[% META title = 'Deep Purple, Interviews' %]
Blackmore: "I want to be a star and be onstage and get noticed"
Lord: "This band couldn't exist in my book without Ritchie"
"We all came in at different times. Paicey and I walked in - we'd booked a conference room in Greenwich, Connecticut overlooking the harbour, and it was all nice. I was nervous as a kitten. And then Ian Gillan came in, whom I'd seen recently before that. Roger came in, whom I'd seen about two months before. And who was last? Yes, the man in black! And I hadn't seen him for ten years - only onstage; I'd been to a Rainbow show but I didn't go backstage afterwards, I don't know why. And I was so pleased to see him.
And when he walked into that room and suddenly these five people were together for the first time in ten years, together, everyone just started smiling. And I think it was Ritchie who said,'right then, well let's do it." (Jon Lord)
JUST LIKE that. All those reports - facts (Rod Evans' fake Purple getting cease-and-desisted) piled on suppositions (Blackmore sick of Rainbow? Coverdale sick of Lord? All of them sick of not doing so well outside of Europe with their current bands, at least never as well as with Purple) heaped on gossip (talk of two million apiece just to get back for one tour) - building towards a towerblock or rumors, always swiftly demolished.
Then Ritchie says "let's do it" and that's it, they're doing it. Deep Purple mark two - the Deep Purple by any sane definition: Ian Gillan, Ian Paice, Roger Glover, Jon Lord and Ritchie Blackmore - are back in business, and back in Hamburg, where Roger is mixing the reunion album. 'Perfect Strangers', that they recorded in Stowe Vermont.
Just one of the many Deep Purple albums to come, by all accounts (they're signed to a longtime worldwide deal) and, from what I've heard, taking up where the old Purple let off, a heavy foundation with majestically soaring arches; the title track is a classic; Purple have given it their all, which at their best is a hell of a lot.
The album's out any minute now, the tour starts a month later in New Zealand. "We thought we'd better go a long way away," chuckles Jon, "and if we get it wrong, it's far enough away from home, isn't it! By the time we get into Europe and specifically the UK, I want this to be so hot."
They've already played one show, in a little club in Hamburg that's had the same house band for 20 years. "We were all in a great mood, and that was the first time we've actually played in ten years onstage." says Ritchie, "The name kind of got a few people thinking; but they were more interested in ordering the first beer."
Ritchie looks and sounds younger, more relaxed than I've seen him in years. The waiter pours the wine. We - Ritchie and I; though we get the pleasure of Jon Lord's company later on the Reeperbahn, the interview proper doesn't take place till the next evening - begin.
Sounds: Why put the band back together now, when you've denied rumors of a
reunion for the past couple of years?
Ritchie: "I don't know. I could be very arrogant and say we wanted to create another milestone in the history of rock! Or number two, we just put it back together to annoy the press basically. Give them something to bitch about. That really is our number one priority, to upset the critics."
According to most of the reports, you were the one who held out. If you
gave the word, it would all fall into place.
Ritchie: "Aha, that's because of good PR work I suppose. It wasn't just me, it was everybody really. I held out sometimes, because I was having a good time with Rainbow. But every now and again I'd go 'let's so it', and when I did, somebody else would be held up doing something else.
"About three or four years ago I said to Ian Gillan, 'let's together' - I think it was Christmas, or the day after - and he said 'I can't', we got drunk together and I said 'okay you can't' and left it at that.
"I think I got Graham Bonnet in Rainbow at that point, and he did his thing. And now he's gone away for his solo venture, I'm tired of my solo venture, I just want to be part of a band. I think I will always be cynical to the end and a loner and I enjoy my solitude, but that doesn't mean I don't want to be part of the band as a unit."
Sounds: There's been rumors you were offered two million apiece to get
Ritchie: "I thought that might come up. I'd heard that too. It's not true as far as I know, but someone might be keeping it from me. Somebody might be having four and I'm not having bugger all."
Sounds: There's also been rumors you've taken over the band, sent them off
to health farms to shape up. Was it a case of being too proud to let the
thing become a Spinal Tap farce?
Ritchie: "When I first got back together with the rest of the lads, I knew the music would be always be there, but there were obviously a few things that were very apparent that had to be slightly changed or changed dramatically. It was 'well lads, if we're going to get back together we can't turn out like five old men' [Blackmore's 39; Lord is oldest at 43], we have to get down and discipline ourselves a little bit.
