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WHITESNAKE: IT’S JUST A MATTER OF LOVE – AND HÄÄGEN-DAZS


Aaaaah, love! One hackneyed, well-worn theme if there ever was one. And Whitesnake, along with its legendary frontman David Coverdale, is probably the one band that has made love its favorite subject. Just take any Whitesnake album and look for yourselves how many songs contain the word “love” in the title (OK, I’ve already done that for you – there’s 24 in all) or simply talk about love. When you think about it, it’s almost caricatural. But when you start listening to these songs, the magic does its work. Just like Lemmy can afford to wear white santiags without being ridiculous (just the opposite, really), David Coverdale can talk excessively about love and still be taken seriously. Truth be told, after listening countless times to Forevermore, Whitesnake’s latest album, something struck me: David Coverdale is probably the man who pronounces the word “love” with the greatest sincerity in the world. Again, just as well as Lemmy grunts the word “rock’n’roll”.

What’s striking when you have a chat with Sir David Coverdale is that the man has love to spare. On the eve of his 60th birthday, the former Deep Purple singer boasts a fantastic shape and an even better moral. The man exudes such niceness, class and politeness that his mood is almost contagious. With such a spirit, it’s no wonder that, almost forty years after Deep Purple’s Burn album, the singer still manages to make great songs and albums. Forevermore is the perfect proof of that, just as much as its predecessor Good To Be Bad was. The pleasure is still here, palpable and almost communicative. David says it himself: “I’ll be with Whitesnake until my knees stop!” So let’s hope he knows a good orthopedist!

Ladies and gentlemen, you can read David Coverdale’s interview right here…

« I’m from an interesting species that seems to survive! The hard rock audience that supports my work and has done for almost 40 years is not really driven by fashion, which is what the music business is driven by. It’s relatively unrecognizable now. […] Through all of these unusual and difficult times for the music business, Whitesnake is actually flourishing, I’m very happy and proud to say. »

Radio Metal : So how are you doing?

David Coverdale (vocals): You know what, if I could ejaculate Häägen-Dazs, my life would be perfect! (laughs) Right now, I’m 59 years old, looking at my 60th birthday in September, and I’m going to talk to you about a new album and getting ready to go on tour. So everything is pretty rosy in my garden, thank you! It’s a good time to be David Coverdale!

Ok, that’s cool!

Yeah, it’s way fucking cool!

Good To Be Bad was the first Whitesnake album in almost 20 years, if we omit Restless Heart, which was supposed to be a David Coverdale solo album. In retrospect, what are your thoughts about that album, the way it was received, the Whitesnake comeback, etc.? Did it live up to your expectations?

I don’t really have expectations. I just do the best I can in every given situation. But yes, it is funny. I had no plans to do this, so this is all a new adventure, and it’s very fresh for me. When I revamped Whitesnake in 2003, I had no intention of going back into the music business. I just wanted to be in the business of making music live. That has always given me the most pleasure. So I put together a fantastic band, and then we had so much fun touring, I said: “Let’s do this for a couple of months, four months maybe, each year”. Many years ago, I would only tour every three years, Nicolas, so a lot of my songs stayed fresh. But if you tour every year, some of those songs start to feel old. And I thought that if they feel old for me, then they’ll feel old for some of my audience. And at the same time, the synchronicity was that Mick Jagger told me the Stones made albums to promote tours. And I thought: “Oh, the other way around to how I started!” And he was absolutely correct: we made a new album of fresh material, it was received incredibly well, it was very successful. And when I toured in ‘08 and ‘09, we had 50% new music in our shows, which energized the older songs. It was a win-win situation. I thought it would be fun. I didn’t think I would make a new record last year, but I’m very happy we did!

In the past ten years, the music industry has changed drastically.

Oh, really?! (big laugh)

Oh yeah! Did you try to adapt to this? If so, was it easy?

No, I’m from an interesting species that seems to survive! The hard rock audience that supports my work and has done for almost 40 years is not really driven by fashion, which is what the music business is driven by. It’s relatively unrecognizable now. The only time I think Whitesnake got into a fashion was the MTV thing in the late 80s, which was extraordinarily successful for us. But still, during that fashion time, we maintained substance in the music. And the focus that Whitesnake had has always been in songs. So really, through all of these unusual and difficult times for the music business, Whitesnake is actually flourishing, I’m very happy and proud to say. If I was trying to succeed the way it was, then I would be concerned. If I was a new artist, I’d probably be concerned. But it doesn’t really affect me, because I do what I want to do. What I do utilize is all this modern technology of Twitter, Facebook, and the Internet, with whitesnake.com. We get a 200,000 people per day, from all over the world, including your magnificent country, stopping by the website to see what’s going in the wonderful whacky world of Whitesnake. So we use the new tools to promote classic rock! For me, it’s the same soccer field; they just have to move the goal post. Cause I like to score goals, I just have to find out where they moved the goal post to!

