Whitesnake drummer Brian Tichy’s mind works at the speed of his drum sticks; his answers fly out almost in a constant unbroken stream. I got the distinct impression that everything he does is with 100 percent commitment or none. This was backed up by Tichy fending off a barrage of text messages from Whitesnake’s tour manager because he was running late for a band dinner so that he could finish our interview.
This man lives and breathes and talks rock and it’s impossible not to get taken in by his infectious energy and enthusiasm for being the drummer in one of his all-time favorite bands.
Geeks of Doom: The first thing I want to ask: officially is it Brian with one ‘i’ or two?
Brian Tichy: [laughs] It’s one. But I accidentally wrote two in an email and I looked at it… I just thought it was funny and at the same time [of the email] I was doing a benefit show with Tracii Guns and we were kind of emailing about some stuff but this had nothing to do with him [the name]. I wrote to him and I…wrote Briian, two ‘i’s, not even thinking about it. This went on for a few days and I just kind of got used to signing with two ‘i’s just to see if anyone would notice and I go, “wait a second, I’m writing to Tracii, the original guy with two ‘i’s in his name!” Not even putting it together. At the same time Rudy Sarzo was emailing us about this benefit we were playing at and he starts signing his name r-u-d-i-i! [laughs] So it was pretty funny and then I just thought it was goofy, its funny.
But the cool thing is David [Coverdale], he likes it, so he put it on the record with two ‘i’s and I think it’s great because it’s just funny, it’s just a goof. So there’s my long-winded answer to that; it’s just a goof.
Geeks of Doom: So, 2011: you had your first Whitesnake album out and now the tour. How are you enjoying life in Whitesnake?
Brian Tichy: Oh yeah, it’s totally cool. We’re in our third week of the U.S. tour now. The first shows were so new, you’re taking in all the pace of the show and trying to remember all the ins and outs and the segues or the intros and endings. Trying to remember all that but trying to give the audience somewhat of an illusion that you’re this fine, well-oiled machine when really it’s just new for three of us in the band. We did rehearse all that, of course, but you don’t really know until you’re there live…I think we’ve gotten a lot of our nervous energy out now and we fine-tuned some of the things that might have been questionable in the first shows.
I’m looking forward to Europe because we’re going to be playing a lot of big festivals [and] playing with some really cool bands, seeing a lot of friends. Whitesnake is real popular there and I really want us to go own it hard. It’s fun and the boss is happy. He seems real happy, he seems like he’s having a fun time on stage. He sounds killer. I get the privilege of when he takes his breaks between talking or singing, while there’s an intro or guitar solo, comes [to the] back [of the stage], grabs some water and I get to do a little bit of eye-to-eye contact which is when I get to see him kind of out of the spotlight on stage. So I think he sees that what I’m going for and that I mean business, you know? [laughs] It’s fun playing these songs. These songs I grew up practicing to so it’s a lot of fun to play it with the man.
Geeks of Doom: So you were a fan of Whitesnake — and the boss is obviously David Coverdale — before you joined?
Brian Tichy: Oh yeah, I mean he’s one of the best voices in rock, first off. Whether you’re a fan or not, you can’t deny that. As a kid in High School I bought the Slide It In cassette. I loved the sound of Cozy (Powell)’s drums. First time I heard his voice, not Cozy’s but DC [David Coverdale]’s voice, on “Slow An’ Easy” …seeing that on MTV? Wow! A really cool song…with a lot of great elements in it and a real sounding, a true sounding band, you know? “Love Ain’t No Stranger” I heard and went and got the cassette and just used to practice it all the time. I was a fan of the next record, the ‘87 one. I remember hearing “Still Of The Night” on the radio first time and I was like, “woah!” What a fucking kick ass song. But the record that I was turned on to first was Slide It In, that was the first thing that I was really aware of. That hit me harder than the next record just because I was still in High School just eating up rock all the time.
Geeks of Doom: What about your album, Forevermore; were you pleased with that album?
Brian Tichy: Yeah, yeah! I mean, I’m the drummer on the record! Most of it, I think, was pretty much written when I joined up and the demos were well on their way to being closing in to being finished, most of them. Doug [Aldrich, Whitesnake guitarist] and DC were really cool about, “Hey, we want you to play like you.” But at the same time you want to make the guys happy. They have a vision, they wrote [the songs], they put certain beats in, certain tempos, certain grooves, certain beats; they’re all there on the demos because that’s what they were feeling when they wrote it. So you don’t want to come in and stray too far away. We all worked on getting a drum sound together that we were happy with and once we got that in the studio we kind of stuck with that and rolled through the songs.
