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LIGHT IN THE DARK: Doug Aldrich On His Epic Career, Revolution Saints and More!

Revolution Saints – Photo by Johnny Pixel

Through the years, Doug Aldrich has established himself as one of the most ferocious guitar players in rock. With career highlights ranging from working with and playing alongside rock icons like Ronnie James Dio and David Coverdale to rocking audiences around the globe with The Dead Daises, his resume is as eclectic as the music he plays. One of his most exciting musical collaborations in the past few years has been Revolution Saints. The band was born from the vision of Frontiers’ President, Serafino Perugino, who for years had hoped to work on a project highlighting Deen Castronovo’s amazing vocal abilities. Having previously worked with all three artists on different projects on Frontiers, having Castronovo (ex-Journey, Bad English), Jack Blades (Night Ranger, Damn Yankees) and Aldrich on board together was a dream come true for Perugino. The band exploded onto the scene in 2015 with their powerful debut album. It didn’t take long for music fans to take notice and start clamoring for more. 

With their self-titled debut album already under their belt, Revolution Saints entered the studio to record the new album more familiar with one another and a clear understanding of where they wanted this to go. Once again, the band teamed up with producer/songwriter Alessandro Del Vecchio (Hardline, JORN), who was also behind the boards for the band’s debut album. ‘Light In The Dark,’ due out on October 13th via Frontiers Records, builds off the classic melodic rock style of the debut, however, it also shows the band isn’t afraid to venture into uncharted territory. Inspiring, uplifting, emotionally powerful, and thoughtful, this album WILL be the soundtrack to many a moment in your life. 

Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with guitarist Doug Aldrich to discuss his journey as an artist, the keys to successful collaboration, the making of Revolution Saints’ ‘Light In The Dark’ and more!

When did music come into your life and begin to take hold?

It was early on. I loved the music on the radio when I was a kid and around 9 or 10 years old, I started really getting into that. It was pop music and whatever else my mom decided to have on in the car. Eventually, one summer when I was around 11 years old, all of my friends went away on summer vacation and I was stuck with nothing to do. My little sister had a classical guitar and a book of chords. I picked it up and really loved it! I was just getting through chords and playing through songs. I was just plunking around. I was always trying to earn a little money by doing yard work and trying to earn an allowance. Eventually, I had saved up a little bit of money. I asked my mom and dad if I could get a Sears & Roebuck guitar. It was basically a copy of Jimmy Page’s Les Paul. By that point, I had heard of Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, and Jimi Hendrix and stuff like that was on the radio. They got me that guitar and a little amp. It was very archaic! It had the kind of frets that cut your fingers and a bolt on neck, but I liked it, it made sound and it was cool! [laughs] I started taking some lessons around 11 years old, so it was then when I really started to get into electric guitar.

What went into finding your creative voice as you moved forward?

My older sister had a boyfriend who was into Southern rock and he was always talking about Duane Allman and Dickey Betts, not so much the Skynyrd guys which I found later, but The Allman Brothers, The Charlie Daniels Band, and The Eagles. Those were all big with him – guys like Don Felder and Bernie Leadon. He had a Goldtop Les Paul, a real one. I was probably 13 or 14 at the time when I saved up a little more money and convinced him to sell that guitar to me. My parents owned me a little extra money and I ended up getting it for $300 bucks. It was a ’73 Goldtop. I had never seen a Goldtop before and I though a Goldtop was what I had, which was a Sunburst. Like I said, I had a copy of Jimmy Page’s and I thought that was what they called a Goldtop because it had the big, gold center in it. I remember looking at the headstock and it was a Gibson. I was like, “Cool, it’s a real Les Paul!” I said, “Wow! What color is that?” He said, “Oh, it’s a Goldtop. You still want it?” I said, “Yeah, yeah! I want it!” To jump to the end part of that story, Goldtop’s are my favorite color of Les Paul’s. It’s my absolute favorite! As far as early influences go, Hendrix’s “Purple Haze” was a cool song on the radio at the time, along with “Smoke On The Water.” That was the first rock riff I learned but I learned it in the wrong key. It was the wrong positioning but it was the right kind of sound! [laughs] I couldn’t really play anything from Zeppelin until later but I really loved listening to it. Led Zeppelin “II” was the first Zeppelin record that I got, a bit later. Every time I would see a guitar player at a school dance, I would just be fascinated with the sounds that were coming out of that thing, so I kept practicing. People would show me a lick here, a riff there or how to do a bar chord. It was groundbreaking! [laughs] If you learned a bar chord, oh my gosh! Now, you had unlocked the secret and now you could play anything in any key! Every day there were things like that. Someone would say, “Hey, have you ever heard a wah wah?” I be like, “No. What is it?” They’d say, “Check this out!” I would see it and was like, “Woooow!” Every day was about discovery and it’s still like that! It really is, man.

