Machine Head goes Bananas over
it feels right, we do it"
Japan 2004. Photo by Hanako Akasaka
2004 - Five years passed between Deep Purple's two most recent studio albums,
Abandon (1998) and Bananas (2003). In this third installment of our on-going interview
series, The Highway Star asked Roger Glover what happened during those five years.
Roger also talks about teaching music to school kids, a ground swell of renewed
interest in Deep Purple and his childhood dreams of becoming a rock star.
years after the Abandon tour, time appears to have stopped in the Deep Purple
world. We've waited a long time for some new songs.
- We had to go through
a process and that process was exacerbated by the Concerto. Not that it was a
bad thing. I really enjoyed that tour and I think that event at the Albert Hall
was one of the highlights of my life.
However, if you had told us after Abandon
that it would be five years before we would go into the studio, I wouldn't have
believed you. After Abandon we did the Concerto in the Albert Hall and that led
to the tour, and that's two years right there, more or less.
We did have
some writing sessions with Jon. Steve Morse has got a little studio where he lives
and we were down there for a while, just to make it easier for him because he's
got a family and stuff.
Jon and Ian Gillan and I also had a week renting
a place in North Devon where we just had a couple of acoustic guitars and a piano.
We just fiddled around with a few thoughts. Jon was itching to record, he said,
"let's get into the studio!"
But there was a feeling on the Concerto
tour that made me think Jon was going to leave at the end of that tour. It seemed
like such a full circle. It had obviously been on his mind. Ever since Pictured
Within it seemed obvious that his mind was really more on orchestral music.
It was in this juggernaut that we had to keep touring. We don't tour because we
love it. We love touring, don't get me wrong, but we have to tour as well. People
think, "you're so rich and famous" - not true. We have to work for a
There's a reason for it as well. I suppose Deep Purple through the
80's and into the 90's was going downhill fast. By the time 1993 came around it
was really make or break.
When Ritchie left, we were determined not to end
it, but to continue. It's been, in a way, a vindication of the band to actually
struggle our way back up to a level of credibility. I think a lot of people had
just written us off, especially during Slaves & Masters and Nobody's Perfect.
The House of Blue Light was a little spotty in places. Actually, Perfect Strangers
is also a little bit spotty in places, as far as I'm concerned.
We got in
a rut somewhere, and having climbed our way out of it and improved what was left
of the band, we don't want to stop. We've invested time, we've invested work and
travel, we don't want to stop.
Jon wanted to slow down a bit more, he wanted
us to be a bit more selective and have more time for solo projects and things
like that. Between touring and talking about that, it took another couple of years
until Jon came to a decision. It's very difficult. We can't force Jon to come
to a decision. The feeling I certainly had, was that if we had gone into the studio
and finished an album with Jon, who then left the band, we'd have a keyboard player
who had had to go on being sort of 'persona non grata'. It was really important
that the next project was a strong project and that it was a whole band on the
record and on stage.
So that's why it took a long time. That was the process
we went through.
Jon's departure was probably the most dignified parting
in any band in rock history. I love that because he deserves that. We're still
very good friends, obviously, and we keep in touch. He misses us like mad but
he knows he made the right decision. He's told me that several times. But he does
miss it. Of course he does, he has spent most of his life with us.
When you did an in-store
appearance in Århus, you picked up some CDs.
- Yes. I remember
the old days on Warner Brothers when we used to go to Los Angeles. They'd take
us to Tower Records and say, "Help yourself!" And that was after we'd
plundered their offices!
We used to walk away with 20, 30 albums. Yeah, that
was great. However, we're not so greedy now, I came away with four albums. You
want to know what they are?
Dr. John's latest album. Robben Ford, a blues
album, don't know what it's called. Steve Winwood's album and Starsailor, which
I got because my daughter loves it. She played me something the other day and
I heard a snippet of it and it was nice. I thought I'd check it out because usually
if she likes something it's got something going for it.
Stockholm you went to a music school (read
the report), and you've mentioned doing some talks on your own at your stepson's
school. Were they about music?
