[% META title = 'Bernie Marsden, Interviews' %] Bernie Marsden Interview

Saturday, 30th June 2001
Balingen / Germany "Bang Your Head", before the Company of Snakes gig
Interview by Catrin Wiegand

To start with something unusual: Frankie

["Frankie" was a 6 piece Christmas series on German TV (ZDF). The name giving character is a 17year old boy, who wants to become a guitar player. When his supporting grandpa dies, piano player "Big Ed" (actor: Bernie Marsden) takes his role. Later Peter Maffay and The Scorpions appear - as themselves.]

Catrin: A couple of years ago you acted in a German TV series: "Frankie". How did that work?

Bernie: Five years ago. That was really good, I really enjoyed it. I am actually working in a theatre in London at the moment as well. But "Frankie": I went to Munich for a meeting with the producers and the director. And I thought I was going to see them to talk about the music. And when I got there, he said "No, I want you to be IN the movie."

Catrin: But you actually played the guitar parts of Frankie.

Bernie: Yes, yes, yes. And I think it's been on a couple of times since then. I think it's been repeated. I was in Switzerland once and I turned the TV on and there I was. I was on TV in Switzerland! I thought "Hello"? But it was very good, I really enjoyed it. The guys were great. And working with Harold Faltermeyer was good, too. That was a good guy. He did the music. We wrote the music together.

Catrin: I read that Bernie Marsden plays keyboards.

Bernie: No it was just the guitar stuff. They just said "We like you to play a guy that's a kind of has been around in the business for a long time." And I said "That's very easy."

Catrin: So do you actually speak German or did you...

Bernie: I spoke SOME German. And they dubbed it very well. I watched that and I thought it was me. The problem is that everybody in Germany thinks that I can "Sprecken Sie Deutsch?" [little mispronounced German for "Do you speak German?"] now.

Catrin: It could have been that you just phonetically learned it.

Bernie: I learned it like a… like a child. But sometimes they couldn't dub it. I had to speak to the cameras. But it was a good experience. I liked it. It's kind of a secret thing. People say "Did you do this?" and I say "Yeah, I did do." - "Was it you?" - "Yes, it was me". It's a nice thing to do, it was a good experience. But the music was always number one. But I like to be in the acting, it's good.

Catrin: A lot of rockstars just try it.

Bernie: Yeah. It was a nice low key thing, you know? No big deal. It was just like something to do.

Catrin: Jon Bongiovi seems to like it very much.

Bernie: Yeah. I think he's a bit better than me.

Catrin: He doing it a little bit more seriously.

Bernie: Yes, I think so, yeah. But not too seriously I hope, he's a good singer.

PAL and solo recordings

Catrin: About 20 years ago it was always the same line-up doing your two solo records, Cozy Powell's and Jon Lord's... Was it actually just those people around???

Bernie: Well, the thing is, these guys are so good - were so good [Cozy Powell died in 1998] and we just happened to be good friends as well. If you need a great keyboard-player and Jon Lord says "I'll do it" what you gonna say? No?

Catrin: I was amazed that it is Cozy Powell, Ian Paice AND Simon Philips...

Bernie: On one album, yeah. More drummers bought my albums than guitar-players. I was in Switzerland last week and a guy came in, he was a drummer, and he said "My favourite album of all time is "About Time, too" [Bernie Marsden, 1979] That's the best drumming I've ever heard." I said "Thank you very much". [laughs] But that's what happens. It's nice. But these guys were good friends. And if you just happen to have good friends who are great players I think you're pretty lucky. It was just one of those good times. And then Jon said to me "I'm making an album. You come and play a couple of tracks with me?" And I said "Yes, of course. If you want me to." And so we did and that's why. And with Cozy that's pretty much the same, really.

Catrin: Are you still in contact with Jon and...

Bernie: Yeah. We live about maybe 45 minutes from each other. I see him maybe 5 or 6 times a year. And we speak on the telephone like two days ago. So it's okay. I have no problem with Jon and Ian. Jon Lord is a great man, he's a great guy.

Catrin: Some German newspaper started to call him "the grey eminence of rock music" - when he turned his hair grey.

Bernie: He must be quite old now, because I am and he's older than me, so...

Catrin: He just turned 60.

Bernie: Is he 60? It doesn't matter whether Jon is 50, 60, 40. Jon is Jon, you know. Jon is a great musician and he is a great man. That's all you need to know. And that's true!

Catrin: How did you become involved with PAL? [Paice-Ashton-Lord, 1976/77]? Did you know them before?

Bernie: No. I was recommended to PAL by Cozy Powell. And then I didn't find them for like 6 weeks, so I just phoned. And they said "We've been looking for you, where are you?" - "I'm in Sweden." - "Well, what do you want? We want you to come for this band." So I went back to England. And that's it.

