By Jeb Wright
Doug Aldrich has made quite a name for himself in the world of hard rock and heavy metal. The golden-locked virtuoso is known for his lightning fast guitar solos, licks, phrasing and flair on the six-string axe. After perfecting his rock and blues chops with the likes of Burning Rain, DIO and Whitesnake, Doug has now teamed up with a couple of melodic rockers, Deen Castronovo of Journey and Night Ranger’s Jack Blades in the band Revolution Saints.
Night Ranger? Journey? Doug Aldrich? In some ways this could be like an episode of Sesame Street’s “One of these things is not like the other.” In truth, those bands have awesome guitarists as well, but their tunes just happen to appeal more to mainstream FM radio than Ronnie James Dio’s ever did!
(Copy Editor’s Note) Ace Collins: Hey Jeb, Ace here… you know the guy that corrects your spelling errors?
Jeb: Uh, yeah? Ace…I don’t know if you noticed but I am trying to write an intro here to explain how a hard rocker like Doug fits into a more melodic rock band, like Revolution Saints… and I am nailing it.
Ace: Well, sure... whatever you say. Doug’s in a new band; it rocks. We get it. I mean I sorta read your words, at least enough to correct your fuck-ups. Castronova? C-mon, man….
Jeb: Ace, what do you want?
Ace: Are you going to talk about the whole ‘Dee Snider’ situation? You know, how he called out Doug for being a member of Whitesnake after their breakthrough success, as a hanger-on? Or are you just going to kiss everyone’s artistic asses, as usual?
Jeb: To be fair, Ace, that is not what Dee did, as such.
Ace: Ummm…. He was being a dick and he called him out. It’s not a secret, Jeb, it’s on Twitter. Hey, we all may have sent out an email, left a voice-message, posted to Facebook or tweeted something we would like to retrieve and erase. Hell, I sent a drunken email to my ex-girlfriend one time, forgetting my wife was looking over my shoulder… oh… maybe another time with that story.
Jeb: Get to the point...
Ace: Okay. Look… the Twisted Sister dude that was more famous for his blue eye shadow than his vocal ability would probably like to have his latest comment disappear from everyone’s mind. But to Doug’s credit, he was top-of-mind when Dee was looking erroneously for an example for his topical tweet… and Doug was quick to brush it off.
I am sure we can all think of some old rock band doing the ‘Corn Dog Circuit’ that has one original member that is 70 years old, and the 25 year old drummer states he is IN that band… technically, ya… Dee, I see your point, Doug was not in the WS band when they attained their initial break-out success… and since this is ‘Merica, you get to tweet about your thoughts…
Jeb: This is going to be interesting.
Ace: Here is MY thought (thank you, ‘Merica)… let me just wander over here to YouTube, and queue up a little video of David C. and the boys… Okay, so I admit it isn’t Sykes, or Ansley, and they aren’t playing a top 20 tune with a half-naked girl on the hood of a Jaguar…
But… You wanna know what I DO see when I watch Whitesnake’s - Love Will Set You Free ?????? David C, of course… With DOUG ALDRICH, MICHAEL DEVIN, REB BEACH and BRIAN TICHY… OMG… watch, listen… be amazed.
Jeb: Here it comes readers… here is why I just can’t let Ace speak…
Ace: If you were to tie Dee Snider to a chair and make him watch this video, his dick would shrivel with comparative musical impotence and embarrassment from his big mouth (or thumbs, as the tweeting case may be…). But as Doug would insist, we are not here to compare… apples, oranges.
Jeb: I get it Ace. I get it. But, you know, we have an intro here. Doug is doing more important things than talking about a misguided Tweet.
Ace: Damn, you’re a kiss ass to that guy. I mean I like him too, as you can tell by this rant. But this is the INTERNET, man. This kind of stuff goes on. Doug will be just fine. Get over your man-crush. Your wife must be very disturbed about this.
Jeb: I do not have a man crush.
Ace: Do so.
Jeb: Look, are you done? We have an interview to proof here.
