[% META title = 'Deep Purple, Interviews' %]
Here's the complete transcription of an interview conducted by Dennis Karlsson friday 8 mars,1996. The transcription was done by me (as my family are well aware of since they didn't see you much of me during easter holiday! ) As I said in a mail to amdp the contents of this interview will be used as basis for several articles Dennis is commissioned to write for local papers where Purple is playing this summer in Sweden. But for the historical vaults here on the official WWW DP-pages - here's the full interview, nearly word for word accurate. Pleasant reading!
DK So you're embarking on the largest UK tour since the seventies. I guess it's not a coincidence that you started this tour here in England
RG I don't think so, no.
SM It's weird because we arrived here just at the same time just as if someone had planned it. I was at rehearsal at the same time as you was.
RG No coincidence. Since you're question really concerns Britain, it's true that we've largely ignored England for the past 10-12 years, since the reunion. And basically the decision making machine within the band has changed so that we can actually sit down and talk to each other and make decisions these days, which we couldn't do in the old days or at least it wasn't as easy.
And Steve doesn't obviously have any feelings about this, one way or the other, but for the four others there was no question that there was going to be a comprehensive tour of Britain. There's been a lot of talk over the years. At one point there was this idea of a transit tour, playing the old clubs with just the back line, a bit like Wings did when they first formed. But it never came to fruition and all the talk never resolved itself into anything, so here we are.
SM It works though. We've done it with plenty of advance notice so if anybody wanted to go see Deep Purple, then there's really no excuse. We're playing somewhere near.
RG Tickets went on sale well before the album was finished. It's a decision taken that far back. Before we even had an album title.
DK So you felt this before you knew how the album would turn out.
RG Well, we didn't know how the album would turn out, but we certainly knew how the spirit of the band was. There was no doubt that it was going to be at the very least an interesting album.
SM We had the tunes done and we knew it was going to be good. I did.
RG All the writing... I mean we had the first five or six weeks of getting together and wrote most of the stuff on the album. I say most because when we actually started recording we continued writing and we couldn't stop writing. It was a great feeling, great vibe in the band, so we did all those tunes in the first few weeks.
DK So, Steve, you're the guy responsible for this newfound enthusiasm in the band.
SM No, it's really the band. They decided to go on. I imagine there was a pretty gloomy meeting the day that the guys were going to the gig and Ritchie wasn't there, and they decided on their own that they were going to keep on. The way I understand it, the history of it all was that when they very successfully did the tour with Joe Satriani, there was kind of no question that the band could exist. The four out of five original guys from Machine Head, you know, that's more than most band could ever hope to have. So when it came time to think about the album it just ment finding the right combination, chemistry between personalities. I think that's almost the whole thing. Musically there's lots of people, I mean LOTS of people, who can play the guitar. Nobody can keep up with the numbers, it's a huge industry in the states. It's all about ingredients. Finding the right chemistry is like finding the right girlfriend or something. You're going to a blind date. You don't know what's going to happen. It could be good, it could be bad.
RG That's very true. We had a blind date with Steve, and Steve at that point was a guitar player and at that point was all he was. I've seen Steve from afar for many many years but he was still a guitar player coming into the band, but very quickly he became a friend, and that's an ingredient that you can't really count on. So his is the energy, but it really is the energy of the whole band finding itself again in a very groovy situation.
DK There must have been a number of decisions to make...
DK [laughs)... the set list, stage show etc.
