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Guitarist Reb Beach Talks About Playing Double-Duty in Whitesnake and Winger

By Debby Rao, Boston Contributor
Friday, December 29, 2006 @ 6:52 PM

"Everything I learned I learne

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Guitarist Reb Beach has a rock and roll resume that would make any 80's musician proud. Reb is currently a member of Whitesnake and Winger. The Pittsburgh guitarist has also been a member of Dokken, did session work with Twisted Sister, and toured with Alice Cooper.

The guitar virtuoso has a distinctive shredding style that is rich in melody, and full of catchy guitar hooks that Winger is known for.

During the 80's Winger's rapid rise to fame, Winger inspired such MTV hits, as "Seventeen,” "Miles Away" and Headed For A Heartbreak" climbed to the top of the charts. But in a blink of an eye, Winger’s rapid rise to fame was short lived, perhaps damaged in part by the famous Beavis and Butthead episode with Stuart the Nerd wearing a Winger t-shirt getting hung up by his underwear.

But you can't keep a good guitar player down for long. In 1997 George Lynch left Dokken and was replaced in 1998 by Beach. Although Reb's stay in Dokken was short-lived, he continued to prove he had the rock and roll chops that made people stand up and notice his unique guitar style.

These days, Reb is shredding for Whitesnake and Winger, and has even managed to release a solo album, ”Masquerade".

I recently spoke to Beach about the recent Winger re-union and tour, the new Winger release Winger IV, on Frontiers Records, what it was like to work with Alice Cooper, and Twister Sister, and more.

KNAC.COM: How would you describe the new album, Winger IV. Does it pick up where Pull left off?

BEACH: It is some of the best guitar work that I have done. It was really a very hard album to make. I don't know if it picks up where Pull left off. I was gone a lot of the time, (while) it was being written. This is really Kip's baby. The production of Pull was much bigger, and the budget was so much larger. But Winger IV is more of a progressive album. It only has one ballad on it. It was great working with Kip again in the studio; we forgot how much fun it use to be working together. Kip is really an amazing songwriter.

KNAC.COM: Last time I got to see you perform was on the Metal Mania Tour last winter. Actually you performed double duty, playing guitar for both Don Dokken and Kip Winger.

BEACH: The Metal Mania Tour was so much fun. I really enjoyed working with Kip. But the real fun came when I performed with Don. Don did a great job-playing guitar. The guitar jams were so much fun with him. I love Don; he is fun to work with. I love playing Dokken songs; they are so easy to play. You can jam for hours.

KNAC.COM: I really enjoyed that tour. It was such a nice twist, hearing all of the Dokken songs being played acoustically. Why did you leave Dokken? Rumor has it that you loved to tour with Dokken, but not record with Dokken. Is that true?

BEACH: How do you know that? (Laughter) I love Don. But I got the gig with Whitesnake. So I am a snake now. I told Don, "Now you are opening for me!" (Laughter)

KNAC.COM: I think you did your best work with Dokken. "Erase the Slate" was phenomenal. It gave Dokken a more progressive sound. Describe to me how playing guitar with Dokken versus working with Whitesnake.

BEACH: In Whitesnake not really one guy stands out. But in Dokken, it was like the Reb Beach show. They just let me solo for eight hours on every song.

KNAC.COM: So the pressure was on?

BEACH: It was great. I loved that kind of freedom of improvisation. There was a lot of improvisation in Dokken. In, Whitesnake it is very different, the solos are very short.

KNAC.COM: Was it hard recording Erase The Slate knowing this was Dokken's first album without George Lynch? What was running through your mind?

BEACH: I am not going to sound like George. I sound like me. It would be hard to compare me to George. When I got there, those guys were writing Beatle's songs, and I am going UGH! I go you guys have to go back to the old sound. They said,"Well what do we do?" So I played the riff to "Erase The Slate" and a couple of other riffs, and I said, "What do you think of this riff?" That is the reason I got the gig in Dokken; the guitar riffs...and my voice.

KNAC.COM: What was the difference between playing with Dokken and Winger on the two different Poison Tours?

