[% META title = 'Roger Glover, Interviews' %]
from Rock Express (Canada), vol 11, issue 110 - Feb/March 1987
PURPLE MOUNTAINíS MAJESTY
Is there life after legend?
Roger Glover says Deep Purple is living proof.
Historical perspective: Lenny Stoute
In the beginning there was Deep Purple. And it was good. There was no other like it. Deep Purple occupied an unknown middle ground between the Moodye Blues and Black Sabbath. It came to be known as progressive hard rock. Deep Purple were talented, egocentric and rich. And by í73, extinct. Some people say it should have been left that way. But there are untold fortunes hidden in the rock of the dead , so ambitious men pumped funds and formaldehyde into the lovingly mummified corpse of a once splendid thing and it stood up and walked about the land again.
"We obviously didnít do it for the money, although the offers made were significantly large. The thing is, people forget that each one of us in the band had gone on to solo projects that all had a measure of success. It wasnít that we failed to do the thing outside of Deep Purple, it was just that it felt better doing it with the people that made up Deep Purple.
"Deep Purple was never burnt out as a creative force. We came apart under the pressure of too much touring. This is a band of five very heavy individuals, so thereís always going to be a certain amount of friction. At the end of í73, what we needed to do was take six months or a year off and work out our differences. Instead, we got banged right back out on tour again, and that only worked to exaggerate our problems."
The creature walked among us in Ď85 with an album, Perfect Strangers, that was attended with more hype, and ultimately soared higher, than Halleyís Comet. The world tour that followed took on the proportions of a triumphal march, as date after date was added in each location. It was as if they never left.
"We were very surprised at how well Perfect Strangers did. We knew it would create some interest, since the rumours about us getting back together had been going around for many years. We expected it to be fairly successful, but in reality, we were totally blown away.
"Then when we got out on tour, it was absolutely great. I think itís the biggest and best tour weíve ever had, which is ironic coming after all these years. We cut our teeth in Australia, and the first show was in Perth. That one was really electric for us. I think everyone was nervous. We had no idea if a newer audience would accept us for what we were trying to do - which was something new and fresh, as opposed to wanting to hear all the old songs.
"Weíll always play some old stuff, but itís very important that we stress the material the band is writing now, because thatís what Deep Purple in í87 is about. Weíre not a museum piece yet, although we do forget all kinds of parts of the old songs all the time. Which isnít that amazing, since we donít listen to our own stuff."
Having spent most of í86 removing all the available loose cash from the greater part of the free world, Deep Purple got down to the serious business of cutting their second album. You know, the one that would once, and for all establish them as real, or fling them back on the fad heap along with tofu ice cream. The writing had started as far back as December of í85, but the mixing and matching and hair pulling went down in one frenzied six month period just after the world tour ended.
"Basically we only had three months between the tour and the deadline for the next record. Iíve always felt the second tour and album would be far more critical for us than the first one. The first had the `reunionī tag and that caused a certain amount of curiosity. I feel Perfect Strangers was a good enough album, but it really hung on the strengths of two or three great tracks and the rest, yeah, they could have been better.
"Coming up to the second , I took the position that if we ever considered ourselves a progressive band, then thatís what we should be in more than name. I feel there are a few more adventurous musical experiments, not necessarily technical, but musical as well, that we havenít covered yet.
"My position is I think we should be doing more pure blues based material right alongside the experimental stuff. But what we are is a band of five individuals, and the end result must be a compromise. The Unwritten Law is the most progressive thing weíve done in years. Itís a very modal type riff using sequencers and synths and it sure ainít traditional Deep Purple. I think traditional Deep Purple is something we should use sparingly. As you can imagine, there were the usual lot of disagreements about what tracks should go on the album. This time, most of them went on.
"As far as lyrical content, itís still mostly whatís happening with us , what we hear about , what we read. With the song Black And White, one day before we started rehearsing we were reading the English tabloids. Now that form of press in England is gutter in the purest sense of that term. Theyíve no taste, theyíre just into slagging everybody and everything in the worst ways imaginable. They just knock things for the sake of knocking them. We read something that angered us, and got to talking about abuses of freedom. I said to Ritchie, `Letís channel this anger into a song, since itís something we both feel strongly about.ī
"Mitzi Dupree is also taken from a news item we picked up from a U.S. paper. Mostly theyíre sort of autobiographical, like The Unwritten Law . There are certain codes of action even the outlaws must respect.
"Thatís where mots of our material comes from; weíre not the sort of band that can just go: Letís see what issue we can grab out of the air and write a song about. Thereís got to be an emotional connection for us in there somewhere."
Overall, The House Of Blue Light, is a more confident sounding album. Its best moments are slow in getting to you; when they do, itís with dramatic intensity. The current single, Bad Attitude, is a playful throwaway for the band, the kind of thing thatíll make a nice, reassuring video. The rest of the material is much more challenging.
