Doug Aldrich

 

Groupology

  • Lion
  • Bad Moon Rising
  • various session work
  • Doug Aldrich
  • Burning Rain
  • Dio
  • Whitesnake

    Jurassic

Watch Doug Aldrich in Action at the bottom of this page!

Famous / Infamous for

Finally getting some recognition after years of plugging away in relative obscurity. Doug has reached the upper circle of Dino gigs and is now getting the call from people like Ronnie Dio and David Coverdale.

Influences

Obvious: The most prominent influence I hear is Hendrix. There is frequently an updated Hendrix vibe in Doug's style, but it's nowhere near as blatant as a Marino or Trower have been. Doug's a big fan of most of the Dinosaur Rock Guitar heroes. He mentions a lot of likely candidates as influences — Page, Beck, Gary Moore — all of that and more is definitely in there. When I started listening to Doug's solo work, it stuck me that I could easily identify his influences, but he had blended them nicely into his own thing. So you might get a Beck-like melody over a Hendrixy rhythm played with a Satriani-like sensibility and level of chops.

Not-so-obvious: Doug has also mentioned Clapton, and Stevie Ray Vaughan. You can hear a little bit of SRV in Trash and The Fascination. I do hear some Strat-era Clapton on occasion in some of Doug's less raucous moments.

Strengths

Chops. Blistering. The guy can flat-out fly, but he doesn't sound Neo-Classical or Shrapnel shred school. He's more old-school, rooted in the first and second generation Dinosaur Rock guitarists.

Attitude. Doug's one of the few guys who still exudes the Dinosaur Rock Guitar attitude through every pore. He's heavy. He's a gunslinger. He makes it a point to kick ass whenever possible. That said, there's a lot more to Doug than just metal. Which leads us to . . .

Diversity. Doug's still making his rep as a metal player, but I'm not at all convinced that straight metal is even Doug's best thing. For example, while his lead work is always hot, I don't find the Burning Rain stuff or Dio's Killing the Dragon very distinctive compositionally. On the other hand, Doug's solo albums reveal a far more interesting, well-rounded player who has more to offer than just straight metal.

Doug's own music is kind of like Satriani's stuff, but more rock/metal, with a more sex and bigger balls in his attitude. Electrovision is a Doug Aldrich guitar smorgasbord: Superfly Sumo is a very energetic instrumental with a dash of Third Stone thrown in. Trash and The Fascination mixes some Voodoo Chile-like ideas with metal tone and Beatle-like vocal harmonies. Three Minutes is the kind of heavy, jazzy thing you might get from Steve Lukather. Wes Coast is a quiet, brooding, jazzy piece that might be at home on a blues-era Gary Moore CD (though it isn't blues). Goodbye Kat Gut is an acoustic piece, finger-picked classical style. Mind Punk sounds like Hendrix meets Lenny Kravitz. Compositionally, Aldrich knows exactly what he's doing. His instrumentals succeed for all the right reasons, as do the songs with vocals. There's loads of flavors in Doug, and he plays hot guitar over all of them — he never loses that ballsy edge on the songs that should have one.

Rhythm. You'll hear it more in his solo work than you will as a session guitarist for Dio or Whitesnake. Left to his own devices, you don't hear a lot of plodding straight beats in Doug's music. A quote from Doug's website states: "I like taking different grooves that are a little less straightforward and going after more tribal, syncopated rhythms." Yeah, baby! Doug's stuff moves big time! Good examples are stuff like T.O.R.Q., Super Fly Sumo, Plazma, or Her Kingdom.

Melody. A fine sense of melody that propels his instrumentals. I don't know if instrumentals are where his heart lies, but Doug's melodic sense would easily let him play in the same market as Satch and Vai, and do it with more balls and less eccentricity.

Weaknesses

Lack of exposure. Doug would be one of our Underground Dinos if it weren't for the fact that he's now landing high-profile gigs. Unfortunately, Doug isn't in a position to make a living as a solo act ala Joe Satriani or Steve Vai. He has become a hired gun out of necessity. Consequently, Doug isn't widely known for playing his own songs in his most natural style — which is not exclusively metal.

Doug talked candidly about his playing weakness in his 2002 Dinosaur Rock Guitar interview: "My weaknesses, would be a lot of little things. There's a lot of holes in my playing. Phrasing is maybe a weakness for me. I have these blues phrases that I'm used to hearing and playing and that comes pretty natural, but all the time I hear guys play stuff and I think: how come I don't play that? A guy like David Gilmour, I feel like I can lay into that and play it pretty well. But if it's Michael Schenker — that's more difficult for me. Another weakness would be chords. I know the basics, the rock inversions and little tricks. But I love all kinds of different fusion and stuff, and I hear a lot of the comping that people do, and it's like Chinese to me. How the hell do they do that? I'd love to get better at that."

Tone

Doug's sound is essentially that of a modded Marshall. He has several of them. His favorite seems to be a 78 JMP 100 watt that's on its third transformer. It's been modified by the guys at Bob Bradshaw. Doug says: "by a guy named Martin Golan. It's one of Bob's mods that he designed with John Suhr. And the way they've got this amp tweaked, it's got this bigger, open bottom end. The other one I use a lot is a '71 Superlead that's been modded by a bunch of people over the years, and the last guy was Mark Cameron who works for Standel amps now. It's a cool amp. Sometimes those mods sound better at low volume — I don't know why — maybe they don't compress as much — but this records really well at a lower volume. I know that sounds weird! Cause those amps are known for sounding best cranked-up. And (for the Killing the Dragon sessions) I had a couple of Bogner heads I borrowed. They were Marshall-modified Bogners actually." Pictures of Doug's rig from that time show a Standel amp in the rack as well.

