A gentle giant can be the first impression you have meeting Neil Murray. A tall, softly speaking yet always sharp, there’s no sign of his glorious experience on Neil’s shoulders. Still, this is an experience which, if shortened to a simple list of the bands ever spiced with Muray’s bass lines, will cover a huge part of British rock history. That makes covering all bases during one conversation quite an impossible task, and we didn’t even try to dig the past very much. Why, indeed, when here’s the present that sees Neil playing with his WHITESNAKE friends and in the “We Will Rock You” musical? So a bar near London’s “Dominion” theater, where the show is staged, provided us with a good retreat for a good talk.
– What it is like, playing in the musical, in a kind of orchestra, as compared to working in a band?
Yes, it’s very different for me. I’ve never done anything like this before – it has many good things and some bad things. It’s very good to be working so much, very unusual for me to be so busy: in the last few years there have been Brian May tour in 1998, and a certain amount of work that I did after that with THE COMPANY OF SNAKES with Bernie Marsden and Micky Moody – it was not really that much every year, so financially quite difficult. And it’s much better for me now, much more secure, but then, on the other hand, it’s a bit sad that I have to play exactly the same songs exactly the same way every night, and it can get very stressful or boring. And if you’re not in the mood for it, it’s really hard work. (Laughs.) Actually, to do six nights a week – sometimes it’s eight performances a week – it’s kind of too much, really, and it’s good if you can take a couple of nights off.
– What about a discipline side of it?
Well, it’s good! I mean, it is a big discipline: particularly to follow a conductor who’s telling you what tempo the things should be in, and when to stop, and when to start. But that’s fine, and it’s amazing that you can play the same song for six or nine months and discover there’s a better way of doing it. Also each guitarist or bass player or drummer – it’s not so much true for the keyboard players – they have deputies, stand-in musicians, so if everybody plays it slightly differently, you might prefer one guy’s way of doing it to another guy’s way. It’s never exactly the same every night: sometimes the tempos are quite different, and if you take it over a six months period, one song might be much slower or much faster.
– So there’s still a room for improvisation?
There’s a little bit. If you’re really feeling in that creative mood, you can put some titbit here and there, but when the rest of the band and the conductor are so used to hearing it played fairly strictly, even if you do some very good things, it’s kind of a shock to them. Also it’s not like playing in a band where you’re sat up all together: we are separated in two parts; on platforms on either side of the stage, and we listen on headphones, and I watch the conductor on a little monitor, and it’s very clinical, very sterile. You can hear every little mistake, so it’s good for making things perfect, but it’s not very good for making you feel relaxed.
– Are you classically trained, then, to endure that?
Yes, on the piano for a few years and then the trombone. But I didn’t really have to read music very much though, as a bass player, I did it a little bit with NATIONAL HEALTH in the mid-Seventies, with Dave Stewart and Bill Bruford. But even now I write the names of the notes underneath, just to be sure – I’m not a “reading” musician. And I thought that maybe this show would make me more interested in really learning to be a good “reader”. But I don’t think I have the right personality to be that sort of musician and play in musicals.
– Having played a trombone, you should have a good voice, as it’s a great training for lungs and breathing.
(Laughs.) Well, it’s probably useful for the lungs but no, I don’t have a good voice. I sing like I speak, which is very quiet and quite low, and not a rock voice at all. When I try to sing to somebody, “Can you play this guitar part like this,(sings) La-la-la-laaa?”, suddenly I realize I can’t sing properly. I always say that if I’d started trying to sing properly when I was seventeen or eighteen, after fifteen years I would be really good. But I didn’t have the interest or the confidence, so now it’s too late.
– And there was no space for you to put your voice into those WHITESNAKE harmonies?
