An Interview with Whitesnake’s David Coverdale
Chatting to Whitesnake and ex Deep Purple singer David Coverdale, is like catching up with an old friend for a good tête-à-tête over a cuppa. “ It’s like being in the old country I assure”, he booms down the phone in his thick Yorkshire lilt, as he’s looking at the Sierra Mountains.
BY WAL REID
“That’s going to be exciting. Number one: it’s going to be exciting going back to New Zealand,” he says excitedly. “So sorry you guys are so geographically so far away. It’s difficult for us to be regular guests of yours, the hospitality has always been amazing whether it was Deep Purple or Whitesnake.”
He now resides in the States, where he has been based for many years. Thanks to his dual heritage he can come and go as he pleases.
“I’m actually half and half. If I’m talking to you from here now instead of from London it’s the good half, the sexy half. Obviously in America, it’s the other way around. (laughter)
“My wife’s American, my son’s American,” He elaborates. “We’re inseparable as a family and I’ve never used it through my professional career, but I’m very politically involved. I didn’t want to be one of those armchair observers staring at the screen, I wanted to make my voice heard. There’s always a method to my madness. I think the ghost of my mother would disinherit me If I lost my accent for sure. I only sing like an American.”
His music has been preserved for the posterity of future generations. Die-hard fans in both camps, Deep Purple and Whitesnake, a delicious musical contrast that’s as stark as the singer’s outlandish persona. As Coverdale prepares to embark on a World Tour with his pals The Scorpions, he is upbeat referencing the time he nearly got arrested in New Zealand.
“I almost spent six months in jail in the early days,” he recalls fondly. “I played Auckland and Christchurch with Deep Purple. I’m trying to remember, was it was 1975? Hang on a second, it was 1875 there you go. (laughter)
“Apparently I used inflammatory language twice and I was taken out of the venue in a flight case, fortunately, I got off with no criminal record. But what an amazing clean beautiful country. My last pleasure I had there was in Wellington for the big Rock Festival with Ozzie. It was great to see Ozzie and Sharon, I hadn’t seen them for forever. It’s a super venue, and I fell in love enormously with Cloudy Bay Oysters. Hopefully, it will be oyster season in February.”
Coverdale is ready for the biggest hard rock tour of the year. Travelling with German Rock icons Scorpions who return to New Zealand next month. Together with Whitesnake, the legendary rock’n’roll band founded by former Deep Purple singer and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer David Coverdale, they are headlining a double show Thursday, February 27th at Auckland’s Spark Arena.
“We are old mates, we go back many, many years,” Coverdale muses. “Klaus, Rudolf, Matthias, we’re just great pals. The guys came to my birthday a couple of months back in Sao Paulo in Brazil, we’re just really genuine friends. It’s the kind of friendship where you don’t see each other for years and when you do see each other, there’s no time lost, you just pick up where you left off.
“We all have a very similar perspective of giving as much value for hard-earned money as we can. We’re very professional with fans, you’re not going to have either of us coming on late like a lot of our contemporaries. We’ll be there on time. It’s going to be a super show, we’ve worked together on and off for over twenty years, it’s always a solid package. I’ve travelled the world so many times, there’s economic difficulties all over the place. For us to do super packages, it really is to make sure it’s bang for your buck. It’s going to be songs, singing along for three and a half hours.”
Over the course of the interview, he touches on the secret of his success. He has a meek but authoritative persuasion about himself, waxing lyrical about his tea-drinking antics, the excelsior that keeps him well lubricated.
“It’s not necessarily for the concert, it’s a couple of hours earlier before going on,” He candidly confides. “I drink Yorkshire Gold. I’m a Yorkshire man, obviously, we don’t grow tea in Yorkshire, but there’s a fabulous place in Harrogate called Betty’s and they make an amazing blend of Chinese Black and Indian Black Tea – it’s kind of like me, it’s charming and abrasive at the same time (laughter). So that’s how I start my day, a couple of cups of tea. When I’m on the road I can’t do dairy, so I have to have black tea. It’s delicious I recommend it.”
