What do you get when you combine the talents of Deen Castronova (Journey, Ozzy & Bad English), Doug Aldrich (Whitesnake, Dio, Burning Rain) and Jack Blades (Night Ranger & Damn Yankees)? You get the supergroup Revolution Saints. With their self titled debut album released today, Revolution Saints are receiving praise and support from all directions. Including contributions from a couple of Deen’s Journey bandmates, Neal Schon and Arnel Pineda.
We recently caught up with guitarist, Doug Aldrich and had a chance to discuss life, family, business, Whitesnake, Dio and Revolution Saints. The man may be a rock star but he’s a dad first and foremost. His son Ryder had recently been under the weather, so when inquired of his health he explains he’s much better and goes on to tell a story about his son. “I’m doing a show in Vegas called Raiding The Rock Vault and my son came out on stage with me at the end of the last song. Richie Sambora also came by and introduced Ryder on stage! That’s what I’m living for right now,” Aldrich exclaims. “ If you have kids, it’s amazing, it’s scary, it’s rewarding, it’s everything.”
Aldrich’s departure from Whitesnake in May of last year came as a surprise to many. “I left Whitesnake because David was about to start a new project, we started doing a few weeks preproduction, worked on some demo arrangements and being at the studio as much as possible, but I had taken on the Raiding The Rock Vault show in Vegas which is like a supergroup cover band with Howard Leese, Hugh McDonald from Bon Jovi and Rob McCauley along with other great musicians. John Payne came to me and said he wanted me to be a part of the show and I could still take off with Whitesnake. I started doing it and I was enjoying spending time with my son, but then Whitesnake was getting busy. The whole time I was in Whitesnake and I was there one thousand percent, but it got to where I felt he wanted me there full time and I needed a more flexible schedule and that wasn’t going to work out, so I just decided that I was really proud of what we accomplished together and I really love David and I just didn’t want to have it go south and I just thought this was the best time for me to step away for a bit. The decision opened up a couple things I had put on the back burner including Revolution Saints so at that point I moved it back to my main recording priority so that’s what I did.”
Creatively speaking, Aldrich has never felt held back when it came to writing his parts with his former bands and compares it to writing for Revolution Saints. “Don’t get me wrong, it was the greatest experience for me musically to be able to write songs with David and I learned so much about songwriting. He is just awesome. He let me do what I thought was best. That’s why it was really creative. He knew I was trying to perpetrate what he had started years ago and keep the integrity of the original Whitesnake intact and he let me do what I wanted to do. It was just really different with the Revolution Saints because this is a situation where it started off as Deen Castronova’s solo record and the songs were kind of picked and I was asked to perform on the solo record. I’ve been friends with Deen for a while and we have been on a couple tours. Hanging out together, I love watching him play. The songs kind of came to me where I could sit and play guitar. It was different for me because when you’re writing a song and coming up with it from scratch like I did with Whitesnake, there’s a lot of songs you get in your head and they’re your babies and you work on them for a long time. With the Revolution Saints, I was able to work fresh from different a different perspective.”
One of the key facets to any successful band is “chemistry.” “Whitesnake and Journey did a tour a couple years ago and Whitesnake supported Journey,” Aldrich says. “Deen and I just hit it off. We would hang out periodically if we had the same schedule or if we were in the same hotel. We had tattoo parties. We had a mutual appreciation for each other’s playing. I knew we had a chemistry before we even played anything. The songs that were put together for the record were done by Alessandro Del Vecchio and he did a fantastic job so the way it was presented was as Deen’s solo record and he wanted to get Jack involved and then they asked me to get involved for guitar. When Jack and I started working on it, it leaned more towards a Journey sound and I took it as an exciting challenge to put my kind of stamp on it and more of a heavier, hard rock bluesey way, which I thought would be interesting to see how it comes out. Jack cowrote a couple songs on the record. When we got together to do some vocals, photos, videos, we had immediate chemistry, it felt great.”
