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David Coverdale - Whitesnake / Deep Purple
2000 - On the phone with David Lee Wilson

To write a story as moving and as complicated as the one that David Coverdale has written for himself would take the combined literary powers of New York, London and LA and still that story could never strike as convincing a shape as the real thing. From penniless obscurity in the North of England to fronting international superstars Deep Purple in the mid-seventies and then on through a cycle of obscurity and fame so vicious that the middle of the road almost never felt the touch of Coverdale's feet. Finally, nearly thirty years on, David Coverdale has found that he can comfortably walk on any road of his choosing and never have to worry that an explanation is needed.

As Coverdale rightly observes, his is a voice that "can go from a whisper to a scream" simply by desiring it to do so. Coverdale's desires and abilities are fully explored with boundless confidence on "Into The Light," his first "solo" album in over two decades. There is a genuine contentedness to "Into The Light" that was never fully realized in his previous output as a member of Whitesnake, Deep Purple or in his collaboration with Jimmy Page. This contentedness made for an atmosphere where Coverdale was obviously able to pull songs directly from his soul with no roadblocks, compromises or consideration to anything other than letting that song be born naturally. "Into The Light" is twelve pieces of Coverdale, whole and pure.

As Coverdale revealed to me in a recent conversation most of his high spiritedness is largely a function of moving business and Rock stardom to the fringes of his existence replacing it with a more than fulfilling family life. In fact, it was a request from his four year old and "Into The Light" co-contributor, Jasper, for Daddy to come take a swim that preceded our conversations end. David Coverdale is indeed a happy man and it was a delightful treat to speak with him about his journey into the light.

DAVID LEE: We are getting pelted with a full barrage of winter here in Detroit David but as you are in those beautiful Colorado mountains I would guess that snow is something that you are used to by now?
DAVID COVERDALE: I am indeed. I have just walked out onto the deck to overlook this incredible, we are blessed with a phenomenal view here which overlooks the entire lake and the mountains and the sun is blisteringly hot, it is magnificent! It is postcards from God on a daily basis, it really is. You know, Detroit was the first place that I ever played in America.

K2K: Was it really?
DC: Yes. Cobo Hall with Deep Purple and I will never forget it. Two nights at Cobo, breathtaking. I landed in New York and then Blackmore and me flew over together to Detroit, that was in the days when there wasn't enough fuel to get you all the way.

K2K: Was that in the famous Purple plane?
DC: Yes, that is right, the "Starship."

K2K: Well, to hear you speak after all this time and to listen to the new album, you are obviously in a very happy place both physically and mentally?
DC: It is the best time of my life. I have had my tenth anniversary with my Mrs. and she has blessed me with a beautiful four year old little boy who, sadly, kicked the living daylights out of the both of us last night so we are running on maybe five minutes of sleep and as soon as you and I are finished I am sneaking off to bed baby! (laughs) I am "shagged" as Mr. Powers would say.

K2K: I know the feeling all too well. You are also bringing this record to America sans any major record company so that has to be a bit of work for you as well?
DC: Yes. But let me tell you, this is the most positive feeling I have ever known and the safest I have ever felt. I mean, I have an incredibly good band, I have a foundation to launch from and the support of my partner whose opinion is really the only one I care about and without her I couldn't do what I do. There is no distraction here other than this month long trip that I have been on, well, we have actually been promoting this album for three months and it has been extraordinarily hard to be away from them.

K2K: I do believe that I have heard you say that there will not likely be a tour for this album so you won't have to be away from the home and family for many long stretches as a result?
DC: If it is meant to happen David, it will happen and that is my philosophy. I am a totally passionate professional and for most of my life I have had a career with a private life that sort of bubbled around it or sort of imposed itself on it, if you understand what I mean. Whereas now, I have a private life and the career is secondary and it is a wonderful reversal. It doesn't compromise my dedication or whatever but first things first. I am avoiding the overt corporate route and doing this myself so hopefully from little acorns Oak trees will grow. I want to see how my work is received and if it is embraced then the next step will be logical but before making a commitment to musicians and promoters I would like to see if America has missed me as much as I have missed it.