BEACH: Huge, huge difference. Winger was a five-piece band and a heavy vocal band. The vocals were very important with four part harmonies. Just to watch the reactions of people was funny. We played in the daylight outdoors. We could just sit there and watch the guys turned to their friends, "Who is that?" "This is Reb?" We would do some of the more obscure stuff trying to get out of that "Seventeen" mode. We wanted to show our musicianship. That was really fun. With Dokken there wasn't as much pressure. We could just wail. You could jam on the Dokken songs for hours.

KNAC.COM: Would you say that Winger doing the Poison tour was the turning point in Winger's career?

BEACH: No, not at all. I wouldn't say there was a turning point for Winger. The name is complete crap.

KNAC.COM: Back in the day Winger was very popular on MTV. The band was selling out concerts. Then all of a sudden the Beavis and Butthead show aired featuring the nerd sporting the Winger T-shirt. Did that change everything for the band?

BEACH: Yes, that had a lot to do with it. I just had proof of that when someone brought that first episode that aired with Stuart wearing the Winger T-shirt and they hung him by his underwear. We were out on tour, at the time someone brought it on the bus and we just watch it and said oh no. That week we saw album sales stop. We were selling tons of records. Our album just came out, it was doing great. All of a sudden it just stopped. We were getting a 1000 people at a show, and then suddenly we were just getting 150 people that week. So, yes it had a lot to do with it. We took the worst of all that bashing.

KNAC.COM: That was so unfair.

BEACH: Winger is such a great band live.

KNAC.COM: I saw Kip do the solo acoustic thing on the Rock Never Stops Tour with Whitesnake. You didn't want to do the lead part with Kip on that tour?

BEACH: No, David (Coverdale) wouldn't be happy about that, I don't think. I never asked David, so I don't know. I am a snake. Ya know. You have to be one of the other. But Kip is my best friend. I admired Kip for doing it. I thought it took a lot of balls to get out there on an acoustic and play the songs.

KNAC.COM: What is happening with Whitesnake? Any recording plans?

BEACH: They are talking about recording a studio album. That may happen. The live album just came out, it is pretty cool. It is called, Live...In The Shadows Of The Blues. It was recorded on tour in Europe. We recorded a bunch of shows. There are four new studio songs. I play on two of them.

KNAC.COM: Let's talk about some of your studio albums. You mentioned you worked with The Mob with Doug Pinnick (Kings X). What was that experience like for you?

BEACH: It is one of those deals, where I wanted to put out a band type album. I said I wanted to work with Doug Pinnick, and the record company said no. I got Kip to convince them it would be a really different record. There is a lot of different kinds of music on there, a lot of guitars, with vocals that are up in the stratosphere. That is kind of what I am like. I am good writing that 80's straightforward stuff. Doug put out an amazing unique voice, singing just the straight-ahead stuff. It didn't come out exactly how I wanted it but it is close. It was an honor to work with Doug. I can remember seeing King's X perform in Hoboken and saying that is the coolest stuff I ever heard in my life. I said I have to work with that guy one day. I have been dreaming of working with him ever since.

KNAC.COM: You also put a solo album called, Masquerade. How would you describe that album?

BEACH: Yes, that is the hardest thing that I ever did. It took a really long time. I did everything on the record. The thing I love most about Masquerade was I was completely in charge. I made all of the decisions. I wrote all the music, I produced it. I got to create something that when I die, there is something out there. If someone goes well what is Reb beach all about, well my kids can say listen to Masquerade. I also play piano on there. I should have played more. That track did not come out the way I wanted it. It was just a love song that I wrote for my wife years ago. It is actually a good song. I actually write really pop stuff. It was a period in my life, where things were kind of bad, so it is kind of a dark record. I love to write the ballads. And you like the ballads.

KNAC.COM: Yes I do like the ballads. I think it is a girl thing. What has Kip taught you as a musician?

BEACH: Everything I learned I learned from Kip. Kip taught me how to write a song, basically. He is brilliant, and really a smart guy.

KNAC.COM: Well I am behind Winger 100 percent. I always really enjoyed Kip's songwriting, and the ballads. Reb, you also worked with Alice Cooper. What was that like?

