[% META title = 'Ian Gillan, Interviews' %]
This interview with Ian Gillan was taken from a TV-special on Deep Purple's "The Battle Rages On"-tour that was aired sometime early 1994 on Danish TV2. The interview was done on November 12th, 1993, the same day as DP's gig at Valby-Hallen in Copenhagen. It should be noted that Ritchie Blackmore left the band five days after this gig, after the Helsinki show at the 17th. The band was well aware of Ritchie's intention to leave, which I think shows up in some of Ian's answers.
Danish TV 2: Ian, you're back in Purple again. How does it feel?Transcribed by Benjamin Weaver
Ian Gillan: Yeah, I'm back with Purple for the third time now. You know, what great musicians these guys are! It's wonderful hearing Jon Lord and Ian and Roger playing so good.
DT: But it is an extraordinary situation. You're back in the band you've left two times!
IG: Well yeah, once voluntarily, the second time I was fired. I look on Deep Purple now as an ex-wife. We've been married twice and divorced twice. So from time to time we meet up and have wonderful affairs.(au, 104k)
DT: But I think that your situation is also positive. You are able to go back and then make things work...
IG: I think the pressures that you have after the initial bout of success...you tend to have self-imposed pressures. You're looking over you shoulder all the time and saying "my god, this better be as good as for example Machine Head" or those records we did in the seventies. I think to a certain extent you get to a point where you think: "well, you know, the race is over, let's just enjoy ourselves". This is the point. And all the politics and the dramas that go down over the years - it's just a waste of time really. I mean, the idea is to really put everything you've got into every project you've got. Purple used to dominate my whole life, and it took a long time to find the way of dealing with it - the perspective of it all. So I think of Purple now as a part of my life, not all of my life. And when it happens, it happens and it's wonderful!
DT: There's something I'd like to show you.
IG: Is this going to be embarrassing?
DT: No, I don't think so! [Shows Highway Star (au, 392k) filmed at KB-Hallen in 1972. This is available on video as "Scandinavian Nights"]
IG: [On himself:] Nice wiggle, he he! [On Roger:] He's still playing that Rickenbacker!
DT: I don't think you remember that particular night, but it's Copenhagen in '72 at KB-Hallen, only a mile away from here.
IG: Yeah, I remember.
DT: And you're saying there that this song [Highway Star] will remain our opening number for a year or so.
IG: Yeah, well you know. There it is still now. But there are certain things that do change, and certain things that don't change. For example, Smoke On The Water is still the closing song, and Highway Star is still the opening song. But in between there's a lot of changes.(au, 189k) For example, I haven't sung Child In Time for a long time, but CIT is now back in the show because of it's relevance to some of the new songs we do like Anya and The Battle Rages On. There are some things you can't escape from, I think if we went away without doing SOTW we'd get lynched anyway, so... I don't know, I came back into this, and I guess it's become a part of Purple's tradition to open with that song. I don't know if we always will, but it has been for quite a while now.
IG: I certainly think everyone actually plays better now than they used to. I mean that comes with practise, I guess. So it's just a question of bringing in new material. Even in those days, you know, when we'd done about 15 or 20 shows on a tour, the band used to get tired, not physically tired but the show used to get tired. So there was always a pressure to change the act around a little bit or bring some improvisation in to the show. And you're constantly aware of the fact that each show you do, even though it might be your 50th show on the tour, it's the first night for the people in the audience. So you've got to be fresh for it, you've got to be alive for it. And so there's ways of stimulating yourself, you know. In the old days it probably used to be through one or two too many scotch and cokes, but I mean, nowadays we look on things differently. [big smile]
DT: Is that one of the reasons why you survived you think. That you became more clever?
IG: I don't know about clever, more streetwise, I think it's what you do. And experience, you know, is a great thing. You really do learn to make things seem a little bit more...you know, I think it's like when you watch a good musician, and it seems effortless, it's like watching a good football player...I mean, I've stumbled around the field trying to imitate other players, but there's no way I can do it. But they've been doing it all their life, professional players, they practise and make the hard things look easy. And those are the skills, I think, of being on the road for a long time.
