[% META title = 'Ian Paice, Interviews' %]
Deep Purple roared out of England as flower power was dying and heavy metal was being conceived. Dropping the classical-rock pretensions of earlier records, they fused high-tension chops to low-slung grooves and brought to life a power rock sound of seismic proportions. For a time there, only Led Zeppelin could hold a candle to them in terms of pure bombast and swagger. They didn't invent heavy metal, as some people have said; they simply were it.
Ritchie Blackmore was the quintessential guitar hero. Keyboardist Jon Lord favoured squeezing soul from his Hammond, but never fell behind the guitarist during their patented hyper-speed duels. Bassist Roger Glover kept the proceedings interesting and grounded. And singer Ian Gillan transformed his lead role in the original production of Jesus Christ Superstar into a back street rock 'n' roll belter of the classic variety.
Drummer Ian Paice - he held the reins. With the thump of Bonham, and the swing of Bellson, Paice was always right there whenever the band was ready to take their thing out: In the live arena, five-minute studio rockers became side-long cosmic journeys of a five-man musical search party. You never really knew where mega-hits like "Smoke on the Water," "Highway Star," "Space Truckin'," "Hush," "Woman >From Tokyo," or "Lazy" were bound; fate smiled on rock fans the world over when a series of Japanese shows from '72 were squeezed into the double album Made In Japan, considered by many the epitome of live rock albums.
Thirty years after forming, Deep Purple are, amazingly, still at it - and way more vital than anyone has a right to expect. It's been four years since the classic line-up reformed with Dixie Dregs axe-master Steve Morse replacing Blackmore, and Purple is still touring the world to packed houses. Abandon, their latest album, simply defines how a band of forty-something heavy rockers can ply their trade without one ounce of embarrassment, and boasts more than enough musical muscle to keep the hardest of their peers continually studying their moves. We spoke to Ian Paice on the eve of the American leg of Deep Purple's world tour, where crowds are being warmed up by Dream Theatre and Emerson, Lake and Palmer.
AB: Deep Purple has experienced a lot of personnel changes. This particular line-up has been going for four years.
IP: For us, that's brilliant.
AB: What do you attribute this line-up's longevity to?
IP: I think it's a few things. First off, the chemistry among the people is superb. I mean, there were never any problems among the four of us from the old line-up; there were just problems between Ritchie and other people. So the fact that we actually like each other is a great bonus. Plus the addition of Steve has put a whole new spin on it. His influences are totally different from ours, but after a few months he sort of became enveloped in this Deep Purple umbrella, and ideas started coming out in ways that are natural to us. He's just a fountain of invention. It doesn't stop, so you're always getting buzzed, turned on to new things to play. He's a dream to play with, he'll either lead you somewhere or he'll let himself be led.
AB: Has the departure or arrival of certain bandmembers affected your playing in particular?
IP: Every change we've ever had has been done because we had to do it, not because we all wanted it to happen. You don't go into this sorta crap because you think it's fun. When you are a small unit, changing one person is quite a major upheaval. If his musical influences are strongly defined and he sticks to that, it will influence the way that you play. It was obvious when Glen Hughes was in the band in the mid-70's that his love of black music and the way he played bass in a much more funky style would rub off on the rhythms I would have come up with to compliment him. And when Tommy Bolin was in the band for that short period around '75 / '76, he brought another way of looking at things. You do get influenced. You're sort of pushed down side roads that you maybe wouldn't normally take. But at the end of the day you don't really stray that far away from what you feel yourself. You can always come back to the freeway that you believe in.
AB: Since some of the current bandmembers live in Europe and the others live in the States, does that make rehearsing difficult?
IP: We rehearse, but not in the way you'd really take seriously. I mean, after all these years we know what we are doing. When we started the first leg of this world tour in Europe, we had three dates together in Turkey just to refresh ourselves on the old songs and work out which of the new ones we thought would have a chance on stage. And that was plenty of time. I feel some bands leave the first three gigs in the rehearsal room; by the time they get on stage they are almost bored.
Also, a lot of what we do is still about invention in the moment. Although you have the structure of the songs, you're not really sure what will happen in the middle of it, and that's the thrill of it. You can't practice that. As long as you know the beginning and the end, the middle sort of takes care of itself.