In this day and age of live streaming and free music downloading, the industry has been changed forever. As a seasoned veteran in the business, Aldrich remembers the pre-internet days, and how it has completely altered the way the industry operates. “Unfortunately, I am not that great at social media yet. Trying to do Twitter. My wife setup a Facebook page for me which I am just starting to get into. Twitter is a little easier for me and Instagram is fun for me too. But there’s some people who really know what they’re doing and spread their musical message really quickly. I think the way technology and the way the industry is, is out of our control and has taken on its own life. You have to embrace it. I buy all my music and I really enjoy going on the computer and looking at stuff and I like listening to the radio. I’ll Google on the computer or go to iTunes and buy the song or record and it’s really fast and easy. I can tell you from experience, artists don’t get paid enough for digital downloads and [the money’s] somewhere, I am not sure where it is going. It’s not going to the artists and I dont think its even going to the record company maybe. But the good part is, you can record a record in your own house. If you record it live and do it in the daytime, you can have your music out to 1000’s of people the same day. That part is pretty sick, pretty exciting.”
With Revolutions Saints originally being Castronova’s solo album, you can definitely hear the Journey influence with a modern twist. Aldrich describes what inspired he and Jack when writing or adding to the music that went onto the album. “It was good, I was able to hit it fresh without over thinking it and have it not be a preconceived idea because I had written it. I was working in Vegas, at the hotel that was the International Hotel now known as the Las Vegas Hotel where Elvis finished his live career. There was a stage built for him and there was a bar underneath the stage with two staircases that went down and I was looking for a place to record guitars ’cause my main studio was in L.A. but I was working and had family with me full time and staying in the hotel. I was a little bit in limbo after leaving Whitesnake, so I was looking to record somewhere. I asked someone and he said downstairs, backstage why don’t you go into the old Elvis bar and record in there. They unlocked the door, I went in and it just happened to be this cool bar where you can set up a recording studio that Elvis used to hang out in between songs and then he’d go back up and do his next number! That is where I set up. It was cool to record there and I really felt it was an inspiring place to work. Alessandro had said put your stamp on it, do what you think it needs. I did write and changed some guitar parts to be more suited to my playing and what I think would be cool. There were some songs that were perfect, complete the way they were and I just played them with my feel and that’s all it needed.”
Aldrich no mere guitar “player” he is passionate and all-consumed by the instrument itself. “I’ve as many guitars as I possibly could. I stay up late at night and look on ebay and I fall in love with a guitar. That’s my kind of a way to relax is to look at instruments online and I love Strats, I love Les Pauls. Right now I mostly use Les Pauls, that’s what I’ve been doing for the past 16 years is using Gibsons. I still play Strats sometimes for certain songs, I love the strat tone. Richard Blackmore and Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Hendrix made the strat so famous. It’s an amazing instrument. And then the other side of it is Jimmy Page, Gary Moore and others made Les Pauls famous. My very first guitar when I was a kid was a Les Paul gold top, my very first good guitar. But my first guitar, was a Sears Les Paul copy, kind of like Jimmy Page’s guitar. So I got this gold top eventually and it was a real Gibson, I was really into that guitar for a long time and I kind of made some modifications on it and I ended up breaking the guitar a little bit and it wasn’t as good as it was so I got rid of it and moved on. Eventually, I went through phases of playing Jackson guitars then went back to Fenders for a long time. I owned quite a few guitars and I was using all kinds of guitars but mostly fenders in the 90’s. At a certain point, I wanted to play how I feel like playing, I don’t want to be tied down. Now I do want to be tied down a little bit. In the end I wanted to play how I wanted to play it. When I was with Dio and we had done a record and we were on tour, and was saying to use whatever you want and do whatever you want. If I used a Strat, just a regular Fender.”
Starting in the industry is not always easy. Some musicians get into their dream band on the first try but some may have to audition for several until they find the band that fits them. When Aldrich auditioned for KISS, it started a friendship between he and Gene Simmons, who imparted some advice to the young man. “You know, they’ve always been really nice to me, I was absolutely too young for that job, I was just a baby, but I would say the most important thing is to have fun when you’re playing. When you have fun, people respond to that. They generally don’t recognize they are responding to it. When you’re playing and having fun people will like it. I see it time and time again with different musicians I have worked with if you have someone who is up there and is worried or completely uptight and you can see it in their face it’s just really hard to do. It’s not about perfection, it’s about attitude and playing from your heart. My advice if you go into an audition, just have fun with it. I think a lot of what makes a band great is the chemistry so it’s gotta be not only in playing with them but you gotta be able to hang with these people. That’s what people sometimes forget. Guitar players will be able to play note for note perfect but then they realize the band they’re trying to join is a party band and they don’t care about that. They only care about being on stage and then partying all the time, or it is the opposite. Just gotta see if the chemistry works and not force it. The best way to see if the chemistry works is to be yourself and just have fun, play and see how it feels. And don’t expect everything to turn out the way you want, just see if it does. Just kind of let it happen.”
