Interviews

Interview: Reb Beach of WHITESNAKE and WINGER

Fresh off celebrating their 40th anniversary, rock legends Whitesnake return with their latest studio album, Flesh & Blood. This album follows 2011’s critically acclaimed Forevermore and 2015’s The Purple Album, a reimagining of Deep Purple classics from Whitesnake mastermind David Coverdale’s time in that band. The 13 original, visceral tracks on Flesh & Blood, the band’s 13th studio album, are, luckily for you dear reader, “all killer, no filler”, as the saying goes.

Guitarist Reb Beach, who originally joined Whitesnake in 2002, has stepped up to become the group’s bandleader and guides the band to implement Coverdale’s musical vision. As well as bringing his impressive musical chops to the band, Reb has co-written five songs on the new album, the fourth studio album he has appeared on, commencing with 2008’s highly acclaimed Good To Be Bad. Reb is a pretty busy guy, as aside from his role in Whitesnake, he is also an essential part of another 80s band, Winger. I was therefore delighted to catch up with him on a very rare day off-before he began Whitesnake tour rehearsals and grabbed a chat.


ANTIHERO: Are you currently on a day off or are you still touring with Winger?

Reb Beach: It’s…You got me on my only day off, yeah.

ANTIHERO: And you’ve given up your time.

Reb Beach: Oh, it’s fine. It’s fine. It’s not really a day off, you know, I have so much to do. It’s packing everything, you know, restringing guitars and doing emails and all that. But yeah, it’s fine.

ANTIHERO: So, you’re on a day off with Winger but you’re promoting the brand new Whitesnake album?

Reb Beach: Yeah, I guess so. We’re going on tour soon. I had a brutal journey yesterday with flights canceled and you know, Winger is so different than Whitesnake. Whitesnake is a cushy tour bus with beautiful hotels and Winger is in the van for 5 hours.

ANTIHERO: Really? I would’ve thought Winger would’ve been operating on a, well not a similar level, but a pretty comfortable level, no?

Reb Beach: It’s, you know, all the money we save we put in our pockets. So, it really benefits us to take the early flights and to, you know, get around the cheapest way possible.

ANTIHERO: Okay, but turning to the Whitesnake album, I’ve been lucky enough to actually hear the whole album. It seems that with this new album, you’ve got 5 co-written songs on there and Joel’s got 6. Do you feel that David has given you more creative input into his vision of the band?

Reb Beach: Well, you know, it’s David’s record. You know, it’s Whitesnake and he had so many ideas when we came in. You know, most of the record is David. Honestly. And he had a vision and it’s his deal man, it’s his band and I enjoyed every second of working with him. It was really an honour. He’s a great songwriter.

ANTIHERO: How do you work? Do you guys swap ideas, obviously you’re busy, do you swap ideas on the internet or do you go to his studio and do it old school, swap ideas face to face?

Reb Beach: I lived with him for a year basically. I just lived there. He has a couple of houses and the house with the studio in it has 2 bedrooms for me and Joel or whoever’s coming in. And, what was the question again? Oh yeah, yeah, with David, we have a writing process and you gotta be in the room with David and I brought in a tonne of ideas but you don’t get a lot of time to play your idea for David and really, the best way to play an idea for David is just to pick up the acoustic and play it. That’s where he gets the most inspiration from. You know, if you play him stuff that’s all produced, he won’t get it and you know, a lot of the ideas I had were just too complicated for Whitesnake. You know, when David likes 3 chord Rock, it’s gotta be just old school, he doesn’t want rush. Nothing progressive.

ANTIHERO: I was gonna ask, so I mean, mentally, do you have to nearly adopt different mindset when you create music for Whitesnake as what you do with Winger or maybe. another musical project?

Reb Beach: Yes, it’s totally different. With Winger, like I said Winger is much more progressive and you know, it’s not just a Pop Rock band, Blues Pop Rock band. And Kip is very complicated when he writes. You know, like he’s really into showing off compositional skills which is great. I love it. I learned so much from him. I actually learned how to write a song from Kip. And then, with David, you go in and he’s already got the idea in his head. He’s just so focused, you know, and it’s bang, bang, bang. You’re only with him for 10 minutes and then, you bang out a verse and a chorus and then we do the rest. Either me, myself or Joel or the both of us but mostly Joel would go there on his own and I would go there on my own. We did a few sessions with the both of us writing together, which was fun.