K2K: It would seem, even at this early date, that the answer is definitely "Yes" David because your song, "Slave" is getting great play across the country.
DC: I have got to tell you man, nobody is believing what we have pulled off! The second week and we are at number two most added at rock radio in America, which is breathtaking. No indie has ever achieved that so there are a lot of people sitting up and paying attention but my dilemma is actually getting it to the stores. I am involved with good people but as I say, there are a lot of bases to cover. It is interesting now that I have this philosophy were I have a private life and a career that bubbles around it but then I choose to start my own record label! (laughs) It is twenty-four hours a day and seven days a week but as I say my family is incredibly supportive and I have got very good people around me and we will be adding as we go to try and build this up into something a little more than a cottage industry.

K2K: You have obviously pressed the family into service in different aspects because I do believe that this is Mrs. Coverdale who graces the inside cover of the disc?
DC: Well, she is my inspiration. She has gotten me out of writing negative songs about women, it isn't worth writing about anymore. My son actually does shakers on the record. Yeah, I am using these big African shakers and Jasper is using the Little Mermaid plastic ones! They work together, so when you look at the musicians lineup you see "David and Jasper." That's it baby! But, he is going to be nailing me for percentages now! (laughs)

K2K: Is there an endorsement deal in the works for little Jasper?
DC: Oh sure! "Sponsored by Disney," If only, man, if only! (laughs)

K2K: Did you record this record in your own studio?
DC: I recorded half of my record at home. I work very early in the morning, very early. A lot of people would be shocked at how early. Then I hang with my boy, go swimming, do a little bit more work which is the way I prefer to work now.

K2K: This is your first "solo" record since '78 so was it a bit hard for you to come from under that canopy of Whitesnake to write an album?
DC: Well, yeah but all of my stuff really has been very simple and it sounds ridiculous but it is the simple stuff that usually escapes us because we are conditioned from childhood to look for choices but this was natural and easy. One of the things that I felt very strongly was that I had become a victim of the image that I created. The three elements that I embrace to express myself as an artist are Rock, Soul and Blues and that was the initial concept for Whitesnake but the more successful Whitesnake became and the more attached to my work, what people would call "guitar heroes" became the emphasis was infinitely more on the Rock, certainly so in the late eighties. With the phenomenal success that I achieved with Whitesnake I suddenly realized that this was not why I had gotten into it. I got into music to express myself and a lot of the time with Whitesnake I would be sitting with my piano or guitar and just letting the mood take me wherever and I would say, "Oh my God this is not Whitesnake" and I would just throw it out. It was obviously something that wanted to come out and that was that situation so instead of writing these songs to fit a fixed lineup I wrote the songs just as I felt them and then actively looked for musicians who would be appropriate to bring the songs to life. I achieved a sound from these different musicians like they had worked together for twenty years and none of them really knew each other. It is a testament to a workaholic bastard! (laughs)

K2K: Was it somewhat of a bittersweet situation to have worked so long and so hard with Whitesnake only to have the sound completely changed for its two biggest albums and then ultimately cease to exist at all immediately after those albums?
DC: Well, you must remember that America was only familiar with the last four years of Whitesnake where it was actually a twenty-year project. Whitesnake sold extraordinary amounts of records, actually it sold more records than Deep Purple, which is breathtaking. Until David Geffen called me in '84 I didn't really work America as Whitesnake, I worked the rest of the world. In fact in '84 I had broken all attendance records and merchandise records in Europe but I still lost three grand! My first marriage was in tatters and then David Geffen called up and said, "It is about time that you took America seriously." There was nothing to keep me in London so rather than taking pot shots at America from across the pond I decided to relocate and had an extraordinary four or five years. Yes, though it did extraordinary well prior to that America really was the last frontier and I must say, America really did seem to like the 'Snake. We still get airplay on the radio, the response was phenomenal.

