Jart Music talks with Rainbow's Doogie White
As a huge fan of Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow, I found the chance of speeking with Doogie White both interesting and informative. I found Doogie being most humble and sincere in what he speaks of. Here is our conversation:
JA: Doogie, thanks for agreeing to do this interview with us. We get a lot of feedback from people saying how much they like the album.
Doogie: I had a lot of fun doing it actually. I have been a Rainbow fan, I've been a fan of Ritchie's for a long time. In fact I found an old ticket stub today. I was moving some gear into a new place and I found the old ticket stub from the very first time I saw him in 1976.
JA: That was a great tour.
Doogie: Yeah, it was.
JA: The first time I saw Ritchie was in 1981.
Doogie: With Joe in the band.
JA: Right, it was the 'Difficult To Cure' tour. Then I saw him the year after as well.
Doogie: That was the one with the big eyes.
JA: Right, it was with the big eyes.
Doogie: That was a good idea.
JA: So how come you didn't bring the big eyes back ?
Doogie: Yeah, I think Ritchie is using them to ward off crows in his garden.
JA: From what I have seen the response to the album (SIUA) has been huge. Everybody seems to have positive things to say about it. What kind of reaction you gotten on the road ?
Doogie: Well, in Europe, in Japan and in Scandinavia the reaction has been really good. There is still a massive rock market out there. As for the UK, the rock market over there has been pretty much crushed by the Brit. Pop thing and the Dance scene. Over here we got a couple of good reviews both for the live shows and for the record.
But generally they are not really interested in Rock music anymore or they're not been getting the chance to. The response in Germany was superb. All the gigs that we been playing have been sold out. We just finished some festivals there. We played to 25.000 people.
JA: What type of festivals did you play ?
Doogie: We did three festivals. One in Germany and two in Scandinavia. One was a guest to ZZ Top. One we headlined ourselves, which was actually the last gig that we played in Copenhagen. The the night before we were in a place called Scanderborg. Which was a big double stage. With bands like Little Feat on it and Suzi Quatro. So it was a mixed bill but it was 25.00 people, it was incredible.
JA: How did the crowds react to Rainbow ?
Doogie: It was great, like when we played 'Temple Of The King' they all lit candles and waved them back and forth.
JA: With the success of Ritchie's and Rainbow past do you feel you have a lot of expectations to live up to, both on the album and in concert ?
Doogie: Yeah, I think that anybody would coming in and stepping into the shoes that I've just stepped into. I have great respect for the traditions of Rainbow and the past. Being a fan I had an idea of what people would expect and I am trying to inject some of my own ideas and my own personality into that. Whan we were doing the record I didn't really feel the pressure because I was doing pretty much my own thing. But when it came out and people had to then start judging it and journalists tend to take it and say, well he sounds like Joe Lynn Turner. On this song and this is a sort of a Dio era song and this is a pop song that could have been song by Graham Bonnet. I was very aware that kind of thing would happen. So I was a bit nervous then. The response have been very positive which has pleased me, and the response to the live-performances even more so. People have been really enjoying the live show. There was one shout in Argentina for Ronnie James Dio and one shout maybe in Scandinavia for Ronnie James Dio, but everybody else has said that you are the right man for the job so I am very pleased with that.
JA: I guess in the beginning everybody compares you to the past singers and then what happens is you begin to take on a life of your own.
Doogie: That was the strange thing when we were in Europe the first time. I could wander around at the gig and nobody would know me. But last time it was getting difficult to even sort of step out of the hotel because people knew who I was.
JA: On recording the album, being that you and Ritchie are two responsible for most of the writing on the album. How did you go about conceiving the songs on the album ?
Doogie: I have a lot of lyric books that I write all the time, and Ritchie would just jam around a riff and an idea. Then the band would sort of join in and I would flick through my lyric books until I saw a phrase. I write down phrases and things that I hear. So I found one and I would make a starting point there. Then put a melody over the top of it. We record everything and Ritchie would say 'well that's a good idea' or 'I don't like that or chance that'. We would just knock it back and forth and then we would record an instrumental version of it. I would take it back to my room and do it up on a 4-track and finish it up. By the time I would finish it up and taken it back to Ritchie, he would say 'I changed it'. So we have about four or five different versions of every song that we done on porta-studio tapes. With different melodies and different lyrics and different arrangements which is pretty interesting.
