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To be a musician, not a rock star

Here is the third and the final installment of the interviews from the Japanese Burrn! magazine Deep Purple special, courtesy of Akemi Ono who graciously supplied us with the reverse translations. Roger Glover’s interview from the series can be found here and Ian Gillan’s here.

Burrn! August 2020 edition

Ian Paice Interview

Ian Paice is definitely in a good mood. He could be a difficult person to interview at times, depending on his mood, but today he is fascinating as he discusses the new album Whoosh.

Ian says: “Imagination is very important. How you can find a new way to approach what you have been doing in the past. How you can make it sound like you are hearing it for the first time.” Whoosh is hugely successful in that sense. The album respects the roots of the band, while taking rock music to a completely new world.

Ian’s passion for drumming has not changed, 50 years since he started playing. He has been busy starting a new YouTube channel, the Ian Paice DrumTribe during the lockdown, and it looks like he is having a lot of fun as he talks about the instrument. “It takes time. I organize all the videos myself. There’s Q&A, live videos, studio videos. There is a lot of material, and I am not sure if I can organize it all. The channel is already very popular. Maybe I need help,” he says.

Paicey, the only original member of Deep Purple, once told me, “I never thought of the drums as only an instrument to keep the rhythm. I always thought of it as part of the musical arrangement.”

Burrn!: What are your thoughts about Whoosh now?

Ian Paice: It’s too early to compare it with other Deep Purple albums. When you create a new record, each song is like a baby, it hasn’t developed yet. You take them to stage, play for 4 or 5 months, and finally they come of age. When a CD is completed is when I really start to learn. That is especially true of Whoosh, since we finished the record 1 year ago. We have to re-learn all the songs. It’s not the same as remembering what you played last week.

B: The coronavirus caused the delay of the release from June to August…

IP: That’s not all. The 2020 tour schedule was organized around the release schedule, but all the shows are shelved until 2021, although we are all healthy! But that’s the way it is, and we have to make the best of it.

I think what is interesting is that the lyrics of some of the songs are more than a prediction of what is happening in the world now, and potentially what could happen. What the lyrics represent is the thinking that the history of human beings is very short compared to the history of the earth, and that there is a possibility that we will no longer exist in the near future. Ian’s thinking is very distinctive, and he is very unique when he expresses himself in his lyrics, especially in the world of rock and roll. If the record was released at the original date, the timing would have been perfect. Even though the release was delayed, I believe people will still understand what he was trying to say.

B: Whoosh has the classic Deep Purple taste, but is also full of surprises.

IP: I think so, too. When you steer in a different direction and move forward, no one knows how it will be accepted, not even yourself. We go into the studio, try our best with the ideas we come up with, and sometimes we surprise ourselves. We don’t necessarily end up doing what we initially intended. It’s good to surprise yourself that way. When we finish recording the music tracks, I usually leave. For some of the Whoosh songs, I was not there when the vocals were added and the tracks were completed. Sometimes I hear the song after Ian and Bob finish their work. Man Alive is a really good example. It really surprised me.

B: For that approach to function, there must be a deep trust between the singer and other band members.

IP: For that approach to work effectively, there must be a deep trust between all band members. We search extensively to find what we are looking for. That is why jamming is very important for us. In order to make it work, you must listen well to what is going on. When someone suddenly starts doing something different, you must be ready to follow. That way, what you started becomes something else. That’s where the magic and mystery exist. That makes it fun, but you also need patience.
Of course, sometimes we can create a song quite quickly. No Need to Shout was one of them. Roger came with a short bass riff one day, and within 20 minutes we already had the framework of the song. Others were not so easy, and we had to spend time to precisely grasp the essence of the song.

In my role in the band, I am asked to sit and do nothing for a prolonged period of time. I understand that. After the basic idea is set, I can’t help with the chord progression and whatnot. I just have to wait until the other band members are happy with it. That is fine. I get to sit in a VIP seat and see the progress they are making.

B: Does your drumming approach change for each album or recording session?

IP: It has to change for each song. You have to think of it musically, first. How you play comes next. You listen carefully to understand the essence of the song, and when the song requires something dramatic or very technical, I will do that. What I do not want to do is to spoil the essence of the song. If the song is a slow blues, it would be stupid to play like I do in Burn. Some kids who play the drums do not think about the music, and just think about the rhythm. That is fine to a certain extent, but you are playing music with your drum kit.

B: Are you inspired by any recent music?