Maybe. I mean, Bernie’s got a good voice, but Micky’s voice is not very special. It’s always better to have more voices if they’re good. When WHITESNAKE were kind of officially a four-piece, with John Sykes, David Coverdale and Cozy Powell, I used to pretend to sing when they had a backing keyboard player doing vocals(laughs). We were quite melodic, though not in a BEACH BOYS’ way, and Bernie and Micky are not perfectionists as far as the singing goes, but it’s a good addition for harmonies.
– What’s the difference between the new band, M3 CLASSIC WHITESNAKE, and THE COMPANY OF SNAKES? There were personnel changes as well – but why change the name?
There were various reasons for it. THE SNAKES changed to THE COMPANY OF SNAKES because it was the Norwegian guys who started THE SNAKES who kept that name, and then Robert Hart joined who used to be in BAD COMPANY, so it became THE COMPANY OF SNAKES. But people around the world, particularly promoters who wanted to book the band, didn’t really understand what it was and thought that maybe it’s a tribute band with no original members. Also we were doing some original, newer songs, and it was confusing: is this the band that does WHITESNAKE stuff because there’s three of WHITESNAKE guys, or is this something different? So we decided to make it much more obvious from the name that we are from WHITESNAKE and also that what we are playing now is only WHITESNAKE songs from the late Seventies and early Eighties.
Still, as good as it was, Robert left and then we had Gary Barden for some time and Stefan Berggren, with THE COMPANY OF SNAKES. To be honest, Tony Martin is much better, and even though I wouldn’t have thought of him as a kind of singer who would work with in this band, he’s been really great. He sounds fantastic! So that is, maybe, a different quality. Then, the drummer, Jimmy Copley, is fantastic also, and I really enjoy playing with him. It’s various things that changed, and if you put them all together it’s enough to make it quite a different band. We’re going to do a live album in August, with WHITESNAKE stuff, but I don’t think we’re particularly inclined to do any recording: we have to see how the thing develops. Yes, it would be good if Bernie and Tony Martin, for example, worked together – that would be a good combination, but there’s no great interest from record companies. Unless we are really driven to want to write lots of new songs. It’s not a great deal of point because there’s not a big group of fans waiting for new songs – I know, there are some, but not that many.
– But perhaps, those who liked Tony Martin’s solo album, which is not like BLACK SABBATH at all and much lighter, would go for your new record?
Maybe that’s his particular taste in music, more than any other style. But then again, if he wrote songs like that – obviously, we could play them, and I played on his album! – it wouldn’t sound like M3 CLASSIC WHITESNAKE, it would be something different. And we’re trying to keep it very pure at the moment, because David Coverdale with his version of WHITESNAKE, that is going around now with the American guys, don’t sound much like we did twenty years ago, it’s more like late Eighties through to the Nineties style, even when they do “Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City”. It hasn’t got that kind of bluesy feel to it anymore. So if David is not going to do those songs and play in that style, then we will do it in this group. We will take this era, and he could take that era.(Laughs.) It’s not really a problem.
– If I was asked whether I’d like to see old WHITESNAKE reunited, I’d say I’d rather not – not to be disappointed. What is your point of view?
Personally, I don’t think David can sing as well as he used to, though he still looks great and he’s still a very good frontman. But I actually think the other five would not be a disappointment because the five of us [Marsden, Moody, Murray, Lord, Paice] played together on two occasions, for Tony Ashton – once when he was alive, and once after he died and there was a tribute show to him – and it sounded great. And I’m sure that it could be good: we’d never be as good as it was in 1980, but there’s no band that was big then that’s just as good now. It’s a shame that David doesn’t want to do that, maybe just for one tour or something, even for everybody to come along and see it and go, “OK, they’ve done it now, and it wasn’t as good and I don’t want to see them anymore”.
– Don’t you think the name M3 confusing? It’s just recently that I found there’s a highway called M3, while there are four M’s in the band: Moody, Marsden, Murray and Martin…
It’s meant to show there’s three guys from WHITESNAKE. You see, what happens is; when we do play a club somewhere, promoters will probably put “m3 classic” in tiny letters, and “WHITESNAKE” in big letters, so M3 isn’t very fortunate. It’s very easy to say, “I’m not sure about the name”, but I, for example, didn’t think the name WHITESNAKE was very good. But it was David Coverdale’s band.
