Interviews

Interview with Legendary Rock Vocalist DAVID COVERDALE

Still Ready and Willing

When I first started to get into rock music in the eighties, Whitesnake were my favourite band. After interviewing many current and former band members I was lucky last year to finally get the opportunity to talk to #1 on my interview bucket list – David Coverdale himself. Fast forward almost a year to the day, and once again the main Snake himself called me at home.


Antihero Magazine: You have just released another box set with Restless Heart. Have you had as much fun putting these sets together as I have had listening to them? 

David Coverdale: Yeah. Well, it’s kind of a labour of love, and at Warner Brothers, Rhino Records have just been so incredibly supportive. There are a lot of people I’ve worked with over the years, have gone on to support this vision, which is really related to taking my older songs out of time capsules, and making them time-relevant as much as possible.

For instance, Slip of the Tongue is all particularly ’90s keyboards and stuff, which has been a constant irritation to me. So, it’s a chance for me to redecorate a little bit of the time too.

But many years ago, when I got involved professionally, when I got involved with Deep Purple, oh my God, it was like, I was the one who had to write the song on top of the jam music, or whatever we were doing. So, I’d take a reel to reel, or a cassette, in the very early days, and create a song around a riff. And the management were going, “Do not lose that cassette. You keep that cassette with you at all times,” like it was the keys to the Crown Jewels. But everyone was worried about bootlegs at that time, not illegal streaming.

So, for many years I’ve had these scratch ideas of demos, with absolutely no intention of releasing them publicly. But we had in ’87, I think, 40th anniversary of the Whitesnake album, and I worked with a super guy at Hook City Studio, and actually a professor at the University of Reno, and we talked about it, he’s been capturing a lot of analogue tapes and putting them into digital, for years for us. And he said, “You know, some of these demos are great, and I think the fans would love them.” So, I said, “Well, put something together and have a listen.” And that’s where CD3, I think it was, came out, Evolution. So, it’s one of the most popular things we’ve ever done.

Me playing an idea to John Sykes somebody knows now better than I fucking know it, on the original title John introducing ideas to me. And then you hear what the finished song sounds like. People loved it, not necessarily musicians, just the band. To hear the transition from a basic idea into a finished Whitesnake album.

Antihero Magazine: In terms of the box sets, I understand you’re working on a Coverdale/Page one? Will that represent the last one of these box sets? 

David Coverdale: No, I spoke to Jimmy about it, I said this is a big anniversary, this will be in 2023. One is it’s 50 years since I joined Deep Purple, huge. And it’s the 30th anniversary of Coverdale/Page. And I’ve just got that album back, the rights to it, from Universal in a settlement deal. Because a lot of my work was lost in that infamous fire. It’s been consistently denied, we were really fortunate to come out with the stuff we did.

And I spoke to Jimmy about it, and I said, “I must tell you, I’m loving working with Rhino, I want to give them first offer.” We still have to come to an agreement on that, but the plan is we have so much content, and I suggested to Jimmy, “Why don’t you do a mix? We’ll always have the original which we’ll remaster. We’ll find amazing guys to work on it. I said, “Why don’t you do the Jimmy Page mix, and I’ll do the David Coverdale mix? You do your own running order, I’ll do my own running order, I think the fans would love it.”

And we have, I think, four unreleased songs, five, I’m not sure. Because working with Jimmy was so inspiring, it was a particularly prolific period for me. So, I said, “Let’s finish off the album. Let’s do a second album.” We could’ve done it easily, and his manager talked him out of it, it was really sad, and thank God that guy’s out of the picture now. But Jimmy and I maintain a super friendship, and I’m hoping to have some good news for him soon anyway. So, we shall see, fingers crossed. But that is part of the plan, yeah.

Antihero Magazine: Will that be the last of these box sets then?