AB: In 1998 that's a revolutionary idea.
IP: Isn't that a pity?
AB: Deep Purple has been about stretching out since the beginning.
IP: We made those first couple of records the same way we'd do a concert. We didn't make any compromise for the fact that it was a studio. We played it with the same energy as if there were people in front of us. I think that comes through on those records. Okay, they are not perfect tracks, but you can feel when people are bouncing off each other, and I think that's their charm. Bands like us, Vanilla Fudge, Cream, Hendrix -- there was great empathy among the musicians in the studio, you could hear that some things were not arranged, they were not worked out. They just sort of happened.
AB: Your tunes have some complex rhythmic twists and turns, which you nailed live. Made In Japan has some great examples of this. Did you specifically rehearse those moments?
IP: Like now, we didn't rehearse a lot then. I think a lot of the time we rehearsed on stage. We'd be looking at each other with great big eyes going, "What's happening next?" Basically we'd just tune into each other and think, "Okay, I don't know what 'it' is, but it's going to happen now." You'd lock onto that. And of course, if it happens once, it goes in the little grey cells and it can happen again. And it's just a slow amalgamation of all these little tricks that would happen by accident every night until they became almost an arrangement in themselves.
Some of those things are so off the wall that to try and preconceive and concoct them in a rehearsal room or studio is... I don't know... for us, I don't think it was ever possible that way. It had to be of the moment.
AB: Listening to Made In Japan, it's obvious that you guys were at a peak at that point.
IP: I think we were really lucky to capture those concerts. I was in Spain about four months ago doing a radio promo for the remastered version of the album, and I hadn't realized that they had taken the encore tracks and tacked them onto the new version. I hadn't heard them since we put the masters up in Japan to see if the tapes were any good. When I heard the encore of "Lucille" at the radio studio I thought, that's very, very good. And you know why I thought that was really good? Because during the show we were aware that the recording machine was going, and we sort of played somewhere between an absolute flat-out live show and with that sort of control that you would normally play with in the studio. But when the encores came we forgot all about the machine, and w played exactly like we would just for the audience. You can actually feel the difference in the approach to the music. As soon as the encores come in it's, "Okay boys, here we go!" It's just a totally different attitude.
AB: You've always employed rudiments freely. Did you ever have formal training?
IP: No. When I was growing up there was nobody around who could teach me, and that was a problem. So I got some very simple books to learn what the rudiments were, and I worked at a very early age at reading, because it made things easy. There were certain things you could do if you knew the notation. Everything in those rudiments has an inherent rhythm, and not only does practising them give you control and discipline, but you can find new rhythms within them. Everybody sees the notations a different way. Sometimes through not being very good, you don't get all the notes the same volume, and you realize this and it gives you a rhythm. It may not be "right," but it's very creative if you find something that on the face of it that nobody's done before.
AB: So part of the job is to sort of identify your own idiosyncrasies.
IP: Yeah, I think so. I remember back on one of those early albums we did a track called "Chasing Shadows," which was basically a double-paradiddle between two tom-toms. If you play that notation, it gives you an amazing thundering rhythm. It's just a rudiment, but if you don't know that rudiment you'll never come out with that configuration of notes, because it's not an obvious thing to do.
AB: Once you've got the ability to pull off some rudiments and licks, you have to learn how and when to apply these things. In your music there are occasions where you are really going off -- and not just during solos, but within the songs -- and then there are other times where you are sort of holding back. Is it just experience that tells you when and how busy to be in your playing?
IP: Sometimes I think people credit musicians with a little more knowledge about what they do than they actually have. I think that's part of the glory of it: Sometimes we don't know what it is that we are doing, but it seems to work out okay anyway. There are certain feels and rhythms that each musician feels more at home with, and that he will be more comfortable to stretch out on. Then there are other tempos and feels where you're not quite so in tune with it, and you'll be a little more reserved. Nobody is good at everything, but everybody has something that they are better at. I think that when you hit one of those things your confidence level goes up, and you might do something extraordinary.
I've never found any problem playing the faster things; I do find it difficult playing some of the very slow things. My natural tendency is to push it up. I mean, I can do it, but I have to be aware that there can be a tempo problem, therefore I'm thinking more about the tempo than I am about other things. Whereas if I'm in a tempo where I'm totally comfortable, all I'm thinking about is the playing. I think that's true for a lot of people.
