An Interview with Doug Aldrich of The Dead Daisies

Have guitar, will travel. This has seemingly been the motto of virtuoso shredder Doug Aldrich for the entirety of his nearly forty-year career in rock music.

From the moment the young six-stringer burst onto a bustling LA scene, Aldrich has made his towering presence known through his work with Lion, House of Lords, Bad Moon Rising, Dio, Whitesnake, Burning Rain, and most recently, the ever-busy hard rock collective, The Dead Daisies.

Aldrich first joined the Daisies in 2016 and during the ensuing years, the band has gone on to make three of its finest records in Make Some Noise (2016), Burn It Down (2018), and Holy Ground (2021), all of which feature Aldrich’s signature riffing, and distinctive, mind-blowing soloing.

After the departure of John Corabi, starting in 2019, Aldrich has been flanked by vocalist/bassist, Glenn Hughes, rounding out what might amount to the Daisies’ fiercest lineup to date. It is this version of the band, which also includes founding member David Lowy on rhythm guitar, as well as a recently returned Brian Tichy on drums, that will release its latest studio effort in the summer of 2022.

I recently sat with the veteran guitarist for a chat, where, among other things, we hit on the band’s latest live EP, Live from Daisyland, Glenn Hughes’s induction into the band, the ongoing recording sessions for the Daisies’ upcoming studio effort, rehearsals for a soon-to-begin European summer tour, Doug’s early 80s KISS audition and everything in between.

Andrew:
Doug, thank you for taking the time. Let’s dig right in. Live from Daisyland is a great new live EP you guys are promoting. If you can, speak on the energy from that evening, what made the show so special?

Doug:
Well, that was last year in the UK. And one of the things that made it special is that was the first time we had been to the UK for several years because of the pandemic. And so it was our first time over there playing new stuff from Holy Ground, as well as the older stuff, and the crowds were totally into it. At that time, things were wide open because it was before the new variants hit in the fall. For the first time in a long time, it was total freedom, and everyone was excited about going to concerts, and the energy was just killer. We had eight or nine shows under our belts, and we didn’t plan on recording anything, but our house engineer recorded a few nights here and there, and he said, “Hey, guys, this stuff sounds pretty good. It’s not perfect. It’s definitely raw, but it’s live and it sounds really good.”

Andrew:
The band chose “Long Way To Go” as the lead single off the EP. What went into that decision?

Doug:
I think it’s just that “Long Way To Go” has always been a staple for the band since I joined. And it was really cool to remake that song with Glenn on vocals. It’s just a fun track. It’s one of our staple songs, so that was kind of a no-brainer to go with that one.

Andrew:
You mentioned Glenn Hughes, can go back and take us through his indoctrination into the band as the replacement for John Corabi?

Doug:
Well, John was, I think, at the end of 2018 or 2019, John was pretty tired. We’d been doing acoustic sets before every show, and then we were doing meet and greets afterward. And then sometimes there was radio promo in the morning or something, so it was long days, and he just seemed to be burned out. He just wanted to take some time off, and he was working on some solo stuff, so we decided, “Why don’t we just look at getting somebody temporarily?” And then all of a sudden, we thought about Glenn. I’ve worked with Glenn, and I thought it was a great idea when I heard about it. So, we started writing, and it just kind of turned into more of an official band thing.

Andrew:
What has Glenn brought to the band that has changed the dynamic, while still retaining the classic Dead Daisies sound?

Doug:
Glenn is a very melodic singer. He also writes all his own lyrics and melodies, so it’s different in the way that it’s more melodic, but it’s still got the Daisies flair with the guitars and stuff. Also, Glenn is an incredible bass player, as you know, and his bass playing has a bit more of a churning, grinding sound, which I think fits well. And that’s not taking anything away from Marco [Mendoza] because he’s fabulous, it’s just that Glenn is a different flavor. Glenn is a little more groove-oriented, and a little more melodic.

Andrew:
For you, Doug, as a guitar player, with Glenn’s different bass and singing style, how does that allow you to stretch out as a guitarist? How does that change your vantage point as a guitar player?

