By David E. Gehlke
The relaxed, easy-going disposition of Doug Aldrich over Zoom likely matches his approach while in the rehearsal room with the likes of Ronnie James Dio, David Coverdale and now Glenn Hughes as part of THE DEAD DAISIES. (Aldrich joked that he's happy to be included in the Ritchie Blackmore family tree.) Aldrich spent most of the '80s and '90s trying to work his way up the ladder, landing the DIO guitar spot in time for 2002's underrated "Killing The Dragon". Coverdale and WHITESNAKE called next for a run that lasted from 2003 to 2014. Point being, one doesn't get picked for such coveted gigs without having the right attitude — and chops, something Aldrich apparently has.
The rock "supergroup" THE DEAD DAISIES is Aldrich's current priority. With the aforementioned Hughes on vocals (and bass) along with returning drummer Brian Tichy (WHITESNAKE, OZZY OSBOURNE) and founding member/guitarist David Lowy, the band is gearing up to release their sixth studio album, "Radiance" in late September. For an outfit known for its open-door member policy and frequent lineup shifts, this may be the best incarnation of THE DEAD DAISIES yet — especially with the ageless Hughes out front and Aldrich's heavy, driving riffs.
In the here and now, Aldrich and his bandmates had managed to work around the perfunctory COVID-19-related touring issues and salvaged some European dates when Hughes went down. As Aldrich would tell BLABBERMOUTH.NET, it always helps to have a plan — and some friends — in place.
Blabbermouth: What was the situation like when Glenn came down with COVID-19 and you had to enlist Dino (Jelusick, vocals, WHITESNAKE) and Yogi (Lonich, bass)?
Doug: "We were bummed. We were concerned because we tried to protect Glenn and make sure he didn't catch anything the whole time. In fact, when I caught it, David and I got it right before a big festival in France. We had to cancel the festival and the one the next day. David tested positive the next day, but I was still negative. To be safe, I tested myself again and I was negative. Then, I tested Glenn and he was negative. Later in the day, I tested myself again and was positive, so I was like, 'Oh, shit.' I was worried about Glenn catching it. We were just going to go home. We didn't want to do anything without Glenn. There was one thing — everyone was bummed because there were a couple of shows, one in Switzerland and in Germany, that were headline shows. We had promoted it and gotten so many people from other parts of the world who made plans to fly in. It was this extravaganza — basically, a hangout, a musical hangout. We were bummed we would have to make people change or cancel flights and hotels. All of a sudden, you know, everybody knows everybody — Yogi had been filling in already for a couple of shows over the years for David. Yogi knew the set. He had done one show with us and knew the set. Then, we didn't think of anything, but somebody said, 'Dino is home because WHITESNAKE just canceled because David [Coverdale] had a sinus thing.' I said, 'Wait a minute — both of those guys are in Croatia. That could work.' Of course, we didn't want to do anything without Glenn, but with his approval, we finished the tour and maintained our commitments. That's all we were trying to do. We didn't want to let the fans down who were planning to come party with the band. We carried on. It was nerve-wracking. I felt responsible for making sure we didn't suck."
Blabbermouth: It's common now for bands to have reserves or a "bullpen" they can tap in situations like this. Will THE DEAD DAISIES do the same?
Doug: "We could, but this is how I honestly feel: I talked about this with the guys in the band. When I got COVID, I had no symptoms. I definitely had it. I had a sniffle, but it wasn't like how some people get. I just thought, 'Okay, I heard stories of bands last summer that somebody got COVID — and this is what we did — we camped out for a week in a hotel and isolated until we were all negative. At this point, now, the way I feel, if it were up to me, I would say, 'Okay, guys. I got COVID. I'm going to be over here. I'm going to double-mask and we'll get onstage. We'll play and I'm not going to see anybody. I'm not going to ride with you guys on the bus or the plane. I'm going to find alternate transportation and let's keep going.' We've had the flu for years. I've caught the flu on the road and it's brutal. The flu would go through the bus in a matter of a couple of weeks — everyone would get it. I feel like we got to move on. You got to be honest and tell your friends and bandmates, 'I got a scratchy throat. I just want to let you guys know. Stay away. I'm going to see where this goes. I'll test. If it's positive, I will be really careful. Even if it's not positive, you can still get a cold. Stay away from me.' We have to be cognizant of that."
Blabbermouth: On to more positive topics: "Holy Ground" came out last year and now you're back with "Radiance". What prompted the quick turnaround?
Doug: "Glenn had some ideas during lockdown. We started to get together and bang through some songs. We had some really cool stuff like 'Radiance' and 'Face Your Fear'. We went through and got a good start on some new music. We demoed them up and started to top-and-tail them into full-on songs. Then we got busy because the record came out in '21 and we wanted to do a little touring. We toured in the U.S. and the U.K. Then, we had this European tour booked, but the pandemic kept getting it pushed back. It got pushed back until February '22. Then, omicron hit in December and it was, 'Sorry, guys — it's not going to happen until the summer.' And it was like, 'Oh, man. What the hell!' We shifted gears to 'Let's go in the studio.' We spent a month working on another half-dozen songs. We went to the studio in Los Angeles with the same producer, Ben Grosse and got busy. We worked up until we left for the European tour that was then starting in May and finished the album."
