April 9, 2015 Interview – Doug Aldrich of Revolution Saints
Some were just born with Rock-n-Roll flowing through their blood. For American guitarist Doug Aldrich, it seemed inevitable he was destine to be on stage after beginning to play at a young age. Building his resume for over three decades, Aldrich has worked with the likes of Bad Moon Rising, Dio, and Whitesnake, among many others. Like any creative musician, Aldrich is always looking to do something fresh, and in 2014 was asked to join forces with Jack Blade of Night Ranger and Deen Castronovo of Journey to form Revolution Saints. A Rock band with years of experience on their side, Revolution Saints bring a flair of old styling to a modern scene with quality songs. Recently we sat down with the accomplished Aldrich for a look at his career, fond memories of Dio, working with Revolution Saints, and more.
CrypticRock.com – You have been involved in music now for the better part of three decades. You have worked with a broad range of bands from Dio, to Whitesnake, Bad Moon Rising, and many others. What has the journey been like for you?
Doug Aldrich – I have been so lucky, I have worked with some amazing musicians. Starting back with my first band Lion, which turned into Bad Moon Rising later, I worked with a Scottish singer named Kal Swan. Back in 1985, I was playing in Los Angeles with one of my first bands and I received a call from Mark Edwards, who I knew from his band Steeler. He had found Yngwie Malmsteen with Mike Varney, put together Steeler, then he split, and Yngwie went off to Alcatraz. Mark was sort of out of a band and wanted to put together something new that he was going to be able to be there and work with. He found Kal Swan who had come from a band called Tytan, and very much influenced by all the British stuff. Mark called me and told me he was putting this band together. I said, “I know who you are and that you are a great player.” He said, “I want you to play guitar in this. I have the next David Coverdale.” I knew of Whitesnake, but only because Slide It In (1984) had just come out.
Working with Kal, he brought all this British influence to the band called Lion. It was great for me because it influenced my learning how to song-write and got me involved in hearing stuff that I had never heard before, like the earlier Whitesnake records and some other bands that were strictly big in Britain. Working with that was perfect for my background. Kal turned me on to these early Whitesnake records that really had not been released in the U.S. It gave me a really good understanding of where David Coverdale came from. When I joined Whitesnake, I wanted to bring that back. Whitesnake was interesting because you had the British and European fans that loved David in Deep Purple. They loved the early Whitesnake stuff. Then you had the U.S. fans that loved the 1987 self-titled album and Slide It In. I was trying to bridge those two together, and that is what I did with Whitesnake. To answer your question though, I have been so lucky working with Ronnie James Dio, David, and all the musicians that I have crossed paths with. It has been a great journey.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, one could imagine. That is a lot of great experiences. Touching on Whitesnake, you spent a long span f time as a part of Whitesnake through 2014. What was your experience like as part of Whitesnake, because you got to record with them as well as tour?
Doug Aldrich – I was fortunate enough to be David’s right hand man for all those years. We worked really well together and we were able to put together a couple of really good studio records that I was very proud to be a part of. When I joined the band I was working with Dio. David said, “I’m just going to do a two month tour, do you want to join up?” I talked to Ronnie, and two months turned into nine months. Then we toured in 2003, and in 2004 we toured again. Then we toured again in 2005, and eventually I said to David, “What do you want to do here? I think that Whitesnake should be doing new music. If we are going to continue and tour, we really need to generate some new music so that people can get excited about it.” That is what we wound up doing. It was a really great experience for me from the get go because David and I really just hit it off musically and personality-wise. I loved to hang out with him and talk about this and that type of music. That led into us picking up guitars and jamming. It was just really natural. I learned a lot from David as far as how to get things done songwriting-wise. He is a master songwriter.
CrypticRock.com – It sounds like that was a great experience in that time that you were in Whitesnake. That is a great thing to have and it sounds exciting.
Doug Aldrich – It was great. At that point, I wanted to have some new music so that we could launch off that for more touring. During those periods of writing is really when the most fulfilling part was, because you create something out of nothing. I have a little studio in my backyard that is in a pool house. I set up a studio in there and I would just sit there all day long, play, and come up with song ideas; to think that a lot of those songs turned out to be Whitesnake songs. It really made me feel good to go up to David’s with some ideas, come up with three or four songs, work on them, and come up with a demo with those songs. Then we would be driving back, listening to them. In the beginning, before my wife and I had a baby, David would come and camp out at my house. and he would move in for about a week. It was really fun because we kind of bounced back and forth from the house and the studio. I would be creating, so it did not matter what was going on in my life. It was awesome to create something out of nothing. It did not matter if the songs made it to record or not. It was just the fact of being creative. That was the best part of it, but then I actually did make those records. I co-produced them, and a bunch of other Whitesnake projects, with David. I was really fortunate that he trusted me and knew I had his best interests at heart. I was just trying to help him steer the ship in a good direction.