Doug:
Glenn and I spoke about the plan after he joined the band, and he said, “It’s time for us to make some music together.” We both started writing with the other person in mind, and some of the things I presented to Glenn I wouldn’t have presented to John Corabi just because he’s a different kind of singer. And vice versa. Like I said, not taking anything from John, it’s just with Glenn, he likes to do heavy grooves and stuff like that, so I started working on some more groove-oriented stuff. As far as soloing and stuff, it’s fun, because Glenn, during my guitar solos, that’s when Glenn likes to also get melodic, and kind of play off of me a bit. So, we’ll kind of trade-off in a sense, on solo sections, where it’s bass and guitar.

Andrew:
In my estimation, Holy Ground was a great first offering with Glenn. Of course, your previous album Burn It Down with John was excellent too. From your vantage point, how do you feel the band progressed from one album to the next?

Doug:
We went for a little bit of a heavier sound on Holy Ground on some of the stuff. And I also want to acknowledge that I really love Burn It Down too. Songs like “Rise Up,” “Dead and Gone,” stuff like that, really made that strong album. But we didn’t want to recreate that. We knew that we had Glenn coming in, and we wanted to do something a little bit different. I think it’s natural that when you bring in a new singer – somebody as mind-blowing as Glenn – you’re going to want to use that to your advantage any chance you get. So, we developed songs, and naturally, the sounds evolved. But like I said, a little heavier, and maybe a little more 70s here and there. I’m a little close to it, but I think it’s a good progression for the band.

Andrew:
With all that being said, I know that you guys are hard at work on the next record. What, if anything, can you tell me about the new album, Doug?

Doug:
Yeah, it’s very cool. That’s all I can say. [Laughs], I think it’s a perfect follow-up to Holy Ground. The band’s been working together now for a few years with Glenn, and we definitely feel that we have something that works. And the songs are incredible. I think, for me, it’s my favorite record that I’ve done with the Daisies so far.

Andrew:
I know you can’t say too much, but what is it about this record that makes it your favorite thus far?

Doug:
I just think the quality of the songs are dead on. I mean, we always said, “We aren’t going to make a record unless we’re going to make a better record.” And it’s always hard in the beginning to do that because you can’t just plan it out, and say “We’re gonna make a better record,” because what if we don’t? [Laughs]. But I feel that we nailed this. What happened is that we were originally going to be touring at this time, but that got blown out because of the COVID thing. It was just too difficult at that time last year to book the shows. So, we shifted gears and decided that if we’ve got this free time, let’s make a record. We didn’t have all the songs together, but Glenn, David [Lowy], and I, we hunkered down and just basically focused for all of January and February, and came up with around twenty-five songs, or something like that. Then we narrowed it down to fifteen, and that’s what we went in the studio with. And then we narrowed that down to ten or so as the final number that we’re cutting. And during all that time, we were refining those songs. The other thing is that there were some songs that Glenn and I had worked on during the lockdown in 2020. Glenn was the only person from the band that I was seeing, and we naturally started to make some songs and some demos, and so we had that stuff as well, which was kind of further along. In the end, we just put the songs together, not knowing what it was going to be in the future. Then we brought them to the band, and said, “Guys, this is gonna be amazing. Let’s go. Let’s get busy.”

Andrew:
You mentioned all of the canceled dates last year, but the band is hitting the road this summer for a European tour with Judas Priest, Foreigner, and Whitesnake. What more can you tell us about the tour?

Doug:
We are very excited to get to Europe and play some songs from Holy Ground. We’re probably going to, as a surprise, play a song or two from the new album that hasn’t come out yet. We want to start promoting the release, but the tour is also going to be the first time we get to play tracks from Holy Ground in Europe, so we’re very excited about that. We’ll be doing headline sets that will be closer to a two-hour show for some dates. We’re looking forward to sharing the stage with Whitesnake, Foreigner, and Judas Priest, but for me, it will be even cooler when we do our headline set to kind of stretch out a bit.

Andrew:
You gave a little bit of detail on the setlist in saying you might incorporate a few new things, and of course, tracks from Holy Ground. With Glenn Hughes being in the band, how do you go about readapting some of the older material
?

Doug:
Pretty much, we speak to Glenn about what we’re thinking, and then we’ll try some stuff in rehearsal. Generally, it’ll become apparent what’s working, and what might not be. There were a few things that we talked about doing and when we got to rehearsals, we scrapped them, and then we added more, we said, “Let’s try something different.” But basically, Glenn can make anything happen. He can make anything sound good. Like, “Long Way To Go,” obviously, it’s a great song, and with Glenn, it sounds really cool. It’s the same with a song like “Rise Up,” with Glenn, it’s a little more melodic than it was recorded in the studio with John. So, those two songs are definitely going to be in the set. There are a few other older songs that Glenn likes singing, and we’ll be doing a couple of Deep Purple songs, you know, doing our spin on that stuff. As for the new stuff, I am not sure how many shows we will include those in, maybe a few of the headlining shows.

