Planetmosh talked to Bernie Marsden after his sold out gig at the Crown Hotel, Nantwich, Cheshire.
That was a great show Bernie.
Very nice it was to. Very good, very enjoyable.
With Jim Kirkpatrick, hired hand.
Stripped back songs played as they were written.
How do you approach acoustic gigs as opposed to electric ones?
Once you walk out there and say good evening, a gigs a gig. Maybe some people think that as I’m playing an acoustic guitar that it is different but the only thing you do different is sit down. Tonight was very intimate. Attitude wise it was the same as playing in front of 5000 people with an electric guitar.
This is the 4th date of the current tour. How is it going so far?
Crowds are good. Its all fun, its all you can ask for. People come, have a good time, go home happy, go onto social media and tell you how good or bad it was.
So what are the positives and negatives of the internet for you?
The plus is because it is such an important thing. I played here until 11 o’ clock and at 20 past someone in Los Angeles can hear all about it. The downside is if something goes wrong at the gig, it is instantly out there. Some of the great gigs I’ve played in the past were not as great as I thought they were because there was no real record of them whereas now someone is always there with a mobile phone and no matter how much you ask them not to put it onto the net, its there. In a way it does make you more on your guard but you don’t want to take away the overall feel of the gig which is what I try to do.
How did you meet and start working with Jim?
I think I met Jim at the Brook in Southampton. I think I was there with M3 and he was opening up on his own. I saw him play and thought he was really good. I made sure I said hello and thats how it started. Now we are the best part of 10 years later and over that time we have done a lot of stuff together. He is a top man, top bloke.
You have had a long career. Is it hard to choose a setlist?
No, not hard. You kind of know if you are going to be doing the old stuff that you have to put in certain songs. Not because I have to but without these songs I would not be playing here in 2015. Those songs bring people out because they have their memories of them and tonight we did them a different way as semi acoustic. It is a way of putting back in really as this is where it all started. People get to know the songs all over the world and then suddenly you are playing them in front of a couple of hundred people in a very intimate pub in Nantwich but as we are talking now, ‘Here I Go Again’ is on over 500 radio stations, that is the power of the song.
It is getting that 1 song really isn’t it?
My piece of rock immortality. Some people have more but 1 will do.
I did not know until doing some research today that you worked with Cozy Powell.
For about 9 months in 1974. I was very close to Cozy. He was best man at my wedding. When he joined Rainbow he put me up for the gig with Paice, Ashton and Lord then suddenly Whitesnake and Rainbow were challenging for chart positions and all the inter Deep Purple thing with Ritchie started. Me and Cozy just used to laugh about it. He was a great guy, a wonderful fella.
He went too soon.
Almost 20 years now. He was a good guy and a brilliant drummer. He used to call Slide It In the difficult album and never felt part of the band or album. He said that you are Whitesnake even though you are out of it and are more part of the band than I am or ever will be. It pretty much panned out that way because he only did that album and then David changed the band again and from that we got the ‘1987’ album and the rest is history as the old saying goes.
Who were your influences when you were younger?
The Beatles made we want to play guitar when I saw them on television as a kid thinking I would not mind doing that, then the hard part begins and I had a family member who used to play blues records and he turned me onto the Yardbirds, then through them discovered Eric Clapton. Then he joined John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers and became a bit of a national hero and through reading stuff about him and interviews about him I discovered B.B King and T. Bone Walker. It suddenly occurred that this is the blues, a light came on and from that came Hendrix, Peter Green and all those wonderful players from that period.
Did you see Hendrix play?
Yeah, mindblowing. Just mindblowing!
It is good being old sometimes isn’t it? I missed a lot of the late 60’s/early 70’s bands.
I would not change a thing. If I was 10 years younger I would never have seen Hendrix.
Have you a favourite studio album that is not 1 of yours that you always go back to?
That is a big question. The first Steely Dan album Can’t Buy A Thrill is pretty definitive and takes some beating musically, playing, songwriting, performing and production. I never realised it at the time, I just knew that I liked it. The first Hendrix album Are You Experienced was devastatingly good. I did not know about production, overdubbing and double tracking. I thought everything was played by the 3 guys in the studio. Imagine trying to play those guitar parts when there are 3 tracks on the guitar so there was me 15/16 years old trying to learn it and then you would go and see him play it live and blow you away.
Can you recall a favourite gig? Not 1 of your own.
Hammersmith Odeon with Whitesnake was a bit special as I felt part of the crowd even though I was the guy in the band. I knew what it felt like to be out at the front watching the band as I had been there many times myself but I felt like this is me but I’m out there as well which was quite weird. There is a venue in Atlanta, Georgia called the Fox Theatre which is a great gig to play. I also like the Beacon Theatre in New York. Very rough and ready, very rock and roll, very knocked about. Great atmosphere.
Latest album Shine you are touring on, sounds modern but still organic.
I used a producer called Rob Cass. I would go and lay the tracks down, guitar stuff and overdubs and left him to it so some of the rhythm tracks sound pretty much modern and yet because of the way I play and write, there is still that traditional feel there. He mixed it digital and analog and spent a lot of time at Abbey Road studio which is very expensive to record there. Somebody said it was a very expensive album but at this stage in my career you have to go with the best and Abbey Road is the best. The pressure now is to do the next one so I’ll have to save up a few shillings.
My personal favourite on Shine is the new version of ‘Trouble’.
David sings great on it. I simply called him up saying that I was making an album and I would like him to sing on it. I thought he might say to let him hear the track, talk to my manager or talk to my lawyer but he just asked when I needed it. I sent him over the masters, he recorded it in his own place and I was listening to it a week later in Abbey Road studios. He sang it that powerful that he said the guitar parts may need re-recording. I never thought he would sing it with so much power but he did. People say can he sing anymore but if you listen to ‘Trouble’ on Shine, he sang it in the same key as he did over 30 years ago.
How long have you had the new songs written for Shine?
I’ve been stockpiling these songs, maybe about 50% of them. The rest were written during the sessions. I always knew I was going to do ‘Trouble’ but to get David to sing it was a bonus. I never stop writing. There were probably 10-15 songs that I knew were going to be good enough for an album 1 day. I never had any idea that I would be making in album in 2014 for Worldwide release. I thought those days were gone and then out of the blue a record company comes along saying we want to sign you to make an album.
Are you planning on a new release yet?
I’ll be in the studio probably in late October into November cutting for next year.
The next part of this tour is in Scotland?
We go to Scotland tomorrow for 4 days then I’ve got the Jack Bruce thing, then I’m going to India working on a project there. Then to America for a couple of weeks, then I’ll be promoting 1 of my signature guitars at the end of the year.
Are the Scottish dates acoustic?
Yeah. The same as you saw tonight. I enjoy them. Its nice to get back to basics. Just me and Jim. People think they are in the position of when the songs were first written.
I think with acoustic sets, you can take it in more than an electric gig.
I do all the talking and that before, during and after songs and get up close with a couple of hundred people. You try and treat it like its 10 people and you know when you start to say something its quite amusing so I don’t take myself too seriously. I like to tell stuff like the Jon Lord stories because people love Jon Lord. I’ve written a book which will probably be ready for next year and it has lots of stories. People will enjoy it and hopefully it will read like you were listening at tonights gig, apart from the amplifiers.
Thank you very much for talking to Planetmosh.
Latest album Shine is out now on Mascot Label Group.