) were the in concert DVD (we’ve delivered that), a best of live (which we have in the can and will be significantly more than just Whitesnake). But as an added bonus will give new studio stuff. I’ve been reticent to commit to a whole new album, but that looks like that’s changing anyways. But the circumstances… we felt that it was appropriate to add four new songs to this live opus. At this time, Doug and I have decided on three balls to the wall and one cool mid-tempo melodic rocker. So we’re very excited about that – very much so! And hopefully, at the end of the year start recording a new studio album for late spring/ early summer next year.
KNAC.COM: Let’s talk about the upcoming live album. It was recorded on the US tour…
COVERDALE: All over the place. I’ve invested in a Pro-Tools system and you can take it anywhere and that turns into a bit of a problem because that turns into a wealth of potential tracks. Instead of in the old days, where economically you could only afford to do two or three shows.
KNAC.COM: Right, because you had to get a whole recording truck to come out…
COVERDALE: Yeah, but now it’s become ridiculous. It’s a nightmare because… Cincinnati was great, but what was Cleveland like? So, you just keep going and going. And one lesson we’ve learned is to pull back, but we may tie in some of the earlier shows in May to pick up ‘Mistreated’, ‘Guilty Of Love’ and a couple of other songs. That’s one of the great things about having a relatively stable line-up – is that you can build on the arsenal of tunes you have whereas before I’d get a different band each time I went out and I’d have to start from scratch. So, it was more or less the same set and it became really boring for me.
KNAC.COM: Because you had to learn the greatest hits over and over again….
KNAC.COM: So, the live album is still going to happen? I thought with the live DVD…
COVERDALE: You’ve got the DVD and it’s doing extraordinarily well around the world and that should be able to last people a while. It’s not the best Whitesnake show by far and it’s not the worst, but it’s a great example of what a Whitesnake show is about and I’m very happy with it.
KNAC.COM: Why would you say it’s not the best? It’s got everything a fan could want…
COVERDALE: We’ve had greater nights, but it’s still a great representation of a Whitesnake show. If people turn around to me and say ‘do you think you’ve caught the best Whitesnake show?’ No, far from it. I’m just telling you as it is.
KNAC.COM: With Pro-Tools you can obviously changes things – so what you’re telling me is that this may not be the best Whitesnake show, but at least it’s live. Is the real thing?
COVERDALE: Yes, of course it is!
KNAC.COM: You haven’t ‘flown’ in things?
COVERDALE: No, no not at all. It’s mixed by a guy called John X – who’s not the best known engineer (though he should be). I would have put more juice on my voice because it’s very dry. But nowadays front of house boards or mixing boards are digital, so you’re getting absolutely pure signal and you can do what the fuck you want with that in a mix mode. You can completely isolate stuff so there’s no bleed even in a live environment – so he mixed it as a LIVE DVD. It’s mixed very cinematically I feel.
KNAC.COM: It does have a cinematic feel. Explain why you went from black & white footage to color…
COVERDALE: Well, that’s Hamish Hamilton and he’s one of the main reasons I committed to making the DVD. He’s the top of the line. He’s the equivalent of working with Martin Scorsese. He does U2 and they only work with top of the line. When I was offered a DVD (and this has been going on for a few years), this deal was more significant than most, but a lot of the DVDs that I had been sent of my peers or contemporaries – sucked on ice. They looked cheap, cheesy and sounded the same. So, it wasn’t interesting to me and I’ve always paid high dollar for good quality. It’s always important to me to present the best I can and the best I can afford. And with a lot of the deals I was offered; I couldn’t have done that, but when Hamish Hamilton was talked about… I was all ears because I’m a fan of his work. Part of his work is that kind of documentary scratchy stuff… the guys is fucking great!
KNAC.COM: It does look like a mini-movie and not just a live concert DVD…
COVERDALE: Yeah, ‘cause I wasn’t interested in that flat shit. Out of probably 5000 reviews on my web site there’s maybe three going ‘oh, it’s more like a video than an ‘in concert’.’ Well, fuck off go watch somebody else’s. This is something that I wanted. I’ve got to please myself before I even dream of pleasing anyone else.