DT: What made rock go hard rock, you think?
IG: Um, it's a combination of things. I think probably we found our feet as writers, for a start off, we weren't copying other people's songs. We'd all been around for a few years. And after the Beatles and Bob Dylan et cetera, everyone started working on writing their own material. Then of course Jimi Hendrix came along, Vanilla Fudge and people like that. Most British artists up until that time had still been a little bit constrained. It was a natural British trait to sort of not let yourself entirely go. And I think that we suddenly found that we could become uninhibited. And so we let loose all these years of pent-up emotion and energy and suddenly went the other way (au,198k) and with a new- found confidence, plus, again, a certain amount of experience. With Purple, certainly, it was a question of two units playing it together. There was Ritchie, Jon and Ian who had already been together with the original Purple line-up, with Rod Evans and Nick Simper. And Roger and I joined from another band, so we came in not as individuals, but almost as a unit. Me as a singer, him as a bass player, but also as a writing team. So we where there delivering tunes and words together. So the chemistry was quite easy to work out, it was just two units blending together. And all that gives you confidence, and with confidence you've got everything.
DT: What do you think made the term hard rock?
IG: Guys like you!
DT: You never thought of it within the band, you just played?
IG: You know, we were called underground rock, progressive rock. Hard rock was just another one of those names. And I think the press picks up on things, as in the later years, you know Heavy Metal and all that sort of thing. It's not the sort of things that the musicians set out to describe themselves as. We never did anyway. We didn't want to be a certain kind of band. Most bands would like to have the identity afforded to individual solo artists. They would like to be perceived as being a living, creative, moving, procreative thing. But it's very difficult with bands, as they kind of get locked into the labels. And you're pigeon-holed then, forever really, and you have to fight very hard to create a new perception. If you're a solo artist you can do a bit of this and a bit of that. We found when after Deep Purple In Rock we did a thing called Fireball, which is my personal favourite record that Purple ever made, but people freaked out. They said: "no, you got to be a hard rock band, this is...". So we came back and we did Machine Head which was back on the road again. And that's what people seem to like. So, I think we go and explore the countryside from time to time, but every now and again you got to get back on the freeway.
DT: It's incredible Ian, that what you and the band started out has influenced so many bands later on.
IG: Yes, I've had it said many times that Purple was a great influence. But I think if you look at that period there were two or three bands that were of enormous influence over the years. Purple was one certainly, Zeppelin obviously, Black Sabbath - I think if you listen to the grunge stuff coming out of Seattle over the last years, and then go and play some old Toni Iommi licks, you'll find an awful lot of similarity. Free, of course were another band that influenced people over the years. But I think it goes to show the diversity of the influences that were there during our formative years. Everything from American pop music, blues, folk music, jazz, country & western. And then of course when the keyboard players started getting involved you got the classical influences. The whole thing was just an amalgam of all the things that had frustrated us and influenced us over the years. And then as times went on you had reggae and other forms of influence - Latin American music. All of these things just exploded to make rock music something that I really thought would never die. I think to this very moment of my life that, even though it's been through some wobbly stages, it's still very much alive. We're just finishing this tour now in Scandinavia, and there's been the most sensational audiences. And I think that most of time the average age has been under 25 years. And that's very encouraging for the future.
DT: Going back to this concert in KB-Hallen in '72. In Metallica there's a Danish drummer, Lars Ulrich. You know about Metallica, I guess?
IG: Yeah, I know the guys. I know Lars, yeah!
DT: That was his [Lars Ulrich's] first rock concert ever!
IG: Was it really!?
DT: Yes, and Fireball was the first album he ever bought. That's just to name one that started there...
IG: I went to see Metallica at the Olympic Hall in Munich, about year ago now, while we were recording The Battle Rages On, and it was a great show. Yes, it's nice to...it makes you feel kind of as if you've been around forever. But there you are, still trying to write new things and still trying to be involved in something that has some relationship to your reaction with life, you know.
