No matter how many interviews you have done, how many great people you have spoken to, there's always this thrill of sitting by the phone and waiting for a call from a musician whose music you admire. Especially if we're talking about a man like Bernie Marsden, who made his name familiar to all rock fans around this planet by playing guitar in the classic Whitesnake line up. Bernie and his Whitesnake mates Mickey Moody (guitar) and Neil Murray (bass) now have a new band called Company of Snakes, which despite having only one studio album out ("Burst The Bubble" (2002)) already has a complicated and not so publicized history. To tell you the truth, we didn't know which of the band members would be calling, but it built up excitement even more. And finally…
Bernie: Hi, this is Bernie Marsden!
MetalKings.com: Hello, Bernie! It's nice to hear from you! I must tell you didn't know the name of the person I would be speaking to...
Bernie: So you're shocked! Well, it's me! (laughs) Where are you, in Moscow?
MetalKings.com: Yeah, and where are you calling from?
Bernie: From Hamburg in Germany.
MetalKings.com: Oh, that's great! That's a very nice city!
Bernie: Yes, it's a very naughty city! And it's a rock'n'roll town!
MetalKings.com: Well, Bernie, in the beginning I'd like to know things about your past and about the bands you played with.
Bernie: OK, I'll list everything from the first band that I played in as a professional. First of all in 1973 it was UFO, then I played with Wild Turkey, a band of former Jethro Tull bass player, then I played in the band of Cozy Powell, Hammer. Then I played in a band called Babe Ruth, then Paice, Ashton, Lord, then Whitesnake, then Alaska, Moody Marsden Band, then solo albums, solo projects and finally the Company Of Snakes.
MetalKings.com: In between there was also a band called MGM...
Bernie: Yeah, that's some single things. MGM was a band with a singer from Toto, Bobby Campell and it was also me, Mel Galley, and Neil Murray. The band lasted I think maybe five weeks. We did some recordings and we did I think a small tour in England and we did a concert tour in Germany.
MetalKings.com: According to some interviews with MGM that I had a chance to read you actually planned to record an album...
Bernie: Well, we did some recordings and maybe later this year those recordings will become available.
MetalKings.com: That's great to hear!
Bernie: Alright, watch the spaces I think! (laughs)
MetalKings.com: A British label called Zoom Club has recently released a live album of Alaska ("Live Baked Alaska"). Did you know about this release beforehand, is it an official live album?
Bernie: Yes, it is official album. Maybe it looks like a bootleg but it is official. And I think maybe later this year an Alaska anthology will come out. There will be outtakes, different stuff that we never used, so if you like it you will have everything on one album. I think it will be a double CD, a digipack, you know. This will come later this year and maybe together with the MGM stuff, I'm not sure.
MetalKings.com: That's very nice! And are there plans to record a new Alaska album?
Bernie: No. Alaska is long gone.
MetalKings.com: Another interesting band you played in was Moody Marsden Band. Actually you released several live albums and one studio effort called "Real Faith" in 1994 with extremely limited availability.
Bernie: Yes, it was very limited. I think it was available only in Stuttgart in Germany. It's very hard to find but it is re-released again on a different company...
MetalKings.com: Yeah, the new title is "Ozone Friendly".
Bernie: That's right. And I think this year, again this year, there will be a Moody Marsden Band box set. There will be old demos, different live recordings and the "Real Faith" album will be in there in its original form. So if you're a Moody Marsden Band fan next year there will be tons of that stuff, just look for it.
MetalKings.com: Well, that's a very interesting thing about your new singer Stefan Berggren that his band Snakes In Paradise. actually its first album was released on Long Island Records in 1993. And you and Mickey Moody took part in a project called Boderline which released an album on Long Island Records as well. So did you know Stefan from that time?
Bernie: No no, we never met until he first came to the Company Of Snakes. And you know, Snakes In Paradise again with that word 'snakes' it's kind of strange. But I've never heard of them before. He was recommended to me by a sound engineer and when the first singer of Company Of Snakes left for America he said to me, "Check out that guy from Snowhofren (not sure about the spelling - ed.)". We did and now he is in.
MetalKings.com: Well, one of the first and most interesting, I guess, singers to take part in The Snakes (the project that preceded Company Of Snakes) was Jorn Lande, that guy from Norway. So how did you find him?
Bernie: I produced a band in Norway about 10 years ago and people from that band knew Lande. And they said, "He sings exactly like Coverdale!" Well, all I said was, "Oh really? Oh really?" And then I heard a tape and I couldn't believe it. And I asked Mickey (Moody) to come to Norway and we played a show in the north of Norway. Many songs we played for the first time in 15 years! And people went crazy and that's when I realized how important those songs are to the world. And that's why we put up a band.
MetalKings.com: So later you recorded an album "Once Bitten..." (1998) which was released in Japan.