Jeb: Okay, you.
Ace: Doug may not want me to bring up the obvious but just remember this: Without me, his name would have appeared in this interview as “Aldridge” instead of “Aldrich.”
Jeb: Okay—Doug is not going to be happy with this but I will deal with it, as I always do when you piss people off. Go ahead and finish your rant, Ace. I admit, I kind of agree with you on this one and am even looking forward to see what you’re going to say.
Ace: Thank you, Jeb. All I am trying to say it that the band Twisted Sister has been relatively static since the 80’s, so Dee’s critical comment comes from that insecurity. As far as TS goes, they either get-along well, can’t find anything better to do musically, or no one of Doug’s caliber has offered to join them on their next ‘Maybelline Tour’ and try to resuscitate their creativity… so, that allows Dee to call Doug out?
In my wandering imagination, the entire Twisted Sister personnel, listening from the couch to their no-longer-relevant 5 vinyl albums from the 80’s, are on Dee’s answering machine right now saying, “Don’t drag us into this… you are messing with actual musicians!”
Jeb: Thanks for that. Ladies and gentleman, that was ACE COLLINS, Rock Star at Large... Now back to the intro…
Read below to see how Doug takes this all in stride. In addition to Dee Snider comments, Doug also goes in-depth behind the making of the self-titled debut album by Revolution Saints, discusses his day job in Raiding the Rock Vault and takes us back in time to the day he met Randy Rhoads.
Jeb: Ace, you’re okay with Randy aren’t you? Just checking…
Ace: Randy? Tragic… young genius… yeah, it’s all good. Side note: I actually ordered and paid for the Deluxe Edition of the new Revolutions Saints album and received my down load copy via email on 2/23/2015. I didn’t beg for a free review copy like you. So, maybe Doug will forgive me for this rant… I am just… a fan!
And now, just as they said on Looney Tunes Saturday Morning cartoons…. “On with the show this is it!”
Here he is, the man of the hour…DOUG ALDRICH!!!!
Jeb: You now where I have to start, Doug. What did you think when you saw Dee Snider slamming you on Twitter?
Doug: It was just kind of bizarre. I was like, “What the hell is wrong with this guy?” I don’t know. Anyway, God bless that kid.
Jeb: That was something. I did a double take. I was scrolling down the text on my phone and I thought it was a joke.
Doug: I was thinking it was a joke too, so you let it ride. I just answered him back. I didn’t expect… the bottom line here is that it doesn’t matter what anybody thinks about me. If you are my friend, or my family, then I do care.
The fans of Whitesnake are very important to me and they’ve been really good to me, so I care what they think. Everyone has an opinion. I just don’t think he actually knew what he had done. I just wanted to inform him what I did and I stand by it, and I am really proud of what I did with the band.
Some of us are guns for hire and we can’t help that. Even really famous musician’s changes bands periodically.
Eric Clapton was in the Yardbirds, Cream, John Mayhall’s band and Blind Faith. Somebody said to me, “It’s like a football team. Troy Aikman was not the first quarterback to play with the Cowboys but he can still call himself a Dallas Cowboy.” Anyway, it is not that big of a deal. I don’t want anyone to think it bothers me and I don’t want anybody to say anything mean against him. He has to feed his family and he is a good man from all I can tell. He just got a little bit out of line and I had to slap him back a little bit, that’s all.
Jeb: I understand what he meant, but he used the wrong example. At the same time, I will stand and say that I listen to your two albums you did with Whitesnake over anything he’s done in a long, long time.
Doug: See, Jeb, that’s not what I want to happen. It’s not a comparison. Hey man, I’ve put on Twisted Sister on many occasion on a road trip, to put that pedal to the metal, and it’s awesome. I am not going to say that I was influenced by it or it’s the greatest thing ever. I don’t want to compare anything. I just want to say I appreciate the fan support and I am sorry that these things happen, but periodically it goes on. We’re both trying to keep heavy rock alive. You are doing that too. We don’t need to be slinging stones for stupid reasons, as that’s dumb.
