Inspiration, indulgence and turning 60: Coverdale shares all

 

David Coverdale

David Coverdale turns 60 in 2011. John Harrell photo.

INFINITELY CHARMING AND CHARISMATIC MUSICALLY as he is personally, David Coverdale took time to catch up with Goldmine’s Carol Anne Szel just before the release the band’s 11th CD, “Forevermore,” on the Frontiers Records label.

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By Carol Anne Szel

Recorded, produced and mixed by Coverdale, Doug Aldrich and Michael McIntyre at Snakebyte Studios and Grumblenott Studios & Villas in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, with additional work at Casa Dala in California, Coverdale has restored Whitesnake to its prime with this balls-to-the-walls, bluesy, soulful, rock and roll endeavor. In addition to Aldrich (guitars), the band is rounded out by Reb Beach (Winger, Alice Cooper) on guitar, Brian Tichy (Ozzy, Billy Idol, Foreigner) on drums and Michael Devin (Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Lynch Mob) on bass.

“Oh, Carol, don’t let me steal your heart away,” Coverdale croons as I answer the phone for our interview. “Hi dahling.” No wonder he’s in such a good mood; he’s been nestled in his Lake Tahoe digs for years now, staying away from the trappings of many of his peers, enjoying the rewards of his life’s work. “I’ve got almost a 365-degree angle where I can look out at the beauty of Lake Tahoe. It’s postcards from God on a daily basis,” he tells me.

I understand that in addition to releasing this new album, you’ve been working on a Whitesnake DVD of 1990 footage? How did you handle that while recording the new CD?

Whitesnake Forevermore

Whitesnake released its 11th album, "Forevermore," on Frontiers Records.

DC: My life’s a three-ring circus, honey, with all the acts playing at the same time. I was in such incredible shape back then. Yes, you’re talking 20 years; it was the 20th anniversary last August. But watching this son of a bitch Coverdale, I’ve seen more fat on a french fry, going around like some trollop. Literally, I’m going ‘Christ Almighty.’ I mean, I’m in pretty good shape, but this (1990) was like crazy stuff. So, it was intimidating, but also really inspiring for me to go ‘OK, f**k this, I’m going to get back into it.’ You know, acknowledging where I am in age or whatever. Still it was very encouraging for me to take on a healthier regime, workout regime, you know? Now I am weighing in, this morning at 177 which is pretty happening. For an almost six-footer, it ain’t bad.

Whitesnake Warner Brothers

Holy hair band, Batman! This incarnation of Whitesnake eagerly embraced the look of the day. Photo courtesy Warner Brothers.

How have your musical inspirations changed over the years?
DC: Well, you know, I’m not digging into the old negative. I did an album some years ago called “Restless Heart” (1997). A lot of the time the music comes first and then I make songs out of that. But some of the music was giving me inspiration for negative physical relationships. And I have such an incredibly positive relationship that I found I was digging back. You know, to get the kind of resentment vibe (laughing). For me, resentment is like taking poison and hoping someone else will die. I just do not recommend it. I can see that I was in a dark time because of that. And I made up my mind that I ain’t wastin’ no more time.

So I think that album was the last time I did one of those. Now it’s going to be a fun lyric like it is on “Good to Be Bad” and “A Fool in Love.” So it’s not that poisonous, venomous that woman sucks. You know, I don’t want that. That was then. That is just a theme that is not interesting to me anymore, and I feel a lot better going into something significantly more positive and legitimately where I am.  I wrote a song on “Good To Be Bad” called “Best Years.” “These are the best years of my life.” Are you kidding? These are even better than when I wrote it!
So that’s what I have to celebrate. Music is a celebration. You know, naughtiness, search for direction, love on an assortment of levels. And all the elements are secure as they were from the very beginning. Which is hard rock, rhythm and blues, soul, melody, and tongue-in-cheek.

Now you produced and co-produced with Doug Aldridge and Michael Macintyre?

Whitesnake Geffen

Whitesnake at the beginning of its commercial peak in 1984 featured (from left) Mel Galley, John Sykes, Neil Murrary, David Coverdale, Cozy Powell and Jon Lord. Courtesy Geffen Records/Simon Fowler.

DC: Well we are “The Brutal Brothers.” It started way back when. I did a deal with an European independent company for a live greatest hits. And then I said ‘well, I don’t want to just keep re-working the old stuff. What about if we included a couple of songs?’ And I didn’t want to get myself too overwrought by writing a whole record because when I revamped Whitesnake I didn’t intend to make another record. That just unfolded that way. Thank God.

So we did four songs. Michael Macintyre has worked with me for years. He’s a fabulous Pro-Tools engineer and a dear friend. He’s my right hand guy. Michael, as I say, he’s recorded my voice for the last bunch of projects, and he has my total trust.