– What about BLACKSNAKE, as you and Tony Martin were in BLACK SABBATH?
(Laughs.) We don’t really do BLACK SABBATH numbers, so…
– Considering Tony and you took part in the EMPIRE project earlier this year, could we say M3 is an immediate follow-up to that?
You have to remember that albums like EMPIRE, THE CAGE and RONDINELLI are just recording projects, it’s only marketed as if these were bands, but actually I think in all those cases nobody ever plays together as a band. When I do an EMPIRE album, I go to stay at Rolf [Munkes] the guitarist’s house, he’s already recorded some rough guitar, maybe with drums, and then I put the bass on, and then whoever’s singing puts his vocals on, and then he re-does the guitars again. So it all builds up bit by bit, and there’s not a band playing together, and we never play any concerts. The same with RONDINELLI: I went to New York and played bass for five days in the studio – they’d already recorded the backing tracks, and then after I left they got Tony in, and I never heard any of the vocals, I didn’t know what was going to go on top.
– Sounds like you weren’t let any creative input.
No, let me clarify that in RONDINELLI I had lots of input, playing what I wanted, and I’m very happy with the style of bass playing that I was able to do on that record. They wanted me to play a lot, as they have a very aggressive sound, but EMPIRE is not quite the same because there’s not so much room to do what I would call my style of bass playing. I have to fit in with the guitar riffs much more, and for me it’s not an ideal situation if I can’t hear the vocals to play with that – it’s not realistic. But that’s how people do it sometimes.
– Well, anyway, with any band the vocals are usually the last thing to be recorded.
Yeah, but that’s just the tradition. In fact, people play much better if it’s much more similar to how they would do it live, with the vocals and harmonies – although it doesn’t have to be perfect. And with guitar solos. What people do is play rhythm guitar underneath the solo, and actually the bass or the drums might do a lot more busy things because it’s different from a verse or a chorus. But because there’s no guitar solo there, you don’t play like that, you play much more safe.
– You mentioned your style. How would you describe the way you play?
I don’t know. I’m trying to compete with the drums in a rhythmic way and with a guitar in a melodic or riffing way. If it is suitable for the song, I’m trying to play something very simple and very straight, but if there is a room to do something more melodic or more interesting, then I’ll do that. For me, it’s more enjoyable if I can put a lot of my own personality to it, and it’s just happened the way that the early WHITESNAKE songs were written: they allowed me to have that freedom. But also I was very competitive about the bass being important and heard in the band. After that, in the Eighties, the style of songwriting changed to the point where you couldn’t put in a melodic part to play interesting bass line because the songs were written in such a way that that wasn’t required, it just would go(pretends to be playing monotonously) ding-ding-ding-ding-ding, for just to follow the guitar rhythm. And it’s much more restrictive for your personality, as you feel anybody can do that.
– Would you like to have such freedom to put out a record like, say, Jack Bruce’s?
Yes, but he’s too musical for me!(Laughs.) Comparatively, he’s much more advanced, and if I was going to do a record, it would be more like CREAM rather than some of Jack Bruce’s solo stuff which is jazzy but sometimes not very melodic… it’s hard to explain. Quite like the idea was of making an album very free but not just complete improvisation. Like some guys who get on-stage and record a live album and don’t know what they’re going to do, and often it’s not so great.
– If we’re talking jazz… You were a part of the Canterbury scene.
