Interviews

Interview: Former WHITESNAKE guitarist Bernie Marsden

Talking in the Shadow Of The Blues

Growing up in the eighties my first introduction to rock music was the early vinyl releases of Whitesnake. This was Pre-1987 and MTV big hair band days when they pursued a completely different musical path. Following my interview with Neil Murray and Micky Moody a few years ago, the re-release of a book by guitarist Bernie Marsden gave me an opportunity to chat to another band member of my favourite band. I decided to discuss the Whitesnake back catalogue that Bernie had created with the band.


ANTIHERO: Hi Bernie, it’s a real honour to be able to have the opportunity to speak to one of the members of my  favourite bands ever – well, pre-’87, shall we say?

Bernie Marsden: Yeah, because there are two eras – Just like Fleetwood Mac really, isn’t it?
I’m a Fleetwood Mac fan and they say, “Oh, ‘Rihanna’.” And they go, “No, ‘Tango in The Night’ era.”

ANTIHERO: Yeah, before commercial hits. Okay. Start lets with your book. I originally bought this a couple of years ago and just wondered if you’d tell me, what’s the difference between the two versions, and what prompted the decision to republish?

Bernie Marsden: Well, the first edition is, as you know probably, Pledge. It was crowdfunded, and I did it because I got involved with a guy who knew the people at Pledge and I thought, I was kind of old school, and I said … asking fans for money, it didn’t seem … And there are all these very young people at Pledge. They would kind of, not giggle, but they would say, yeah, guys from your generation, they all pretty much all say that. But it’s a different kind of world out there, social media-wise and stuff. So, they said, we’ll go for it. And they set a target, I think it was for 18 weeks. They set a target figure, and that was reached in about 14 days.

So, we did it and raised the figure very quickly. And because I was so, kind of ignorant about it, I didn’t know much about it, I said, oh, that’s it then? He said, no, no, we keep going. I think it was three months, yeah, 90 days.

So, the first edition that you have is all put together really by me and a couple of other people. And that’s why it’s kind of heavy-handed writing-wise, but it’s very honest. And then, only about nine months ago, Harper  Collins came into the fray and said, “we’d like to do this. But can we get involved professionally?” So, I said, “well, it’s two years since the first edition so there’s a lot more to put in.”

So, there’s quite a lot more stuff in there. But having the two sounds a bit like buy two books, but you get the whole picture. Because they’ve taken out quite a lot of what they obviously considered to be, not unimportant, but not good for the narrative. Some of the stuff they took out, [but] I did get put back in.

ANTIHERO: So, literally a case of them going, have that out, that out. Or did you have a lot of input into the complete editing process?

Bernie Marsden: Yeah, but it would be stuff like when I’m 15 or 16 and I’m describing what it was like to get my first guitar. And how … the excitement of it, and stuff like that. That’s been kind of edited out a little bit. To make it … but some of the stuff, there was a lovely story with George Harrison which they did take out when to this day I don’t quite know why they took it out. But that’s back in. That’s one where we’re at a Whitesnake party, and we had some dancers there and the girls sat in his lap and we all burst into She Loves You. They took that out on the edit.

ANTIHERO: It’s a good story, you would have thought.

Bernie Marsden: Yeah, and how many people get that close to those kinds of people, and be able to call them a friend? So, I did stamp my foot a bit. But there is, I’m still finding if you’re reading this on the road, the new one, I’m still finding a few things that may well go back into the … when the softback comes out. Yeah. And also, but of course, what they’ve done is they said, “no, look, why don’t you think about it. And everything we’ve taken out was only to make the book smoother.”

ANTIHERO: Were they musical people, though? That knew you? Or was it a case more of, what will sell copies?

Bernie Marsden: Yeah, I think 70/30. And also, I think a little bit young, maybe. You know, with some of the names that I put in. And you’ll remember perhaps a band called the Keith Hartley Band? And he wasn’t a big star, but he was a big name when you’re a semi-pro musician. And we became pretty good friends. Especially with his band, not so much with Keith. And we spent a lot of time together, and he was a big influence. I watched how he ran his band, and I saw the way that he got to sit in a good seat in the van and stuff like that. And they took all that out. And if we did go back, I will go back and say, well look, maybe I can rewrite it. So now they’re talking about a follow-up book anyway. She said, well, you can put all this stuff in the new book. Just embellish, really, what was only a couple of paragraphs. You can do four or five pages on that. So, sooner or later it will all come out.