Bernie: Only in Japan.
MetalKings.com: So why only in Japan?
Bernie: Because it was commissioned by Pony Canyon (Japanese record company) and they said to me, "Would you like to make an album?" And by that time I knew that the band wasn't going to last for a long time. So I said, "OK, let's make an album" and I've written some songs for that album and I said to the rest of the guys, "OK, we will do an album but the deal is that it will be only for Japan." And I know that there are a few bootlegs of it around. I don't know but the album will probably, it will probably we in that Moody Marsden Band box set as well. So it will be a chance for the people to get the album they couldn't get before.
MetalKings.com: I also think that Lande's voice sounds VERY similar to Coverdale!
Bernie: Yeah, at first it was very interesting and strange because he sang so much like David. But when it became so much all the time like Coverdale I kind of didn't find it so interesting, if you know what I mean. And I guess working for six or seven years with real David Coverdale and then with that guy makes it strange and he looks like a clown. Well, but Lande is a great singer but I would like to hear his own voice rather than that David Coverdale thing. But that's a personal taste really. And Stefan sings in his own way, in a more British style. He sounds a bit like David, a little bit like Paul Rogers, a little bit like Freddy Mercury. And he sings his own way, he doesn't try to be David. It's just a co-incident that they're both Scandinavian. People always say that I look for singers only in Scandinavia (laughs) which is not true, it's just a co-incident.
MetalKings.com: Yeah, you're right. And did you play songs from that "Once Bitten..." album during your live shows?
Bernie: No, none of those songs was ever played live. Only Whitesnake stuff. Our gigs were called 'An evening of Whitesnake music' with the original members, you know what I mean, that kind of thing. But I was never interested in continuing it because it seemed to me a little bit like a cover-band, you know, especially when you have a voice sounding exactly like David. Now he does something different, with us he did a good job, he's a great singer but I think enough is enough.
MetalKings.com: And why did you part with Lande?
Bernie: Because it had no future. You know, the band did everything it could do, it did everything that I wanted it to do. But it had no more future off the "Once Bitten..." When we did that record and even before the record came up the band was finished. It got broken up.
MetalKings.com: I've heard that Lande and two other Norwegian guys were going to play as Snakes...
Bernie: Yeah, but they never did. It's up to them, they can do what they like, you know, it's not my business. But I guess when people come to see Snakes they want to see me, Neil Murray and Mickey Moody.
MetalKings.com: Well, the Moody Marsden Band played in a town called Hell and recorded a live album there. So what's so special about the city?
Bernie: It's a natural town, a village called Hell in northern Norway. And it is really called Hell. So they have a blues festival there every year and I'm a kind of director of that festival. And it's really good, I've been there this year, last year and about seven or eight years now. And the first gig that Stefan Berggren ever did was there with the Company Of Snakes, yeah, it was his first gig.
MetalKings.com: OK, did you have any legal problems with names like Snakes or Company Of Snakes?
Bernie: No, not at all. I mean, what can we do? Three people in the Company Of Snakes were in Whitesnake. And we don't call ourselves Whitesnake, it's the Company Of Snakes. We had a singer from Bad Company, unfortunately he's gone but we still have the name. And if I call this band like our old band people could say, "Oh, it's the old Whitesnake guys!" So we thought we might put 'snake' in the title. And that was the reason. You know, if I wanted people to think it was Whitesnake I would call it Whitesnake 2 or Whitesnake 02. I don't wanna make it the way that David is a part of what we do.
MetalKings.com: Later you used Gary Barden (ex-MSG) as a singer.
Bernie: Yeah, but that was very temporarily because when Robert (Hart, ex-Bad Company) left I had five gigs to do and I had contracts... You see, if we were going to play in your town I wouldn't wanna let the people down. So I called Gary Barden, he's a good friend, and said, "You wanna come along?" and he said, "Yeah, great!" "OK, let's see how it goes and maybe after those five shows you can join the band." But Gary is more a heavy metal singer than a blues & rock singer. We played a few gigs but somehow it didn't work out, he left and we carried on and found Stefan Berggren. So Gary was never a member of the band, same as Don Airey (keyboards) was never a member of the band. So we just hired them to play.
MetalKings.com: But why did you decide to re-record vocals on the live album "Here They Go Again" (2001)?
Bernie: Well, because it was a strange co-incident that the recordings of the Wacken festival had really bad technical problems on the vocals. And that's the reason why he (Gary - ed.) never appeared on the album, he was never meant to appear at Wacken anyway, but it (the technical problem) was something that nobody had an idea about. So when the recording came out in the studio there was no voice, it's a very strange thing. Gary was not meant to be on the album so he's not there anyway. There was no arrangement about it and he wasn't hired to do that. And he wasn't supposed to be there and then we re-recorded it with Berggren because if we wouldn't do it those tracks could stay in the stock for the next 10 years. So he went out, sang the songs well and did a good job.