Catrin: But that was a pretty short living band.

Bernie: Five gigs. Two albums, five gigs. Well, one and a half albums. The second one is out, isn't it?

Catrin: Yes it is. On a compilation CD with the first one ["Malice in Wonderland", 1976], released on 'purple records'.

Bernie: I'd like to see this. Cause nobody has contacted me about it. And I wrote nearly all the material!

Catrin: Once Ian Gillan was asked to sign some records and he said "This is a bootleg", but it was an official record company release. And he said "I don't know about it".

Bernie: But this happens all the time, yeah. Ian has a lot of stuff from his band period, I think. When he had his own band [Ian Gillan Band /Gillan, 1976-1981] he made lots of recordings they never released. And suddenly they release it. "Oh, hello?" But that's the way it goes.

Company of Snakes

Bernie: So you have the Company of Snakes live album ["Here they go again", recorded at Wacken, Germany in August and Trondheim, Norway in September 2000]? It's just like "hello, we're still here". The studio one is ready for September, I think. It's all finished, it's very, very good. I'll be in Hamburg in two weeks mixing the album. The studio is in Brakel. But today we'll do the old stuff.

Catrin: Did you speak with Coverdale about it?

Bernie: About Company of Snakes?

Catrin: Yeah.

Bernie: No. He said somewhere in America that they should do their own songs. That's what he said. But they are! I wrote the songs - so we're doing what he said. David does what he wants to do, that's okay. He lives in America and maybe one day we can work together again. That would be great. And if not, we just do what we do. And the people enjoy it and we play the old stuff, they love it. And now we have the new stuff. And we'll work the new stuff into the gig. The new stuff is very good. Very, very strong. Good songs.

Today you have three original members of Whitesnake [Bernie Marsden and Micky Moody: guitars, Neil Murray: bass]. So it's as close as you'll ever get to Whitesnake. And me and Micky wrote most of the stuff together with David. It's pretty much everything. Everything we play we either played on or we wrote. Or we wrote and we played on.

Catrin: But you play "Since you've been gone" [Rainbow chartbreaker, 1979]!?!

Bernie: No, not anymore. We did that because Don Airey was doing a session with us. And you know he was in Rainbow [keyboards, and once with Coverdale - after the classical Whitesnake line-up]...

Catrin: But he didn't...

Bernie: He didn't write it, no. He didn't write. Has never written anything.

Catrin: So why isn't he in the band anymore?

Bernie: Because we've got somebody else. His name is Josh Phillips. And he's played with Midge Ure sometimes and with Procol Harum and he's played with Eric Clapton... We are good for that. Somebody's gone and another one comes.

Catrin: Is it true that the vocals on the live record aren't live?

Bernie: The guy that sang at Wacken is not the guy on the album, yes. We had a technical problem with the recording and then by the time we came to fix it we had another singer [Stefan Berggren]. So, that's true. But it doesn't matter. Everything else is live. Just one of these things that happened. We had a temporary singer, a guy called Gary Barden. He just did 5 or 6 shows with us and one of them was Wacken. We were asked "Can we record it?" - "Yeah, okay". And then it didn't work. Like almost the only thing that didn't work was the vocals. So it was kind of strange that... Almost like "You shouldn't do this. [laughs] Wait for the new guy". But it finished quite good now. He's doing very well here.

Catrin: Did you look for somebody that was in a Whitesnake cover band?

Bernie: No, no that's not true. What happened was, we found a guy through the guy in the studio who said "I know a guy that is a very good singer. And he can sing the songs because in his band sometimes they played a couple of Whitesnake songs." But this guy, he doesn't try to be David. He sings his own way. That's important. We had a guy before from Norway [Jorn Lande] and he just pretended to be Coverdale all the time. And you know, that's no good. There's only one David Coverdale.

Catrin: It depends. I guess it is very hard to find out what is the right way. As with Judas Priest [they headlined the festival the day before] a couple of years ago, when the new singer Tim 'Ripper' Owens tried to sing his own way - but now Ripper sings like Rob Halford did and NOW everything's fine...

Bernie: But I think it's important because if you gonna do stuff that people know (and we play songs like "Fool for your loving" and "Here we go again") then they have to be sung the way the crowd knows the song. So you have to sing them a certain way. But it's no good trying to copy the original singer because it's kind of impossible. Maybe with Judas Priest it's little easier because of the style of music. Because it's kind of more heavy than what we do. We are kind of melodic, so it's a bit harder to do. So he [Stefan] sings it pretty much like the record is. But he does his own thing and on the new album you really hear what he does.

Catrin: So he wrote his own lyrics then?

Bernie: Yeah, you know Micky and I wrote most of the stuff. But he wrote some stuff, too. He is very good, he is a nice guy, he is a young guy.