Doug, of course, came in as a guitar hotshot. We developed a great friendship and discovered we could write simply as an extension of our friendship. I’ve been in relationships that have been the equivalent of 12 root canals writing songs. Whereas this is more or less natural. You know, it’s a marriage made in heaven in other words. So we did these songs and it went very, very well. And then f**k it, the next album unfolded.
But we are really hard on each other to get the best out of each other. I turned around and I made a remark one day and Doug went ‘DC, man, that’s brutal.’ I said, ‘We’re the f**king brutal brothers, what do you expect!’ The way there’s the Glimmer Twins or the Toxic Twins, it’s just fun. But the three of us work together extraordinarily well. It’s just worked out really, really well for us.

Have you always been involved in production with Whitesnake?
DC: Basically I’ve always been involved in the production, from the very, very beginning. But the engineers I’ve wanted to work with to get that big bottom-end sound on records, they’d end up getting managers. And the managers would insist that these guys are producers. You know a real producer is somebody like Keith Olsen. All the albums I did with other people, they weren’t really producers, they were more engineers. So with this I’m very happy to now start taking production credits. You know, keep it all in-house, family.

Musicians seem to be doing that now.
DC: Well, it just makes sense. Because before you’d be paying a hundred grand plus enormous points. Which nobody could afford because it’s economically ridiculous. But the circumstances are, if you need it. I don’t.
Forgive me if I sound arrogant, but I don’t.

Not at all, it sounds real. It must be a challenge at times, though.
DC: Well Whitesnake’s no f**kin’ walk in the park. Because some of the songs are deceptively simple. Until you start playing them. And then you go, ‘Oh my God.’ It’s a full physical workout to do that.

Whitesnake 2011
The latest lineup of Whitesnake is comprised of (from left) Doug Alrich, Michael Devin, David Coverdale, Reb Beach and Brian Tichy. Photo by Ash Newell.

 

Tell me about the new Whitesnake lineup.
DC: Doug and Reb, these are guitar slingers to die for. They’ve been with me for eight years, which is pretty long to last with Coverdale. They’ve kept their eye on the ball, they’ve kept focused, kept motivated, inspiring, and it was blissful to see those guys cooperating in the studio.

And these new guys, we have Brian Tichy, I’m sure you know. And he brought me Michael Devin, who has fantastic chops and is a beautiful boy; you’ll fall in love with him immediately. He and Reb are largely responsible for the backgrounds on this.

For many, many, many years I’ve worked with drunken sailors. So to have such accomplished singers now is lovely. I mean for singing, we’re going to have the f**kin’ Beach Boys up there! I’m very, very happy with them.

With all the celebrities going to rehab these days, how have you stayed away from all the partying and addictions that seem to have befallen many musicians over the years?
DC: I pretty much have indulged in all the naughtiness. Without the problem. And, of course, I’ve been involved with people who actually have been in a program.

When I first came back to the states in the early ’80s, the mid-’80s, a lot of the people I was familiar with, partying with, were in programs which I never f**kin’ heard of. I mean, if you have a problem in England or Germany, you go to the pub with your mates and get rat-assed drunk and spill the beans. Then they’d be like ‘don’t be so stupid. Snap out of it.’ Not to belittle the program because I’ve seen how extraordinarily beneficial it is, and I’ve been very supportive. I think it’s an amazing program and long may it be there. Because that support mechanism is extraordinarily necessary. But I’m truly grateful that I love my wine, my single malt, and my whiskies. But when it’s coming up to work time, I haven’t had a drink for six months. You know, when I finish in November I’ll probably indulge in some extraordinarily fine wine, but nothing is going to compromise my work.

I mean, I’m so grateful number one, I’m going to be 60 this year … I’m going to be 60 in September. And I feel healthier than I was at 30. Which I certainly f**king am! I’ll indulge now and again in a beer or this-and-that, but if you don’t have the recovery, then you’re kidding yourself.

Well what do you want to say to your fans about the new music?
DC: Well what Whitesnake is, the musicians do the kind of music that they like to sing and play. Whitesnake has something for everyone. I tried years ago to keep everyone happy, and guess what? It doesn’t f**king work.

We’ve done an album that we are extraordinarily happy with. If you want to jump on board, you will fall in love. Because it’s a f**king good time, a guaranteed good time for all.

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GIVEAWAY: Five (5) lucky winners will get a copy of Whitesnake’s newest release from Frontiers Records, “Live at Donington 1990.” All you have to do is go to the GOLDMINE twitter page, follow us and then type in what your favorite Whitesnake song is under #WhitesnakeGoldmine

Get our last cover story on WHITESNAKE: “Good to be…’ Whitesnake,” Goldmine August 15, 2008. Get the Digital Download for the issue for only $4.99.

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