During a conversation with UG’s David Slavković, former Whitesnake and Dio guitarist, Doug Aldrich, talked about auditioning for KISS at a very young age back in the early ’80s.
Back in 1982, you auditioned for KISS. You were, I think, 18 years old at the time. What was it like standing there with one of the biggest rock bands on the planet and you’re just basically a kid? What did it feel like at that point?
“It was kind of… When you think about Hollywood, you think about… You know, people come from all over the world and they come to Hollywood to make it. And I didn’t plan on it being with KISS but I felt, like, ‘Okay, this might be what I’m supposed to do – to come to Hollywood and join KISS.’
“I just didn’t really think about it too much. I was definitely… I was scared to look at them in the eyes, in a sense. Because at that time people had never seen them without their makeup and I felt like I was breaking the rules if I looked them in their face. [Laughs]
“But in the end, I was just too young. But we had some good jams and it was the first time I ever got to play through giant stacks of Marshalls. I’ve never done that before. It always has been like a half-stack.”
How did that end? Why didn’t you get the gig?
“I was too young. They knew it – I was a kid. These guys were international rock stars and I was just a kid. My experience…
“Look, here’s the thing, David, if you want to get a gig, it’s 50% how good you are and it’s 50% how cool you can hang out together. Because in a band, you’ve got to be like a… it’s like a family.
“You have to hang out together and be comfortable and not have anything weird going on. Because you’re gonna be together on a bus, you’re gonna be together in hotels. It needs to be comfortable for the band.
“And probably they could see I was not comfortable because I was so young, I was nervous. So that’s probably why they decided. My playing was probably okay but they’re not gonna be comfortable on the tour bus with a kid.”
What was it like being with Gene Simmons? He does sometimes seem like a very demanding, not only a musician but a businessman, in a way.
“He was very funny. He was very kind and he basically spent the most time with me in the studio. They were working on their record ‘Creatures of the Night’ at that time. And I remember there was a song called ‘War Machine,’ I think.
“And he asked me to play a part of the song to check how I would record. And I remember playing that song, thinking, ‘This is a crazy riff, it’s really cool. It’s very different.’ And I’ve never heard a riff like that before. I was trying to figure out what key it is.
“And then I was playing some other stuff and Gene said to me, ‘Hey Doug, do you ever play major scales?’ And I said, ‘Major scales? What?’ I didn’t even know what a major scale is.
“And he goes ‘You know… *sings* Do, re, mi, fa, sol…’ And I go, ‘Oh, of course, I know what that is. Michael Schenker plays that stuff all the time.’ And I started playing and he said, ‘Yeah, that’s great!’
“So they invited me to come to play live with them. And Gene wrote down three songs on a napkin or a piece of paper. And I learned the songs and I went to the rehearsal and we practiced them.
“And then they called me back the second time and they asked me to learn… One of the songs that they wanted me to learn on the first time was ‘Black Diamond.’ Because that was kind of their version of ‘Stairway to Heaven.’
“So we played that and then when I came back they wanted me to learn ‘Detroit Rock City,’ that was really cool. At the second audition, I started to get really, like, ‘Wow, this might be happening.’ It was very strange for me.”
I also read the story somewhere that Gene Simmons gave you a phone number and that you called him…
Is that story true?
“Yes. Yes, it’s true. He wrote down his number on the very first day. And then I called him when they were on tour and he hung up on me.”