[% META title = 'Ritchie Blackmore, Interviews' %]
Ritchie Blackmore doesn't very often give interviews, but once in a while he takes the time to do so. When was the last interview again? Two, three years ago? One could notice this because Ritchie had a lot to tell. Dave Ling asked the questions.
I have to admit it is a strange sensation to have to go all the way to a restaurant in Connecticut for an interview, but in the case of a living legend like Ritchie Blackmore one doesn't make a fuss about it. If someone like Ritchie Blackmore is prepared to talk an ocean is not an obstacle of any importance. Certainly not when his band is about to embark on a world tour and release an album just before that. Ritchie had a lot to say not just about this, but also about his personality.
In the meantime we're sitting at a table talking. I comment that Ritchie is not well known for giving many interviews.
R> "No, but to be honest, I like it this way. I tend to spare nobody when I'm talking. Not everybody appreciates this. You can understand that."
Ritchie Blackmore has been living in America since 1974 for several reasons.
R> "Officially I live here because of the high taxes In England of course, but surely there are more reasons. I can walk into a club here without being disturbed by a lot of annoying people around me. In England there's always this strange atmosphere and everybody's nervous. Here, everybody does what he wants to, to have fun. Not so worked up. In America people aren't irritated very quickly, but on the other hand they aren't as creative as in Europe. In England they are very trendy; one month band X is very popular, one month later band Y is and nobody remembers band X."
Do you blame the media for the way they treated Deep Purple?
R> "Well, I stopped reading most of it. They've always tried to humiliate us, but in the meantime I started to realise that they can't harm us anymore. We have proven that we're right. But they haven't given up. They now attack the people around us, who work with us. I think this is really pathetic of the press, but I can laugh about it. Sometimes I think we just shouldn't have released the album, then they would leave everybody alone. That's why I never go to press conferences and stuff. You'll never see me as a spokesman for the band either. I'd be happy to say that I didn't like the last album very much now, if the press would want to hear this. The Engliah press in my eyes means nothing. I remember a story about Paul McCartney in Melody Maker in which they almost nailed him to the cross. Would you believe, the best songwriter we've had this century and then dare to say that he has too much money and make up some bull about him. They would've done the same shit to Beethoven I think."
The last time I saw you in London was at the Marquee at a Chariot gig. Do you have many opportunities to see new bands?
R> "It's nice to go to such a club, but it's annoying when someone comes up to me all the time. For an autograph. And why do they do it? I can imagine that Rod Stewart likes giving autographs because he's pure showbusiness. I however don't go to clubs to show off and to be seen, and certainly not to make statements. I just want to be able to quietly watch a band. This reminds me of my youth. You think about what it was like playing in clubs like that and all the good memories come back again."
You have a lot of nice memories of the early days?
R> "Not just good ones of course. The hungry days were mostly nice times but I often played with musicians I hated, too. Some of them were real snobs who only wanted to see the negative sides of playing rock'n'roll. This was really bad when I played with Screaming Lord Sutch And The Savages. One half of the band consisted of rock and rollers, the other half were jazz soloists. They drove me nuts. There were good times though, especially in the Star Club in Hamburg in 1955/56."
What bands do you listen to nowadays?
R> "I have actually never listened to bands very much, much more to separate musicians. I have been listening a lot to a band called Mannheim Steamrol- ler lately. They play christmas songs, but they way they do it is truely fabulous. They use very strange chord progressions."
Is he trying to fool me or what? Do you still listen to classical music a lot?
R> "Absolutely, but not as much as I used to. I used to listen to classical music of the 17th century and onwards much more, now I also listen to medieval music, which is not so moving. I believe in reincarnation, life after death, so I try to combine everything. With contemporary rockgroups one doesn't get very far. I've heard it all before, only they play every- thing a lot faster nowadays."
What do you think of Metallica?
R> "I've heard about them, but never heard their music. There are a lot of very good guitar players nowadays, but the bands are mediocre. The guit- arists stick out in quality. The new trend among guitarists seems to be to go from A to B as quickly as possible without really playing. I guess this is the way it should be, but I don't care. I'd like to hear at least a few notes. Many contemporary guitarists have the ability to impress, but the one man who towers above all the others in Steve Vai (guitarist for David Lee Roth). he is absolutely brilliant. Not just because he can play any style, but especially because he can write. His solos are all written down carefully and are all small masterpieces."
What do you think of Yngwie Malmsteen? After listening to his new album "Trilogy" a few times, I believe it is the Rainbow Rising of the eighties. Ritchie agrees.
R> "If he's honest he'll have to admit that himself, too. Many people ask me how I feel about him. Usually I don't like imitators but he is very good. Not many people know this but we actually know eachother very well. Don't be mistaken, Yngwie works very hard to be this good. He'll certainly get there."
Now, two years after the release of 'Perfect Strangers', how do you feel about it? Be honest please. After a long silence there's finally an answer.
R> "I really don't know what to say, I don't like looking back."
Roger Glover has said at the time of Perfect Strangers that it was going to be an album for the Deep Purple fans, but that after this there would be more experimenting. What's the deal?
R> "Roger Glover talks from his ass. Roger is a nice guy, but he makes many comments he later regrets. We didn't make our latest album for the fans, but for ourselves. Our fans are our fans because they are ok with this and not because we write what anybody would want to hear. Our fans want what we want, otherwise we wouldn't have any fans."