ANTIHERO: What I wanted to do, because … do you view Whitesnake as your most loved period of what you’ve done? Obviously, you’ve done a ton of stuff since. Or does it not aggrieve or annoy you that people more want to focus on that era, rather than what you’ve done pre or post?

Bernie Marsden: No, not at all. I’ll tell you why. If I hadn’t done Whitesnake, we wouldn’t be talking now. You know? I worked with great musicians, I was in good bands, but Whitesnake is a well-known band, and still is. And because of that, with the writing obviously, there’s the big connection. But, no, I don’t get tired of people, I never get annoyed with anybody who’s a Whitesnake fan, really. Because they’re the people who still support me.

ANTIHERO: I wonder if it would be possible to go through this release called, “Little Box of Snakes”? It came out a few years ago and contains CD copies of all your Whitesnake-era releases. Would it be possible to just take me through those in chronological order?

Bernie Marsden: Yeah, good idea, good idea.

ANTIHERO: Share maybe your memories, the studio, the musicians you worked with, how they all came together?

Bernie Marsden: The first one, Snakebite, basically was an EP, as you remember. And it is strange how things pan out. We did an EP, which became pretty collectible.

ANTIHERO: Got two versions of it, two covers.

Bernie Marsden: Yeah, one in the white vinyl. And it looks like we were really clever now. And said, oh they did something really unique. Well, the fact of, the true story is much easier to understand, is that EMI International, at the time, which wasn’t even a major EMI label, were only prepared to do an EP. So, they said, well let’s do an EP, see how it does. See how the gigs go. It was kind of cautious, really. Of course, that went okay, and then we did Trouble. So, this one, when it came out as a Snakebite album, basically is half David’s solo album, and …

ANTIHERO: Northwinds, wasn’t it?

Bernie Marsden: Yeah, Northwinds, yeah. But this is just the EP isn’t it?  Did a good job on it, though. It was good. It’s a lot of energy on that record. And on Trouble actually. So that’s what started it.

ANTIHERO: Then, the first full studio album with Whitesnake.

Bernie Marsden: Yeah. Trouble is, I mean the Trouble and the Snakebite EP, there’s no real gap in them. The sessions were more or less the same. We just got in and did the first four and picked out the first four. But they were the first four songs that we wrote and recorded so, that’s why “Ain’t No Love” is on it. Everybody thought we wrote it. Most people did …

ANTIHERO: Stole it?

Bernie Marsden: Yeah, they do. So, going in after the EP, they said, oh, no, we have to have an album. Oh no, let’s make an album. Yeah, okay. Because we never knew the other story. We just presumed we were all making albums. So, Trouble became quite easy to make, really, we were buzzing by then, and have a lot of stuff to deliver. Pete Solly was in the band then, before Jon Lord, and we recorded the whole album with Pete, and then Jon joined the band. And what do you do? You’ve got Jon Lord going to be in your band, well, don’t you want him on your record? So, all the stuff with Pete was kind of wiped, and it was really good, he was a great player, he just never really a part of Whitesnake.

ANTIHERO: So, you were saying, Pete’s stuff got removed?

Bernie Marsden: Well Pete just got wiped off, really, because he was never really a member of the band. He was in the band, but he was never really a member of the band. I’ve got good memories of it. I’ve never seen Pete since funnily enough, but he’s still around. Never thought about that actually, I’ve never run into him once in all these years. And yet I know he’s still around. But there again I’ve only seen David Dowle, probably on three or four occasions, since the times. I guess in a way, I mean they’re not going to show up at gigs, are they?

ANTIHERO: What if they do?

Bernie Marsden: If they do, it’s like, what are you doing here?

ANTIHERO: They’re not able to use their names and influence there.

Bernie Marsden: Yeah. But David Dowle, on the first two albums, and on the EP, he was a proper important part of the band. I always make sure that that’s mentioned in interviews, because he was a really good drummer and … the only reason that, he was becoming … was he fired? I don’t remember whether he was fired. I think it was a 50/50 thing really because we had gone to Clearwell Castle to do some recording. And he was a bit of a city boy, really, although we all lived in London, really. But he missed his, he had a young family at the time, I didn’t, so I could never understand that. And he was becoming more and more remote with the rest of us, and then Ian Paice came into the picture. Same deal as Jon, you know, what do you do the best rock drummer in the world would like maybe to be in your band, well what are you going to do, you know?