David Coverdale: No, no, not at all. Got another two years of them, mate. Because, if I’m going to be retiring from touring, I’m not retiring from music, the music to me is oxygen. So, it’s very problematic, one idea that we’ve discussed for years is doing an evening with David Coverdale, telling stories, and doing little acoustic songs, and interesting exchanges with the audience.

Antihero Magazine: Yeah, that’ll be good.

David Coverdale: I’m very open to people on social media, particularly since COVID. I wanted my Twitter account, and Instagram and all this to be just positive for people in such fucking dark times. And the other reason I released the Red, White, and Blues Trilogy, was because that was the plan to go along with my farewell tour. But I saw that all of the streaming stuff, Netflix, and Disney Plus, are directed at the TV. They were all geared to people going into lockdown, they’re all going to come out with minds blown, watching telly all the time.

So, I spoke with Rhino, I said, “Fuck it, let’s maintain our release schedule, give people some ear candy,” and they did, fantastic. And it was really then, sampler albums, to give you a taste of things to come.

Antihero Magazine: Has revisiting this old music for you, caused you to reexamine any potential set list for a farewell tour?

David Coverdale: Oh, God, yeah, yeah. One of the things that I’m always impressed by when I see The Stones, is how they change stuff up. Some of their songs they won’t play as you might have hoped, but they have such an amazing live catalogue to draw from. You’ve got to remember these songs are very physically challenging to perform. It’s very interesting as a singer, and as a writer, I’ve always written songs to challenge myself. Big Tarzan chest-beaters. Of course, those songs become a bit more challenging as you get older. So, I have to be discerning, there are certain things that I can’t do, and that’s a fact, dude. And fortunately, there’s a better percentage of things that I can do.

But of course, on my wish list, I’ve got Restless Heart, and Best Years. These songs are really good, and they’re pertinent. They’re relevant to how I’m feeling; Don’t Fade Away, Forevermore. It’s this love affair, mutual love affair, that we’ve had with our audience for, oh my God, over 40 years. And a love affair that continues and flourishes, they’re incredibly supportive.

Antihero Magazine: As a long-standing fan, I was a little confused with the introduction of Dino Jelusick to the band. The band already possessed a keyboard player and some strong backing vocalists. What exactly will Dino’s role be when you go out and play the final tour?

David Coverdale: He’s going to be the way I have two guitar players. I’ve always seen Whitesnake as an orchestra, Mark. I don’t see it as a band-band. I don’t want two guitarists playing exactly the same song, or just harmony guitars, I want two opposing… you’ve got the incendiary Joel Hoekstra, entirely different to the electrifying Reb Beach. And this is not to overwhelm Michele, Michele’s totally secure, I adore him and what he brings to Whitesnake. In 2019 Dino’s band opened for us in Zagreb, and this is very rare for me, and I went, “Who the fuck is that?” And I was going, “Wow, that kid’s great.” And Joel said, “Yeah, I worked with him in the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. He’s a great guy.

And I said, “That guy’s a snake, dude.” And I said, “Don’t say anything yet, I’m going to keep my eyes and ears on him.” So, I think it’s going to be fantastic, I’m going to have an orchestra of keyboards for a lot of songs on Whitesnake which are big epics, that make them even more musically orchestrated without having an orchestra on stage with us.

I mean, the guy’s great, I can’t wait to sing with him. I already have three singers who are good enough to be front-man singers, with Michael Devin and Michele Luppi, and Reb Beach, they are really great singers. What’s wrong with having another one? 

And I think he’s a super guy, and he has his challenges legally at the moment, but talent, belief, and courage will always win. And I can’t wait for us to start rehearsals, I really can’t. It’s got to be exciting to me, “This is exciting,” and adding another spice to an already good cocktail.

Antihero Magazine: Have you any thoughts on this final tour? Obviously, it’s going to be a celebration of your legacy, but I’m sure it’s also going to be tinged with a little bit of sadness as well.