JA: Where did the ideas come from for the songs ?
Doogie: Ritchie just seems to just pull them out of the air. He is very much the musical master when it comes to that. Some of the things come together very quickly. 'Hunting Humans', from the moment he struck up his guitar to the closing note was written in about 45 minutes. Other songs like 'Cold Hearted Woman' and 'Silence' we worked really hard on to get them. Mostly it's a melody thing, because once a song is down and recorded then I've got to bring something out of what's down there. With 'Ariel' we were really struggling. The melody and the lyrics is something that Candy and Ritchie had been working for maybe four months. He just stuck it in and started playing the melody on the guitar and I said 'that will work, that's really good like that'. So we changed it from the little folk song that it was into this huge big rock anthem.
JA: Where did 'Black Masquerade' come from ?
Doogie: That was one of the very first songs we wrote, actually. That's got about four different versions of it. We were really struggling, and one night I was just sitting after having been out to dinner and having drunk some nice red wine and the melody just came into my head. I sat down and sang it. The next morning I woke Ritchie up and I played it. He said 'that's brilliant, we'll do that'. Then we were sruggling with the lyrics to that. So Candice had said 'Look, I've written these lyrics. Do they fit ?' And I said 'Yeah, they'll fit', so the whole thing fitted in really nicely. We've changed it slightly for live. We have put in little stops and starts which make it really dramatic.
JA: The US release I believe is this week.
Doogie: It comes out on the 17th (of September).
JA: 'Emotional Crime' the Japanese bonustrack. Why that song for Japan ?
Doogie: I don't know why. That may have been the record company or again that may have been Ritchie's choice to do that.
JA: Why redo 'Still I'm Sad ?'
Doogie: We were jamming around one day and Ritchie started playing and I started singing it. We put it down in two takes and we picked the best one.
JA: So that song was recorded live in the studio ?
Doogie: Yeah, they all were recorded live in the studio. That's the way Ritchie likes to do it.
JA: When you were told you were in the band, was it before Ritchie had chosen the other band members or were they also part of the decision ?
Doogie: Paul Morris was the first one in. When I went over to audition for the band John O'Reilly, who was the drummer on the album, was there and we had another bass player. What happened was we got rid of the bass player rather quickly because Ritchie did not particularly like his playing. That's when we got Greg Smith in, from Alice Cooper and Blue Oyster Cult. Ritchie and I went down to see Greg play in a bar on Long Island, NY and I got up and did a couple of songs with him and instantly the voices just blended beautifully. Ritchie liked the way he played and the fact that he brewed beer and he is a great personality. Then I think we were about two weeks into rehearsal for the tour. John being American didn't play soccer. So he goes in goal and he landed awkwardly on the ball, he dived a bit too carelessly and landed on the ball. He cracked two of his ribs so that he couldn't actually lift his arms above his head. Now this was like seven days before we were due to go to Copenhagen to start a week of production with the lights. On Sunday Ritchie said 'what are we going to do?' Greg said 'Chuck Burgi is available. I'm sure he would do it'. Chuck came in on Monday and we worked really really hard until the following Saturday, ten hours a day. Then that was it, Chuck was in.
JA: Chuck was in. And John was out ?
Doogie: There was no way that we could hold back anything for John. He was going to maybe six weeks to recover. But that would have meant us losing half the tour which we really couldn't afford to do.
JA: Is Chuck now in for good ?
Doogie: I think so, he has done a brilliant job. He and Greg play off each other so well. Because they played in Blue Oyster Cult as well.
JA: I didn't realize that Greg Smith was in Blue Oyster Cult.
Doogie: They were in Blue Oyster Cult last summer. So they know those little cues they give each other. You know Ritchie is a great one for cues. Chuck who had worked with him before picks up the cues. That whole back line of the three of them working together is brilliant.
JA: Ritchie does a lot of improvising on stage, doesn't he ?