K2K: And now here you go again on your own? (laughs)
DC: That is one of the interesting things about all this, I have always been corporate in the rest of the world, I am with EMI records in the rest of the world, so I can only do this in the United States and Canada. I am the longest surviving artist on EMI at twenty-seven years. All the Beatles moved to different labels though that is the mainstay of EMI records. I haven't even got a bloody watch! Goes to show you 'eh! (laughs)

K2K: They are probably waiting for you to turn fifty with them.
DC: Yeah and then it is probably going to be a Swatch! "Yeah, here you go, pick a color." I am feeling like the Lewis and Clark of Rock here even though a lot of people are telling me that many people are going this way because of all the corporate interference. It is bordering, well, not bordering it is gluttonous. You know yourself that when I put the word out two years ago that I wanted to start working America again the first people to come to the table wanted Whitesnake of course but how many version of "Still of the Night" do you want? I could dig my ex-wife up and see if she wants to roll across the Range-Rover, not likely! And I want my hood ornament back! (laughs) The other ones just wanted too much from me, you know that I have been very fortunate to keep control of my publishing and my work and I wasn't prepared to give that away. That belongs to my family and in the event of my demise they will benefit not some faceless, nameless executive. If people would have discussed a partnership I would have been more than interested. It would have helped me immensely because I really do want to maintain the philosophy of what we discussed at the beginning, a private life. When I work I work very hard and I don't actually have to work, it is just that I love writing.

K2K: Most artists, when asked, claim that their current project is their best and what made them feel most artistically fulfilled...
DC: I am sorry to sound cliché but this is. I can paraphrase something that my wife said a couple of months ago, it gives her inestimable pleasure to see me sitting down and actually enjoying my work. Normally, I will finish a piece of work or I will write one song or a couple of songs whereas this, I just put it all on and dug in. It is consistent and I am actually getting an opportunity to use the instrument that I have been blessed with which is the voice that goes from a whisper to a scream instead of just the scream. I am really digging it with out the restrictions of writing for a fixed identity. It is incredible what is coming out.

K2K: Having the opportunity to do exactly what you want does that mean that you may revisit things from the past say stuff you did with Deep Purple or on those early solo albums or even the early Whitesnake stuff?
DC: Well, I don't know. A guy that I worked with, I am sure you are familiar with John Kalodner?

K2K: Of course.
DC: Well, I really had phenomenal success with some of the re-recordings of my old songs like "Here We Go Again" was brand new to America in '87 but I had a hit with it all over the world seven years before. But that stuff is done and there was a lot of stuff that artistically I wasn't satisfied with but I am infinitely more interested in channeling the new stuff that is coming out because that stuff is pertinent now. Rather than those songs that were about different people and different times. Most of my songs were little mini-diaries or documents from particular episodes it is just that I don't name names. As I say, "Into The Light" is all about my wife but if her name was all over it you couldn't sing that tune to your wife or girlfriend unless she is also called Cindy. (laughs) There are not a lot of Cindy's in Japan so. . .

K2K: Have you always been cognoscente of the effect that your music has had on your fans and do you consider that when making musical statements?
DC: Well, since I have put up this website I have been getting the most incredible stuff from all over the world. From how they have grown up with me and my work and how it has helped them through particular crises or whatever, it is breathtaking information to have. It is the first time that these people have had direct contact and it is an extraordinarily positive experience for me and at this time of my life and career to be reading them. The support that I have received from these people is part of the reason that I am standing in this house! I take nothing for granted. Music is such an intensely powerful tool if used in a positive way, it can really support a sense of community but a lot of the music that I am hearing now is promoting separation and I just can't endorse anything that preaches anger, hatred and violence. I can understand a certain percentage of the artists are legitimately angry but does, "Get over it" resonate at all? We have all been angry now and again but there is a talent involved in expressing it.

K2K: The anger doesn't bother me as much as the fact that their anger is pointless and direction-less. . .
DC: Or fashionably angry?

K2K: Yes, exactly.
DC: Yeah, well look, it is getting closer and closer to the Warhol-ism of everyone having their fifteen minutes of fame but when I started, music was in five year cycles but I have seen that diminish over the years. I am just about to do part two of my West Coast stuff and DJs are just sick to death of the abrasive stuff that they are having to play so I don't think that you are going to see it last. And I am not sure that people get married to that stuff. (laughs) "Oh, look honey they are playing our song, 'I hate You, Do you hate me?'" The record companies are to blame for over-saturating the market with whatever is fashionable until people are sick of it and then they move on. They keep young people forever and hopelessly in debt and utterly career compromised from that flash in the pan.

