Interview by: Mark Lacey
Photos: Robert Cavuoto and Adrian Hextall
MGM: Doug Aldrich’s career has spanned almost forty years and seen successful stints in Dio, Lion, Hurricane, Whitesnake, as well as his own projects, Bad Moon Rising, Burning Rain, and as a solo recording artist. But that journey all began as a bored eleven year old boy, trying to navigate his way through the summer.
Doug: At that time in the seventies, I didn’t even have a turntable. There was stuff on the radio, like Deep Purple’s Smoke on the Water, Led Zeppelin and stuff like that. Black Sabbath had War Pigs. But in the summertime around 74-75, with nothing to do, my little sister had a classical guitar and a book and I just thought I’d pick it up and see if I could manage my way through some chords. And it just resonated. My older sister had Jeff Beck’s Blow by Blow. That really just blew my head off. I bought Led Zeppelin II and was blown away. The guitar solo in ‘Heartbreaker’ was unbelievable to hear as a kid and I was just trying to get through learning chords and just having fun. That’s how it started. It was just out of nothing. I didn’t have anything to do one day; no other distractions. No computers, no telephones, no Internet, nothing. So, I just decided to pick up a guitar.
MGM: Picking up that guitar as an eleven year, has gone on to earn Doug a successful career. But he’s never lost sight of what drove him in those early days.
Doug: It was all for fun. It still is. I try not to think about it as a career. I try to think about it as though I’m still doing the same thing I was as a kid. I had a gold top Les Paul, and I could sit and watch TV and practise and just play for fun. It is my job, of course, but what a great job to have.
MGM: That career has now spawned well over 150 recordings from his time with Lion, and his solo work, through to the heady heights and arena tours with Whitesnake, and many musical collaborations throughout. But I remind Doug of his first professional recording; Mansfield’s 7” EP ‘Gonna Rock You’ released in 1983.
Doug: It was interesting. I got in the studio with these guys and we had some songs. That was actually the second time I’d been in the studio. But during the first time, this guy showed me how to give my guitar sound a bigger sound by putting a doubler on it. That’s that sound on that record. Now, I learned that sometimes a single guitar sounds bigger than two guitars, or sometimes you can put four guitars and play the same part and go for a deeper texture. But I think that was one guitar split. I haven’t heard that for 30 years at least. I got to see if I have it in my garage. It would be cool to hear.
MGM: Another of Doug’s early recordings that some fans of The Dead Daisies may be unfamiliar with is Hurricane’s 1990 album ‘Slave to the thrill’. Its cover caused some raised eyebrows at the time (look it up), leading to some hasty artwork changes, but the album was high energy and paired Doug with current Foreigner vocalist, Kelly Hanson.
Doug: I didn’t intend to join another band. I got a record deal with Lion with an English singer named Kal Swan, who was responsible for introducing Whitesnake to me back in ‘84-85. We got a deal in ‘86 with a label that just didn’t work out for us. But we made a really strong record. The first recording we did for them was for Transformers. And we made this album called Dangerous Attraction. They just wouldn’t support us going on the road, but we were on a different label in Japan and they put it out and they promoted it. So, we did really well there. And then in the US the parent company, Epic Records, gave us a video and we had done pretty well on MTV, so we had a little name, but we tried to get off that label and couldn’t. We put out another record on a small label to show that we were free and to get somebody else to take a look at us, but nobody would budge. Why sign a band when potentially there’s other bands like them now and you don’t want to be in a lawsuit. I was just wanting our band to make it. When our drummer got injured in a motorcross accident, I was like, all right, this is pretty much done. Prior to that, I had turned down the Dio gig and a band called Slaughter. But I just didn’t want to leave. I wanted to make it with my band. I never auditioned for Ozzy Osbourne or any of those gigs; I didn’t want to do that. But then our management said, well now that Lion’s pretty much done, why don’t you do Hurricane with us? They need a guitar player. We wrote half a dozen songs and went into the studio and made ‘Slave to the thrill’. And Kelly Hanson; what a singer, man. I’ve been very lucky to work with so many singers that are really very talented. Kelly is definitely one. He’s been in Foreigner for 20 years now. We actually just supported Foreigner at some shows, so I got to see Kelly.
MGM: Following a twelve-year stint in Whitesnake – where at times he shared the stage with future Daisies’ collaborators Marco Mendoza and Brian Tichy – Doug also toured with Glenn Hughes. When the Dead Daisies needed a temporary (and then permanent) guitarist in 2016, Doug was the obvious choice. Although it took a few tries to get him on board.
Doug: It’s weird how things work out. I was on tour with Glenn (Hughes) and doing a trio thing, and I got a call from the Dead Daisies that Richard (Fortus) had got in a motorcycle accident and wasn’t going to be able to do about two months of dates in Europe and Australia, I think. I only had a few more dates with Glenn, but I didn’t want to let him down, so I just said, I can’t do it. And then around Christmas time, after those tours, I got a call back and they said, this is not for everybody to know, but Richard and Dizzy are going to go back to Guns N Roses. They’re going to tour next year with Slash. Richard said, why don’t you call Doug and see what’s up? They said, we want to make a new record with you and tour, basically, if you’re into it. I said, are you kidding? All those guys are my bros. I spent a lot of time getting to know David prior to our actual first meeting, but I’ve known John Corabi since grade school. I’d known Marco for years, and Brian … we were in Whitesnake together and I was just blown away by him. So, I jumped at it. But the catalyst was Richard going to GNR.