Doogie: Yeah, you really have to be on the ball. Someone once asked me why I go to the side of the stage ....... so that I can see what Ritchie is doing. Plus I don't want to be standing in front of him while he's playing. People are there to see him play the guitar. So I get out of the way, then I can take my cue. He knows where I am, he just gives a point and I'm in.
JA: So is he out there controlling the whole show ?
Doogie: If he says stop cut it, we stop cut it. If he wants it to keep going or maybe he wants a keyboard solo instead or a guitar solo or maybe he wants me to improvise and sing something. We have a lot of fun and it's interesting because you never know what's going to happen next.
JA: How does the band stay together during all the improvisation ?
Doogie: We all keep an eye on Ritchie, that's the only way to do it. He is in the spotlight you keep an eye on him and you know the cues. You just know what he means when he is giving these little points and things. He will walk over to me on the stage and say why you don't sing something about the town we are in tonight or sing about the beer or sing about whatever. I just have to make it up as we go along. So it is a good exercise for me as well. He will play something on the guitar and say copy that or I will sing something and look at him and say copy that. So we have a lot of fun.
JA: Any highlights that stick in your mind from improvising ?
Doogie: Well he does the blues sometimes and when we were doing one of the festivals he said to me 'your on'. He just stopped playing and I had to improvise this whole blues thing for two verses. That was really good because he came over to me at the end and shook my hand and said, 'that was really good'. I was pleased with that. Some of the things we do in the middle of 'Long Live Rock 'n' Roll' are good. It's a sort of question, answer thing that we do. Sometimes he leads and sometimes I lead and sometimes it gets muddled and then we find a way out, but it's always really entertaining. I like doing that. I enjoy singing 'Mistreated' just because I think it's a great song. That shows the whole spectrum of his guitar playing in that single song. Because it's a blues tune and he gets to play that very soulful stuff in the middle. Then at the end it picks up into the frenzy and it's always been a highlight for me.
JA: It's got to be a highlight for the audience as well.
Doogie: Oh, you can't believe it, they just go nuts.
JA: I read someplace that when you were down in South America at one of the shows that you were diving into the crowd.
Doogie: Oh, yeah.
JA: Do you do that often ?
Doogie: I've done it a few times actually. I think I did it in San Paulo. And they just passed me around and then politely put me back on the stage. It was like 'thanks very much'. There was another gig that we did and they had a sort of a balcony going around, all the way around. So I could go up one side of the stage during 'Hall Of The Mountain King' when it's all speeding up and getting frenzied and walk right around the back of the balcony. Just winding everybody up, just getting them going. They're going crazy and Ritchie kept it going right until I got back on stage and then he stopped the band dead. It was just brilliant because it must have gone on for a good three or four minutes longer than it should have gone. He could have left me stuck up there in the middle of the balcony. But he just kept it going and it was getting more and more frantic. I did it in Germany a couple of times as well when we were over on the first tour. I like that. Because nothing is ever planned, it's just a spontaneous reaction. Actually I went out in one of the gigs in Germany. I jumped off the stage so that I could see what it looked like from a fan's point of view. And I walked right through them. It was like the parting of the Red Sea. I got to lean on the barrier and when it was calm for me to go back up on the stage two of them just picked me up and hoisted me back onto the stage.
JA: How are the audiences reacting between the older and the newer material ? Do you see a difference ?
Doogie: Not really. When you pop in something like 'Mistreated' it was the same when we did 'Temple Of The King' the first time, before anybody knew that we were doing it, the reaction was incredible. The reaction to something like 'Ariel' or 'Hunting Humans' is also really good. In fact in 'Hunting Humans' they were singing along. It was like, what is that noise ? I was looking out and they were all singing it. When we do 'Mistreated' or the likes of 'Perfect Strangers' the reaction is mental. It's putting on these songs that they never really expected us to play. The new songs are going over equally as well. Because everybody has their favorite era of Rainbow. Whether it be Ronnie's, Graham's, Joe's or the current, this present one.
JA: Any surprises along the way ?
