David Coverdale Is Planning a Special Deep Purple Celebration
David Coverdale will be the first to tell you that he never should have gotten a call to audition for Deep Purple. It was drummer Ian Paice who heard something in the singer who submitted a primitive cassette recording to the band's management.
"It's such a fucking game-changing, life-changing thing," says Coverdale, who's been in a retrospective frame of mind in recent years, going through his catalog and revisiting his life, album by album. The goal has been to present a clearer picture of the work he's done over 50 years.
Still Good to Be Bad is the latest box set to arrive, a revisit to the 2008 album when Coverdale resurrected Whitesnake for their first proper album since 1989's Slip of the Tongue. Even though Restless Heart had come out in 1997, Good to Be Bad was conceived as a Whitesnake album and not, as Restless Heart's cover declared, a David Coverdale & Whitesnake album.
Coverdale built a new Whitesnake lineup from the ground up, once again relying on a guitarist as his main creative partner. Paired with Doug Aldrich, the guitar player and singer quickly earned a shared nickname. "We busted ass - Doug and I called ourselves the Brutal Brothers," he laughs. "Because we were just brutal on everyone because we didn’t take half-assed stuff. But also we were brutal on each other to get the best out of each other."
During a wide-ranging conversation, Coverdale discusses the status of Whitesnake's farewell tour, what's happening with the long-rumored box set from the Coverdale-Page project and other subjects. Below, he discusses how he wants to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his Deep Purple debut.
You’ve mentioned some recording projects that you have going on. What are you working on?
I’ve just had a string quartet in. That should throw a cat amongst the pigeons. That’s going to be a surprise. With me celebrating the 50th anniversary of Purple, we’re going to be doing something, probably around October. I spoke with Glenn Hughes last year and asked if I could fly him up, to just sit down there and video us talking about our memories of getting the gig. He got the job with Deep Purple before me.
I’m hoping I can pull that off, so we can just put that on the internet for both him and I and our respective social media. Because it’s such a fucking game-changing, life-changing thing. This is how the universe works. Last week, I came into the studio and we were going over stuff to do. They said, “Oh, what do you want us to do about that huge trunk downstairs?” I went, “Uh, what huge trunk?” They bring up this thing I’ve never seen before. I said, “What’s in it?” They said, “It’s locked.” I said, “Well, break the fucking thing open!” It was my mother’s belongings. I lost my mother 20 years ago.
There’s this gift from the grave, which sounds awful, but it’s the tape that got me the audition with Deep Purple. That’s one of the things that we’re putting together now for a special release in October. I remember Pacey, they’d all go into the Purple office and get a bunch of albums or tapes or whatever. Or the roadies would come in and take them out. Ian had gone in and took a bunch of stuff out and in there was my tape. He called Ritchie Blackmore and said, “I think I’ve found a contender. He’s got a great tone." But how did my mother have this? This is so precious. It’s like finding the capstone from the Giza Pyramid.
This is for people up and coming, who will go, “Oh, my God, listen to how shitty he sounded and he got the job with Deep Purple!” Hopefully, there’s some kind of inspiration or motivational aspect. Finding it, it was like, “Thank you, Mom.” I had no idea she had it. Because once I got the job with Purple, I was all over the world, almost immediately. I’d just go over and say, “Oh, can you look after this stuff” or whatever. There’s lots of Polaroids. [Laughs] Hopefully she didn’t go in them. But yeah, it’s an absolute gift. Things turn on a dime. Something will come up and we’d had an idea a month ago. Tom [Gordon, Coverdale’s engineer and producer] and I discussed the idea, “You know, this particular song, it would be really nice with a string quartet.
Boom, we filmed and recorded a string quartet, which is going to be extraordinarily special. It works perfectly. We found an amazing string arranger because somewhere on the back burner, there’s a Whitesnake symphony project waiting to happen. I’ve found the string arranger now who is a super, super guy and very talented. He’s the string arranger for the Reno Philharmonic. I’m starting to get to know all of these beautifully talented people in the place that I live.
It’s the 30th anniversary of the Coverdale-Page album. What did it mean to you to get to work with Jimmy Page?
He is an alchemist. That’s what I called him. He made me play guitar, which apparently he’d never encouraged anybody to play guitar with him. So I’m on the acoustic on some tracks. I love Pagey. You’ve got to remember, I’m a huge fan of the Yardbirds. Five Live Yardbirds with Eric [Clapton] and then he was out and Jeff [Beck] came in, who I just loved to bits. Of course, he brings Jimmy in on bass. Jimmy had a very lucrative career as a young teen in the studios. He knew how to play fuckin’ rock 'n' roll when most studio players were jazz players. They didn’t have the feel. He did the fuckin’ [James] Bond theme on Shirley Bassey’s “Goldfinger.”
Listen to Shirley Bassey's 'Goldfinger'
We were in Vancouver and we got hit with this awful Vancouver blues cold epidemic shit. I went out and I went, “Oh, my God, I’ve found this nine-CD collection of the British Invasion.” I bought one for me and one for James, and I had in my room a five-CD changer set up because we were going to be there for a while. I said, “Come on over, we’ll do some room service!” He comes over and goes, “Oh, I’m on that!” We were listening to “Baby Please Don’t Go,” by Them, with Van Morrison. I’m sitting there and I’m just like, “My God, [Page is] on all of these songs!” “Hurdy Gurdy Man,” by Donovan, was the first time that three members of Led Zeppelin recorded together. Jimmy and John Paul Jones did a lot of work with Mickie Most for RAK [Records, Most's label].
There was pop stuff and John Paul Jones was a house arranger and musician. And Bonzo [Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham] is on “Hurdy Gurdy Man,” with all of those trademark drum fills that he does. Jonesy and Pagey are playing on that Donovan record, presumably while Robert Plant was having a cigarette in the control room. But yeah, Jimmy, I’ve been a fan [and it started] way before Led Zeppelin. It was interesting for me to work with him.
Ritchie Blackmore was a godsend [and] Tommy Bolin, on an entirely different level. The thing is that a lot of people look at … it’s not just guitar players that I’m well known for. I’ve worked with amazing drummers, amazing bass players. The musicians that I’ve been honored to work with, some of them have really well-known names and others don’t. But working with Jimmy, I learned much more than I was aware of while we were actually working together.
Watch Whitesnake's 'Lay Down Your Love' Video
You and Doug Aldrich were the "Brutal Brothers." Was this the first time a guitar player could wage a debate in that way and stay in the band?
I always invite people in to participate, be it guitar or whatever, if I feel they can bring something to the Snake and if I feel the Snake can bring something to them. From the get-go, I encourage people to spread their wings and fly. If they shit in the nest, it’s a different story. But I’ve always encouraged players, and if you listen to the individuals on different records of mine, you can hear that it’s musicians at their peak. They’ve been inspired to be who they are and how they do it. Ask Joel [Hoekstra] - he will consistently say to me, "Oh, my God, thank you so much," and I'm going, "It's mutual." Reb [Beach] and I are celebrating 20 years of doing work together. It's lasted more than two of my marriages. [Laughs] I think the secret is don't sleep together!