After devoting many years of his professional career to performances with the blues-driven Whitesnake, and working with the likes of Jimmy Page and Deep Purple, vocalist David Coverdale has finally embarked on a solo career. While he has wanted to release a solo album since Whitesnake had official finished in 1990, Coverdale says that his contracts with EMI would not permit such an effort, until now.
“I’ve been given a gift of a whisper to a scream in terms of my voice, and I’d like to explore it now”
“My contracts for EMI outside of the states say David Coverdale known as the artist Whitesnake — it would have been inverted David and Goliath, I don’t think David would have won…You see there are times Kara, you become a victim of the image or the identity you create. When I started Whitesnake it was supposed to have three elements of rock, soul, and blues, but the rock actually started taking over and it’s hard to present expression when you’re screaming all the time. So I guess I’ve been given a gift of a whisper to a scream in terms of my voice, and I’d like to explore it now.”
To fulfill the expectations of dedicated fans in the states, who have been left paying costly imports prices for his last two efforts, Restless Heart (EMI) and “Starkers in Tokyo” (EMI), which fell under the Whitesnake moniker much to his disapproval, Coverdale has started his own record label. The label which is called Dragonshead now hosts his new album Into the Light, which features Whitesnake drummer Danny Carmassi, as well as Earl Slick, Doug Bossi, and David Coverdale on guitar, Marco Mendoza on bass, and Derek Hilland on keyboards. And Coverdale says that it’s probably the most honest vocal album that he’s done.
“There’s very little cosmetic on it, a lot of the vocal is dry. You can hear every cigarette I’ve smoked, every drink I’ve had, and every tear I’ve cried. That’s basically the only way to describe it. I’m enjoying myself singing. I think it’s probably the most consistent record I’ve ever made, and it certainly gives me more pleasure across the board than some of the records I’ve done before. You know, and it’s got the elements I love, rock soul, and blues.”
“You can hear every cigarette I’ve smoked, every drink I’ve had, and every tear I’ve cried.”
While he likes all of the songs on the album, Coverdale says that he is especially thrilled with his tribute one of his biggest rock influences, Jimi Hendrix, which is entitled the “River Song.”
“I’ve had the elements for that song for almost twenty years, and I’ve never felt I had the full complement of musicians that could have brought that song to life as I thought it should be. So when I was working with the musicians for this record they were connecting so well as people and as musicians, I thought it may be interesting to try this one and they played it beautifully, they brought it to life.
Of course one of the things for many years — I’m really an incurable romantic, which may surprise some and not others, and when I sit at the piano or the guitar, its almost natural for me to write blues love songs. And a lot of the time I’d be sitting there and I’d go, ‘Oh my God, this is not Whitesnake’ and I’d throw the song out. Obviously, this is a song that needed to come out of me for whatever reason. So now, I’m not accommodating anybody else, I’m doing obviously what comes naturally to me or from me,” explained Coverdale.
In addition to the legendary Jimi Hendrix, he says he has always embraced the openness of early African American blues singers. “They had no walls or barriers. They just told you exactly how they were feeling, if it was miserable you knew it; if they were feeling horny you felt it; if they wanted to party you know what it is. And I grew up with such diluted pop music, that was basically trying to camouflage any sexual content, so I embraced that form of self-expression immediately and started to become as honest as those musicians.”
Today though, Coverdale says he hears a lot of rock, but doesn’t hear any roll.
“I’d like to bring some more roll back… you hear some of the new rock bands, and I know that some of them are legitimate artists who believe in what they’re playing and singing and I know that ninety percent of them ain’t. They’re just jumping on the bandwagon and I’m usually much more forgiving, but I cannot endorse anybody who preaches anger, hatred, and violence. What we need is community, not separation. So, I won’t have anything to do with it, and hopefully, they’ll leave me alone too.”
While Coverdale had still been writing and performing with Whitesnake guitarist Adrian Vandenberg for many years after their last release in the United States, Vandenberg was not available when Coverdale began working on this solo effort. Though he says that they have maintained a really good friendship, and he hopes that he will start his own Web site soon so that curious fans can find out what the guitarist has been doing.
Coverdale himself has finally launched his own site at www.davidcoverdale.com, which hosts an on-line store, as well as information about his career and the interactive Snakebite Café. He says, at last he has been dragged kicking and screaming into the twenty first century, and is very pleased with the beautiful sentiment from people around the world.
“I think its going to bring a closer relationship to people who enjoy my work, and who have supported me for so long, you know we’re going to have a better rapport. For instance, before, I’d only do interviews every three years Kara. So, for instance, the rumors about me joining Van Halen are like a year and a half old. I can answer that immediately, ‘no’, instead of people wondering is he or isn’t he.”
“It’s ten years since I’ve been out, and as I’ve said to you a lot of the invitations to parties that I’ve had have been retro Whitesnake.”
And as for other rumors of a possible Poison and Whitesnake tour, Coverdale responded:
“When I put it out a couple of years ago that I was interested to work in America again, the predominant interest was people for me to do retro Whitesnake, which really wasn’t the case, cause I can still do the songs as David Coverdale. It leaves it a lot more open. It gives me more freedom. I can actually do a song or two from Purple. You know what I’m saying? Where as with Whitesnake I should really only play Whitesnake songs. A lot of people who supported Whitesnake in America are just finding out now that I was actually in Deep Purple many years ago. But I can basically play whatever I want.”