"Discipline is the important word, I think. I like to lead a semi- disciplined life, and rock and roll is not wining and dining and just drinking. You can't go onstage looking like a fat elephant - or you can; Leslie West has proved that! I never actually said to them 'you have to go a health farm and slim down'. But I think they got the impression I might have said that. I gave them the evil eye or something, but I didn't actually say anything."
Sounds: You're in the unique position of being the only person to have had
his own band immediately prior to the reunion - Blackmore's Rainbow as
opposed to Glover's Rainbow or Lord's Whitesnake. Did it give you more
authority, or is the band an equal partnership?
Ritchie: "Exactly that. Nobody demanded it, it just came about that way as the way should be. Everybody is as important as the next person. There's always favorites from the fans. But there's five very strong musicians, and that's how I like to leave that. I write the foundation of a song and construction and the riffs and the general shape of the song. "Roger will put in some of the refinements, some of the lyrics, and he's very important on the production side. He's very happy in that vein - that's far too tedious for me. I can't stand pushing phasers for 16 hours a day. I had too much of studios way back. I think - I did a lot of sessions and I'm sick of seeing the inside of a studio."
Sounds: In the old days, five people used to get the credit for one song.
Ritchie: "That has changed. Writing-wise it's always been basically three people and it's still those same three people. Writing credits are very difficult. Everybody wants to be a writer. Sometimes someone might think they've written something just by turning up to a rehearsal of that particular song. It gets very confusing; I wish someone would do something about it. Maybe Maggie Thatcher will...The music is what really counts."
Sounds: Did it have to be this line-up?
Ritchie: "Yes, it had to be this line-up. Because in my book I think the most creative we ever were, the most identity we ever established, was with this exact line-up. Obviously it could have been any line-up because the would have all been there quick enough, no matter what they say! But it was established years ago that this had to be it. "There is an identity that this Purple has that I didn't find with all the other members of Rainbow. I left Deep Purple because I thought I wanted to go a different way; I wanted to experiment with all different musicians and do a similar type of music, but I felt that the band in general becoming lazy at the time,'74, and they were creeping towards that soul/r&b thing, and I was going' no, it has to be rock and roll'. "So I left and experiment with my own stuff, but after seven or eight years of doing that I've got out my system. And I think they've done the same thing. There's still a great - I won't say 'spark' because it's a great flame within the Purple line-up that we have; there is a chemistry within these five people, some sort of rhythm; it's a pulse; and it does work. That helps."
Sounds: When Purple broke up, you were all at each other's throats,
everyone straining to get their extra bit of ego in. Has that changed?
Ritchie: "Now we all respect each other. I suppose we're more sensible. Because we're older - contrary to what the press may say, we're actually older! And we haven't mellowed at al, it's funny.
"But I'll listen more to the next person and I think they might listen more to me. There never was any egos, actually, within Deep Purple. "Funnily enough, having played with about 30 others musicians throughout Rainbow, there were more egos involved in that, and that's why most of the band was changed. Ian Gillan for instance, has a strange ego-he never says 'I want to do this or that', he hears something and he genuinely gets excited, which is amazing.
"Then we have Jon - sometimes his punctuality's bit out of order, but his ego is not. He's such a gentleman, such a nice guy, I just wish he would turn up more on time. Roger - I still don't think he has an ego. I suppose I'm the only one who has an ego, but in the way that I know what I want to do, 'I really think this is right', as opposed to the ego of saying 'I want to be a star and be onstage and get noticed'."
Sounds: So you had no thoughts of going solo then?
Ritchie: "No, I wouldn't want to. I have nothing to say as Ritchie Blackmore, solo artist; maybe in two years. At the same time I am playing better than I ever did. That's my opinion, which is really the opinion I listen to the most."
Sounds: Were you very positive in the beginning, once you decided to get on
with Purple, or wary?
Ritchie: "A bit of both. There were days when I was very wary and I said no, this not going to work, and there were other days, once we actually started playing, when I knew it was going to work. Before that I wasn't quite sure, as I hadn't heard them for so long."
Sounds: You hadn't kept up with what they were doing then? No competitive
edge or anything?
Ritchie: "No, not at all. I never heard one thing Ian did with Black Sabbath, I think I heard two tracks Whitesnake did, one recently which I thought was good. I never kept up with them at all. Trying to pick up the BBC World Service one day I picked up France and they had Ian Gillan on four tracks, they were doing a program on his LP I think and it sounded very good.
