In a new interview with Andrew Daly of Metal Edge, WHITESNAKE frontman David Coverdale reflected on the breakdown of his working relationship with guitarist John Sykes, who co-wrote nine of the tracks on the band's classic 1987 album "Whitesnake", including mega-hits "Still Of The Night" and "Is This Love?"
"As you know, things went squirrely between us, which was unfortunate," David said. "But John was and is an incredible talent. Our musical chemistry was great, but it didn't work personally. The truth of the matter is no matter how incredible of an album that we made together, we were unable to connect as people. You can hear that there was creative magic in that relationship, but it stopped the moment we put the mics and instruments down. John was critical to that record and a superb live player. But there were many important aspects of things that were not there. It wasn't meant to be. With John, things just exploded. I think rock bottom would have been when he tried to fire me from my own band. As you can imagine, that didn't go over very well. [Laughs]"
Asked if he has spoken with John since he left WHITESNAKE, David said: "I was talking to a mutual acquaintance some years back and said, 'I haven't heard anything from John for a long time.' And this acquaintance got John and me talking while I was working on demos for the 'Into The Light' record. So, after something like 15 years of animosity, we spoke and got on well. Thoughts of working with him again crossed my mind, but the more we spoke, the more I realized that I had changed significantly, and John had been his own boss for so long, so it would never work. I thought, 'The chemistry is not going to work; it's going to be as it was all over again; I can't have that.'"
He continued: "Truthfully, I simply don't want to do anything at this time in my life that will open the door to regret. I know that's perhaps disappointing to fans, and I wish John every success, as I know he's a much-loved and admired player. And I hope everything's okay with him as I haven't heard from him for a while. But I guess what guides me now is something I learned from Jimmy Page, Jon Lord, and the great Ritchie Blackmore, and that's what's the point of working with someone if I don't think I can teach them anything or get something in return?"
Back in 2017, Sykes launched a verbal attack on Coverdale in an issue of U.K.'s Rock Candy magazine, claiming the WHITESNAKE singer "used every excuse possible to explain why he didn't want to record his vocals" for the multi-platinum album. "He blamed the weather. He wasn't happy with the studio. He even went so far as to say the microphones weren't good enough," said Sykes. "I honestly think David suffered from nerves."
Sykes found himself thrown out of WHITESNAKE, alongside bassist Neil Murray and drummer Aynsley Dunbar, even before the album had been released. Coverdale then assembled an entirely different, MTV-friendly group to tour the record. Sykes admitted that he was still "very bitter" about how Coverdale treated him. "David said nothing to any of us about having decided to kick us out of the band," the guitarist told Rock Candy, claiming he only found out he was no longer a member of WHITESNAKE when he asked the band's A&R man John Kalodner what was going on.
"I was furious and wasn't about to accept this," said Sykes. "So I went down to the studio where David was still recording his vocals, prepared to confront him. Honest to God, he ran away, got in his car and hid from me!"
Sykes claimed Coverdale blamed record company Geffen for forcing him to change band members. "I knew he was fucking lying," said Sykes. And he insists Coverdale's claims to have written 95 percent of the album's guitar parts are also false. "When I knew him, David could barely play the guitar," Sykes said.
Sykes also ruled out the possibility of collaborating with Coverdale in the future, saying: "I know David has been saying recently that he and I have been talking about working together on a project outside of WHITESNAKE. That's completely false. I really have no interest in ever talking to him again."