Catrin: When he was born, all other members of Company of Snakes already had recorded some stuff...

Bernie: Yes, sure. But that's always gonna happen these days. If we've been doing this interview 20 years ago and you just said "What will you be doing in 2001?" I wouldn't think that I would be talking to you on a festival in Germany. But here we are. The Rolling Stones are still doing it, Eric Clapton is still doing it...

Catrin: I just realized yesterday that most of the bands are pretty old. There's no band here around younger than 30 [the bands that played in the afternoons and evenings were: on friday: Kreator, Armored Saint, Rose Tattoo, Uriah Heep, Savatage and Judas Priest and on saturday: Company of Snakes, Six Feet Under (might be younger?), Axel Rudi Pell, Megadeth, Stratovarius and Dee Snider]. Nothing new.

Bernie: That's right. And when we see some of these guys we are like the guys they grew up with. And they come over to you - they are all like on stage "Yeah, I am the man" - and they kind of go "Hello Bernie, hello. I'm a big fan from 1981" - "Hello, how are you doing?" So we are kind of the older guys. But Deep Purple are older then us! So, you know what I mean. It doesn't matter!

Catrin: I went to see Deep Purple for the first time when Ian Paice (as the youngest) was aged 40.

Bernie: But those guys are still here and all the other ones have gone. That's the difference.

Catrin: Yeah, that's it. Most of the 80ies bands are gone.

Bernie: And they only made a couple of records and Ian Paice is still doing what he did the first time you saw him. As he is a great player and people like good players. They like to see good musicians. I think so. I don't care for this kind of music really [at that time Helstar were playing...].

Catrin: When I saw the line-up of this festival, it was like "heavy metal plus Uriah Heep and Company of Snakes".

Bernie: Hope you will enjoy Company of Snakes. It's the nearest to Whitesnake that you'll ever see. And after this summer, we'll be doing the new stuff. So some of the old stuff will go forever. So it's a good time to see the band. And then everybody will say "Ohhh, we remember you were doing the old stuff".

Tony Ashton

Catrin: About Tony Ashton [who died of cancer in May 2001].

Bernie: [sadly] yeah, yeah

Catrin: Did you manage to go to the burrial?

Bernie: Yeah, everybody did. That was... It wasn't sad. It was very, very funny.

Catrin: It was kind of shocking because he is the first one out of the 'Purple family' who died because of something related to age. I mean Tommy Bolin [guitarist with Deep Purple in 1975/76] passed away from drugs, that's something else.

Bernie: Tony was very sick. But he'll always be here because we were just talking about him today. And everytime you do something there is always a Tony Ashton story, and you know... The ones that were with him and knew him, the people that were close to him... Because he wasn't a well known person in the rock world.

Catrin: He was some kind of a live-long insider. [discography and biography]

Bernie: Legend... Funny enough when we first started Whitesnake he was gonna be in the band.

Catrin: So finally almost all PAL musicians moved to Whitesnake [bass player Paul Martinez didn't].

Bernie: Yeah. And when we were having auditions he came to the audition. But he only came to leave to the pub to have a drink. And he played with us, he played Hammond organ, in the afternoon. And David said to me "Ashton is really good. We'll offering him the job". And I said "He doesn't want the job!" You know, he only came for a beer. "No", he said, "you have to ask him". And I said to Tony "Tony, do you want to join the band?" And Tony went "No, no, no". And two years after when we were number one he said to me "Can I join the band now?" He said "You'll have to get rid of that Jon Lord. Kick him out, kick him out". That was Tony, Tony was great. We'll miss him very much, very much. You miss people. Cozy is gone, Tommy is gone, Tommy has gone a long time.

Catrin: But again: Cozy didn't die because of age. He died because of...

Bernie: Fast cars. Fast cars and women. [listening, the current song starts with piano and vocals] Oh, keyboard, this is rare. Keyboard player! Must be the wrong festival!

Catrin: Yesterday Uriah Heep had keyboards. That was funny, they kicked away all their ballads. They played the heavy stuff. And afterwards Judas Priest played a ballad! ["Diamonds and Rust"].

Bernie: [laughing] I don't know. We'll have to work out what we are gonna play [it was half an hour before showtime!], but I think you'll know the songs. I think you know most of it.

Catrin: Will we hear any of the new stuff?

Bernie: Not today. [one hour showtime] We'll do all the hits. We finish with three number ones. That's not so bad.

Catrin: No, everybody can sing along.

Bernie: But we come back to Germany I think in September / October. Do another 12 to 15 dates. We didn't play here in February because of this festival. The guys said "You can't come near Stuttgart" [next big city to Balingen].

© 2001 by Catrin Wiegand