- The first one was something that Les,
my wife, got me into. Only because she has a Welsh accent they invited her to
read some Dylan Thomas in a Welsh accent. I came back from a tour somewhere and
she decided she didn't want to do it. So she volunteered me for the job. I said,
"I've never done that before, I'm not a teacher, I don't know nothing about
But I'm a fan of Dylan Thomas so obviously I know a little
bit. I know some of the poems. So I thought, "yeah, I can do that,"
to get her off the hook. So I went along and did it. Funnily enough, Dylan Thomas
never recited his poems with a Welsh accent anyway. He always had this kind of
fake Oxbridge accent. Back in the 40's and 50's, you didn't speak with a provincial
accent, you had a BBC accent. It was the only way to get ahead.
nervous, and armed with a couple of recordings of Dylan actually speaking, and
a couple of photographs, bits and pieces, I started this so called lecture for
about an hour, 50 minutes or whatever it was. And funnily enough after my initial
nerves - I would much rather play than speak any day - I found a certain comfort
in the fact that people were listening to me.
You find yourself right in the
moment, making up stuff as you go along. I had no plan. I basically explained
where I come from in Wales and where Dylan Thomas came from and how in fact, our
childhoods are similar. That went off okay and they asked me back some time later
to talk about my life, and that's when the music one started.
Not so much
about my life but just about what it's like to be a rock star. I was just a special
guest for the kids. So I go along armed with CDs, a guitar and an amp, and I basically
tell them a little bit about the history of music. Because kids growing up haven't
got a clue about where it comes from.
As I was growing up and getting into
things beyond pop music, and beyond blues and folk, I started getting into the
weirder blues, the gospel, getting into jazz and classical, and finding stuff
that I didn't know before. I didn't have a lot of money so it's hard to research
that, but there's always a way.
However, I did that for about an hour and
it went down really well. The teacher said, "they loved it," and I got
letters of thank you from the kids.
I've done it a couple of times since.
The last session I went to there were five or six bands there and they all performed
a couple of songs for me. Songs they had written and they wanted to know what
I thought. If I was a producer or someone with a little bit of knowledge, what
would I say to them and so on. It's quite interesting. You actually see talented
I saw one guy, he's only about 16-17, and he had a killer voice. A
great, edgy, raspy, bluesy voice. He knew how to do it, he was a natural. There
was another guy who was a great 12-string player, a bit like Leo Kottke. It's
very encouraging to hear that. You hear bands that actually are trying to sound
original, trying to play their instruments. I am always encouraging of that.
far too easy today to turn on a machine. I heard an analogy some time ago, which
was great, I think it was Brian Eno who said that a hundred years ago, you had
to be a real artist to make a photograph. You had to know exactly what temperature
and what chemicals and lighting
Some of the early cameras created some gorgeous,
gorgeous images and that is a true artistic thing to do with a photograph. Then
you got technology, you got a folding camera, you got a camera with an automatic
thing, auto focus and pretty soon, all you have to do is point. OK, you have to
press your finger on it and you have to view it but that's it.
So it's got
to a point where anyone can be a photographer. So therefore, that's taken the
value out of it. Anyone can make a great photograph because it is not them that
are doing it, it's the camera that's doing it. And that's exactly what's happened
Years ago, you had to
learn to play an instrument. There was no easy way out. You had to learn to play
an instrument, there was nothing else you could do. You could pay someone else
to play the instrument for you, that's about as close as you could get. It's gone
exactly the same way now. You can buy a machine that will do practically everything
for you, it'll even let you sing in tune. It can give you a good voice where you
have none. It'll give you an orchestra where you have none, and everything else.
Of course, gives an opportunity to the people who don't care or don't have particular
artistic tendencies, who are just eyeing the big money and the fame and the glory.
It's taken the music out of it. There's not a lot of music left so anyone can
make a great record now. So it's really kind of pushing everything towards live
music, because that's the only proof that you can actually hack it. But it's nice
to see young kids actually learning.
There's a backlash, I am sure there is
a backlash to this. A lot of young people come to our concerts, I mean, an amazing
number of young people. And I say young, I mean four, six. I saw kids being held
aloft last night.
After the Malmö show we
found that it was the first time in a long time that we actually felt old at a
Deep Purple show.