Jeb: I stand corrected. I am teasing you a little bit.
Doug: I know that. Every time you talk to me you give me shit.
Jeb: Hey, your name is getting out there Doug. Dee picked YOU.
Doug: I know why he picked me, as he was rolling around Vegas and he might have seen my picture on a billboard or something. I have nothing but respect for him and what he has done in his career. I know he’s a good man and that he’s a family man. It was just an unfortunate slip up. Whatever.
Jeb: Okay we can move on. I was shocked.
Doug: It really doesn’t bother me. When I joined up with Ronnie, it was trial by fire. People are comparing you to guys like Tony Iommi, Ritchie Blackmore, Vivian Campbell and Craig Goldy. I had to stand up and learn to take a hit. What Dee did was a softball. He threw me a meat ball [laughter].
Jeb: Let’s move on to Revolution Saints. The label Frontiers Records is starting to put artists together. Sometimes it works and sometimes it does not. This time it really worked, but it is not what I expect when I think of Doug Aldrich.
Doug: It is not what I am used to doing, so it was a challenge. This started off as Deen Castronovo’s solo album. Deen is a mega-star in Journey. They were pulling songs in for Deen to do a solo album and he decided he would like to work with Jack Blades on the album, which is a good choice.
Deen and I got to be friends on a tour with Whitesnake and Journey a few years ago, and I really like that guy. Aside from being a total mother fucker of a player he is just a bad-ass. He is a really solid guy. We hit it off.
He said he would like to work with me. He said some nice things about me. Somehow the three of us together… it turned it from a solo album to a band. I bring a little more of a blues/rock thing to the sound.
Jeb: Deen sings and sounds a lot like Steve Perry. The album came out well, though.
Doug: I call this a solid ‘80s melodic rock album. I originally agreed to do it because of Deen, but when we turned it into a band I wanted to leave my mark on it. It has some slamming tracks, but it also has a lot of melodic stuff. There are several ballads that are really cool.
One of my favorite songs reminds me of the way that Whitesnake would have a keystone track. The keystone track on this has Neal Schon on it. I think it is my favorite track on the record at the moment. They told me Neal was going to be on the album and I was like, “Fuck yeah” as I am a huge fan of Neal’s playing. Then they said he may not be able to do it so I put a solo on that song. I fell in love with that solo and I fell in love with the song. Then they came and said, “Neal is able to play on it after all.” I was like, “NO!” I talked [Frontiers Records President] Serafino [Perugino] into using my version for a deluxe edition or something.
Neal threw down as he is one of rock’s greatest guitar players.
Jeb: I think at times you remind me of Gary Moore on this album.
Doug: There were times I really tried to channel my best Gary Moore! I have always loved Gary Moore. He played such beautiful melodies, and this album made me delve into things and try to come up with beautiful melodies.
Jeb: How did the songwriting on the album work?
Doug: It was mostly all written by the producer, Alessandro Del Vecchio. He’s the guy that put it together, and he produced it, and he mixed it and he made it super easy for everyone involved. Jack co-wrote some things with him.
Jack and I banged around a couple of ideas on the phone one day. I was actually at the gym and he was moving to a new house. I sang up some riffs and he did the same, and we went back and forth… but then we both got busy and forgot all about it.
The cool thing about this album was that the songs were great and we got to put our stamp on them. Alessandro was really cool with me. I actually stripped it down a lot from where I had been with Whitesnake. He let me change some riffs here and there. On “Way to the Sun” he had done the intro on a keyboard. I couldn’t really feel it on acoustic, so I told him I wanted to do it a little differently and that I wanted to change one chord. He said to do it. I knocked that acoustic part out and I left it as one acoustic, and it is very raw and I like it.
Jeb: Is it more challenging to write a balls-to-the-wall solo, or to write a melodic solo?
Doug: The challenge is that it is a different style of music than I am used to playing. I just had to find a way to get my head around it. The songs are undeniably good. They are really great songs. I was happy to do it.
