Going Purple with Whitesnake\’s Reb Beach

It was just a few months ago that Whitesnake released an album that was a bit different from what they\’ve done in the past. The Purple Album is not your typical Whitesnake album. With this record, the band took a collection of songs from frontman David Coverdale\’s time in Deep Purple and re-worked them and released an album of Deep Purple covers

Currently out on the road in the middle of one of the most successful tours in over a decade for Whitesnake, guitarist Reb Beach took some time to talk to editor Reggie Edwards about the album, writing, recording and releasing the record and touring in support of it.

FRR: You guys are out on the road on The Purple Tour out supporting The Purple Album, which is a really cool idea where you rework a lot of the Deep Purple classics from when David was in the band. How did the project originally come to be?

Reb Beach: David. It was totally, totally David’s idea. He called me and told me that’s what he wanted to do and I was thrilled with that because that music is so cool and it makes a lot of sense because it’s like arena rock, you know? It’s riff rock which is what I’m in to. Every rock song I’ve ever written is usually has a riffs. Slayer’s all about Riffs, Dokken’s all about riffs and I like it because they’re all riff songs that you pick. So it really lends itself to playing live which I love and there’s a ton of Deep Purple fans out there. I’ve been in the band 12 years, longer than anybody else believe it or not and I see a ton of Deep Purple shirts out there every night, so I thought it would be a really good idea and low and behold, we’re doing better than we’ve done since 2003 and the people are coming. We’re getting just thousands of people coming to the show and we’re doing really good numbers out here and the show’s getting great reviews and the album’s gotten great reviews, so I couldn’t be happier.

FRR: Did you always plan on playing it live?

Reb Beach: Totally original plan. Like, “Let’s do an album and let’s tour it because this stuff will sound killer in an arena!”

FRR: The fans are the ones who win most because not only are they getting the Whitesnake classics but also Deep Purple that they haven’t played in years. How are they translating live?

Reb Beach: Really well. You can tell that when we go into “Gypsy” nobody knows what it is but by the end everyone’s singing along. Same thing with “You Keep On Movin’” which is kind of a slower song, it’s like a spacey, eerie, 70’s smoking weed kind of song and they’re really digging it. And you can see they’re all kind of transfixed on the stage because it’s like nothing that ever done before. So it’s a unique show, you’re right, because it’s the best of both worlds. It’s kind of like the Deep Purple fans get to hear a new take on songs they knew and loved and the Whitesnake fans get to hear all of the hits that they love.

The great thing for me, the ultimate for me is that I got to sing all of the Glenn Hughes parts on the record and so I do it live. I do a duet with David every night which is like, that’s it for me- I can die a happy man.

FRR: Was it an easy, natural process recording these songs? Was it a pretty smooth recording process?

Reb Beach: Well the recording process was pretty smooth but in pre-production David and I worked closely together. I co-produced the record together with David and we spent a lot of time- I lived with him for six months which was like completely like The Odd Couple because he’s a British aristocrat and I’m a beer drinking slob. I’d wake up in the morning like “Hi David” and he’s “Rebel! How are you this fine morning?” he’s got a giant voice so it was incredible. It was like a legend in his bath robe. It’s really something.

But we worked on the stuff together. I wrote some of the stuff like the middle section to “Burn.” David wanted a feature for both guitar players and I was going to write a new section for myself so I wrote this new section and then after I thought about it I was like “you know what, I want to do the Richie Blackmore section in that” so I’ll give that new section I wrote to Joel. So Joel does that new section in “Burn” and we just added some stuff. I did little guitar parts here and there to try to bring it somewhere else but for the most part we just stuck to the arrangements.

I was really surprised at how involved in everything, you know? I didn’t know he was a really good songwriter. I always was skeptical like “How much did David really write of those riffs? Did he really write the “Still of The Night” riff?” And now that I’ve worked with him, yes he did! He really is a good songwriter and he really knows what he wants and he’s a hard worker. I was just super impressed with his ideas and his work ethic.

FRR: This is the first record with Joel. With all the experience he has what does he bring to the table and how has he helped the band?

Reb Beach: Well Joel, he was on Broadway for a while with Rock of Ages and Night Ranger. His parents were both musicians so he grew up just seeing musicians playing all the time, practicing all the time. He’s the most prepared musician I’ve ever seen in my entire life, so he came in and just knew he all the parts backwards and forwards and he knows theory really well. He’s like a machine when he plays guitar- he does perfect solos every take- it’s amazing.

So he added a lot to it, for sure. He came in and just did these different colors with his slide and his way. He does a thing I can’t do, just like Doug Aldridge does a thing that I can’t do. I don’t do that picking every note style that is associated with John Sykes. He’s way more up that alley with his Les Paul just with the sound and style in which he plays, it’s way better for those Sykes-y kind of solos.

FRR: I saw you Thursday or Friday last week and it was just insane. You could tell that Joel was having fun out there and happy to be doing it- you killed it on the stage.

Reb Beach: Oh cool- alright!

FRR: You’ve got a special show next week, going back to the home area playing these songs. What’s that going to be like being home again and playing these songs?

Reb Beach: Well, I’ve been doing it for a long time so I’ve done the hometown show many, many times. It’s people coming out of the woodwork for tickets. I’ve got 25 guests already, which is a lot for one guy- it’s just family and friends. It’s cool for me because I’ve been promoted to music director now and I’m on the other side of the stage and I’m very happy for them to see this show which I have a lot more- I’m a lot more a part of the show than I was in the past.

FRR: It’s going to be a great show, being able to go home and play in front of the hometown crowd.

Reb Beach: It’s great. My family will be there, all my friends will be there. There’s a cute little bar across the street so we’ll meet before the show and have a couple of beers and then play the show and then we’ll go back and have a lot of beers!

FRR: Have you started thinking about what might come next for Whitesnake or maybe what the next record will look like? Another Deep Purple type thing or a Whitesnake original?  

Reb Beach: No more recording this year. We’re on the road the rest of this year and probably on the road next year as well. We have to tour this thing. It’s a successful tour, it’s a big success and there’s a buzz on it and David will probably want to take advantage of it.