Rock legends Whitesnake, fronted by singer and songwriter David Coverdale, are playing four gigs in Norway on their current «Good To Be Bad»-world tour. The European leg kicked off in Sandnes on Thursday night, before moving on to Larvik (Friday), Trondheim (Saturday) and Bergen (Monday).
NRK Hordaland's rock journalist Bård Ose sat down for a chat with the former Deep Purple-frontman about the state of Whitesnake, the revival of classic rock and some reflection on the Purple-days.
And which Whitenake-classic is facing retirement on this tour. Read on to find out.
OSE: We’ve been waiting a long time to see you and your band here in Bergen, so this is really exciting for us.
COVERDALE: It’s really exciting for us too. Normally, other than Skånevik (Blues Festival), I am usually invited to play in Oslo. But this is an adventure for me, i get the opportunity to see even more viking land.
OSE: Well, Bergen is a very friendly city.
COVERDALE: I am really looking forward to it.
OSE: What’s the biggest challenge for you in rock & roll today? You’ve pretty much done it all, you’ve been all over the world and you’ve been having great success.
COVERDALE: Well, I don’t look upon it as challenges, i look at things as opportunities. For instance, the opportunity to make a new record so many years later, when i never really planned on that, and then to see the album do so very well - and continue to do well... That was a great opportunity for me.
Many years ago, i would only tour every three years, so all the songs stayed fresh. Where as now, we pretty much tour every year. So some of the songs get a bit old, you know, to perform. So to have new songs, to inject fresh energy, has been a fantastic opportunity. If I ever use the expression "challenge", it will be to maintain a level of performance, be able to sing and perform up to people’s expectations.
OSE: Did it surprise you that this new album was such a success?
COVERDALE: Yeah. It was a very welcome surprise. All you can do in anything, is do your very best at any given time or situation you’re in, which has always been my life’s philosophy. And it just worked. My partner Doug Aldrich and I, I feel wrote songs that were a great mix of the character and identity of Whitesnake – without trying to. It was the way it developed. I think God and the angels were very helpful to us. And the viking spirit!!
OSE: When you look out at the audience,.. 30 years ago, there was a lot of young people in the audience. And now there is a lot of young people in the audience. There’s a new generation out there. What do you think about it?
COVERDALE: It’s interesting. I first noticed this interesting fact several years ago in Scandinavia, actually it was in Sweden. I was looking at the audience, and going: «Wow, these people look like 14-15-16 years old». And it was easily a third of the audience. I had an opportunity to talk to some of these people, and they said that they don’t get the kind of fullfilment from more recent or modern rock than they do from what people call classic rock. So they are very, very welcome to come to Whitesnake-shows.
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I was having lunch the other day with Paul Stanley from Kiss, and both of us agreed that this is an incredibly special time to be a classic rock musician. And neither of us would be thrilled at the idea of being a young band, trying to start out now in these unusual times. We’re all very grateful that we still have this opportunity to perform to enthusiastic crowds.
OSE: Would you imagine this 30 years ago?
COVERDALE: Absolutely not. I had no plans for this at all.
OSE: What were you planning? A quiet life?
COVERDALE: Well, I had retired several years ago, and moved to Lake Tahoe, it’s a big mountain lake. It’s very pretty, a mountainous forest area, no industry. So yes, it is very quiet. But Whitesnake is a continuing business. Each year there’s anniversary or there’s a compilation record coming out. So I am actually working. I only made the decision to go back and perform five or six years ago, and only for a few months a year – as a therapy for me. And it just turned into another big adventure. So I just roll with it.
OSE: And you still enjoy it?
COVERDALE: Oh, totally. Or else I wouldn’t be doing it.
OSE: What advice would you have given the young David Coverdale today?
COVERDALE: Do exactly as what you did. Make the same mistakes and enjoy the same successes.
OSE: It seems like you were at a crossroads when you were making the album «Northwinds».
COVERDALE: Yes. When I left Deep Purple, there wasn’t a great deal of support from the Purple management. It was still a kind of feeling that i was the new boy, even though I’d been responsible for a lot of the songs in the three years I’d been with Deep Purple. I was the last horse that they would be willing to put money on in a race. So when I made my first solo record, it was like all these different kinds of music that I enjoyed. With Deep Purple, it was easy for me to write in that direction of hard rock. But I loved soul, I loved funk, I loved the blues, you know. «Northwinds» is much more of a blueprint of what Whitesnake became.
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OSE: And you open the album with a ballad. You seem very humble.
COVERDALE: Well, even more so after starting whitesnake.com. You know, I don’t think so highly of myself that I think my music is important to people’s life. But when I had an interactive website, it was astonishing to me and incredibly humbling to hear how my songs or my career had been such an important part of som many people’s life. It’s a remarkable feeling to know that. So I am very respectful of that.
OSE: You’re also very personal in most of your songs, and they are very easy to relate to.
COVERDALE: I just don’t name names, but most of my songs – even some of the sexy ones – are mostly diaries. They have to come from some inspiration. Now we have a song like «Here I Go Again», which is this huge power-rock anthem around the world, but it was written about the breakdown of my first marriage. But every time I hear somebody’s «Here I Go Again».story, it’s always very personal to them. When people ask me what is this or that song about, I say «It’s whatever you want it to be about». I am more interested in hearing their story, because I know my story for that song.
OSE: On our weekly radio show «Radio Rock», the one song by Deep Purple people want to hear over and over again, is «Soldier Of Fortune».
COVERDALE: Yeah, there’s an interesting story to that song. Ritchie and I really enjoyed the song. But the musicians in Deep Purple were very reluctant. They didn’t buy the song at all. So Ritchie and I made a demo to present the idea. With just the two of us standing there, performing the song, they didn’t get it. So we made a demo, and they went: «Oh, OK. Let’s do it.» But that was something that was very difficult for Ritchie. He said: «That’s the last time we’re ever gonna do anything like that». And I think that was the big seed of him wanting to leave. I love the song, and it’s another one that’s developed a life of its own.
OSE: It seems like you have restarted your career at least three times – first time after Deep Purple, second time after the original Whitesnake broke up. And then now again.
COVERDALE: I also stopped Whitesnake to work with Jimmy Page for a couple of years. I’d been an admirer of Page since before Led Zeppelin, I was a huge Yardbirds-fan, and we’ve maintained a great friendship. But yeah, I think I have retired more times than Frank Sinatra.
OSE: What can we expect in Bergen on Monday?
COVERDALE: I think you’re gonna find a good balance of Whitesnake. Also, this year we have the 25th anniversary of «Slide It In», and the 20th anniversary of «Slip Of The Tongue», so obviously we’ll be playing some of those songs. It will be a good mix. And I think this may be the time to retire «Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City», after so many years. It’s available on DVD, on live records, in people’s memories. It will give me an opportunity to play even more songs.