Editor Simon Rushworth caught up with David Coverdale to bring you the latest in our RUSHONROCK ROCK GODS series and there are more big names to follow.
Look out for Slash, Judas Priest, Mr Big, Glenn Hughes and Jason Bonham all coming your way very soon.
rushonrock: After a lean period with no new material Whitesnake have released stunning back-to-back albums – why the change in approach?
David Coverdale: Mick Jagger told me years ago that the Stones made albums to promote their tours. When I was with Purple we went out on the road to promote the album. Now the wheel’s come full circle again and I’m living in Mick’s world. Good To Be Bad gave us two years on the road. And it looks like Forevermore will do the same.
rushonrock: Was it special kicking off the UK leg of the Forevermore tour at Newcastle City Hall of all places?
DC: We were so pleased to start in Newcastle. I have such a great affinity with the people up there. I’m always glad to be going back to the City Hall. We enjoyed a lot of success with Def Leppard when we did the arena tour and Download last time out. But we get so much mail from UK fans saying they prefer to see us in more intimate surroundings. I don’t mind either way! But Newcastle City Hall is very special to me and very close to my heart. It’s where Whitesnake was launched.
rushonrock: What are your memories of one of the UK’s most famous rock haunts?
DC: Well my favourite memory of the City Hall has nothing to do with me or Whitesnake. It was seeing Jimi Hendrix when I was just 15-years-old. He was part of a bill that included The Move and Amen Corner and I came out of the bathroom and Pink Floyd were on stage! What a night! All of these different bands were coming out one after the other and then there was Hendrix who was a giant to me. At the City Hall you’re close enough to see the people performing and to benefit from the experience. When I played there years later my mam would always come to the Whitesnake gigs at the City Hall. She’d come along with my aunt and they’d stand at the mixing desk – they looked like X-Men standing there with their glasses on.
rushonrock: Right now Whitesnake appear refreshed and reinvigorated – what’s the secret?
DC: On the 2008 tour we made sure that 50% of the set was from the Good To Be Bad record. That really fuelled me and charged me into performing at the top of my game. We did a new song and an old song. It felt great for Doug [Aldrich] and me as we’d invested so much time and energy into that album. Forevermore is more of a band effort. That’s when it’s really special – when all the guys on stage have a connection.
rushonrock: You and Doug have really hit it off as a songwriting partnership – why is that?
DC: Doug is a great songwriter and somebody I love working with. Every guitarist I ever work with wants to do his Still Of The Night which is particularly difficult now! But Doug has always had a broader vision and this new record encapsulates all of Whitesnake. It’s been a nice, emotional journey. I think we got the measure of the ingredients just right to make something very appetising indeed!
rushonrock: Forevermore marries the classic Whitesnake sound from every era with a modern twist – is that how you intended it to be?
DC: I think, to be honest, with Good To Be Bad, we got a lot of the early fans back on board. The cool thing with Doug is that, unlike so many US guitarists, he’s familiar with Whitesnake’s early work. Doug came in with all of these ideas based on how it all started. That was a big bonus. But we have never, at any time, tried to recreate something that’s been done before. I like that we have such an immensely powerful back catalogue but we will never set out to recreate Here I Go Again. Forevermore is the kind of music we enjoy making right now and we’re loving what we’re doing as a band.
rushonrock: You played Sweden Rock last weekend but why don’t have a UK festival slot this summer?
DC: The toughest thing about being in a touring band is not being able to play everywhere all of the time. We have a great interactive website where people ask us to play here, there and everywhere but this is the way it works. My promoter says to venues and festivals all over the world ‘Whitesnake is going on the road this year – are you interested?’. Dates get booked up and then that’s that. This time we’re not playing Dublin or Belfast – I’m totally disappointed that we’re not going over to Ireland. We’re not playing Spain or Portugal either. But we are playing all over Europe, North America and South America and doing the best job we can.
rushonrock: How difficult is it pleasing all of your fans all of the time?
DC: One of the reasons I took last year off was to work on the Live At Donington CD/DVD – it means people can enjoy Whitesnake live wherever they are, whenever they want to. And I need these projects to keep touring. I’ll be 60 in September but while I can still do this I will. The records are the blueprints for the live shows so if you like the new album you’ll love the new show. But to take a year off to write a new album is difficult when there’s such a demand for the live shows! It’s all about reaching that perfect compromise.
rushonrock: As a veteran of the rock stage what’s the biggest challenge you face in 2011?
DC: The toughest thing about being on tour is picking the songs we’re going to play. Slide It In was huge in the USA and the fans want Love Ain’t No Stranger every time. There has to be a place for Here I Go Again and Still Of The Night. In one interview before Download in 2009 I suggested Donington might be a good place to retire Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City. But that was quickly shot down. It’s a part of Whitesnake folklore. We recorded it back in the day because we didn’t have enough original material but we played it at Newcastle City Hall and I looked out and suddenly all these people were singing along waving their arms in the air. That song and that audience is where it all started for Whitesnake. Nothing could have been closer to my heart and soul and that song happened to identify Whitesnake. Needless to say it’s still in the set!
rushonrock: Do you miss the band’s late 80s heyday when everything was over the top and budgets were whatever you wanted them to be?
DC: You’re talking to the least nostalgic person in the world. I don’t look back on the late 80s as any kind of golden era. I get to play in front of 80,000 people quite often these days you know. We’ll have played in front of around 200,000 people this year before we even hit the UK. So it’s not like I have to look back on the old days like they were something extra special. I live for the here and now.
rushonrock: Back to the new album and you must be delighted that fans feel you’re back in the groove?
DC: Every single vinyl copy of Good To Be Bad has been sold now. It’s a great record. I’ve got a workout setlist on my iPod and it’s mainly songs from that album. I love it. The confidence that Doug and I gained from the reception to Good To Be Bad was a factor in how we approached Forevermore. The feedback and, to an extent, the sales were a massive confidence boost to me. So we didn’t set out to make another Good To Be Bad but we set out to build on the work we’d done there.
rushonrock: And has work begun on the follow-up to Forevermore?
DC: I always write. I’ve got things going through my head all of the time. I drove down from Tahoe to LA to start writing Forevermore with Doug and as soon as I got there we sat down and got going. Within two hours we had the arrangement all worked out for One Of These Days. We had a working arrangement and lyric for Whipping Boy Blues and then All Out Of Luck arrived. That initial session was an indication that there was an untapped songwriting resource just waiting to be drained.
rushonrock: Why does the new record work so well?
DC: We created a sound that was a salute to the past and a nod to the future without even trying. There’s no desire within the Whitesnake ranks to make a record that’s already been made. Putting together Forevermore was pretty effortless in the end – we don’t want to have to try and make an album. Everybody knows their jobs and we share a vision. The other guys do everything I expect of them and do it so well.
rushonrock: Are you enjoying a new lease of life on and off the stage?
DC: It’s been an incredibly creative year for me. When people hear the record and say this is perfect then it’s all worthwhile. I leave it to other people to make comparisons between this Whitesnake album or that Whitesnake song but there’s no conscious effort to make what I’d call the ultimate Whitesnake record. I have a great writing partner in Doug and our sole agenda is to create legitimate songs.
rushonrock: Doug and Reb Beach have become permanent features in the Whitesnake line-up so they must be doing something right?
DC: As guitarists Doug and Reb are a great team. The time they’ve had with the band and the fact that I love working with them so much means Whitesnake’s in great shape.