With Whitesnake new collection 'Love Songs' hot off the presses - the first in a long list of "musically embellished" projects - David Coverdale has plenty to discuss. Having already talked about the new collection, his expansive plans to remix and reissue his band's later works, and his pride and joy in Coverdale Page in Part One of our extended chat, we found that Mr.Coverdale was just getting started. In our 2nd part of our An Audience with David Coverdale special, the head 'Snake talks Deep Purple's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, the passing of Eddie Van Halen, the bucket list guitarists he'd love to work with, and his farewell "appreciation and gratitude" tour. Tasting the band; Eamon O'Neill.
For Part 1 of our 'An Audience with David Coverdale interview, click here.
I'd like to talk about Deep Purple's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 2016; were you disappointed that Ritchie Blackmore didn't attend?
We'd been talking about it [Ritchie and I]. We'd been nominated before and never got in, and I said; "are you going to go?", and he said; "nah". I said; "well, I won't go then!" [laughing]. But what had happened in 2016, literally, once it had been announced that we were officially being inducted into it, the current Deep Purple refused to go if Ritchie Blackmore was going to be there. And this was like, 72 hours before, when I was ready to fly with my family. And this cost me like $75,000 - $85,000, because you have to pay for all the tables apart from the one you're on, and I had my daughter fly in from Germany, my son came out of college. It was a family affair.
So you were all set to go, and plans changed?
Suddenly, Glenn Hughes and I were told; "well, we don't want you singing with us". Initially, I'd spoken to Ian [Gillan] about coming up and singing the backgrounds of 'Smoke on the Water', because originally they were going to close the show. So, that suddenly was pulled, the plug. They tried to stop us doing speeches, and my wife was fucking furious!, apart from the fact she spent a fortune on posh dresses! [laughing] And I said; "fuck it, nobody's going to keep us off!" I got in touch with Carol, Ritchie's manager, and I said; "tell him to come with me; nobody's going to fucking touch him, tell him to come with me!", and he didn't want to do it.
You did mention Ritchie quite emphatically in your speech.
The first thing I said when I was up there, was; "none of us would have been standing here without Ritchie Blackmore", and I made sure of that point. Steve Morse and Don Airey [current Deep Purple members] were more complimentary to Glenn and I than the other guys. We had a blast, we had a fucking great time! I'm very happy that I am who I am, and I just talked to Glenn the other day about it; "what the fuck was up THEIR ass?!" Anyroad, so we didn't get to jam, which was fine; we were back doing press while they were performing, just having a good old time like the unrighteous brothers always do!
How do you think Ritchie would have behaved, had he been there on the night?
You know, it was an amazing scenario, but I know Ritchie, and he probably would have caused trouble by pulling out a water pistol and squirting everybody! [laughing] But it was absolutely obscene that he wasn't there, but I made sure, and I got a thank you from him and his wife when they saw a recording of it. But you know, he doesn't give a shit, and he knows he was responsible for the majority of the music there, and its true; none of us, none of us would have been on that stage without Ritchie Blackmore, none of us.
While we're talking about guitar players, I have to ask you about your thoughts on the sad passing of Eddie Van Halen.
Well, I’d known Edward. Edward came to introduce himself to me, in a place called Sound City, and next door to it was Keith Olsen’s studio Goodnight L.A. So I think, ’85 / ’86, I think that was. He came in, and it’s interesting because, I’d only heard of Van Halen, because once I started to work with the unique talent of John Sykes, I like to do my homework on people, and I thought; “he’s influenced by this American guy Edward Van Halen”, so that’s when I first heard those records, and heard this fucking phenomenal guitar playing. The last time I’d heard guitar playing like that was Jimi Hendrix, and John McLaughlin and Jeff Beck; this unique scenario.
So you didn't see Van Halen in their earlier days?
I remember seeing those guys in this watering hole in Hollywood - the Starwood, I think it was - and I think they were like the house band or whatever, and I’d go in there, get a couple of chicks, and there was nothing ever really to catch your attention, but fuck me, Ted Templeman [producer] caught it, you know?
When was the last time you saw Eddie?
Edward, the last time I saw him, I was sitting in my hotel suite in London with Jimmy [Page]. It was like ten o’clock in the morning, and we were just having a very elegant gentleman’s cup of tea; tea pot and everything! [laughing] And the door to my suite goes, and Michael McIntire, my co-producer who was working with us, he gets up and opens the door, and his jaw hits the floor because he’s like a total Van Halen fan, and Eddie [casually] goes; “is David in?” [laughing hysterically] And I wasn’t under my own name! And Mikey walks in and he goes; [meekly] “Oh, it’s Van Halen”, and Edward just pushes past, and I go; “Edward, how are you doing?” And he goes; “alright, great to see you… Ah! Jimmy Page! Jimmy Page!”, and, well first off, he goes to my minibar immediately at ten o’clock in the morning and takes a fucking Heineken out, and he’s at Jimmy’s feet, and he picks up my acoustic, and he’s like; “how did you play this fucking thing?!” [laughing]. You know, it’s amazing; I had Eddie Van Halen and Jimmy Page sitting there, and Eddie had a Heineken, and Jimmy and I had a cup of tea!
Did you know that he was ill?
I’d been aware of Edward’s illness for quite some time, and Sammy and I had talked about it, but Sammy still had the energy that he was going to have another opportunity to do the rounds as the singer with Van Halen, because all was not well with the camp, before. But I don’t think Edward could do.
