An Interview with Doogie White of Alcatrazz

Feature image credit: Robert Sutton Photography

Image credit: Alicia Orta Photography

Recently, we caught up with veteran frontman, Doogie White of Alcatrazz. Among other things, we touch on what he’s been up to during the lockdown, his origins with La Paz, replacing Graham Bonnett, and a whole lot more.

If you would like to learn more about Alcatrazz, the link to their webpage is here. Once you’ve checked those out, dig into this interview with Doogie. Cheers.

Andrew:
Doogie, thank you for taking the time. How are you holding up? What have you been up to?

Doogie:
A little bit of this, a little bit of that. I love playing live, but touring has been dealt a very hard blow all over the world for everyone from bands to audiences, and not forgetting the longs suffering crew and promoters. However, in 2021, I had three albums released, but like most in this industry these days, my wages come from touring, and I miss that so much. Being Scottish, I know the value of every penny, and I cut my cloth accordingly. Life is good, but I do miss the live work. Going into 2022, I hope we can all get back to playing/watching live gigs.

Andrew:
Before we dive into your career, I wanted to go back and touch on your origins. What first got you hooked on music?

Doogie:
I remember hearing The Monkees, Frank Ifield, and Tom Jones and singing along with them. I got to sing in church and found that I liked it. Then Bowie came along, and then, Deep Purple. My world was never the same again.

Andrew:
As a vocalist, and frontman, who were some of your earliest influences? As you’ve moved forward, how has your style evolved, and changed to where it stands today?

Doogie:
Well, I had to learn Queen, Uriah Heep, and Foreigner songs amongst others for the first band I was in. So, I tried to pick up all the nuances that made them all different but all brilliant. I stole from the best and threw it in the blender rather than just wanting to sound like whoever. Maybe you can hear my influences on various tracks. I try to give a nod every now and then. Some people catch it.

Andrew;
Let’s talk about recent events, you’ve been with Alcatrazz since around 2020. Take me through you joining the band.

Doogie:
Graham and I are old pals. We went for coffee when he was on tour with the band, and he told me how much he was not enjoying it, and wanted to go back to doing the GBB, so he could have Beth Ami play bass again. So, the Alcatrazz guys contacted me in late 2020 and asked if I would be interested in writing, and performing with them going forward. It’s an interesting thing for me to do and it’s very enjoyable writing with them. I will be bringing my own brand of vocals and writing to the band. The album, V, has been unanimously well-received by fans and press alike. That is very pleasing. Graham has been very gracious and seems in a good place now with his new lineup of the Graham Bonnet Band.

Andrew:
Alcatrazz had been away for a long time before reuniting in 2019 with Graham Bonnett. What was it like stepping into Grahams’ shoes?

Doogie:
They always fitted. I have been a fan of Graham’s since I was younger. We toured together for many years. I used to choose his ties for the gigs. [Laughs]. He has one of the most recognizable voices in RAWK. But he did not want to do it anymore. So it was a challenge. I don’t have an Alcatrazz album. I never had a TANK album. When I am invited to contribute/be part of a band, it’s about the music we will make together. It’s not a competition. The past is gone. You wanna live there? Okay. The future is undecided. You wanna dream? Good on ya. I am for the moment. That moment when you grab hold of something no one else has, and run with it. Make it the best it can be, and let it fly. That’s what I have always done, and what I did with Alcatrazz.

Andrew:
You recorded your first album with the Alcatrazz, V, in 2021. This is the band’s first record in its history without Graham out front, so it’s new for everybody. Take me through the sessions.

Doogie:
Mostly, I get sent a piece of music, and I work around that. Occasionally, I will have an idea, and send my rather poor guitar-playing idea, and we work from that. Nothing would be better than getting a room and having the band throw ideas around. A drum machine, no matter how well programmed, can’t bring the swing a good drummer brings to the writing in the room. That’s where all the great Rock bands came from. But it’s a different world now.

Andrew:
I wanted to go back now, and dig into La Paz, which for those that don’t know, is a really underrated Heavy Metal/Hard Rock outfit from the 1980s glory days. Take me through the formation of that band.

Doogie;
Chic McSherry was the hot, young, good-looking guitarist in the neighborhood. I was quite good, and we hooked up and formed La Paz. He brought the drummer, and I brought Big Al in on bass, Andy was seventeen when he joined on keys. We played our own songs, and some selected covers that fitted the style we were after. The money we made went to pay for recordings. We made two cassette albums but failed to get a deal despite a lot of interest.

Andrew:
Initially, La Paz disbanded when you joined Midnight Blue, and later, Rainbow. What went into that decision at the time?

Doogie:
All the guys in La Paz were becoming, and still remain successful businessmen, and were settling down. I wanted to RAWK and sow my RAWK seed wider than I had been. So, we shook hands and called it quits. We still see each other, and I was at most of their weddings. Paul McManus is now the drummer in GUN.

