September 15, 2015 Interview – Reb Beach of Whitesnake
There are a lucky few who get to live the dream of Rock-n-Roll. One of those fortunate and well aware of it is multiverse guitarist Reb Beach. Spending years as a studio musician working on records for everyone from Howard Jones to Twisted Sister, Beach has been a key member of Winger for almost three decade and fulfilled a dream of his own in 2002 when he joined up with Whitesnake. The longest standing member in the band, Beach has become leader David Coverdale’s right-hand man as they continue to be one of the best Rock-n-Roll bands on the planet. Releasing the highly charted Purple Album back in May, Whitesnake scorched venues across the USA all Summer, and now look to take the fever abroad well into 2016. Recently we sat down with the passionate Beach to talk his time in Whitesnake, their latest album, splitting time with Winger, performing live, and much more.
CrypticRock.com – You joined up with Whitesnake over a decade ago when the band reformed back in 2002. In that time you have been a part of regular touring and three studio records. First, tell us, what has your time with Whitesnake been like?
Reb Beach – I was in Dokken at the time, and it is pretty funny because we were scheduled to open for Whitesnake, and I heard that Whitesnake was looking for a guitar player, so I sent everything I had to the Whitesnake people and I ended up getting the gig. I had to call Don Dokken and say “Don, I am sorry, your opening for me now,” and that is how it went on that first tour. I told David that I wanted to be in Whitesnake so bad that I would play behind the amps, I did not care, I just wanted to be in Whitesnake. Now I have been in the band really longer than anyone else and seen lots of great musicians come and go. David just always gets the best people, the hottest guys playing. It is a joy to be out there playing big guitar arena Rock. It is kind of what I have been doing my whole life, and I love doing it.
CrypticRock.com – Right, and that is a pretty cool story how you became a part of Whitesnake. Besides working with Whitesnake, like you said, you also work with Dokken, you certainly keep yourself busy because you are also an active member of Winger now since 1987. Is it difficult to manage the different projects like that?
Reb Beach – Well, with Kip Winger, he just waits for me to be done with Whitesnake. With David, it is year on, year off, so whenever David takes a year off that is when Winger, luckily for me, swings back up again.
CrypticRock.com – That is great. It keeps you busy and it keeps you doing what you love to do, right?
Reb Beach – Sure does, I am lucky there is a lot of guys who are popular guitar players in the ’80s who are just painting houses right now.
CrypticRock.com – Right. It is a wonderful thing to have the longevity that you have, it is really special. Whitesnake recently released their twelfth overall studio record, The Purple Album. This is a very special record as it is re-recorded versions of classic Deep Purple tracks that David was originally part of. What was it like recording this collection of songs?
Reb Beach – Well, normally I would not have any idea. I had nothing to do with Forevermore (2011), or Good to Be Bad (2008), that was all Doug Aldrich’s role. Then when Doug left the band, I came in and took his place. I flew to David’s house and said, “Let me hear what you are doing,” and David had this Deep Purple idea and it was wicked. I was so happy because those songs are great guitar riff songs. That is what I am all about, if you listen to it, it is all about the guitar riff and that is the kind of stuff that I excel at. So, I went in there and we had some stuff already done.
There were parts that needed help; I changed all the keyboard parts, and I ended up changing guitar parts, and rearranging stuff. At the end of a couple weeks, David says he wants me to be “music director,” and I said, “Alright!” I lived with David Coverdale for six months, which was beautiful and it was really the odd couple, because David is a British aristocrat and he is just this giant Rockstar personality and I am just a slob, guitar playing, beer drinking, Oscar Madison. I would come out of my room with a hangover in the morning and David would be all, “Reb! How are you this fine morning?” (laughs) We were just really mismatched couple, but we worked so well together. We laughed the whole time and I really got to know David. In the twelve years I have been in the band, I had never really gotten to know David because he did all that stuff with Doug. He is a lovely guy, he treats me really well, and it has just been a wonderful experience making a record with him. Also, I got to sing with him, I was chosen to sing the Glen Hughes parts of the Deep Purple stuff. What a great honor it was to do duets with David Coverdale. That was for me – I could die a happy man.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, that sounds like a great experience there. The record has received a very positive response from fans and critics alike. Seeing David initially was a part the original recordings of the tracks all those years ago with Deep Purple and now he is revising them all with you, and the band, what was his emotion like? One can imagine you are reflecting on the past, but you are trying to put a new look on it. What was his take on everything?