CrypticRock.com – Right, and you did so in your time with the band. As mentioned, you spent time as a part of Ronnie Dio James between 2001 and 2006. Do you have fond memories of working with Dio?
Doug Aldrich – So many. Actually, it was different periods that I worked with Ronnie. I was only really in the band for about a year, but in that year we did do the Killing The Dragon (2002) record. I got to contribute to that record with a couple of songs also, which was nice. I was just actually in a pub in Los Angeles. I was with my wife and my son, we were sitting, and I pointed to this table and told them that it where I was sitting when Ronnie first offered me the gig. Jimmy Bain had told me he was looking for a guitarist. Ronnie said, “Hey Doug, we are working on this record and we wanted to know if you wanted to play a solo or two on it?” I said, “No, I do not. I want to either do the whole record or nothing.” Then he goes, “Ok, great then. Your in the band.” (laughs) I do not know if he was testing me or what, but we were having a beer and he just said, “Ok, you are in.” We started the next day two days after Christmas. Craig Goldy had some family stuff going on, so he left the band and I just stepped in. We did a lot in that first year. We did that record, a bunch of touring, and a live DVD called Evil or Divine- Live in New York City (2005). Then i joined Whitesnake, but I kept coming back to Dio. There was a couple of tours in 2005. Ronnie said, “Would you come on tour with me?” I said, “Absolutely, I just have to speak to David about it.” David said,”Cool, just make sure you come back,” because we had talked about some new music and he did not want me to split.
So I did the tour with Dio, and I remember the day that we were in Birmingham, England, he said, “I have to meet up with Tony. I have not seen Tony in so many years.” They were talking about doing this box set thing with Black Sabbath for a few years. He said that he did not really know if he wanted to do that. Ronnie really loved what he did. Of course he loved Sabbath, but he wanted to keep focus on his band and his guys, Simon, and, at the time, Rudy Sarzo was playing bass. I said, “Ronnie. That is fucking cool man. You have to go meet with them.” I remember the day, we were having breakfast and he left his room to grab a shower. Then later that night, we were playing, and we all got in the van to go to the gig and I asked, “How did it go?” He responded, “Really cool, it was great to see Tone.” He called him Tone, which was cool because Tony Iommi always had an awesome tone. It was that meeting that they had that turned into Heaven and Hell in 2006. The day that he met up with Tony, Tony came to the gig that night. There are those days that your on, and most days you are on to a certain degree, especially when you are on tour, but I had a kick ass show that night. It was just one of those nights that I just could not do anything wrong. When I found out that Tony was there, I thought that was so cool. I got Tony to put his initials on this Sunburst Gibson Les Paul, he scratched them in with a fork; I had started doing that with Jimmy Page. When I saw Tony, I said, “You have to do it on my other guitar.” You know, he is the all mighty Tony Iommi. He drew his initials twice on my guitar because the wood was just too hard, it did not really scratch in too well, but I still have it.
Another story about Ronnie, he loved loved sports. Obviously he loved music, but he loved to wake up in the morning, listen to sports radio, and have a coffee. Then we would get to work on the music or we were working on preparing for a tour. He loved football, his football team was the New York Giants. My team was the Philadephia Eagles. One day the Eagles were playing against Tampa Bay Bucneeers. I talked Ronnie and his body guard into coming to this pub to watch the game. The Eagles were getting beat, and this actor, a big dude, was trying to get into a fight with me. He was talking about how his team was kicking my ass, calling me Motley Crue, and I was just laughing about it. I did not care, I was focused on the game, but Ronnie started getting pissed off. He started calling this guy out and basically tried to protect me. The way that Ronnie looked at it was that I had invited him to come watch my team, he was supporting the Eagles for me, and the fact that this guy was hassling me, Ronnie wanted to go beat his ass. In the end they wound up getting nose to nose, and then Ronnie’s bodyguard jumps in and started pushing Ronnie away. Ronnie started cursing at his bodyguard and pushing his bodyguard away, saying, “Let me at him…Let me at him!” That is just how Ronnie was. He was a stand-up guy and that is why all his fans and friends loved him so much. He was a great dude.