IP: I don’t pay much attention to new music, because I don’t really like what is happening. Of course, there are some wonderful people, like Joe Bonamassa. He has a great technique and a great voice. But I am discouraged by the popularity of rap or hip hop. Overall, there is too much repetition in the music. When I listen to what is considered to be modern rock bands, I do not hear the wonder of Ritchie Blackmore, Jeff Beck, Jon Lord. Nothing to make a lasting impression. There may be 2 guitarists in a band, but both are like rhythm guitars. It seems like that is what people want to hear. But I want more personality, and it’s not there. I am aware that this is my problem, not someone else’s.

B: What are you looking for in your musical journey?

IP: Creativity. The ability to create something from nothing. Idea is everything, and you need to have the ability to change that idea into music through your instrument.

B: What role does Bob Ezrin have in the creative process of Deep Purple?

IP: He stopped us from wasting our time. During the recording, each musician is focused on his work, his world. We all think that we will succeed when the individual musicians think they are doing well. But in reality, we just see a part of the picture. When Bob is in the control room, we have someone who can think quickly, musically. He can explain solutions to the problem in a way that is easy for musicians to understand. It’s pointless to just say, “That wasn’t good, try something different.”

B: There’s no conflict? You are all experienced musicians.

IP: We are in the studio for only 2 weeks, every 3 or 4 years. Bob lives in the studio, 50 weeks during the year. We won’t listen to his critique on how we play on stage. Similarly, I don’t think Bob will listen to our critique on how studio work is done. That is his world. He is a legendary producer, and we are trying to make a good record. We need to listen to him, otherwise we won’t ask him to be in the studio.

B: Why has things worked so well between your drums and Roger Glover’s bass?

IP: That’s easy, because he listens to me! That’s a joke, of course. Something like that is nurtured over time. When we first started playing in 1969, Roger understood that he wasn’t leading the rhythm. He played with me so that we could build a solid foundation. An understanding developed between us over the years. I don’t know how it happened, but now we can tell what the other is going to do, like a glance means we need an accent there.

B: You like playing live. What do you feel about all the shows being canceled?

IP: It’s not ideal. I do have plans to play with my friends in Purpendicular towards the end of the year. I am lucky that I have a studio at home, so I can go and play for 30 minutes, just to make sure the connection between the brain and my hands are still there. But with a band like Deep Purple, you have to be on stage, and be on stage often to be at 100%.

B: Why is it necessary to play on stage to keep up your drumming skills?

IP: Because you can’t experience the live feeling in your studio. In my studio, I can make mistakes, or stop to have tea, or may be called by my wife to repair something. It’s a completely different situation on stage, in front of an audience. There’s nowhere to hide. When Steve deviates in a solo, we all have the ability to follow. I may deviate, and other members have the ability to follow. That is fun and exciting, although Roger and I are basically there to keep the foundation so that others can play freely.

B: You don’t have complete freedom when you play on stage?

IP: Not at all. For some of our songs, there is already a set way to play them. We’ve played those songs many times, and we know what is the best way to play them, but we cannot be complacent. We have a reputation to protect, and when we are on stage, we need to play in the best way that we know it could be done. We need to concentrate, and we need to be ready to do it.

B: Are there times that the performance does not go too well?

IP: Not really. When you play the drums as long as I do, I can switch to the auto-play mode if I am not playing at my best. I know how to switch to that mode, but I do not go on stage with that intention. I go on stage to make it exciting and enjoyable for myself. But because there is a safety net like this, I know that there will be no bad nights for myself, and for the audience.

B: You have become successful at a young age. Was that good for you?

IP: Overall, it was not bad, because it means I had a good life. The only negative thing is that I may have become a better drummer if I were not so successful so young. I probably would have had to try harder to make it in the world of music. There were people who were trying much harder for a longer time, and for lower pay. They were wonderful technically and had individuality in their playing style. But I had a job, I was having fun, I was creating what I liked, people liked what I created…. Everything went well, and I cannot say no to that. I am very satisfied with what I have achieved, but somewhere in my mind there is a little thought that I could have become a better player.

B: How do you think the live experience is incorporated into your new album Whoosh?

IP: The difficult problem that we have not addressed yet is which 2 – 3 songs to do on stage. Some songs are just for the studio. I think candidates for live performance are No Need to Shout, Throw my Bones, Drop the Weapon. Man Alive is another possibility, if we have feedback that people want to see it on stage. We will think about it very seriously next year, when we start rehearsing. We will select 6 – 7 songs and play them to feel how it will sound on stage. When we all agree we should play it live, we will do so. That doesn’t mean we will keep it if it doesn’t feel right after 3 shows. Recently, someone asked me why we don’t play Rat Bat Blue on stage. We tried several times, but we just can’t communicate to the audience. It’s not worth continuing if it’s too hard, but we are ready to try everything.