Blabbermouth: You've worked with some pretty well-known singers. What's it like working with Glenn? Is he collaborative? Are you ever too precious about your own ideas? Is he?
Doug: "I'm not too precious. I will say Glenn sometimes is precious because he's really talented. It's not an insult because he's very passionate. I will say sometimes, 'Glenn, hold on. Let's try this and give it a shot.' Then someone will say something and I'll see Glenn going, 'No, I want to do this.' I'll try to be Elmer's Glue in between and go, 'Don't worry.' As Coverdale used to say [mimics Coverdale's voice], 'It's much easier to try Doug, less than it is to deny it.' We try things. Generally, Glenn and I will work separately to get some basic stuff. Then, he'll pass on something to me. I'll pass on something to him, but the way I look at it, working with Ronnie James Dio and Coverdale, I present to these guys what I think they would like within the framework of the kind of music the band is doing. If the singer is not into it, it's not worth it to force it. It doesn't work. I don't want to twist somebody's arm. If you're not feeling this idea, I got ten more that you can try and find one that you like. With Glenn, I told him a couple of times, 'You got to give me room to put my stamp on this. I know what you want to do and it's really cool.' Like anything with guys you're working with, it's never as good if you do it all by yourself — two heads are better than one. You need somebody you can trust. You can trust me. I've been down this road before. I have no agenda. I'm not changing something for the sake of changing. I just want to make sure we're on the strongest path. For the most part, Glenn and I start it off and everyone puts their stamp on it. Brian, especially, makes everything better and David does his thing, which is an honest, simple approach to guitar, which is almost punk rock in a way."
Blabbermouth: Do you think that flexibility is your greatest strength?
Doug: "I'm not always easy to work with. Glenn and David will tell you that. I'll be straight with you: There are times when both wanted to wring my neck. I don't want to die on a hill in every battle. If it's something I'm really passionate about and believe it, I just want the opportunity to try it. Then, we'll make a collective decision on whether it improves the song or better the other way. Or, if I've got something I think is really cool, I'll fight for it for a minute. As I say, the singer is the ultimate guy. If he's not feeling it, it won't get finished. That said, I believe that in my old age, I'm learning to be as flexible as I can be. It's a benefit because I'm not only flexible but I'm also open to learning. Sometimes I think I know what I want, but somebody shows me another way and I go, 'Oh, shit. That is cool! I like that.' My advice to any musician is to be open-minded and flexible. And keep a positive attitude. There's enough crap in the world. If I'm auditioning somebody I'm going to work with, I want to be able to hang with them and be cool. I need to be on a tour bus for 23 hours with this guy and not get into a fistfight. It's very important."
Blabbermouth: If we go back to Glenn, is there a side of his voice that you prefer?
Doug: "I love them all. He's just so good. I love the soulful stuff a lot, but when he's torquing it out, it's pretty badass. On 'Hypnotize Yourself', during the verse, it's very bluesy, almost kind of Paul Rodgers [BAD COMPANY] flavor, a little bit. Then he gets to the chorus and he's torquing it. It's full-throttle. It's great to hear him going from shade to sunshine — I don't know what you'd call it. But basically, it contrasts. I love them both. If I had to pick, I love the soulful Glenn a lot. If we made a record like that, like a soulful, it would have all these major and minor seventh chords and ninth chords. It wouldn't be a rock record. When I think of Glenn's soulful side, he goes from Percy Sledge to Stevie Wonder to Gladys Knight. That opens up so many melodic opportunities. Like 'Roll On' is an R&B groove in the middle of a simple chord progression and with this beautiful melody on top. It's a great message, too. I got to say: His lyrics are stellar on these records. He's in a positive place and it's cool to hear it."
Blabbermouth: Most supergroups like THE DEAD DAISIES die a pretty quick death, yet here you are, still going. What makes this group succeed when others have failed?
Doug: "We do our best. You never know, though. That's the thing: David Lowy wanted to set up the band where people could come and go and come back. People want to have the freedom to do their own thing sometimes. What works about the band is that we have the backing to where we can do an album and sell the album or license the album to a company, whereas sometimes some bands can't afford to do the album. They have to sign a record deal. It makes it a little different when you have a little bit of backing behind you. I think the guys, everyone is friends. We know each other. We just want to make music together that we like and hopefully, people will like it. The one other thing that I think is a good thing that David set up from the beginning and told me: 'Something important to me is bringing our fans and friends along for the ride. We're going to utilize social media a lot.' This was six years ago: 'This is a new technology for promoting the band and I really want people to come along for the ride. There's a lot of stuff people never get to see and now they can.' At first, I was like, 'Okay, I think I understand but not really.' [Laughs] Now I get it. I think it's pretty cool."