Although known primarily as a rock guitarist, Aldrich’s versatility has landed him some pretty diverse gigs. One that sticks out is Lady Gaga. He describes his experience working with the Pop Queen. “I was just asked to play in a session. She wanted to rock up the song a little bit and I got called to play on it. It was cool but it was very bizarre, because she just came in when I was there. She was all dressed up and said she wanted me to wail. I was thinking to myself I am not just gonna wail. I want to play what’s good for the song but she just wanted me to shred. Eventually I just gave her what she wanted and did that but in the end, I knew it would and it got edited to just basic chords but it was fun. That was my first social media experience. I had just signed up for Twitter and she asked me about my amps and what kind they were and she asked if it was ok to tweet a pic of them and so I said yeah that’s cool. So I thought, well if she’s doing it, I could. So I got home and tweeted about how I just got done finishing a session with Lady Gaga, it was fun, she kicks ass. She’s really got a strong voice. She sang in the studio that day, asked me if I wanted to hang out while she sang so I said sure. We hung out a little bit. I got home and sent the tweet out and all of a sudden her management called and told me to take it down because Lady Gaga wants to be the first one to announce it. But before I took it down, a friend of hers had already retweeted it and said guess who’s in the studio, the guitar player from Whitesnake and put the tweet I wrote. tons of followers so even though I deleted it, she had already retweeted it so it was gone. So then it went on to be that Whitesnake played with Lady Gaga which wasn’t true.”
With social media making up such a large part of the social fabric, we see an increase of online feuds, whether it be a couple airing their dirty laundry on Facebook or artists taking jabs at each other in cyberspace. Aldrich recently found himself in a little online scuffle with Twisted Sister frontman, Dee Snider, which he thinks was really blown out of proportion. “I’m a fan of Dee Snyder’s. My son and I listen to him in the car and rock out together. I know I keep bringing up my son, but he is part of why I left Whitesnake so I could spend more time with my family. Perhaps Dee came off wrong and people jumped all over him, My advice would be, don’t get emotional and it’s all in fun. He poked fun at me and I poked fun back and it was all over. Just play it cool and if you feel you really need to respond, it’s always a good idea to sleep on it and if it still bothers you in the morning then respond. Keep it short and sweet, don’t get too upset at what is being said on social media. I learned when I worked with Dio that people will either like you or not like you. There’s nothing you can do about it. You just gotta do your own thing. Same thing with social media, someone may say something that’s not necessarily accurate but all of a sudden it becomes accurate because people are talking about it all the time. Something that isn’t fact all of a sudden becomes fact. Just gotta roll with it and not pay attention to what other people think. In the end people will respect you more if you just play it cool and with regards to music, keep it about the music and not get caught up in politics. The thing with Dee just totally got blown out of proportion, it was nothing really.”
As far as future plans to tour, Revolution Saints are hoping to have an offer that makes sense for all of them and fits into their schedule. Doug explains that “Raiding the Rock Vaults was originally only going to be for a couple months, kind of like when I joined Whitesnake. It just turned out I really enjoyed it. The thing that’s cool about Raiding The Rock Vaults is that it’s not like a typical show in Vegas. It’s really got an edge. It’s just a good group of guys playing songs like we mean it. It’s fun to be able to play every night and not have to get on a bus. At this point in my life, I love that. I would say with Revolution Saints, it kind of breathes a new life to the possibility of doing some shows. We have had some offers and have talked but we all have schedules. I’m doing the Rock Vault show but the biggest tour coming up is the Journey tour. Those guys are gonna be going everywhere. I don’t know. I would like to think we could put it together and do a run of shows. I just don’t want to be away for three months.” Time will tell, but the Revolution Saints appreciate the massive support and interest they are receiving.