"What influences me? Anything and nothing. I donít listen to modern heavy metal much. I donít find much inspiration there. I listen to a lot of everything else. I like a band like Level 42, who have nothing to do with hard rock but whose sound I admire. I think the older you get, the fewer influences you absorb. You start sorting out your own thoughts and responses a bit more. In the formative years of Deep Purple, we listened to a lot of Hendrix and Vanilla Fudge, and you can see those influences in early Deep Purple. But weíre not like that anymore, weíre influenced by ourselves.
"I realize thatís a pitfall which can lead to a band becoming insular, if we stick too rigidly to a Deep Purple sound. I think thatís one of the problems with modern hard rock. Itís become too insular. When we were coming up, we listened to everything, from country to classical to Chuck Berry to Motown. Now it seems the younger bands only want to listen to hard rock, and that just gets them all going around in the same circle. Under those conditions, itís very difficult to see the music progressing.
"I think weíre becoming more individual as we mature. I think weíll wind up with a whole new sound, if we last.
"Iíve never taken my playing that seriously. Looking for technical innovations concerns Jon and Ritchie more than me. Iínm not in the top level of bass players by any means. Iím not an inventive bassist; my main contribution to Deep Purple is as a songwriter more than a bassist. As a bassist, I do whatís necessary. Sometimes people come up and say, I think youíre a great bass player, and I think theyíre thinking of someone else. My approach is simple and solid. I can set a good foundation for other people to light the fireworks from.
"Thing is, bass nuances are very hard to get across in a rock band where everyoneís playing loud."
Like the t-shirt sez: If Itís Too Loud, Youíre Too Flipping Old. Besides, itís hard to imagine the likes of Blackie Lawless losing sleep over the number of his bass nuances that are bludgeoned beyond recognition in the average W.A.S.P. song. Arenít Gloverís concerns about the state of modern hard rock those of the dinosaur in the age of mammals??
"I donít think of black metal as music. Itís a sociological problem. Music is played by musicians, and most of the thrash rock I hear isnít music to my ears. I can get off on the energy and excitement; I used to love the Sex Pistols, but I wouldnít call that music either.
"About six or seven years ago heavy metal became very satanic, and having to do with death, and that sort of thing. I didnít like that very much. I like wit in lyrics and I find that sadly lacking in death metal. Thereís no humour; rock is supposed to be something to have fun with, dance to, bang your head to, whatever. I see no humour in Satan and death.
"I think itís the actions of extreme musicians trying to see how much they can get away with. If the public lets them get away with it, then thatís a good gauge of what the public is thinking. Does music change our society or echo it? I dunno, but Iíd be inclined to back the echo theory.
"I mean, when the last bit of glitter is wiped away, and the last flashpot exploded, it all comes down to the songs. Deep Purple is blessed with having Ritchie, Ian and Jon, who are masters of their instruments, and can always play more than is strictly necessary for any particular song. Thereís a sense of taking pride in how well you can play that you donít see much of in hard rock. The only standard seems to be in seeing how fast you can go, and thatís not really demanding, is it?
"Because of our songwriting talents, we are able to channel the expertise into songs that people could understand, that werenít monumental jam sessions, or interminable ego exercises."
About the most universal criticism of the Perfect Strangers tour was the bandís Ď70s tendency to draw out those taut little three and four minute songs into teeth-grinding length. Gloverís having none of it. He claims itís a wrong-sided perception that strikes at the very roots of Purple.
"You canít please everyone and we aim to please ourselves. We are a band with a style that allows individual soloists to stretch out a bit. We donít indulge ourselves to quite the extent that we did in the Ď70s, but that is a feature of the band and thereís no real reason to change it. Besides, if we did all short tunes, there are some types that would wail about the disappearance of the solos."
Expectation piled upon expectation, but thatís life as a living legend. Or is it, and what becomes a legend most?
"The stories of our legendary status mystify us and have nothing to do with the day to day basics of being a creative working band. The word `legendī isnít one that goes down well with me; weíre just a rock band. Even our status in the Ď60s that derived from being the first progressive hard rock band was something that happened to us. We werenít sitting down to write songs that would make us legendary. We just wanted to write and record whatever excited us.
"It just happened to click with the public, but it could just as easily not have. Now we find ourselves back in the same position, playing and releasing only what excites us. Iíve heard it said that Perfect Strangers has already had an influence on the hard rock scene. That itís made it cool in the minds of musicians to play with progressive metal again. If thatís the case, I feel very pleased and flattered. I would of course like to hear more of the music I enjoy on the radio, but more than that it would signal the acceptance of what weíre doing on a very vital, whatís happening now level."
First time around Deep Purple got the cred and then the money. This time, the coin came through before the rank and file were truly persuaded Deep Purple were of the people. They may still not be fully persuaded. And Roger Glover really wants them to be. He may not be happy with Deep Purple as a legend but he could live happily with a new position as a major influence. Faintly from a million basements come the sounds of extended guitar breaks, stately keyboard insertions, and singers wailing back to rockís golden age. I heard the future yesterday and itís coming round again.