[% META title = 'Ian Gillan, Interviews' %]
The truth about Mitzi Dupree (and the rest of the lyrics to "The House of Blue Light", for that matter)
From Kerrang! No 137, Jan. 8 1987.
"I was pissed off...for a change!" Ian wheezes with laughter and leans forward to plant an elbow on each knee. "No, it's a thing everyone says in America - and I hate posey expressions. I wish people could talk properly. When we reformed a few years ago, Ritchie and I were playing football and we had a row on the pitch which ended with me telling him to piss off. So he turned round and said, 'There's no need to cop an attitude' and I said, 'What do you mean, 'cop an attitude', can't you speak English?'
"Anyway, that theme just kinda developed and this song attacks that kinda thing. It has no hidden meaning or anything, it's just a groove.
"'The Unwritten Law' is next, and that's about The Clap. I mean, there is a code - know what I mean? If you've got a dose you don't go spreading it around. It's a general comment on how people should have a little more responsibility. We tried to think of other unwritten codes to include in the song...but I can't think of any at the moment!"
_'The Unwritten Law' is a different kinda song for Purple, isn't it?_
"Yeah, I nearly killed Ritchie when I heard that riff -it's the most difficult riff I've ever had to write for! I was going round for ages going 'diddle-id, diddle-id' behind his back," the singer laughs, mimicking the riff. "Still, it's a different vehicle, and that's one of the great things with this album - without doubt it's my favourite album since 'Fireball'."
_It''s interesting to hear you say that this album is 'moving forward', for perhaps the one criticism that could be raised about 'Perfect Strangers', and in fact was by Geoff Barton in Kerrang!, was that it was a bit 'safe._
"That's a fair comment, I don't think 'Perfect Strangers' was intended to be 'safe', but when we got back together after so many years we just played what came naturally to us, and were so knocked out by what was coming out of our jams that we just decided to put that on the album. Y'see, an album is a collection of songs which record how you are at that particular time, and to do anything else other than lay down how and what you feel at that time is to go into contrivances; it becomes artificial,it becomes difficult to live with and it doesn't wear well."
_So, if you agre that 'Perfect Strangers' was a touch 'safe', how much of a progression would you say 'The House of Blue Light' is?_
"Not much, because the chemistry of the band only allows us to go into certain areas. For example, if Roger and I are doing a project we can go off in any direction we want to, and if Jon is doing something solo he'll have no boundaries to restrict him either. But within the parameters of the band you can only stretch so far.
"I think people confuse progression with changem and half the time they want you to_change_ in order to progress. But I think you progress within yourself more than anything else, by pushing yourself a little more each time. I don't mean singing higher or louder or faster - I'm sick of all that, Heavy Metal drives me bonkers, it makes me vomit - but just trying to improve on your previous efforts."
_You said Heavy Metal makes you vomit, so what do you make of all these Thrash bands that are flooding the market at the moment?_
"It's a joke. I don't understand it. Well, of _course_ I understand it, it's the same as punk, it's the same as anything that's based purely on a style or a fashion - but I just can't get anything out of it, except for the fact that it makes me laugh. Heavy Metal is really a pile of puke.
"I think people got the wrong end of the stick when they looked at Purple and Sabbath. Well, maybe not Sabbath, because I suppose they were the founders of Heavy Metal, but that was nothing to do with what we were doing - we were just playing music; Purple was influenced by everything from Elvis Presley to Beethoven...it was ridiculous!"
_Anyway, back to the new album...and the third track, titled "Call of the Wild".
"Yeah, that's a telephone call about this bird...oh, it's a cheap pun really, but it's an interestin lyric and it has an interesting chorus. We thought it was too soft and sloppy at first - it nearly got rejected, strangely enough - but when it was finished it seemed to have a nice edge to it. It sounds like some of the more accessible songs Purple have done in the past."
_When I heard it last night my immediate thoughts were that it was an obvious single._
"That's an amazing thing! We didn't think about that, we just presented it to the record company and immediately everyone remarked that it was an obvious single.