ANTIHERO: What about album covers and things, this artwork and stuff? Was it something that the band had direct input into? Or was it a case of being dictated to by record labels?

Bernie Marsden: David had more input than anybody, really. We never, especially on Lovehunter which, even now I can’t look at – I have two daughters, I have two grown-up daughters – and… But we never had a great deal of input. We saw the guy who did the painting for Lovehunter, we’d seen his work in a couple of magazines, and just mentioned to our tour manager, I think it was. And he said, oh he’s a friend of mine, his name was Chris Achilleos. I think he’s quite well known. So, we said, oh let’s get him … we’ve got a song called “Love Hunter”. So, up came that big snake, and it’s become a bit iconic since then, really. That’s how we did that. But we didn’t have a great deal of input, not really. We let EMI, and the graphics department, do it really.

ANTIHERO: What about the songs on Lovehunter? In terms of the songwriting process and the songs on Trouble, was that band collaborations? David, mostly, or…?

Bernie Marsden: No, the whole premise of starting Whitesnake was to get away from the guitar hero thing he’d been through with Purple.

ANTIHERO: Ironic.

Bernie Marsden: And we both said, the guitar player said, we’re not bothered about that, but what I wanted to be in was a really good band, and write some good songs. And I knew how good David was, and I knew that we could do this, I had this handy phrase of Paul Rogers’ thing in my head that we could do that, and to a certain extent I think that’s what we did, really. The three of us would write, with Moody, and pretty much I would write with David, or he would write with David, and then occasionally we would, the three of us would put all … one of us would come up with a kind of important part of the song, and say I think this would fit in here. And that’s when you get the three ways … “Time is Right for Love”, things like that. And “Fool For Your Loving” is a good example of that, which is pretty much David and I, but Micky came up a nice bridge piece, and that tied the whole thing together.

ANTIHERO: What about deciding who did what solo, with you and Micky?

Bernie Marsden: That pretty much, if you go through the catalogue, if I wrote the song usually-

ANTIHERO: Did the solo.

Bernie Marsden: I did the solo, yes, and vice versa. Not always. “Help Me Through the Day” on Lovehunter for instance. I played the original solo on that, and I knew that Micky would do a really good job on it, and he kind of hinted that. And I said, well look you do it, you have a go. And he did the solo and it was fantastic. I’m not sure that would have worked the other way around, but it was all about the record. Funnily enough, I’ve got the, I’ve heard the masters of Lovehunter, with the original solo on, and it isn’t half bad actually, but he nailed it. It was very democratic. I say democratic, but really with the three of us, we were the creative part of the band really. As good as the other guys were, they kind of, not did what they were told but it was like, here are the songs, how are we going to play them?

ANTIHERO: What about going into the studio to record the albums? Did you have the songs already done, or was it very much old school, songs were created and evolved in the studio?

Bernie Marsden: Up until Come and Get It, I think we were pretty much ready to go. And when you look back on the schedules, it’s incredible because we were on the road all the time, or in the studio, and then the managers would say, oh I’ve put around Monday to Friday next week for writing, so write ten songs next week. And we’d go, oh okay.

ANTIHERO: Work scheduled compared to bands-

Bernie Marsden: Two albums a year, compared to today, can’t believe it. But I mean I sound like an old moaner, but it never did us any harm. Looking back, the records sound great.

ANTIHERO: They still do.

Bernie Marsden: We had a good time on the road, we didn’t make a lot of money, even when we were supposedly like a big star rock band. But sometimes that transcends, you’d sell out Hammersmith Odeon for a week, and then you’d say, nobody said how much does that mean we earn? What we would say was, well we’ve done six nights, that’s one more night than Ry Cooder. It was like an artistic thing. Only then afterward, a bit later, especially when Ian came in the band, we started asking the questions, you know, where’s the money?

ANTIHERO: Indeed. Everybody else got ripped off in that era.

Bernie Marsden: It was that kind of time, yeah.

ANTIHERO: Next up then, my favourite Whitesnake album.

Bernie Marsden: Yeah, Ready and Willing, you like that one?

ANTIHERO: Yeah. It still stands up as a classic album even in these times.