ANTIHERO: How does that work out in terms of creating solos, obviously you and Joel both bang out the guitar solos. When you create a solo, do you worry how it’ll affect Joel’s style, your style or do you just really operate around the song?

Reb Beach: Yeah, you kinda definitely listen to the song. David loves when you incorporate the melody of the chorus or the verse, you know, into your solo. He worked with me a lot. He hums me things he wants me to play in the solo, but you know, I do, it’s all improvisation with me and Joel too. You know, it’s all improvisation and with the solos, you know, Joel is always on the road, he’s the most working guitar player in the world. So, I just pick the solos that like the music bit inspire me to solo over because with me, some stuff is not good to solo over. I’m just not inspired by that. If I had to solo over it, it just, you know, might be the same chords for too long. You know, I like when there’s chord changes that are inspirational so I pick the solos that I wanted to do and I just gave Joel the rest because Joel’s not like me, he can play over anything, perfectly.

ANTIHERO: There’s some songs on the new album, that come across it just like a wall of guitar? Particularly I feel on the track “Get Up”.

Reb Beach: Yeah, I wrote that song with like a good double guitar for me and Joel. We were looking for something and I had that idea for a while.

ANTIHERO: You’ve now been in Whitesnake 17 years, did you actually realise you were the longest serving guitarist in Whitesnake ever?

Reb Beach: I did, I’ve been told that. It’s amazing. It doesn’t feel like it’s been that long It’s really something.

ANTIHERO: When you first joined, did you feel any weird pressure given who’s been in those shoes before you? The likes of John Sykes, Steve Vai, Vandenberg, etc.

Reb Beach: Well, when I first joined Doug Aldrich was in the band, he was kind of in charge of everything and he did all the songwriting. This is the first time I’ve written a song with David on this project, it was always Doug. So, I didn’t feel as much pressure because Doug did all the hard stuff, you know, Crying in the Rain and Still of the Night and that’s more his style. You know, I don’t pick every note, I have more of a like different style thing and I’m good at the Blues so any of the Bluesy stuff or the Whammy Bar kind of stuff, Tapping, you know that’s kind of my area. So, no, I didn’t feel that much pressure. I’ve been doing it for so long, you know. It’s what I do, I’m a touring musician and I got a great ear, thank you, Lord, I was born with a really good ear. So, it’s very helpful. When it comes to music, that I can do. You know, I took an aptitude test once where the people said, “You have absolutely no aptitude in anything whatsoever, except for music.”

ANTIHERO: You found your true vocation then?

Reb Beach: I did, yeah, ever since I was 4 years old. You know, when I saw KISS when I was 15, that was it. Like, “Oh, I’m gonna be a Rock and Roll player on stage, that’s obviously what I’m gonna do.”

ANTIHERO: I just wondered again when you first joined, were you familiar with the early Whitesnake, that Blues based band. I mean, because people’s perception here in the UK of Whitesnake is primarily the Blues based band but whereas in America, it was the commercial 1987 era of Whitesnake that people are more familiar with. Are you familiar with the early era of the band?

Reb Beach: Only the songs that we’ve played lived. I didn’t know that stuff, I was just a kid at that time. Doug knew all that stuff; he was an old school Whitesnake fan. I, the first time I heard Whitesnake was the ’87 record, when they came to America. That was Whitesnake to me, I rushed out and bought that record as soon as I heard Still the Night, it blew me away. I actually heard those tracks, it’s just the guitar of John Sykes, when you able to solo the guitar in studio. It’s on fire, it’s like the first Van Halen records. On fire.

ANTIHERO: There’s some great Blues early albums, I mean when you get a chance to, definitely worth coming from what you saying of being interested in the Blues and stuff. There’s some great early, early Whitesnake albums that are definitely worth checking out.

Reb Beach: Yeah, I know, it’s good stuff, I mean I’ve heard some of it obviously. You know, we’ve played Ain’t No Heart in the City, we’ve played some songs from that era and I’ve always loved when we do that.

ANTIHERO: How has your relationship with David changed over the years, obviously you’ve now actually lived with him?

Reb Beach: Yes, I have. It’s like the odd couple, we’re completely total opposites. You know, like, I’ll wake up in the morning after drinking 10 beers the night before, you know, at 8am and he’s got his Armani bathrobe on and you know he’s ready to go. He’s already had his massage and he’s ready to work. And I’m like, “Okay, just gimme a minute, let me have my diet coke.” But, yeah, we’re completely opposite. He complains about all my beer cans.