RG I can't tell you how.. , we were like little kids again in the studio, going through a renewal process. When the writing session went so well.., it wasn't so much that it went well, it just was easy, it was just effortless. Every day we would go in and at the end of the day there would be another idea, or two, or three, or jams or whatever. Steve's contribution to the writing process was just wonderful and crucial. Not just because of his ideas and his playing but because of the positive attitude that he brought to it. One of the bug bases over the years, since 1973 in fact, has been publishing, writing credits, who writes what, who gets what. It's been like a shadow over the proceedings, that over time, had turned into an absolute storm. It kills the creative process because in the back your mind you're thinking other things. You're not putting a 100% of your efforts into what you should be doing. You should just be concentrating on the music. We really didn't have a discussion about it, it felt natural, and Steve's ideal. Even if the guy is in the room and he doesn't actually write the tune but just either gives his agreement or criticises something, in the nicest possible way, that's almost as much a part of the writing process as actually coming up with the idea. In a rock band situation, writing country music isn't quite the same or writing tin-pan alley pop music doesn't count the same but this is rock music and it's all about attitude, and the attitude of a song come from whoever's in the room, the chemistry of the people there, that really make it happen. And this kind of attitude is really what fuelled the band and the band really came alive. I've had this dream, for many years, of being in a band where you stand around in a circle and anyone can say anything, there's no fear, no fear of being shot down in flames. In a way you have to be amongst friends to be able to do that. To be a writer is to stand naked. It is to say "well this is my idea", and someone say "you call that an idea?" That sort of curls you up into a little ball and you crawl under a rock and die. And that's been happening all the time until this situation. Then all of a sudden everyone could just open up and stand naked in front of everyone, not literally, [laughs) except Ian Gillan who is always naked underneath his clothes [laughs).
SM For me too, it was wonderfully refreshing to just put forward whatever we were trying as an idea, instead of... it's so subtle, so subtle... somebody can just look up like this [SM with a condescending look) then look back down in the magazine when you suggest something. That alone, that body language, can just take the idea and squeeze it to death. But instead of that, there really was a positive attitude of "hey, you know that might work" or "hey, I just heard a tune here". Where we'd be playing something just not developed very far, in other words there's not a whole song, just one idea for a groove, and instead of saying "no, no come on, you expect me to deal with that? I need something like this", instead of that kind of attitude, Ian Gillan gets up, starts dancing around the room and goes "yeah, yeah, yeah" and that makes... it transformed... if just anyone in the room had shown a bad attitude, it would never have happened. I don't know, what do you call it?
RG It comes out of respect. A great deal of respect for everyone to everyone, and I really think it's helped not just with the writing but the playing. I don't think I've heard Ian Paice like this... ever. I think he is better now than he ever was. When he was younger he had a lot of fire, not a lot of discipline. Then in the eighties, he learned the discipline but lost the fire. Now he's got both. To me he's a man transformed... transformed. As is Jon Lord.
Jon, I mean... Ian Gillan and I, through the eighties and stuff, we used to talk about things we could change in the band and what we could do, and we used to talk about lighting a fire under Jon. Because we felt there was a giant talent that was just going to waste. His ideas were never nurtured, never listened to and he'd just given up. He was just going through the motions. But there's no need to light that fire now, the fire is burning brightly.
And I'm playing, probably for the first time in my life, like a bass player. I feel like a bass player. Before, I always felt there was no control of what I did. What I did had to sort of fit and there was always this struggle to find a space where I could work and now I have all the space in the world. Anything can happen.
SM Yeah, just some scenes to you; I'd been trying to get some rhythm part and nail it down with Ian Paice. Ian Paice, and everyone, had worked with click tracks to keep the tempos down, which I really wanted to do and Roger comes in and says "I got another bass today!". He plugs in and just plays through the whole song, like... perfect take. And I'm sitting "wow, that's great!", but Roger, he's not paying any attention to me going "wow". He just like "I don't know, maybe I should play it all over again?". He picks up a new bass, goes all the way through the song, plays everything perfect, and then "I don't know? I go get some coffee and think about which bass I want to do". Meanwhile I go "woohoho!".
And earlier that day, Ian Paice with headphones on, listen to a click track. Sit there going "alright" and thinking about something he's going to change and... It's a song we recorded the day before, that sounded perfect to me. He just wants to change something, because the guitar was leaking onto the drum track or something. For some SMALL reason he's going to redo the WHOLE thing! And he's just like "ok, let's do it". And it's four and a half minutes of double bass drum stuff. You know, like in some Death Metal bands, a guy might specialise in double bass drums, his life is double bass drums. He spends six hours a day with the double bass drums and just getting angry with it, and Ian Paice just...[impersonates Ian Paice yawning)... Double bass drums, perfectly swinging along. Gets all the way through the take and I'm sitting there going "wohoho, that was a great take!". He comes out just "well I don't know? Maybe I'll... the snare drums are ringing a bit...maybe I'll just do it again and try to loosen up that..." and I go "No, no, no! Keep it, it's great! The bass drums, all the way through, don't erase that!". "Oh, it's no problem". He goes in and does it again and it's like AMAZING and I'm sitting there saying "Ian that was great! You're like a studio drummer or something!". Which might not translate well over here but is a huge compliment in the states.