Bernie Marsden: Well, that was the turning point, because, as good as David Dowle was when Ian came in it was… he just pulled everybody together. I’d worked obviously with Jon and Ian before in Paice Ashton Lord, so I knew what to expect. And I was really quite excited about it. I didn’t say anything to the other guys, who hadn’t worked with them because they didn’t know what was coming. I did. “Fool For Your Loving” was a great example of that, his groove on that just made everything right. So, that was really how we’d developed into a pretty tight unit by then. And we did it at Genesis Studio, I think, a place called Ridge Farm. We were living in and really pulls you together.

ANTIHERO: What about songs like “Blindman”, “Ain’t Gonna Cry No More”, “Carry Your Load”?

Bernie Marsden: David was writing a lot of stuff; he had a good creative … I mean I didn’t think I was going to get anything on Ready and Willing. I came there, I’d been on holiday in Africa actually, and when I came back I … they’d already recorded three songs I think, and I didn’t want to like them. I thought, “I’m not having this.” And I heard “Ain’t Gonna Cry No More”, and I thought, this is the best thing I’ve ever heard.

ANTIHERO: One of my favourites, yeah.

Bernie Marsden: Ready and Willing, they’d done quite a bit of that, and they’d done Blindman actually, and one other. But I knew I had “Fool For Your Loving” in my back pocket, so I knew there was a secret weapon. But I think it was a very creative time, with Martin Birch, who never gets mentioned enough really. He was an integral part of what was going on. So, I think the whole thing worked. Cozy Powell heard the backing tracks to “Fool For Your Loving”, and he came down and he said, you’ve got a hit. And we said, “you haven’t heard the top line yet.” He said, “it doesn’t matter, you’ve got a hit”, and he was right.

ANTIHERO: So what about that transition then from Paice to, no, oh you were saying, Powell, Cozy Powell heard it, yeah?

Bernie Marsden: Well, Cozy and I had worked together before, so we were always in touch with each other, and it was through him that I got the gig with Paice Ashton Lord. So, he’d always say, what are you doing? The Rainbow, good stuff. There was always a bit of rivalry between Rainbow and Whitesnake, in a nice way. So, Cozy was a no-nonsense kind of guy, and he would say to me, write a song, don’t mess about. When we were in the studio, and we’d make a mistake, one mistake was okay, two he started to get the hump, three he’d throw a stick at you. Come on, get on with it. He was a great, wonderful guy.

ANTIHERO: Then of course, first live album Whitesnake, and this was a double vinyl, and then I think they mixed it up,

Bernie Marsden: We’d recorded an album for Japan, and that was the Live at Hammersmith album, so when we recorded the second … David Dowle was on the Japanese one, and they said, well let’s do another, and then they said well why don’t we make it a double? I think it was to do with value for money thing. I think they said, well we can put a double out for kind of the same cost, and it would be good for the fans, kind of thing. But it’s a great live album. It’s one of the iconic live records, I think.

ANTIHERO: Then, onto Come and Get It.

Bernie Marsden: Yeah. All recorded at John Lennon’s place.

ANTIHERO: … again.

Bernie Marsden: Well, Ringo Starr’s place, I think.

ANTIHERO: Classic cover as well, isn’t it, keeping in with that?

Bernie Marsden: Well, that got edited in America.

ANTIHERO: Right. They thought that was inappropriate? What’s wrong with that? It’s not like it’s got a naked lady or anything on it.

Bernie Marsden: They edited that and they changed the tone.

ANTIHERO: Ah, right, right.

Bernie Marsden: I know, you’ll go, ah right. And we never even thought about it, you know it was one of those things, it was just one… but that went straight in at number one, and then we were all going down. Where’s the money? Or, we’re quite a big band now, aren’t we, yeah?

ANTIHERO: Yeah. Number one album, you would expect to see the benefits.

Bernie Marsden: We did a few things, and went back to Japan, into America. But we never cracked America. We went out there with Jethro Tull, we went out there with Judas Priest, and Iron Maiden, but it was just never right, and we were spending… the money we were making, even though we weren’t personally making it, the band was making, was being spent on expensive American tours. We were signed to Atlantic Records, but it was a subsidiary of Atlantic Records, and they didn’t have the clout and the power to put the band on the road, kind of thing. I’m not blaming them, maybe it just wasn’t the right time. But we kind of got to, maybe like the Buffalo, Niagara Falls [ gig, and we all look at each other and say, “how far away are we from New York?” We’d say, “a couple of hours. Let’s go home”, and we came back, and we did Donnington. And that was the end of America for me.

ANTIHERO: And finally, Saints and Sinners, your final album.