KNAC.COM: Of course, that’s very important…
COVERDALE: Totally – absolutely. And we’re looking forward to the Wal-Mart version so we can show my son.
KNAC.COM: Without all the bad words in it…
COVERDALE: Without the naughty quaint old Anglo-Saxon references. I don’t know if they’re taking tits out, but I do know that the ‘f’ word is coming out. It’s something we have to do. Wal-Mart is the biggest record distributor in America.
KNAC.COM: You just toured America… How was that?
COVERDALE: It was very disappointing. It created an opportunity for me to fire my management and my agent. It was definitely not the kind of tour I was familiar with doing and when I came back the first thing I did was fire the management and I’ve recently fired the agent because he’s brought nothing to my table. I‘m trying to avoid this perception by Clear Channel of me being basically a big-hair package artist. I was in Deep Purple for God’s sake. I’ve sold 70 million records which means more to me than three MTV videos. I’m headlining every major festival in Europe, so what the fuck is going on over here?
KNAC.COM: I didn’t understand that either. I saw you on tour with Slaughter and Warrant…
COVERDALE: A horrifying… well, forgive me. No disrespect to those guys, but I was… when I committed to that tour the artist I was supposed to be working with were not the artists I ended up working with and that’s no disrespect to those people, but I would not have committed to that package. In America, I think it’s an identity crisis by the people who put on shows.
KNAC.COM: How do you explain the dichotomy between Europe and America?
COVERDALE: When I was calling it a day with my agent recently I said look ‘there’s no difference between people in Norway and Chicago. There’s no difference between people in fucking Athens and Detroit. So, why can you not get the kind of work that I’m familiar with elsewhere? If my car won’t do 60 miles an hour – then I’ve got to buy a car that will. It’s that simple and it’s not his fault. He’s got a particular vision and I don’t share that vision. If it means I don’t get to tour the States then that’s very sad, but I will not… there are some bands from the ‘80s that I really enjoy like TESLA. Big fan of theirs… I would love to go out there with… In the rest of the world, I’m attracting very young… 14, 15, 16 year olds and I’m thinking isn’t there anything else to do in Gothenburg on a Tuesday night? But they were singing the words to the songs and the reason they’re coming to Whitesnake shows is because the new rock isn’t giving them what they need. A lot of the venues they put me in in this country (US) had a 21 years-old age limit, so anyone who was younger couldn’t get in to see me.
KNAC.COM: You did well in Montreal of course…
COVERDALE: Yeah, it was great. I had a great great stay there and I love Doug’s wife even more.
KNAC.COM: You had a great opening band in Honeymoon Suite…
COVERDALE: Yeah, they were terrific and nice guys too. Now you have to tell me something why is ‘Is This Love’ so huge over there?”
KNAC.COM: Is This Love is so huge because radio/ French radio embraced it as one of their own for years and they still play it…
COVERDALE: I’m familiar with that song always doing very well, but I swear to God when I came with the Scorpions to play Toronto, Montreal and Quebec… I swear the response to that song was as if Zeppelin had just gone on and played ‘Stairway To Heaven’. It was immense to the point where I’m standing there enjoying it – thinking ‘keep it coming’. The response at the end of the song was breath-taking. It was like everyone in that arena had been married or met to that fucking song. It had some immense connection there and I couldn’t define it. It always does well – don’t misunderstand me, but this was beyond.
KNAC.COM: There are some songs that just connect. Def Leppard’s Pour Some Sugar On Me was huge…
COVERDALE: We’re working with the Leppards in Europe and I’m really looking forward to reconnecting with them.