David Coverdale: I don’t know if it’s going to be a tinge or a little bit. I think it’s going to be loaded with emotion. There’s a very direct bond between Whitesnake, and music, and the audience. And I can feel that when I’m morbid, it’s extraordinarily energising for me to have this amazing band playing behind me, and literally inspiring me to go for it. And then not only that, I look down at all these different ages; beautiful young guys, and women, and guys my age, all rocking out and willing me to do great. It’s an incredibly emotional experience.

So yeah, and I think that’s going to be more than just Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City, I think it’s going to be expressed throughout the music. Because in that style of touring, that’s definitely going to be it for David Coverdale. This is not the first of the 10, or in a series…

The challenging thing for me is that I’m hoping to get to South America because they’ve been incredibly generous for us for many years but are still very much in the darkness of COVID. I believe now Japan is maybe 80% vaccinated, but I can’t be sure of that. I was absolutely rocked to the core to hear, prior to the Olympics, there was an incredibly modest amount of people who’d been vaccinated. Japan is one of the most professional countries I’ve ever been to. Incredibly well run. Everybody works together, it’s a fantastic community.

This tour for me is like achieving completion of a journey that’s almost 50 years long. And, I mean, as that song Don’t Fade Away goes, “The twists and turns along the way.” But still, to follow the dream. I’m still following that, which is what, hopefully, I encourage people to do every day on social media, once again, in a very challenging time. But I have to be able to express my appreciation and gratitude in person, not in a fucking internet letter. It’s huge, Whitesnake’s a global entity for God’s sake. And you can’t achieve the kind of success we have without people supporting you, so that’s why I’m holding a farewell tour. 

It’s a big emotional deal. 

Antihero Magazine: Have you had any thoughts about maybe bringing out some former players on the farewell tour?

David Coverdale: We’ll see what happens. We’ll see what happens. As you probably know, on social media I ask people, “Please don’t show the setlist.” I don’t want people in Birmingham knowing what I played in Manchester. Which is one reason why now I want to try to get a couple of other songs. I mean, the number of songs I want to play, I’m not going to be able to play within time. I’ll be fucking wiped out. I’ve got to be very discerning on what’s going to be a beautiful, emotional collection for the band and the folks in the audience.

But yeah, so the last couple of years I’ve had Bernie guest with us, Adrian Vandenberg, Steve Vai I’m hoping will be able to stop by. But it’s all going to be dependent on health situations, it’s all going to depend on who’s where. Because bringing Bernie on stage is always a gas, and Adrian and I are best of friends. Steve Vai and I are text pals. And it’s a beautiful thing to maintain.

Because it’s not across the board, some people don’t. After I lost Jon Lord in 2012, I thought, “My God, we’re all getting to an age where I’d like to bury any hatchet we have.”

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So not only professionally, but also privately, to me it was a huge emotional year for me after losing Jon. And most people I reached out to were very happy to shake hands and let the water go under the bridge. And some just weren’t interested, which I totally understand. But I’ve made my side of it, so I don’t feel bad about it.

Antihero Magazine: What about a Dave Coverdale definitive autobiography? Is that something you’ve ever thought about?

David Coverdale: No, I don’t see that as something that I would be interested in doing, given the circumstances. I’d have to be totally honest, and that would be very damaging to those relationships. So, to me it’s not worth it, I don’t need the money. People who usually know my story, and my songs, the lyrics are pretty much journals and diaries of experiences. The difference between me and country and western music, is I don’t use names.

But yeah, and I also haven’t finished whatever the hell I’m here to do, there’s more to do, I have more projects in mind for Whitesnake, and the music will continue.

Antihero Magazine: Good. Definitely good news for the fans, including myself.

David Coverdale: And this is just me, I’m being very respectful to myself and to my audience. And I’m still as fit as a fiddle. My wife said to me yesterday, “Oh, my God, I can’t even imagine that you’re 70 years old.” So, I said, “I fucking am.” But I’ve taken good care of myself, working out and preparing. This is not something, this is going to be training for a marathon, I want to make sure I’m vocally fit and strong, and physically even stronger.