MGM: But how aware of the Dead Daisies was Doug before joining?
Doug: I’d bump into Marco or we’d talk, and he said something about this thing he was doing, call The Dead Daisies. I didn’t really remember it much, but then there was a promotion for their version of Midnight Moses, the Alex Harvey song. When I was a teenager, in the clubs in New Jersey, you could scratch the date on your driver’s licence and change the numbers around. And I changed it to where I was 19 so I could go in these clubs and I saw this band playing called The Dead End Kids and they were doing this thing that reminded me of Kiss meets Alice Cooper meets Aerosmith. They were doing Midnight Moses and it was great. My buddy played bass in John’s band and they did Midnight Moses. So cut to 30 years later and here’s the Dead Daisies with John Corabi doing Midnight Moses as a cover song. That’s when I found out about them. Corabi pulled out the ace in his deck, because that was a great idea. That was one of the songs that I think set the Daisies off.
MGM: The Dead Daisies is definitely David Lowy’s brainchild; he’s the founder are only consistent member. But he’s an understated player, much like AC/DC’s Malcom Young, allowing his frontman and lead guitarist to take centre stage.
Doug: David’s a big part of the sound of the band. If you remove David’s guitar tracks from the songs, it doesn’t sound like the Dead Daisies. You got to have that attack that he brings. He’s an honest man in every way and he’s definitely an honest guitar player and it’s a lot of downstrokes, like that Aussie sound of bands like The Angels, Rose Tattoo and, of course, AC/DC. He brings it, and that sound has been a thread throughout all the Daisies’ albums. Now with Glenn in the centre, he’s got more room to take over the stage a little bit on his side, and I think he enjoys that.
MGM: the new album ‘Radiance’ was released in the autumn, and brought a mixture of high energy tracks, and Zeppelin-esque groove. It was a short album, and several tracks were aired during the US tour, even before release day. But Doug teases that there’s more songs to come …..
Doug: Some of the songs started off in 2020. Glenn had a few things that he asked if I wanted to help him with. We made some demos of about ten songs, and we were talking about doing a concept album. During the 2020 lockdown there was nothing to do, and Glenn was the only person I saw. Then in 2021, our album came out and we immediately started touring, and we kind of put the brakes on that album. And as schedules kept getting manipulated by the pandemic, we had a tour for February of this year, and it got pushed to May. So, we decided, well, let’s not waste any time, let’s make another album and we’ll have it in the can. And it turned out for us really well. Some of the stuff that’s heavier and darker was from the concept period, and then some of the more upbeat stuff was from stuff we wrote later. It turned into a good mix in the end. It’s a short album, ten songs, and 38-40 minutes. We do have three other songs that we recorded that have not been released. They’ll probably come out next year just as extras or something fun, and they’re really great.
MGM: With two albums under their belts featuring the Glenn / Doug / David line-up, the Daisies now have plenty of songs to choose from as they approach their UK tour. So will the set focus on new material, or will some of the older tracks still feature?
Doug: On this tour we’re still going to venture back because there are some songs that people like to hear and it’s nice to hear the way Glenn sings them. ‘Rise up’ with John from that ‘Burnt Down’ album recently popped up on my phone, and it sounds awesome. But it’s also different in the way Glenn does it, which also sounds awesome. I think we’re going to keep some of the older stuff, along with choice tracks from ‘Holy Ground’ and then the five singles off of this new album. And you can’t do a show with Glenn and not do Mistreated. Let him have a chance to blow. We’re going to do that for sure. There’s some other stuff that we’re talking about, but we don’t know exactly what it’s going to be until we get to rehearsal.
MGM: As the band land in the UK over the coming days, we’ll be in the throes of a cold spell. And with COVID raising its head again, does it put the guys off making the trip?
Doug: I grew up on the East Coast, so I love the English weather at this time of year. It’s definitely cold, but it’s good for going in a pub and having some shepherd’s pie and a beer, or tea in the afternoon. This whole covid thing is something that we have to live with. You can’t let it spoil our plans anymore. There were some people that said are you guys still coming because covid’s still kicking around and it’s winter time. It was like, that’s what we do. We play music. We’ve got our permits, we got a bunch of killer tunes, so we’re coming.
The UK and Ireland tour runs 4th – 15th December, with limited tickets available from: https://thedeaddaisies.com/shows/
3rd: Nottingham Rock City
4th: Manchester, O2 Ritz
6th: London, O2 Forum, Kentish Town
7th: Wolverhampton, KK’s Steel Mill
10th: Dublin, The Academy
11th: Belfast, Limelight
13th: Edinburgh, O2 Academy
15th: Bristol, SWX