It’s very difficult to come up with a setlist these days. There are classics that we need to include, and that will already be half of the show. That limits what we can do. We need to think about which song to take away from the setlist in order to include new ones. Most likely it will be recent ones, since we need to keep the classic songs.

B: Do you have great expectations for Whoosh?

IP: I don’t think it’s any use worrying about whether it would be commercially successful, although that would be great. We all know there are die-hard fans who will buy the album, even if they don’t think it is the best. We are grateful to be in that position, but recently, what has become the most important is that we enjoy creating the record and that we love it. It’s dangerous to try to create what you think the fans will enjoy. Usually that leads to bad decisions. It is most wonderful if what you created with passion matches what people want to hear.

A long time ago, I learned a lesson when we made Malice in Wonderland with Paice Ashton Lord. That was a wonderful album by a wonderful band, but it was not commercially successful. With Jon and I in the band, I think it would have been easier if we created something more like Deep Purple, but that would have been meaningless. We only did 5 shows and that was it, but no one could deny the value of Paice Ashton Lord. That is the way you have to think about your music.

B: If someone told you back in 1968 when Deep Purple was formed, that you would be still playing the drums in 2020, what would have been your reaction?

IP: I think I would have said that I would be very happy to be still playing the drums in 2020, because that is what I love to do. But if that someone said I would be still playing with Deep Purple, I would have said that’s impossible. In those days, only people like Frank Sinatra had long careers. Even jazz bands did not last that long. I could not imagine the career could continue for 50 years. It’s amazing that we did it, and it is quite outstanding in our genre of music. There are only a few bands that were active back then, and still playing now. It gives me great satisfaction that we are still here. There certainly were member changes caused by ourselves. But frankly speaking, I cannot think of a classic band that acted like us, and is still standing in front of an audience.

B: It seems like you won’t stop playing the drums in the near future.

IP: No, because my objective is to be a musician, not a rock star. I want to see how long I can continue this journey. I want to see what it leads to. I may be using a walker, but so what? I will probably still be trying.

6 Comments to “To be a musician, not a rock star”:

  1. 1
    Jet Auto Jerry says:

    Per his quote “since we need to keep the classic songs.”

    Do they really need to play a majority of Machine Head every tour when they are only playing 90 minutes +/-? Heck, it was 5 of 7 songs almost to the day last year (8/3/19) when I saw them. There are a lot of “Classic” songs and not all come from M.H. I sure would like a more varied playlist next time even though Smoke will always be there and Highway Star seems to be the default opener now. They could leave out Space for sure and I could even do without my favorite Lazy if it meant some different stuff. They really would not have to go all that DEEP to find other worthy tunes. Even leaving out the non-IG Albums still leaves a boatload of songs for cryin’ out loud.

    Now just waiting for the Box Set o Whoosh to show up. I hope that they sent it out early so that it arrives on the 7th, but I am in California and had to buy it from Townsend Music so I am not sure how long it will take (I could not find the Box on Amazon here in the States).

  2. 2
    Aireight says:

    Fantastic interview. Can’t wait for the new album and will appreciate it even more as a result. I won’t be reading any negative reviews. As Don once said, “those who sit around and criticize probably don’t have much of a life”.

  3. 3
    Blackwood Richmore says:

    ‘Twas the night before Whoosh, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in the hopes that Deep Purple’s Whoosh soon would be there!. The fandom all nestled snug in their beds, while visions of new music danced in their heads….
    Or something like that!. 😎👍🎸🎹🎤🎵🎶💜

  4. 4
    dp_muc72 says:

    1972 => https://youtu.be/7zKAS7XOWaQ / Ritchie Blackmore on guitar
    1975 => https://youtu.be/aEIAXewOPSo / Tommy Bolin on guitar
    1984 => https://youtu.be/tVn7DZD_UW4?t=29 / Ritchie Blackmore on guitar
    1991=> https://youtu.be/83OjUUZQRZw / Ritchie Blackmore on guitar
    1993 => https://youtu.be/Y2qZJ3BHzjY / Ritchie Blackmore on guitar
    1994 => https://youtu.be/x94JZb1Zx_E?t=19 / Joe Satriani on guitar
    2001 => https://youtu.be/dmg0W0XlHlQ / Steve Morse on guitar (Live in Fort Lauderdale, Florida)
    2019 => https://youtu.be/ShroeNqugl8 / Steve Morse on guitar (live in Houston Texas)

  5. 5
    dp_muc72 says:

    https://youtu.be/upVaaMzJZCg : Houston 2019 / Tim For Bedlam

  6. 6
    Ted The Mechanic says:

    Aireight @2,

    Great Don quote. Thanks for sharing!

    Blackwood Richmore @3,

    Brilliant! ‘Nuff said! :>


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