"I just wasn't interested. I was into medieval music, I wasn't really into rock and roll. I love to play rock and roll, but the only bands I ever listened to were Ozzy Osbourne - he was good - and Ronnie Dio's band's good. I just listen to classical. I had no idea what they were going to be like. I kept my fingers crossed. We were taking a change - I hadn't spoken to them for so long, they could have been into drugs really heavily, anything could have happened. But it didn't, it all worked out really well, so far."
Sounds: Do you see this as long-term thing?
Ritchie: "Well, I don't know. I think we've discovered a lot of avenues of rock music that appeal to us and I would like to follow those up. I think if the fans or the mass in general turn around and give a definite thumbs- down, then we might all go 'ah, we weren't right to come back together'."
Sounds: Do you seriously think that might happen?
Ritchie:"I'm a pessimist to the end. Eternal cynicism, that's my thing. You can never sit back and say 'this will obviously be a success because it's good'. In this day and age, being good and being musical and in tune usually goes against you, and that's what throws the whole issue. I don't think music has really been popular; I think fashion is what's popular. Fashion is a thorn in an musician's side."
Sounds: Are you keeping Rainbow going on the side, just in case? Ritchie: "I could, but I don't think it's fair. The music is kind of similar. I might do some instrumental stuff on the side, but I haven't really thought about it. I thought it would be nice to have both; Rainbow is total self-indulging on my part. The Purple thing is almost selfindulging, not quite."
Sounds: Have you ever woken up in sweat thinking "Jesus, I've done my best
to be a good guitar player all my life, and all they really want me to do
is fall back on Deep Purple?
Ritchie: "No. I felt that there were so many people who respected what I did with Rainbow - I knew within myself I played ten times better with Rainbow than I ever played with Purple. There will be a lot of 'Oh no he didn't's because there were a lot of historic landmarks made with Purple because I can do both, play in a subtle manner for those people who are highly critical, and yet be accepted by the mass...I'm the type of person, I'm too angry too critical of myself ever to fall back on something. There are some nights I do that on stage but no, I couldn't let myself do that. I might get drunk one night and say let's do it for a laugh, but the next day I'd sober up and go, what am I doing? Obviously each one of Deep Purple has something to offer."
Sounds: What do you expect to get most out of being back in Purple?
Ritchie: "It would be a thrill to have it accepted without all the bullshit of 'they're too old to do this', old news. My favorite artist is Bach, who's 300 years old. Music and woman should never be dated. I don't want to get anything out of being back in Purple."
Sounds: So it's quite simple the best place for you to make music at the
Ritchie: "I think it's one of the best places to be. I try to take into consideration the negative points and I end up with very confused attitude sometimes, by nit bursting with joy and saying 'this is wonderful' as some people might do. Because I don't think I could do that, even if I saw the Gates of Heaven open up I'd go, well let me inspect this first, I might be in the wrong place. I never know."
JON LORD talks to me 24 hours later, both nursing hangovers. He's even more the gentleman than Ritchie described, far less cynical, in fact exuberant about the reunion and the record.
When I asked him at the end what he wanted to get most of being back in Purple, he answered, "Immediate satisfaction and possibly a brilliant way of finishing my career as rock musician."
Finishing? If Purple doesn't work out, that's it? "I think so,"he nodded."Yes." It's really that important to him. "yes, I've discovered that being out of Deep Purple is not as much fun as being in it, so that's why I'm convinced that this is not going to falter after a year, but if it did I really don't think I'd have the motivation to do anything else. Towards the end of last year, I had decided to leave Whitesnake anyway for all sorts of reason, but some of them were musical reasons - I wasn't terribly thrilled with the way things were going. I did feel that I wasn't getting anywhere. I felt - I don't think there is anything David could have done about this - like a backing musician, which is not a nice thing to feel when you've been, "he laughs, "a fronting musician, if there is such an opposite. So I think because of the way I felt then, if this failed I would still feel the same, that perhaps it would be time to stop. Therefore I've got to work at it.
"Because I've found that all I really want to do in life is play the kind of organ and keyboards that I'm allowed to play, I can play, in Deep Purple, and other bands for me don't make it."
Sounds: I didn't know what music to expect from the new Deep Purple. It
could have been commercial, AOR rock to get the dollars flowing in, or else
completely spacey, selfindulgent '70s stuff.