Bernie Marsden: That’s the end of the road, isn’t it, yeah.

ANTIHERO: It is, really. It seems to be, for some.

Bernie Marsden: Saints and Sinners was done under a lot of pressure, really. And yet, I listen to it now, I can’t hear any problems with it at all. It’s a really good record.

ANTIHERO: Had David already set his vision elsewhere, do you think, or? Any of that coming through at the time?

Bernie Marsden: No, not at that point, by the time the artwork was done, the band had basically finished, broken up, so that’s why there’s only a picture of him on the back of the album, record. At it, to this day I’ve often wondered, I mean I’m glad it came out as a Whitesnake album but in a way, he should have done the next record. It should have been a David Coverdale album, and Whitesnake‘s done and dusted. As it happened, that never happened, and he had quite a long period of struggle in America, he moved to America.

ANTIHERO: Was it suddenly a case that he sacked everybody?

Bernie Marsden: No, it wasn’t really. We had a meeting, we were going to sack …well that was the idea, and we were going to have a meeting. And when we got to the meeting, David wasn’t there. He’d had another meeting and he’d been advised in order to get out of the contract, kind of break the band up. And then he retained Jon, only Jon. So, if I was fired or whatever, I got fired the same day that Ian Paice got fired, and if I’m going to get fired from a band, I want it to be with Ian Paice.

ANTIHERO: That’s a positive way of looking at it, but I mean, on reflection do you not feel like he sort of stabbed you in the back? Because you’ve been there, consistently, doing the tours, doing the albums.

Bernie Marsden: There was a lot of other stuff going on which I go into in the book. He had a lot of personal stuff going on. The band was disintegrating, we were waiting … there was only me and him until, we used the Pink Floyd studio, Britannia Row, and we’d go in to do, and no disrespect to Jon at all, but we’d say Jon’s coming in tomorrow to do some organ solos, piano solos. And then he wouldn’t show up, and then we’d find out he’d gone horse racing. Just like, couldn’t be bothered. And then Ian was going to come and do some percussion stuff, and that didn’t happen, and the two of them they went to Windsor Races, or whatever. And I remember saying to, I said to David at Britannia Row, the two of us looked at each other and I said, we might as well knock this on the head. And he looked at me with great relief and said, “are you thinking it as well? Because I’d been thinking about it for about a month. Nobody seems to care anymore.” Moody had left, he’d already gone. He then went back which confused matters. So, he said, “but we’ll still, we’ll reform and get everything together and we’ll keep writing.” And I said, “yes, of course”, but I’m still waiting on that really. And I always find the irony is pretty rich, that the four years afterward, or whatever it was when “Here I Go Again” was number one.

DreamHost

ANTIHERO: I was going to say, then surely he actually is creating something new.

Bernie Marsden: And I’ve been linked more with that period, people in America don’t know I was in the band. They think I was the guy who wrote, “Here I Go”. But that’s okay, that’s fine. And when I heard the ’87 album.

ANTIHERO: Was going to ask you, how did you feel about that new different version of the song on that album release?

Bernie Marsden: I really like it, because I’ve always been a fan of people like Journey and Foreigner, I used to get castigated by David saying, what are you listening to that bullshit for? I said because it’s really good. Toto, real huge fan. And he would say to me, what are you listening to that pop shit for?

ANTIHERO: And then stuff like, “Is This Love” came out.

Bernie Marsden: Exactly, exactly. So, when I heard about the album and people said, have you seen, no one said heard, have you seen the Whitesnake video? And I kept saying, no, it’s early days of MTV. And then I did see it, and with Tawny slithering over the Jaguar, singing Here I Go Again with him, and I thought, ah now I understand. And the next thing is, it was number one in America and has been an anthem ever since. It was weird in a way, but I didn’t listen to it thinking, oh no it’s not as good as my version, because I could listen to it as if was Journey doing it, or another band.

ANTIHERO: You didn’t feel that the original band and concept of a blues-based Whitesnake was sullied or tarnished?

Bernie Marsden: No, I just felt it was different and different enough to basically say, well look it’s still the basic song, but we’re doing it this way now.

ANTIHERO: Just a different interpretation?

Bernie Marsden: Yeah, I’ll do it tonight the way it was written, you know just one man with an acoustic guitar.

ANTIHERO: I was going to ask about … did you stay in touch with David? I saw it was actually at Ramblin’ Man, I saw that you’d met him at Ramblin’ Man. Is that the first in years? Is there sporadic contact?

