[ d e e p P u r . p l e )
Roger Glover, Interviews
The Highway Star

Untitled Document

Deep Purple
Roger Glover

Part 1
Machine Head goes Bananas over America

Part 2
"If it feels right, we do it"

Part 3
"Change is life"


'Change is life'

Roger Glover interview - Copenhagen, November 30, 2003 - part three

by Rasmus Heide and Svante Pettersson

Japan 2004. Photo by Hanako Akasaka

June 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.

For 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 living.
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.

Kids today
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.

In 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 Dylan Thomas."
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.
So, somewhat 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 people.
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.
It's 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 to music.

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!

Do 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 machines?
- 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," very serious.
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.

They give it a new name but it's really the same thing that comes around again, isn't it?

- 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 instruments.

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.
The 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.

But 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.

Childhood dreams
So how do you find that balance between what you all want to do?

- 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.
The song-writing 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.
Gillan 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?"

Was 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 in balance.
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 that up.
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.

In 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 and more...
Read part one   read part two

© The Highway Star 2004


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