[% META title = 'Ian Paice, Interviews' %]

Still Smokin'

Back on the rails with the latest incarnation of Deep Purple, Ian Paice has rediscovered his passion for drumming. In the long-awaited Ryhthm interview, Chris Welch meets the rejuvenated rock legend.

For 28 years Ian Paice has been wedded to the legend of Deep Purple, the band famed for such classic hits as 'Child in time', 'Black Night', 'Strange Kind Of Woman', and 'Smoke On The Water'. Purple enjoyed enormous success and the oft changing line up has been packed with mercurial talents - from the mysterious Ritchie Blackmore to gentlemanly Jon Lord, from wild-eyed Ian Gillian to lordly David Coverdale.

Purple are still highly active, but as anyone who saw Pete Frame's Rock Family Trees TV documentary on the band, screened last summer, will appreciate, Deep Purple has long been a hotbed of dissent, division and drama.

The competitive spirit between guitarist Blackmore and singer Gillan meant the rest of the band were in a state of truce or war. Despite interminable quarrels, Purple has always played at full pitch.

When Ian Paice, a brash, enthusiastic, self-taught player, joined the band in 1967, he set high personal standards and pushed forward the frontiers of existing rock technique. He unleashed a terrfic amounts of excitement in the process, and in the heady days of the '70's, his drum solos were an integral part of any Purple show. Paice was able to enjoy immense freedom to blow his head off. He developed a style that would be frowned upon today. But as Ian says, "I'm not against today's styles. I just have no liking for it, nor any wish to play it."

Purple's albums, like Deep Purple in Rock, Fireball, Machine Head, and Made In Japan, were packed with huge hits that sold in millions, bringing riches in their wake. Alas Purple was torn apart by personal and musical conflicts.

Ian Gillan and Bassier mate Rogar Glover left in 1973, but the band carried on with new singer David Coverdale and bassist Glenn hughes. Ritchie Blackmore didn't like the band's new musical direction and quit to form Rainbow in 1975. when Coverdale went off to form Whitesnake, peace loving Paice was left high and dry. He eventually teamed up with Jon Lord and Tony Ashton in the short lived Paice, Ashton & Lord. Tommy Bolin meanwhile died from an overdose just a few months after Purple's collapse.

Paice drummed on with Gary Moore and then Whitesnake but refound his spiritual home when Deep Purple reformed with Blackmore and Gillan for the 1985 album Perfect Strangers.

Since then purple has undergone more turmoil, but the band are ready to tour the UK once more and have a new album due. They are without the services of Ritchie Blackmore who quit in another outburst to reform Rainbow. Ian paice is just happy to be back doing what he loves best, hitting the road and playing his drums. He insists that Deep Purple has never been happier.

Now aged 47, Paice owns a manor house where giant stone eagles guard electric gates to a drive that wends through spacious grounds. Inside the house, gold and platinum albums line the walls -- mute testament to the days when drummers were stars too.

As we chat about the days of future past, Ian recalls that he came from a musical family.

"My father was a pianist, and music was all around him. I had no interest in playing the piano, but I did enjoy hearing his music and loved the rhythmic side.

"I used to play with a pair of knitting needles on my mother's sofa, trying to work out what the drummer on the record was doing." Like many an impoverished schoolboy, Paice began making his own drums out of biscuit tins and cardboard tubes. When he was 15 his father bought him a real kit. "He bought me my first kit for the princely sum of 32. It was a Red Glitter Gigster and it was absolutely useless because the tension mounts went over the top of the rims and every time you tightened them up the mounts broke. There was no way you could tighten the snare drum tighter than a tom tom. So the tom tom sounded exactly the same as the snare drum - except one rattled and the other didn't. But it got me started. I played quite a few Saturday night gigs with my dad and was well happy. I got free beer and 3 a night. My first jod only paid 6 a week, so gigs seemed great fun. Then I started to listen to my generation's music and formed a band with a few friends. We worked semi-pro three nights a week. The professional rock bands didn't earn any more money than us, they just didn't get up in the morning. I got an offer to join one of these working bands and went to Hamburg which was where I met Blackmore."