On the edge of it. I wasn’t a true Canterbury musician because that wasn’t my roots. My roots were much more in rock, and it was just a pure chance that I got into GILGAMESH, which led to NATIONAL HEALTH. But in-between that there was a very straight rock band HANSON, and then COLOSSEUM II. OK, COLOSSEUM II was more jazz-rock influenced, but it was still very rocky and powerful – with Gary Moore, obviously, and Don Airey – whereas NATIONAL HEALTH was much more intellectual and sometimes very delicate. There was no blues element to that at all, it was very English music, and sometimes very enjoyable to play – in fact, the more structured parts of it, where the bass lines had rhythm and were the most interesting musically for me, much more so than the improvising. But all the rhythm parts… I didn’t write the bass lines: we had a keyboard player who’d write everything, and then you’d have a space in the middle to play over a chord sequence or something. So it was challenging to me and enjoyable in some ways, though not truly where my heart was.
In terms of what I was listening to and had been influenced by in the early Seventies, it was jazz rock, but much more American, a bit more funky: WEATHER REPORT, MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA, RETURN TO FOREVER – that kind of band. But in 1975-1976 that really was out of fashion, and the punk was coming along, so it was not right for me to continue with that kind of thing anymore. Plus, there was no money there at all, and I had the opportunity to join WHITESNAKE because I knew Bernie from before when I played with Cozy Powell’s HAMMER on various occasions just before COLOSSEUM II.
– Were you in the HAMMER line-up?
I was the substitute bass player and would do it at times when Clive Chaman was to play Ronnie Scott’s club with a singer called Linda Lewis for a week or two. So I would fit in because I knew him – he helped me a lot and influenced me, and I’d be his deputy bass player for those two weeks. And that happened a couple of times, and on the second period we did this “RAK Rocks Britain” tour with Suzi Quatro and THE ARROWS in 1975, and then the band split up after that.
– So it was not a natural way for you to go from more jazzy bands to rock?
No, it’s certainly the other way round. I don’t know what’s natural, but the ?rst band that I played with before I was a professional musician, was GILGAMESH who did complicated jazz rock, and I didn’t properly understand what I was doing. And then there was HANSON which was very Hendrix-y rock. Then Cozy Powell’s HAMMER, in some way jazz-influenced because that was what musicians were listening to at the time. Then, COLOSSEUM II that was adventurous enough but it became really uncommercial. And there were lots of areas of my musical taste which were missing from NATIONAL HEALTH because they didn’t play rock music or blues at all – it was much more loose, English-sounding. So it was much more natural for me to come back to something more hard rock, but if you listen to the first couple of WHITESNAKE records, there’s a lot of jazz-rock influence there, a lot of fast tempos and people playing a lot of notes. It was even funky, and still not straight rock. We’ve got a lot of influences, so it took until “Ready An’ Willing” for us to find the real WHITESNAKE identity.
– About indentity… How would you like to be introduced: “Neil Murray of…” which band?
Generally I say, “of WHITESNAKE”, because from when I joined BLACK SABBATH to now, most of the time, even with all the different projects and the other things I do outside the main band – cover bands, tribute bands or whatever – everything involves me copying somebody else’s bass parts: Geezer Butler’s, John Deacon’s, FLEETWOOD MAC’s with Peter Green. Even my own bass parts for THE COMPANY OF SNAKES!(Laughs.) So there has been less and less possibility for me to do what I consider my own style, while it’s enjoyable for me to play the old WHITESNAKE songs, as it represents my style more than BLACK SABBATH songs. Well, there was still some freedom with BLACK SABBATH, but the way I used to play with WHITESNAKE doesn’t work with Brian May, the way that he and QUEEN write the songs.
– Isn’t it a bit offensive to be known only for WHITESNAKE with a pedigree like yours?
What can I say? It would be great if everybody did hear everything I’ve done, but there are very few albums that I’ve ever made – probably none – that I really enjoy. I always think I could play much better than that. If you look at each one individually, I could tell you all the reasons, why this is actually not that great or I’m just playing what I had to play and it’s not representative. Then you’ve got the whole other situation applied to many albums, where in contrast to WHITESNAKE the bass is quiet and you don’t pay much attention to what it is doing. So people notice it in early WHITESNAKE, because the bass is loud in the mix, sometimes too loud, but if you listen to other things that I’ve done you can’t really hear the bass. I may have played – and I know that I played – interesting parts on the “1987” WHITESNAKE album but you can’t hear them, because the bass is so quiet.
