DOOGIE WHITE (ALCATRAZZ): “I Just Said That GRAHAM [BONNET] Should Go And Do What Made Him Happy So He Quit The Band”

ALCATRAZZ (Live at Trillians, Newcastle, U.K., February 15, 2024)
Photo: Mick Burgess

Scottish vocalist, Doogie White, has worked with some of the biggest names in Rock including Ritchie Blackmore and Michael Schenker. He’s currently lead singer in Alcatrazz and has just released his second album Take No Prisoners with the band. Mick Burgess caught up with him prior to his show in Newcastle to talk about the tour, the latest album and a look back on some of his other work.

Your current UK Tour started last night in Glasgow. How did that show go?

The show was really good. Some guys from my first band La Paz came along and my first flatmate, who I actually thought had died years ago, was there too. It was great to bump into old friends again. The audience was great. I was born and raised in Motherwell just down the road so this was like my hometown show. I used to go and see bands at the Glasgow Apollo and still have all of my old tickets.

This is a triple co-headlining tour with Raven and Girlschool. Whose idea was that?

It wasn’t mine and don’t really have any idea. I just do what I’m told. We’ve toured for the last couple of years with Girlschool and they’re such great fun. We’ve now added Raven as well as Airforce. Airforce open the show then the other bands rotate each night so tonight Raven will close tonight as they are from Newcastle.

How long do you get on stage each night?

We get about 55 minutes each night depending on how long I talk.

What sort of setlist have you put together for this tour?

We’ve got the “hits”, like “Too Drunk To Live” and “Jet To Jet” and we’re doing stuff from the two new albums which are great to play. We also do a couple I did with Rainbow. We just want the audience to come along with us and be a part of it.

It’s an intense tour as it’s pretty much straight through a week of UK shows and then more or less straight over to Europe for a run of shows over there. Sounds tough. How will you be pacing yourselves?

We don’t have any days off. We started last night in Glasgow and we’ll finish just outside of Dusseldorf so we’ll be doing pretty much 14 or 15 days straight through. I’m 64 years old so it’ll be tough but we’re up for it.

You joined Alcatrazz, not long after Graham Bonnet left. Did you already know Jimmy and Gary at that point and did they invite you to join?

I didn’t know them at the time. What happened was I had toured with Graham on the Michael Schenker Fest and Giles Lavery was his manager. I’d also gone over to Japan with Graham and Joe Lyn Turner to do Voices Of Rainbow. When Graham came back over to the UK he was up in Edinburgh and was bored so I took him out. He told me how much he hated the music and always had as he was more from an R&B background. I just said that he should just go and do what made him happy. He quit the band. His manager called me up and said it was my fault and invited me to join Alcatrazz. We’ve now done two albums together which are more in keeping with what the boys in the band wanted to do musically, lyrically and melodically

Last year you released your latest album Take No Prisoners. Were you pleased with the reaction it received?

I am really pleased with the reaction. “Don’t Get Mad Get Even” was originally titled “Bat Shit Crazy” but Jimmy said that we couldn’t call it that. We recorded that in Edinburgh over four days and the Girlschool girls came in and stuck their parts over the top. That just works so well. They’re so cool. They have such a good reputation but they are bad, bad girls.

This is your second album with Alcatrazz after V was released in 2021. Did you feel more bedded in with the band for Take No Prisoners now that you had an album and plenty of shows under your belt?

I felt part of the band right from the start. Jimmy is such a lovely lad and Joe is a great guitarist. We lost the drummer and bass player but got Adam and Larry in so there’s been a revolving door but there’s so much enthusiasm in the band that it’s great and I enjoy being in the band so much.

Do you all contribute to the song writing or is there a main core of writers in the band?

What tends to happen is Jimmy is the main guy who writes. Joe will send him riffs and Jimmy will cut them up and put them together and with a drum machine. He’ll send it to me for me to add lyrics and melodies then Larry comes in a lays his drums down and knocks the shit out of it. Giles, the manager, is a great singer and writer as well and he’ll occasionally come up with something too. It’s good fun.