Antihero Magazine: Of course, people often say that fame is a double-edged sword. Has it been difficult to have been in the public eye for so long?

David Coverdale: I think it’s more difficult for some people, we’ve found out. I believe that you can pull your antenna in. It’s interesting actually, because in these days of walking around looking like bank robbers, I’m still recognised, so it’s got to be the hair. So basically, I just have to do something with my hair to go out in public. But my wife and I just bought a beach house in Malibu, and I’ve just found a place I can just go to relax, which was amazing to me, and I just connected with it. She actually bumped into Rudy and his wife down shopping in Malibu, I was back at the house meditating or whatever. But I’ve reconnected with Marty Callner, who I haven’t spoken to for over 30 years, he was the guy who directed the big Whitesnake videos.

I’m extremely vibrant when I’m not working, I have a beautiful, very stable, and trusting relationship with my wife. And our relationship got even deeper during COVID. Just every day we would say how lucky we were to have a house where she can have her own space. And we live in a very private environment. All I did for months was spray down Amazon packages ]. I documented with, I can’t remember the title now, some song I made up, I was doing a thing called “Songs from the Dining Room Table”, just to keep people amused. And what the fuck …. And I think Ritchie and his missus did something similar, some videos for the band or whatever.

But yeah, Jasper, my son has difficulty. My daughter didn’t have social media to deal with, but my son does. And he would have a lot of people saying that instead of acting he should be following in my footsteps and all that. And that to me was so disappointing, it led to the point where Jasper left most of social media. Because I would say, “Hey, he’s his own man.”

Antihero Magazine: Certainly, yeah, yeah.

David Coverdale: He’s actually putting his toes into writing music now, very, very different from me. But complete with my support, and with mom’s support, he’s such a talented kid. I think it was more challenging for him. Because he said to me, actually [  he said, “Oh, my God, I’ve just realised, you’ve been famous longer than you haven’t been famous.” And it’s not really something I’ve thought of, Mark. I just get on with my life, I don’t go to places where it’s going to be Recognise City, and certainly since the lockdown my wife and I, apart from cooking at home, we get Uber Eats, that kind of thing, the same as you guys.

Antihero Magazine: Taking you back, what would’ve been the first music that you remember hearing?

David Coverdale: Oh, the first influential song? It’s so interesting, after losing my mom some years ago, I was talking to my aunty who I adore, and I’ve lost her sadly. But she was a teenager at 14 when I was six. She and her brother Eddie, but much more Sylvia, they’d spend their own pocket money, their allowance, on singles. And I remember she had an EP, and I’d touch these tunes like they were religious objects or something sacred. I have no idea, but I could feel the energy, and it was a huge old gramophone, enormous, where you literally had to put the needle into the arm, and then very slowly and delicately put it on the record. She said, “You can play my records, but don’t scratch them.” So, I was ridiculously careful.

And hearing the song Jailhouse Rock was just a life-changer, Elvis Presley and Jailhouse Rock. Then she introduced me to Little Richard, Chuck Berry. I was only a kid, but the music was so… the same reason as Hendrix is my muse. I know musically, and through my awareness magnet, all the elements that he would connect together to be Jimi Hendrix, to play and like his music. But I have no idea why I was so connected so immediately, and so electrifiably with him. That’s the mystery, the magic of music. But look, I can hear a song from Revolver, and I’m immediately 15 years old in Saltburn-by-the-Sea with a beautiful blond girlfriend. I can hear certain songs and they’re time capsules of where I was, who I was with, friends.

Antihero Magazine: What would then have been the very first song that you ever performed live?

