David Coverdale

Whitesnake hit the road in the UK with Journey and Thunder in May 2013. Metal Express Radio chatted with David Coverdale about the tour, the new live album Made In Japan and working with Ritchie Blackmore and Jon Lord in Deep Purple.

Metal Express Radio: In May you return to the UK for a bunch of dates with Journey and Thunder. Are you looking forward to playing for your UK fans again?

DC: Absolutely!! It’s still completely exciting for me and when we plug in those amps we light up surrounding boroughs. To be honest, if I wasn’t enjoying it, people would know and it would be time to hang everything up. Ever since we did the Leppard thing a couple of years back and with the economy in such a terrible state, the more bang you can give people for their buck the better. I think it makes sense. We’ve looked forever for somebody like Journey with their fabulous selection of songs and with Thunder, I’ve been a huge fan of theirs for years so we’ll have over three hours of emotional and physical exchange with the Whitesnake choir. I think Thunder looks at me as their father or like Darth Vader or something!! They have actually come back just to do this tour which I think is fantastic.

MER: In The States your breakthrough came with the 1987 album, but in the UK you were already a well-established headlining act. Do you tend to change your set lists to include more pre-1987 material in the UK than in The States?

DC: A lot of our records were actually different for the American market compared to Europe. When I started to work with a boutique label called Geffen in The States they could hear that our records, as good as they were, just didn’t translate that well onto FM radio over there. They insisted that we mixed it differently for the American market to give it a more radio friendly commercial edge. I worked closely with producer Keith Olsen and he knew the necessary sound quality that was needed for radio and it paid off. We actually delivered the first ever CD single to radio and it just flew from there. So there was a difference as I’d worked America so much with Deep Purple but I was very European in my soul and we worked the UK, Europe and Japan a lot with those early Whitesnake albums and songs like “Walking in the Shadow of the Blues” and “Lovehunter” were huge in Europe but no one in America had heard them. Slide It In was our breakthrough in The States but 1987 is where it really took off. So we do tend to tailor our show to the audience we play for and there’ll be a few of our older songs for the UK crowd whereas the States gets more of the post Slide It In material.

MER: When will you get the band together to start rehearsals for the tour?

DC: They are all fantastic players so we tend to limit rehearsals. I hate doing them. I know what I have to do but I can’t speak for the others!! Doug Aldrich is working with me at the moment at my studio and we’re working on ideas for the show and songs we want to do. Obviously half the set is spoken for so we need to work on what other songs we need to do to keep everyone happy. We now have Tommy Aldridge back so we need to make sure we play some songs that he was featured on. We’ll probably start rehearsing a month before our first show so that should give us enough time to get everything sorted.

MER: Having Tommy Aldridge back must be a big boost to the band …

DC: We had our misunderstandings in the past but these things happen. He is the only musician who’s ever been invited back to Whitesnake, not only that but it’s the third time. When Brian Tichy said that he wanted to pursue a solo career as a guitarist there was no way I was going to stop anyone from following their dreams. I was encouraged to go for it and I hope I’m the same with my people. I can fully understand that and I loved working with Brian, he’s an immensely talented musician and a real powerhouse on the drums. We were left wondering who the hell we get to replace him. I talked to Doug about it and I said I’d send an e-mail to all the guys asking them to send me their wish list. As soon as the announcement was made that Brian had gone the whole world knew and 9 out of 10 people posting on our forum wanted Tommy back. When I got the emails back from the rest of the band, every single one of them had Tommy at number 1. He was the right choice so I called him and we fulfilled our destiny.

MER: Your guitarists Doug Aldrich and Reb Beech have been with you for over 10 years now, which is probably the longest run for guitarists in Whitesnake.

DC: We’ve been working together now over 10 years. When we started I’d been retired quite some time at that point as I wanted to make sure my son knew who I was and I didn’t want to make the same mistakes from my past so I wanted to spend time with my family while my son was growing up. I go out for a couple of months every two years and I try to get the balance right. So yes, we’ve been working together for a long time and it feels great. They’re great musicians and we all work so well together both on a musical level and personally too.

MER: What sort of people do you get coming to your shows these days?

DC: We get all sorts at our shows now from those who’ve followed me since Deep Purple to younger people who the songs seem to really resonate with. I don’t know whether the new music around today isn’t satisfying enough for them but we do get a lot of younger people coming to our shows. Everybody is welcome to join the Whitesnake choir.