Ian's first pro outfit was called MI5 which later changed its name to Maze. It was Spring 1967 when Ian Paice met Ritchie Blackmore, already a legendary figure. He was busy forming Deep Purple. Rod Evans, the singer with Maze, applied for a job with the new band and brought Paice along to the audition. "And that's how Deep Purple got together as far as I was concerned," recalls Ian. "I had no problem playing their style. If you are a drummer you should be able to play along with any style, whether it's Jazz, rock or orchestral. For me playing was never a conscious thing - I just did it. The only thing I can't handle is reggae. I know what they do but I can't feel it. I never had any lessons. I would have loved to have them, but there was nobody to teach me, and by the time I was sixteen I was the best player in the area. That's not saying a lot; I'm not blowing my own trumpet, but there was nobody else around. One guy showed me a few things, but his idea of playing a bass drum was four to the bar. Patterns and accents were against his rules. Those are the sort of rules you don't need. But I never had to struggle for my musical career. I'd love to say I fought for my art but I never did. I had it easy. I was on the road at sixteen and professional at seventeen. When I was nineteen I was in Deep Purple. So I don't have terrible stories of deprivation and hard times. A lot happened to me very quickly when I was very young."

"Rock is a lot more constrained now. Things that used to feel good, now feel wrong. We are brainwashed by every record we hear being so metronomic."

Ian remembers that Deep Purple were still in the throes of rehearsal and were "totally nameless" when he joined. "The most impressive thing for me was playing with superior quality musicians - Jon and Ritchie. Having a guaranteed salary every week allowed me to live well, which was great. The band also had a contract lined up and ready.

"The whole thing was set up for an American label who wanted a new British band. Almost like the Monkees, we were formed to fill a need. The first few records were very confusing. Nobody knew if we wanted to be Cream or Vanilla Fudge. What is obvious now is that we didn't know what we wanted. It was only when Ian Gillan and Rogar Clover came into the band that previous ties were cut. The Deep Purple In Rock (1970) period started and we gained an identifiable style. Early on we had the wonderful bonus of a hit single with a song called 'Hush'. In those days having a hit single was pooh-poohed. It was, 'We're an albums band, man!' But at that time we weren't any kind of band - just five guys hoping for a little bit of luck." The band were still playing a large proportion of covers, adding more of their own material, but with no paticular sense of direction. "I guess we were trying to be a European-Style Vanilla Fudge, which in hindsight was an absolute waste of time. Fudge was a dead end. It was a great band but it never actually led anywhere. Their drummer Carnine Appice was a great rock 'n' roll player. All his influences were pure rock, but mine were mainstream and big band jazz. Sub-consciously you always play what feels natural. That's why I never have any trouble playing the flashy up-tempos, and groovy slow tempos, but ironically I don't like those mid-tempos where people stomp their feet. It feels uncomfortable."

Ian was at his best when Deep Purple played at breakneck speed, and his drum solos took off into outer space. Ian nods in agreement: "Well, I found that easy. I always thought a solo was an easy way for the rest of the guys to go offstage and have a drink. The longer I played, the better they liked it.

"If I'm in the right mood a solo is still not a problem. Nowadays drum solos are less important. If you are gonna do one, it should all be said in three minutes. If you play a twenty minute drum solo like John Bonham these days, you are going to have an empty hall. People won't accept it. Everything comes down to sound, of course. I still enjoy playing a solo if the ideas are flowing and the sound is right. If you are playing in a hall where the sound is so bad everything you do sounds like buckets of lard, you end up playing crap."