Jon: "Ritchie jokingly said we should call the album, 'At Last The 1974 Album'! We didn't want to sound like 1974, we wanted to sound like 1984, current without throwing away any identity we might have. And as for sounding like Foreigner or American AOR, no way we wanted sound like that either. "But when it all came down to it, and without sounding smug, it was so easy. It took us a week to get the smiles off our faces! In fact they're still there I think. With the benefit of time and being able to sit and think about it, I think we know why the fighting started, and it was induced by just too much work. We were worked out of our brains, used as a license to print money by some people, although we were initially willing victims obviously, but we should have put our collective foots down to stop the bandwagon."
"In '72 we spent 43, 44 weeks alone on the road in America alone, and we certainly won't get pushed into that kind of thing again. No-one's naive enough to think they're going to get through the whole thing without any arguments - I'd be almost disappointed if we did. We're five individual people with very strong personal ideas, so there's going to be tension. But I'm not too worried.
"See, the whole reason for us getting back together again is a desire to do it, and so having accepted that basic standpoint it would be stupid of us start rocking the boat by coming on at each other like gangbusters. So there's a good feeling about it. It's almost like putting a new band together, which it is in a way."
Sounds: In that case, why did it take so long to get back together?
Jon: "I always had my view of how it should be done. With monotonous
regularity people have said, 'why don't you do it?' but the only reason they
ever gave me was 'you'll make a fortune, man'. True enough if it works, but
that was the only reason that was ever given - not by the members of the
band but by outside interests.
"And to me, however tantalizing that may appear, I can say with my hand on my heart that it would be a disaster if that were the only reason. No way would I want to do that. That would be living in the past instead of learning from it - which is Mr Coverdale's phrase which he keeps throwing at me."
Sounds: He wasn't happy about it then?
Jon: "He was not happy, no. I'll give him his due, he did say - not in so many words -'go get 'em!' But again I think even David was talking money, and what nobody realizes was the five people involved have actually made quite a bit in the past, we're not exactly poor - not millionaires but we don't actually need to go out and work, we're not desperate."
Sounds: Unlike Rod Evans?
Jon: "Yes, the poor guy was trying to breed Alsatians in the California desert, I think he probably got a bit desperate! My idea was always's, let's look on it in a way as a new band, make an album for a start so that we don't have to play the old numbers, with new material and new way of working at things and so on. Ian Gillan agreed to that immediately, Ian Paice agreed immediately, and we learnt - the English three - that the American two had thought it over and it was a good idea to meet and discuss reasons, policies, ways to go."
Sounds: By all accounts you and Ritchie never saw eye to eye, even hated
each other's guts.
Jon: "No, we never hated. But we were never close friends; never will be - we're chalk and cheese. But I like him a lot and I think he likes me enough to tolerate me, and we started the damned band all those years ago so we've got something in common. Ours has always been a slightly uneasy relations hip; the things I like are a lot different to what Ritchie likes - not necessarily music, but the way I live my live is totally different from the way Ritchie does. "Those tensions I mentioned earlier, they manifested themselves on us in a bad way - we did go head-to-head a couple of times, no fisticuffs ever but lousy rotten arguments. But I was talking to Ritchie last night about it; I see absolutely no reason why we should ever be like that again. The passage of time does help, you know, in getting rid of those, because you can look back and see the larger scale of things, you're not so deep inside anymore."
Sounds: Absence makes the heart grow fonder?
Jon: "It certainly did. We went for dinner after the first meeting, consumed a bit of wine, you know how musicians get when they're together: 'You remember that time in Cologne?' and all this; stories that must be as boring as hell to the people sustain musicians through endless nights, they started coming out, and then we just said to each other,'why not just go for it?'."
Sounds: Did you make this album as a definitive Deep Purple statement with
the idea of just sitting back afterwards and living off the royalties?
Jon: "Absolutely not. It's going to be a band - God knows how long it's going to go on for, all sorts of influences are going to govern that, but without wanting to put too restricted a point on it, I would say a few years is not too much to ask for it. I don't see any reason why it shouldn't do three or four albums and three or four tours minimum - no record company in the world would sign us up for the kind of money we were asking for one album."
"I refuse on the other hand to go back on the merry-go-round at quite the speed and intenseness we were on it before. In that respect we're very lucky, we can pick and choose a bit now, because before we got locked into a mad thing that wouldn't let us go, the rush for success, the big buck at the end of the rainbow - ha! I can see that as a headline: They've done it, they've gone for the pot of gold at the end of the Rainbow!"