KNAC.COM: I wanted to ask you about the effect of video on Whitesnake…
COVERDALE: You mean the MTV years? That’s one of the perceptions that it was so vast. My ex-wife was the video vamp and all over the world I would see women in the audience with her hair and hair color. She was responsible for more hair styles than Jennifer Aniston ever was. It was breath-taking. She could have made a fortune being a model for hair products. But it was so vast , so big and so successful – it still resonates and I still make a very good living from that period of time. But that’s one of the problems that is somewhat compromising… the image that is still perceived by Clear Channel and bigger promoters.
KNAC.COM: Those videos have become icons…
COVERDALE: Yeah and I’m just about to start working with Universal on the Ultimate/ Definitive Whitesnake video collection which of course will feature them and next year is the 20th anniversary of the ’87 record, so you know there’s going to be some stuff coming out related to that. I’m just going to have to roll with that baby. My life has always been challenges and I’ve got the passion to overcome them. If that’s what I have to do, so be it.
KNAC.COM: There really is two bands – the blues rock band from before and after and then there’s the 1987 band…
COVERDALE: To me, it’s basically a different suit. When I was with Purple I learned to tailor the style of music I was writing for the identity, but within three years that became an ever decreasing circle. So, when I formed Whitesnake I wanted Whitesnake to be able to embrace a plethora of styles under a particular creative umbrella called Whitesnake. I wanted to do hard rock, R&B, blues and if necessary with good commercial hooks and I’ve done very well harnessing that. I got to a period (in the early ‘80s) where I knew it was time to take Whitesnake to the next level which was going to be more the style that Hendrix created for the blues. He made the blues more electrifying. My colleagues at that time weren’t of the same vision which is why moved on to players like John Sykes – who could assist me in going to that next level.
KNAC.COM: Through the ‘90s and after you did Coverdale/Page and the Into The Light solo album. There was a period where there was no Whitesnake, but you’re back…
COVERDALE: There’s a shitload of Whitesnake now – is there not?
KNAC.COM: Have you come back to the ‘mothership’? Is it Whitesnake from here on out?
COVERDALE: After Coverdale/Page, my manager and I discussed that maybe it was time for me to start working as David Coverdale. All of my record contracts are David Coverdale aka the artist known as Whitesnake. It’s never involved anybody else’s signature from any chapter of Whitesnake. It’s always been David Coverdale also known as the artist Whitesnake. I made an album called ‘Restless Heart” that was to be the pre-cursor to ‘Into The Light’. It was a David Coverdale solo record and the executives I worked with at EMI in London who had agreed to help me make this transition from Whitesnake to David Coverdale got replaced by other executives who wanted it to be a Whitesnake record. So, I had to put tougher guitars on and turn the fucking drums up, but to me it wasn’t a Whitesnake record. It was a David Coverdale solo record, but Mitch I came to the realization that the way am I known whether I like it or not is as Whitesnake.
KNAC.COM: It’s a brand name…
COVERDALE: Exactly. It’s my franchise (laughs). I don’t have the ego that says ‘I want my name up there’. That’s just not necessary. It was just my manager and I talking. We just did Coverdale/ Page so why not Coverdale? Never pulled it off and who cares?
KNAC.COM: In the future – all things you put out will be under the Whitesnake name?
KNAC.COM: No retirement anytime soon?
COVERDALE: No no – I think retirement will be dictated… I can’t even say that. I’m still the frontman in a rock ‘n roll band that is still successful and I’m going to be 55 in fucking September. Go figure. I just got the news that my daughter had a safe and perfect delivery of our second grand-daughter. Life is rich. It is perfect. It is balanced and it’s an onwards and forwards scenario. The songs I’m writing with Doug are terrific. The guy is a partner made in heaven and it’s our destiny to work together and I think I can guide this to a very successful conclusion.
Live In The Still Of The Night (DVD) and the Definitive CD collection (both from Universal) are available for purchase at www.whitesnake.com.
Mitch Lafon is Senior Writer & Staff Photographer for BW&BK and does a radio feature called the “Mitch Minute” on Ottawa’s #1 station – Majic 100.3 FM.
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