Interview: Whitesnake Guitarist Doug Aldrich

With over ten years playing in one of the best British rock bands ever, guitarist Doug Aldrich has cemented his place as one of the greats. With fellow American and guitar partner Reb Beach, only band leader David Coverdale has spent more time in the Whitesnake camp. And this snake continues to slither.

With the imminent release of the CD/DVD Made In Japan, recorded in 2011 at the Saitama Super Arena, came the news that iconic drummer Tommy Aldridge would be returning to the drumseat.

The band is gearing up for another busy year of touring and is due to hit UK shores in May on a dream bill with Journey and Thunder. Aldrich was on hand to give us the lowdown.

Geeks of Doom: Are you excited to have Tommy [Aldridge] back in the band?

Doug Aldrich: Absolutely. Tommy is a legend and a part of Whitesnake history. He’s one of the greats on drums. We have been in WS together and I love working with him. We are all very excited.

Geeks of Doom: David Coverdale has said that all of the current band chose Tommy to replace Brian Tichy – what is it about Tommy that you were all so keen to have back?

Doug Aldrich: Well, first, we were sorry to see Brian go and I especially love Brian’s playing, but we supported his decision [to leave]. I was at the airport on my way to work on the DVD with David when he told me the news. I immediately thought that it would be awesome to get Tommy back. I had done some recording with Tommy earlier in the year and it was great to see him. I spoke with DC and when we started talking about a shortlist of replacements, Tommy was the obvious choice. He knows the Whitesnake routine and has done the show with us. He knows how intense the show is and he has always been amazing live. I’m very happy for him and us that he’s back.

Geeks of Doom: Absolutely, it’s great to see him back. You’re heading out on a big tour across the UK with Journey and Thunder this May – are you excited to get out on the road with those guys?

Doug Aldrich: Yes, we are all friends with those guys. It’s going to be a great night of music. I think this an amazing bill with the three bands. It has a very fresh feel to it. [Journey guitarist] Neal Schon is a friend and I love his playing, so it’s gonna be insane to hear him every night!

Geeks of Doom: All the guys in the three bands are very experienced – have you crossed paths before?

Doug Aldrich: Yes, as I said, we’ve all known each other for years and done the odd show here and there together, but not like this. Both bands, Journey and Thunder, are cool people.

Geeks of Doom: Whitesnake live albums and DVDs are particularly impressive – do you have plans to record any of the shows this year?

Doug Aldrich: We record lots of shows and even sound checks. I don’t know what David wants to record, but my feeling is yes. I think the combo of [Michael] Devin on bass with TA is gonna rule. I’m very excited to hear those two together and I think we should record as many shows as possible.

Geeks of Doom: Yes, please do! Yourself and Reb have been the guitar pairing for over 10 years. Which guitar pairings in the band did you grow up listening to?

Doug Aldrich: With Whitesnake it was [Micky] Moody [and Bernie] Marsden first, but I didn’t really know those early albums until ’84. I had heard the U.S. version of Slide It In and then found the earlier records. I think [John] Sykes [and Mel] Galley woulda been cool. [Adrian] Vandenburg and [Steve] Vai was insane. When Reb and I got in the band, I wanted us to have our own thing. I wanted to have a tip o’ the hat to early ‘Snake by playing more slide and in a bluesier way, but with the intensity of the ’87 band. Reb and I have very different styles that work well together.

As far as other duel guitar bands when I grew up it would be, Eagles, Skynyrd, Allman Bros, Doobie Bros”¦ all the bros! Later Maiden, Scorps, and Priest.

Geeks of Doom: Excellent choices! This year marks the 35th anniversary of the first Whitesnake album, Trouble. Will there be something to celebrate this?

Doug Aldrich: Man, DC celebrates every day! It’s fun to hang with him ’cause he is bigger than life and always in party mode. I would say we have some cool ideas happening for the tour and he is the best MC in the biz. The shows are our celebration.

Geeks of Doom: Will this line up of Whitesnake record an album?

Doug Aldrich: Oh, I don’t know. We will see.

Geeks of Doom: Whitesnake seems to tour constantly – does this help when it comes to writing material?

Doug Aldrich: No, being on tour makes it hard to focus on full stop composing. But it will definitely spark some cool jams that could turn into songs. Whitesnake is a very intense show and we all need to be taking care of ourselves and staying healthy on the road. We focus on the show at that time and get serious about songs off the road.

Geeks of Doom: How do you write as Whitesnake?

Doug Aldrich: It’s completely natural and inspiring to write with David. We have an unspoken trust that the other guy wants everything that is best for the song and the band. David and I have written so much that it feels like second nature. We start off with very basic ideas that we both seem excited about and then develop them into rough demos. Then obviously we record them with the entire band. We are always writing riffs and talking about song ideas. Then when I’m away, I try and achieve what David was describing. Or I try and get a vision that I have in my head in a very rough demo so I can pass it to David to have a think about.

Then sometimes, I’ll just jam a riff and he will sing, it is wicked and I’ll be playing and trying to record us at the same time so as to not lose the initial spark. The most rewarding times I’ve had in WS is composing with DC.

Geeks of Doom: Does DC get the final say on what songs make the cut?

Doug Aldrich: Of course he does! Ha ha!

I love that he has final say. I trust him. He is a very gifted person and has shown in his career that he knows what he is doing.

Geeks of Doom: That’s very true! You also have another project – Burning Rain. How are things going there?

Doug Aldrich: Really nicely. It has been a long process for me to complete anything new since I have been 100% committed to Whitesnake. I signed a recording contract for a third Burning Rain record in 2004, but just couldn’t pull myself away from WS to get it done. Finally it’s complete and coming out this Spring.

The record is called Epic Obsession and it features Keith St John on vocals. He’s a super talented singer and I think we have a good batch of songs that will stand up. It’s a melodic blues rock approach to the sound and it will be interesting to get some feedback on it as it’s really the only thing I’ve done outside of WS in the last 10 years.

Frontiers Records releases Whitesnake: Made In Japan on Deluxe 2CD/DVD, Blu-ray and DVD on Monday April 22 [UK].

Don’t miss Journey and Whitesnake with very special guests Thunder on tour in the UK during May 2013.

Glasgow SECC (May 18)
Sheffield Motorpoint Arena (May 20)
Newcastle Metro Radio Arena (May 22)
Manchester Arena (May 23)
Nottingham Capital FM Arena (May 25)
Cardiff Motorpoint Arena (May 26)
Birmingham LG Arena (May 28)
London Wembley Arena (May 29)

Order tickets online from www.ticketmaster.co.uk and www.livenation.co.uk

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