As soon as he could afford them, Ian played his favourite drums, Ludwig. After his Kit Kat kit, he switched to Premier for a while, then bought his first American kit. But, says Ian. "I'm not a great believer in brand differences. Once you get a top line instrument, it's up to you. As long as the shells are round and the skins are good, they'll sound good. But in those days I was in love with big American drums, and my 22" Ludwig bass drum sounded totally different to my 20" Premier. I stayied loyal to Ludwig for a long time, but when I took delivery of a new kit and found the seams on the shells were stapled together and the chrome was coming off, I thought, 'I can't have this!' Now of course their product is great and back where it should be, but Pearl stepped in and offered me a very good deal which I found difficult to refuse, and they are still very good to me."

Ian returns to the saga of Deep Purple and the many changes and upsets that affected its career, including the comings and goings of Blackmore and Gilan.

"It was all madly inconvenient," he says with a wry smile. "I was part of the need to change Rod and Nick for Roger and Ian. But everything that happened since then was nothing to do with me. Some people seemed to intent on self-destruction. Jon Lord and myself were never involved in Deep Purple's enforced changes. Ritchie was instrumental in most of the things that happened. When Ian dicided he wanted to leave in 1973 Ritchie took that as a sign for a clear out and said, 'If Ian goes, let's get rid of Roger as well.' We went along with Ritchie and David Coverdale, and Glenn Hughes (from Trapeze) came in. We never had any trouble with David and he did very well. Glenn strayed off the straight and narrow and became a mess. Ritchie couldn't deal with the new musical direction they brought to the band. That's when he decided to leave and form Rainbow."

They brought in young American guitarist Tommy Bolin.

"It was a good band, but Tommy was a heroin addict, and nobody knew. It shouldn't have been called Deep Purple. When it became obvious what was going on between Tommy and Glenn, it became impossible to work with them. Then one night after a show at the Liverpool Empire, David, Jon and I looked at each other, "That's it." That's when we stopped and it stayied stopped until 1984 when we all started talking to each other again and the Mk.2 Deep Purple got back together."

Paice joined David Coverdale's Whitesnake in 1979 before working with Gary Moore in the early '80's, touring and recording such albums as Corridors Of Power. Ian reveals that during his time with Gary, he went 'studio blind'. "I couldn't keep time to save my life. I just lost it. Couldn't feel where Gary wanted the tempos. His manager Steve Barnet took me aside and said, 'Look, this really isn't working.' I said, 'I know - I'm trying real hard but there's nothing I can do about it.' They asked if I'd mind if they brought in another drummer , and I said, 'I'd be so happy if you did." I sort of let Gary down a bit - but when it came to choosing between Gary and what will always be the biggest thing in my life, there was no contest. No matter what happens now, nothing will beat the sucess of Deep Purple. Even though it's been quite a few years, once it gets rolling it generates huge interest. It was always fun too, although that stopped being the case about four years ago when Ritchie really started pulling this power trip on everybody. After we recorded House Of Blue Light (1987), we started to to believe there was no life after Blackmore.Basically he was calling the shots and ended up controlling the band lock, stock and barrel. Nobody brought any ideas to the studio because there was no point. If it wasn't his idea, he wouldn't play it. If there were three of us jamming in the studio, he'd walk in, plug in his guitar and start playing something else. A belief was created that we needed him. Somewhere inside him there is still a nice guy, but over the years a huge crust has grown on the outside which I don't think anyone will ever break through again.

"He doesn't trust anybody, doesn't really like anybody. He likes you if you play football. I don't think he likes music anymore.It's just something that he does. But he can be brilliant when he puts his mind to it."