At what point did you decide to start pursuing your passion for music professionally?

I never actually decided. I still haven’t decided whether I’m going to do it for real or not! [laughs] I just keep my head down and I’m always trying to get my sound better and write a better song. Honestly, to answer your question more properly, I was in school and loved guitar so much that it was the one thing that my parents had leverage over. If I did something wrong or wasn’t doing well in school, they could say, “We are going to take away your guitar.” They never actually did it until one time when I got in trouble when they found a marijuana pipe in my jean jacket. I was in high school and I was probably around 15 years old. They took my guitar and stuck it in the trunk of my Dad’s car so that I couldn’t get it. I just stopped talking. I quit responding. I wasn’t responding to or acknowledging anybody until I got my guitar back. They were really worried about me! They were like, “Can you please tell us what’s going on? We’re really concerned.” I was like, “You just can’t take my guitar away. You can punish me however you want to, but you can’t take my guitar away.” They never did again! They wanted me to go to a boarding school in 10th grade, which was a good idea because it was supposed to make me focus on school and sports and get really into it. However, I took my guitar with me and that’s all I did was play guitar. The school said, “We really like Doug. He’s a good kid but his grades are awful.” So, I went back to regular high school. My senior year, I had gotten a car. I would take my car to school, walk in the front door and walk out the back. We would go over to my friend’s house and we would jam all day long! I did that all through the end of high school. It wasn’t long before I moved to California and decided I wanted to be in a band. I didn’t think about the money part of it. I didn’t think about anything other than just wanting to play. Little by little, I realized I needed to make some money because my parents weren’t going to give me money to just be on my own. I’m skipping some chapters but I eventually got a job teaching guitar. Not only did that help me financially but it helped me with my playing because I had to learn theory to prepare for various kids who were more advanced than me. One thing lead to another, and finally I was in a recording band and that had lead me to talking to you all these years later! [laughs] I’ve never really thought about when I decided to do it. It’s something that never really occurred to me.

Doug Aldrich relentlessly rocks the crowd.

Through the years, you have taken advantage of some amazing opportunities that have come your way. You’ve worked with scores of incredible musicians. Who are the people who have had the biggest impact on your creatively?

In terms of live performance, playing with Dio was a big step for me. I had already played live at that point and people knew my playing a little bit but he brought the best out of me. By watching him, I learned to be confident on stage and not let little things distract you. I learned to get into the music and to play it like I really meant it — play it hard, loud and own it! It’s the same thing with David Coverdale. He’s also that kind of a singer. He commands the stage. Dio and Coverdale command large audiences like it’s nothing! It’s amazing; the things that they say to the audience to make them respond and the way they sing. In terms of songwriting, I would say I learned the most from David because I’ve have written the most with him directly, just him and I, together with acoustic guitars. I was a fan of his from Deep Purple when I was a kid and I loved Whitesnake. I got into the “Slide It In” record first, found the older records a little later and then the ’87 record came out and blew everybody away! Getting that call from David to do a two-month tour and having it turn into 11 1/2 years, where him and I co-wrote 30 songs together, was an amazing experience and gave me a lot of hours to learn, which is great!

You have accomplished a lot over the course of your career in an industry which is constantly changing and evolving. What are the keys to longevity in today’s music business and the secret to your success?

