A Conversation With David Coverdale
Whitesnake will be at the Hard Rock Event Center on April 25th.
By: Lori Smerilson Carson
Pouring their hearts and souls into creating and re-creating their remarkable and beloved music over the past several months, Whitesnake is now moving from audible and visual to live with their Flesh and Blood tour. They will be in Florida April 22ndthrough April 26th, starting in Orlando and ending in Melbourne. South Florida will see them at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood on April 25th. Lead Singer David Coverdale, Guitarists Reb Beach and Joel Hoekstra, Bassist Michael Devin, Keyboardist Michele Luppi and Drummer Tommy Aldridge have been busy making videos like their newest “Shut Up and Kiss Me” from their 12th studio album ‘Flesh and Blood’ due to be released May 10th, as well as boxed CD/DVD sets for the ‘Slide it In’ 35th Anniversary.
Catching up with Hall of Fame Inductee David Coverdale in the midst of his busy schedule….
SFL Music: Tell me about the upcoming tour – the “Flesh and Blood” tour that is promoting the new album, correct?
David Coverdale: “Well it’s actually just Whitesnake really, but we’re tying in some new songs. I think it’s very important for people who support what I generally call classic rock bands, to know that the bands that they favor are really still digging deep to present, fresh, vital, relevant music for them rather than resting off of former glories. As many glories as Whitesnakes achieved over the years, I think that “Flesh and Blood” is going to be up there in the pantheon of Whitesnakes favorite albums. I’m thrilled with it. My musicians are thrilled with it. It’s a solid rock record and the immediate response to the “Shut Up and Kiss Me” video has been incredibly energizing for all of us in preparation for the Flesh and Blood World tour.”
SFL Music: Yes, I saw it had a lot of hits on social media.
Coverdale: “Yeah, Over 11 thousand in three weeks. We’re giddy (he laughed), and the old Jag glory! And I’m still getting into the same jacket.” He laughed again, reflecting on the “Here I Go Again” video from 1987 which reached No 1 on Billboard’s Top 100.
SFL Music: How do you keep in such great shape for your touring and just in general?
Coverdale: “Well I’m married to an extraordinarily beautiful fitness instructor. So, I can’t walk around with wabbly bits. I don’t think I’d last very long and we’re coming up to thirty years.” He then continued, “I’ve never ever wanted to walk onstage and hear the audience gasp ‘oh my God, what happened to him?’ You know, so thankfully my body responds. Cardio’s a little more difficult for me. It’s a bit harder for me to get into the kind of pristine shape that I favor quite simply because I’ve got new fucking knees and there’s a certain amount of time at this altitude (Lake Tahoe) when it’s time for me to take a break. But, you know I have to build up the stamina for forthcoming rock shows because we’ll be doing at least ninety minutes of hardcore rock n roll. Of course, my hair is legitimate, thank God. You know somebody said, ‘why do you die your hair? I said, I don’t.”
SFL Music: Oh wow, that’s very impressive. I can’t even claim that. I have to die my hair! That’s wonderful!
Coverdale: “No, honest to God, I thank God on a daily basis for the blessings in my life. It’s ah, very special. It’s interesting, after all of this time. My son was asking me, because he’s starting his career as an actor. He said, ‘How do you keep your enthusiasm and don’t sound jaded, you’ve done it all, seen it all?’ I said, ‘It’s still new and fresh to me.’ I never wine, I work with great people, have incredible support daily. I’m involved with social media now, which for such an intensely private man away from the stage, it’s fascinating but, it’s also my thanks to people for the incredible support received globally. Yeah, I’m blue birds flying out of every orifice darling.” He chuckled.
SFL Music: I see some of your tweets, you have a great sense of humor. I think that’s an asset to stay out there connecting with people.
Coverdale: “Well it’s important for me. You know that a lot of people need to be uplifted. They’re not getting that in their lives. So, it’s my pleasure to remind people that yes, you are beautiful and you have a great butt. Have a super day! I love that I can just tweet historical aspects,” He continued. “Most of the time my cyber pals, brothers and sisters, they remind me that this anniversary, that anniversary. So, I’ll dig into my photo files. So, it’s a reciprocal give and take scenario that just keeps growing. We reach millions of people which normally record companies would be charging me a fortune for, for publicists, and most of the job is done. As I say the video, a lot of my peers will do videos that look like they cost 10 bucks. This is like a mini movie. You can see the care that’s gone into this. We genuinely care about our fans to deliver the goods. Whether it’s a video, me talking to you, or writing new songs which hopefully are up there with the big “Here I go Again.” That’s what we aspire to. We just do our best.”
SFL Music: Well that is very appreciated. How did the collaboration come about to write for instance, the ‘Purple Album’ and ‘Flesh and Blood,’ the newer stuff?