ANTIHERO: Is it easier or more difficult being in a band with 2 guitarists? You feel there is a lot of competition?

Reb Beach: No, never have felt that. I’ve never felt that. I have enough confidence in my own ability. I’m not threatened by another guitar player because it always sounds different. What I like about my playing is that it always sounds like me. I have my own kind of thing so it’s really hard to compare me to someone else. And I haven’t really had that problem. You know, there’s not all these people on the internet going like, “Well, Doug Aldrich is better than Reb Beach, Joel Hoekstra is better…

ANTIHERO: Does it push you further personally with your own playing and learning?

Reb Beach: No, no. What pushes me more is that I’m gonna be on Whitesnake record. You know, it definitely made me nervous when I joined Dokken and replaced, not replaced, but had to go in the band after George [Lynch] . That was rough and that was pressure. I had to, you know, come out with guns blazing and so I worked really hard on that. Well, with Whitesnake, you know I’ve been playing so long, it also, with Whitesnake, David likes the more melodic stuff and you know, for some reason he picks me to do that. He’s always getting me to do melodic stuff, I did some solos that were just too fast for him. So he flew me down and on Shut Up and Kiss Me for instance, that was an instance where David made me redo the solo and it came out way better. Way better for sure. And so he always holds it over my head now. “Remember Rebel, I made Shut Up and Kiss Me sound better.” “Remember what I did on Shut Up and Kiss Me.” He likes to work with me on the solos and so he also contributes.

ANTIHERO: Just reading your musical CV, there is quite a few names on there that would surprise people who identify you as I normally know you as a rock guitarist, if you could just give your, Chaka Khan, Howard Jones and even the Bee Gees?

DreamHost

Reb Beach: Yeah. That was a long time ago. That’s how I got my start in the business. I was a singing waiter, I was a waiter in New York City trying to get started and there was an audition for Fiona on Atlantic Records and I got it and I went into Atlantic Studios and did the whole album and when it came time to get paid, Beau Hill said, “Listen, I don’t want to insult you but how does $500 sound?” I said, “$500, oh my God!” And so I did the whole album for $500.  And so, then Beau Hill turned all these other producers onto me saying, “Look, there’s this kid. He’s a nice kid, he plays great, he’ll do it for 500 bucks.”
So, everyone started using me.

ANTIHERO: They thought you were cheap.

Reb Beach: So, that’s how I got my foot in the door.

ANTIHERO: Do you feel like having had the experience of playing in different musical styles and the genres, it’s helped you to grow?

Reb Beach: You know, to tell you the truth Mark, all of that stuff is just Rock solely. The Bee Gees called me for a Rock guitar solo, they wanted a rocker. You know, the 80’s, Rock was in at that time so all the big artists wanted an 80’s Rock solo. You know, like Michael Jackson did it with Eddie Van Halen so everyone hopped on the bandwagon. That’s just kind of what I was so no, the music that I did was strictly 80’s rock guitar. That was my forte so worked out good. But I did learn some other styles when I went Berklee College of Music. I’d spend a lot of time jamming with the Reggae bands and all different kinds of artists.

ANTIHERO: With that ever materialize in that you’d be bringing out a solo album, maybe in a different style?

Reb Beach: Yes, I have one coming out actually. Looks like it’s gonna be on the Frontiers and it’ll be definitely in the Fall. Called it A View From the Inside, that’s what it’s gonna be called and it’s all instrumental. I’ve been working for 9 years. It was just a hobby.

ANTIHERO: You have been busy.

Reb Beach: Yeah, well, you know when I have time off, I go in and work on it. And so I’ve finally done it, well it’s sitting in my hard drive for the longest time and Kip Winger said, “whatever happened to that instrumental stuff you were working on?” I said, “it’s just sitting in my hard drive.” He said, “well, why don’t you get a drummer on it?” I said, “Because I never have an extra $5000 to pay somebody.” So he lent me $5000 and I got it done.

ANTIHERO: So that’s just you and a drummer or you got a full band on there?

Reb Beach: Yeah, it’s a band. It’s a killer bass player. I live here in Pittsburgh and so I just got the best musicians ever. You know, I went around the clubs and asked around like, “who’s the best?” And found a killer bass player and the drummer I’ve been working with forever. He played on my solo album in 2003 called Masquerade.

ANTIHERO: Do you find it easy to juggle schedules for 2 bands?