AB: Even from the early records, you could tell that your personal style, as well as the style of the band, came from a mixture of influences.
IP: We all had different musical loves in our youth. Ritchie's was pure rock 'n' roll, Gillan was Elvis Presley, my thing was '50's rock 'n' roll and '30s and '40s big band swing, and Roger's was folk music. When your influences are that diverse, you end up with something unique.
AB: The jazz and big band seems to come out on the new record; there are a few suffles on the recording that sound great. You guys are groovin' like an R&B band half the time. There is also less of a tendency toward the flashy stuff of the past.
IP: There is a time and a place for everything, and this is the '90s -- it's not like the '60s or the '70s -- and we are doing what is correct for the time. It's not even a conscious effort, you sort of go with the flow that you feel is right. I actually don't believe that an audience would put up with fifteen- or twenty-minute drum solos now. I don't think the attention span of people when they go out to be entertained is that disciplined anymore. When I say "disciplined" I don't mean that in a good sense or a bad sense, you know back in the late '60s/early '70s most people weren't even aware they were at a show, never mind how long you were playing. But it's a different time, and I think that what's more important now is that you get the grooves right and you make everybody on stage smile. And if the audience sees that, they start smiling as well. They realize that you are having a good time.
The groove is everything, it really is. I try to make a straight rock 'n' roll beat more interesting by adding some swing to it. You don't have to play a shuffle; what you can do is influence the beat with a bounce. It is something I tend to do a lot of -- sometimes too much, but that's the way I hear it. Sometimes Roger will say, "You've got to play it a bit straighter," and I'll listen back to the tape and go, "Yeah, I understand," because my natural thing is to try and bounce everything, which goes back to the '30's, '40s thing. When I was a kid growing up, that was all I used to hear, because my father was the only one who had records. So when I hear a certain tempo, all these early things in my head come out the way I remember them. It all harkens back to that period of time, and of course to the onset of real rock 'n' roll, like Little Richard's band. I still think that is probably the greatest rock 'n' roll band ever.
AB: And their records were probably recorded with one or two mic's in the studio.
IP: You listen to the sound of those old records, and you can't believe how they got it.
AB: Speaking of that, in the past you've said that you've never been completely happy with your sound on record. How close do you feel you've gotten on this record?
IP: Not much closer. When you are dealing with instruments that take such a wide spectrum of sound like a Hammond organ or a roaring electric guitar, everything becomes a compromise, and the first thing that is going to get hit is an acoustic instrument like the drums. To try and get through this wall of sound from these other instruments is very difficult, and sometimes just impossible. So after a few records, you kind of accept that the chances are you'll end up with a sound that is pretty good, but you'll never end up with a sound that is exactly right in a way that a Hammond player or a guitarist can get. A drummer sometimes has to just swallow his pride and go, "Well, that's as good as I can get it."
AB: Abandon sounds like you got pretty close.
IP: It has a nice sound. I'm not putting it down. But there's always another 10% you could have found. The most important thing apart from the way you tune your drums is the room they are recorded in. Sometimes the room that is great for a drumkit is not particularly good for anybody else, or the room that's good for everybody else is absolutely crappy for the drums. Then you start getting into isolation booths and basically hearing each other only through headphones. You lose contact that way; you have to feel each other as well as see each other.
AB: How was Abandon done in comparison to others in that regard?
IP: I would say that about 25% of the tracks were cut live, and about 75% were built up in much more of a studio fashion. We found that on some of the tracks where the tempos were a little hard to control, a click track was definitely a help. And because of that I could re-record the drums after the basic track was recorded. It was just easier on certain tracks where we felt it was necessary to get a cleaner drum sound to just redo them.
AB: Is it difficult to play along to what's already down?
IP: It used to be. I'm getting better at it now. I'm not a great lover of click tracks. They limit what you feel you can do. I can almost always tell when a guy is playing with a click track, because all the fills become very square. They follow the metre of the song so precisely, there's no feel there. It takes a little while to understand that you have to somehow mentally treat this thing as your friend and not your enemy. As soon as you can do that you can start playing around with it. It's a very difficult thing to do, acknowledging that the click track is there but trying to ignore it so that you can put in those extra little notes and changes of feel without losing that metronomic time. That can drive you crazy.