- Well, thanks for that. Imagine how I feel!
you notice anything of that, that the band is becoming trendy again or what the
appeal would be to today's kids. Or is it just that people are getting tired of
- Obviously I don't know this but I did talk to some, it was
five or six nights ago, there were two girls in the crowd who were really, really
smiling and into it. When you walk on stage you look at the crowd, I learned that
a long time ago, to look at the crowd. I never used to look at the crowd in the
old days. I was just buried in my music, in my instrument. "In concert,"
But now I look at the crowd and pick out people, you can't help
that. It's accident, or something draws you to someone or whatever and you acknowledge
them. These two girls down the front were just so into it and I went "hey,
how are you doing", threw a pick their way once in a while. Much later, when
we were leaving the building, they were waiting in the cold outside. They were
14 or 15 years old. You couldn't tell that from the stage, you just saw a face.
They wanted an autograph and stuff like that. So I gave them an autograph
and I said, "why are you here? You are girls for a start", traditionally
we're a male-oriented band. "And also, you are young. Why?" And they
said, "because you play, we like to see people play." That was illuminating.
There is a backlash, I don't know how big it will be, but certainly there is a
hard rock revival feeling in the air. I read a big article in the Financial Times
the other weekend which mentioned us once along with Led Zeppelin once but lots
of mentions for The Darkness and Iron Maiden.
give it a new name but it's really the same thing that comes around again, isn't
- Rock'n'roll was a kind of novelty, but it has become a genre. Or
hard rock. Hard rock and rock'n'roll is the same really, they tend to blur the
lines. It's all the same thing to me. It's a genre and my definition of a genre
is if it's capable of expressing all emotions.
Classical music is obviously
capable of expressing all emotions. Blues is, it can be happy, you have the happy
blues and sad blues, angry blues, pissed-off blues. All those, you can have in
rock so to me that's what defines it as a genre.
And it won't go away. It
will not go away. Everything between punk, grunge, new wave, British metal, all
these things are just basic expressions of the same thing, same line-up, same
Where do you think Deep Purple fit
in this whole renewed interest?
- Sideways. I don't know where we fit
in. I think in many ways we've undergone a sort of facelift with Don coming into
the band, as we did with Steve when he came into the band, so it's changed.
band is a very natural band. There's no affectation as a band, we don't try to
be Deep Purple. We just are. There's no formula to it other than that it's organ,
guitar, bass, drums and vocals, whatever formula that is. It's really the characters
of the individuals coming through that gives it it's character.
And its characters
change. When people complain that it's not the same without Ritchie and Jon
Of course, it's not! How possibly could it be? I hear that with journalists, saying
"it's not the same without Ritchie and Jon". Are they that stupid? Are
they really that stupid? It's beyond me. Whether they like us or not, that's fine,
I don't care if people don't like us, but don't compare us with the past. It's
like comparing you to what you were when you were seven. It's impossible.
still, this is where the whole dilemma starts because you have a big past and
a big part of your identity is the past. A lot of people who come to the shows
come because of the past and they might not really be interested in the new stuff.
To what degree do you want to focus on the new stuff?
- We differ in the
band on that very much. I want to focus on new stuff much, much more than we do.
Even new old stuff I'd rather do. But it's a battle in the band to do that. People
disagree, "no, I'm not doing that" - end of story.
Flight Of The
Rat", I would love to do that - Paicey hates it. Doesn't hate the song, he
just hates the rhythm, "I don't want to do that live". We tried it once
several years ago - "nah, I don't want to do that".
You can't please
everyone, including the members of the band. For me, it's very, very important
that we do new stuff because that to me is the reason we're still here. If we
were doing old stuff in the 80's, we'd be dead and gone by now. But we didn't,
we tried to do new stuff.
OK, looking at the history of the band in the 80's,
we veered off in a few directions but we're still here. We survived that. I think
it's vital to change. Change is good, change is life. If you don't change, you
die. You replace your skin every so many years. Growth is imperative.
So how do you find that balance between what you all want to
- We just hash it out. There's a great deal of respect in this band,
and - dare I say - love. We've been through a lot, especially me, Paicey and Ian.
You can't help but bond when you've been through circumstances that have threatened
to annihilate you and you survived. The band nearly finished several times, in
fact did finish once.
