[ d e e p P u r . p l e )
Ritchie Blackmore, Interviews
The Highway Star

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When did you first start playing guitar?

Basicaliy I started when I was 11. I don't really have a musical background from my pareents, but my father was a kind of mathematician, and he helped me with the notes in a purely mathematical way. I would show him some music and ask, "Why is this like this?" and he would work it out without knowing why, which I could't do at that age. And that's what I've been doing since I was 11.

Did you take any lessons?

Yeah, when I was 11 I took classical lessons for a year. I thought I had to start playing on the right foot and the right hand, and I felt I had to Iearn properly. So I took lessons for a year, and then I went my own way after that. You lose your identity unless you do it yourself. You've got to get off on the right footing, but after that you have to carry on with your own identity, which for me came later. I suppose my style originated from not being able to pick things up very easily. I used to play my own solos rather than copy other people's.

Did you find the guitar accessible?

No, I found it very hard at first. It was very difficult. The first six months were difficult and then it became very easy; then after about three years it became very difficult again.

Was it some time befor you got your first electric guitar?

It was about five years. The acoustic I was using was a Spanish guitar that had about 400 pickups and knobs and switches. And then I bought a Hofner, which was a very thin guitar. It was a great guitar; I wish I could find it today. It didn't have any f-holes, it was a solidbody. And then I hought a Gibson ES-335 when I was about 16, and I stayed with that one until I was 21 or 22, something like that. And then I heard Hendrix's sound, which hit me in the stomach, and I went for that. With the Gibson you really lose that identity - everybody sounds the same, I think, unless you're listening to one of thc top-notch guys.

Did you play in bands with friends?

I played in a skiffle group, and there were ahout 20 guitarists involved and none of them could play. We were playing Lonnie Donegan stuff "Rock Island Line" and things like that. But first I started playing off what you call a dog box: it's a piecc of string attached to a broorn handle which goes through a tea chest and gives you certain notes. And any one of the notes will do, as long as it goes boom. Then I progressed to the washboard with thimbles and things.

When did you begin studying with Big Jim Sullivan?

He was teaching me when I was about 12. My brother's girlfriend knew him and he would come over to the house; of course after I heard him play I idolized him. I would always be around his house trying to learn different things. He was good because I could see how far I had to go to try and keep up. At first I thought, "Oh, no, I'll never make it if this is just the guy around the corner," but luckily not everybody was like him. It just so happened he lived around the corner and it was like having a genius around, and you think everyone else is the same way.

What kinds of things was he showing to you?

He was teaching me classical - Bach, and things like that - and he was teaching me to read better than I was. He said to me once, "Whatever type of music you're going to play, you must stick to it; don't be a jack-of-all-trades." So I decided rock and roll was the thing. Which is ironic - he didn't practice what he preached. He plays country and western, classical - just everything very well, but of course people don't know him for anything. And so I started to rock and roll because I was excited by it.

What was your frist band when your playing had a chance to expand?

It was the Outlaws, which was a band that used to do a lot of sessions. Chas Hodges was on hass - he used to be with Heads, Hands & Feet. We stayed together for about two years and did a lot of sessions. That was a very good band, it was instrumental and we didn't have a singer. I learned a lot from sessions; I did about four a day when I was 17 or 18. It was the same time Jimmy Page was doing sessions. If they wanted a rock and roll player they'd get Pagey or myself, because they had a lot of people who could read, but they didn't have too many people who could feel heavy rock music. All these readers didn't want to know about playing rock, whereas Jimmy and I didn't read too well, but we could just feel the sessions.

Whom did you do sessions for?

The sessions were for everybody, even for Tom Jones at times. But half the time they were backing tracks, so we didn't know who they were for. Occassionally we'd see the artists, but the people were really not well-known; they were well-known there but you wouldn't know them here.

You used the ES-335 for the sessions?

Yeah, and I had a system for getting a fuzz sound. This was the early '60s, and I hadn't seen a fuzztone, so I used a smashed speaker which was about three inches around and gave this fuzz-box sound.

What type of amplifier were you using?

A Vox AC-30.

That was virtually the only amp available then.

That's right, and they were the best, too. I've still got that Vox. It's encased in a Marshall cabinet.

You did sessions for how long?

I did sessions for about two years, and then I went to Germany after that and did sessions there and stayed there for quite a time, about three years. Then the Purple thing started.

You used the ES-335 for the early years of Deep Purple?

That's right, the first two years. I used it on the first two albums, Shades Of Deep Purple and The Book Of Taliesyn.

Your work with Screaming Lord Surch was before Purple?

Yes, I forgot about that. The Screaming Lord introduced me to showmanship. Before that I used to play in the wings, and when I met him he pulled me out front and demanded I jump around and act stupid. My first impression of him was that I thought he was mad. In those days nobody had that kind of long hair; God knous how long it was. And he had his own act. But he had a fantastic hand, he had an amazing band.

Who was in the band with you at that time?

Ricky Benson, who later went with Georgie Fame, and Carl Little, who the Stones wanted and he turned them down - he's heen kicking himself ever since. And [pianist] Nicky Hopkins used to come along now and then, because we all lived around the same area.

How did that post-Sutch album, Hands Of Jack The Ripper, happen?

Sutch phones me up and said "Do you fance playing tomorrow night?" I agreed and I came down with [keyboardist] Matt Fisher of Procol Harum, and we did just a night of playing. And I saw the recording equipment and thought, "He's doing it again." And he said here's $500 for playing tonight.

You started developing your stage routine with Sutch?

Yeah, that's right. He pulled me on the stage and I was slightly electrocuted, because he was touching the mike and me. After that I thought if he can get away with it, I can do that, because I could see how well he was going down and how much money he was earning. I thought, "I can run around the stage and act like a maniac. Maybe I'll get paid for it, too."

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