As many of you know, I have a YUUUUUUGE mancrush since 1990 on Doug Aldrich, guitarist extraordinaire, and all around awesome guy! So, when he agreed to an interview with A&GS it was an amazing moment for yours truly, The Maestro. We talked about the new REVOLUTION SAINTS’ album Light In the Dark, his time in WHITESNAKE, and of course, what it was like recording HURRICANE’S classic record Slave to the Thrill. Check it:
Amps: We all know that you’re a master of shred, but when you do slow numbers like “One Of These Days” or the solos on “I Wouldn’t Change a Thing” it is just magical.
Doug: I love “One of These Days” man, I love it. And thanks, man. I really like that. “I Wouldn’t Change a Thing” was written by Richard Page from MR. MISTER and it was cool. But we kind of rearranged it. I like the fact that I can take the first half of the song off and then come in for a substantial solo.
Amps: Honestly, I had to listen to that song four times today before moving on.
Doug: It turned out really good. On the demo Alessandro (Del Vecchio, keyboards) laid down a solo, and his was really good, because the chords are really good. But I said, “Let me see what comes to mind”, and a lot of times when I’m not thinking about it things will kind of reveal themselves and I just latched onto a melody that really felt good.
Amps: Honestly, this new album just sounds like a breath of fresh air.
Doug: Thanks, man. The good thing is, on the first one I didn’t know how far to go with stuff because it was largely written by Alessandro and he basically said, “Make it sound like WHITESNAKE.” Because I was still in the band at that time. And then when I left WHITESNAKE I was able to focus solely on the record and make the guitar parts a little harder, toughen them up. And everybody did their part, and the record came out really good. But there were some things I would loved to have more time with. On this one, me and Alessandro generated the majority of it and he said, “Do whatever you want with the guitar parts.” And I brought in four or five songs myself. I’m very happy with it, and I’ll even say this record is better than the first one. I guess we’ll see what the people think. The bottom line is that you do your best for yourself and the band, then you let it go. it’s a moment in time and I hope the people enjoy it.
Amps: What songs on Light In the Dark are favorites to you?
Doug: There are a couple of songs I’m really excited for people to hear. I really like “The Storm Inside.” It’s a different kind of thing, but it’s got this hook in the middle that the first time it comes around it’s like a fake chorus, then it comes back later. I like “Freedom” a lot because it’s heavier, darker, and a change of pace. You need to change it up some times and throw in different stuff, otherwise you’re doing the same record over and over. And I really like “Ride On”, just a rockin’ song.
Amps: What were the writing sessions like when Doug Aldrich, Jack Blades, Deen Castronovo, and Alessandro Del Vecchio got together?
Doug: We all brought in demos from home and Alessandro was kind enough to go through everything and arrange it, and get it up to standard. Then when we got to Italy we would fine tune stuff and make sure it was the right arrangement.
Amps: I never knew what a great singer Deen was until watching the JOURNEY Live In Manila DVD. When he sang “Mother, Father” and “Keep On Runnin,” my jaw was on the ground. I had no idea! And nothing made me happier than hearing that Deen got the help he needed.
Doug: Yeah, he’s a badass. He’s got a beautiful tone in his voice. He’s doing great, man. I’m really proud of him. He went through Hell, a major battle with chemicals and he lost. And he’ll be the first to admit it. But he picked himself up and he’s been clean and sober over two years now. So all is going well with him, and I’m really proud of him. The bottom line is that if somebody’s a friend of yours, or a family member, everybody deserves a second chance. If it was your brother or your cousin or whoever, you’d say, “Well that sucks, but we’re gonna help him get through it and get him back on his feet.” Then when you see him doing well you’re proud of him. And that’s where me and Jack are right now, honestly.
Amps: WILL there be a REVOLUTION SAINTS tour in the near future?
Doug: Yeah, it’s definitely a possibility now because Deen isn’t locked down with JOURNEY full-time like he was. And I have chunks of free time, even though I’m swamped with THE DEAD DAISIES, but at the same time I’m free now and writing songs for some other stuff. It’s all possible, depending what kinds of offers we get. Let’s hope we can pull this off!
Amps: How often do you write?
Doug: Sometimes I’ll get a chord progression in my head, and it hits a melody in my head that I have to see through. Other times I’ll hit on something that needs more time to develop and I’ll keep coming back to it. And at other times I’ll sit down and something comes right out that I record on my phone and I’ll think, “That’s a complete idea, I just need to get some musicians in here to play it.” But what I love most is having raw ideas and actually jamming them with the guys, whoever they may be. Especially playing with Brian Tichy (drums). We work really fast together. Same thing with Deen. Those guys are different style drummers, but they play really well off guitar players, I don’t know how to describe it. Playing off of Neal Schon all those years has paid off for Deen, right? And Brian plays guitar so it makes it easy to get through stuff with him. The most fun process of the music industry for me is creating.