How do you see your new album in comparison to 'Perfect Strangers'?
R> "George Bodnar of Kerrang recently asked me the same question and what I answered was that I like the new album. He said that in that case it had to be a VERY good album. I wouldn't go as far as saying I'm exited about it but I do play it quite often. And that's very unusual for me. Especially Ian's singing surprises me. He had an operation on his vocal chords and his voice sounds very full now and I'm very pleased with it. We DID spend quite a long time recording it, some tapes had almost worn out because we used them so much."
Back to your first album, almost twenty years ago. You then needed eighteen hours to record everything.
R> "We then recorded everything twice and put the best of two tries on the record. That first album is consequently not quite without mistakes."
Who was responsible for your reformation three years ago?
R> "When I had been on stage with Rainbow for quite some time I came to realise that many people only came to watch, because I had played in Deep Purple. Rainbow was my responsibility and at one time I grew tired of that because I had to do everything myself. The rest of the musicians were only making money. That's what made them extremely lazy and quite a few changes took place. When I was fed up with this I visited Gillan during Christmas and asked him to come and sing with Rainbow. He immediately said no and then we got drunk. Then it remained quiet for a while. Some years later he organised it himself. My own singer was getting on my nerves and I knew it would be hard to find a new one. This boy was... I don't like picking on other musicians, but sometimes I do... he was an enormous obstacle. He was a nice guy, but then he started taking drugs and he thought he was the best. I observed this for a year and then told him to quit. I was walking around with this Purple thing all the time and then decided to let Rainbow die. I thought it was time to return. When Ian had left the band we DID have more respect for what happened in 1972/74. We were a lot younger and rebelled against everything and everybody, whatever we did. It took us ten years to look back and to be able to say: 'Yes, it was really good'. That's how we got together again."
If you had to give one reason for the split, what would be it?
R> "Oh the split", he groanes. "It was inevitable. Just like the notorious seven year marriage. One has to get out and that's hard. Many bands I liked have split in their seventh year. It's really quite funny, that I wanted to form a band with Phil Lynott. It would consist of Phil, Ian Paice and myself. We would be a trio. We have made a few albums. That was in 1972/73. I said to Ian: 'Well, that was it. I'm leaving.' And he said he would stay with me and asked me if it was a wise decision. I was just fed up with everybody."
Did you have any doubts, after you had decided to reform?
R> "Oh yes, it was a great risk, but I thought it would be nice. I saw Ian at the Marquee with his band and he was just fantastic and he told me I had to hurry, because otherwise he'd join Black Sabbath. But it was a slow process, which took about four or five years."
When did you realise it was going to work?
R> "I think this was at the first part of our Australian tour. The thing that struck me there was that there really was a great demand for this kind of music. ZZ-top was the only band that made such music. Every other group played like The Police. I can say that I hate The Police. There was no other band that played this wordly rock. Our music is not very much thought out and without any glamour."
Roger once said that he is convinced of the fact that Deep Purple will always stay together and that the world needs it. What do you think of such comments?
R> "That's a heavy comment, and Roger doens't even take drugs. I do think he's right. This is the kind of promotional things the record companies like to hear. As long as the world is not desperate for The Police everything is alright by me."
Most people are surprised that the band had made a second come-back album. Most of them suspected that you were going to collect your money and disappear off the stage.
R> "That's true! After we had recorded the album many people asked us what we would do next. Everybody thought it was just a one-off thing. It was interesting to watch the reactions. Everybody automatically assumed I was going to reform Rainbow."
It's nice to know that you're going to do a whole tour this time and not just one show as then in Knebworth.
R> "I don't look at it as a tour. I see it more as travelling with my guitar, without having to worry about light shows etcetera. Otherwise you'd only worry about competition and try to beat all the other groups."
I remember that you exchanged instruments with Roger during "Smoke On The Water"
R> "Yes", Ritchie laughs. "He is in fact a frustrated guitar player. When we did that for the first time, he didn't know what happened to him."
It looks as if Roger Glover is not the first to be made a fool of on stage by Ritchie's special kind of humor. Just think of Joe Lynn Turner, who at one time was on stage on his own, as could be seen during a Rainbow concert in the Michael Sobell Sport Centre in London. He was all alone on stage, while the rest of the band was laughing themselves to death in the dressing room...
R> "Yes, I think it was like that", he answers with a sadistic smile. "I gave the drummer a sign to stop, I played four notes and we all left the stage and left him there on his own. He wasn't the type of guy who could laugh about something like this. He wanted to use this moment to put himself in the picture. Until now we haven't done this to Gillan, but this might happen."
Hardly the words of a depressed assh*le, right? There's still the question whether he is really as bad as they say, or did I just meet him on a good day?
R> "If you stick around a little, you'll notice the melancholy later this day. I think it is a normal characteristic, that is being overestimated. Just because I worry about the things we do. But I'm also a hypocrite. I don't always believe everything I say, at least not when it's about rock'n'roll."
Do you enjoy showing all your emotions during interviews?
R> No, I'm too vulnerable, too sensitive. One moment I'm the sweetest person on earth, the next moment I don't give a damn about what people think of me. Often I don't even know what to love about myself. Sometimes friends call me up and notice right away that I want to be left alone."
Finally, one more question: Are you happy with the situation you're in now?
R> At the moment I feel happy, I am happy, but what is happiness?"