Reb Beach – There were lots of reasons he did it, but part of the reason he did it was he got outvoted on a lot of that stuff because he was the new guy in the band. Therefore, there was a lot of musical decisions that were made that he did not agree with. So some of the stuff ,he changed it more to suit his tastes. Like the song “Gypsy,” he never liked the way the beat was a Swing beat, he wanted more straight ahead, so we did that. We did a lot of stuff. In the song “Burn,” he wanted a new solo section so that there would be two guitar solos in it. I went home and wrote a solo section for “Burn.” I brought it back, originally it was for me, but I gave it to Joel Hoekstra because I wanted to do the Ritchie Blackmore solo part. Joel ended up killing it on there, way better than I could.
CrypticRock.com – Wow, that is really interesting, that you added additions like that. It is really cool because the record came out excellent and you just mentioned Joel Hoekstra, he came into the band when Doug left and Joel is another phenomenal musician as well, what has his addition meant to the band?
Reb Beach – He is from a different world, he is from Broadway, Rock of Ages, and Trans-Siberian Orchestra. His parents were both musicians and all that was going on in their house was practicing all the time. The guy is like a machine, he comes in and he knows the parts better than everyone, even better than me, the music director. Joel is a perfectionist and he came in so prepared it was ridiculous. He can play anything, he is one of those guys like Paul Gilbert or Richie Kotzen who can play anything and execute it perfectly. He has really tightened up the band because he is just super tight, super on the beat, and we work on a lot of double solos. Doug and I are both kind of lazy when it came to that. Joel is not, Joel has a perfect ear and he came in and said, “Why don’t we do a double solo there?” I said, “Alright, well write it,” and he said, “Okay.” (laughs) We ended up having a lot more two guitar player interplay than on previous records.
CrypticRock.com – Cool, and Joel is a great guy too. The band recently wrapped up your North American Tour. How did the tour go?
Reb Beach – We have not been on a tour like this since 2003, that is for sure. Like you said, the record has gotten rave reviews. All of the live shows are getting rave reviews, David has not sung like this since 2003. He quit drinking and works out, eats really healthy, takes care of himself, and his voice is the proof. That is what this is really all about; people come to see David Coverdale. If he is having a rough night, then it does not sound as good. He has been killing it every night, the people flip out, and so does the band. When we hear his thunderous voice, and when he hits those high notes in “Still of the Night,” it just gives you chills. We have already sold out Wembley, and this thing looks to go well into 2016.
CrypticRock.com – That is great. As you said, David is on his A game, so I imagine that the band kind of feeds off that. Everyone is kind of on their A game, everyone is trying to be their best.
Reb Beach – Well, we have all been in bands where the singer is having a bad night. Were the singer has a cough or has a cold. It is not desirable when the guy everyone is there to see is having an off night. We have not had to do that with David because he really has his act together. Yes, of course you get off on it way more when the vocals are slamming, but we also have the best vocals that we have ever had in my opinion in the band by far.
I told David to hire Michele Luppi, who is an Italian singer, and he has got a bunch of albums out. He is well known there in Italy. He sent in a video that was super impressive. What really sold it for me is the guy sang in a Whitesnake cover band for years, so the guy knows every song already. He sounds just like David, so it is just like having two David’s up there.
CrypticRock.com – Well that is great, the tour will pick up in October in Japan. That is all positive. Besides the aforementioned Whitesnake and Winger, you have recorded with the likes of Dokken. Your musical collaborations are pretty extensive. You have even collaborated with Chaka Khan and Howard Jones in the past. With such a broad range of musical styles shared between these artists, what are some of the most important things you have learned about studio work through the years?
Reb Beach – Well, it started for me at Berkeley College of music. Where I never went to class, I did not learn how to read music, I blew of everything. What I did do was I hung around and I would eat a lot (laughs). I would hang around in the cafeteria, and in the cafeteria there was a musician in there. We got to talking and I got to know other musicians. They had these jam rooms, so every night we would get some guys together, and sit around at dinner asking each other what they played. I would learn from guys that knew how to play in a different style, all different kinds of styles, and whatever they were into they would show me. Every night we would jam to different kinds of music, like Jazz, or Rock, or Reggae.