He also has a simple mantra for life.
“It’s a very simple balance.” He reflects. “I’ve always been an ‘all or nothing’ guy, and I think one of the reasons we keep getting ourselves into trouble, is when we get out of balance. It’s too much work, too much play. We’ve got to balance family, relationship, self, work. My key is meditation, sometimes inside the jet. So that helps me, and an amazing partner in my wife Cindy. It’s fantastic I can go all around the world with her support, I become this rock star which is enviable as you can imagine, hearing people all over the world singing my stuff. This time in my life it’s incredible and when I get home I just decompress and it works very well. I get the best of both worlds.”
Scorpion fans will once again get to experience the pounding guitar riffs and high energy live performance by the band who last performed in Auckland a couple of years ago. Meanwhile, fans of Whitesnake have had to wait twelve years for the band to make a return visit to our shores. The wait according to Coverdale, will be worth it.
“I must say, one of the things I’ve always concentrated on is to try and get the best out of myself or certainly give the best to you guys who are listening.” He says. “So, I’ve always written what I thought are challenging songs to me, Whitesnake is focused on quality songs. To the point I can do songs I wrote with Ritchie Blackmore in Deep Purple, they’re relatively timeless. I see we’re playing to three or four generations out there. I’ve been doing this for almost fifty years and the fact that so much of my music has resonated deeply and is the backdrop to a lot of people’s lives, either they got married to it or god-forbid, got buried to it.
“It’s a very humbling thing for me, and that’s sticking to the quality. I’m trying to get the best out of my musicians and myself. It’s definitely paid off in terms of the support that we’ve seen. I’ve played all over the world and to see young people not only singing Here I Go Again or Trouble is Your Middle Name, it’s amazing that people are engaged with the most recent album so deeply. In a time where a lot of people think it’s a nostalgia show and it isn’t. It’s very fresh and vibrant, and god willing, relevant.”
With their Flesh & Blood” World Tour continuing into 2020, the global success of the ‘Flesh & Blood’ album has seen Whitesnake play 55 shows in 23 countries to over 600,000 fans last year.
This years tour will feature songs from the bands critically acclaimed and award-winning 13th studio record ‘Flesh & Blood’ alongside their biggest hits and songs from one of the greatest back catalogues in rock ‘n’ roll history spanning over forty years. He admits he keeps a vested interest when it comes to the band being in the public eye, citing his interest in keeping astride with the social media side of things.
“I’m very involved and engaged with social media, so I specifically ask people not to post the setlist,” he says. “I would hate to go to a show and know exactly what’s coming next. I love to surprise people. Yes, there will be the obvious big hits with Whitesnake. I’ve been blessed, the new album’s been doing amazingly well, so you’re going to get Shout Up & Kiss Me, Hey You (You Make Me Rock.) It’s really interesting because what the band’s done is re-energise the approach to my older music. Not only does it fit like a musically tailored suit, but it’s given it a new-found fresh energy – and the crowd. It’s palatable, it’s absolutely noticeable.”
Again the conversation turns to our New Zealand oysters & wine. If New Zealand Tourism ever needed a boost in the arm, Coverdale would be the perfect ambassador. One gets the feeling that coming here to play with his mates, is not only the big drawcard coming to Godzone Aotearoa.
“I’m a big oyster fan to be sure,” he unabashedly admits. “I loved the Cloudy Bay Chardonnay a perfect complement to the oysters. There’s a multitude of sins I wish to commit when I come over. You just swing that I’ve got Cloudy Bay Oysters in Auckland. I went, “What the hell is this?” It was the first screw top wine I’d seen. I ‘m a very snobbish wino as it were, so that was weird. But my god, what a perfect complement to the oysters. I don’t think you export them for a bloody good reason, you eat them all for yourself.”
He jokes that his lush locks are the ‘secret of his success’ but confesses to leading a full and content life, or as he eloquently puts it.