Whitesnake guitarist Doug Aldrich talks about the new Burning Rain album, writing with David Coverdale, audition with KISS and his Japanese fanbase
Doug Aldrich is an amazing guitar player who oozes technical ability and has channeled his influences in a signature way dating back to his earliest performances. I know Randy Rhoads playing was an influence on Doug but his grace, poise and soft spoken, articulate offstage manner also reminds me tremendously of the late, great Mr. Rhoads. Like Randy, Doug has an ability to plug himself into different musical scenarios and bring the most to the material he plays whether it’s been with his older bands like Lion and Hurricane or more recently with Whitesnake and his own project Burning Rain. The new Burning Rain album, “Epic Obsession” (Frontiers Records) is amazing, he and his bandmates perform on the disc with the kind of reckless abandon you just don’t hear on modern releases. I recently had the chance to talk to Doug about the album, his writing relationship with David Coverdale and much more, read on….
LRI: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us Doug! I am REALLY digging the new Burning Rain album. It makes me wanna go back and check out your first two records. Do you think “Epic Obsession” is a good introduction to the band?
Doug Aldrich: Yes, I do. Maybe its cool that way. People hear it and want to hear more so they go back and check put the earlier stuff. I like the “Epic Obsession” stuff a lot and it does represent both where Burning Rain came from and how we sound now.
LRI: Of course everyone is excited about new Whitesnake dates and you and David’s partnership continues to be a priority. There have been a couple of live concert cd/dvds….have you guys started working on material for a follow up to “Forevermore”?
DA: David and I have a really easy natural writing thing. We write without even trying. I love playing around with different riffs and grooves. Sometimes David just jumps in and starts singing something and its like “Wow! Cool…. lets record this or that”. David comes in singing stuff all the time or playing some music and we both get inspired. I love what we have done together. If we do some more music, it will be different though. I’m not sure how, but we both always like to experiment and grow so that leads to trying new things.
LRI: The Burning Rain material is incredibly well written and your solos are insane, which anyone who’s followed your career would expect. If you have a riff or lick in mind while writing was it easy to tell what might work best for Snake vs. what might be suited for Burning Rain?
DA: Thanks man. Some of the Burning Rain stuff was a work in progress. “Ride The Monkey” is kind of our typical Burning Rain style song and we had that for a long time. We re wrote it several times. It was from an early writing session around 2004. Same with “Out In The Cold Again” and “Sweet Lil Baby Thing”. There are a bunch that we wrote in Jan/Feb ’12 for the record, but we already had a start on this new record. The thing is, When I write for Whitesnake it is mostly written out of jam sessions with David. I would have a riff that I like and if David likes it, it is his. If we don’t finish a song or we move away from a song, then its still his, I just wait til we are inspired to work on it later. There are similarities with Burning Rain but with Burning Rain I can write an entire song and then turn it over to Keith to finish….or Keith can write one and turn it over to me. Since with Burning Rain, we had to do a lot of work on the fly, I might split town to go up to Tahoe and leave vocals for Keith to do. Then we would take a fresh look at the song when I got home.
LRI: Some of my favorite stuff on the album runs the spectrum from rockers like “Out in the Cold” to the ballad “Made For Your Heart” which is just a classic power ballad in every sense of the word. People just don’t make records like this anymore and it would seem to me that you couldn’t achieve this “classic” style of writing without having a deep connection and love for it. Is that fair to say?
DA: Yes its fair to say cause I do like that kind of music. Its fun to play to me. I like other stuff too, but this is what Burning Rain does. Its not typical music from the big artists of today, but that’s cool cause the majority of songs on AOR rock radio are from older bands anyway. So our stuff fits right in that classic rock format but its fresh. The big big pop artists and the crossover country stuff is all sounding the same. Hip hop, same thing. I can’t tell one artist from the other with most new pop songs. Someone said, “Wow, the new Burning Rain! If Only it was 20 years ago”…. Well, that is a compliment in my mind. I would say thank you to them!
LRI: Its often been mentioned that you auditioned for KISS when you were very young and you also spent some time with one of my other favorites Gregg Giuffria (of Angel) when you played on House Of Lords second album on Simmons/ RCA. The only thing cooler would be if you had a connection to Cheap Trick too! Aside from Led Zeppelin, what other bands or players were a big influence on you back in those early years when you were starting out professionally??
DA: I was asked to audition for Kiss in 1982. Ace had just left or whatever. Eric Carr saw me play live and brought me to meet Gene and Paul. It was cool. We played in the studio and twice in a giant airplane hanger where they were rehearsing. I was much too young for that gig, but Eric gave me a lot of confidence and said I was good. So I got very serious after that. A few years ago, Gene was at a Whitesnake gig in LA. He sent me an email later saying he was proud of what I had done.
