Interview with Doogie White and Chic McSherry

What comes around goes around, they say – as testified by the Scottish hard rock group La Paz (fronted by former Rainbow, Tank, Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force etc. as well as current Michael Schenker’s Temple of Rock and Demon’s Eye singer Doogie White). The aforesaid five-piece enjoyed a brief career in the ‘80s but disbanded in 1988 – only to return more than two decades later. 2016 marked the release of their third post-hiatus album Shut Up And Rawk – the one to be discussed in detail by both Doogie White and Chic McSherry in their interview for Hardrock Haven.


Doogie White & La Paz 2016


Hardrock Haven: La Paz was formed in 1985 and disbanded a few years later to return to the scene in 2009. Would you say the band now continues treading the same path it embarked on three decades ago? Or perhaps it’s a whole different story now?


Chic McSherry: Hard to define a specific “path.” We just play really well together and when we work on new songs, it’s just like we have never been apart. We just pick up from where we left off really – there is no master plan or direction of travel. It is just what happens between us and it has always been that way.


Doogie White: We are all older and have been equally successful in our chosen fields. There pressure to conform to any musical norm is never present. We are no longer “chasing” a record deal with the view to world domination. We have always just written what we feel pulling from whatever wells we are drinking from. So it is very relaxed and done with joy and fun. If it was not – we would not do it.


Hardrock Haven: What are the differences between the ‘80s and the current incarnation of the band? Do you think La Paz evolved – and still evolves – in terms of music?


Chic McSherry: I think we have perhaps gotten a little heavier and a little darker over the years. No bad thing! In the ‘80s we were competing (if that is the right word) with a lot of hair bands and Glam outfits. We were never that stylish really so it was never gonna fly, but it possibly diluted the music a little and made it lighter. It was of its time and I still think Granite is a great album, made up as it was of those older songs – however, the newer stuff has more of an edge and grittiness at times. I like that a lot.


Doogie White: The stories I tell, or the circumstances I write about, are not the same as I did back in the ‘80s. On a couple of songs I have gone back to retrace the vibe melodically and lyrically – but looking at the same situations from back then but through the eyes of a few more years on the planet.


Hardrock Haven: Is your newest effort Shut Up And Rawk a continuation of stylistic choices you’ve made on the previous albums Granite and The Dark And The Light?


Chic McSherry: When you start to write new material you don’t, or at least I don’t make a conscious decision to do it in x or y styles: you just play what is in your head and your heart. I’d say that this is what La Paz sound like rather than it is some sort of conscious decision to follow a tried and tested recipe.


Doogie White: Chic comes to me with his ideas and we kick them around until we have something we think is good enough to carry the La Paz name. There is never a plan like “Let’s have an AC/DC or DIO type of song”. That never happens – we just do what we feel. If we started on a Tuesday rather than a Wednesday it could end up a very different song.


Hardrock Haven: While Shut Up And Rawk certainly doesn’t sound outdated, it also has the unique ‘70s vintage flavor to it. What were your inspirations during the process of making the album?


Chic McSherry: Well, interestingly for me, it wasn’t the ‘70s! It’s kinda funny: you write what you write and it is really for others to interpret and take from it what they will. I have no problem with it being described as the ’70s or vintage – if that is how people hear it, then great! It does puzzle me that Uriah Heep is often cited as a major influence on us: the only ‘Heep song I have ever heard is “Gypsy”!


Doogie White: For me, it was the music Chic gave me. That’s all I have to go on; then I start hunting through my books of ideas, titles and lyrics and find something that kicks it off. I don’t listen to Rock music so I don’t really have any reference points anymore. But the music lends itself to what they lyric could be. I can go places with La Paz that I feel I can’t with others I work with. But maybe doing La Paz will open those doors. It’s very much a song by song thing whether La Paz, Temple of Rock or Demon’s Eye.


Hardrock Haven: Shut Up And Rawk blends the modern production with said vintage undertones. Do you follow the modern music scene – Rock scene and beyond – and find it inspiring? What do you think about the new generation of bands?


Chic McSherry: Personally I try not to listen to too much when I am writing or other people’s melodies start to leach in and you end up sounding like someone or something else. My kids have been educating me in more Modern Rock bands and they have yet to play something that I don’t like, so in that sense, Rock and Roll is far from dead, or maybe I’m not such an old fart after all.


