Interview: David Coverdale answers life biggest questions

David Coverdale
David Coverdale

“I just got caught speeding because of you, motherfucker!” For a moment it sounds like David Coverdale might be genuinely furious, until a roar of familiar laughter rear- ends the insult. The Whitesnake singer was flagged down while racing from the studio to his Lake Tahoe home to talk to Classic Rock. He’s now in playful mood, fruity of voice and positively radiating alpha-maleness, dear boy, as we settle in to discuss more existential matters.

Do you believe in God?

Absolutely. A supreme being. Always have, though I never knew how to articulate it.

I’m on an incredibly exciting spiritual journey, and in the last 15 years it’s been clearer, since I started to meditate. If there’s anything I recommend to people for their kids, it’s to give them the tools to meditate. It’s an astonishing accessory which helps you start the day in a focused, balanced way, particularly in this industry, which is basically a three-ringed circus with all the acts playing at once.

What is the biggest misconception about David Coverdale?

You know what? I really don’t care. I always feel I’m revealing in my music. It really is a clue that I’m a sensitive man ruled by my heart. Most of my early hits were broken- hearted, bad-girl songs. In the last 20 years, with my astonishingly positive marriage, they’re now great, positive songs. And I do well with them. Your misconception of me is entirely whatever you fucking want it to be. I’m just who I am, and I like who I am.

What’s the secret of a happy marriage?

It really takes two to tango, as the cliché observes. This is a shared enterprise. Everything I’d experienced before – with no disrespect to anyone who’s been involved in my life on a romantic or ‘physically connected’ way – was all preparation for me to get it right with this particular person [Cindy, his wife of 15 years]. I give thanks every day for how remarkable my life is. It’s a foundation for me to launch from, from a place of respect, support and trust. Thank God my wife trusts me. God forbid I do anything to compromise that trust.

David Coverdale at the Lyric Theatre in London in 1982

David Coverdale at the Lyric Theatre in London in 1982 (Image credit: Fin Costello / Getty Images)

What was your biggest waste of money?

Oh, I’ve wasted millions! On promo videos, and divorces. Fortunately they generated significantly more coming back – I wrote about my divorces and made that money back, so it’s swings and roundabouts. I’m a Yorkshireman, for Christ’s sake. We can peel bananas in our pockets.

What are the consolations of getting older?

Age doesn’t phase me any more. If you’d told me 30 years ago that I’d still be touring and releasing new bits and pieces and be more enthusiastic than ever, I would’ve laughed and ordered another bottle of cognac. It’s not a pretence – if you stuck a plug up my ass I’d light up Manchester.

[More sombre] I’ve lost a lot of people recently. It’s so awful for me to see a photo of the Slide It In band. So many of them have gone. So you can’t help but think: my God, who’s going to be next. I remember Jon Lord as I saw him 10 years ago, drinking with me in the Sunset Marquis. Ritchie [Blackmore] and I have been emailing recently, very nicely, very positively. I’ve communicated with a few people where before it hadn’t been the most pleasant exchange, because it just isn’t worth it any more. All that animosity, that excess baggage, there really is no place in my garden for that any more.

What have been the highest and lowest points of your career?

A horrendous low was when my daughter was ill in ’82 and the doctors had no idea what it was. One doctor guessed it was Kawasaki syndrome, which I think I brought back from tour in Japan. My daughter’s illness gave me the balls to realise that I could change the situation. That’s when I broke my management contract, and my life went from black and white to Technicolor. And the highs just continue today.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Get rid of your glasses immediately, and stay off the fried food. My manager laughed when I said I was going to go for it. And look what happened! Look what happens when you get off your arse and go after something.

If you started to lose your hair would you shave it off or seek other ways of keeping it?

Well preserved, you cheeky bastard. You haven’t seen me naked! I don’t do the hypothetical. I take care of this mane the same as the rest of me. I’m thrilled to be blessed with it. I’ve been working with my hairdresser so that for this tour it’s going to be the longest it’s been since Reading 1980. It just keeps growing.

What is the secret of success?

There are so many elements – time, chance, destiny, passion… Passion is a huge part of it. But how do you view success? Commercially successful, putting a lot of money in your bank? Or making a great record? The thing is, I don’t just want to survive – I want to flourish. You have to set your sights and say: right, I’m going to achieve this by this time and let nothing fucking interfere with that. Ian Paice said to me one time: “David, not everyone can live rock’n’roll 247.” I looked at him and said: “I don’t ask that of you, I just want you to be 99.9 per cent there with me.”

This interview originally appeared in Classic Rock 183.

Grant Moon

A music journalist for over 20 years, Grant writes regularly for titles including Prog, Classic Rock and Total Guitar, and his CV also includes stints as a radio producer/presenter and podcast host. His first book, 'Big Big Train - Between The Lines', is out now through Kingmaker Publishing.