Is that different with how you wrote say with Ritchie Blackmore, Michael Schenker or Yngwie?

In La Paz, we always rehearsed and jammed out ideas. It was the same with Ritchie. That’s how we did that Rainbow album. With Yngwie, he writes everything. He’d scribble lyrics down and pass them to me and would say “Make them work”. I knew what I was getting into with him. I worked with him for seven years and did two albums. It was great fun. He was a lovely, lovely lad. It was the same with Michael. He’d go into the studio with his producer Michael Voss and put down some riffs and Voss would arrange them all then it’d be sent to me to add my bits. The first Temple Of Rock album. “Bridge The Gap” – there were ten songs and I had nine days to write them. I just didn’t have anything for the last song as the builders were in and it was snowing, so I just didn’t have the time so Michael just said to sing what I liked, so I did and he thought it was brilliant. He was great to work with. I was with him for 11 years.

You’ve worked with an impressive array of guitarists over the years. Why do you think these virtuoso musicians like to work with you?

I don’t know really, you’d have to ask them. If somebody wants me to do something and I have the time and it’s interesting enough, then I’ll do it. I don’t have an ego. It’s not my name on the marquee so I’m very respectful for that. They’ve been doing it a lot longer than me so I respect that. I remember when I was singing “Ariel” with Rainbow one night and there’s a breakdown in the middle where Ritchie would play away and Candy would sing in the background and then I’d do this scream to bring the band back in. Ritchie said to me, well he didn’t say it, he sent his assistant who said that Ritchie would prefer it if I didn’t do the scream. The following night I didn’t do it and his assistant came over to me later and said that I should reinstate the scream, so I did. Those musicians don’t get to where they did by bowing down. There has to be a leader and you either go with it or you don’t. It’s not like I’m a lap dog or anything but it’s their band so if they want me to sing something, I’ll sing it. It all worked really well and I knew what I was getting involved in.

There’s currently a bit of a spat between Jimmy Waldo and Graham Bonnet in the press. This must make it a bit awkward for you as you are friends with both. Do you just keep out of it and leave them to it?

They are arguing about something that was done before I was in the band. Whatever they want to argue about it’s up to them. I think they should just let it go and enjoy their lives. That’s never been my bag. I just want to go out there and do my best and enjoy it.

Getting the job fronting Rainbow was an incredible break for you. How did you end up landing that? Did you audition or did Ritchie invite you?

I’d been a fan of Ritchie’s from being 15 years old and all I wanted to do was sing with Ritchie Blackmore. I actually wanted to sing in Whitesnake and Gillan too as well but it wouldn’t have been the same. When Joe was in Deep Purple, they played at the Hammersmith Odeon. I had a mate who worked for the record company and I had no money at all so he gave me a ticket and an after show party pass. I made up a small cassette with four songs on that I’d done. I wrote my name and number on the cover. I bumped into Colin Hart, who was the tour manager and I recognised him from one of the album sleeves. I gave him the cassette and said that if Ritchie was ever looking for a singer, to let me know. A while later I was out in Germany auditioning for Pink Cream 69 and I was offered the job. I was coming home to have that difficult conversation with my girlfriend that I’d have to move to Germany. When I got home, there was a sign on the door and it said Ritchie Blackmore’s secretary called. That was two or three years after I gave his tour manager my tape. The note asked me to go out to America. We got on really well and we did the album and toured but one day he just switched off just like that. That’s OK though, that’s what he does with everybody.

Standing in the shoes of Ronnie James Dio, Graham Bonnet and Joe Lyn Turner must have been fairly daunting?

It’d had been such a long time, nearly 10 years, since Rainbow had done anything. Rainbow, Deep Purple, Whitesnake, and Gillan were my favourite bands so I knew everything that they did. I wasn’t daunted at all. I knew that if I went in there that I could nail it. So that’s what I did and he went, “OK”.

Do you recall the first thing you played together?