Live, Doug runs a stereo rig. He takes a send off the main amp and goes through a delay on one side and dry on the other side through a stereo power amp. Doug explains: "So I've got a dry cab in the center coming off the head. And then I've got a send that comes off the head and one side goes through the 26 millisecond delay on it, and the other has a stereo reverb/chorus/delay. So the sound man gets a totally mono dry cab in the center and stereo rig on the outside. It's kind of always been my rig. The same concept anyway. It changes a little. I'm running a Bradshaw (pedal system) now, so it's a little more complex. But it's pretty simple."

In his home studio, where's he's recorded both of his solos albums, Doug's likes to tweak, but he's most likely to slap an SM57 on a 4x12 cab and run the mic through some vintage Neve 1073s mic preamps. Doug says: "my guitar's always going through that at home. I've got other mic pres too but these (Neves) just add something — like this warmth. I go straight to tape with those and bypass the mixer. Then I re-EQ it off the mixer when it's coming off tape or ProTools or whatever. And they just sound real good."

Left to his own devices, Doug is mostly a Strat guy, but his Dio and Whitesnake gigs make him reach for his Les Pauls frequently, too. In fact, with Whitesnake live, Doug used a different guitar for each of the first nine songs in the set. He even grabbed a Tele to play the slide parts to Slow and Easy. Doug has some late 60s and early 70s Strats, a few mid 70s Les Pauls, and assorted other axes. See www.dougaldrich.com for details. His strats are usually loaded with Seymour Duncan Classic Stacks (stacked humbuckers), of which Doug says: "they sound Stratty, but not not like some of the Duncans and DiMarzios (that are really trying for that specific Strat sound.)" Doug gets a really nice warm, round Strat tone. For clean stuff like Wes Coast, it reminds me of Clapton's Strat tone. When he's going for it, it's more is in a Hendrixy tonal range, but his gain leans more towards 80s metal than vintage.

Other than the signal processing effects he runs on his live stereo rig (reverb/chorus/delay), Doug's not strongly associated with any particular guitar effect other than a good deal of wah on his own stuff — again, more in the traditional Hendrixy style. Mind Punk is a great example.

Guitar Style

When I listen to Doug Aldrich, I hear a player who has seemingly embraced all of the best and tastiest lessons of the 70s and 80s rock metal guitar styles (and tones), while disregarding everything that was bullshit. He combines 70s style hard rock ideas with 80s level chops. Or 80s metal ideas without the more annoying trappings of the genre.

Doug Aldrich is a hot rhythm player. It's not that he uses a obscure chords or anything. As stated above, Doug calls his chordal knowledge a weakness, and only claims to "know the basics, the rock inversions and little tricks." What makes Doug rhythmically interesting is more in his love of grooves and rhythmic sense which are stylistically along the lines of Hendrix and Trower (during the later's uptempo moments). In his 2002 Dinosaur Rock Guitar interview, Doug said: "I think I'm a pretty decent rhythm player. I can find the pocket with whoever I'm playing with and lay it in there so it feels good. I feel that's a strength."

As a lead player, Doug has it all. He is aggressive, melodic and can really shred. Yet he's mature enough to always play for the song. A quote from Doug's website states: "I prefer to play less notes and search out new melodies and find sounds that are really out there, sounds you've never heard anyone else do." So you get some experimentation, but Doug is never really discordant.

Scale wise, for his own music, Doug uses mostly a combination of the Minor and Major Pentatonics and Aeolian. He generally sounds bluesy and American on his own stuff. However, he's been a guitar teacher, a studio session man, and a hired gun guitarist, so he knows and uses other scales and hybrids. He plays what the gig requires, and one cool thing about Doug is that he plays a cover like the guy who wrote the song. Performing live with Dio and Whitesnake forces Doug to take on the guitar work of Blackmore, Iommi, Campbell, and Sykes. Pretty big shoes! He does a great job of it, and pays great respect to the original guitar parts as they were written. When guys like Randy Rhoads and Vivian Campbell interpreted Tony Iommi's songs in the early 80s, they did it their own way, they played their own leads — and to great effect I might add. But it's a different time and place, and Doug takes a different tact. If he plays Heaven and Hell, he'll play Tony's solo. If it's Holy Diver, he'll play Campbell's solo. If it's Still of the Night, he'll play John Sykes' solo. Doug still reserves areas in the live show where he'll do his own interpretation, but generally, he isn't using these songs as a showcase for his own lead style.

For Doug's own recorded leads, he generally likes the spontaneous approach of crafting his solos in the studio. He looks for melodies, and usually matches the energy of the backing track rather than say, starting slow and ending fast. Some parts sound worked out, others sound more spontaneous. He can alternate pick with the best of them, and if you listen long enough, you'll hear some fast legato flurries that are Doug Aldrich trademarks — but he doesn't beat them to death. You'll get some false harmonics and some 80s flash tricks, but he's not a whammy abuser — he actually prefers stock Fender style trems to the Floyd Rose.

Vibrato:

Prior to joining Whitesnake, Doug's vibrato was pretty quick and pretty narrow most of the time. It' was never wider than what I'd call medium width. And for a guy who plays with so much attitude, Doug never really milked his vibrato. Since joining Whitesnake, Doug's vibrato got wider, sexier, and he's using it a lot more. This makes it more in character with the rest of his very aggressive lead style.

Doug Aldrich in Action

Recommended listening

Doug Aldrich

Dio

Whitesnake

Profile By Dinosaur David B. Copyright ©2003 All rights reserved.