You just mentioned Whitesnake’s success during the big hair days. Since then, the band has been widely associated with this scene…

Fortunately, we had big fucking hair! The problem was, the record companies would turn round and say: “Oh my God, that’s successful! Let’s sign everything and anything that looks like that!” So suddenly, that becomes a genre. It’s nothing to do with the musicians, it’s created entirely by record companies and media as a means to sell music. But what they effectively do is kill the golden goose. It’s kind of foolish marketing, but there you go. Fortunately, the people who focus on songs, like Whitesnake – that’s who survives. You always have these fashion cycles, which is much quicker nowadays with the media. When I started, a fashion cycle would last three years, maybe five if you were lucky. But the more exposure you get, the shorter the potential success time that you can have, if your priorities are more in image than in substance.

Because of this, many people still look at Whitesnake today as a superficial band, which it’s obviously not. Does it bother you?

Those were comparisons made by the ill-educated. As I said, my audience is not dictated by that particular time frame. It’s dictated by the quality of music. I’m coming up to now 40 years as a – thank God – successful performer, since Deep Purple days. It’s challenging for me at times, when it is very superficially looked at through that three- or four-year period. But it certainly isn’t damaging in terms of the big picture. What it is, is usually people in the media who haven’t done appropriate research. So I don’t really have a lot of time for that. It squanders the opportunity of spending time talking with me, if that’s the only tunnel vision of who I am, this small time frame. It doesn’t get the big picture. If people dug deeper, they would see that it’s significantly more. But really, that’s not why I’m here. There’s no interest in me defending anything. I will make my statements, and that’s it.

« I gave up fighting love songs many years ago. […] For many, many years, I will be very angry with myself, because when I would sit down to write a song, it was never an intention of writing a love song. And nine times out of ten, that’s what would come out of me. I made a deal with God that I wouldn’t argue about it anymore. It is the most inspirational thing in my life to create music with. »

You have a new album, Forevermore, coming up at the end of the month. It sounds like a continuity to Good To Be Bad. The only exception is that there’s more emphasis on the rhythm and blues and soul elements. This is especially obvious on the chorus of “Love Will Set You Free”, for example. Is it something you wanted to put a bit more forward this time?

To be honest, I think it was my co-writer Doug Aldrich, my amazing guitarist and song-writing partner. He and I were given a boost of confidence by the success of Good To Be Bad. So we just went: “Fuck it!” The most important thing people know is that Whitesnake writes, plays and performs the kind of music that we like to do. We are not creating music for anybody else – unless you like those elements! The identity of Whitesnake embraces hard rock, rhythm and blues, soul, melodies, amusement, fun… Hopefully, it’s good melodies that you can remember. That’s what we do; if you like those things, you’re probably going to like Whitesnake. But primarily, we make music that we like, and these are the songs that Doug and I created. Before I made the commitment to do another studio record, I drove down to Los Angeles and went into Doug’s studio for I think two or three days, just to make sure that both he and I had good, positive ideas. We had three very solid songs immediately. We wrote “One Of These Days” in a couple of hours, then we moved on to “Whipping Boy Blues”, and then on to “All Out Of Luck”. Then I drove back to Lake Tahoe, and called the record company and said: “OK, I’ll commit to a new studio record”. Because I knew that Doug and I still had fire from the sessions we did on Good To Be Bad. Even more so, we were more confident, and I think you can hear that in the song quality. But it’s also interesting, Nicolas, because one of the things that – thank God – people are noticing is that it embraces different chapters of Whitesnake, without it being premeditated. For instance, the opening song, “Steal Your Heart Away”, could very comfortably have come from one of the early Whitesnake albums, when it was more R’n’B-based. It’s a lot of fun, I’m having such fun with it!

Whitesnake has always had a majority of songs with the word “love” in their titles, or which are speaking about love…

Yeah, that’s the French in me! I gave up fighting love songs many years ago. I think it’s my destiny to write love songs, and hopefully improve and document my experience in love, ups and downs and sideways! The sexuality of it, the physicality of it, the celebration of it, the heartbreak of it… For many, many years, I will be very angry with myself, because when I would sit down to write a song, it was never an intention of writing a love song. And nine times out of ten, that’s what would come out of me. I made a deal with God that I wouldn’t argue about it anymore. It is the most inspirational thing in my life to create music with. This year we released “Love Will Set You Free” on Valentine’s Day, and we got 750,000 hits! So I think that basically, Whitesnake is rock’n’romance! (laughs)

The album is called Forevermore. Does this mean that Whitesnake is what you want to do forevermore, until the end of your life?