K2K: That is another problem that you have already been able to avert by being your own company I suppose?
DC: I know that for a fact from just sitting down with some of my closest friends and even some big shot executives. I have always been able to mingle with not only musicians but people behind the scenes, I realized very early that you have to have a dialog with these people in order to be a player so I know first hand that there is not a great deal of sensitivity when it comes to relating to the artists so my vibe that I try to maintain is art first, commerce second whereas with them it is all commerce. Then the mergers that are going on now are so ridiculous that in about three years you are going to only have three doors to knock on if you are looking for a deal. If they all turn you down you only have two choices, go home and run a warm bath and get the razor blades out or start your own record company. With the potential of technology now you have got a studio at your computer and then you have the Internet to put it on sale. But it is costing me a great deal of money because I am not starting over if you know what I am saying. I am just starting print now and print is notoriously slow in America. I would do interviews ten years ago that I would see seven years ago. Or I have actually seen a lot of interviews that I haven't done, which is always very interesting. The rest of the world has weekly press so it is different. So, it is just reintroducing myself and a lot of people that I have been meeting and talking to, men and women, who lost their cherry to the "Slide it In" record! (laughs) So, I have evidently effected some peoples consciousness!

Still, I am not closing the door on a potential partnership but it would have to be a partnership, I can't go the traditional route anymore. You just have no control and if you piss them off they are just not going to back you. Now, I am trying to respond to bulletins on my website where people haven't been able to get the album in Grand Forks or whatever so that is going to be a situation that I have to keep my eye on but this is just an incredible source of information for me. Nobody wants to be the bearer of bad tidings because the messenger always gets killed, it is historical. I can actually see this all first hand now and this promotional team that I have, they are all team players.

K2K: Well, I know it is work but there is certainly a market there that has been waiting a while to hear something from you.
DC: A lot of people, surprisingly young people, have been calling me when I do interviews on air and writing to me, people in their twenties, so it is a bit of a shock to me. Sadly, a lot of them don't have credit cards to order it from the website. . .

K2K: (Laughs)
DC: No, no, no, I am not being mercenary! (laughs) I am just saying that this is their dilemma because if they can't get it in the store then they are stymied so I have got to try and get it in the stores. Of course I am coming out now at the height of, you know, "Brittany Spears sings Felice Navidad" or whatever and everybody in the world has Christmas product so hopefully from little acorns that oak will grow but I know it will be slow but I am in it for the long haul. The weirdest thing is that the more successful that it is becoming the more money that I am having to throw at it. (laughs) I called my wife a few weeks ago and said, "Congratulations you have just been the brief owner of fifty Fender guitars." Because now that I am the record company I am having to give radio competition prizes. My God, I have never bought so many lunches and dinners in my entire life!

K2K: What about your partnerships with the musicians you surround yourself with, has that changed any since Whitesnake?
DC: Have you gotten into the performances on the record?

K2K: Oh yes. Earl Slick is playing pretty hot on it, that is for sure.
DC: Yeah, and Doug Bossi is a hotshot man too but nobody has ever heard of him. He has a very minimal body of work but my God is he hot here. Well, I love 'em. I really do but it is a lonely old business being a writer. One of the words that I am preaching now is "cooperation." I see the record companies' actively fighting computer technology instead of working with them. If they tear down Napster there is going to be another hundred or a thousand ready to jump in their place. Do you know what it reminds me of?

K2K: What is that?
DC: It reminds me when VHF came on the scene and the movie companies were screaming, "Nobody is going to go to the movies anymore!" Now it is the whole support system and it keeps the movie business alive. It has become their best friend but twenty years ago it was their worst enemy. Cooperate, work together on it man!