Coverdale: “Well, the ‘Purple’ album I thought that was going to be my retirement thing to finish as I started. I’ve never made a record before joining Deep Purple. My first album (‘Shades of Deep Purple’) was like a global best seller. Amazing Cinderella kind of story. It’s very difficult actually to try to encapsulate this in short form, but in 2012 my wife and I had terrible loss in our lives with a very small window of time. Her beloved brother, my beloved aunt, who actually introduced me when she was a teenager and I was seven or something to Elvis Presley, to Little Richard, Chuck Berry, a lifelong love. In 2012 I lost her to cancer. Prior to that Jon Lord, the amazing Keyboard player from Deep Purple and Whitesnake, got in touch with me to tell me he’d been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, which is like all cancers, evil, but this is a particularly evil strain. Ah, and he said to me, ‘once I kick this Davey lad, will you do something Purple related with me and I said, ‘absolutely Jon. I’ll be there for you.’ And as you know we lost him. I’d already dug out my Deep Purple stuff in fact, I love like, just the nostalgia. So, I dug it out and I went, Oh my God! I was 21,22,23 writing these songs with some of the best players in the world. Ritchie Blackmore, Jon Lord.
I’d like to contemporize them now, bring them up to date. You know, If we’re going to do that. Then of course Jon passed. The epiphany I had was to reach out before I lost anybody else, both privately and professionally to just reconnect with people and remind them how important they are to me even though we hadn’t spoken for thirty years, forty years. Just to say how much I love them and appreciated what they brought to my life’s journey. One of those people was Ritchie. We had a very unsavory thirty-year rivalry which became totally unnecessary once I started to sell scary amounts of records. But, he was really complimentary. I said, ‘well I don’t really have an agenda other than to share the solo of this incredible loss’ because Ritchie and Jon Lord started Deep Purple.
So, I did my part. I wanted him to know I loved him. Then I was talking to my wife who said, ‘why don’t you do this as your farewell album?’ and I thought, perfect! I’d go out of the business as I came in with Deep Purple. Of course, that was very successful and led to two years on the road and I thought that would be retirement. So, other than that. we’d just be putting together box sets for anniversaries like we have the thirty-fifth anniversary of ‘Slide It In’ coming out on the eighth of March. It’s a super ridiculously deep profound collection of all kinds of things particularly for the hard core. We started putting on these box sets like the early demos, the early ideas of songs that became multi-million sellers before they were even recorded, and the audience loves it. We’ve been establishing that with the ‘87 30th Anniversary, the Unzipped project we did recently and now the 35th anniversary 6 audio CD and a DVD, and then of course a new studio album coming out. It’s ridiculous. I’m busier than James Brown, God Bless him.”
SFL Music –(laughed), That’s great!
Coverdale: “It’s the gardens rosy and blooming. It’s an astonishing time for me in my life.”
SFL Music: That’s wonderful. How does it work with this lineup that has been for several years now, to write and tour with? What would you say the magic is?
Coverdale: “Oh, just everyone gets on terrifically well. It’s the first time for me with having two guitar players, I’ve always structured the band to have two guitar players because I want an orchestra at my fingertips. Hugely influential band was the Allman Brothers. In fact, my first Whitesnake album (‘Trouble’ released in 1978), featured a slide guitar player and a more traditional blues style player. But, these guys I mean, Oh My God! Joel joined us as we were making ‘The Purple Album’ (released in 2015) and made a beautiful contribution to it, as did all my guys. Brought these forty something year old songs to life. I was quite happy just going out touring. It’s very hard for us to put a set list together as it is,” he elaborated, “but right now we’re so jazzed, so fluffed up by the way the video’s been received and the pre-orders are ridiculously strong for the record, and the tickets for the tour is looking fantastic. It’s amazing. These guys, not only are we friends, we’re a band of brothers as musicians.
I don’t have to be a referee between my guitar players which I’ve been for most of Whitesnake (he chuckled), which is great for me. For instance, they’ll be a Reb Beach/David Coverdale composition and Joel is doing the solo. Joel Hoekstra/David Coverdale composition and Reb’s got the solo. It’s never been “oh I love the media” (he laughs). I have a great team. I stopped having soap operas and dramas on the road many years ago, many years ago. It’s just too much of a distraction. If somebody feels that Whitesnake’s all about them, then go do your own band. This is people who Whitesnake can elevate and encourage and support them to spread their wings and fly. They bring such a great loyalty and significance to Whitesnake. They are so welcome in my life on every level it’s almost indescribable.”
SFL Music: Is that what adds to the Whitesnake shows? What can fans look forward to?
Coverdale: “Oh, well, we’re all so hot on the ‘Flesh and Blood’ album I’m hoping we can feature at least four if not five of the new songs. In dispersed with songs that people are familiar with because, I do know that classic rock audiences tend to go for a pee when somebody says’ here’s a song from the new album’. (He chuckled). I think these songs will keep them riveted. But yeah, I’ll also be doing some of the ‘Slide It In’ songs of course along with “Is This Love”, “Here I Go Again” “Still of the Night” All the songs that people are very familiar with the world over. It’s going to be a very strong active and interactive experience for all of us, all concerned.”
SFL Music: Well, people are definitely looking forward to it. Who would you say were your musical influences?