I don’t know about the end of my life, but I’ll be with Whitesnake until my knees stop! Whitesnake has some big, powerful songs, that physically one day will be very difficult for me to perform. I hope to be able to step down from that, but right now I’m feeling extraordinarily electrified and motivated and inspired to go out and tour as much as I can. While I physically have the energy… It’s very interesting, Nicolas, because last year, not only did we make a new album, but I mixed and edited a DVD of a show I did in 1990 with Steve Vai and Adrian Vandenberg and Tommy Aldridge, called Live At Donnington. And it really was kind of intimidating to think that this was of course 20 years ago. I was in incredibly good shape, but of course I was in my late thirties! But it was also very inspiring for me. I started a significant work-out regime, and I’m very happy to say that I’m in great shape, and ready to go, ready to rock’n’roll, and to deliver the very best that I can at this time in my life.

Now on to another subject: during the Deep Purple years…

Oh, I hope you can remember! Go!

During these years, Glenn Hughes and yourself were such a great team. I had the opportunity to talk to Glenn last year, and he told me that he thought we would hear something from Glenn Hughes and David Coverdale in the future…

It’s very, very possible. Out of all the former members of Deep Purple, Glenn and I maintained a very solid and very loving contact with each other. I wish him every success with… oh, he changed the name so much… With Black Country Communion. It’s a super band, a great record, and Glenn certainly deserves it. You have certain people coming into your life for whom the door is always open. They’re always welcome to have a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. And Glenn is one of those people in my life. My life is littered with people who came in, burned very brightly, and then burned out, which presumably was our destiny. But I think it’s very likely. I must also say there are no immediate plans, but I think it’s likely that Glenn and I will sing together again, without a doubt. Actually, I was hoping to take Glenn and his band – I’m a big fan of Joe Bonamassa – on tour with me in the UK. But I understand they’re doing their own tour, so… Good luck to them! And no doubt we would have ended up singing together, had that happened.

« I work out pretty much every day, I’m very balanced in what I eat and drink, much more so than I was for very many years, and I have an incredibly happy and solid foundation with my wife and my family. […] I celebrate life every day. »

Speaking of Deep Purple, don’t you think it’s a bid sad that all the great songs from the Burn, Stormbringer and Come Taste The Band albums tend to fall into oblivion? Obviously, Deep Purple haven’t been playing them since Ian Gillan came back in the 80s…

I must say that anyone who wants that stuff can find it. It’s very interesting for me and I’m very deferential and respectful to the memory of the time I had with Purple. I still am in awe of the courage that those guys had to give an unknown singer such an immense opportunity. They gave me the key to this treasury that I can still enjoy, to this journey that I’m still on. And a great deal of that was because they gave me that opportunity. But, Nicolas, to be honest, I don’t really think about it until I’m asked about it. My life is filled with great balance now, in my private life and my professional life with Whitesnake. It’s a very distant memory for me now, as proud as I am of what we achieved. Recently we lost the last surviving manager of Deep Purple, so I really don’t know what’s gonna go on with that stuff. I have such minimal contact with them. I have no dialog with anybody other than Glenn. Jon Lord and I bump into each other now and again. It was a long time ago.

Actually, Glenn did tell me that you were the only ones who were still in contact…

Yeah, and that’s fine! Sometimes, as I said, people come into your life and burn brightly. Glenn and I have maintained dialog, and the others haven’t, and that’s fine! My life is pretty full! I wish them all success, etc., etc., but if they’re as happy doing what they’re doing as I am doing what I’m doing, then we’re all very, very happy! (laughs) Nicolas, my love, we’ve got any more one question. I have so many other colleagues of yours to speak with today…

Ok. Like you said at the beginning of the interview, you’re turning 60 in September of this year. What’s your secret to be in such an incredibly good shape, both physically and vocally?

I know, I’m extraordinarily grateful for it. It’s so good, I’m in such a good place in my life that there’s no real effort for me. I have a metabolism that cannot just enjoy whatever. If I enjoy a good steak, I have to get on my fucking elliptical trainer! (laughs) I work out pretty much every day, I’m very balanced in what I eat and drink, much more so than I was for very many years, and I have an incredibly happy and solid foundation with my wife and my family. It’s the best foundation in the world for me, to be able to run Whitesnake as a manager, and to be a performer. I don’t know what the secret is, I celebrate life every day.

Interview conducted by phone in march, 2011.
Transcription : Saff.

Whitesnake »s Website : whitesnake.com.



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