When I got to hear what Deen and Jack did on it, then it was very inspiring. The chord changes just made you lean towards certain melodies. I would play a solo two or three times and something would get into my head. I still wanted to have some cool technique stuff on top so I would connect those melodies with my chops. It is actually more melodic. It really shows a different side of me. People don’t get to hear me play like that so much. I brought up Clapton and he was never afraid to show this side or that side of his playing, so I justify it that way.
Jeb: Ritchie played melodically, but it was more classically based.
Doug: When I was in Ronnie’s band we didn’t do that much Rainbow. We did “Man on the Silver Mountain” and “Long Live Rock & Roll.” Eventually, on that one DVD I did in London a few years back, that one had “Gates of Babylon” on it and some other stuff and that was really fun.
Before we found out he was sick, I was on loan from David to Ronnie and we were in rehearsals and we had worked up this song “16th Century Greensleeves.” Oh man, that song is so cool. It was the coolest to hear Ronnie sing that. This was in 2009. All of that Rainbow stuff is amazing, but I first got into the live album On Stage and that song blew me away.
Jeb: Did you send files back and forth like it is done in the modern day, or were you all in a room?
Doug: For the most part it was the modern day style. Everyone had different schedules. Deen was on tour and Jack did his parts at his ranch in California. I was in Vegas, and I had taken the Raiding the Rock Vault gig with all of these great guys, like Howard Leese.
I was doing this gig and David had told me, “I don’t know when we will start back up, but when we do, I will let you know.” In the meantime I signed on to do Revolution Saints.
All of a sudden David said, “Let’s get busy” and we made some great progress on some music, but he wanted me there as I had always been there before. I was kind of in a transition because I needed to spend more time with family. I ended up stepping away from Whitesnake.
Revolution Saints did it the way you have to do it these days, but we made it sound fresh.
Jeb: In a band room you get instant gratification, but here you have to wait for feedback.
Doug: I would do a track and send it off to Alessandro and wait to see if he was cool with whatever changes I did, and Jack and Deen would be copied so they could chime in. Those guys are so mellow. They were like, “Have fun and do what you want.”
When I heard the tracks that Deen and Jack put down it was so inspired. It sounded like we were playing in the same room. Alessandro did a great job on it. There are not a lot of overdubs. It leaves room for it to be big and punchy.
Jack is a monster bass player because he plays very melodic. He is still heavy, but he doesn’t just play the guitar part. He kind of circles around the guitar part. It really makes the guitar sound bigger. It was like when I first heard Van Halen records. The bass works with the guitar and it sonically makes the band sound bigger.
Jeb: The original Night Ranger was a great band. What guitar players! Jeff Watson and Brad Gillis.
Doug: Every song has double solos so it is a guitar players dream to be in that band. I had actually only met Jack when Night Ranger supported Whitesnake on a show. Jack has a lot of energy and he came up and started talking to me. I told him I knew Joel and that I had met Brad several times.
Jeb: Jack is a hell of a musician.
Doug: He is their leader. With Revolution Saints we have a really good chemistry. Jack just took over. We were up in Oregon doing this photo session. These people let us use their backyard which was vast. It was like forest. They let us hang out and they barbequed for us.
Deen and I were in party mode and Jack stepped in and said, “Okay boys, let’s do this and let’s get this done.” He went into leader mode. Deen is like the Tasmanian devil when it comes to energy. He is running around and he is such a fun guy to hang with. He is a huge rock star but he is a lot like a kid.
I am the quiet one. Just give me a guitar and I will do whatever you say. It was fun. We had a good time. Jack is a great leader. It is interesting because he or I or Deen could have produced this thing, but it was nice that we didn’t have to and it helped keep it fresh.
Jeb: Projects like this are always interesting and have a few moments but they don’t usually last. This thing accidentally went way beyond what most of these projects do. Is there any talk of playing this stuff live?
Doug: We had a little opportunity to play together in the same room when we did the video stuff. We talked about it and we would love to have it happen, but we have to see what happens. The first priority for Deen is Journey. He is very respectful of Journey, so we need to see if anything is even possible.