But yeah I’m happy with the sound of the record and the drums. I think the cool thing is the sound of the drums that you hear is pretty much what it was in the studio…which I thought was real nice to notice in a record compared to how records sound these days. A lot of things start to sound generic; a lot of people using samples, a lot of people are qauntising and Beat Detectiving drummers. It’s like rendering them somewhat grooveless because the drummers groove doesn’t matter that much if you’re going to fix it in Pro Tools or change it or add some certain percentage of swing…I look at all the people that changed history with their music and rock and roll and the timeless records that are out there and the ones that a hundred years from now will still be looked at as the groundwork for the great stuff are the ones where the players just played how they played. Whether it’s the [Rolling] Stones or [the Jimi] Hendrix [Experience] or the Who or Rush or the Police or Van Halen or AC/DC or Aerosmith. Queen. You put the guys in a room and record, that’s just how it was.
Geeks of Doom: I wanted to ask you about your other band, Something Unto Nothing. Do you say Something Unto Nothing or SUN or S.U.N.?
Brian Tichy: We say SUN just because it’s the simplest way to say it. It’s a fun story about how it became what it is.
Geeks of Doom: Yeah, tell me about that.
Brian Tichy: Well, Sass [Jordan] and I, she had one day left to write before she had to fly back to Canada and we had this one idea of this acoustic thing I had for years. I was like “I want to make this like an epic song. I want this to have a lot of parts and just keep building and building and end up rocking!” I just said “write about everything: life, death, sex, hate, love, emotion, questions, answers.” I said…”to me, the sun is god…without the sun forget everything. Forget gravity, forget life, forget everything…why don’t we just call it sun? But make the song an acronym…what’s the best three words for sun, for the acronym S.U.N.?” We’re sitting there and I just went [hums] “something” [hums] “nothing” U? I just went “something unto nothing.”
We’re not trying to re-write history or break ground we’re just trying to write music we dig and that song summed it up. It starts out all pretty and acoustic, then develops, then gets more rockin’.
Geeks of Doom: Awesome, can’t wait to hear it. In SUN you play the guitar; have you always been such a good guitar player?
Brian Tichy: Yeah! [laughs] No, no, no. I’ve always played guitar. I’m a better drummer, a more natural drummer, but I put a lot of time into guitar too just I work more on drums…at college as a drummer if I wasn’t practicing drums then I was just learning from all the guitar players constantly.
I’ve played with some of my favorite guitar players in the world and I’ve learned a lot from almost twenty years of being around Zakk Wyldes and Slashs and Steve Stevens’, Doug Aldrichs and Stevie Salas and Mick Jones…on tour, Joe Holmes with Ozzy and Dimebag was around that whole summer [Ozzfest 2000]. I was constantly around these the players. And Reb [Beach, Whitesnake guitarist] too. I’ve just been influenced by all the guys. But I love playing guitar, if I could play guitar all the time, I would, full time.
Geeks of Doom: How would you say your guitar playing compares to Doug and Reb?
Brian Tichy: They’re both awesome, awesome players and they have their own styles. I don’t know if there’s a band out there now that have two guitar players that can play like Doug coming from his school and Reb coming from his school coming together playing the way they play. But how do I compare it? These guys are seasoned pro veterans. This is their lives. I’m the drummer of the band, but if I had to get up there right now [on guitar] I’d be sloppy, my technique would suck. So I’m not gonna compare. I just think that those guys are great and I think they’re amazing and I’m influenced by both of them already and it’s always fun to watch how they carry themselves on the road, on tour, on stage, how they make it all work every night. Because they’re both flawless. They’re on their 100% game every night.
Geeks of Doom: So would they offer you a guest solo spot on one of the tracks?
Brian Tichy: No, there’s no need for that! [laugh] I’m the drummer in the band and there’s no need to throw me a solo. It doesn’t matter. Right now I don’t think, well, I know I didn’t consider that or ever think of it. I don’t really care about that. This is Whitesnake, you know, and it’s kind of a non-question. But if it ever happened…I don’t care if it happens but not to say if it did, yeah, that would be cool. Of course it would be cool.
Geeks of Doom: You’ve played drums for some of the biggest names in rock: Ozzy, Slash, Billy Idol – where does Whitesnake rate on that list for you?
Brian Tichy: Right in there with all of it. I mean, Billy’s pretty amazing. Ozzy’s Ozzy; forget it, top of the top. Slash [is the] biggest, most recognizable guitar player on the planet as far as I’m concerned. I love how much he stood out back on Appetite For Destruction. But anyways, to answer your question, where does Whitesnake fit in? They fit in with all of it. It’s Whitesnake, man. It’s a huge band, worldwide. I’m with the drummers that have been, that are, my idols: Cozy Powell, Ian Paice, Tommy Aldridge. DC makes sure you know that the band is the band [and] you get recognised for being this band and not just the drummer in the back that nobody’s really paying attention to.