As for Cheap Trick, I do have a connection (laughs)!! They were friends with Gregg and they sang in the studio with us. We went to a party at Rick’s house when we played Rockford. He’s a funny guy. He’s a good dad too, family man. Influence wise… Everyone influences me. I started with Jeff Beck, “Blow By Blow”. Then Hendrix and Jimmy Page. Clapton was on the radio and the first song I played was “Smoke on The Water” so Blackmore was bigtime. Later, Eddie and Van Halen, Randy Rhoads, Gary Moore, Michael Schenker, David Gilmour, Duane Allman and Stevie Ray Vaughan. On and on….
LRI: Your lead singer Keith St. John has a tremendous delivery that is just as big of a part of Burning Rain as your guitar tracks but your rhythm section is amazing as well….can you tell me a little more about how the personalities and abilities of your bandmates helped shape “Epic Obsession”?
DA: Keith really comes into his own on the record. He did a great performance throughout. His writing on the lyrics is great. Very deep and soulful, but also kinda trippy and dark in spots! He and I are like brothers. We are always kindof pushing each other a bit. Not fighting, but fighting like brothers do. It’s sometimes aggressive between us but that’s how its always been. I love the guy! We do have a “sound” between us. Sean McNabb and Matt Starr are new to Burning Rain, but they are so great to work with, cool guys that balance out the craziness between Keith and I. They just let us get on with it and they carry on working out their parts. Sean’s bass sounds pretty fat on the record and he is world class player. He was very enthusiastic when he heard the demos and we wanted him to join right away. He brought Matt in after that.
LRI: You’ve worked with some legendary names like Coverdale and Dio among others. Is there any way to express what you’ve learned personally or biz-wise from these icons of the industry?
DA: I’ve been very fortunate. Ronnie put me out in front of a lot of people. He was a very passionate and talented music man. He would never stray away from what he liked. He was not stubborn, but tough and he knew exactly what he wanted. He was a great performer and he taught me that I had to own the stage like he did. If not for Ronnie, I wouldn’t have been asked to join Whitesnake in 2002. David and I have so much time together that I feel like he is the big brother that never had. I am like a sponge with him. He is a obviously a great songwriter and performer so I tried to take advantage of the advice he would give me. I feel fortunate to have written so many songs with him and am very proud of the work we have done together. We have a very harmonious musical relationship. We can’t help but write when we are hanging out. If I play something he likes, he will just start singing and there it goes! Ive been a fan of both Ronnie and David before they knew me so I obviously feel lucky to have history with them both.
LRI: Your playing was amazing back in the day on your work with Lion, Hurricane and others but it seems as though your style, abilities and note selection have improved tenfold since then. This sounds stupid but do you practice in a constant, regimented way or are you just addicted to holding your guitar and playing?
DA: Thanks man, thank you, I think I’m more addicted to the guitar now then ever. I just love my job. I’m blessed to be able to do this cause there are countless talented musicians that haven’t gotten the breaks. I know several guys that will smoke me but never get a gig. Music is not a fair business, but I just love it. I practice mostly when on tour. Then my chops are more strong I think.
LRI: The ONLY drawback to the amazing Whitesnake gig is that Burning Rain shows have been sporadic and touring almost non-existant. I have seen some friggin amazing YouTube clips including a blistering version of “Crying In The Rain” so I want in. Do you forsee any live gigs in the next year or so with the new album, new lineup and also with the re-releases to promote?
DA: Yes… absolutely we will be playing more. We have had some cool offers to tour in the fall. Japan and UK are definitely on the books. Whitesnake has dates through October but there are a couple of breaks so Burning Rain will be preparing and doing whatever we can in the US prior to the fall. The cool thing is that I am able to meet some promoters and agents thanks to the Whitesnake tour, and that will be helpful for Burning Rain in terms of trying to visit some other countries.
LRI: Thanks again for talking with us Doug. Every band you’re in rocks and we are highly supportive of you guys in Burning Rain. Before I let you go I wanna ask you how you think you developed such a loyal and passionate fanbase in Japan?
DA: My pleasure man, thank you for your support John. That is so cool to see about Japan! Lion was pretty successful in Japan in around the mid ‘80s and Japanese fans are some of the most loyal in the world. I love Japan. The culture and the food, everything is great in Japan. They have supported Rock/Metal like that since the 60s I think and it’s just amazing.