Shortly after Deep Purple keyboardist Jon Lord died in 2012, Whitesnake vocalist—and former Deep Purple frontman—David Coverdale reached out to guitarist Ritchie Blackmore about the possibility of working on a project together in Lord’s honor.
Although both musicians were on different pages creatively at the time and couldn’t come to an agreement, the two former Deep Purple members were able to find closure, bury the hatchet on past grievances and move on.
Then Coverdale’s wife, Cindy, suggested that David pay tribute to Lord with Whitesnake. Now Whitesnake is about to unveil Purple, a new studio album that puts insanely good spins on Mark 3 and 4 Deep Purple classics and tastefully pays tribute to one of the pioneers of progressive rock.
Purple, which will be released May 19, also marks the debut of Whitesnake's new guitarist, Joel Hoekstra, who recently replaced Doug Aldrich. Hoekstra’s resume includes Night Ranger, Trans Siberian Orchestra and Broadway's Rock of Ages.
These days, Whitesnake includes Coverdale (lead vocals), Reb Beach (guitar), Hoekstra (guitar), Michael Devin (bass) and Tommy Aldridge (drums).
I recently spoke to Hoekstra about Purple and what it’s like being a part of Whitesnake.
What’s it been like to work with David Coverdale?
Working with David has been great! He’s rock royalty with all of these great stories about working with Jimmy Page and Ritchie Blackmore. He really understands music and was very gracious in the studio in allowing us to play what we wanted to play. Now, we’re gearing up for the other aspect—playing these songs live. You talk about songs that lend themselves well to live performance? These songs were written in live performance. It’s going to be exciting.
How did the Purple project begin?
The project actually began before I was even in Whitesnake. Shortly after Jon Lord passed away in 2012, David reached out to Ritchie. He just wanted to touch base with Ritchie and thank him for helping to jump-start his career. The two of them then went into discussions about doing something together in memory of Jon, but [as I hear it] they were on different pages. It was David’s wife, Cindy who then suggested that David do it with Whitesnake. It was a great concept and a total honor for me to be a part of.
Let’s discuss a few tracks from Purple, starting with “Lady Double Dealer."
That was actually my audition for Whitesnake. I remember when I went out to Reno to meet the guys, that was the song they pulled up. They asked me what I would do for a solo. So I laid down a solo and then in the next section they started taking about a harmony solo and asked me to come up with something. So I wrote the solo that actually ended up making the record. Afterwards, they pretty much said, “Well, dude, come jam with us! Let’s do this!”
"Soldier of Fortune."
I actually got to track that one with David, which was super cool. We had set up an acoustic guitar with a mic. Then David came down and it was just he and I playing. It was a surreal moment.
You’ve been part of a two-guitar attack in many bands [Night Ranger, Rock of Ages]. What’s it like sharing those duties with someone like Reb Beach?
It’s been great. Reb has such great chops and we get along so well together. We’ve actually had a rapport for a long while. We first met in 2007 when he was working with Night Ranger while they were looking for players. I have great respect for him as a player and it feels very natural to be in a band with him.
What can you tell me about the new Whitesnake tour?
It going to be a one-of-a-kind tour, and we’re super psyched about it. Not only are we going to play all of the great Whitesnake hits but also a lot of the Purple album, which is ideal for live performance. We’ll have some great jams on these classic songs. I can’t wait to get out there and put the rock on everyone! [laughs].
Tell me a little about your gear set-up for Whitesnake.
I decided to ride the wave of enthusiasm by talking to my favorite gear companies and getting some customized stuff for the tour. I’ve been a Les Paul guy for quite a while, so I reached out to Gibson, and Steve Christmas from the Custom Shop was cool enough to take on the project of making two custom Les Pauls for the tour—a black one and a white one. I had the idea of having the Whitesnake medallions set in the body behind the tailpiece, and they came up with the snake stencil graphic on top of the guitars.
Because I’m also a big fan of Fender Strats, and they’re a necessity for the Purple tour, I wanted to do the same thing with them. So I reached out to Mike Tempesta, who has helped me out for years. He really hit it out of the park too with two great U.S. Strats (black and white) with medallions set behind the bridge.
Finally, I spoke to my friends at Atomic Guitars Works. They had made a guitar for each of my gigs—Rock of Ages, TSO and the American flag-style Les Paul I used in Night Ranger. This time, they made a purple crystal Les Paul-style guitar that’s just over-the-top cool. I had Doug Aldrich pickups put in there from Suhr as a nod to my predecessor.
Of course, for acoustics, I’ll be taking out Taylors. They always look and play great. I’ll be using a combination for Friedman BE100 heads and my standby EVH III heads that I’ve been using for years.
You're also working on another project. What can you tell me about that?
It’s been a bit of a challenge with everyone’s schedules, but it’s going to be coming out in October and the project is called Joel Hoekstra's 13. It'll have two great lead singers in Russell Allen and Jeff Scott Soto. I also have Tony Franklin on bass, Vinny Appice on drums and Derek Sherinian as a special guest on keyboards. Growing up in the hard rock scene, I liked everything from Dio at its heaviest to Foreigner at its lightest, and that’s the style I wrote for on this project.
What excites you the most about what’s been happening these last few months?
It’s all been great. There are a lot of great players out there and for me to be fortunate enough to play with one of my heroes is incredible. Whether it’s playing live or working in the studio, just being out there doing what I love is what excites me. I consider myself to be one lucky guy!
For more about Whitesnake, visit whitesnake.com.
James Wood is a writer, musician and self-proclaimed metalhead who maintains his own website, GoJimmyGo.net. His articles and interviews are written on a variety of topics with passion and humor. You can follow him on Twitter @JimEWood.