Geeks of Doom: And how did you come to join Whitesnake?
Brian Tichy: Let me see; last year, 2010, I kind of consciously left Foreigner just to go home ‘cause they were working all year and I was just kind of at an important point in my life where I wanted to create an open road is the easiest way to put it. I just knew that I wanted to try and have new things happen. That was April of 2010 and literally got home and two days later Doug Aldrich emailed me…we had done a benefit jam a few months before and we hit it off.
Geeks of Doom: Has David Coverdale told you how long you will be part of Whitesnake? Do you have a finite time?
Brian Tichy: No. Right now we know that the record’s out and the tour’s all over the world this year. At the end of the year I think he’s going to take a look at where it’s at and say [whether to continue]. It’s totally up to him. I want to make sure he’s happy [and] the guys in the band are happy that I’m doing a good job behind the drums and that’s all I can worry about right now with this band.
Geeks of Doom: You played drums on Steven Tyler’s new single “(It) Feels So Good.”
Brian Tichy: Yeah, yeah that was awesome.
Geeks of Doom: How did that happen?
Brian Tichy: I was doing a record with his producer [and] songwriting partner Marti Frederiksen. I was doing a separate project…and Marti’s like, “hey, I have this song that I wrote with Steven and it’s got a drum machine on it but it’d be cool if we could put some real drums on.”…little while later I went and sat down and did a take of what Marti and I thought would be cool ideas for the song. Tyler’s watching me [and I] just feel like a little kid. He walks in to the control room and goes, “hey, you’re a great fuckin’ drummer!” I took a big deep breath and was like, awesome! So cool to hear it from this guy, one of my favorite singers ever. And that was it, they kept it and that was the drum track.
I hope that leads to something else down the road. I’d love to record with a little bit more confidence in a session with him and I’d love to play drums off of what he tells me his ideas are. I would love to make a guy like that happy… like you’re working with an idol of yours. It’s the same with Coverdale. It’s nice when he’s giving me the thumbs up, it’s a nice feeling that’s [as] important in my life as anything because these are the people that changed my life. They influenced me as a kid so it’s like awesome full circle when these guys say something nice to you.
Geeks of Doom: Steven Tyler has been getting some backlash recently for appearing on American Idol. A lot of rock fans are suggesting he and Aerosmith have lost a lot of credibility because of it. What would you say to all that?
Brian Tichy: Let me just finish this text real quick because the guys are meeting downstairs. Let me just let them know I’m just finishing an interview.
Geeks of Doom: Who are you texting?
Brian Tichy: Oh, our tour manager, just letting him know that I’ll be down in a minute because I want to answer your question, they’re all good questions. Because I have a simple answer to that [in reference to Steven Tyler]. I know my answers are all long but, ok, here’s how I look at Tyler. I look at Tyler like a god. He’s a god, he’s already proven himself from the 70s, 80s, 90s, now…he has nothing to prove on this planet, he’s fucking Steven Tyler. So I don’t care if he’s on American Idol, doesn’t make a difference to me but he’s got an amazing personality that he just won so much more of the world over with. Even with me when I tell him, “I just got to let you know it’s such an honor to work with you on any level” and he could see I meant it. He was like, “oh bro, come here” and he came over and gave me a hug…he has that affect on people. But cred wise?…people are always saying about Aerosmith, “oh they write ballads”…it’s like they were already getting cut down about that kind of stuff. All he’s doing is making people happy. That other dude that was the dude that used to cut everybody down on the show, what’s his name?
Geeks of Doom: Simon Cowell.
Brian Tichy: Yeah, all right, so everyone was nervous about Simon, everyone was nervous that he was gonna hurt you the most on national TV. But that was the whole thing about him and about the show whereas Tyler, is he spreading positivity? Yeah, through his songs, through his personality, through the sound of his voice. It’s all there, fuckin’-A, leave it at that!
Geeks of Doom: Ok, fair enough. Is it true about David Coverdale’s ‘no grey snakes’ rule?
Brian Tichy: Oh, what’s that?
Geeks of Doom: I think it was Reb Beach that said it. ‘No grey snakes’ in that you have to keep your hair dyed and your beard as well.
Brian Tichy: Oh! [laughs] I don’t know if he was half joking. [Maybe] Reb said it in a manner that, when you read it, it sounds serious, you know what I mean?…there was nothing I’ve ever had said to me about stuff like that. The main thing I hear is “get up on stage, kick ass, and have fun!”
Geeks of Doom: Excellent way to end right there!