Doogie: When we were in Germany, when we were guests of ZZ Top. They dragged Ritchie and I down to a tent.We thought we were going to do an interview, and we walked onto the stage and there were two thousand people crammed into this tent and they went mental. We had a great night. That was a good night.
JA: Are you doing any other projects between the legs of this tour ?
Doogie: I'm writing with a couple of friends of mine. Just to keep busy. But I really just want to get ideas together for Rainbow, that's important. So, not really, I have written about half a dozen songs for Rainbow. I have written and recorded about three or four with a couple of friends. They are just demos, I don't know what if anything would ever happen to them.
JA: When did you record the two tracks for the 'Metal Monsters' album, All Shook Up and Cut Loose ?
Doogie: Right, for Lea Hart. I did that for Lea a long time ago, around '90 or '91. He sent me six songs and said to pick two.
JA: Who were some of the musicians on that album ?
Doogie: Well, I never got to meet any of the musicians but I believe that Neil Murray plays on it. I think that Don Airey is in there on some of the tracks. Dennis Stratton who was the original Iron Maiden guitarist. One of my favorite singers is also on that album, I think. A guy called John Sloman.
JA: Right, he's on there too.
Doogie: He is doing a Bernie Marsden song. Also a mate of mine called Jem Davis, he is a keyboard player. I never got to meet anybody, because we all went in on different days. Tuesday was my day and I just went in for four hours and battled down these songs.
JA: And this was before you had any idea that you would be with Ritchie and Rainbow ?
Doogie: Oh yeah, way before I knew anything like that.
JA: Did you ever had any idea that you would go singing for Ritchie ?
Doogie: It was always an ambition to do it. Nobody was as shocked as I was that he chose me to do it. But we get on pretty well and I think that we are compatible musically as well. Yeah, I was quite surprised. I mean I wake up every morning and still have a little chuckle.
JA: How did Ritchie find you ?
Doogie: I was in a band called Midnight Blue. We had just split up and I was down on my luck. Then I met a man called Dave Shack who works for BMG International. I phoned him up because I wanted to go see Deep Purple. He gave me a ticket and a pass for the party under the condition that I behave myself. I made a tape up, Now this is when Joe Lynn Turner was in the band, back in '90 or '91. I brought the tape along and gave it to a guy called Colin Hart, who was Ritchie's tour manager for years. I was actually working with Cozy Powell at the time and I had just been over in Germany to audition for a band called Pink Cream 69. When I got back there, there was a poster on my wall that someone had made up for me saying that Ritchie Blackmore's secretary had called. He was interested in me coming over and auditioning with Rainbow and would I be interested and a phone number. So I immediately got on the phone. Candice had picked this one out with my name and phone number on it and he liked what he heard. Candy said that she had a good feeling for this guy, it's a good name.
JA: She liked the name ?
Doogie: She liked the Doogie part. I wish I had a killer name, it would be really good. I'd like to have a killer name like Gillan or Coverdale or a really cool name.
Doogie: The first song we played was 'Rainbow Eyes'. Ritchie said 'I know that one' and I said 'You should, you wrote it'.
JA: Any plans for a solo album in the future ?
Doogie: Not really, I am perfectly happy doing Rainbow as long as Ritchie wants me to do it. I don't want to do anything that will interfere with the touring schedule or the recording schedule with Rainbow. If Ritchie wants to take a year and not to do anything I am going to have to work in that time. I have got a back log of material that I haven't decided what I am going to do with it yet. I will keep writing and if Ritchie says that we won't do the next album till August next year and we finish touring at Christmas. It gives me six or seven months to put an album together and maybe do a little touring.
JA: Other than Midnight Blue's album "Take The Money And Run' are there any other albums that you appear on ?
Doogie: I did a track for a German guy named Alex Parshe. He wrote a song with myself and Udo Dirkschneider from Accept called 'Death Of Innocence' which is pretty good. I listened to it the other day. But that is all the recordings I did.
JA: What year was that with Alex Parshe ?
Doogie: That was about 1993. It was between the Iron Maiden auditions that I went for.
JA: How close were you to being Iron Maiden's singer ?
Doogie: Well I had two auditions. It was only myself, Blaze and one other guy in the final consideration. But I think Steve thought that I was too bluesy for it.
