Interview By Ville Krannila / April 2008
Steel Mill’s engines were further ignited recently as vocalist supreme Doogie White paid us a visit. Originally the man made his name in mid 1990’s as the singer in reunited Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow. Later on he’s worked on several different projects including four excellent albums with hard rockers Cornerstone, two with Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force and most recently one of the best heavy rock albums of 2007, Empire’s “Chasing Shadows.” As Doogie is preparing his first proper solo album, he was happy to talk about his previous projects and what’s future got in store.
Starting from the beginning, when you were growing up which singers/bands were your main influences?
I saw Bowie on Top of the Pops doing Starman and thought how cool he was. So I was a huge Bowie fan for many years. Then I heard Deep Purple and never looked back.
I also listened to guys like Lou Gramm, John Sloman and Todd Rungren. Later in the 80’s I was listening to black soul singers as I was not really into the hair bands that America was spawning. I just like good singers or someone who has a unique style or phrasing.
How was the music scene in Scotland when you were starting out your career, some good bands have come from there for example Nazareth and of course AC/DC originates from Scotland as well?
Nazareth was the first live band I ever saw. I saw AC/DC 7 times but only with Bon Scott. There were a few local bars like the Heathery where bands would play every weekend. I joined a couple of local bands playing originals and covers. It was all great fun and a good learning experience. A couple of the local bands I saw in the 80’s are still playing.
We also had the mighty Apollo theatre in Glasgow where we could go and watch the bigger bands, like Whitesnake, UFO… that kind of thing.
It was an amazing sight watching 4000 mad Scottish rawkers making the balconies bounce. And they did…. The Apollo was also famous for having a very high stage. A few musicians came cropper by falling off.
In the future do you see yourself adding more Scottish influences to your music as you sometimes have done in the past, you sang the classic “Drinking Song” at least during the Rainbow-tour?
Well that was just a bit of fun. Ritchie used to like to put me on the spot just to see if I could come up with anything to amuse him and us.
It’s not something I have considered but it’s not a bad idea. Thanks for that.
You are currently working on your debut solo album. What can we expect from that?
It’s gonna be thunderous. I have a great bunch of guys to write with and to play with. They have all given very generously of their time and talent. I am forever in their debt. It’s going to be 12 hard rockin’ tunes and maybe a 13th if I can persuade Ritchie to play guitar on it. That’s the only way there will be 13 songs. The tunes are homage to the kind of music that made me love music in the first place. I wanted to expand the lyrical content and try to bring something a little different to the music.
Do you view it simply as a Doogie White solo project, or a full band to possibly take out on the road as well?
At this stage it is planned as a solo album. But the songs do work in the live setting also. I tried 3 out in Japan last year. I would love to have a band. I am much better in a band situation. Maybe I can get some of the players to get on a tour bus with me and do a few shows.
On your White Noise tour with Mostly Autumn you performed a song called “Question The God” mentioning it as your new solo track? Is that one going to be included on your forthcoming album?
Yes, Question The God is on the album albeit different from the White Noise version. The new one is much harder edged with some brutal drumming from Patrik Johansson.
Let’s talk about your different projects for a while; before joining Rainbow was it true you were briefly up for Iron Maiden vocalist slot after Bruce Dickinson’s departure?
So they say. I did audition twice with them. That was an eye opener. I just did not have the vocal style they wanted at the time. I was untested at that point for the larger arenas but I could have coped. 6 months later I was in Rainbow. So all was not lost. I try to be optimistic. There is a lot of cynicism, quite rightly, about the business at the moment. I’ve had my share and it’s time to move on.
You also worked with late great Cozy Powell on another project around the same time, are there any tapes left in the vaults from that era?
Cozy and I only talked about me singing on his album. As far as I remember I recorded some demos for him. But then I joined Rainbow and he used John West. It’s 10 years ago today since he died.
In 1995 Rainbow’s “Stranger In Us All” was one of band’s best albums, yet metal and hard rock at the time were in serious slump because of grunge and negative attitude from the press. Looking back how do you remember that time and do you think the record should have been a bigger success than it originally was?
The album sold 400,000 so it did okay given all the points you raised in your question. The tours were very good and the band was awesome some nights. The press in Europe and Japan backed and supported the band quite well. In the US and UK they were busy following the current trends to boost sales of there magazines and trying to “stay hip maaann” and largely ignored us. We just went out and destroyed all before us. We were awesome some nights.
One of the best things about “Stranger” was that it combined all the best elements from Rainbow’s past, the mystical aspect of Dio-era, the more commercial 1980’s output and to top it off added something completely new in songs like “Hunting Humans.” Do you agree and was this a conscious decision when writing the songs?
We just gathered at the big house and started writing. There was no real plan. I told Ritchie I wanted to do a cross between Burn and Rainbow Rising. Ritchie wanted to have some songs that “girls would like” so that’s where the lighter songs came in. I was more of a fan of the early albums as I felt Rainbow’s sound was defined by Ritchie’s guitar, which I missed on the later records. I wanted to bring the European flavour back rather than the later American slick glitzy side.
The live set on Rainbow’s final tour was more or less focused on the early Dio-era, except “Spotlight Kid” was there a reason why the more commercial 1980’s material wasn’t played?
The later songs were really for America to try and break the band there. With the way the scene was in ‘95 there we decided to concentrate on other parts of the planet who would accept what we were doing.