Bernie Marsden: I saw him a year later after the split, at Donnington, when they headlined. That was pretty weird because Cozy was in the band, Mel Galley was in the band, Colin Hodgkinson. And you want to say, you can’t win, because if you don’t like it, it’s sour grapes, if you do you like it, you’re brown-nosing. And I watched the show, and it just really wasn’t very good. All right, 80,000 people loving it, but it was basically a 60/40 of my show. They’re still doing Shadow of the Blues; they’re still doing this and that. But they weren’t doing it as well, because they were different players. Cozy was a fantastic drummer, and so was Ian Paice – I can say that because I played with both of them. But he wasn’t the drummer for Whitesnake, Ian Paice is the drummer for Whitesnake. Or Tommy Aldridge now.
But Cozy was not right, and Mel, bless him, was a lovely guy we’d tried to work with in the middle of the ’80s, but he only seemed to be in Whitesnake for 20 minutes. And he suffered from that, I think he suffered from his Whitesnake post connection much more than I ever did. Well, I don’t think, I know because we talked about it. He told me all sorts of stuff, like when I joined the band, they said, oh Bernie does it like this, or Bernie sang this part or Bernie would do … I said, well what did you say? He said, well I felt like saying, well get him back. It must have been a bit odd for him. He said it was awful, he was excited to be in a big band, but it was pretty much agony, he said to be part of it. Then John Sykes came in, and well, that was another U-turn. But John’s a fantastic musician, and he took Whitesnake into the next millennium, the next decade really.

ANTIHERO: See, for a lot of purists-

Bernie Marsden: People like yourself, if you get to these records and you can say well that’s-

ANTIHERO: That’s a lot of people.

Bernie Marsden: I’m done with that. Yeah.

ANTIHERO: Once I’m done with it, I still, I’ve seen them since. I still buy them, but it’s just not the same.

Bernie Marsden: I’ve guested with, I go out with David now. Not that we’re in touch just because of that reason. But he invited me to Sweden seven years ago now. And I felt good we were on stage, and I said, you realise that this is the first time that you and I have played “Here I Go Again”? And it kind of undermined him a bit, you know, he went, what? Oh my god. And I said, yeah, we’ve never played it because I wrote it, we recorded it, you mixed it, I was gone, and now it’s a worldwide smash. And he went, oh I never thought about that. So he went out and he gave the song a different lease of life.

ANTIHERO: Obviously you don’t have much contact with him, but your dealings, or meetings with him, do you think he’s changed?

Bernie Marsden: On the surface, he’s changed.

ANTIHERO: I don’t mean just the accent.

Bernie Marsden: No, well he’d changed, he’d attributed that accent way before he went to America. But I think David, I think, this is personal, what have you. I think he’s a bit like the guys in Kiss, once they put the face paint on. And yet they can walk in here now and nobody would know who they are.

ANTIHERO: He’s the only member of Whitesnake I think I’ve not interviewed. He’s difficult to get in touch or connect with…

Bernie Marsden: And he’s not really interested in … and yet he and I spent a great afternoon in Copenhagen together, and it was just the two of us as if we were making Snakebite. That North East accent is still in there, and I don’t mean a bit, it’s still there. He looked great, he looked like a proper rock star, and he took his dark glasses off, and as the glasses came off, the boy from Redcar sat down and said, how are you son? And I was really relieved, not relieved, I just smiled and he said, what are you laughing at. I said, I’m happy because no matter what you see, what you see isn’t always what you get. But I think he lives that Whitesnake thing and he runs the band like a general. Whoever’s in Whitesnake it doesn’t matter because he’s at the front. It wasn’t like that these days.

ANTIHERO: It was much more of a band, community-

Bernie Marsden: I’ve just done, about six weeks ago I did Ready And Willing. I did three nights, I did the whole album, with some really good people. Neville Macdonald sang.

ANTIHERO: From Skin, yeah.

Bernie Marsden: From Skin. He’s got that old Brit vibe thing going. Every show sold out. We had over, about twelve to fifteen hundred people in Cardiff, and it was like the old days. My kids came, I’ve got two grown-up girls now. So, let’s say there are a thousand people. The noise in the room, well I suppose it was more than that, was unbelievable, to the point where, when we started Fool For Your Loving …

ANTIHERO: As it should have been.

