The Dead Daisies’ Axe Master Doug Aldrich Talks about Band’s Success, Dio, Kiss and More!

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Dead Daisies guitarist Doug Aldrich and his bandmates are on tour in support of their new Live & Loud CD/DVD package.

Make Some Noise was a breakout success for the hard rock agglomeration called The Dead Daisies. Comprised of experienced, acclaimed and exceptionally talented musicians and songwriters with a collective pedigree that is nothing short of impressive. It was the band’s third studio album, one that featured a rock-solid lineup for the first time, augmented by the addition of guitar hero Doug Aldrich at the start of the recording process.

On the back of a string of hit songs and videos, including the title track, We All Fall Down and covers of CCR’s Fortunate Son and The Who’s Join Together, Make Some Noise did just that, garnering critical and popular acclaim around the world, and propelling The Dead Daisies onto multiple, globetrotting tours. The incendiary live show was captured during a couple of the final dates in 2016 and resulted in the recently released Live & Loud CD/DVD package on Spitfire Music SPV.

The Dead Daisies have been around since 2012, going through a few lineup changes and releasing two studio albums, the self-titled debut that year, and Revolucion in 2015. The lineup solidified that same year with founder, Australian guitarist/songwriter David Lowy joined by bassist Marco Mendoza (Whitesnake) who became a permanent member in 2014, with another former Whitesnake member, drummer Brian Tichy (Foreigner too) joined by former Motley Crue vocalist John Corabi. Guns N Roses guitarist Richard Fortus was also a key member of the band for three years, but when Guns reformed for their huge reunion tour, he was called into action, leaving a place open.

A spot which Aldrich happily filled.

“Marco called me first when Richard hurt himself in a motorcycle accident [in September 2015]. But I was touring with Glenn Hughes [Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Black Country Communion] at the time and there were some Japanese dates that would have conflicted and I told Marco, ‘I would love to help you guys but I just can’t do that to Glenn.’ But I said in the future I would be happy to fill in and that I hoped Richard got better soon. About a month or so later Marco called back and asked if I would be interested in doing a record as they were starting a new era for the band. He said GnR was going out and he said it was for real and that they were looking for a solid commitment,” he explained.

“I had known Marco for a long time and Brian as well, all three of us had worked together in Whitesnake at different times and I knew John Corabi from high school in Philadelphia and he’s always been an amazing singer, a really talented musician and songwriter. He’s the whole package and he’s great. I didn’t know David but once we started talking we really hit it off. And I really love his straightforward, honest approach to guitar. He’s got a really cool, aggressive rhythm style and I decided it would be a really good match for me, because we’re coming at it from different places, but the sounds and styles fit so well together on stage.”

The Dead Daisies, from left, Marco Mendoza, David Lowy, Brian Tichy, Doug Aldrich and John Corabi.

Aldrich said he felt comfortable right away, not just because most of the members of The Dead Daisies were friends, but because he loved the approach the band had taken to their music, working alongside top notch producer/songwriter Marti Frederiksen (Aerosmith, Motley Crue, Buckcherry).

“When I started, even though they had a history, they made it feel like a new band in a sense. I had been friends and worked with most of the guys before and we just had a plan to get together and write a record, make the record and tour the record. And that’s what we did. Make Some Noise was not meant to be some ground-breaking statement or anything like that. It was supposed to be just good rock and roll that people could have fun listening to. Marti wanted it to be a straight up rock record, he didn’t want to deviate too much, which was a good choice in hindsight because people really locked in on that vibe,” Aldrich said.

“Then we toured and we got really tight and we recorded the shows at the end of last year and here we are promoting a live record. So it’s been a pretty amazing ride so far. For me, the most fun thing is creating songs and recording them. I love that process. People might think that going on tour is the most fun part. Don’t get me wrong, it’s amazing to be able to play and do all that stuff, but the best part of touring is the actual playing onstage. The worst part of touring is the travel and the packing and unpacking and being away from your family.”

With such a combination of talent and experienced veterans in the room, one might think the situation was ripe for the occasional clash of egos. Aldrich said he and his fellow Daisies may have been like that in their younger days, but with most of them in, or close to their 50s, it’s about having fun and making great music that trumps all pretensions of individual glory and grandeur.

“Speaking for myself, when I was in my 20s I know I would probably have been more difficult. But we have all done so much in this business and we are all friends and we trusted each other. Everybody contributed something to all of the songs on the record. We just wanted to make a good record and we all wanted to help each other’s own individual ideas. We left it to the producer, Marti, to pick the ones he wanted and felt were the best, and that took the pressure off,” he said.