– Which album is the most enjoyable for you, that most truly represents your personality?
(Long pause.) What represents my personality when I’m twenty-five is not the same when I’m fifty-two, so it’s a very difficult question to answer.(Another pause.) I’m not sure that there is one, to be honest. If I’d think of one, it’s “Ready An’ Willing” or “Come And Get It” which are good albums that, to me, have a side of my playing that I hadn’t shown before. But I would rather that people have their own taste, and I’m quite happy for somebody to say, “Oh I love your playing on MONALISA OVERDRIVE album!”(laughs), which nobody has ever heard of, but that’s very kind of punky and very straight, completely opposite to WHITESNAKE.
– Now you’re working with Brian May and Roger Taylor. What is that, the new QUEEN?
This is not a band situation, it’s a one-off kind of circumstances, like doing the show in Modena with Pavarotti, where we did four songs, and it was pretty much a copy of what’s on the record, playing like a session man. If it wasn’t me, they would get somebody else and he would play exactly the same things as me. Maybe I put as much energy into it as I can, trying to perform on-stage as if there is a band, but just being a session musician.
– But where’s John Deacon?
He doesn’t play anymore; as far as I know, he doesn’t want to be involved in any QUEEN music anymore.
– So are you going to be a member of QUEEN, then?
Even if I was, I wouldn’t be a member, and I don’t know if they ever want to do anything like a tour. Sometimes they have plans and then change their minds. If they said that QUEEN is Brian May, Roger Taylor, Neil Murray and…
– …Robbie Williams.
Exactly! Instantly there would be so much criticism, so I would rather that they say that it’s Brian May with Roger Taylor and a lot of people to help out. Because I don’t want to see what the QUEEN fans could be like if they think you’re trying to be better than their hero. They hate it, and it’s impossible to win.
– And what’s the purpose of the session you had recently?
That was the session for one of the songs from the show [“We Will Rock You”], one of Brian May’s songs that was on “Queen Rocks”, “No-One But You”. It was more to do with the musical that it is to do with QUEEN, and the way the session ended up wasn’t very productive, we didn’t finish it properly. I think they’ve changed the whole idea now and done it a different way, so maybe I won’t be on it at all. There will be two versions – one sung by Kerry Ellis, who plays the character Meat in the show, and one in the Spanish version of the show, sung in Spanish, with the Spanish girl – but for different purposes they’re using the same music underneath . Maybe with Spanish one is for the single, and the English one for the Internet or something. So I’m just there to play, and I could play it like I do in the show, which is virtually identical to John Deacon’s part, or I could something more similar to my style. But at the moment I don’t know whether I will be on that track or not, because they changed everything about it.
– OK, let’s change the subject too. Could you compare how it was, playing with Gary Moore in COLOSSEUM II and his own band?
COLOSSEUM II was a lot about showing how good the players were. It was long long songs, long guitar solos, long keyboard solos, and it was trying to be quite complicated. And Gary was still young and under the control, or the guidance, of Jon Hiseman – it was more of Jon Hiseman’s band featuring Gary. But five or seven years later Gary had much more control, played much more straight rock music, and he also wanted the rhythm section to be very solid, to lay down the foundation. At first I found it quite difficult, that had a lot to do with why I left his band and went back to WHITESNAKE – because he wanted it very much like any typical bass player would play and not getting in the way of guitar playing or putting any new things in. He’s quite a controlling person: maybe for his career that was the best thing, but sometimes it meant that everything had to be done his way and it wasn’t so satisfying to me.
– Gary was heavily influenced by Peter Green, and you played with both.