Amps: Brian Tichy is one of my favorite drummers on the planet! You and him are my two main mancrushes.
Doug: (Laughs) me too, man. Brian is one of the greatest in the world. And it’s not only because of his drumming ability. You feel his passion for music when he plays. A lot of guys have the chops, but Brian’s got a thing about his playing that can’t be put into words. The way he strikes the drums, it’s all about tone, like the way guitar players look for tone. Sometimes drummers play a little to hard on the cymbals which eats up a lot of frequencies when it comes to guitars and vocals. It’s nice to find drummers like Brian, Deen, and Tommy Aldridge who play heavy on the drums but know how to strike them with tone and finesse, you know?
Amps: What do you like to do away from music?
Doug: Guitars are my hobby still. I’ll sit around and work on guitars, change out parts, whatever. Of course my BIGGEST hobby is that I have two young kids. I have an 8-year old son who’s into soccer and baseball, and a 20-month old daughter. She is at the age where she’s on fire. Anything not bolted down gets trashed (laughs)! I came home last night and my wife is like, “Perfect timing. Look what she did!” and she dumped yogurt all over her own head. But she had this look like, “That was awesome!” So hanging with my kids man, I love it. I’m an older dad, but it’s the greatest thing ever.
Amps: Tell me about recording HURRICANE’S Slave to the Thrill album. I’ll try not to squeal like a schoolgirl while you talk.
Doug: That was interesting because I had been in a band called LION and we’d done a record I felt was really strong. But our record company didn’t help us at all. We did get some traction in Japan, and we put out a second record and the band just fell apart. But during that time I was asked to jam with various bands and I passed on everything because I wanted my friends and I in LION to make it. When the band broke up, management said, “HURRICANE is looking for a guitar player if you’re interested.”
And at that time I just wanted to play. So we started writing. They had a couple of songs started, so we went in the studio and had a record ready to go. Kelly Hansen is an AMAZING singer, man. Tony Cavazo has a fat bass tone, and Jay Schellen killed it on drums. They already had a producer lined up in Michael James Jackson who was famous for his work with KISS and others. I really like Michael and I learned a lot from him, but he and I kind of butted heads through that whole thing. A lot of that was because of me being stubborn. “Nobody’s gonna tell me what guitar to use on what song!” was my attitude.
I went through a bunch of different gear for him. It was a difficult record for me to make. A lot of people like it, but I definitely had more fun with those guys when we played live. It was one of those situations where I was the new guy coming in, and the guys were excited about that, but the producer wanted to change me and that was difficult.
Amps: Speaking of tone and guitar sound, my two favorite tracks from that record are “Don’t Wanna Dream” and “Let It Slide.” I call “Slide” a “swamp boogie” tune. I love it!
Doug: I love that one, too. I hadn’t heard that record for 20 years or so, and I heard it recently. I thought, “Wow, this is a really cool record!” Usually what happens is I do a record, then I just let go of it and it is what it is. But i was pleasantly surprised at how that one turned out.
Amps: What are you playing and what are you playing through?
Doug: It varies, but my main thing is an old 1979 Marshall JMP that I bought in 1981. I still use it, and I’ve used it on every project I’ve been a part of, including that HURRICANE record. That was my main amp until I blew the transformer three weeks ago. I’ll get it fixed and then it’ll be back up and running. I have so many guitars, but I love my 1957 Les Paul Goldtop that was reissued in 2006. Bruce Nelson, famous luthier, he did stainless steel frets on it. They sound great and they’re really smooth.
Amps: What would you like to say to all the fans of your work?
Doug: I really appreciate your support. And I’m blessed to have people in my life that allow me to do my hobby as a job. I’m so happy that there are people that support me. So thank you, and we’ll keep supporting each other. I’ll keep making music as long as you guys keep checking it out.
Man, what’s not to love about Doug Aldrich, huh? Phenomenal guitarist, supercool Dad, and juat a great and humble guy. By the way, like me, he’s also a BIG Philadelphia Eagles fan, having gone to high school in Radnor, PA. So now we love him even more! REVOLUTION SAINTS new album Light In the Dark is available everywhere now, so do yourself a favor and go get it, why don’tcha?