Doogie White: No, I don’t. No reason. I just don’t. The only “new” band that I actually went out and bought a ticket for – because I really wanted to see them – was Symphony X because I like the singer and that was years ago. I’ll go see friends play but going to gigs is not my idea of fun anymore. I saw all the great bands in their original forms when they ruled the world and I can live with that.


Hardrock Haven: What was the songwriting process for the album like and was it any different than before?


Chic McSherry: The Same process really. I usually start with an outline idea and send it to Doogie. He kicks it about and if it speaks to him, he will say “Yeah, keep that”. When we have a bunch of decent ideas together I start to hone them into working demos to let the guys hear and then they start adding their bits. I guess I just design the frame and they all add the structure; they are exceptionally talented guys and I love how the songs evolve as we work on them. That is what makes writing for La Paz so interesting – you never know where the journey will go.


Doogie White: As I said earlier, it’s the same way we always did it. Chic comes up with the music and I don’t do what he has in his head but he lets me get on with it anyway. We used to rehearse and thrash out ideas but we can’t do that now.


Hardrock Haven: You’re said to have started writing for the new album almost immediately after its predecessor saw the light of day. What do you think is the secret formula behind such creativity?


Doogie White: It’s all McSherry’s fault. He moves into these modes where something he does becomes all-consuming, whether it’s book writing or fishing or mountain climbing or many of the weird and wonderful pursuits he does to keep sane. So when he is in songwriting mode, he just keeps going. The Dark and the Light had only been out a week when the ideas for Shut Up And Rawk started coming in. I was on the road with Temple of Rock, so it was a while before I had the chance to dive in.


Hardrock Haven: Do you think your songwriting and musical partnership is particularly successful?


Doogie White: Chic and I have always had a good writing partnership. It’s only the method that has changed as before we would thrash out ideas in rehearsals with the band. Now we do it over file sharing as we are always traveling or never in the same place. It’s always fun and I only do things that I enjoy now.


Hardrock Haven: Although the majority of the material on Shut Up And Rawk can be classified as Hard Rock, there are also significant touches of blues in tracks such as “Little Miss Dynamite”. Was it an attempt to add a bit of American vibe to it, or perhaps to demonstrate a whole range of inspirations?


Chic McSherry: As far as the music was concerned, once again, it was really just what came out when I was writing. It wasn’t that I thought “We should do an R&B song just to prove we can play in lots of styles.” I’d say that my only focus was to try to make sure I didn’t write in the same key over and over so that the tracks didn’t just sound the same; that was all really. It gave Doogie more vocal variety too: there are only so many melodies around A Major after all, and by putting “Daughter Of Time” in E Flat we ended up with something very interesting indeed, both vocally and musically.


Doogie White: I loved Rock music in an age where it was not broken down into categories and it was perfectly normal to like Sabbath and Foreigner and never think of them as different genres. I just go melodically and lyrically where the music takes me. With La Paz, I can time travel and write stories about the younger days and not feel weird about it. I can tap into the feelings from then but through my eyes of today.


Hardrock Haven: What are your personal highlights of the new material?


Chic McSherry: That’s tough. I can’t really call any one standout for me. They all work in their own way. I like “Retribution Blues” a lot because of the vibe; “Daughter of Time” makes the hairs on my neck stand up; “Book of Shadows” is anthemic. At the individual level, I think that Andy and Paul were exceptional on the album: both at their creative and inventive best and a joy to work with. Big Al played the bass lines of his life.


Doogie White: I love it all. It’s is just about the most satisfying album I have ever done. Absolutely no fillers. We were under no time pressure and wanted to make the best album we could. And… we did! “Book of Shadows” went through many changes lyrically and melodically from my side. It was a hard song to write and get right. It’s not my favorite but I am pleased with how it came out. People have their favorites and that’s a good thing.


Hardrock Haven: “Light The Fire” was chosen to be the first single off the album. Any further plans? Which songs would you like to be singles, and become illustrated with videos?


Chic McSherry: I think that “Heart Of Stone” would be a good single, or “No Place In Heaven”. We did a whole series of movie-themed videos for the album that we showed at the launch party. Maybe we can get the right permissions to use those in future…who knows.

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