MetalKings.com: In the meantime you also used a singer named Ben Moller. Who is he?
Bernie: He comes from the north of England, a place called Bredforth and he did exactly the same job for me that Gary did. When Robert could not make gigs we had to find another singer. So he was never a member of the band, he's just a good friend, a good singer but he was never a permanent member of the band.
MetalKings.com: And what happened to that band Borderline?
Bernie: They are based in Stuttgart in Germany. Borderline is... well, the only member of Borderline is George Bayer. And whatever George does he calls it Borderline. He's a good friend of mine, a semi-professional musician. He works for television, I think he works for Disney. But he loves southern American rock so that's why we played there. He asked me to write the songs and that's the connection between us.
MetalKings.com: Also you have a band called Green And Blues and actually an album with the same title. So what is that band about?
Bernie: That's me playing blues music with different musicians. We also have a new album ready for release in the summer. We play mostly classic traditional music. There are probably five or six songs on it in the same tradition. So playing this stuff is just a chance to play the stuff I grew up with like Muddy Waters. And it's a really good band and we have some great musicians in it.
MetalKings.com: There's a thing about the new album. Can you explain why it is called "Burst The Bubble"?
Bernie: Just because I think it's a good title and, you see, when people think that everything is fine they say 'you have to burst the bubble to become real again'. And it's also a kind of saying like 'look, here we are, we might be well known but that's the beginning, this is the first album'. So you must judge the band from this record, not see what we did in the past. And that's nothing so serious, it might sound serious when I talk about it and I don't wanna be too serious about it. I just like the track, the title track I mean, I think it's great.
MetalKings.com: In a clip of that title track, "Burst The Bubble", I've heard some lyrics like 'burst the bubble in 1984'. What does it mean?
Bernie: Well, there was a book in the late 1940s called "1984" written by George Orwell. It's a very famous book in the West and basically George said 50 or 60 years before, "In 1984 everybody will be watching you." Now you're walking down the street and see those TV cameras looking at you, the telephone rings and you know who it is before you pick up the phone, and he (Orwell - ed.) said, "All of this would happen in 1986 or 1987." So the song is about the life we live today, not about me and Mickey being in the band in 1984. And I suppose we burst the bubble in 1984, it was the end of Whitesnake. It was just a co-incident. I wish I was that clever.
MetalKings.com: And I've heard that "Burst The Bubble" is produced by Nikolo Kotzev.
Bernie: No, it's not. It is produced by Lana Hansson (not sure about the spelling - ed.) and me. Nikolo was an engineer. He was employed by Lana Hansson in the studio in Germany.
MetalKings.com: Nikolo Kotzev has recently released the "Nostradamus" rock opera with your previous singer Jorn Lande among others. Did you know about it?
Bernie: No, he did it before I knew it.
MetalKings.com: And how did you select the songs which are re-recorded on the new album from the original "Once Bitten…" record?
Bernie: We did [re-record them], but they are very different to the originals. Well, SPV and Lana Hansson said that those songs are too good to just be available in Japan.
MetalKings.com: And what about that track "September Tears" on the "Once Bitten…" record? Is it really about Princess Diana?
Bernie: Yeah, I think it's a good song. It's a very personal one. And it's indeed about Diana. You know the events on September 11, 2001 so people might think it's about that, about those terrible things in America. In a way it could be but originally it's about Diana. Well, and my daughter died in 1997, she was just seven, and one day she said, "Daddy, why do all the people cry?" So I think it's very special and that's why I wrote, "The people cry all over the land" in those lyrics. So my daughter was the inspiration for that song and that woman, Diana, who I never knew, I never met, she was the reason and it was a very profound feeling when she died. So if you asked me a year before about that song I would say, "No! You never know, this is just music!" But I do think the song would fit on the "Burst The Bubble" album. The guys just asked me to record it and I wrote different ones for the rest of the album.
MetalKings.com: Where were the songs written?
Bernie: They were mostly written in England, a couple were written in Germany and in the studio.
MetalKings.com: Well, many bands write 20, 30 or 40 songs for one album and then select the best ones. So how many did you write?
Bernie: The ones that you hear. (laughs) Well, I don't see the point of writing 30 or 40 songs if you only need 10. So if those 10 are good enough why write 20 more, I don't understand it. And when the band says, "We wrote 40 songs and we selected 15" I kind of wonder whether it's true because afterwards you never get to hear the other 25. Maybe there's a song or two we didn't record but they would be on the next album.
MetalKings.com: Mostly all albums in Japan get bonus tracks. Why no bonuses for "Burst The Bubble"?