BEACH: Alice was such a wonderful experience. He is a great performer and really understands his audience. He knows all of the tricks of the trade. I remember we played a great show, and the audience wanted us to come out back out on the stage. Alice said, "No we are not going out. You should always leave them wanting more." He was right. I have done so many shows, and you never go out and play the encore half as good as the song that would have left them with. It is so anti-climatic. Alice taught me how to play cards. I was the second best guy on the bus. Alice is a really down to earth guy.

KNAC.COM: You have also done session work with Dee Snider of Twisted Sister. What was it like working with Dee?

BEACH: I have never laughed so long, and so hard at every single set. I could not stop laughing because Dee Snider was so funny. He is one of the funniest people I have ever met. I worked with him for six months on that record. I wrote a lot of riffs on that record. I saw Jay Jay French a couple of years after that. He said it took me two years to realize that you erased all of my guitar parts. I covered the parts he played with a better performance.

KNAC.COM: What made you pick up the guitar?

BEACH: My Mom bought me an acoustic; it sat underneath my bed for a couple of months. I think I saw something on TV, someone was playing guitar. Then I saw a Kiss concert. So Kiss started it all for me a made me really want to be a rock star. I was living in Boston, and then I heard "Toys on the Attic.

KNAC.COM: So Aerosmith was a big influence on you?

BEACH: Yes, they were. We use to summer in Boston in Duxbury. So I spent every summer just outside of Boston. My Mother and Grandmother lived in Plymouth. I love it there. I like it better than Pittsburgh.

KNAC.COM: OK let's talk about Pittsburgh and football. What do you think of The Steelers winning the Super bowl? Did you get to see it or were you on tour with Whitesnake at that time?

BEACH: I was ecstatic about that. I missed a lot of the games. I got to watch the game, because I never work in December or January. So I got to watch those games. That is one of the most exciting things that ever happened to me. (Laughter) They had a game last week with Cleveland. This game last Sunday was incredibly exciting. Did you see it?

KNAC.COM: Yes it game done to the wire again. I think Ben is going to give us a heart attack before the year is over.

BEACH: We are going to get killed us next week with The Ravens. It is going to be a tough one. I love to watch football. My wife is Italian, and every Sunday she makes spaghetti. (Laughter)

KNAC.COM: Now don't jinx it. I am in a pool for The Steelers to win.

    EDITOR's NOTE: The Ravens beat The Steelers 31-7. Pay up, Debbie!

KNAC.COM: Is Winger playing an outdoor concert New Year's Eve in Pittsburgh in Station Square?

BEACH: Yes, it is outside. Watch it be zero degrees and be too cold for my fingers. All of my friends and family are going to be there. I just hope we can pull it off without a rehearsal.

KNAC.COM: When does the Winger tour start?

BEACH: We are going to take a month off, and then we start the tour February 1. We start on the East Coast.

KNAC.COM: Are you playing in Boston?

BEACH: Yes February 2 at Harpers Ferry. Then we slowly work our way to the West Coast.

KNAC.COM: I heard that Winger once was on the same bill with Sepultura.

BEACH: Winger did a show in Germany with Sepultura and Primus.

KNAC.COM: Was that brutal or what?

BEACH: It was so brutal we almost had to stop the show. Half of the people left during the first song. Everyone just left. That was a long, long, long time ago. Probably like '92.

KNAC.COM: How did you meet KIp?

BEACH: I met Kip through Bo Hill. The guy that got my foot in the door in New York City. I met Kip, and we started working together. Then we became roommates. So we started writing together. Kip was trying to get a record deal. I was such a pop guy. The first day, we tried writing together we wrote, "Miles Away" and "Seventeen" the first day. It changed my life. Kip was amazing writing songs. I didn’t know I had that talent as a songwriter. I can write riffs, that I can do.

KNAC.COM: Do you see a resurgence of 80's metal returning this year?

BEACH: I have been asking that question for the last eight years. It still hasn't happened. I always hoped there would be one band that would come out (with) the 80's style and have a hit. I thought Buckcherry was going to do it, with "I Love The Cocaine" But they didn't. Who knows?

KNAC.COM: At least some of the top 80's bands are still surviving and making new music. Thank you Reb for taking time out to discuss your career, and let everyone know what you have been up to lately.

BEACH: Thank you, it has been my pleasure. I appreciate your support at KNAC.COM.

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