Doug Aldrich grew up a diehard fan of hard rock and heavy metal. By his own admission, living the life of a travelling guitarist, writing, recording and performing alongside legendary names like Hughes, Coverdale and Dio have turned a boyhood dream into an unthinkable rock reality.
The former shredder for Lion, Whitesnake, and Dio –currently of Revolution Saints, Burning Rain and hard rocking' super-group The Dead Daisies – Aldrich is a walking well of stories.
In a candid one-on-one interview, we picked his brain on everything from collaborating with Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Hughes and company on The Dead Daisies' new album Radiance (available September 30), his thoughts on the legacy of David Coverdale and Whitesnake, memories of recording Dio's Killing The Dragon and his final days with one of the undisputed lords of heavy metal.
On New Album Radiance & Working With Glenn Hughes
"I mean, we're close to it, but I know that when we went into those records, we weren't necessarily going for something as simple and heavy. And that's the thing is like less is more on this type of stuff. The song 'Radiance,' the riff, it's just very simple, but it's really effective and it's one of those riffs that you don't need a bunch of soloing on top of it or something because it just sounds cool. You don't have to put any cream on top. Just let it be.
"Yeah, it's definitely different [playing with Glenn] because originally when I joined the band there were five guys. I'll grab an acoustic guitar and sit down and write a song together and we wouldn't come in with too many preconceived ideas. We might have a riff or chord progression or something, but we did it together. And when Glenn came in Glenn said to me, 'Hey, I got some songs I want to present,' and so I knew things were going to be different like that.
"So I said cool, go through all that stuff and then I immediately got the hit to start working on some grooves that I know Glenn likes, stuff like on Holy Ground, 'Chosen and Justified,' and the 'Bustle and Flow' riff. I did that for Glenn and also 'Like No Other,' just heavy, heavy grooves that I know Glenn likes. And then we finished them off together."
"Then with this album we had some stuff that Glenn had brought. During the pandemic me and Glenn got together and he brought in a couple of riffs and things … and 'Cascade' was one of them. And then we just did demos of that and some other things. So it was just all around different. It was mostly Glenn and I doing it together, but then on this new album, 'Shine On' started off with something that was inspired by David Lowy. He was playing on the back of the tour bus last year.
"We were done writing the record, Radiance, and David said to me, 'Hey, did you check the phone?' Because he knew I recorded him a couple of times doing stuff and I found that inspiration for 'Shine On' and that was cool. And then another song, it's really commercial. It's funny that it hasn't been a single, but 'Born to Fly' was something that David had from Holy Ground sessions, but we never finished it. So we revisited that and turned, and then when Glenn got on it we had a melody. Glenn graciously did it like we had it and it just sounded killer. So it's definitely been, not a bad thing again, but it's just the songs start off with either Glenn or myself, usually.
On the Return of Brian Tichy
"I mean, he understands how to make things heavy but still swing. And he was never really asked to do that before. So when we were coming up with songs for this album we were like, 'he's the guy that would be the best for these songs. He would make them swing heavy with a big groove, but they would be heavy'. And he certainly did that. He definitely makes me play better than some other guys that I've worked with. He plays and pushes me in a way that's really cool and I love it.
"To me, you're right. I speak highly of him because I do think he's probably my favorite drummer I've ever worked with. And there's been a lot. There's been a lot of great drummers, but it just feels right. But yeah, he came in and he did his thing on the album. So it's like really, even though he wasn't a part of the writing on it, he really was part of the writing because he took the songs to another place live in the studio."
On Performing With Rock & Metal Legends
"I mean, these guys are legendary guys. Glenn, he walks in a room and people just turn their head like, look at this guy. He's a very stylish person and has a good vibe about him, good energy. And he's crazy talented. Like from out of this world talented. His singing, he's the voice of rock. But he's also the bassist of rock, too, because he plays a very heavy, mean bass, in a very melodic old school way. So he's definitely from another planet.
"And then I learned a lot working with David [Coverdale]. He's like my big brother as well. We spent years and years creating songs and touring and just hanging out. So of course in the beginning it's more … I was on stage with David the first time and it was a blur. I don't remember it. I was pretty nervous, and the same with Ronnie. With Glenn it was a little different because the first time we did it was like a jam. So it wasn't the same kind of a situation. We did a jam session together. But yeah, I mean of course I don't forget that these are guys I grew up with."
