Winger and Whitesnake Guitarist Reb Beach Interview11th November 2020
Every so often life reminds you how blessed you are and today was one of those days. I was able to sit down and have a chat with one of my guitar heros. A certain Mr. Reb Beach of Winger and Whitesnake.
Not only has Reb been doing guitar lessons but he’s travelling back and forth to Nashville to get the new Winger record done.
How is the writing process for the new Winger album going?
We’ve been at it for awhile and it’s really gruelling. Kip (Winger) is brutal. He wants it to be the best record we’ve ever done. We’ve written 11 songs and Kip threw away 6 of them as they were just not good enough. Every song on this record has to be undeniable. The bar has been set with the 5 that we have so the other 6 songs have to be just as good, if not better.
The pressure is on. I’m the guy who has to come up with the cool guitar riff and then we both build the puzzle from there .
How do you write the riffs?
I come up with them on the spot. I sit there and play for 20 minutes and Kip walks around the room. He knows that if he just sits there and stares, I won’t come up with anything as I’ll be too intimidated (laughs). So he walks around and pretends he’s not listening. Then he’ll yell from the back ‘WHAT’S THAT?’ and we’ll take it from there.
It’s at this point I take Reb back through his career as it’s a fascinating one.
Let’s start with Dokken. What do you remember about your time with them and filling George Lynchs boots?
When I heard that Dokken was looking for somebody, I immediately sent out stuff and thank God for Kip (Winger) he’s the one who told me about the Dokken audition.
I was playing with Alice Cooper (A fistful of Alice album. Reb can also be spotted in Waynes World as part of Alices band) at the time and I knew that Dokken was a step up for a guitar player because if you’re taking Lynchs place, you’d better be good as all eyes will be on you.
I remember going into Alice and saying ‘I got this gig’, and Alice was just the coolest guy in the word and said that ‘Alice Cooper has always been a stepping stone for musicians’ and I went to do it.
I started writing with Jeff Pilson (bass player) of Dokken and we were a great writing team. It was a lot like Kip and me. I’m just this guy that can come up with riffs. It’s a talent that I have,I just need a guy who’s a composer/arranger who has his act together that can make them into songs. Erase The Slate was a good album.
Then we went on the road and I had so much fun with Dokken. Don would leave the stage for long periods of time which was fabulous because I could solo and solo and solo. It was a fun time. We all liked each other and it was just an easy vibe.
When I first went out to play with Dokken the audience was expecting George Lynch and some guy through his Air Jordan sneaker at me and it hit me square in the face. But I had a great time in Dokken. I love that band.
Suddenly we’re interrupted by a repair guy to service a fireplace. Reb doesn’t have a fireplace. The poor guy had gotten the wrong address.
You’ve played with some amazing musicians and people over the years. But I have to know, How did you get the job with the Bee Gees?
It was around 1986 and I’d auditioned for Fiona on Atlantic Records and I’d moved to New York and became a singing waiter. I hung around music stores just to try and find a gig. So I heard about Fiona. Auditioned, got the gig and Beau Hill was producing.
I did the whole Fiona album and at the end of that Beau asked me if I gave you $500 would I do another session. Of course I accepted. So it got around Atlantic record that there was this funny, great guitar player and easy to work with who would do your album for $500.
This was all on the back of Michael Jackson Beat It record. Everyone wanted that Eddie Van Halen type solo with all the crazy tapping etc. So Howard Jones, Chaka Khan and the Bee Gees all wanted this hot, young guitar player who could tap to do their record, and there I was. So I owe it all to Eddie Van Halen, well, that and I would do it for $500 so people started hiring me (laughs)
What’s the guitar solo you’re most proud of?
Sands Of Time. (Whitesnake Flesh and Blood album). I wrote the song for David and the solo was done in 1 take. I didn’t want to punch that solo in. So I thought about someone I love, sad things to really try and pour every ounce of emotion I have into that solo.
