Legendary Whitesnake singer David Coverdale is set to celebrate a year full of anniversaries as the band hits the UK this year. He talks to Ian Harvey.
Whitesnake will be appearing at the LG Arena alongside US melodic rockers Journey and British heavyweights Thunder on May 28.
“It’s the 40th anniversary of my joining Deep Purple; the 35th anniversary of the first Whitesnake gig in the UK and the 10th anniversary of (guitarists) Doug Aldrich and Reb Beach joining the band,” says Coverdale on the phone from his luxurious home in Lake Tahoe, California.
So is he looking forward to the tour?
“Are you kidding me? Totally!” he laughs. “In 2008 Def Leppard and I went out on a co-headliner like this and it was just a total pleasure for us and for the fans . And the fans got serious bang for their bucks.
“So we’ve been looking for someone we could work with and I’ve known Journey for years and when Luke and Danny from Thunder heard about it they said they’d reunite Thunder just for this tour.”
So are these multi-band “mini-festivals” the rock ‘n’ roll circus they might appear to be from the outside?
“I keep all that side away from me,” says Coverdale. “I have my dressing room and I have an assistant, Lauren, who decorates it for me like a sheik’s tent. I have no idea what the room looks like behind that stuff.”
Coverdale, born in Saltburn-by-the-sea in the north east, first found fame with Deep Purple when he replaced singer Ian Gillan in 1973, joining the band at the same time as Cannock-born bassist and vocalist Glenn Hughes.
He reveals that he’s still in touch with Hughes almost every day.
“Glenn and I speak pretty much every day,” he says as he checks his email inbox. “Yeah, there’s a couple of emails from him today. We’re soul brothers. We’ve remained friends and total supporters of each other. He’s the Cannock Kid and I’m Lord David of Saltburn!”
The other Cannock connection from Coverdale’s Whitesnake career is Mel Galley, the guitarist who died in 2008, aged 60.
With a new tour looming, Coverdale reflects on the fact that he has now lost three friends who were in the line-up that produced the landmark Slide It In album in 1984.
“It’s taken on an extra poignancy now,” he says. “I’ve got a gym at home and when I’m working on the cardio equipment I have an HD television. I’ve also got Apple TV, so I can access all of my photos on my computer hard drive – pictures of the kids, my wife, my son growing up and when a picture of the Slide It In band comes up it just chills me to the marrow because 50% of that band has passed away – Cozy Powell, Mel and Jon Lord.”
He adds: “We’re going to do our own tribute on this tour.”
He also reveals that following the death of former Deep Purple and Whitesnake keyboard player Jon Lord last year, he decided it was time to bury the hatchet with the famously difficult ex-Purple guitarist Richie Blackmore.
“Losing Jon Lord was huge and I realised it’s ridiculous to hold a grudge. That inspired me to get in touch with Richie Blackmore and I told him ‘My gratitude knows no bounds for the opportunity you gave me’. That was very positive and we have a line of good communication for the first time in 35 years.”
Blackmore is infamous for having a virtual conveyor belt of ever-changing band members in his post-Purple band Rainbow but Coverdale appears to be genuinely taken aback to discover that Whitesnake has had a roster of no fewer than 39 members in the band’s 35 years of existence.
“When I started we had a joke about Richie Blackmore’s band: ‘What’s the shortest gig? Rainbow!’
He adds: “Look I’m 24/7 at this. I don’t want any passengers on HMS Whitesnake. Look at the songs I write with Doug. He’s an extremely generous man with his time and talents and Reb is an amazing musician. They’re committed to the legacy of Whitesnake.”
To tie in with the tour, Whitesnake release a live CD/DVD in April, Made In Japan, which somewhat cheekily shares the title of Deep Purple’s classic 1972 live album.
“No, it’s not cheeky because it is made in Japan!” Coverdale retorts. “There’s no disrespect to Deep Purple at all. When I was looking at a title I kept coming back to Made In Japan because it is made in Japan.”
After all these years, Whitesnake have a canon of classic songs to chose from each night, from the likes of Here I Go Again, Fool For Your Loving and Is This Love? to songs off the most recent album Forevermore, like Steal Your Heart Away.
So how does Coverdale go about choosing the setlist for each tour and is it his say entirely as the guv’nor?
“I’m the luckiest rock ‘n’ roll singer in history, well me and (Def Leppard’s) Joe Elliott, in that we’ve had hit rock songs, not just ballads. I’ve never let go of that hard rock element,“ says the singer.
“So, I am the gov’nor but I work with great players and they help me keep at the top of my game. We’re blessed with 50-60% of songs that we can’t not play.”
- Whitesnake play the LG Arena, Birmingham, on Tuesday, May 28, 2013 alongside Journey and Thunder. Tickets cost £50.75 plus booking fees.