Andrew:
La Paz reunited around 2009 and has recorded three albums since, but nothing since 2016’s Shut Up And Rawk. What led to the reformation, and what’s in the cards regarding the future?

Doogie;
Tom Russell (Scottish Radio Host) had a one-year anniversary party for his radio station and invited me along. I asked Chic to help me out, and we played an acoustic show for Tom along with SAHB, Thunder, and others. That got Chic’s juices flowing. We put La Paz back together for three albums, and some shows, with all profits going to children’s charities in Mexico (where Chic has business interests). We sponsored football teams for boys, and girls to encourage them to go to school, and not be drug runners, or worse. La Paz is over for good now. And we are still all good friends. I may even go to their second weddings. [Laughs].

Andrew:
I mentioned your time in Midnight Blue, where you put out a great self-titled record in 1994. Why do you feel that record didn’t hit?

Doogie:
All the major record companies had their UK bands, GUN, The Almighty, Thunder, Quireboys, Little Angels, and the like. We came late to the party, and Alex Dickson, our guitar player, was eighteen, and soaking up everything from Dan Reed to Lemonheads, and quit to join GUN, then Bruce Dickinson, then Robbie Williams. He and I had a float of a few quid that we gave each other when the other was not working. We don’t speak anymore, but we did write a huge amount of songs together. That may be because it’s his turn to give up the float.

Andrew:
The 1990s was a volatile time for 70s and 80s rockers. Many say the Grunge movement had a sweeping, and in some cases, lasting effect on the Metal scene. In your opinion, how detrimental was the Grunge movement to the Heavy Metal, and Hard Rock scenes?

Doogie:
I don’t know…what I do know is that for the second, but not last time, the music press were saying [Richie] Blackmore was a dinosaur. I threw a journalist, who had been eating, and drinking our hospitality up while being rude about the band, out of the dressing room, and had security remove him from the building. He gave us a bad review. Billy Joel sang, “It’s still Rock ‘N’ Roll to me.” That’s where I stand. Someone, somewhere decided it should be divided into smaller Rock/Metal genres — Death, AOR, Classic, Blah Blah — I guess it sold more magazines, and papers when it was like that. I am just as happy listening to Lou Gramm sing as I am Chris Cornell or Myles Kennedy. Like Punk though, I missed great guitar solos, but I guess having all the wank shredding, with fifty-foot peddle boards, faking it, having a more raw sound was invigorating. I don’t do Prog Rock…that’s for others.

Andrew:
Moving through the 90s now. Take me through you hooking up with Richie Blackmore, and joining Rainbow.

Doogie:
I was coming home to have a difficult conversation with my then-girlfriend about me having to move to Germany to live and work with a German band called Pink Cream 69. However, one phone call that night from Ritchie changed all that, and my world. The then-girlfriend? She left me for a handsome Aussie barman. I do hope they are happy. [Laughs].

Andrew:
Richie is seeming as notorious, and moody as he is talented. He seems to be a bit of a musical nomad. This said, his influence, and legacy are massive. If you can, shed some light on what it was like working with Richie Blackmore.

Doogie:
Much has been said and written about Ritchie, some of it true, and some of it legendary. I found him engaging, friendly, and funny. I found him dedicated, and at time, breathtakingly brilliant. He was the lad that told me, “We all have ten stories, and only ten.” He was right but wrong. We do only have those stories we always tell, but sometimes, someone else’s story will open a door for more tales that have been shut in the closet for years. I had a great time with him, and despite what he may say now, we had a blast. But like all these blokes who have been doing this for one hundred years or less, they can just move on with no feelings of regrets for wives, family, or band members. They are single-minded. That’s okay. I had a great time. I had six songs ready for the next album. We used some of them on Cornerstone’s Human Stain, with Steen Mogensen making them work brilliantly.

Andrew:
Retrospectively, how do you feel Rainbow’s 1995 record, Stranger In Us All, stacks up the band’s classic late 70s, and early 80s output? Take me through the sessions a bit, and what it was like putting together a classic Hard Rock record in a time where all people seemingly wanted was Grunge and Alternative music. Do you feel the record received its proper due?

Doogie:
That’s for others to say. I could say Rainbow fans have not heard it because it’s billed as “Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow,” and it may be difficult to find unless you know that. When we were out recording and playing, my peers were having children. Ritchie’s peers had aged teenagers. Every generation needs its own music. But look…it was not a great time for Sabbath, or Priest, or even the mighty Maiden. It was the wrong place and the wrong time. But do you know what? I would not have been anywhere else. Again, it’s about my-self fulfillment and my joy of life and work. People either buy into it or they don’t. I can’t control that. Same with Schenker. We did what we did. Some people loved it, some wanted it to be the 1970’s. I don’t concern myself about that. It’s about me enjoying myself, and writing songs with astonishing writers and players. It’s not about you. You either join the journey, or you get off the bus.