Bernie Marsden: As it should have been. My daughter thought that there was something wrong with the sound system because fifteen hundred people were singing every word, word for word. And I said, well now you know what it was like, it was like that with four, five thousand people, every night. And so I’m glad they’ve got some because they can go and see Whitesnake now, they’ve never been to see them. But Ready And Willing, recreated for people like yourself, and it’s not about saying, oh come and buy your ticket. It’s like, do you want to come and hear that? And we did it just like that. Stuff like Carry Your Load and Blindman was unbelievable. Unbelievable. Very emotional.

ANTIHERO: Has that prompted you to revisit other albums?

Bernie Marsden: Well I’ll do Ready And Willing probably next year. There are quite a few offers to do it.

ANTIHERO: Manchester?

Bernie Marsden: Somewhere here would be nice, yeah. I haven’t played in Manchester for a long time. In fact, I’m going to Liverpool tomorrow after, and I haven’t played in the North West probably for ten years. Not because I don’t really want to, it’s just like, I don’t do that many gigs, but why don’t I?

ANTIHERO: you’ve got roots here.

Bernie Marsden: I’ve got roots up here, yeah, I’ve got family up here. But I like, I’ve always, Manchester has always been a vibey place for me anyway. When we used to come here, Stoneground, this is way before you lived here. It was a place in Gorton, which was, anybody who reads your stuff or hears it, they’ll remember Stoneground, it was opposite Belle Vue. And I used to go to Belle Vue when I was a kid, so when I first came up as a pro, playing the gigs, it was, look I remember that.

ANTIHERO: So there will be more Ready And Willing shows then?

Bernie Marsden: Yeah there will be, yeah there will be.

ANTIHERO: You’ve got those books scheduled.

Bernie Marsden: There’s some stuff, quite a lot of festivals being offered, stuff like that.

ANTIHERO: So that album in its entirety?

Bernie Marsden: Yeah, just to do the show.

ANTIHERO: Who will be singing for those shows?- or will it be Neville?

Bernie Marsden: I don’t know. I didn’t put any … nobody’s fixed. Doing a bit, as I said about David, about the General. As long as I’m doing it, there’ll always be four or five guys who are up to scratch.

ANTIHERO: What about, did you have another guitarist?

Bernie Marsden: Yeah, Jim Kirkpatrick, from FM. He’s been playing with me for about ten years. I’ve added two girl singers as well, which is really cool.

ANTIHERO: What about, mentioning all the guitarists, what about your relationship with Micky Moody? Is he the one person that you’ve created more music with than anybody else, over the years? In one form or another?

Bernie Marsden: Yes, I suppose so because of the collaborations with the post-Whitesnake stuff. And yet we haven’t seen each other in ten years. That’s a ship that’s sailed. But-

ANTIHERO: You still in touch?

Bernie Marsden: No, not at all.

ANTIHERO: Always seemed to be like, because you’d gone on from Whitesnake and created a lot of things musically together.

Bernie Marsden: I made a, is it a mistake? I carried the whole Whitesnake connection thing too long, with Company of Snakes, M3. We did the Moody Marsden Band, and we didn’t really want to play any Whitesnake stuff, and Micky was quite adamant. And I said, well look we have to play Whitesnake stuff, the people who come to see us, they know us from-

ANTIHERO: He’s in Snakecharmer. He’s in Snakecharmer. Not that long ago. Maybe he still is.

Bernie Marsden: No, he’s gone from that as well. Because Neil Murray was in that as well. Neil has been in and out of my band for the last three or four years.

ANTIHERO: That’s kind of ironic like you said. No more Whitesnake, and yet Snakecharmer’s based around that.

Bernie Marsden: Well, that’s the difference between me and Micky. I’m a glass-half-full guy, I’m always looking for the positive side of things, with people and whatever.

ANTIHERO: Are you still as passionate, and enjoy what you do?

Bernie Marsden: Yeah, funny you know, I just had a phone call today from Bonnie Tyler, who I’m probably-

ANTIHERO: Nice.

Bernie Marsden: … going to write a song for. And then people go, Bonnie Tyler? They said, she’s a great singer, a great singer. Out there on the road, still doing her stuff. And it’s hard out there, man, it’s, as you get a little bit older.
You know, stuff like, I play with Joe Bonamassa a lot. I’m writing with Joe for his next record.

ANTIHERO: How do you play as a guitarist for Joe Bonamassa.

Bernie Marsden: With great difficulty.