Coverdale: “Oh My God. It’s huge. I do love 60’s Motown, I do love Chicago Blues, Staxs/Volt. Those are like my absolute heroes. The African/American singers. When I was a child in the industrial north of England I would write, silently, secretly (softly laughs) write poems. Once I started learning even two or three chords on the guitar, those poems became songs. It’s always and continues to be my primary way to express myself and tell my stories. The lyrics are my diaries and my experiences and of course they are unique, which is one of the reasons I think Whitesnake is successful. People can get into the songs and know the songs and the quality of the songs They can also identify with the emotional and physical themes that most of them are about. The search for direction songs. It’s all to do with personal expression, and the fact that it’s my hobby turned into a very successful business is an added bonus.”
SFL Music: Did you have professional musical training?
Coverdale: “God no. It’s very interesting. Prior to my voice being bastardized by alcohol and cigarettes I had a very pure clean voice that was very sought out by local choirs. But really, that wasn’t my thing. I was talking to some girls in school and holding court as you were, talking about how much they enjoyed my voice at some school recital and this one girl said ‘oh my brothers got a band. He’s looking for a singer why don’t you call him?’ and I’m going “OOH (sing song) you know that fear set in immediately. I’d been called on my poop. And that evening my mother came in and said, “oh there are three guys outside, want to see you”. And I’m going, ‘am I going to get beaten up? (he laughed) ‘Do I need my German Shepherds?’ This sister’s brother and a couple of his colleagues. Its very funny, it’s like the Beatles in those days. We all lived in streets next to each other. I was in Diamond Street, the whole precious stones street, Amber, Goddess, Emerald Street. It was amazing and we ended up in this tiny, tiny bedroom where there’s a full kit of drums, not like Tommy Aldridge’s of course, like snare, floor tom tom, you know. Um two tiny amplifiers and they plugged a little tape recorder microphone into the 12watt amp that the bass player was using while he was playing, (he laughed heartily). They gave me the sheet music to some very kind of high song and I had no idea of keys, so I just sang it in pitch with these guys and they just stopped and looked at me and went ‘oh my God!’ I said, “what, what’s wrong?” They said, “you sound like Joe Cocker” or whoever the hell it was.”
SFL Music: oh really?
Coverdale: “Yeah, it was very, very funny. I had no idea. So, from that moment on. I’m very happy of course that happened. I cultivated that Ray Charles, was huge with me you know Sam Cooke, just all of that stuff. Expressionists.
SFL Music: Well that does transpire onstage. It’s definitely captivating. I saw the last show and I am really looking forward to this one.
Coverdale: “Oh thank you sweetheart”
SFL Music: You’re welcome. Is there anything in particular you are looking forward to doing when you come to Florida?
Coverdale: “Yeah, well baby, I’m looking forward to getting out of the snow (he laughed). Even though I swear to God with my cyber brothers and sisters on the interwebs, I give people weather reports I post pictures of lake Tahoe, in various, magnificent sunrises and sunsets. I get people corresponding from many different parts of the world. The climate is a serious concern for all of us I believe, but it wouldn’t surprise me if I get to Florida and I should have brought a winter coat, but we’ve been having the most bizarre, almost four seasons in one day winter. I’m kind of done with it, I’m ready for some sunshine. Sunshine and fresh oranges!”
SFL Music: it’s in the 60’s so that is good right?
Coverdale: “Oh God, enviable. I don’t know what we’re in. Eskimo weather, geez.”
SFL Music: What would you recommend to up and coming musicians, or singers?
Coverdale: “That’s a really difficult scenario. It’s such an interesting and challenging industry. I know the kind of contracts that the major record companies are putting out to new artists and they are entirely disagreeable to me. It certainly was never like that, and I just walk away from and fortunately I can afford it. But, Id’ walk away from any of the deals that were proposed. But then young people need an opportunity. The primary advise I would give anyone hoping to get a position in the music business. Is have a very good lawyer explain to you very simply what these contracts mean. What they entail. Because I’m still dealing with contracts that I made almost 5 decades ago.”
SFL Music: wow!
Coverdale: “Yeah, you just have to be very, very careful and not to be overwhelmed by legally. So, scrape the money together, do more local shows to get the money together to get an independent lawyer to look over your contracts so you know precisely what you’re getting involved with and precisely what you’re going to get and precisely what the record company’s going to get. And good luck you know. You need passion because there are constant challenges and constant walls that need to be broken down, but you can also now with the benefit of the internet, be independent of all that. It depends what you want. I didn’t get into the business to be successful. I’ve always written songs and continue as vehicles of self-expression. I just have this incredible added bonus of the fact that it gets to be very successful and I also had the incredible opportunity given to me by Deep Purple as a 21,22 year old.”
SFL Music: What would you like your fans to know specifically about this tour?
Coverdale: “They have to know how important they are to what we do, to what Whitesnake does. The most important thing they should know is that one of the things we do to the best of our ability, is to break down any barriers so it’s a superb cycle of energy between the performance and the crowd. We try to make the crowd part of the show. We have a global entity that’s called the Whitesnake choir. I encourage people to be part of the show and sing and it’s an incredibly fulfilling scenario when everybody’s pushing The audience at any show has an incredible responsibility in how good the show is gonna be by way of their response. So, get ready to rock baby, Whitesnake’s coming to town.”