So sadly, in some cases when you’ve been informed, like when Jon had gotten in touch with me about his illness – pancreatic cancer – he said; “I’m going to kick this”, and he, actually was responsible for inspiring me to do that Purple tribute album I did [‘The Purple Album’, 2015], because he said; “I’m going to kick this, Davey, lad. Would you do something Purple-related with me?”, and I said; “I’ll do anything you want, Jon; just kick that fucking thing’s ass”. And I then remember Googling it and learning there’s hardly any recovery from that shit, so you know, you’re almost anticipating the demise of something.
You sound like you really miss Jon.
I really became aware, more than ever about 2 years ago, when I was remixing the ‘Slide it in’ album, hearing these performances and studio dialogue, and the interaction and laughs and joking; you know, artists; musicians or painters, musicians, singers; the thing is, they are as alive to me, in my heart, my mind, my soul, my spirit. You know, the music’s there. Eddie Van Halen, I just played the early Van Halen albums, and it’s just amazing stuff. The ultimate, a great American party band,
So, artists, their music lives on. The sad thing is, you don’t get to hug them, but I still talk to Jon, and I feel his presence in my life. I meditate a great deal, which the Chinese describe as ‘sitting still, doing nothing’, so in that silence I hear my mum, people who’ve passed, so they’re still alive to me. Edward’s still alive to me, and I just feel for his family for his physical absence. That’s the big sadness. But what a monster, MONSTER musician; an absolute monster!
You've worked with some incredible guitarists over the years; the list is truly staggering!
When you look at it, my god you could weep when you see, but I never just see the guitar players - and I've worked with a lot - but I've worked with amazing drummers and bass players and keyboard players too. But I do get the aspect of the guitar playing, and there were two musicians that I wanted to jam with, and not necessarily do [something formal with]; Jeff Beck and I talked about doing a Japanese tour. We were drunk in the Rainbow, because we loved the same hotel in Los Angeles, years ago; and Edward, just jamming - I would have just liked to have jammed with him.
Is there anyone you've jammed with that you would have liked to have taken further?
The other guitar player I jammed with was Gary Moore; fucking, what an extrapolator guitar player! You know, it was heart breaking, I'd gone in to see him when he was making 'Corridors of Power' , and he said; "what are you working on?", and I said; "I've got this riff, I'd love to play it for you", so everybody fucked off apart from the engineer, and I played him this, very, kind of tribute to Hendrix riff; Jesus Christ, he just flew, and we looked at each other at the end, and it was just the two of us, no drummer, and I'm wailing like a mother fucker, and he's jamming, and the engineer was so blown away he didn't even press the record button! It was such a loss, and as vivid as my memories can be, there's no way I could remember the intricacies, the cosmic effect of Gary's playing. Another Giant.
Was Gary Moore ever considered for Whitesnake?
He was going to come into Whitesnake on 'Saints & Sinners' , but that was my 'get out of management' album. It was a contractual album I'd agreed to finish, so I didn't want to clutter things up with Gary on there. And I encouraged him to sing himself, which he ultimately did on 'Corridors of Power'. The only reason I didn't have Gary in Whitesnake is that I always felt that Gary, with Phil [Lynott], would use it like a stepping-stone for the next element of his career, you know? Does that make sense?
Speaking about all these great musicians who have passed, I have to ask; how would you like to be remembered?
[Pause] It's more important to me to be remembered as my wife's husband, and my children's dad; that's the big deal to me. My wife and I were joking; "I told you I was ill!" I don't know; a good singer songwriter, performer. You know, it's really important for me that people know that I've always done my best, regardless if they think it's the best or not; it's the best I could do at that time. So, I don't know, my legacy's going to be my music.
How has the 2020 pandemic affected your plans?
I was talking to the manager of a very well-known band who are celebrating an immense anniversary this year, and they had a huge world tour planned - like all of us, and mine was going to be the beginning of my farewell tour this year or next year; my appreciation and gratitude tour, but you know, in terms of a power rock singer. I don't know how long I can stay in the kind of physical shape [to do it]. I've bits and pieces fallen off; I've had my knees replaced, my hernia's taken care of, you know, but I'm going to do my best, that we can get out of this shit show, to be able to be safe to travel, and for people to feel safe going to shows.
Finally, what's happening for you going forward?
I don't have a crystal ball, but if we continue with the kind of leadership we have on either side of the pond, I can't see us getting out of this for the foreseeable future. It's heart-breaking. I would rather my leadership told me the truth so I could deal with it, but they lie and deceive and confuse people with a political issue; it's a fucking health issue! We might have even been out of the mother fucker [by now]! You know, I've been travelling to Japan for almost fifty years, and wherever you go, people are wearing masks with the slightest cold or whatever; primary nature . We behave like it's the biggest fucking slap in the face to out citizen's rights?! It's just appalling how the situation has been allowed to develop.
Regardless of what happens, what we have to do is get it sorted out, and the only way is if we work as a community, town by town, city by city, state by state, county by county, and hopefully get to a global scenario where we can all work together, because this is not a fucking Conservative or a Labour, Democrat or Republican issue; this is affecting the species. It's directly compromising the growth of the species. It's not in our nature to isolate; it's in our nature to interact... at fucking Whitesnake shows! [laughing]
Whitesnake's 'Love Songs' is released on 6th November 2020, via Rhino Records. To order, click here.
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