Life with Deep Purple was a deep nightmare. Says Ian, "It was going great for about a week then the Blackmore-Gillan thing started happening again. Ritchie blew it nearly every night. He'd be fiddling around, farting and buzzing and crackling and checking out his amplifiers. When he stopped playing, Gillan would stop singing. He thought it was because Ian had forgotten the words, but Gillan was saying, 'Look, if you're not going to play, I'm not going to sing.' We just let the pair of them get on with it, but it would have been nice if they'd beaten the crap out of each other to sort it out. Ritchie is convinced it was all Ian's fault. But Ian was doing his best every night. He just wasn't going to sing if Ritchie wasn't going to play. It was something that Ritchie instigated and it rebounded. Ritchie used 'Smoke On The Water' as a bargaining tool: 'Oh, I'm not playing that tonight.' We'd have to play it without him. He'd just bugger

"I always thought a solo was an easy way for the rest of the guys to go offstage and have a drink. The longer I played, the better they liked it."

off in the car. There was no discussion or negotiation. He's just a hard man to work with."

Blackmore eventually quit and was replaced by Joe Satriani for a japanese tour. However Satriani had a solo record deal and was in turn replaced by Steve Morse, now their regular axeman.

"We did a few gigs in Mexico last December and it was so much fun. All of a sudden there was a guitarist there - with no ego! He was just a down to earth guy who played wonderfully well every night. It was just like it used to be when Ritchie was pliable and excited by the music. It was so goo we offered Steve the regular gig. We've been recording together and the music has the freshness we felt twenty years ago. We're all writing material once again, and the blend of ideas that created Deep Purple is there again."

The new Morse-powered Purple has an album scheduled for release in January 1996 and they start a full 18-date British tour in march.

"We lost so much credibilty when Ritchie pulled all those stunts. The idea is to do smaller theatre shows where the audience can get closer, and do plenty of them. We want to get across what Deep Purple should be about - a lot of fun, excitement and good music."

The rejuvenation of Purple has had a positive effect on Paice's drumming. "I'm playing better than I have for years. The limitations in the past started to hit me and I lost interest in trying to do anything different. I couldn't be myself and ended up as a time keeper. The way the music was being contrived, there was no space for anything else. Rock is a lot more constrained now. Things that used to feel good, now feel wrong. We are brainwashed by every record we hear being so metronomic. One of the tracks on the new album has a big band swing rhythm together with a fusion rock rhythm. Buddy Rich was a big influence on me; of all the big band drummers he stood out head and shoulders. Take his single stroke roll thing, from very loud to very soft. I can do that roll at the same speed, but I can't keep it going anywhere near as long. I make it one of the highlights of my solo now, because very few people can actually play it. If you can play singles right, everything else comes easy. Doubles are a doddle. Once you've got your doubles, go and make it difficult again. Go on threes. Don't do Daddy Mammies - do Dad-Da-Da Mum-Ma-Ma. Get that rolling, and rhythmically you find a whole lot more possibilities. Play triplets with each hand and your hands seem to be in slow motion. It's very confusing to watch. I just like playing for the fun of it, and half the time I Don't know what I'm doing. It's not important. If I do it right it's good, and if I do it wrong it's history. Some of the things I do are probably the hard way and the wrong way, but for me they work. All my knowledge of rudiments is self taught and I have all the control I need."

Ian is a firm believer in allowing individual expression. "I find the thinking behind the fusion style very mathematical. It's all based on 16th and 24th notes and it all sounds the same. You know all the fills before you they play them. The drums are tuned up high so you get the fast stick response. Every tom sounds like it's three inches deep, and the snare is so tight there is no duration to the note. The drum colleges seem to say, 'This is how you tune a drum.' What a terrible statement to make. There is no way to tune a drum, it's what sounds good to you. You can tune a drum to sound as sloppy as you like. You may be totally wrong and never get a professional job in your life, but if you can pick up an instrument, play it a bit and have fun, then you are a success. Doesn't matter about the rest of it. That only comes to the lucky few. If you can play your drums, you've got nothing to worry about. If you go on enjoying it, chances are you'll get better, and somebody might pick you up. If you go in with the intension of being a 'star', you could be in big trouble. If it doesn't happen, you'll be so disappointed in the world, and in yourself."