You said, “… in today’s music business…” and that is a key issue because it is very different than it used to be. There aren’t as many clubs these days. If you are in a young band, like I was in the mid-80s in Los Angeles, you could actually make a little bit of money playing in your home town, every week or every couple of weeks. There were a lot of bands doing it. As you would get a following, record companies had money and would grab the bands that they liked. That was one way you could get signed, have a little bit of income and hopefully your record would break. A great example of that was Guns ‘N Roses. Their record broke and it was massive. It wasn’t long before they were opening for the Rolling Stones, headlining and then they broke up! Whatever! But they did really, really well. Now, it’s different. Now, you have the opportunity to record an album in one day and have it reach 1 million people that evening! That’s pretty awesome! We didn’t have that capability before and through that you can get paid. As far as success in the music industry, it’s not so much about many as it is about personal growth, playing with people you like and respect and who like you.

There are two things — the first key is to keep writing songs. You have to keep experimenting, trying to find your own sound and allowing yourself to be influenced by people without copying it. You want to try to make it widespread so you can grab a little influence from this guy and a little something from that guy and it will kind of meld itself into your own style. Writing songs is key. I started a little bit late. I would say that the best songwriters have been doing it since they started the instrument. Of course, you have to play well, that’s a no brainer. The second thing is that you have to be a good person. You need to have confidence, but you can’t be cocky and you have to be aggressive but you have to be patient. It’s a balance! You need to be a cool person to hang with socially. You are going to meet a lot of people, so you have to be a good hang. I found myself working with people, like we were just talking about with Dio, who were very intense. He really wore his heart on his sleeve. You had no problem knowing where you stood with Ronnie because he didn’t bullshit you! He would tell you straight up what he thought and he did that with everybody. It was good because there was no question of where you stood. Working with David was a little different because he was more quiet. He didn’t like confrontation or ever want to have any negative conversation at all. You never really knew what he wanted, so you had to be patient in that situation and let it reveal itself. Eventually, what he is looking for or if there is something bothering him, he will eventually talk to you about it. It might not even be about music, it might be about something personal that is bothering him. You have to be a good hang! It’s important, especially when you are on a tour bus or traveling with people in a Sprinter van, that you get along.

I haven’t had the opportunity to tour with Revolution Saints but we have spent enough time together where we really like each other, we like playing together, and we have a great sound together. We are all different personalities but we have spent enough time together to know each other’s personalities. With that said, I know what would make Deen [Castronovo] comfortable is for me to be calm. Deen is a high-energy guy! He’s similar to Steven Tyler or Tommy Lee where he has a lot of energy. He will throw an idea out there like, “Should we do this? What do you think?” I’ll calmly say, “Okay, let’s think about it. Let’s talk about it.” We’ll calmly talk about it and that’s what calms him down. Jack [Blades] is like the general and he’s been around the block more times than most people! He’s a great voice of reason but sometimes you have to take that youthful energy that Deen has and give it to Jack and say, “Okay, let’s just have fun and kick ass!” For example, we did a show in Italy in April. It was our first show. We were recording the “Light In The Dark” record and we took three days out to rehearse and do this one festival in Italy. It was truly shifting gears in the middle of the creative process to go into the performance process. It was a little nerve-racking but we said, “Let’s just have fun with it! Let’s get our feet on the edge of the stage and do what we do!” I’ve gotta say, most of the time it takes a band a good month before the band starts really gelling, at least in my experience, but we did pretty well for our first gig! There weren’t any major catastrophes or anything! It had a good vibe and overall it was a success, I think. It’s the same thing playing with The Dead Daisies. Playing and traveling with those guys is great. They’re my bros and I’ve known all those guys for years and we’ve played in various bands together. When they were looking for a guitar player, of course, there is a million different people they can call but they called me because we’re friends. Back to Revolution Saints, that’s why Deen called me in the first place. Initially, 3 or 4 years ago, it was his solo record that he was doing. The guy at the record company said, “Who do you want to play with?” He said, “I’d like to have Doug on guitar and Jack on bass because we are friends.” I toured a lot with Journey as part of Whitesnake, so Deen and I became friends on the road. Aside from having respect for each other musically, we got along well just hanging out. One day he had a tattoo party in his room. We all went over there and got tattoos. It was cool, ya know! It was a good hang and that’s important! It’s important for younger guys to be to be encouraging, to be aggressive but patient and to be confident but not cocky.

Revolution Saints – Photo by Johnny Pixel

Let’s talk about the new album from Revolution Saints, “Light In The Dark.” What got the ball rolling this time around and what was different this time around?