When I played with Peter Green, it was nothing like Peter Green from 1967 – he’s much more quiet and have any of that aggression, he doesn’t sound the same on guitar – but Peter has a certain kind of blues feel that Gary never had. It’s funny because Peter taught him something about his voice and his playing, which is much more purely blues, whereas Gary is much more towards rock, heavy rock, and he could never have that kind of altitude of playing, because he’s more aggressive, sometimes too aggressive for the kind of blues that he’s playing. I mean, he’s fantastic guitarist, an amazing musician. But you said, “influenced by Peter Green”, while Gary was also influenced by Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, John McLaughlin, Jimi Hendrix, and sometimes there isn’t quite enough of Gary Moore, there’s a lot of everybody else mixed together.
– And who were you influenced by?
It goes back a long way… Mostly Jack Bruce and Tim Bogert, from VANILLA FUDGE and CACTUS and BBA, and Clive Chaman, who played with Jeff Beck and was a great influence on me, and he sounded very much like James Jamerson, that style of Motown bass playing. Some of the other funk bass players like Larry Graham of SLY AND THE FAMILY STONE and, later on, Willie Weeks . Also I could say Jaco Pastorius, but then it’s not very obvious in my style now.(Laughs.) He was maybe the last bass player that I really went, “Wow, I must try to sound like this guy”.
– What about Paul McCartney?
Well, I wasn’t a bass player in the Sixties, I wasn’t that huge of a BEATLES fan, and I wasn’t listening to the bass lines much then. And the kind of bass playing that I thought was exciting was not on their kind of songs: when THE BEATLES were big, I was listening to THE ANIMALS, where the bass was quite loud, much more bluesy kind of things.
– Then playing with Green should have been more interesting for you, than with Moore.
Peter is a great musician, and he’s made a lot of progress getting back to normality, but still is quiet and a shy individual. And it’s dif?cult to play with somebody who’s not really putting any effort into what he’s doing, and there’s very little power coming from him, so I didn’t find it very easy to play with Peter. I don’t think I was the right bass player for it, but it’s probably a better situation for him now, and I’m happy about it. With Gary, we’ve been influenced by the same kind of music we were listening to in the Seventies to the Eighties, we’d always changed our taste at the same time, which is maybe not the case now. You know, somebody can be a fantastic musician, but it’s not always the fantastic musician who has the best ideas or the strongest personality, or the most originality. So you can play with some great musician but not very good stuff, or you can play some great stuff with not very good musicians, and obviously, the best thing is to play great songs with great musicians. Like with STEELY DAN: they’re fantastic musicians, and I like their sound, but probably you’ll have to play exactly what they tell you, and it has great quality but not much personality.
– To have a personality and to put a lot of energy… Cozy Powell had it all. What it was like, playing with Cozy?
He had tons of energy, which was great for me as I had to try and have the equal energy. Sometimes it was quite difficult for my personality to come through, because his personality was so strong, and if a drummer is so powerful, you have to go with it, try and compete with him.
– So which drummer you found the most rewarding to play with?
I’d say, Ian Paice, because his style has elements of blues and jazz and funk and rock, while with Cozy it was more powerful rock.
– Was working in Cozy Powell’s HAMMER, a drummer’s band, demanding from the instrumental point of view?
Most of the songs were straight rock, though we used to jam on a few more funky or jazzy things. I was very inexperienced in playing live at that time, so I was trying to fight my nerves on stage! All the members liked a wide variety of music, but the audiences had mostly come to hear Cozy’s hit singles, like “Dance With The Devil” and “The Man In Black”.
– You first played with Bill Bruford in NATIONAL HEALTH and then appeared on his solo album. Is playing this kind of jazz rock challenging or, at least, more challenging than Jon Hiseman’s type?