ANTIHERO: I would imagine…

Bernie Marsden: You just do your thing. You get up on stage with him or Steve Lukather, or …

ANTIHERO: George-

Bernie Marsden: … Walter Trout, or Warren Haynes. You don’t try and, you don’t go up there to say, well I’ll show you. We just play our guitars.

ANTIHERO: And that Blues thing as well-

Bernie Marsden: I learned that when Gary Moore was, we were real good mates, and we grew up together really. And a lot of my contemporaries would say, you get up with Gary? And I’d say, yeah, why not? They say, are you mad? He’ll make you look a fool. I say, no he won’t make me look a fool. You’ll look foolish if you try to upstage him. And people did that, and of course he’d wiped the floor with them. I’d go up there, he’d play a hundred notes, I’d play three, and hold my hands out and bow, and the crowd would love it. And they’d remember that more than he played. And he’d say to me, oh you’re an old pro.

ANTIHERO: Are there any musicians who you haven’t yet worked with? I mean you’ve got so many stories of you have with.pretty much everyone..

Bernie Marsden: Yeah, I don’t … I think it’s writers really, who you would … I would love to have spent a few days with Walter Becker, people like that, Michael McDonald maybe, just to see what would have come out of that. Because we’ve all got our heroes … when I played with Ringo, I still pinch myself. I’m playing I Wanna Be Your Man with Ringo Starr. Or Yellow Submarine. Fantastic. And without the Beatles, I’d have never picked a guitar. And to think that one day, whether you’re 58, 48 or 28, you’re on a stage playing those songs with one of them, or two of them, well you couldn’t make it up, could you? And yet, it comes true. So my association with Warren Haynes, I got to play with the Allman Brothers in New York, that was a … when I used to listen every day to Live at the Fillmore, would I have ever have dreamed that I would have played with those guys on stage. But it happened, mainly because of Here I Go Again, because they know me as a musician.

ANTIHERO: Do you still have hopes and dreams?

Bernie Marsden: Yeah, I think so.

ANTIHERO: Or you must have ticked all the boxes by now.

Bernie Marsden: I’ve ticked a lot of boxes, but doing this, this book thing. Who would have thought it? If it goes well, I’ll be in the book charts. Bizarre.

ANTIHERO: Was it difficult compared with writing a song, writing a book?

Bernie Marsden: No, easier.

ANTIHERO: And what about recollections of way back and stuff, was that not difficult to?

Bernie Marsden: I’m pretty good with that. The memory is quite good and I’ve a few documents over the years. And then of course with the advent of Google, and the internet, checking dates is quite easy. So, I didn’t do it, but other people within the organisation did. I’ll say, when did I play in Manchester, was it October? And they’ll say, no it was September.

ANTIHERO: Let’s hope it’s not too long then before the next one.

Bernie Marsden: Well then you think then, then you think, oh I remember, we were in here, and the next night we went to Liverpool, and that’s when so and so, and so and so came, and it all starts to come back, and you start writing it down quickly.

ANTIHERO: Just a final one then, if you’d to sit down face to face, an interview. You’ve touched on you’ve worked with most of your musical heroes, played with them? Is there anybody left that you would sit down and actually interview yourself?

Bernie Marsden: Yeah, it might be a bit left-field, but I’ve always thought I’d like to sit down with Tony Iommi, because two guitar players from totally different … and yet, he’s the great, what do they call him? The Dark Lord, don’t they? And I went to see him once, at his house, and he’s a lovely guy, Tony, I’ve known him since I was a kid really. And this great black swinging door opens up creaking, and he goes, all right mate, a cup of tea? And I thought, that’s the difference, the man on stage is only a man, and I’ve always tried to stay within those perimeters really. But Tony would be … we’d probably laugh too much, though.

ANTIHERO: Do any talking?

Bernie Marsden: It wouldn’t be a very serious interview.

ANTIHERO:  Thank you very much.

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Mark Dean

I'm a 40+ music fan. Fond mostly of rock and metal - my staple musical food delights. Originally from Northern Ireland, I am now based in the UK-Manchester. I have a hectic musical existence with regular shows and interviews. Been writing freelance for five years now with several international websites. Passionate about what I do, I have been fortunate already to interview many of my all-time musical heroes. My music passion was first created by seeing Status Quo at the tender age of 15. While I still am passionate about my rock and metal, I have found that with age my taste has diversified so that now I am actually dipping into different musical genres and styles for the first time.

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