We would love to, and I know it would sound kick-ass. When you play and Deen is playing drums, then you sound better. Vocally, I would be the weakest link, but I think the three of us together could really do well. The thing I would like is that it would give me the opportunity to play some Whitesnake stuff. We talked about playing stuff from bands we have been in, not necessarily Journey, but maybe some of Deen’s solo stuff or some Night Ranger or Damn Yankees or Whitesnake songs. We talked about how we could do a couple of songs I had written with David but that we never played live, like “Call on Me” from Good to Be Bad. Even doing something like “Forevermore,” but done like Revolution Saints.
We would approach it all in a Revolution Saints way which would make us, live, even more diverse than the album, but we’ve all got busy schedules. There is talk, but nothing is confirmed.
Jeb: Is this enough to at least make you want to do more?
Doug: Alessandro has started the ball rolling with a very strong musical statement and we could add to it. I really do feel that if we do that then we really do need to play live. You can just make records for people to enjoy, but it makes it cooler to play things live as a band.
If we were to play live, it would make the music gel even that much more and then we could do a sophomore record together.
We just have to wait and see. We are all doing different things. I hope it works out. If nothing else, even just to play a couple of tunes at a benefit would be awesome. We will see what happens.
Jeb: Tell me about Raiding the Rock Vault.
Doug: I play in Raiding the Rock Vault at the Tropicana. It is a kick-ass show. It is my day gig and they take really good care of us. It is like a superstar cover band. Howard Leese, Robin McCauley, Andrew Freeman and Paul Shortino are all in it.
It is really fun for me, as I was never in a cover band. I went from practicing in the basement with my friends to trying to be in an original band in Los Angeles. I was talking with Howard the other day and I said, “When are we going to have to start working? We are going to have to get real jobs one day.” Howard said, “Let’s just keep doing this for a while.”
I love playing with Howard. He is a rock. I say this with respect, but he is like a Wild West rock star. He was born in Hollywood and grew up there. He is the Wild West guy and he goes on stage with concealed weapons just for fun. He is a really eccentric rock star. His style and mine are very different, so we split it up so it works out.
I get to play a lot of different stuff and I get to use a lot of different guitars I would never use in Whitesnake or Dio. I am talking old ‘50s stuff and double neck guitars. From a gear dork point of view, I love it.
The show is not like your typical Vegas show. It is like a real rock concert. People go on Trip Advisor and they say how great it was. It is fun.
I am also writing a lot. I am in ‘writing mode’ because I have so much free time during the day. I am also enjoying family life a lot. I have a five year old son, as you know. When I was working with David, and I have no regrets, but it was full-on all the time. My son needs his dad full-time right now. I am happy. Oh, by the way, Burning Rain is doing some gigs. We did some West Coast shows where we just piled in a van and played some shows. It was fun. We are not afraid to do that. We are going to go to Europe and do a couple of shows over there. WE are going to do The Frontiers Fest in April. I have some stuff going on that I can’t talk about yet.
I am also working on a guitar with Gibson for me that I am really excited about. They are making this one for me, but who knows… one day maybe they will make another one.
Every guitar I get I want for me. People say, “How many guitars do you need?” I am like, “There is no limit.” This is a kick ass Les Paul we are working on. I asked if they would do it for me, but they are really into it too. They are just beta testing things.
Jeb: I know leaving Whitesnake was not an easy thing for you. You loved working with Coverdale. You did it longer than most!
Doug: David knows I feel this way… I love him as he is my big bro. We are not in contact like we used to be as we are busy. I recently got an email from him as my boy had been sick and he told me he hoped everything was cool.
I loved working with him. His voice is one of our musical treasures. As you get older, your stamina in your voice diminishes, but David throws down every night and he goes for it. You can’t ask him to do a three hour show. He still has his tone though, and he always will. He takes really good care of himself.
Jeb: Last one: As the years go by and your career goes by, we are getting older. When you look back at DIO… how special was Ronnie?