K2K: What of this never ending rumor that you will join Van Halen?
DC: David Lee Coverdale here! (laughs)

K2K: So, has that rumor become tiresome to deal with yet?
DC: Oh dear it is everywhere! Now I have my website going so instead of me doing interviews every three years in the rest of the world at least you will be able to ask me those questions there and be able to get that nonsense out of the way.

K2K: Here is something else, I recently received a copy of a disc that was put out by a collection of your former band mates in Whitesnake, I believe that they are calling themselves The Snakes. Do you have any thought on that whole deal?
DC: Oh, yes, yes. Well, the sad thing is that I only worked with these guys for maybe three years and they haven't gone any further forward since then. Interestingly enough somebody told me that they had found a singer who sounds more like me than me! (laughs) I think he is great! But they must have thought that they had died and gone to heaven. They don't get it though, Whitesnake was always Mr. Coverdale's little boy. The way I deal with the audience and the way I write and the songs that I write, that is Whitesnake. They were resoundingly unsuccessful and at the moment they are working as "A Company Of Snakes" and they are reworking old songs but their issue isn't mine and if they are happy, fine but they cannot call it Whitesnake because without me, it ain't! Thin Lizzy ain't Thin Lizzy without Phil. I used to say that there is room for everybody but now it is so over-saturated there doesn't seem to be anymore. Though, I have no doubt that some unknowing, insensitive people will be whacking my album in the "Metal" bins but there you are.

K2K: Speaking of former band members, there are a few in that band now too.
DC: Yeah. You know it is interesting too because my bass player is actually doing that tour with them, Marco Mendoza. He is a phenomenally talented player.

K2K: So there are three former 'Snakes in Thin Lizzy now, John Sykes, Tommy Aldridge and Marco Mendoza, you are a finishing school for road musicians! (laughs)
DC: They are all great players.

K2K: Again, it is obvious that you have a new attitude that is significantly lighter than on previous records, you sound happy David! (laughs)
DC: Oh, well look at the title of the record, "Into The Light." I have no regrets. For the last couple of years and with the safety that I am feeling within my family, the love and support from my wife, it is a whole new world for me. I have no bitterness, no regrets. Everything that I have done whether it was good or bad or whatever experience I have had was absolutely necessary. I think that we are all given challenges and it has never been easy for me David. At the height of success and I have been successful for thirty years now, it has never been a walk in the park. You know I will have wonderful moments of respite and have a beautiful home or whatever that I can enjoy but it has always been a challenge, it has always been hard work but bring it on! I hear so many people use the phrase, "Well, I am only human" as an excuse when it should be a challenge. It should be something to be proud of not a bloody excuse. That is our mission, to find out who we are, and it is much easier for us to distract ourselves with peripheral aspects like drugs and alcohol and you are only disguising who you are, you are masking yourself from whatever issues you should really take on. I don't think that God gives us more than what we can deal with, it just seems overwhelming for a time and I have been there. I just have incredible faith. I have never had any spiritual guidance until recently but I have always maintained faith.

K2K: Wonderful! And you have definitely managed to communicate that spirituality through your music, now better than ever I would say.
DC: Yes indeed. You know, a lot of the times that I thought that I was growing, I wasn't. That is one of the things that goes along with this "safety." When my father started to manifest in me after the birth of my son, I am an only child and I have lost both of my parents now, so it brought up a great deal of issues with me and when my father started to come out of me in the form of a lack of patience or whatever with my son, and with the foundation of the security I feel with my wife I felt safe enough to actually go back to the root of it. One of the things that I feel very strongly about is that in order to go forward you have to be able to go back to the root and take it from there, to confront it. I know for a fact that any human has more memory than even the most powerful computer, we never forget anything, we just suppress it and hide it in this little nook or this little crack and then carry it around. I will be eternally grateful for my son's birth for doing that, it has led me on an incredibly, extraordinarily powerful path into the light and out of the darkness. It feels incredible in the most cosmic way. For as tired as I am sounding to you now if you stuck a plug up my ass I could light up my village! (laughs) My optimism and positive energy is like I have never known it before. It is self-discovery and it is a wonderfully incredible journey.

Visit David Coverdale online at: http://www.davidcoverdale.com

Written by David Lee Wilson

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