AB: You mentioned earlier that you feel more comfortable at faster tempos. Was there ever a time when you felt like doing something to improve you playing at slow tempos? That's a problem for a lot of people.
IP: I never really worry about it that much now, though there was a period in the early '80s when I basically couldn't keep time in the studio. I was doing one of the Gary Moore records, and I just got myself so wound up about it that I was actually creating the problem myself. It snowballed to the point where I just wouldn't go into the studio. It was a short-term, self-induced thing, and I had to get myself out of it.
AB: How did you do that?
IP: I listened to the old records and realized, "I don't have a tempo problem. My timekeeping is pretty good," and I had to convince myself that it was alright.
AB: And stop thinking so much about it.
IP: Exactly. You can over-think this stuff. The reason you start doing this when you are a kid is because it's meant to be fun. When it becomes your business, your job -- okay, you have to take it a little more seriously. But you still keep that fun thing in the back of your head. If you start worrying about it, you actually can't do it -- well, at least I can't do it if I start worrying about it.
AB: The '80s were a time when a lot of people started second-guessing themselves.
IP: We had these terrible criteria set: With these amazing computers we could make electric drums like real drums. The time-keeping was metronomic, and the sound was phenomenal. And then you'd go in there with your drumkit and you were expected to have this incredibly metronomic time and play the fills as well. It was almost an impossible situation and very difficult to deal with. I had a great deal trouble in the '80s with that.
AB: Something occurred to me when I was looking at an early photo of you playing live: Your rack tom, which looks like a 14" ...
IP: It was a 16". I had Ludwig build me the kit, and I wanted a bigger rack tom, so I had them get me a 16" tom and chop it down to 10" deep.
AB: Well, even more to the point: That 16" tom is sitting there on a snare stand, which compared to today's snare stands seems pretty flimsy. Today you see some guys that are apparently playing "heavy," pounding like maniacs, and there's just no way if somebody like that were to play a kit like yours that they wouldn't be toppling things over.
IP: That's true.
AB: Is that a case of technique over brute force?
IP: Yes. It has to be. I'm not a particularly big guy, but I play forcefully. I play with nothing like the aggression and the power that some of these young guys put into their kit. I can't do it: I'm not built that way. But I'll be just as loud as they are. It's all about the velocity of the stroke and how perfectly the stroke hits the drum. That's where the volume comes from. You can only hit so hard before the drum won't get any louder. What happens then is you choke the head, or you break the head, or you take the tone out of it. There's only so much you can get out of an acoustic instrument. You can pound away for all you're worth and it won't get any louder. That's when the technique comes in.
AB: When did you figure this out?
IP: When I was a kid I wanted to be the loudest drummer in the world -- not only did I want to, I had to try, because in those days there were no mic's on drumkits. The only way the audience heard you over these huge Marshall stacks was if you pounded. But it didn't take very long for me to realize that when you're pounding that hard you can't actually play anything. You can play time, but it's very hard to play anything that means anything. Al you have to do is drop back fifteen, twenty percent, and it's still loud, but you can play stuff. You can use the finesse of your wrist and your fingers and your ankles to play instead of using your shoulder and your forearm.
You also didn't have to compromise the way you tuned your drums. They could be a lot louder acoustically than the way you have to tune them now with microphones. You had more sound coming back at you, because it didn't matter if the tom-tom rang back at you for fifteen seconds, or the snare drum went, "boink," or the bass drum rang on after the note, because there was no microphone on it to feed back. All the audience heard was the impact, but you got a lot more volume from the drum because it was singing to you. If you try and get a drum to sing to a microphone, it would just drive everybody crazy because there's always a certain frequency where it will start feeding back on itself.
AB: What about when you started playing in big places? I would guess that the monitoring was not what it is today.
IP: Well no, there was no monitoring on the drums; there was just the overhead mic's for the recording.
AB: So you are really relying on hearing yourself.