I’ll start with the last part first. It was different this time around because since it was a band project now from the get-go, that we would all write. I brought in 5 or 6 ideas. Alessandro [Del Vecchio] had 4 or 5 ideas. Richard Page from Mister, Mister wrote a really awesome ballad. There were a lot more songwriters involved this time around, especially us! Deen co-wrote a bunch of the lyrics and melodies. It’s funny, the song “Freedom,” came about in a unique way. We had been talking about putting songs together and Deen sent me a tape. It was an MP3 of him playing guitar for 30 minutes. It was just jamming without stopping. He would go from one thing to another without stopping, just jamming! He had spent a lot of time at home and, as you know, he had gone through a difficult period personally. He came through it with flying colors! He had some difficulties in his relationship but now him and his fiancé are back together and stronger than ever. Everything is good! So, he has been just riffing at home, having fun, not touring, taking care of himself and getting healthy. He sent me this thing and I was like, “Deen, there are like nine songs in there!” [laughs] I said, “I’m going to take this one riff and develop it a little bit.” That’s how “Freedom” came about. There was another song, “The Storm Inside,” where I listened to what he had done and it inspired me to come up with a chord progression. That inspired the song and he wrote the lyrics and melodies on it. All of that was different than our first time around and a great experience.

The timing came from the record company saying, “Hey, maybe we will think about doing another Revolution Saints album. What do you guys think?” That was conversation that went on for about a year because Deen was getting healthy and Jack is always touring and busy with Night Ranger. I had been working with The Dead Daisies. It was so hard for us to find time together off the first record. We got some really good offers for tours but schedule-wise we just couldn’t get it together. I said, “I’m into it but let’s see if we can all get together.” We all agreed to do it in April. We said, “We’ll do this and then we’ll do the festival for Frontiers. It’s just one show. We’ll go over there together and track it together.” We all blocked out that 2 or 3-week period during which we fine-tuned the songs, cut the basics and did the show. I didn’t know what the exact release date was at that point. I was on the road and had done basic guitars but still needed to fine tune them, when the record company called and said, “Look, Doug, we need this stuff yesterday!” I was like, “Nobody told me!” [laughs] I didn’t know what the schedule was and I had no idea! They said, “We need those guitar parts, man! You’ve gotta finish up!” I was all over the world with this stuff. I would be on the bullet train in Japan, on the tour bus at the end of the night, trying to figure out how I wanted the guitar parts to go. I would basically record direct guitars and re-amp it at home so that I had the same amp set up as I did in Italy. FInally, I got it done and it comes out on October 13th!

Was there anything you wanted to try on this album that you might not have been able to in the past?

The previous thing, like I said, was a project from the start and original was intended to be Deen’s solo record. The songs were written for Deen in a very Journey-esque way. My goal at that point was to try and put my stamp on those guitar parts and kind of rewrite them. I basically hit every song fresh and took the basic idea of the song and put my stamp on it as much as I could without rewriting the song. With “Light In The Dark,” I really wanted to have that same kind of sound but the songs needed to be written. The first record had been pretty successful so I wanted to make sure that we not only had a strong record but to also have some twists and turns. I was thinking, “What should we do? We need some songs that sound like Revolution Saints like “Light In The Dark” or “Ride On” but we also needed some different stuff like “Freedom,” “Storm Inside” or stuff that goes a little deeper. We had some great songs like “In The Name of The Father,” which was a great song on the first record. There were a few ballads that were really cool like “You’re Not Alone.” For the new record, we got this ballad from Richard Page and it was a slam dunk! It was just one of those songs, you know? It’s beautiful. “I Wouldn’t Change A Thing” is the name of it. It was pretty cool. It’s a keyboard song and, of course, I could play on acoustic guitar but I was happier to go, “Let the keyboards breathe. Let it be keyboards and the band comes in…” I started to realize the song had potential for a huge melody on the solo section and that became my focus. Guys like Neal Schon, David Gilmour, and Brian May have written these solos that people can remember forever. They have so much feel, attitude and melody. That was what my goal with that one was. Overall, I just wanted the record to be a little deeper and that was my focus this time around.

You’re a guy who always has a ton of irons in the fire. Where do you see yourself headed musically in the future?