David Coverdale: Bob Dylan, “Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right”, and Donovan’s “Colours”, those are the only, because they were very simple chords. And the other one, this was in my mom and dad’s working men’s club in Saltburn, where a lot of people would just sit  there, and some of them would gloss their hair, sitting there with their home-made caftans, or whatever you call it, a cheap acoustic guitar and I’m singing, “If You’re Going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair.” I think I went down very well, otherwise my mother would’ve been angry with them all.

At school, before my voice was bastardised by whiskey and cigarettes, and hard women, I had a very high pure voice, so I was often the soloist in school. I remember singing one of my favourite songs ever, acapella at a school concert, doing the Beach Boys God Only Knows. And that performance, I remember talking to some girls afterward, and the girls were very complimentary, and I thought, “Oh, I like this attention.” And one girl said, “Well, my brother’s looking for a singer. Shall I tell him about you?” And I went, “Oh, oh.” Poured on my shit, “Oh, okay.” And that night my mom came up to me, we lived in a big pub house, we lived above the pub, and she came upstairs, and she said, “Hey, there’s four guys downstairs they want to talk to you.” She says, “What have you done?”   And I went down, and these guys were looking like a gang, they went, “We hear you can sing.” “Oh my God.”

So, they took me off to a friend’s house, with a full drum kit in a small bedroom, and I sang to a tape recorder and got the job. That was, I think, 14 or 15.

Antihero Magazine: Just a quick fan question for you before I let you go; why was “Always the Same” not included on the Flesh and Blood album? Because it’s a brilliant song.

David Coverdale: Well, it’s hard to go into some of the reasons why. But I was late delivering the album, you must remember I was recovering for a long time from having knee replacement surgery on both knees. So, I mean, the fact that I even fucking managed to do an album was remarkable and hardly surprising that I was late delivering. So, I gave Frontiers two extra songs outside my contract. And that was when I respected them. There was another song, another one or two, I’d already given them more than the contract, being the generous soul I am. Was it appreciated? I don’t know.

Antihero Magazine: Do you have any spare time interests or hobbies? Or is just music everything to your life?

David Coverdale: It’s music. Music, reading, and movies, yeah. Reading for knowledge, movies for knowledge, but also to help me shut down.

This is the interesting thing now that just happened to me recently; I’ve promised Cindy a beach house for 30 years, and finally delivered this year. And she’s spent a lot of time down there getting it together, er cetera, et cetera, I’ve been messing with projects and everything else. And she said, “Okay, you can come down.” So, I drove down and I took my lyric pad and all that kind of stuff. I used to live in Malibu when I was with Deep Purple, but that was almost five decades ago. And I walk into this amazing home that she’s put together for us. And from every window it’s nothing but the beach and the Pacific Ocean, nobody on the beach, it’s a private beach.

And oh my God, within 36 hours I’m going, “What’s wrong with me?” “What is it? What is it?” The joke was, I discovered what a holiday is.  A holiday before you do, for the first time. And I’m so grateful to Cindy for this. Because I’ve been all over the world and being able to relax the way I was there, it was unheard of. And I said, “You’re going to need an oyster knife to get me out of here.” But of course, she’s got a bunch of girlfriends planned down there. I think I’m going to have to schedule my next visit. I’m hoping that’s going to be early November, for our 31st anniversary. My word.

Antihero Magazine: Wow. That’s a very long time.

David Coverdale: But anyway, I’ve got to go, brother. I’m sorry we had such problems connecting but I’ve enjoyed this very much.

Antihero Magazine: That’s all right. It’s been an absolute pleasure to talk to you again.

David Coverdale: And thanks for taking the time, again. And I’m glad to hear you’re safe and well my darling.

Antihero Magazine: Looking forward to seeing you in Manchester on the forthcoming tour.

David Coverdale: Oh, what? That’s going to be a biggun, that’s going to be a sob-fest, I think. Cracking part of the UK, Manchester. Go well, mate.

Antihero Magazine: Take care. Thanks again.

David Coverdale: Oh, yeah. Bless your heart. You too, stay safe and well.

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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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