Jon Lord and I are trading solos in another session and it's like "all right, let's do it. One, two, three, four" and I'm just kind of getting warmed up here thinking "what am I going to play here" and Jon just... he just NAILS something, he just...as soon as it's time to play, he goes from like this [SM looking noble) to this monster, you know, diving and attacking the keyboard, playing all this great phrasing that you just don't hear anywhere. I'm kind of a bit stunned "wooo, Jon, how fixed are you about this idea of us having to do this at the same time, because it's going to take me a few tries to catch up man!" And he just nails it every time.
RG The same goes for you. I heard you do a killer solo. I wanted to capture the moment. Maybe it wasn't going to work again. And you did this solo one day and I'm going "What a solo! That's great!" And you go "No, do it again!". I said "my instinct is to keep that and go on another track". "No, do it again". "Are you sure?". "Yup, do it again" and I realised then you're into you're own thing, so we rolled the tape again, erased that solo, and put an even better one down. And that happened all the time. You did about ten to twelve solos and they just kept getting better. That's what amazed me. The amount of good stuff coming out. It was consistent.
DK The succession of the songs seems to work particularly well on Purpendicular. One track just floats into the next one and it sounds very natural
RG I remember Beatles albums as any particular song died down you had that sort of mental sound of the next one coming up, as if it were part of the same chord process and it always appealed to me that a song following another song somehow fitted. They fitted because there's an instant key change or... maybe it was just similar, or whatever it could be. I don't like songs following each other to be in the same key. That's a big thing with me but it's not that important to other people.
What we did with this one was that we would write up all the songs and the keys and the times and then cut them up in bits of paper and putting them on top of a piano lid which is smooth so we could move things around and try different scenarios.
DK So how did the discussions go when you made decisions about the set list, the stage show, etc? You have new positions onstage now.
RG Well, the change of stage really came about because of Jon.
SM We were talking about "stage left" and "house left" and someone just got confused and mixed those two up [laughs)
RG The audience is certainly confused. i get all the people who like Ritchie and has come to get Steve a hard time. Now they're stuck in front of me.
SM if you can't tell the difference between an 18 inch speaker and a Marshall stack then they deserve it.
RG Jon said he was fed up with being, what we call, stage right. He just felt that he'd been there all his life really. And in lots of places you're stuck behind the PA so a good portion of the audience can't see you. And because he's static there's not much he can do about it. So he said "I wonder if there is any way that I can be in the middle somewhere?". So we discussed it and it seemed quite reasonable for the drums to move over a bit. Not the least for the reason there was always a problem before. As you look at the stage you see the drums in the middle, the guitarist stuck on one side of them and everyone else on the other side. It sort of gave an unbalanced look. Organ and bass amplification individually are bigger than guitar amplification, and they're together on one side. And it's, you know, unwieldy. We just figured by moving the drums over and having the two of them at the back, would balance things up. And Steve traditionally in all his other bands have been stage right and would feel more comfortable there. Then the question was whether I'd be comfortable on stage left and I didn't see any reason why I shouldn't. It's all slotted in very very nicely. I think that's just part of the renewal process and changing that was very important.
As much as changing the set list. The set list...no one really had any preconceptions until we started rehearsals. We had about nine days of rehearsals and no one had done anything prior to that.
We arrived at rehearsal "OK, what are we going to do?" so we made lists of all the songs we'd been playing, and a list of all the songs we liked to have a look at to see if they were any good. Songs like No one Came, Rat Bat Blue and Mary Long. We sent the roadies out to buy the records so we could learn them. And it was easy really, and I think in playing them they've changed as well. Bloodsucker is taking on a whole new thing just by playing it and certainly No one Came was one of the big surprises. It became a fantastic live number. And it's refreshing, it's a renewal, it's the new Deep Purple.'