DT: But today you are also in heavy competition. Back then you were up there in rock, no doubt about it, but now there are bands that are sneakin' in on you.
IG: Yeah, there's no doubt about it that that was a time that was very special and that was our time. And I think probably that one of the great values is that the music has stood the test of time. I mean, it still has some interest now if you look back on it, some values. We shall see, in another 25 or 30 years time, what stands the test of time from today. I think that'll be interesting.
DT: Will you be up here on stage in 25 years time?
IG: Well I'm not going to be banging my head and whatever, that would just be too embarrassing for everyone.(au, 54k)But I think, as I said earlier, that the influences that we had when we were kids are broadly based, so we find that the music is not only hard rock but it is also gentle. You know, when we were listening to music, Buddy Holly and the Everly Brothers were just as important in rock terms as Fats Domino and Little Richard and Elvis Presley. And their music was very gentle and very soft. And I think there is an awful lot of room in rock for emotion and dynamics and texture and colour. I think the more control you have over the dynamics, the more strength and power you're going to generate. One of the things about Purple is that they always held back and had the power under control, even though they were reputed to be the loudest band in the world. I think that was just an accident.
DT: And we see the speakers around us...
IG: Yeah, we just got the small rig in today. (chuckle)
DT: They assure us that these are the largest speakers they've ever had here in Valby Hallen!
IG: Really! Ah, it's only because most of them don't work, I think. [chuckle]
DT: Well, now you have to sing Purple songs, you have to fit into this unit. How about your solo career? Will you resume that later on, or?
IG: Yep! I've got about three projects at the moment which are near in completion, all of which I'm very excited about. I don't want to start waving flags yet, because it's to soon to talk about, but I'm very busy with other projects at the moment. And as soon as this particular Purple thing is taking a break or stopping for a while, then I've got more work than I know how to fit in, yeah.
DT: Do you think that Purple will only be breaks, that the band will only be together from time to time.
IG: Well, I hope so. I think that's the way it should go now. If everyone takes it so seriously, and if it's just as the only thing in our lives, as a career, then I think the focus is too sharp and I think we need to relax and enjoy ourselves a little more. As I said earlier, the race is over now, let's just enjoy it. And let's just accept what Purple is without...I don't think it's necessary to compete. I never subscribed to the "Rock Olympics": who can play louder, sing higher, play faster and all that sort of thing. That never had much interest for me. The histrionics of rock are well documented and they are of course a part of it, the show side of it, you know, the drama side of it, the theatrical side of it. It's very passionate and I think people want to see that. But there's another side too. There's an intimacy - that people want to be touched as well, in other ways. I like to. I'm a rock fan, that's why I'm here. That's the number one reason I love doing it, it's because I love music. So we shall see.
DT: You make no secret about it, and Ritchie speaks about it as well, that being together for so many years - people do get tired of each other within the band. And there might be frictions every once in a while. But not larger than you can sort out, or what?
IG: They're normally much larger than we can sort out yes, they're normally enormous. I think that it would be provocative or inflammatory to go into any great detail at the moment, but let's say that it's always been difficult working with Ritchie. I don't know what goes on in his mind. I used to worry about it, but I don't any more.
DT: Not after all these years?
IG: No. He's just weird.(au, 270k)DT: OK. [chuckle] But he's a demon on stage.
IG: Yeah, when he chooses to be he's great. I'd like to see Purple expand a little bit more in terms of dynamics and texture. I'd like to see Jon Lord more involved in the creative side. I'd like to see the band stretch out a little bit more. Not in panic, but in joy. I would say this album [TBRO] has a direction. Certainly the production is a vast improvement on anything I've been involved with in Purple before. And I think the production gives a platform for the songs.(au, 104k) Some of them I'm very pleased with: One Mans Meat, Solitaire, The Battle Rages On, Anya and Ramshackle Man and Twist In The Tale. I like all those songs very much indeed.
DT: The way you talk about Purple now, being so positive, it seems that there still are some years ahead?
IG: One way or the other...maybe.
DT: [chuckle] OK Ian! (au, 99k)THE END