That really helped me when I sort of became their go-to guy at Atlantic Studios. The reason that they used me as their go-to guy, I was really hungry, stupid, and cheap. I came in to do a session for Fiona when I was a singer-waiter in New York City. I heard about an audition for Fiona, so I went to the audition and I got it. Beau Hill was the Producer and he said, “How does $500 sound,” and I said, “Great!” After that, he told other Producers that there was this good looking, nice kid, played his ass off and does it for only $500, so I started just getting all the gigs. That did not last too long, I joined the union and ended up getting paid what everybody else got paid. That is how I got my first foot in the door though. That is how I learned the different styles, but generally they just used me for Rock stuff.
CrypticRock.com – It is wonderful that you had the opportunity to be part of all those different projects in some shape or form. It is very diverse. It is a great thing to have.
Reb Beach – It looks good on the resume. I got really sick of it. I did a Kenny Loggins record and that was the point where I went, “I need to do my own thing.” Enter Kip Winger, and that is how that started. Beau Hill said you guys should write together. He said, “Reb you can come up with the guitar riffs in seconds, and Kip, your writing is very electronic, it needs a human feel,” and he was right. The first day we got together, we wrote “Seventeen,” “Time to Surrender,” and “Madalaine.” I remember walking home thinking I had just met the most brilliant man on the planet. I did not even know I could write a song until this guy taught me how to write a song.
CrypticRock.com – Well, everything worked out for the best. Looks like college worked out even though you did not go to class (laughs).
Reb Beach – I did not go to class, I never ever went. I only went for a couple semesters. When Winger hit big, they put me on the cover of their magazine “Graduate Reb Beach.” I am not a graduate, I only went for a couple of semesters (laughs).
CrypticRock.com – That is very funny. Tell us, what are some of your personal musical influences?
Reb Beach – I go through phases. The first Aerosmith albums were huge. I learned how to play guitar on the album. I am more into playing guitar with, first, Molly Hatchet, believe it or not. I learned every note of that. I did not know how to solo until I played that record and taught myself how to solo. Aerosmith just changed my life. The solo playing of Brad Whitford is so dripping with feeling. His note choices were so unique, like nothing I had ever heard. That was huge, I was into all the guitar players of the ’70s like Peter Frampton and Ronnie Montrose. When I went to Berkeley, I got into the Jazz fusion world. I always liked the inside stuff, I never really loved music that was too out there. I am pretty much a meat and potatoes kind of guy.
CrypticRock.com – Well it still seems that you have a diversity of influences there. As you get older, you listen to different things.
Reb Beach – I do not listen to a lot of music anymore. I am busy just writing my own music, and sometimes I will hear something that will really inspire me, but very rarely does that happen now. Actually, David has turned me onto some very old stuff that I had never heard because I was born in ’63, so I missed out. I was listening to The Monkees so I missed out on Jeff Beck and Cream. David has been turning me onto that. David is a music aficionado. He has one of the largest iTunes libraries of iTunes music in the world. I think he is up there in the top 20 of having the biggest library of music of anybody. He has a tone of ipods. He really is a music lover. It is unbelievable, he really loves music. He listens to it all day long, he does not like silence. When he comes to the dressing room, he turns on the music immediately.
CrypticRock.com – That is pretty cool. I had one last question for you. 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?
Reb Beach – Like zero. I do not like Horror movies, I never have. Never ever. I do not get Horror movies, sorry. I am a movie buff though. I saw a remake of The Omen (2006) with Liev Schreiber that I thought he did a really good job of.
CrypticRock.com – Excellent, do you have a particular genre that you do enjoy?
Reb Beach – I am into Marvel. The Avengers (2012), Thor (2011), and Iron Man (2008). I eat that stuff up, I love Action movies. I am a sucker for a good Drama, a good court room drama, I love Mission Impossible (1996). I like really cool movies like The Usual Suspects (1995), Thrillers and who-done-its, all that stuff. The only thing I do not like is Horror movies.
CrypticRock.com – That is perfectly okay. The genre is not for everyone. Do you like Sci-Fi movies at all?
Reb Beach – I am a geek, so a huge Star Trek fan. I grew up with Star Trek. I used to watch it with my dad every Thursday night at 8 PM. That was our time together, and Captain Kirk would get laid every night, he was my hero (laughs). I love these things. When the first Star Trek came out on the PC game, I became a pro at it. I started playing with people all around the world and destroying them. I am just a huge Star Trek fan, but anything in space is really cool.