“Stranger In Us All” being such a strong effort, sadly this was the end of Rainbow apparently for good. Was a follow-up ever planned and do you think there ever will be another Rainbow album?
We did talk about it but Blackmore’s Night really took off for him and the rest is..well if not history..the way it has been for rather a while now.
Yes afterwards Blackmore went off to form Blackmore’s Night with Candice Night, what do you think caused his shift of interest towards more medieval music or was this simply something that was bound to happen anyway at some point?
I get asked this a lot. My answer is always the same. I have no idea. That is something only he can answer.
How did you find working with Ritchie, as he has a reputation of being an interesting character and ultimate perfectionist?
I got on very well with Ritchie. Our work was good and would have gotten better had we done another album. In 2008 it would be even more interesting as I am writing well. I enjoyed his company and he enjoyed mine until one day he did not..that was that.
The world of rock is ready for a Rainbow return. The climate is just right. I know Joe (Lynn Turner) is battering on about it. Look if it happens, it happens, and Ritchie could have whoever the hell he likes in the band. The lines will be round the block. If he wants me to do it all he has to do is call me.
Few years after Rainbow, you formed Cornerstone. The first album “Arrival” had some progressive elements and with second CD “Human Stain” you really hit the spot. Following albums have provided some of the best hard rock of current day and age. It seems you have a really strong creative relationship with Steen Mogensen?
Steen is really the perfectionist and we worked really hard on the albums we wrote together. Human Stain was the first. I was recovering from surgery on a ruptured vocal fold and it was the first time I had sung in 6 months. So there was a lot of frustration in there. I had some tunes that I had prepared for the next Rainbow album. So I let Steen work his magic. It is different from what Ritchie would have done. I do have a good writing communication with Steen. We do push each other hard but we get great results.
What’s up with Cornerstone at the moment? The band released a live album few years ago, are there any plans to put out a full DVD at some point?
We have no plans for a DVD. The live album is great and I had hoped that more people would come and see us. I don’t get the idea of sitting in the house watching live metal on the TV. Go to the gigs.
The future is unclear at the moment. Here is the cynicism. Downloading is killing the smaller bands. There are too many bands prepared to give the albums to record companies for a couple of grand.
Then they get downloaded and the budget gets even smaller, sales fall, the budget is smaller again.
You have also worked on a lot of side projects, such as M3 Classic Whitesnake, White Noise, Gary Hughes’ King Arthur saga etc. When doing these how much of your own character do you get to instil to the material? Or do you get specific instructions on how to sing a particular song?
When I do sessions I get a rough idea of what’s needed and then go in and try and nail it.
M3 I had hoped would have been a more honest experience. Sorry I can’t explain why.
The White Noise DVD is a disgrace and that is why I do not promote it. It sounds like a goose farting down a barrel. The editing is crap. Another quick buck for someone I guess.
As you have worked with quite a lot of different projects, do you see yourself ever doing a tour or a special gig with songs from all of these posts throughout your career, for example some old Midnight Blue tunes?
I am in talks about a tour at the moment and will do exactly that. Rehearse 2 hours and switch the set around to keep it healthy.
You sang on two Yngwie Malmsteen studio albums and did tours with the man throughout the last 6 years or so? What happened to bring about your recent departure?
I think 6 years or so was long enough. He needed to make changes and as it seems to be his way when he makes “changes” the singer gets it. He said he wanted to move in a different musical direction and that he did not think it was a direction I would want to go in. There was no falling out or anything unpleasant.
I think we just got in a rut and I got bored. I was starting to spend half the shows off stage while he indulged his love of guitar solos. Then he started singing a couple of songs as well. So there was not much for me to do in the end. It was fun most of the time but as with most things it’s the little stone in the shoe that causes the most grief after a time.
One of the strongest albums of 2007 was Empire’s “Chasing Shadows”. Previous albums had another great metal singer, Tony Martin on lead vocals. How did you hook up with the band and approach recording with them?
They asked me to tour with them but I could not as I had commitments with Yngwie. But when the chance came up to write and record an album I said yes. I am very pleased with the album and there are some very strong performances on it. Rolf Munkes, the guitarist, sent me some ideas and I just knew what needed to be done. It was painless and seamless. A natural writing partnership.
One of my favourite tunes on the record comes via excellent melodies on “Manic Messiah.” Can you tell us more about the song? It is also musically very catchy and features a great vocal, in studio how long do you work on a vocal like this? Is it nailed on one take or do you piece it together over a longer period of time?
I was brought up in a household that went to church on Sundays and I was always fascinated by the concept. Then as I got older and questioned religious teachings and ideas, I found that I was not getting answers I needed. Then there were these charismatic men who started cults. Jim Jones, David Koresh and some strange looking space aliens. All their followers died or committed suicide. So I took the idea and ran with it. Combine that with the Easter story and you have corruption of the soul and spirit on a grand scale.
I like to sing the song four times and make one good version. Sometimes it works well. Sometimes there are little repairs.
Earlier You mentioned a possible Empire tour, any update on that?
Still looking at that. All my plans are being evaluated since my departure from Rising Force. I am open to anything and everything. I am keeping all my options open.
And last, what in your opinion is the best Judas Priest tune and why?
I really dig “Exciter.” I had never heard anybody sing that high before and when I was 12 I could. By the time I was 15 I could not even hear the notes never mind sing them.
Thanks a lot for your time!
Save the Planet……….We have nowhere else to go!!!