IP: Exactly. But it wasn't difficult. I mean, bands set up in a certain way because that's the way they could hear each other best. That's the way we got our own internal balance on stage -- by the positioning and the spacing of all the stuff. It was much more important then; now it's not so important, because there's a monitor system on stage that's probably five times as big as our PA back then was. Sometimes now you change 'round the stage just for the aesthetics of it; it doesn't affect the sound.
AB: Now you use a different kit in the studio from live. Is that right?
IP: Marginally, yes.
AB: At one time you were going to us a little smaller bass drum.
IP: That still applies. I still use a monster on stage, a 26". In the studio, I'll flip between the 22" and the 24" just because the frequency range of the 26" is so low that to get any impact out of it is very difficult. But on stage, if you need something a little louder and with a little more bottom, I find that 26" has exactly the right sound. I'm not trying to be a groovy soul merchant; I want it to explode, like a canon going off in front of you. That's part of the excitement of it.
AB: Is there an adjustment in playing technique?
IP: The 26" is a pig. The response is so slow you have to build it into your playing. You know that the pedal is going to wallow back at you, so you have to take that into account. The head's not got that far to move on a 22" or a 24". So yeah, it takes a couple of seconds to adjust.
AB: You recorded Abandon in the States. How come?
IP: Recording in the States is easier and a lot less expensive than in Europe. We recorded down in central Florida, which means that when you finish working you can go out and play. There are plenty of restaurants and bars, and of course you've got the good weather. When you've finished a hard session in the studio, you are surrounded by things that let you take your mind off the music for a little while.
AB: How long did it take to record the album?
IP: We started last summer with some writing sessions, which generally take three to four weeks. Then we took a break and continued writing. In it's entirety, the recording took about six months. My part was about eight or nine weeks, which still makes me crazy because we used to make an entire record in two or three days. It's strange, technology should make it easier, but it makes it a lot more difficult. You just can't get away with some of the things you could in the old days, because the technology brings everything right out, and if there is a mistake there, everybody hears it.
AB: In the past, Deep Purple songs were attributed to the whole band or several members. How is the writing done now?
IP: Back in the very old days we used to get together in a rehearsal room and just jam around and see what came out. That method got dropped in the '80s because Ritchie's influence got more and more dominant, and he just wanted to play his own ideas, to the point where nobody else bothered bringing ideas in anymore, because we knew he wouldn't play them. But since Steve has been in the band we've managed to get back to the way that we feel comfortable with and the way that all those successful records were created in the past. It was the input of five people.
The way it generally starts is between Steve and myself. We get in a little earlier than everybody else and start jamming. We roll a tape machine all the time and just go on for an hour or two. The other guys come in and we jam some more, and then we listen back to see what might be there. Out of two hours you might find five minutes that are fantastic. Over the course of three or four weeks, you end up with ten or twelve of these little spots, and when you come back in the second time you try to find a way of either extending them or joining them together. Ian has the hardest job, because when we give him a track he has to see if he can write a song over it, whereas normally the top line would be the first thing you have. Sometimes you end up with a great track where you can't put a top line to it, then you have to go right back to square one.
AB: Do you have any favourite tracks on the new album?
IP: I never know they are favourite tracks until we've finished them. There are certain things I enjoy playing more, but that doesn't mean they're going to be great tracks.
That said, I like the first song, "Any Fule Kno That." I think it has a nice feel to it. One of the hardest things was a track called "Evil Louie." There's a middle-eight section that I just couldn't get. It was one of those slow ones, and even with a click track I couldn't find a part that would work with it. And it took almost two weeks of going in for a couple of hours everyday at the end of the sessions just to try and get this bloody eight bars. Eventually I found it just by playing a 16th-note part with a straight back beat, but instead of playing the 16th notes on only the hi-hat or ride cymbal, I played them between the two. And for some reason, the motion of my arms doing that made that part fit right in with the click, and it felt great. It's a very weird feeling when you know that what you are being asked to do is so simple but you can't find the right way to do it.
AB: You redid "Bloodsucker" for this album. How come?
IP: We'd been including it on our last world tour, and a lot of younger people who were coming to the shows were saying, "What's that great new song you've been playing?" They didn't know it was from a old record. So we thought, well, it's got so much interest, let's do it again and try to revitalize it.
AB: Do you see a good number of younger people in the audiences?