MER: You have a new live album out in April called Made In Japan. Is that a cheeky little reference to the Deep Purple live album?

DC: We do indeed and if anyone confuses it with my previous band I’ll go to the doctors and get some new medication!! I was quite happy to promote the original some 40 years ago but the title just resonated with me and it was perfect for me to use. There’s a bonus CD of material on there too including stuff recorded at sound checks and some acoustic songs on there which is really cool and it’s all made in Japan, hence the title.

MER: When your first live album, Live in The Heart of the City, came out in 1980, it was a lavish gatefold affair like all good live albums should be. Things have changed dramatically since then. What formats will you be releasing Made In Japan on?

DC: We’ll have a video of the show out on DVD and Blu-Ray and we’ve got a spectacular 5.1 mix so you feel like you’re right in the middle of the show. Of course you’ve got “Here I Go Again” and “Is This Love” but you’ve also got “Best Years” and “Forevermore” is worth the price of the disc alone. There’ll be a deluxe version with a double CD also containing acoustic songs and songs recorded at our sound checks. We’re also looking at releasing Made in Britain in the summer and there’s a lot of tracks recorded in Newcastle on that. There’ll be a bonus disc with that called Whitesnake: The World Record which has recordings of us from all over the world including Helsinki, Rio and Buenos Aires. Back in the old days when you recorded a live album it was so expensive to do that you had to get it right straight away. With Deep Purple we could afford to record a few nights but with Whitesnake we had to get it right on the night. Nowadays with modern technology you can record every night at a fraction of the cost. When you record pretty much every show you don’t even think about it and you can just let rip and make sure you guys get a great show.

MER: Whitesnake have been around well over three decades and you had a few years in Deep Purple before that. How has the internet changed things for a band like Whitesnake?

DC: Our Facebook site has almost 500,000 people and our forums on the site are full of activity. I’ve just joined Twitter and it’s amazing how you can reach so many of your fans at the click of a button. I even had a Tweet from Lady GaGa the other day mate!! It’s a fun way to interact with people. I look back to my Deep Purple days and we were so wrapped up in cotton wool we never met anybody. When I started Whitesnake we used to invite people back after the show and we’d ask what they liked or didn’t like and it was perfect market research. Now we can interact with people all over the world right from my computer. It’s amazing.

MER: You’re a Northeastern lad being born in Saltburn — not too far in fact from Paul Rodgers. What were you doing just before you joined Deep Purple.

DC: I was born in Saltburn but living in Redcar at the time I got the job in Deep Purple. I didn’t even have a phone in my flat at the time. As you know the Northern coast can be a cold place during the winter with those Siberian blasts from the sea. I had a smugglers bag full of 10p pieces and I was calling the Purple office while all the glass was broken in the phone box trying to sort stuff out when I’d been asked to join. I worked in Redcar in a shop during the day but I played in local bands around the area at night. To join a world famous band like Purple when I was just a lad from Saltburn was incredible.

MER: How did you adjust to life in Deep Purple?

DC: It was amazing. Purple was so, so huge around the world especially up in the North of England. I think my first show with them up there was at the Odeon in Newcastle. Over in The States we were playing to 20,000-30,000 a night and at the baseball stadiums 70,000 to 80,000 people. It was incredible. It was a big culture shock for me but I adapted to it and it became part of my life. I learned so much from Jon Lord and Ritchie Blackmore and that’s meant with no disrespect to the other amazing players I worked with but it was Ritchie and Jon that prepared me for that transition into Deep Purple. I was in the very capable hands of Ritchie Blackmore and the very caring hands of Jon Lord and they were such amazing mentors for me entering into the world of Rock ‘n’ Roll. They both helped me so much. I got so many musical ideas from Ritchie and how to be with people, from Jon.

MERL What did your parents make of it all?

DC: My parents, who were separated at the time, were worried about me leaving home to join such a famous band. They thought that everyone down South and in London did drugs so when I’d come home I’d roll up my shirt sleeves to show my Mam there were no syringe marks. I was more surprised that she knew what to look for!! They were very supportive really and knew it’s what I wanted from my life so they were right behind me. It’s a parents job to worry about their kids. My son passed his driving test just before Christmas so now I worry when he goes out in his car off to school every day.

MER: You play in Newcastle on May 22nd. Does it feel like coming home for you in some respects?