Reb Beach: For the longest time it wasn’t a problem and now it’s becoming a bit of a problem because you know, Rod Morgenstein is 65 years old and we don’t know how much longer Winger is gonna be at it and we definitely wanna do another record. And David, he takes breaks, he’ll take a year off so that’s when Winger goes for it so we work our schedule around Whitesnake. But now that Whitesnake is working a lot more this year is kind of putting Winger on the back burner. He was actually talking about finding someone to sit in for me, finding a sub for me and I don’t know, Andy Timmons, would be a good replacement for me on these days when I’m out with Whitesnake. But you know, in August Winger’s writing a new record.

ANTIHERO: I was going to say it’s what, probably 4 or 5 years, since the last Winger album?

Reb Beach: Yes. It goes by quickly.

ANTIHERO: Yeah, but just asking because obviously Whitesnake’s touring schedules, they could last a couple of years, it doesn’t really leave much time for Winger.

Reb Beach: Yeah but David still when he tours, he does it sporadically. One year he’ll just go go go, always the second year, he slows it down. You know, he might do 3 months outta the year, and that’s it.
But, you never know, he could, he’s got hip replacements so he’s in great shape and he could just go on through 2020.

ANTIHERO: Sadly, I note that in the UK Whitesnake only seem to be doing the Download Festival.

Reb Beach: Yeah, David’s gonna come back to there, I’m sure.

ANTIHERO: Do you have any new songs that would be played at that Download Festival?

Reb Beach: Yeah. Just, you know, what we’re gonna do is we’re gonna go to rehearsal and David picked 6 new songs for us to learn. So I’m frantically, I’ve got 3 days off before I fly out to do it. And I’m the music director so I have to know it inside and out. Especially because Joel is gonna know inside out. He already knows it inside out. He started learning songs weeks ago, I’m sure. He’s unbelievable. His practice schedule is unparalleled because both of his parents were musicians and taught him how to rehearse and how to practice, practice, practice, and I never even pick up the guitar unless I got a gig.

ANTIHERO: So then anyway, you expect a few of those new songs to be played?

Reb Beach: Yeah, we learn 6 and obviously we’re not going to do 6 new songs, so we’ll just see which ones lend themselves to a live performance. You know, we’re gonna try out Sands of Time and obviously we’ll do Get Up, see how that sounds. I like Hey You, ] that’s a riff I’ve had forever. Well, obviously Shut Up and Kiss Me, Trouble is Your Middle Name so we’re gonna play all those and see which ones rise to the surface.

ANTIHERO: Okay, just a final one. I’m sure you’ve done many many interviews but if the roles were reversed, who would you like to sit down and interview?

Reb Beach: Wow. That’s a great question. I have never been asked that question in my whole life. That’s really really good.

ANTIHERO: Thank you.

Reb Beach: I guess Ace Frehley. I’d like to talk to Ace. He has some good KISS stories; I’m actually going to see KISS on their World Tour even though I saw them on their World Tour 15 years ago. I’m going to see this one because it’s supposed to be just huge and I see it’s going all through Europe too.
They say that the stage is unreal, that the whole stage was built just for KISS. It’s not something that’s been used before, it’s built from scratch.

ANTIHERO: You mentioned  Kiss there but how do you personally feel about all the current internet negativity regarding  the band using vocal enhancements and different things when they play live. Is that something that you don’t bother thinking about if you’re just there for the show?

Reb Beach: Yeah, you know, all of us are getting old. You know, a little help is okay with me. You know, as long as it sounds great out there, that’s what you want and to see the performers. You know, I have no problems with some enhancements up there. David does, David refuses to use any of that stuff. You know, and Winger’s been talking about it, boy, it wouldn’t it be fun to get some background vocal running in Pro Tools behind the drum kit. You know or have Rod get some samples of background vocals, you know, ’cause back in the 80’s we did these huge productions of vocals. And also, you know, it’s not like the Rolling Stones, where “I can get no”, …talking. It’s just talk-singing. But with us, with Winger and Whitesnake, that stuff is high to sing when you’re 60 years old so you know, you gotta do things like lower the key, change the key and things. David said he’ll never use any kind of recordings.

ANTIHERO: That’s great for me to personally hear because I mean, Whitesnake still is my favourite band of all time, so that’s good to hear.

Reb Beach: Yeah, well luckily there’s a lot of singers- We can all sing.

ANTIHERO: Thank you very much.

Reb Beach: My pleasure.

ANTIHERO: Enjoy what’s left of your day off.

Reb Beach: Thanks Mark, I will.

 

Whitesnake - Reb Beach
Photo: Katarina Benzova

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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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