DK Did you ever try to take these steps before?
RG Yeah, nothing happened. Actually one thing happened. We did Anyone's Daughter. That was the only thing that happened. We were looking to do Pictures of Home and When A Blind man Cries and a few others he just didn't want to do.
DK Roger, tell us about your feelings before and after the first gig in Plymouth.
RG I had a pain in my left foot. [laughs) The pain in my neck had thankfully gone by then. Actually I was strangely nervous. I'm not normally that nervous. I've very rarely been attacked by nerves. But after the rehearsal sessions, before the first show in Plymouth, I went to the hall to see the gear being set up and there were all these guys and chains and hoists and machines and boxes and plates and flight cases and action. All of this thing going on all over the stage and I was just the catering man [laughs) and I felt a sense of awe. All these people doing this work, lifting, using muscles, and what were they doing this for? They were doing this so that five people can get on that stage and indulge in their fantasies and... Christ I'm one of those five! It came as a sort of surprise. The feeling I had was that I really don't belong.
We had three days of sound and light rehearsals and I must admit I felt uncomfortable. I felt like I shouldn't be up there, that I should be among the others, pushing boxes around. But it wasn't so much nervousness, it was heightened anticipation that heightened the tension. I could sense it in the whole band. It was a big step and we were all dying to get that first show out of our way, because after that, after you've done the first one, everything else goes much more natural. And to top it all my father came over from Spain. The last thing you want is relatives around and having to look after people. I don't see him very often and I think he felt he wanted to see it. But the first show went, you know as first shows goes, pretty good.
We had a few problems, of course, but it really wasn't that bad and a great deal of relief afterwards. Then couldn't wait to do the next one. No we're blooded. We can go.
SM I felt somewhat like Roger said. I've never spent that much time rehearsing, waiting for this gig. So I was pretty much ready to go. I just wanted to get on playing. There'd been so much time sitting around at a dead place during these really lengthy rehearsals `cause there was always something happening that kind of slowed the process down. There was just this long period of ...
RG I don't know how you would fit in Rolling Stones. They'd be rehearsing for two or three months, not nine days.
SM Amazing, well it seemed the first gig took to long to get there but once we got onstage I said "alright, cool, this is going to be great" and it was fun and it just went so much easier knowing that the next day you had another gig instead of some more of long days of waiting.
RG Steve is a man of action. Sitting around doing nothing is not in your repertoire, really.
SM Normally I would just go to the gig a little early in the day and do a rehearsal, that's what I've been used to. This band could do it to, but the idea was to try different tunes. The rehearsal was more like setting up alternative things to try. And we didn't know what the set list should be. We just... it's been changing and it will change even more by the time we get to America.
DK The press in Scandinavia has in general been very positive about this new album, which hasn't been the case for many years. Has this been the same all over the world?
RG Probably, it's not out in the states yet.
SM There are people who's got it as imports and they've been very positive.
RG In general I'd say that there's a few diehard fans that see only mark II and that's it. And anything less than mark II is less. There'll always be those people and it's fine, it's a free world, but certainly I think it's infectious the feeling between the five of us. It's in the grove of the record and if you see us live you can sense it. The good news is going to spread.
DK With all due respect to the fans, but many of them will always like what you turn out and therefore when the press on a broader scale says they like it, there is a good chance this will reach outside of the hardcore fans.
RG There's a lot of talk about press and publicity, campaigns to bring attention to yourself, to get written about, talked about. I've always had the theory that it all comes from the music. Doing something that is not musical in order to get attention to yourself is not that important if you cant back it up with the music. That real attention comes from making such good music that people go out and buy in large numbers and when people buy in large numbers the press is going to come running after you. Going out and doing some stunt or whatever sometimes can help but not without good music.