DC: Absolutely yes. I always love coming back to the place that was my home for so many years. The good news I heard the other day on Twitter is that the City Hall has been saved. That’s the best thing in the world. It’s great that the community rallied around to tell those in charge that they wanted it to stay open. If you sit back and let things happen it just won’t work so you have to be active, have a community spirit and it shows that it works. Newcastle without the City Hall is just unthinkable. I have a very emotional journey to make when I come up North this time as I lost my beloved Aunt last year. She was the lass who introduced me to early Elvis Presley as a teenager. She was like a big sister to me. She played me Little Richard and Elvis and that just changed my life. We were just the greatest of friends. Her resting place is where my Mam and my Dad are so I’ll be visiting their resting places and I’ll drink a pint or two to their memories. One of my wife’s brothers died around the same time and my old Deep Purple mate Jon Lord too. We seemed to be losing so many people around the same time. Maybe when you get to my age you have to expect these things.

MER: Jon Lord has been a really big loss to the music world.

DC: The world is a lot worse off for his loss. I was so, so honoured to have known him and to have worked with him in two big bands. I can so easily visualise him right now. I remember bumping into him at a hotel a few years ago when he was on his way to Australia and we just sat down and had a drink together and the time just flew. It was so much fun to see him. Jon was extraordinarily articulate, charming and such a funny man. He was so gifted musically too and I totally miss him. He was from Leicester so he had a good bloke energy about him so he was able to sit down and bloke it with the best of them. It’s weird you know. I have a big 65” TV in my gym to try to distract me from the pain in my knees and it’s wired into Apple TV so I can access all my photographs. I have around 20,000 photos on there. I put in on shuffle and there’s lots of personal photos on there and lots of music related photos too. When a picture from the Slide It In era of Whitesnake came up half the band has passed away. Jon Lord, Mel Galley and Cozy Powell are all now gone and that’s such a shame. It’s chilling, it just stops you in your tracks. I really miss them all; they were great musicians and fantastic to play with. Loss is tough and to find the time to grieve and process that is difficult particularly in a public scenario. People ask how I feel when I lose a close friend but how do you think I feel? It’s hard to lose such people. The only contact I have now is with the daughter from Jon’s first marriage. On the day he died I had all my family here, it was the Olympics at the time and I just couldn’t get a flight or a hotel. We were laughing about that and in times of sadness sometimes it’s easy to grieve in laughter. Sara, his daughter joked that it was really inconvenient for her dad to die at that time. Jon would have loved that. We talked about everything and anything.

MER: It’s a shame you all didn’t get one last chance to play together again.

DC: It would have been nice but I had absolutely no communication from anybody about anything to do with Deep Purple so I just concentrate on my own work and I’ll be making dedications to Jon, Cozy and Mel on the tour.

MER: At the other end of the life cycle you have become a granddad and your granddaughter has recently interviewed you for a school project?

DC: Yes, I’m very proud of Georgina, she’s fantastic. That’s been shown on YouTube and got over 50,000 hits.

MER: Did you ever think when you first started out that you’d still be playing to arenas as a granddad?

DC: I never looked that far ahead. I didn’t think I’d get past 30!! I’m having such a great time. I’m in a great marriage with wonderful children, I’ve been blessed with beautiful grandchildren and I have a great home in a beautiful part of the world. I have a career that’s flourishing and I’m so grateful every day for this and really had no idea I’d have a career that would last this long and be so successful.

MER: After your shows with Journey and Thunder finish, what else have you planned for the year?

DC: After the UK tour is over we have a couple of weeks over in Europe then head over to the The States until August and then I’m home for a while before I head down to South America for a tour and that’s it. We’ve got enough stuff to be getting on with in the studio for the next three years. Most people are touring every year. I don’t want to do that anymore. I want it to be interesting for me and for the audience too so I tour less often but when I do I’m really up for it.

I’m thinking of doing some an Evening with David Coverdale type of shows in an intimate, unplugged environment in smaller venues. That’s something I’d certainly like to do at some point and have a more interactive experience with the audience.

We’re also thinking of doing a complete Forevermore collection in time for Christmas that’ll have everything and more from that album including outtakes, unplugged versions, behind the scenes video stuff. That should be something the fans will really love. So there’s plenty to keep me busy this year.

Whitesnake, Journey and Thunder start in the UK on May 18th at the SECC, Glasgow and end May 29th at Wembley Arena, London.

Whitesnake’s new live album Whitesnake: Made In Japan is released on Frontiers Records on 2CD/DVD Deluxe Edition, DVD and Blu Ray


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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