Like I said, I’m always searching for my sound. I’ve been writing with some friends, just to do some experimenting. I love pedals and I love experimenting with all of those. If you look on YouTube, a buddy of mine named Pete Thorn has a YouTube channel where he shows different pedals every day! It’s so cool and you think, “Wow! I want one of those!” I was looking for a delay, so I called him up. I said, “Pete, which delay should I get?” He said, “Dude, there are so many! You have to try them all!” I was like, “Ahhck!” [laughs] So, I was doing this writing session and I brought a little pedal board up with me. It basically got down to the point where I said, “I can get so many sounds out of this particular guitar and amp without any pedals.” I have to say, I’ve really been digging that, man! Your guitar sound gets to the amp so much more purely than going through 5, 6 or 7 pedals! I’m basically in a mode where I’m rethinking my whole thing right now. I’m rethinking everything from songwriting to playing. Of course, I’m going to work on The Dead Daisies new record next month and I have some stuff together already for that but I want to see how I can improve on that project. I really respect people like Joe Bonamassa who is always pushing the envelope with what he is doing. He’s always creating new sounds for himself in his own way, working with different people, keeping his chops up and he is always on the road. I’m on the road a lot but I can’t really be on the road anymore than I am because I have little kids and a family, which I get homesick for. I would just like to keep writing and have bands like Revolution Saints. It would mean a lot to me if we could do some live shows. My goal, right now, is for The Dead Daisies to make the best record they’ve ever made. I’ve got a third band, which I’m involved in at the moment. It’s called Burning Rain, which is a pet project I’ve had with a great singer named Keith St. John. That is more of a guitar oriented, 80s, Whitesnake-y, bluesy kind of thing, so it is really different than The Dead Daisies or Revolution Saints. Revolution Saints is melodic rock and Dead Daisies is more straight up, kick-ass rock ‘n’ roll! Burning Rain is something more bluesy and in between all of that. I really enjoy doing it all right now because for so many years I was 1000% dedicated to Whitesnake and only focused on that. I’m really digging having different flavors of the pie right now! [laughs] I see myself learning is basically what I wanted to say. I’m just trying to continue to learn and get better!

What’s the best lesson we can take away from your journey as an artist?

I think one of the best lessons is not to get frustrated if it doesn’t come to you right away. I’m definitely a late bloomer. I’m not an Yngwie Malmsteen or a Reb Beach. Reb Beach is just one of these guys who just picks up his guitar and does his thing and that’s it! I really have to work at it. If I don’t play guitar everyday, my chops go, man! I really have to work hard. Sometimes you get lucky and something will happen fast but if it doesn’t, don’t give up. Do it because you love it and not because you feel like you have to, you want to make money or feel pressure because you think your girlfriend’s going to like you better if you’re in a band or something! [laughs] You just have to do it because you like it and keep working hard at it. It will pay off eventually. Like I said, I’m a perfect example of a late bloomer. I didn’t get into Dio until my late 30s and now I’m in my 50s. However, I still feel like I’m in my 30s, just starting off and still trying to figure it all out! So, the best advice I can give someone after looking at my career is to don’t stop and keep going! Even if you have a day job, don’t stop playing. I have a lot of buddies who are great musicians who have day gigs and they have the opportunity to play on the weekends at the local bar playing covers and putting their own spin on it. I also have friends who don’t play out but write songs and place those songs in movies and TV shows. They make pretty good money doing it. The sky’s the limit. Just keep going!

Awesome! I appreciate your time today, Doug. I can’t wait to see where the next leg of the journey takes you!

Thanks, Jason! I really appreciate it! Take care and we’ll talk again soon!

Revolution Saints’ highly anticipated new album, ‘Light In The Dark,’ will be released on October 13th, 2017 on Frontiers Music Srl. Connect with the band on social media via Facebook at www.facebook.com/RevolutionSaints.

Pre-order the album now:
• Frontiers: http://www.frontiers.shop
• Amazon: http://radi.al/LightInTheDarkAmazon
• iTunes: http://radi.al/LightInTheDarkiTunes
• Google Play: http://radi.al/LightInTheDarkGooglePl

For all the latest on Doug Alrich, visit his official website at www.dougaldrich.com. Connect with him on social media via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.