For those interested in hearing material from the aforementioned Whitesnake releases from EMI Japan, a sneak preview can be found on the Into the Light album. The song “Too Many Tears,” which was written by Coverdale and Vandenberg and initially released on the Restless Heart album, has be re-vamped for the solo release. In addition, Coverdale had the following to say about future plans for re-releasing the import material:
“Well, I tell you what, I had my sonic team, my studio team pull down some of the songs from Restless Heart, which I’m either going to re-record, cause some of them are really good songs, but I had to compromise on that record. That was when EMI started to play not very nice cards with me, and actually it would have been much more like Into the Light, had I been left to my own devices.
But, in ’94, they released Whitesnake’s greatest hits and we sold millions of copies and they said ‘we want another Whitesnake album’. And I’m in the middle of doing a David Coverdale solo record, which would have been of course my first record after working with Jimmy Page in Coverdale/Page, so I said to Adrian and Denny, my drummer, I’m going, ‘ we don’t have any choice we’re going to have to try to Snake it up, but it’s just not Whitesnake. But I think some of the songs will be worth re-visiting.
And there’s also an album that Adrian and I did in Japan called Starkers in Tokyo, its just Adrian and I playing to a select audience of like seventy people. And Toshiba, who I work with, EMI Toshiba in Japan, were most insistent that it was going to be Whitesnake, and I’m going ‘but, but, but’. So what I’m going to do is probably repackage that as Coverdale/Vandenberg and make it available on the Web for those people who are interested. It’s fun, it’s actually like a greatest hits record but acoustic.”
His solo album on the other hand is actually available now on his Web site, but Coverdale says this is absolutely not walking away from retail.
“I was a huge fan of Jimmy’s way before Led Zeppelin. So that was just like a dream come true for me to work with such a master of his instrument.”
“I’ve got a great relationship with stores, they’ve always been there for me and I’m actually meeting a lot of these guys on the Blah, Blah, Blah promo tour and I’m getting their support, which is great. No, actually, I thought it was a mistake when Jimmy and The Black Crowes just sold on the Internet. I thought that was a big mistake, because, you don’t want to put people out of work. But physically, we could not get the record in stores in time, or at least that’s what I’ve been told, so the album’s actually released November 21st. Its actually on the Web now but in the stores the 21st.”
As for his relationship with the former Led Zeppelin guitarist, Coverdale says, “We connected very, very strong. He’s a great guy and obviously a legend. I was a huge fan of Jimmy’s way before Led Zeppelin. So that was just like a dream come true for me to work with such a master of his instrument. We achieved everything we wanted to do other than more touring, which is one of the reasons I said I’m outta here, I’ve gotta get my life back.
So that was at the end of ’93, we worked together for three years, we had a great time, maintained a great relationship, and I think if he does a solo album, which is probably is next move, I’d only be to happy if he felt that there was a song that would be appropriate for me. I’d be sure to do it, and I think it would be the same for him with me. I didn’t want to call in any favors on my first solo album on my first solo record darling, ’cause I didn’t want to take away the focus of what I was doing. You know what I’m saying? Rather than going ‘oh, Steve Vai this and Jimmy Page that.'”
But in the future, Coverdale says he hasn’t ruled out working with other guitar greats. He would love to work with Eddie Van Halen outside of Van Halen and he says he also adores Jeff Beck. Coverdale also hasn’t ruled out the possibility of touring the states in the near future.
“It’s ten years since I’ve been out, and as I’ve said to you a lot of the invitations to parties that I’ve had have been retro Whitesnake. So, I want to try to establish myself. I believe in the record very much. See what’s going to happen, and if we can get a level of success achieved or a good foundation, then I will be immediately putting a band together.
But you’ve got to remember that the music business has just turned into such a fashion thing. To me it’s like ninety-percent fashion and ten-percent substance. I want to make sure that its done right. I don’t do things by halves. I look at it and if the climate feels good I say let’s do it.”
In the nearer future, he will be heading to Brazil to do a week of TV and radio and will most likely make his way down the West Coast doing additional promotions. He will probably try to tie in Mark and Brian’s Christmas show at KLOS in Los Angeles on the 15th of December, which he thinks may be difficult to do.
“I’ve said I’d try to do it…they said they’d some kind of star band together. It could be a bit of fun, and then most definitely Christmas with my family, nothing’s going to interfere with that, because for so many years I realized that I’ve had a career and a life that just bubbled around. Whereas now, I have a life and my career must accommodate that.”
“This is my third marriage and most wonderful by far. I found the partner that I was preparing for. I don’t have any regrets, or any bitterness.”
In fact, Coverdale says that his wife is quite an inspiration.
“This is my third marriage and most wonderful by far. I found the partner that I was preparing for. I don’t have any regrets, or any bitterness. Everything I’ve ever done in my life, have all been preparations — whether they were mistakes or not. The older I get, the more that I feel that we’re just given challenges all the way, tests to see if we have the character to get through. One moment you think ‘oh God I just don’t want to live anymore’, and then something happens, and then something happens, and the sun comes out and it changes entirely.
But my life has never been easy, but with this, my partner Cindy – you can see her on the album, she’s actually featured on the artwork – we’re growing together; it’s a partnership; I couldn’t do this without her support. She’s just my best cheerleader. It’s tough for me to leave. I have a twenty-two year old daughter that’s pretty much independent now in Europe and a four-year old son that I had with Cindy, and these guys just light up my life. They’re my energy, my fuel source. It’s wonderful, yeah, if I could give away percentages of joy, believe me, I’d be doing it. Everybody should be so lucky.”