JA: Who are your influences ?
Doogie: I always influenced by the singers that have worked with Ritchie in the past. I'm not just saying that, I mean it. I have all the Gillan albums. I have all the Whitesnake albums and all the solo albums by these guys. I also like, I mentioned before John Sloman. I was influenced by Lou Gramm of Foreigner and Terence Trent Darby. I like to pick from different trees.
JA: Any vocal training ?
Doogie: No, just playing in cover bands. Finding songs that I like to sing and could sing, playing in pubs and clubs. It's like a muscle, you just have to keep using it and using it. When we did the tour I didn't have a single problem because it's just trained to do that now. I had a lot of built up when I went for the Maiden auditions. I worked for four months learning twenty Maiden songs. Running throught the entire set singing it. So that was really good training for my build up to come and do Rainbow. But it really strenghtened up my vocal cords.
JA: What type of music do you listen to ?
Doogie: At the moment I am listening to a band called The Blue Nile. They are a Scottish band. Paul Buchanon is the singer/songwriter. They have only done three albums in the last ten years but they are absolutly amazing. I am also listening to The Manic Street Preachers and although it is very trendy to say it I think the new Oasis album is superb.
JA: In a world where the music industry has changed drastically over the years and the values seemed to have changed on musitionship, in what direction do you feel the music is heading ?
Doogie: I watched a program last night with Jules Holland ... this special last night on all the Brit Pop bands. They all look and sound the same the way that bands like Poison, Motley Crew and Cinderella all sounded and looked. But only the strong survive. I think that it is healthy that it took a chance with the Nirvanas and the Soundgardens. But I think that it is good that it is changing again. It seems so transient now. You seem to get one or two albums out from an artist that you never hear from again. I mean Cheryl Crow, because her album was so successful, her last tour lasted for two years to do it. God knows she's not going into the studio for a while. The same for Alanis Morissette. When other bands used to do it they used to do one album a year. Do the album over two months, go on tour and have a couple of months off. It's all about making money for these business people.
The record companies are into making as much money as quickly as possible. They put these dance bands together that sell five million albums, then you never hear from them again. That's one of the things that you have to give credit to musicians who can stay the course and not burn themselves out. I am happiest when I am standing in front of be it a thousand people or twenty thousand people, showing off and doing my thing. Where ever the music industry goes I am not necessarily going to follow it. Because I don't think that you can. I never think you can catch it. Because if you follow something and it falls on it's ass, not only have you lost part of you career or a year of your life, but you also lose your integrity because you didn't stick by what you believed in. When all that is said and done that is all you have left at the end of the day.
JA: I guess that is what Ritchie has done over the years.
Doogie: That's exactly what he's done. He just takes that finger and sticks it in the air and says if you don't like it, lump it. And luckily the people are still liking it.
JA: Ritchie has got quite a following.
Doogie: Oh yeah and it's great. His fans are very fanatical and very loyal.
JA: Every album has had a different line up.
Doogie: And the next one will too. With Doctor Chuck Burgi on the drums and not John. I don't think that this mark of Rainbow has let anyone down and the live performances are excellent.
JA: Has any thought been put into doing a live album from this tour ?
Doogie: There are so many bootlegs going out that I don't think that it would be worth a while.
JA: I guess that is why you don't see too many live albums anymore.
Doogie: These guys are going in with the microphones stitched into their jackets so that they get the stereo effect and putting it down on DAT. It's because the set list differs every night and because one night we will do one song and the next night we will do another song. Everybody wants to have everything because of the improvisation that goes on.
JA: How does the band feel about all the bootlegs that are out there ?
Doogie: I think they are all irritated by it actually. There is one called not 'Black Masquerade' but 'Black something' and there has been over seven thousand copies sold of it, in a bootleg market. It's not even if it's in the shops and easy to find. These people have to go to markets and hunt it out. It kills of the idea of putting out a live album really. It would be nice to have a live album from this line up but it may have to wait till next tour.
JA: Well Doogie, I want to thank you very much for doing the interview.
Doogie: You're very welcome Jeff.
Jeff, Jart Music September 1996