On Time in Whitesnake and Legacy of David Coverdale
"Well, definitely Coverdale is one of the greats. And to leave Deep Purple and start a new band. Mind you, he took a couple of guys with him. He took Jon Lord and Ian Paice with him in the beginning. But to start a new band with a different sound and make it happen like that is pretty ballsy, you know? You would think that he would have felt like, okay, I got to get another Ritchie Blackmore and do the same thing I've been doing because that's been working, is popular. But he didn't do that. He made a left turn and did something different that he wanted to do, which is more like The Allman Brothers or whatever, blues based.
"And they got really popular in Europe, but then they never really happened in the U.S. until obviously Slide It In and the '87 record were the two biggies and Slip of the Tongue. So being in the band was strange in the beginning because we played in the U.S. and they got famous from those albums. And so when I got in the band we're playing the US, we're playing all the stuff from '87 and Slide It In and we did maybe one or two songs from Slip of the Tongue. Then we go to Europe and the set changes and we're doing 'Don't Break My Heart Again' and 'Ready an' Willing' and 'Love Hunter' and 'Ain't No Love in the Heart of the City.' Totally different sound, almost. So eventually I felt like I love both.
"So when David and I started to work on music, I wanted to find a way to kind of get those two niches together because, like you said, there was the blues side and then there's the glam side. So we worked on this first album back after ten years or whatever it was, Good to Be Bad. And it was cool because it had the blues elements, it had riffage of some of the stuff that he had gotten popular for in the U.S.. And I felt like we were in a great way.
"I would have probably still been with Whitesnake, but I was going through a divorce and I wanted to be with my son. I wanted to take over and my ex needed to go figure out her life. David was like, 'let's do this Deep Purple record' and I started on it with him. But time was getting too hard. And he asked me to just move up to his place, and I just couldn't do that with just my son. I'd have to have like a full time babysitter, and I just really wanted to be with him. So I just tried to respectfully step out. And they've carried on and they've done great, and they've been touring until the pandemic and then that screwed everything up for Whitesnake.
"I think David got really, you know, he was at the point where he wanted to kind of start a farewell tour. But then the pandemic pushed it back two years. And it's still going on. Everybody wants David to be able to have time to do his thing, say farewell. But who knows man, with this crazy stuff that's going on with him. Guys like him and Glenn, they're a little bit older and I think that they are really concerned about getting really, really ill. So it's not worth taking a chance with your life or something, you know? But we'll see what happens. The rest of us have to carry on."
On Working With Dio and 20 Years of Killing The Dragon
"Yeah, he was amazing. And just like I said about how Brian Tichy makes everyone around him play better, same with Ronnie. Ronnie brought the best out in everybody that worked with him. He pushed everybody in a way that was inspiring. I went in the studio with him and he kind of sat with me for awhile when I was doing guitar parts and he'd want to check it out.
"But after like the second day he knew that he could trust me. I wasn't going to try to take over the record and I kind of had the gist of the vibe of what he wanted to do. Ronnie said that we needed to write a couple of songs. Jimmy Bain and I went and pumped out a couple of tracks. One was 'Scream,' and one was 'Along Comes a Spider.' And it was so cool to hear Ronnie sing on a riff that I had come up with. It was so cool. We got busy and I stayed friends with him throughout the years, even though at the beginning when I joined Whitesnake he was upset about that. But then a couple of times I went back to help him fulfill tours when Craig Goldy was not available or something.
"He was in Heaven & Hell and I'll never forget, and it was so cool. We were in Birmingham, England, and he said, 'hey, I'm supposed to meet with the Black Sabbath guys and they're talking about doing a package thing,' and he's like, 'Man, I really don't want to do that. Fuck, I don't really feel like doing that.' And I said, 'Ronnie this cool man!' I mean, I heard Ronnie in Rainbow first, but that's when I first got into Sabbath deep was with Ronnie. So I go, 'Ronnie this could be great!' And he goes, 'I just want to do my band.' I go, 'Yeah, your band is going to get bigger again if you do this!'
"I saw him in the elevator going down to meet Tony and he was all dressed up. He looked really cool and he was just like 'oh yeah, whatever. I'm just going to talk to him.' And he came back and he had a real bounce in his step. He was just really happy. It was like how'd it go? He goes ‘it went great! It was so good to catch up with Tony. We had a blast, we had a great conversation,’ and he's like, ‘He's going to come to the show tonight,’ blah, blah, blah. So I was there that day that they kind of got back and talked and it was cool because at first he wasn't excited and then he was really excited. And then they made a couple of great songs and then they started touring and they made an album and Heaven & Hell was there."