I’m actually moved by that solo when I hear it. It has a lot of feel for me.
It’s been 17 years since your last solo album (Masquerade) to the new one (A View From The Inside), why the big gap?
Well, I’m a touring musician, that’s what I do. I’m a road dog and when I am home there’s always a project that takes precedent.
I did Masquerade, it was really hard. I wrote it, produced it, it was monumental for me and I’m so glad I got to release it. So I wasn’t ready to do another record for awhile as I was on the road and as I said there was always something. Either writing for Dokken, writing for Winger and then Whitesnake and Black Swan. Then there’s various other stuff like doing sessions for other people from my home. So on the back burner I always had this fusion stuff.
I did the Fusion demos back in 1993 and I thought I was going to be like a Joe Satriani guy after Winger broke up just doing instrumental stuff but nobody would sign it.
So I started selling it on my website and it sold like hot cakes. People were saying like this is the best thing you’ve ever done and that they’d like a whole record of this stuff, not just demos.
Those demos sound like crap but everybody loves them. It’s literally just me, a tiny little drum machine and an 8 track cassette player.
When I had free time late at night I would spend it just writing my own instrumental stuff that people would enjoy. Not something too mechanical or out there and that’s how this finally came to be.
When Covid hit I was talking to Kip asking him what the hell I should do and he suggested the fusion stuff I’d been talking about for years. Get it done and release it. All I had to do was get real musicians on it and it was finished.
Reb, it’s a proper old school Mike Varney era sounding instrumental fusion guitar album.
I sent Mike Varney the 1993 demos when Shrapnel was happening and he passed on it. He said it was just too jazzy for his label. I’ve seen him twice since then and he’s said that he really liked those fusion demos that I’d sent him and he really should’ve signed them as he’d made a mistake in not doing it. He’s said that he’s always regretted it and that has made me feel good.
It can’t have been easy doing a full instrumental album such as A View From The Inside. Am I correct in saying that you’re kinda out of your comfort zone after signing on Masquerade?
It was a challenge for sure but people say I’m good at the instrumental stuff and I don’t have any plans to do another one unless this one does really well.
It’s something that fans of mine have been asking for for such a long time and you really get to hear my guitar playing.
It’s not just me playing for 15 seconds, this is a what I do record.
What was going through your mind writing it?
I wanted to make it listenable.
I’ve heard so many guitar instrumental albums from all sorts of players who are all shredding and it’s more about the shred than it is the composition.
I do shred in places on this record but it’s all about the melody.
The song Attack of the Massive was incredibly difficult to play. That’s going to be the most challenging song live if I ever do a tour behind this stuff, which I’m hoping to do.
I sent it to Joe Satriani as soon as it was done because he told me to, so I’m hoping to get on a G3 tour or something like that.
When I got A View From The Inside and hit play, the first thing that struck me was I’d heard the opening track Black Magic before on the 1992 Guitars That Rule The World album. Why did you re-record that track?
I had to.The original was done with a SR16 drum machine which fits in the palm of your hand and I think I’m playing bass on it, but just the sound of that track is such a bummer. It’s so small so to have a real bass player and drummer on the track it rocks more for me.
What’s next for you?
Well, the new solo album is out and then it’ll be Black Swan 2 along with the new Winger record and Whitesnake.
We wrote Shake The World (Black Swan) in 10 days. The riffs were left over from the Winger writing sessions that never got used.
I write when I have spare time, so I’ll do Masquerade 2 next for sure. I have 5 or 6 really cool ideas, maybe more. Who knows. (laughs)
My final question to you is this. If you were a professional chef, what would be your signature dish?
Oh wow. I’m a foodie. There’s so many. I could go on for days with this one. or some kind of steak
It would probably be, authentic southern fried chicken with gravy or some kind of steak in like a really good wine sauce. A really classy steak.
Reb, thank you so much for your time. I wish you all the best with this new solo album and I hope to see you on the road very soon.
Thanks man, I’ve appreciated this chat.