Doug:
How has your approach to the guitar and songwriting evolved to where it is now, compared to where you were as a young player with Lion, or later on with Whitesnake?

Doug:
I let things flow more now. When it comes to writing, I feel a lot more free and open to doing different things. Whereas back in when I was a kid, I felt like it had to be a certain way. I learned a lot by working with [David] Coverdale as far as songwriting goes. But I think now, for me, it’s about finding stuff that’s fun to play, and that makes you feel good. Obviously, with The Dead Daisies, everything’s done as a band. Everyone puts their stamp on something. It doesn’t matter who comes up with the song, everybody’s going to have a say. If it’s going to be on the album, it’s going to have everybody’s fingerprints on it. And that takes a lot of the pressure off because somebody will come in and say, “Oh, I really liked that, but what if we tried this?” If you’re open-minded, all of a sudden, you start to get surprised, like, “Wow, that’s a great idea. I never would have thought of that,” And when that happens, the songs just become better. So, I think, as a guitar player, just kind of trusting my bandmates and letting things happen naturally is good for my songwriting. And then, regarding my playing and stuff, with The Dead Daisies, I kind of go with a little bit more of a straight-up heavy rock approach. Of course, now with Glenn, when he sings, it makes me want to play a little differently. It makes me want to play a little more melodically to match his vocals. Now I just want to bring out a little bit more of the Gary Moore side, as opposed to the Randy Rhoads side, or whatever.

Andrew:
Of course, you’re a member of another great band in Burning Rain. How do you find balance between Burning Rain and The Dead Daisies?

Dough:
With Burning Rain, it’s been a fun thing that I’ve been doing with Keith St. John for a long time since back in ’98. We’ve done the four albums, and it’s just been sporadic. We had a ten-year break between the third and fourth albums. Right now, it’s not something that I can really focus on. At the same time, with the Daisies, since Glenn’s been in the band, I’ve put everything else on the back burner and focused 100% on that. We’ve been so busy making Holy Ground, and now this new record, and all the shuffled time frames, it’s been crazy. In 2021, we were really busy, and now in 2022, we’re even busier. So, we’re focused on this new album, and there’s really not any possibility for me to balance anything else at the same time. I like to just focus on one thing, you know? It’s like when I was in Whitesnake, I didn’t take any side gigs or anything during Whitesnake. Once I got out of Whitesnake, I did a few things. I did Revolution Saints. I did that Burning Rain record. But now that The Dead Daisies are on this new level with Glenn Hughes, and we’ve got Brian Tichy back in the band on drums, I am all in there. It feels amazing, man. As for Brian, he is probably my favorite drummer to work with. He and I just have a connection, musically. He’s just brilliant. He makes everybody sound better. So, I’m focused on this. But thank you for bringing up Burning Rain, because I am very proud of those records, and those sounds. People should go and check it out.

Andrew:
Let’s go back a bit to the beginning of your days in LA. Give us the backstory on your audition for KISS in the early 80s.

Dough:
I had just moved out to Los Angeles from Philadelphia. I was eighteen, and it was my first time living on my own. I immediately got myself into a band that was playing half cover numbers and half originals. It was cool. We used to play in this crazy club on The Strip, and in the center of the building, there were four balconies, and the effect was that you could look up or down and see a band playing. So, they would just rotate who was playing at whatever time. So, this girl comes up to me one night, and see’s me play, and she tells me, “KISS is looking for a guitar player.” She thought I was very interesting as a player, and that I should audition. I didn’t know anything about Ace Frehley leaving KISS, you know, this is way before the internet, all that stuff, so I didn’t have any idea about that stuff. I thought she was not being truthful, and I thought, “Why is she messing with me?” Well, it turns out, she was Eric Carr‘s girlfriend, and a couple of weeks later, when we played there again, she brought Eric down, and I met him. So Eric says to me, “Hey, I want you to come down to the studio, and play with us.”