IP: It's very strange. At the front we have fifteen and up -- even younger. You go a little further back, and it's the twenty-five year-olds; farther back it's the thirty-five year-olds. But when you ask them to listen, they all listen, and when an exciting bit comes on, they all get excited. There is no generation gap at all. The emotion of the music and the feeling that comes from the stage hits everybody the same way. When you see some guy with his ponytail and his grey hair bouncing up and down next to a kid that can't be more than fifteen years old, that's a rather amazing thing to see.
AB: How is you set list divided between old and new stuff?
IP: We are probably playing a lot more from this new record than any other new album we've ever brought out. In the past we'd generally find two or three tracks that would transpose into a stage vehicle, where they actually made sense and stood up for themselves. This time we've been playing six off the album, which is a lot. The trouble is, when you've got a track record and past history that we have, there are certain songs that you have to play. If you don't, then the audience feels let down, and at the end of the day there are old songs that we should be proud of because they've been very good to us. You have to get this blend of what is important to play now, what is fun to play, and what the audience really wants to hear. You can't please everybody in two hours, but you can get pretty close.
I think a lot of bands overstay their welcome. When you go and see a rock 'n' roll show, you want to be excited, and you can only take the excitement of something really powerful and driving for so long before you start losing it. I think it's much more user-friendly to an audience to keep it shorter. They're more likely to think, "Christ, that was amazing."
AB: You've been playing with a lot of energy for thirty-odd years at this point. Do you find you have to take care of yourself better?
IP: I find it easier playing now than I did twenty years ago.
IP: Yeah. Again, over the course of time you learn how to make things easier for yourself. I mean, there was many a time in the last year or two when I've come off after two hours and known that if I had to do another show in an hour's time I could have done it. Back in the mid-'70s I couldn't have said that.
AB: I would imagine your early years playing in Germany must have been a great ground to develop your stamina.
IP: It was amazing. Back at the Star Club in Hamburg...last time I played there was in 1967. Midweek there would be three bands, and we would play an hour at a time. We'd start at 6:00 in the evening, play, have two hours off, come back, and play again. I think we'd play a total of four sets, so we were actually at the club from 6:00 at night till 4:00, 5:00 in the morning. And then weekends we'd start at 4:30 and there's be four bands on, so we'd play one hour, and have three hours off, play an hour, get three hours off. I found that the first three days I was there, I hadn't gone to bed, and I was in a real state because it seemed like we were always at the club ready to go and play another set. You had to say, "Okay, I must go home to bed now." As an eighteen-year-old of course you didn't care about it too much, but eventually you realize you are standing up shaking and you don't know why.
AB: You can really hear the effects of playing so much on the bands from that time, versus the bands from today. Without making quality comparisons, there doesn't seem to be that sort of ferociousness now.
IP: I don't think there is. It's a shame, because I know it doesn't have anything to do with the kids. There are some great players out there looking for places to play and places to learn -- because you don't learn in rehearsals and you don't learn in the studio; you learn in front of people and you learn by doing it every night. It's not just learning what's right, it's learning what's wrong as well, things that don't work.
AB: Do you think you're still learning new things?
IP: Yeah. Through your life you get a little lazier, but... One of my nephews is a very good young drummer, and he brings his videotapes of these guys that I've never heard of, and I go, "Yeah, that's pretty good. I wonder how I could use that." I've been doing that all through my career. If I see something that impresses me, even if I can't do it, I'll take the gist of it and find a way that it works for me. And in doing that, of course it changes; it isn't a carbon copy of what the other guy did. I think most players you talk to will say that they listen to other people's little tricks and then find their own way of getting the same effect.
AB: Do you find yourself listening to younger groups these days?
IP: I find a lot of it a bit "samey." I don't get any surprises from it, and generally I don't think the songs are good enough to get away without surprises. Also, I think once you play in a hard rock band it's very hard to get excited about somebody else's rock 'n' roll. You are so close to the excitement as it's happening that to try and it second-hand is a bit difficult.
AB: Plus you came up in a time when so many innovations were being made.
IP: It was a good time to have been born -- and a great time to be eighteen to twenty years old!
AB: You were spoiled.
IP: Hey, Timing is everything, you know? [laughs] Don't they tell you that in show business?
Transcribed to HTML by Jim Corrigan