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Steven darling

In a recent interview to Guitar World Steve Vai reminisces on his time in Whitesnake:

David Coverdale had a lot of experience working with gifted players when you joined the fold and seems to be someone who really values the interplay between a frontman and a dazzling lead guitarist. What was he like to work with? Was he hands-on or did he get out of the way and let you do your thing?

David was a prince! He had a lot of confidence in me and basically knew he needed to just let me do my thing. David knew what I was capable of and didn’t really interfere with what I wanted to do. I just did it, and if there was something he didn’t like I was happy to change it because it was his thing. Working with David was great and there was something in his phrasing as a singer that I just adored.

There was really only one situation where David asked me to redo something and I completely agreed. It was on The Deeper the Love. I had done a solo using a piece of rack gear that was the hot new piece of gear at the time. I won’t mention who it was made by, but I hated the thing, but everybody was saying how great it was, so I gave it a spin.

It sounded like shit – thin and buzzy like a deranged mosquito! I wasn’t really satisfied with the sound on the solo and, sure enough, David heard it and went, ‘Steven darling, would you mind redoing this solo – it sounds a bit thin.’ Other than that, he just let me run with it.

Did you have any reservations about not staying wholly true to Whitesnake’s old signature sound?

You have to find a balance between what’s expected of you from the band, what the fans are expecting, what the song requires and is telling you to do – and also being true to your own voice. I had no choice but to express my own voice because that’s all I know!

If I had tried to sound like Yngwie when I had joined Alcatrazz, it just wouldn’t have worked because I’m very satisfied with the way I play, but I also can’t play like Yngwie. It was the same thing when I was playing with Dave Roth; I needed to deliver in a rock context – which was very natural to me – but I’m not going to compete with Edward Van Halen!

There’s no way those records would’ve been accepted if I didn’t have some kind of rock integrity, but I knew what the songs needed and I knew what the audience was expecting and there’s a side of me that I knew could deliver that. It was the same thing with Whitesnake.

The foundation of Whitesnake’s sound was rooted in rock blues, and there’s a whole culture that emanated from Europe in that traditional solid rock blues guitar playing that had a real authenticity to it.

Michael Schenker, Uli Jon Roth, Adrian Vandenberg, Ritchie Blackmore, Jimmy Page – that was the sound all Whitesnake records had been built upon. But Whitesnake had gone through different permutations of guitar sounds throughout the years, and the previous one to me was John Sykes, and he absolutely had his own sound.

Sykes didn’t sound like any other previous Whitesnake guitarist, but his thumbprint is an indelible part of the Whitesnake record he did. The fatness of that record and the rock integrity it had was all Sykes. So I knew I wasn’t going to sound like Sykes and I wasn’t going to try to.

You cheat yourself when you try to do that and play like someone else. And the audience is a lot smarter than you think; they’re very intuitive and perceptive and if you try to pull anything over on them – like biting someone else’s thing – you’ll get beat up for it.

Read more in Guitar World. There’s lots more.

Thanks to BraveWords for the info.

5 Comments to “Steven darling”:

  1. 1
    Adel Faragalla says:

    Not every DP fan is a big fan of Whitesnake but you have to respect the power of MTV in the 80s that made coverdale a house hold name. He paid a big price falling for the sexy dancer and it broke the bank big time. BTW when the songs are well written then the variation of sound played live can do no harm.
    Peace love and Corona free to you all.

  2. 2
    André says:

    Steve Vai did a great job in Whitesnake. Slip of the tongue is my favourite one after saints and sinners. At that time, Steve Vai made also a great solo record with Coverdale singing on one of his songs. What a pity Vai didn’t stay in Whitesnake ! I hope David is doing well! Greetings from a die hard fan!

  3. 3
    Uwe Hornung says:

    Slip of the Tongue was an over-ambitious failure, overwrought much like GnR’s Chinese Democracy.

    I saw Whitesnake with Vai – his stage persona was from another planet, throwing fluid serpentine shapes und playing solos so effortlessly it was TOO EFFORTLESS. He was immaculate, but lacked any emotion or grit. He stood out und pretty much upstaged everyone, even DC, no mean feat – Glenn Hughes in Mk III days was a shrinking violet in comparison. : – ) You could see it wouldn’t last.

    I’m no Vai hater, the man’s a brilliant musician, he just had no business in Whitesnake und even less business playing Vandenberg’s songs und riffs. Who knows if Vai hat actually gotten to write on SOTT. I loved his work with Alcatrazz und that solo album he did with Devin Townsend.

  4. 4
    Blackwood Richmore says:

    @3 Uwe, Slip Of The Tongue certainly wasn’t a failure… I remember back in the day, I saw an interview with DC where he admitted that while SOTT had not sold in the same numbers as the 1987 album, it had still sold 2 million albums or so… & that “wasn’t to fuckin’ shabby!”.
    There’s a lot to love on that album. 🎸 🐍 😈 🍻

  5. 5
    Uwe Hornung says:

    I didn’t mean commercially, the sales were fine, you can’t repeat a success like 1987. It was an artistic failure, the album has no heart and swagger – unlike 1987 which is overblown too, but has British guts all over. The only Englishman on SOTT was Coverdale himself – the guys around him we’re unable to replicate what Sykes, Murray, Dunbar und Airey had done on 1987. I loved Vai in Alcatrazz, Sarzo in Quiet Riot und Aldridge with Ozzy, but they didn’t work out with WS.

    When I first heard SOTT, my immediate thought was: He is never going to be able to handle this stuff live. And he wasn’t. Listen to his Last Note of Freedom novelty recording to hear how shot his voice was after that tour.

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