We did “Burn”, “Man on the Silver Mountain” and “Mistreated”. When I was sound checking once I did “Rainbow Eyes” and Ritchie walked in and said that he knew that song. I said “So you should, you wrote it”.

You played a few songs live that Rainbow hadn’t done in years such as “Temple Of The King”. Were you able to influence Ritchie in pulling a few vintage songs out and performing them?

He wouldn’t have it. Chuck Burgi was there with Greg Smith and Paul Morris and we were rehearsing “Kill The King” and Ritchie walked in, picked up his guitar and started playing something else. He had an idea in mind what he wanted to do and we couldn’t persuade him to do anything like “Stargazer” or “Gates of Babylon” but then it’s his name and his band so he can do what he wants. We did do “Temple Of The King” and how that happened was weird. I went to his Christmas party at his house and we were in his bar down stairs. He asked if I knew it and of course I said that I did so we just started playing it. We ended bringing it into the live set. It was so under rehearsed when we did it at first but people loved it.

You made the one album in Rainbow, Stranger In Us All. Do you regret not making a follow up?

Yes, it would have been good to do another one. I don’t think Ritchie realised just how successful Blackmore’s Night would be. We’d just finished an American tour in March 1997. His exact words to me when I left the bus were “We’ll get together and do another album once I’ve finished Candy’s record”. I took six songs over to him at our next and as it turned out, our final show at the Esbjerg Festival in Germany at the end of May 1997 and we never spoke again after that. I gave those six rough ideas to Steen Mogensen when we were in a band called Cornerstone and he steamed those tunes up and stuck in another six and that became the Human Stain album.

Do you think Ritchie should have done a Schenkerfest type of tour featuring all of his surviving, previous singers when he put a new version of Rainbow together a few years ago?

Ritchie would never have done that. That’s too cabaret for him. I was on tour with Schenker in America and I got a call from Ritchie’s lawyers and they asked if I could come to New York. They asked me if I was putting a band together, who would I have. I gave them two separate lineups of people who should be in it but he could choose any singer that he wanted. He went with none of it. By that time Cozy was dead so I was looking at Bob Daisley, Tony Carey, Chuck Burgi, Ritchie and whoever he wanted on vocals. The second list included Bobby Rondinelli on drums, Jimmy Bain on bass and a couple of others that I don’t remember. That’s what I gave them. He could have had any singer he wanted to go with those lineups and he chose none of them and went with Ronnie Romero instead.

Are you still part of Michael’s circle? Is Temple Of Rock an ongoing project that you could do again in the near future?

I met him in November at the Winterstorm Festival and he said that we should think about doing something again. It was a good ride with him and I enjoyed it with Gary Barden, Graham Bonnet and Robin McAuley as well so I’d definitely like to work with him again. Ronnie Romero was working with Michael for a while and then he just left so he got Robin in and he’s such a great singer. If Michael called me up and wants to work with me again, of course I’d love to do it again.

What do you have planned for later this year once the UK and European shows are done?

We’ll be going over to America for some shows and I’m just waiting for my visa for those. A Bulgarian promoter was wanting to do a Voices Of Rainbow tour and because Ronnie Romero lives in Romania it was suggested to bring him in but Joe said that you couldn’t offer him a million dollars to sing with him. It’s not as if Ronnie has done anything wrong. Then Graham had said that you could offer him a million dollars and if I was there, he wouldn’t do it so the whole thing just collapsed so they got Alice Cooper instead. It’s crazy how fragile some people’s egos are. I just don’t get.

Are you and Graham still OK?

No, he blanked me three times at Winterstorm. He wouldn’t speak to me at all. It’s none of my business. If people want to behave like children that fine. I’m comfortable with my life and very happy.

What about new music? Are there plans for a new Alcatrazz album or do you have a project or two in the pipeline over the coming months?

I don’t know to be honest. It costs so much money to make an album and no one buys them anymore but I enjoy making them so who knows.

The latest album by Alcatrazz, Take No Prisoners is available now.

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  • 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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