So, I go down to The Record Plant with my guitar, and they’re working on Creatures of the Night. When I came in, they were working on “War Machine.” I just remember watching in awe, and I remember that killer riff. That riff is so memorable to me. It’s monstrous. So, anyway, I watched them run through a couple of songs, and then Gene [Simmons] comes over with a pen and paper, and he writes down a few tracks for me to learn. He goes, “Hey, can you learn these by Monday? Learn these, and then we can get together and play.” By this time, I’m starting to freak out, like, “Wow, this is crazy, man. I never thought this was gonna happen. I’m playing with KISS!” So, I went back down and played a few songs with them, and it went well, and they asked me to come back. I come back and play with them a second time, and it sounded good, but I think that they could just tell that I was too young. They were looking for an older, more experienced kind of guitar player. They liked what I was playing, but in a band, especially in a band like KISS, you have to be able to hang out together and be comfortable. Nobody wants to be around somebody that’s not comfortable, especially when you’re on tour. I didn’t know that at the time though. I just felt like things work themselves out if you play the right notes. [Laughs]. Later on, Eric called me and said, “We really liked you a lot, but we just think you need more experience. As you get older, you’re gonna do really well. Keep at it.” And so that inspired me, and it kind of made me have a little bit of a cool status with my friends back home as “the guy who played with KISS.” [Laughs].

Andrew:
I wanted to quickly hit on Lion as well. In your estimation, given the band’s songsmith, and the quality of the lineup, ultimately, why didn’t Lion take off as you might have hoped?

Doug:
We were signed to a record company that wouldn’t support us on the road. They wouldn’t give us any tour support. We made a great record but Lion wasn’t like your traditional Sunset Strip band, we were more influenced by Whitesnake, Led Zeppelin, and Thin Lizzy. We had a European singer in Kal Swan, and we had a great following and stuff, but a lot of the record companies kind of passed over us because we didn’t have that typical LA sound. And so we got this one offer from Scotti Brothers, and our attorney immediately said, “Don’t sign that contract,” but we felt like, “Hey, this is our only offer. If we don’t take this, there is nothing else. Everything will be okay. We can renegotiate it. We can do it.” So, we signed the contract and made Dangerous Attraction, which is a great record. And we had gotten offers to go on the road, but Scotti Brothers told us, “No way. We can’t do it. There’s no money to front the tour.” Without our record company backing us, and without any tour support, the record went nowhere. We got out of that contract and made Trouble in Angel City with Grand Slamm Records, but there wasn’t enough money there for any sort of push, and we had no major label interest because we got buried. We missed our window of opportunity being stuck in the mud with Scotti Brothers. So, it took some time to figure it out. Eventually, we had to break up to get out of it.

Andrew;
You mentioned earlier that you learned a lot about songwriting from David Coverdale. What are some of the takeaways which you got from David that you still apply to your songwriting to this day?

Doug:
With David, I learned how to create melodic hooks, and also, to simplify things. It was just the sheer number of songs that we wrote, and I just got better and better. It was always cool working with David too because I would listen to our demos, and I would record with him, and I would be sitting there recording, and I’d say, “Hey, what about trying this?” David was open to trying anything, it was great. So, I pretty much just got to the point where my confidence grew, I felt like I was more open, and I felt that I could get more inspiration from a lot of different places, and things. It didn’t have to always be a guitar riff, it could be a vocal melody, it could be a lyric, or even an old jazz song or something. If I heard a couple of chords that sounded cool, I’d sit down and experiment with playing them differently. For me, it was just a very creative time working with David. I am forever grateful for it.

Andrew:
Last one, Doug. What’s next for both yourself and The Dead Daisies in all lanes as we move forward?

Doug:
Well, in the immediate future, we are putting the finishing touches on this new record. There are still some guitars I need to add, but I like to like to wait until there’s a vocal in the mix before I figure out what vibe the solo should be. So, I’m gonna get into that. And then immediately after that, I gotta get ready to go out on tour. A month before the tour, we start rehearsals here in LA, and then we’re gonna go to Germany and rehearse, and we’ll be gone for a couple of months. I’ll get my family over there to come out there and see me. I can’t wait to get back on stage and see the European audience’s reaction to the new stuff, and the Holy Ground stuff. We’re just really excited.

Image credit: Neil Johnson

Interested in learning more about Doug Aldrich & The Dead Daisies? Hit the link below:

Be sure to 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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