“But even though I didn’t feel I had anything to prove to the guys in that room, I am always looking to prove myself to myself and to challenge myself. They know I am going to do my best, but I definitely feel like I always want to do a record that I haven’t done before and I want to be part of something that’s fresh. Coming out of a band like Whitesnake, there really wouldn’t be any point to joining another band that sounded like Whitesnake.

The Dead Daisies was a different animal and I took that as a challenge. And the same thing is happening right now as we’re talking about making a new studio record. I don’t want to go in and make a record that’s like the one we just did. I want to elaborate on it and take it further. I need that kind of push.”

So to what does Aldrich attribute the success of Make Some Noise and the subsequent tours?

“We were happy that people gave it good reviews and that there was a good response to the album but we really just did make a record that we thought was good. When you’ve got that in your back pocket and you feel like you’ve done well, you can’t really determine if anybody else is going to think that. We were thankful when there was some real momentum happening but we didn’t expect it, although I wouldn’t say that we were surprised, but we also didn’t take that momentum or support for granted either,” he said.

“It was meant to be a kick ass rock and roll record and so it didn’t take a long time for people to absorb it. If you like that kind of music, it was going to be some fresh riffs and some stuff you could relate to on some records from the past – it had a bit of an old school vibe for sure. And this is where the producer really comes into play, especially someone as smart and experienced as Marti. You can be steered in a lot of different directions when you’re in the studio; the technology is there to make anybody sound like whatever they want. But Marti said, ‘ok let’s just make a straight up, kick ass rock record that you guys can go out and play and be able to pull off night after night.’ And I think that’s one of the reasons why it sounds so good live.”

Another thing that helped push The Dead Daisies to prominence was spending much of the year following the release of Make Some Noise touring the globe with ‘The Hottest Band in the World – Kiss!’

“Those guys are very nice to the acts that go on the road and support them. They will sell tickets no matter what, because their show is, pound for pound, probably the best for the dollar still. And, to be honest, I had never seen them live until we toured with them. I was blown away; aside from the great songs, they really know how to make it entertaining with all the theatrical stuff that goes on. They put us out there night after night and John is such a great, relatable frontman that he had the fans on our side pretty early in the show each night, which is no easy feat when you’re opening for a band with the legendary following that Kiss has. So it was a great experience and I know playing with Kiss helped get our name and our music in front of a lot of people who might not have heard it otherwise.”

Over his prolific and prodigious career, Aldrich has spent time in bands fronted by two true legends of hard rock music – Ronnie James Dio and David Coverdale. He played in Dio from 2001 to 2004 and again for a year traversing parts of 2005 and 2006, participating in the writing and recording of the 2002 studio album Killing the Dragon, as well as appearing on two live albums/DVDs.

“It was great to have been able to work with him. He and I met, actually, for the first time in 1989. I had gone down to jam with him and we had talked about working together, but it just didn’t feel right at that time. I was still in a band called Lion and we were trying to break off a record deal that wasn’t working for us. So I had a choice between going with Ronnie or staying with my friends in Lion and I chose to stay with the band, which broke up shortly thereafter anyways. A number of years later when Ronnie was looking for a guitarist [long-time Dio bassist] Jimmy Bain and I did a session together and he asked me if I would be interested. So we all met up and started working on the record the next day. It was amazing, I have so many great memories of Ronnie,” he said.

“At the time we lived about 10 minutes apart and many times I would just hop in the car and run over there and see what he was working on. And I always have these three main memories of Ronnie – the three main things he did. He would be in the studio, listening to sports radio or watching sports on TV or doing yard work. [Drummer] Simon Wright would stay with him a lot and he and Simon were always out landscaping or doing some sort of project in the garden at Ronnie’s house.

 

“But honestly, he taught me so much about performing. Just to perform alongside him and witness how he owned the stage. And he really pushed me as a performer and guitarist. He wanted to take a rest halfway through the show and wanted a long guitar solo and wanted it to be great, and I always tried really hard to do something special, something that he would be happy with.”

Aldrich was also a member of Whitesnake, but for a longer duration, 12 years, by his accounting, starting with the band’s relaunch in 2002 and going up until partway through the preparatory process for 2015’s The Purple Album.