Sounds: Did you ever consider another line-up apart Mark Two Purple?
Jon: "Never. It's not intended to be hurtful, but you can't make omelettes without breaking eggs, and this particular omelette needed these five eggs and not any other ones. I never felt ever again after 1974 totally comfortable with the band. I'm not having a go at Coverdale - I've no need to; he's my friend. We don't see eye to eye on everything and this is one thing we don't see eye to eye on - he is occasionally scathing. "And I couldn't possibly be scathing about this. It was my life for so many years, it brought me success, an incredible amount of happiness, and I have the highest regard for it, which i why I'm so thrilled that's back together. I thought when Ian and Roger left, most of the heart went out of it, and when Ritchie left we should have stopped then. It all had life then, it spat fire."
"With David and Glenn it became comfortable, and its roots got bent; a sort of soul element came into it which finally took it over and destroyed it, when Glenn decided he was God -the 'G' on his t-shirt didn't stand for Glenn! And poor old Tommy, God rest his soul, was out of his depth in this kind of music, he didn't understand what Purple audiences wanted and needed, and we ended up with an album that was absolutely nothing to do with Deep Purple. So sad things happened. This is about the most exciting thing that's happened to me since 1974, I'd say, I'm thrilled to bits."
Sounds: How can you prevent it from becoming just a nostalgia band.
Jon: "By being brutally honest at rehearsals, being self-critical at every turn. Because it's not a nostalgia trip; it's five guys who used to play together, who still enjoy playing together, and wanting to play together again. If that's the definition of nostalgia, then I'm all for it. We're not living in the past - we've learnt from the past, and what we've learnt we'll be using in the present. I understand why people say that, but I don't think they've thought it through."
Sounds: It's the easiest conclusion to jump to.
Jon: "Let them go for it, I've got the skin as thick as the River Thames, they won't get through to me by doing that! On the other hand, I would hope that they give us the benefit of the doubt by listening it it rather than damming it out of hand. One thing I read was 'I see Deep Purple have finally made up their minds to get back together - ho-hum!'
Someone else said 'They must have finally ran out of money' -that's an obvious one. "Okay, have the digs, this band is big enough to take it. But I'd like everyone to give themselves the change to listen to it. I'm immensely proud of this album. In my book, it might well turn out to be the best Deep Purple album ever to date."
Sounds: Did you write anything on it?
Jon: "All the major writing came from Ritchie. He must have a stockpile of things he'd been saving because he's come up with some classical material, and anything that I had didn't even come close to that so I didn't put it forward. I want this to be just so good that I'm not going to foist a piece of secondrate material on the band just because I want to get publishing money. I'm sounding like a goody-two-shoes and I'm not - the halo's going to slip in a minute and strangle me. I'm just telling you the truth." "Ian and Roger wrote the words, but I think Ian Paice and I will be represented on a couple of songs, and the lion's portion is Ritchie. I'm paying him a huge compliment here because he deserves it: this particular band couldn't exist in my book without Ritchie; he's the absolute kingpin - the kind of music he writes, the kind of guitar he plays, is essential for it to work. Having said that, it's still a democratic band."
Sounds: Do you think you'll get any new fans, young kids who've heard Deep
Purple records only when their dads play them?
Jon: "Or their grandads as some people would say! I'd be disappointed if we didn't. All the time I was in Whitesnake I met a lot of the public who were very young and they'd say, 'are you ever going to get back together?' and I'd say 'I don't think so' and they'd say 'that's not fair, we never saw you; we got the records but we never saw you'.
"Apparently we're still selling a lot of the back catalogue to 13, 14, 15- year-old. I think the initial sales of the album will go to the dyed-in- the-wool Purple fanatics from way back, walk out of their semi-detached in Surbiton, tell the kids to shut up and go out and buy the new album! "The kind of music we're making, though, is being bought by any age group which is larger than most styles of music- from early teens right to early 30s."
Sounds: What has the new Deep Purple got that the old one hasn't? Jon: "What the new Deep Purple has got is all the old Deep Purple had, because it's the same people, plus an added addition of ten years experience of playing on the road, right out there in the firing line. The musicians in it have never gone away, so the collective experience now is huge. "it's also got an intense desire to succeed. Success itself - I'm not talking necessarily in monetary terms - is a very heady potion. Once you've had it it's very difficult not to have it anymore."