"I think it'll probably be the first single in the UK, allthough another one might get chosen for America.
"Right, what's next? 'Mad Dog'... that's just good fun. And then there's 'Black & White', which is a light-hearted attack on the press - and not only the press, but people's attitudes towards it. Some people believe that if they see something in black and white it must be true, although very often it isn't true at all. I mean, I have no objection to the press in the slightest - _bastards!_ - but it is difficult to tell people that what they read in the papers isn't necessarily true. _'A reliable source informed me...', 'A close friend said...'_, what a load of bollocks! It _can_ be entertaining, and we do get a selection of newspapers at home... Although I don't get any music press because I don't like music very much..."
_You don't like music?! How can you say that when you've devoted your life to it?_
"Oh, I like doing it, but I don't like listening to it very much - I prefer carpentry, and in fact I make most of the furniture in my house.
"I do have the radio on at times, but I'm not really interested in what goes on in the business because the business doesn't interest me very much."
_OK, so that's 'Black & White'. What about the first track on Side Two, 'Hard Lovin' Woman'?
"Well, we had a song called 'Hard Lovin' Man' in the early days, so we thought 'Hard Lovin' Woman' would be a laugh. Roger and I wrote a whole list of potential titles up on the wall of this little room in Stowe where we recorded the album, and that was one of them. Wewanted to do a hard rock'n'roll song with tight harmonies and that kinda thing...and that title fitted the bill.
"'Spanish Archer' is the next, isn't it? Well, if you give someone the 'Spanish Archer', you give them the 'elbow' as you probably know, and so that song is about giving some lump the heave-ho. I don't actually think this song should've been included. I mean, it isn't properly arranged - it's just a series of verses with jamming inbetween (and Ritchie takes about four solos!) - and it wears on me. But everyone else disagrees with me - which is par for the course anyway, ha! -so it's been included.
"In contrast, 'Strangeways' is my favourite song on the album at the moment. I like the vocal harmonies on the intro...have you heard this one yet? You should, I'm very pleased with it.
"And 'Mitzi Dupree' is a good one, too. Actually, it's a true story. I was on a plane going to Salt Lake City when I was in Black Sabbath and I saw this most amazing boiler - oh, a sensational lump! - so I went over to talk to her and she said, 'Hi, I'm Mitzi, Mitzi Dupree...' and I thought, 'Wow, what a great name!' I was in love.
"Anyway, it turned out she was going up north to a mining town in Canada to do a show. So I asked her what she did and she told me that she did a show with ping-pong balls... Now, I've actually seen women do this before - in a small room behind a kitchen in Bangkok - and it's absolutely amazing. There was this Siamese girl onstage, and there were five Italians in the front row, all with a glass of wine each. She bent over backwards and - pop-pop-pop-pop-pop - these five ping-pong balls were fired out of you-know-where and each one landed in a glass - I swear to you! This bird also pulled out 50 double-edged razor blades from the same place all attached to bit of cotton, she signed autographs, she did paintings ... it was unbelievable! ANd this was what Mitzi did.
"'Mitzi Dupree' is a dead live song. It came out of a jam and we just recorded it for reference. I played it afterwards and thought it was great - I couldn't stop singing it - so I said to Roger, 'We've _got_ to do something with it.' And he said, 'Well, we can write on it, but we don't have to play it again because everyone else hates it'. So we wrote the lyric and I sang it to the jam tape, and Roger and I decided to leave it like that, because it sounded so natural and spontaneous. It's a great track.
"The last track on the album, however, 'Dead or Alive', is a pile of s**t."
_What don't you like about it?_
"It's just not any good," the singer laughs, shrugging his shoulders.
_So what's it doing on the album?_
"Exactly. Don't ask me. No, it's going to be good onstage...maybe _that's_ why it's on there. I _did_ write it,but under protest I might add. I think everyone else likes it, but I don't.
"So that's it; ten tracks on the album, and that's more than you usually get on a Purple album, so... I'm pretty pleased with it. I would say 'delighted' but I won't because I feel there should only be eight tracks on it. Still, it is a good album overall."