NATIONAL HEALTH and, a few years earlier, GILGAMESH, was very complicated music and difficult for me, as there were strong jazz and modern classical influences rather than rock or blues. So although at the time I was heavily into jazz-rock bands such as RETURN TO FOREVER and WEATHER REPORT, I didn’t really have the knowledge to play that music as well as it could have been played. In COLOSSEUM II, although the songs had long solos and were often quite complicated, the style was much closer to progressive rock with some jazz influences, and was played in a much more aggressive way. Bill Bruford and Jon Hiseman are both exceptionally fine players, but neither of them would be the ideal person to bring out my best playing.
– Why you think BADLANDS didn’t make it to the top?[BADLANDS were formed in the U.K. in 1982 and comprised John Sloman, John Sykes, Neil Murray, John Munro and Graham Pleeth.]
That’s hard to answer. There was interest from EMI, but it took forever for them to sign John Sloman, and then they dropped him after recording an album. There was no management or money available to hang on to John Sykes, who went off to join THIN LIZZY, and I had to go off to join Gary Moore. John Sloman is very talented, but sometimes makes the wrong decisions, artistically and career-wise.
– Was it you who brought John into Gary’s band and John Sykes into WHITESNAKE?
Gary Moore had played on a demo which BADLANDS did, and after using Charlie Huhn as lead singer on a couple of gigs, he asked me whether I thought John or Graham Bonnet would be a good frontman. I preferred John, but it wasn’t really the right choice, as Gary wanted someone as powerful as, say, David Coverdale, and of course, he ended up doing the lead vocals himself. THIN LIZZY had done a festival with WHITESNAKE in 1983, where David saw John Sykes and tempted him away, so John was already part of WHITESNAKE before I returned to the band at the end of 1983 – I had no part in getting him in.
– By the way, in your eyes, how did it come that WHITESNAKE grew from a collective enterprise into a one-man band?
WHITESNAKE had always been David’s band, but it was much more democratic than most situations like that, though not financially – we found out later that the ex-DEEP PURPLE guys got loads more money than Bernie, Micky and me, probably because they went to the management and demanded it! However, around the time of “Saints An’ Sinners”, David started to feel dissatisfied with the level of success we were having, particularly in the U.S., and wanted to be making lots more money, and felt that the manager was both doing a bad job and ripping him off. When he changed the line-up in mid-1982, he also left the management and started managing himself, though a lot of the decisions made over the next ten years had a lot to do with advice from John Kalodner of Geffen Records, who was certain he could make David very successful in the States, if he had the right band and album, and videos… The 1982-83 version of WHITESNAKE with Cozy and Mel Galley was a kind of bridge between the old WHITESNAKE and the new.
– Could I dare say that one of the most curious experiences you had was backing Arthur Brown?
He’s a great singer, though he is a bit eccentric. Actually, playing with Peter Green was a more curious experience!
– I know you’re averse to the idea of doing a solo album, but if you did one who’d be playing on it?
Who would play on it in my fantasy is one thing, but in reality it would most likely be people I’ve worked with already, though I might try to put them in the best situation for their talents to come out. For example, Bernie and Micky have often played much better than they do on albums, but it never seems to get captured. Often people think they can do a better solo if they do more and more versions, but usually the first or second take is the best. Even better, if you record them when they don’t realise they’re being recorded, so they’re not thinking about it. I’d probably use a drummer or two who make me sound good and don’t take over, so it wouldn’t be a ‘star’, though Ian Paice would be perfect.
– After all these years, is there anyone you’d still love to play with?
I’d like to play with Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck a lot more than I did twenty-two years ago. The guitarist and singer Eric Johnson. Loads of amazing singers, not particularly from the rock scene. Keyboard player David Sancious. Drummer Dennis Chambers. Loads more!
– Long ago, you studied graphics. Did you ever think of your bass playing in terms of art, then?
Not really, though playing an instrument is usually a mixture of artistry and craftsmanship – too often there’s not much artistry required, just a reasonable level of ability, which is not so satisfying. However, it can also be rewarding to do a job really well, even if you don’t have to put much creativity into it.