Bernie: I think all those bonus tracks is bullshit. What do you do? You put 14 tracks on one album instead of 12. For example, "September Tears" was a bonus track in Japan because it wasn't meant to be on the album. And I don't know, I'm honest with you, maybe it was a mistake. But I got lots of letters and e-mails when people said they loved the song. And I get many messages on the website like 'september tears are like shadows of rain', just one line like 'lift up your heart, make a new start'. But it could be a bonus track on the Bernie Marsden solo album. And Jorn Lande sang it very well. I don't dismiss Lande as a singer, I think he is a fantastic singer but he's the guy that has to do his own thing and he likes to be in control, I guess. And I do the same and probably that's a reason why we didn't continue working together. I'm afraid, I've been doing it for a long time and he hasn't. He still has to make his name known worldwide and I don't need it that much. But he's a great singer, you can make sure and understand it very clearly.
MetalKings.com: The "Once Bitten..." album had two bonus tracks in Japan. I mean, bonus tracks to what since it was released only in Japan?
Bernie: Originally there was going to be 11 tracks and then we had two more. One was "All Dressed Up" and the other "September Tears" which I recorded very very late in the sessions. When we came to put the record together I said, "Oh, just put everything on it". So everything that was recorded at those sessions is available on that album. And the writing 'bonus tracks' means that I said, "There's two more tracks, you can have them". That's the reason why they put it on that sleeve. And you know, the Japanese like that bonus track thing.
MetalKings.com: Can you also explain the meaning of that song "Labour Of Love"?
Bernie: It's just a traditional rock song and it's about the guy who's been on the road for a long time, he's off the road but he can't stop doing what he does. And he says, "Why it is just a labour of love?" It has nothing to do with personal love affairs.
MetalKings.com: Another interesting track is "Can't Go Back". Has it anything in common with Whitesnake?
Bernie: No, nothing about the good old days politically, just a figure of speech.
MetalKings.com: Bernie, once again a question about the past. Why did you leave Whitesnake?
Bernie: Well, they call it the 'classic Whitesnake' with me and Moody. It's a very long story, it has a lot of things in it and basically it was a business decision, it had nothing to do with music. There were also money and private things and I don't really wanna talk about it. Because with one more album after "Saints An' Sinners" Whitesnake could have been the biggest band in the world. But... c'est la vie as they say in France.
MetalKings.com: And are still in touch with David?
Bernie: Yeah, we spoke a few times in the past two years.
MetalKings.com: So why didn't you play guitar on his solo album ("Into The Light" (2001)), something like guest appearance?
Bernie: Because he never asked me. (laughs) You can ask him the same question, "Why didn't you sing on Bernie Marsden's solo album?" It's the same thing, he releases solo albums, I release solo albums. We worked together in the past but it's over and you have to draw the line and end everything.
MetalKings.com: Well, you see, many bands from the 70s and 80s are reuniting right now, record albums, tour, etc. Do you regret that Whitesnake does not exist anymore?
Bernie: Oh, it was such a long time ago, I don't know... But if we get a phone call, talk to each other in the next couple of months we might be playing in Moscow as Whitesnake, it's no problem. Everything is possible! And as long as we can play, he can sing and we can get into an airplane there's no point to say, "We won't do it again!"
MetalKings.com: You also took part in the Whitesnake tribute album called "Snakebites". What are your memories about it?
Bernie: Well, during the recording I always thought, "Why do I play on the Whitesnake tribute album?" And I should say I really regret doing it. If I thought more clearly about it at the time I would have said, "No!" So how can I be a tribute to my own music, it doesn't make any sense.
MetalKings.com: What about that company Lottie Productions which had something to do with two first Snakes albums?
Bernie: Well, it's my company and it licensed two first albums to Pony Cayon in Japan.
MetalKings.com: The albums were produced by famous Norwegian guitar player Ronnie Le Tekro (ex-TNT). How did it happen?
Bernie: Oh, he's a guy from Norway and I like him very much, he's a great musician. He did a very good job and I like Ronnie very much, he's a very talented guy. And he's also very well known in Japan so it made sense to ask him to produce those albums for the Japanese market.
MetalKings.com: And what are your plans for the future?
Bernie: Well, we will carry on with that "Burst The Bubble" album, I'll be doing some solo gigs and blues gigs and then in the end of the year we'll make another album and do some more shows, festivals in summer, we will go to South America and South Africa and I would like to come to Russia. So hope next time we'll speak and have a beer in Russia!
MetalKings.com: OK, great! It was a great pleasure talking to you 'cause to me you're a legend of the British rock scene...
Bernie: Yeah, thanks a lot. But you see, I'm just a guy. If you cut me I'll bleed! (laughs) So my best wishes to all our fans in Russia!
MetalKings.com: OK, thanks a lot, Bernie! Bye!
(as Company Of
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