“I was working with him on the Purple record when I decided I needed to spend more time with my family. And I was 100 per cent committed to him throughout the entire time I was in Whitesnake. There was only one other project that I really did then and that was a Burning Rain album which I did in my spare time, usually after my son went to bed [released in 2013]. Once I made the choice to leave the band, I just wanted to be at home and raise my son [who is now seven. He also has a daughter who is almost two]. I needed to be with him. I was working with David on The Purple Album and it was just getting a little intense again and we gone through a situation in my relationship and I needed to be with my son. It was the most important thing,” Aldrich explained.

“And I didn’t do anything for about a year. I just stayed and did this show in Las Vegas called Raising the Rock Vault which was really fun because I could play guitar alongside a lot of great musicians. But I did get a little burned out being in the same place night after night. Then I did the first Revolution Saints album with Jack Blades and Deen Castronovo and that got me interested in trying other stuff and getting out on the road again. So I did that tour with Glenn Hughes and then the Daisies situation came up and here we are.”

So, if you’re keeping score, Aldrich is a member of Dead Daisies, which is currently on tour in support of Live & Louder and in the early stages of putting together a new studio record. He is also a member of his band Burning Rain, which has released three albums since 2001. And he has reconvened with Blades and Castronovo to write and record a new Revolution Saints album, set to be released later in 2017.

“They’re all different. Working with Glenn, we did this power trio thing that was different than Whitesnake. Revolution Saints was a trio, but it was a melodic rock trio and Dead Daisies is something like I had never done before, which is a straight up rock and roll record. So I like trying new things. It’s not like I am looking to jump ship all the time, it’s not like I get bored with music,” he said.

“I am so blessed to be able to make a living playing guitar, and play with incredible musicians and challenge myself all the time.”

Revolution Saints self-titled debut album came out in 2014, and was a hit throughout the melodic rock universe. There was a serious roadblock to that band’s momentum when Castronovo, for whom the project was created and who was not only the drummer but also the vocalist and primary songwriter, got caught up in substance abuse issues that led to some criminal charges and him being removed from his long-time position as the drummer for Journey. He agreed to a plea bargain and was sentenced to four years of probation and mandatory counselling.

Now two years recovered, a contrite, rehabilitated and reenergized Castronovo has rallied, and supported by Aldrich and his other friends, looks to make an impactful comeback with the new Revolution Saints album.

“He is doing great and I am very proud of him and I really love working with him. We have been friends for a long time because Journey and Whitesnake did a lot of touring together over the years. Obviously we were all disappointed and sad that he got into trouble basically due to substance abuse. And it was just a bummer because I hated seeing that happening to a friend. I wasn’t aware that it was as serious as it was until it got to the point where he was let go from the band. Then I realized it was pretty bad,” Aldrich said.

“But I’ve got to say, Deen took it like a man. He admitted his wrongdoing, he admitted he has a problem, he is two years sober now and I gotta say that some of the allegations that were made against him proved to not be true. And it was tough because people just think when they hear those sorts of stories that they know exactly what it is, but every situation is different. Deen got put into a situation where he was not himself; he was not the Deen that we know and love. So what happened was a result of something that could happen to anyone in that state. I wouldn’t wish that on anybody. But he went through the consequences, he has followed his program and is working hard to be a better person. I feel everybody deserves a second chance, especially somebody who is a friend of yours – you’re not going to turn your back on him.

“He’s changed for the better, he’s in really great shape and he is playing great and singing his butt off and I am just really happy for him. We’ve all made mistakes but at some point somebody has to give you a chance to redeem yourself. If you cheat at cards and you get caught and you say you’re sorry and you never cheat again, people might say at one time he had a problem but now he’s just a damn good card player.”

There is hope that the Revolution Saints may play some live dates next year. In the meantime, Aldrich is busy touring the world – again – with the Dead Daisies. After jaunts throughout Europe, the Far East and South America, there will be a couple of North American runs, including one Canadian show, at Lee’s Palace in Toronto on Aug. 12.

For more information on The Dead Daisies and Live & Loud, visit http://thedeaddaisies.com.

For more on Doug Aldrich, visit his website at http://dougaldrich.burningrain.net.

  • Jim Barber is a veteran award-winning journalist and author based in Napanee, ON, who has been writing about music and musicians for a quarter of a century. Besides his journalistic endeavours, he now works as a communications and marketing specialist. Contact him at jimbarberwritingservices@gmail.com.

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Comments

  1. Batphink

    August 22, 2017

    Saw these guys nearly 2 weeks ago and can’t seem to forget it it was SO good.Very slick tight and polished live band with tons of energy! Go see them live one of the very best!

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