CrypticRock.com – Those are some really great memories. You are sure to have so many. It is nice to hear that he was so down to earth like that.
Doug Aldrich – Later on, he started to have two buses again, because Ronnie was big time. Back in the ’80s, Ronnie was touring with three or four buses. Whitesnake used to support Dio actually back then. Ronnie gave David the shot because they had been friends for years. This 2002 tour, it was all band and crew on one bus. We would be wrapping up a club gig in some small town, it would three or four o’clock in the morning, raining, and Ronnie would still be outside signing autographs for the last of the stragglers coming up to the door of the bus. We are all in there partying or sleeping, and the tour manager would come up to Ronnie and say, “Ronnie we gotta go man. We have to load-in in two hours. We have a four hour drive that we have to try and makeup.” Ronnie would say, “What am I gonna do, walk away from these guys? They had been standing in the rain for a half an hour.” Yes, he was cool.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, it really sounds like it. Now you are a part of Revolution Saints with a stellar line-up of yourself, Jack Blade of Night Ranger, and Deen Castronovo of Journey. How did this project come along?
Doug Aldrich – It started off as being an idea of Serafino Perugino, Frontier Records owner, who wanted to feature a record with Deen; he brought a few songwriters together, and mainly Alessandro Del Vecchio wrote the songs. He started to put these songs together as a solo project and he asked Deen who he wanted to play with. Deen and Jack go way back, and Jack, his reputation speaks for itself. He is an unbelievably talented bass player and songwriter, he has done it all. Him and Deen decided that Jack was going to be involved, and then they asked Deen, “What about guitar?” There had just been that Whitesnake and Journey had done a couple of cool tours together. I have known Deen for years, but we never really got to hang out before those tours we did together. After tha,t we got to be friends and I loved to just go watch him throw it down every night. That guy brings it every night and it is inspiring. Deen said, “Let’s see if Doug would be into it.” When I was asked, I said, “Hell yeah.” I was totally into it. I talked to David about it and told him I had been asked to do this thing with Deen and Jack. I told him I was going to work it around our schedule in Whitesnake. Once I got involved, then we started to see what the three of us were doing together, I think it became apparent to the record company that this could be a band featuring Deen. That is how it came about.
CrypticRock.com – That is quite an interesting story. Seeing as you have had the experience of working in Rock as long as you have, do you feel that has helped moving forward with Revolution Saints?
Doug Aldrich – The whole thing is that I was allowed to basically do whatever I wanted. When you are working in a situation that your writing songs, for example, you start a song in your bedroom and in the middle of the night you wake up and you got a melody, guitar riff, or a drum beat. Then little by little you cultivate it into a song and, for better or for worse, it is a song. Maybe it is a great song, or maybe it is an average song. Then you go to record a demo, then you do the album, you mix it, and when it is all is said and don,e you have heard that song a thousand plus times. You know every little nuance of those songs. With Revolution Saints, I was able to approach it like a session guitar player. They gave me the song and said, “Go ahead, do whatever you want, make it your own.” Bruce wanted it to sound like what I was doing with Whitesnake, which was me just doing what I like. That is what I did with the Revolution Saints album, I had fun with it; it was fresh. It was great because it was catchy, melodic, almost Pop-like, and I wanted to bring in a more Blues, heavier sound. I think it was a nice balance.
CrypticRock.com – Yes it is very well balanced. It was released on the 24th of February and it is really a strong record. Like you said, it has those Pop elements as well. It also has a larger than life 80’s Rock feel to it. Was that something that you guys were going for ?
Doug Aldrich – (laughing) No, it just kind of happened I guess. The songs were kind of set up like that, everyone was able to put their stamp on it, and it just kind of ended up sounding the way it does. I think it is exactly the way you described it. It also has kind of a modern hybrid sound. It is a very ’80s driven sound, but some of the direction is a little bit more in-your-face. For example, the reverb effect is not the same as it was in the ’80s; it has a little bit of a more modern flair to it and can hang with what is going on right now musically. It turned out that way, and those songs lend themselves to that big melodic Rock sound.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, they certainly do, and each track is well composed as well. There is not really a dull moment on the entire record. There are some really catchy choruses and some great guitar work as well. Is it safe to say that you guys really hit it off chemistry-wise as a band?