Andrew:
In the early 2000s, you recorded several tracks with Praying Mantis for their The Journey Goes On album. How did that go down? Was there talk of you sticking around, and fronting the band?

Doogie:
The last physical fight I ever had was with Tino Troy, oiled up in a hotel room, in Osaka, while on tour in Japan with Praying Mantis, in the early 90s. I bet we both know why, and I bet we both think we were a bit silly, but we both know who won. It was fun, but we never spoke again, until one of my favorite singers ever, John Sloman, could not finish the Mantis album. They asked me if I would help out. It was so awesome. Tino turned up in boxing gloves and brought me a head guard. There was never a chance we would ever work together live as we may have been more hurt than we were before. But to work on their great music was a pleasure. Tino! Bring it on. [Laughs].

Andrew:
You’ve also had a fruitful solo career and recently reissued, As Yet Untitled, over the summer. What’s next for you as a solo artist? Or are you fully immersed in Alcatrazz going forward?

Doogie:
My ego will not let me be a solo artist. I like being in a band.

Image credit: Alicia Orta Photography

Andrew:
Hitting on your most recent studio project, both yourself and Emil Norberg recorded an excellent album for 2021 called Long Shadows Dawn. Tell us about the project, and how it came together.

Doogie:
The record company and I have spent YEARS dancing around each other. I don’t want to sing others’ interpretations of bands I have been in. If you do that, and it makes you happy — fine. I just won’t do it. I was not happy when I was offered songs in a BLAH BLAH style, and here’s some gas/food money. So, when the offer to work with a very fine writer and guitarist came in, I said, “Let me hear it.” Emil Norberg sent me some amazing songs to work on. We nailed it down and rawked it up. I am very proud of what we did. We would have taken it on the road, but COVID killed that. It’s so rewarding to work with hungry people.

Andrew:
Doogie, you’re a man of many hats, and talents, whose influence has been felt throughout the genre for a long time. There have been many underrated players throughout the Rock and Heavy Metal scene throughout the years, and it could be said you’re one of them. This said, looking back, for those that are just jumping into the genre, what are your closing statements regarding your nearly forty years in the game?

Doogie:
Wow! Thanks! A backhanded compliment indeed. No offense taken! [Laughs]. Look… some singers just want to be Rock Stars, you know, the dream of whatever. I see myself as a singer who loves to sing. I give my best to everything I do. The pantomime of dressing up all the time and “living the life” of a “Rock Star” is just not me. Bruce [Dickenson], Janick [Gers], and I would very often go and have beers in the local pub just yards from my door on the Thames. We were just three guys having a night out, no need for pointy cowboy boots, leathers, or chains. No “look at me” nonsense. No talk about music, or whatever. When we were done, we all walked home. No need for limos, or security. No Ferrari’s on the drive. Maybe that’s just British understatement. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be Ozzy [Osbourne], or [Gene] Simmons. That not being able to go to the store. I used to see my neighbor [John Paul Jones] in the paper shop on a weekend. I helped him put salt on his path in the snow. We never talk about the time he was the bass player in Led Zeppelin. It’s just not British

However, I am very happy and very proud of what I have done musically over the years. I have gone beyond that star that I set my sights on when I was fifteen, and that has always let me see another one to aim for. I don’t allow myself to think, “What if?” I don’t get complacent. It can all be gone in a moment. Regrets? Of course, and those who say they don’t? Well, they are very lucky but most likely lying. Even “Old Blue Eyes.” had a few. [Laughs]. It’s been one hell of a journey. It still rocks and rolls on. I look forward to the day when I can get back on a stage, and sing all the frustration of the last few years out of my system. Until then, I will content myself trying to get the windscreen wipers on the old Aston to work. Where’s that bloody wrench? [Laughs].

Interested in learning more about the work of Doogie White & Alcatrazz? Check out the link below:

Dig this interview? Check out the full catalog of VWMusic Interviews, by Andrew Daly, here: www.vinylwritermusic.com/interviews

About Post Author

Andrew Daly

With an immense passion for music, a disposition for writing, and an eagerness to teach and share both, Andrew decided to found VWMusic in 2019 as a freelance column under the column Idle Chatter. Over time, the column grew into a website that now features contributors who further the cause of sharing both a love of music and the art of journalism with the world through articles and interviews. While Andrew enjoys running the website, his real passion lies in teaching and facilitating others to do what they do best, and giving them the opportunity to explore their passions in the process. Some of Andrew’s favorite artists include KISS, Oasis, ACϟDC, Elvis Presley, Ace Frehley, The Rolling Stones, Rush, The Pretenders, Led Zeppelin, The Gaslight Anthem, Iron Maiden, John Lennon, The Melvins, Noel Gallagher, Regina Spektor, Rory Gallagher, The Stone Roses, The Strokes, Thin Lizzy, Elvis Costello, Van Halen, Neil Young, Blur, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, and many more.
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