I don't think we've had that, apart from a few odd bits and pieces of ideas...I can't say everything I've done for the past ten years has been for nothing and obviously I've worked very hard and it's never the intention to go into the studio and make a bad album. However because of the feelings in the band or lack of confidence within the band... I don't think we've put out a decent album in ten years and I think we've done ourselves an enormous amount of damage, where people, quite rightly, wright us off "Deep Purple, yeah, yeah, past". Now we have to do a lot of work to break new ground, to prove ourselves again, which is, I think, very good for us. We're in the process of rediscovering ourselves and by the same token we want everyone else to rediscover us. We have to go out and do it.
DK How confident were you about the response to Purpendicular before the release.
RG I felt it was a good album... but you get so emotionally involved in an album that when you finish it, you're a bit drained. It's like having a baby, you go through a post native depression. And I worried about it too. I'm a terrible worrier. I really wanted to recall the album, remix it, do the tracks again So I purposely didn't think about it, I didn't listen to it for two months.
SM Let me add here that Roger was the guy that was always there while things were happening. I mean everyone had their own contribution and everything but it's just that Roger pretty much saw everything happen and was really, really close to the project. So he didn't have the opportunity to be objective about it in the same way as, say, me. I would do my parts then I'd be off and do something else and then back again to listen to something. And it was the same for the other guys. But Roger he was always there. Whenever I did a part, Roger was there and could be my conscience while I was trying to record and he put a lot of time into it. And it's the same with the songwriting. I don't think a note were written while he weren't there.
DK So, finally do you feel encouraged now to take commercial steps in places where you haven't been so successful lately?
RG No, commercial doesn't come in to it. I think one of the lessons you learn as you get older is how to be yourself. It's the hardest thing to be. When you first pick an instrument you copy your heroes. Trying to be like your heroes, figure out how to play what they play, how they write, where they get their inspiration from. And it's a process of letting stimulus take you wherever it takes you. But then you start realising that you can start borrow ideas from here and there and everywhere and somehow put it in the mixer that is your brain and come out with something that is original for you or a slightly different view of it and... I mean nothing is original... but that's an important key to your own progression.The next key is to realise that if you listen to what is currently around and try and slot into it in some way, then when you're record is out that feeling is gone anyway, so the only thing to do is follow your own conscience and your own instinct. Because the band is a five piece band, over the years, that feeling of commerciality comes and goes. Sometimes in desperate moments you find yourself in a situation doing a song that you don't really mentally believe in, but someone else does very strongly. So you end up doing it anyway. The thought of being "commercial" on this album was never ever discussed. There was no thought of doing a radio friendly song or anything like that. It was just whatever happened in the studio that was natural to us, is what happened. None of us had any thoughts of which was going to be the big song. It was just... any song could be it because they were all undesigned in terms of "commerciality".
SM Except for my idea of the Barry Manilow medley. Nobody really liked that. [laughs)
DK But of course you wouldn't mind selling a lot of records.
RG Success is nothing to be avoided. It's great to be successful. It vindicates all the hard work. There's a reason to do it. You don't do it to make a flop. You do it to enjoy yourselves but you also do it because you want to turn people on to your music. That's an obvious thing. I think it was Jimi Hendrix who once said ages and ages ago when someone said "oh, all these pop hits, doesn't that take away your rock credibility?" and he said " hey it's not a bad thing when you walk into a pub and you have your song playing on the jukebox". It's, nothing wrong with that, it's nothing wrong with having a hit single. It's all the better if it's done on your terms. You don't have to get out and get some songwriting team do it. I was a great Bob Dylan fan and I couldn't figure out why he was so good because I thought everything he did was good. Even when he was breathing I thought he was great. Even a bit of grunt here and there, a badly played guitar... I still thought it was great. But I could never be a Bob Dylan because I was trying and he wasn't. He was just being himself. He just had that magic touch. That magic touch you either have or you haven't got it and I suddenly realised, in the making of this album, that I'm in a band that has that magic touch. We're not trying to be someone else. We just try to be ourselves. And whatever that is, that's the shape of it, whatever comes out naturally. So commercialising no. Selling records would be lovely. However if we don't sell records, to me the album is a huge success anyway. You always have to have that attitude. I've done solo albums that I knew wasn't going to be successful. But to me they were successful.