But there's a kind of unspoken
We all know what
we want: we all want Purple to continue. We all enjoy what we do. As a musician,
that's just absolute luxury, to play in a band like Deep Purple. I can't imagine
playing in any other band. I certainly couldn't imagine being here now. So I value
it all the more, because it's a one off.
I always think of something that's
come up more and more recently, and that's when I was fifteen and I was in a band.
We'd started a band in school, we used to play the songs of the day; Eddie Cochran,
Everly Brothers, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, a couple of folk songs thrown in,
it was all very early days.
I was sitting in a coffee bar, having skipped
school because it was sports day and I didn't want to do cross country running
in the rain. In my exercise book I drew a stage, an impossibly big stage. At the
time we had one ten-inch speaker amplifier with three inputs that we all went
in. I drew this big stage with huge, dream-like amplifiers, PA, the drums were
on a platform, the drum front cover.
At 15, just doodling in my book and it's
kind of sobering that that actually became my life. It's almost as if some fairy
godmother tapped me on the shoulder with a wand and said, "it will come true".
I think there's obviously a certain amount of luck. When I say "certain amount
of luck", I mean "an enormous amount of luck," involved in this.
Especially, with someone like Ritchie Blackmore, Jon Lord, Steve Morse, Ian Paice
or Don Airey, who are absolute masters of their instrument. I think my luck was
really just hanging around with people who were going somewhere. In a way I think
I hitched a ride, in another way I think I rose to the occasion.
part of me that was nascent, was fledgeling, having written all my rotten songs,
I knew how to write rotten songs. I knew what not to do. I think I was ready for
that moment. It's not my bass playing that really secured my place in the band
but the song writing.
The idea is, the general mix of characters that has
been good, smooth in the oils, coming up with solutions to seemingly impossible
problems. I think I am in my place but certainly in the early days, I felt intimidated
by that musicianship that was in the band. But it's only looking back now I think
that the secret of the band really was a mix of musicianship and naivety.
and I are not trained musicians, we're just homemade people, but we've got a sensibility
about it. The other three had this amazing technique. Now, if you have a band
where everyone has amazing technique, no one wants to know because you are way
over people's heads. So that simplicity of song writing is extremely important.
You can go on and on analysing what's Deep Purple. I hesitate to do it but another
beer and you know
But that skill that you
talk about, that's also what brought you back to the stage when Ritchie invited
you to come back to Rainbow?
- I suppose it was that skill coupled with
the fact that Ritchie and I was thrown together in the band, me as a producer,
sharing a manager with Ritchie. Bruce Payne was Rainbow's manager and I asked
Bruce if he would manage me as a producer. I also started living with him at the
time because my first marriage broke up so we were in pretty close contact. I
arrived with two suitcases, "do you mind if I stay for a couple of weeks?"
Three years later he said, "isn't it about time you moved out?"
this just before Rainbow started?
- Just at the beginning of Rainbow.
Actually, Ronnie came to me first of all and said, "will you do some writing
with me and Ritchie?" This was about '77. I was like, "sure, yeah, whatever".
I don't hold grudges. It's easy to hold a grudge against Ritchie, a lot of things
have happened in my life because of Ritchie but lots of good things too so we're
It was a good career opportunity to go back on the road with a
band and I really did miss it. After being out of Deep Purple for six years during
which time I spent 99.9% of the time in the studio producing other people, having
done only one concert, The Butterfly Ball, I really wanted to get a band together.
I was going to get a band together with Ronnie Dio. I said, "if the latest
Elf one doesn't work, how about a band?" Dio said, "yeah, ok".
Of course then he went off with Ritchie and that pissed me off. We've since patched
I wanted to be in a band but I didn't want to be leader of a band.
Having been in a band like Deep Purple, I wanted to be in a band of my peers,
not out front. It couldn't be Roger Glover's Carpet Filler. It had to be something
that I felt comfortable with. I'm not comfortable being a frontman, I'm comfortable
being in a team. I guess bass players tend to be like that, they can't afford
the kind of egos that lead singers and lead guitarists have. And various drummers.
Some will of course but in general, bass players tend be content at the back.
the fourth installment Roger Glover talks about the art of selecting a setlist,
playing the Machine Head album live in America, Deep Purple's online fan community
Read part one read
© The Highway Star 2004