Doug Aldrich – Absolutely, I think that there is a mutual respect there. When I started doing guitars, the drums and bass had already been recorded at that point. Therefore, I was recording the guitars against these tracks that were insanely cool. Jack is a big part of whatever he plays on because he is such a melodic player. You can have a very simple guitar riff, and then he is playing some stuff around it that really kind of makes it pop. It is not just like he is doubling the guitar part, he really makes it something special. I was hearing these backing tracks and thought, “Wow, I can just put this big simple guitar track down, and it stands up, because the band is supporting it.”
We definitely have a chemistry together. When we got together to do some videos as well as recording together up in Portland, it was undeniable that we had a chemistry, and it sounds like that on the record. Spending time with those guys is super fun and we all fell into our own zone. For example, Deen is a frontman and the drummer with Jack, but he is like the young kid that has way too much energy, bouncing off the walls. I am kind of the quiet guy, I really do not have much to say, I just want to play. Jack is kind of the general; he took over, and in a good way, because you need somebody to be the boss. You need somebody to organize stuff or else you are wasting time or going down long paths. Jack keeps you focused. Then we all have our creative side, but the energy that Deen has is just infectious. I hope to be able to put it together where we will be able to do some shows.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, the next question is if there was a possibility of some live shows. Do you think that this is something that will perhaps last more than one record and result in some live shows? Something that could develop to last a few years?
Doug Aldrich – We have had some offers, and if there is a really big interest along with everybody working it out schedule-wise, if we do some shows, I know it will turn into another record. If we leave it to just this record, I think it would be a shame. I think that the possibilities are endless. More for me personally, I just want to play with those guys because it is fun. I am super proud of what we did together in Whitesnake, but I am pretty excited about playing with different people too sometime. To answer your question, I hope we do play live shows as well as do more.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, as a musician, anyone who takes pride in what they do wants a challenge. They want to try something new. As stated you have been a big part of Hard Rock and Metal for years. It seems a lot of modern Rock has lost its distinctive qualities in recent years. What is your opinion on the modern Rock scene?
Doug Aldrich – I do not really know too much about what is going on, so I am not really the best person to ask. I think there is probably still some really cool stuff going on. When you are talking about the harder Rock stuff, I think that there is a lot going on, and some of it is really cool. Although, I do not think there is a lot of melodic stuff going on in the U.S. There is some more melodic stuff in Europe. I listen to the classics and stuff like Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, and stuff like that. With Revolution Saints, I felt like I could pull out more of my Gary Moore influence on this record because of some of the changes, and it was so melodic. It made me want to play a little more melodic solo-wise. It made me want to play with a a little more feel, and not so much shredding, because the song did not call for that.
Back to the point, I think that there is some cool music going on. I hear stuff like maybe The Black Keys or just some other fresh things going on. Even bands that have been around for a long time, like The Foo Fighters and The Red Hot Chilli Peppers, are still doing some cool stuff.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, you are right. There is always good stuff going on. The Revolution Saints album is certainly unique to what others doing, and that is refreshing. There are quite a few good Rock bands nowadays. It also seems like there is a lot of cookie-cutter stuff going on, but one would imagine that is with any era. You have a genre that gets oversaturated and that is when things start to become generic.
Doug Aldrich – Yes, there is always some cookie-cutter stuff. Sometimes you will listen to a song and think that is a Slayer song, or that is a Metallica song, etc. There are some really kickass bands that are playing though. Even Zack Wylde with Black Label Society is doing killer stuff.
CrypticRock.com – Agreed, Rock music is still very strong, it is just a different world now. My last question for you is pertaining to movies. CrypticRock.com covers music and Horror films. If you are a fan of horror films, what are some of your favorite Horror films?
Doug Aldrich – I love Horror movies. My wife gets so scared that I do not get to go to Horror movies that much anymore. There have been some I have snuck out a couple of times recently and saw. I think it is obviously for me, it is the classics such as The Omen (1976) and The Exorcist (1973). Even going back to the Hitchcock stuff, which is really cool. I thought The Paranormal Activity series was pretty cool recently. I even enjoyed White Noise (2005) with Michael Keaton. I also enjoyed the remake of House of Wax (2005) with Paris Hilton. It was not super scary, but I kind of dug the twist in it. I had forgotten about it being a remake. I will tell you this, the first time I saw The Blair Witch Project (1999), I thought it was so stupid, but I sort of fell in love with it.