Doug: He made everybody feel like you were his buddy. You know that from when you were around him. Ronnie made you feel cooler than you were. David is like that as well. When you’re hanging with David, you are just hanging with a regular guy.
When you get around people like Ronnie or David, and I am sure Dee Snider has this happen to him too, people can’t let their guard down because these guys are larger than life. I just look at it like I am going to do my thing. Ronnie really believed in me and he taught me so much. I would not have got the gig in Whitesnake without Ronnie; David even said that. He told me, “I knew who you were, but when I saw you with Ronnie I knew you were a ‘Snake’.” I thought that was so cool.
Ronnie is seriously missed. It sucks, because as we do get older we lose our favorites like Ronnie and Gary Moore. Imagine what Randy Rhodes would be doing now? He was just a kid when he left us.
Jeb: You were on the new tribute to Randy, were you not?
Doug: Yes I am. I was and I still am on it! It is a really good record. I haven’t got the final one, and I can’t wait to hear it. There are a lot of good people on that record and I am excited to hear that.
I was talking to someone about Randy the other day. I will tell you a story about Randy. I thought he was English for some reason. I moved to Los Angeles and I met this other kid and he said, “Do you want to go see Randy play tonight?” I said, “Randy who?” He goes, “Randy Rhodes.” I said that I thought he was an English guy. He said, “No, man. He is jamming tonight with Kevin Dubrow. I used to take lessons from him.” So I go with him and I met Randy that night. This kid and I were both 18 and we went down to the Whiskey and we go around to the backstage door and we bang on it and this bouncer opens the door and goes, “What do you kids want?” My friend goes, “I am here to see Randy.” There at the top of the stairs is Randy and he goes, “Hey man, what’s up?” He looks at the bouncer and says, “Let those two guys in.” I walked up the stairs and there was Randy.
I can still remember it like it was yesterday. It really blew my mind. A week later Eddie, that was the kids name, calls me back… this was before I got my phone cut off. I had just got to L.A. and my phone got cut off after six months. I didn’t know how to write a check or pay a bill.
He called me and he said, “Doug, it’s Eddie. Randy is playing at the Whisky again tonight.” I said, “Oh man we’ve got to go.” I walk in the door and I bump into Randy and Randy goes, “Hey Doug, how are you doing?” Randy knew my name! It really blew me away.
Jeb: Did you ever meet Gary Moore?
Doug: I only got to meet Gary Moore on one tour with Whitesnake. He was so shy. Reb and I would listen to him wail before the show. He would just be practicing. He wasn’t even practicing as he was just noodling around. It was just the most mind-blowing thing that you could hear. Every night Reb and I would just sit there and listen. I think Reb even broke out a tape recorder one night.
I hate it when we lose these guys and people pass on, but we are getting older.
Jeb: Any last words on Revolution Saints?
Doug: Deen is the shining star of that record and Jack is amazing. It is all about Deen and his vocal abilities. Another thing that would be pretty good that we’ve talked about if we ever play… Deen would need to get out front, out from behind his drums, for a couple of songs and just sing. Deen is bigger than life.
CRR was dispatched to the West Coast on 12/11/2014 to experience a bit o’ Burning Rain and try to catch a glimpse of Doug… California got hit with a big storm that day ( ya, a few big drops, but everyone in Cali still panicked…), but Burning Rain came in out of the cold rain and tore…it…up… ex-Snake keyboardist Timothy Drury was on hand in the crowd sitting next to me showing support for Doug at the Northern CA venue… the band blew it up by starting with Montrose’s “Rock the Nation” courtesy of Keith St John, moving thru Whitesnake and Burning Rain material, while Doug proceeded to melt faces the rest of the night with his LP Goldtop, Marshalls and Hi-Watt cabs… Matt Starr was killin’ the skins as Sean McNabb held down the bottom end, right after he wrapped-up the final episode of Sons of Anarchy. We found time to snap a pic… and at the end of the night, my beer was still full and my jaw was still down. This guy SHREDS.
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