On Final Days With Ronnie James Dio
"At the end Heaven & Hell had some touring coming up in 2010. And Ronnie wanted to slip in a tour in 2009 to keep his band working and keep his crew guys working. Some of those guys would transfer over to Heaven & Hell when that tour started, but he wanted to keep everybody busy and get them money. That's how Ronnie was. And he also wanted to keep his voice in shape. And he also loved to tour and he loved to perform. So it was a win win. And he asked me to do it and I said, 'Listen, talk to David. If David says it's cool then I'm cool with it'. And we put it together and I started to go over to his place.
"We were working on what turned out to be a final track. It's called 'Electra' and you can find it on YouTube. That was the last song we recorded in 2009 and Ronnie was in the studio and he was complaining about his stomach like, 'Man my stomach is killing me'. And then about two weeks later we were in rehearsal, and Ronnie loved to rehearse. My first time rehearsing with Ronnie we would rehearse for like six weeks, maybe a month, but it was like every day. We would take Sundays off. That's it. It was just like cool because the band was crazy tight even before we left.
"So we're in rehearsal in 2009 and he was always the first one there and the last one to leave. And he just was like, 'Guys, I got to knock it on the head, my stomach's just killing me.' And I was like, 'Okay, that's not good.' It must be really bad if he's wanting to go. And we were still rehearsing and they sent the equipment over to England and we were getting ready. It was our last rehearsal and Ronnie didn't show. We had told him 'you've got to go to the doctor. Just to make sure it's not like your appendix isn't going to explode or something. You don't want to be stuck in Helsinki or something in the hospital'. And so he said the doctor said it was just heartburn.
"But then that day, that last rehearsal, he didn't show up. Simon Wright, the drummer said 'we got to just go through the set twice, Ronnie's gotta go get some testing done or whatever. Wendy will come talk to us after about what we got to do,' and I was just like 'that's weird, man.' And I'll never forget going through the set. We always went through the set twice. Going through it twice, it was just brutal because there was no vocals, for one, and Ronnie wasn't there and I just felt like something was really not good. And when Wendy came in and she told us he had cancer. That was it.
"We canceled the tour. We went up to his house the next day and tried to give him support and tell him he's going to kill the dragon and beat it. And I thought he was. We were texting a lot, talking about sports and stuff. And Ronnie loved sports. He loved American football, that was his favorite thing. And then one day, I was in Europe actually. They had Heaven & Hell dates on sale, but Ronnie was really not good and apparently they decided that he was not going to make it and so they just stopped all the medication and just kept the painkillers going.
"And that's when Wendy called. Me and Glenn Hughes and a few guys were out of town together doing this jam. And she called and said, 'Ronnie's not going to make it. Stop everything. Got to get home.' And it turns out I was coming home the next morning and I was on a flight and she said 'don't worry, he's going to be able to make it. He wants to see you and a few other people to say goodbye.' And when the flight landed it was too late. My phone just went [makes a rushing sound] with text messages.
"So that's my Dio story, basically. You know, I was really happy to have been a little small part of his history. And he was a good dude."
On The Future of The Dead Daisies
"Well, I treat it like it's my main band because I basically, since putting out a Burning Rain record, I guess it was 16, 17 … I did a Revolution Saints record as well during that time. But after those records, I decided that when Glenn got in the band I wanted to basically make this the band, in terms of my time and my commitment. I didn't want to dilute what we were doing by talking about Revolution Saints or Burning Rain or anything like that. So it's been 100% The Dead Daisies since Glenn joined.
"And I think he felt the same way. He wanted to promote this as best he could. And so everything else kind of went on the back burner for him. And so that's kind of how we're all approaching it. But you know, it's a situation where there are things that come up and that's part of the reason why David Lowy didn't want to be tied down to a set group of musicians because he wanted to be able to be liquid and move and do shows or whatever he wanted to do. Whatever was booked could be booked. He wanted to do it and not have to go, 'Hey, I'm going to wait for Doug because he's doing Revolution Saints or something' or whatever it was, Whitesnake.
"You never know what's going to happen in the future. And change is definitely inevitable. And change has been good for The Dead Daisies. Not to say that the change makes it better, the change just makes it different. Like with John Corabi it was kick ass lineups with him and Richard Fortus and Dizzy. And then later I came in and that was a good lineup. And now it's Glenn, it's a great lineup. So you never know.
"But when Glenn came in we weren't trying to replace John Corabi. We were just trying to carry on making good music, but let's do it with what Glenn brings in the band. So who knows what the future holds. But right now we are definitely committed to promoting this album. We're really excited about it and we really like it a lot and we hope the people will too."