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

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Do you rewire the guitars in any way?

No, but I sometimes insulate them with copper inside to stop the buzzing. That's about all, really. I don't use the middle pickup at all; I get rid of that one and rearrange the other two. I just have bass and treble black and white, that's what I like.

How many springs do you use on your vibrato bar?

Four. And I have a friend who balances the arm. He loosens the screws at the very front of the tailpiece and sets the whole thing at a different angle so it is in perfect balance. It's amazing, you just can't go out of tune. I never thought it would work. I just used to bolt them down and forget about it. I pull and push the vibrato bar -- it goes down a whole octave when I push it.

Do you try to get the settings between the three major positions on the toggle switch?

No, that's a little bit of a touch of gray in there.

What settings do you use on the guitar and the amplifier?

I never touch the tone controls on the guitar; they're always full up. But I will turn the guitar volume from full to half when I'm doing a quieter solo. On the amp everything is full up. No, actually I do have markings on the amp, but it's very hard to say because I can't compare it with anything. On some amps I have the presence completely up, and on some I have it completely off. And like I told you bcfore, I have no hass. I use a lot of middle because I hate that screeching top; it's a little bit too penetrating. I use midrangc treble. And the volume is on half; if it was full up it would just catch on fire.

Do you use the stock speakers in the cabinets?

Yeah, whatever they are.

Have you ever experimented with other speakers?

I've tried all types of different amplifiers, but they're a little bit too clear; I like a little bit of distortion which is controlled through my tape recorder. I built my own tape recorder; well, I didn't build it, but I modified it from a regular tape recorder to an echo unit. It also preamps and boosts the signal going to the amp. If I want a fuzzy effect l just turn up the output stage of the tape recorder.

Can you be more specific as to how it works?

I just keep it on "record" so it records, and it's like a continual echo becaus I couldn't get that echo with any echo machine. A continual boom, boom, boom, repeat. Most echo machines are awful; it's like you're in a hallway. The tape recorder doesn't interfere with the note you're playing.

What type of recorder is it?

I don't really know. I tried using a Revox and it didn't work. I'd really be in trouble if somebody stole my recorder. I've been using it for the last four or five years.

How did you come upon this idea?

I used to do that at home; I used to take my tape recorder and use it as an echo. So I thought if I could use it at home I could use it onstage and it sounded right onstage.

How exactly is it hooked up?

There's a cord from the guitar into the tape recorder input, and the output stage just goes back to the amp. And I can control the volume, too; I can have it loud with no distortion or vise versa. I have a little footpedal that I can stop and start it with. A lot of people think when they see the tape going the solos are recorded. Lots of people ask that. Some guy shouted in New York, "Turn the tape recorder off." Actually all that inspired me, I turned it off and really whizzed around.

Do you use any other pedals or effects?

No. Well I do use bass pedals; I've only been using them for about the last six months. When the band decides they don't want to play I can go do my own little set. It's very interesting because they're a challenge. Sometimes it works great and sometimes it doesn't, but that's the chance you take. They're so loud and so bassy.

What kind of picks and strings do you use?

I use tortoiseshell picks, one end squared, one end pointed. I have them specially made for me because you can't get them at all. I use tortoiseshell because plastic is too soft; I like them brick hard. I've used this shape ever since I was 11, and I just cannot play with those round things everybody plays with, because when you jump a string you tend to hit the other string on the way. With this pick you can be more nimble. I use Picato strings; I've always used them. They're the best; Eric Clapton turned me on to these. He's now using Fender - I don't know why. Why Ernie Ball has the monopoly on strings I'll never know. The gauges I use are .010, .011, .014, .026, .036 and .042.

Are there certain keys you like to work in?

Yeah, I like F# and Dm. E is boring. I don't do too much in C; it's a little too obvious, too bright for me. G is a very resonant key, F# is more of a blues. Dm gives you the entire length of the neck to do nice open notes.

In the studio do you record rhythm tracks first and then solos?

I hate to do rhythm tracks, they bore me silly. That's why most of my rhythm tracks are very clinical. I'm so bored with just trying to get the thing right with the drums and the bass. I just love the part when it comes to putting my bit on there because if I clock up it's just me. But I can't stand going through, "I've done my bit," and the bass player goes, "Oh, I messed it up." And you do it again and the bass player gets it right and the drummer messes up. Of course by the tenth time you start hollering at everybody and you mess it up. And that's it, you're over the top by this time. Everybody is stale. You become a combination of things - annoyed, stale, worried that you're not ever going to get it off. And it's so simple, it's something you'd knock off in one minute, but get it onto tape is a pain in the ass. That's why I don't like recording too much, it's too clinical. A lot of people love it, they can edit their music and put it together and make it nice, but when they get onstage they're lost. My way of thinking is the opposite. I love to have that freedom of just going onstage and playing whatever I want to play at the time. I'll play the numbers, which I'm supposed to play, but in the in-between parts if I'm feeling good, I'll play something completely off the wall that I've never ever played in my life. In other words, I just lay back for the vocal and then I do my bit when it comes to the solo. I don't like to intricate things in the backgrounds; I don't like to clutter, I like the foundation to be simple.

Do you use special miking techniques in the studio?

I have one speaker in the studio, and I have one in an echo chamber usually. And the're both miked up, but not very close; they're miked from about nine feet away because they're so bloody loud. I play near stage volume in the studio, because the amp only operates full out it can't operate at half.

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