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Rock’n’roll at 1 o’clock in the afternoon

Ian Gillan; photo © Jim Rakete; image courtesy of kayos ProductionsSteve Morse; photo © Jim Rakete; image courtesy of kayos ProductionsAnastasia Kuvaldina and Andrey Gusenkov sat down to talk with both Ians when the band was in Moscow earlier this month. The interview was done for the Russian radio station Rock FM, and now they have kindly offered us full transcript for publication.


Deep Purple 2013 05 02 Interview

Rushing into the interview with the incredible Deep Purple’s Ian Gillan and Ian Paice we fail to notice that our dictaphone is not yet on, which becomes evident almost immediately but Ian Gillan is already eagerly answering our first question…

Gillan: Yeah, something like that. And we got to the point where we…

Oh, excuse us, this gadget wasn’t working… Let’s start again.

Paice to Gillan: Rewind!

On a rare occasion you said yes to a video and chose “Vincent Price” as the perfect song for it. Tell us more about it.

Gillan: We just filmed “Vincent Price” in Berlin. That song was the prime candidate. It’s our first video – in what? – 25 years or something like that. It’s a great storyline, it’s very visual. We all knew Vincent Price so we could actually get right inside the atmosphere of this thing. And lyrically it’s just a list of things that a director would want to include in a 1960-s horror movie. It’s very easy to go to a dungeon and get the cobwebs, and the candles, and the zombies…

Paice: And Frankensteins…

Gillan: So it lends itself to a visual interpretation very easily.

Did you enjoy it?

Paice: I hope that people understand that it’s a lot of fun. We don’t get a chance to be surrounded by Dracula, Frankenstein, and all these strange creatures that you remember as a kid, that used to make you so frightened. It was great fun.

Gillan: I don’t know about you but my neighbours are full of them.

When are you planning to release it?

Paice: It really depends on how quickly they will get the editing done. I would imagine within a few weeks. I would imagine they would hopefully get it going. But that’s down to the record company.

We know how to make music, we don’t know how to sell it. That’s their job. We never knew how to do it. We just know how to make records, that’s all.

One of the dominant themes on your new album is time. What does it mean for you?

Gillan: It means different things to all of us. There’s a measurement in a clock for example. We use the same clock in the world. It’s like Euclid: you see all these parallel lines around the room. They don’t exist. They may exist for your visual and essential being in this world when we are dealing with gravity. But you don’t see any lines like that in nature. You don’t see them in the sky, in the universe, or in the forest, or in the sea. There is no such thing. It’s just a human thing. So we create our own time code. And it’s based upon our understanding of time. We have these wonderful words like eternity or infinity. And then we have our own bubbles of time within which we exist from birth to death. And then we know about our ancestors and we know how they influence us by their history and maybe by something that’s going in our genetic makeup. Then you look to the future and you realize if we are going to accept ancestral influences from before then we must be probably having influence on the future with everything that we do. And the words eternity and infinity conflict with the concept of the big bang so very well because it’s very hard to understand things infinitely small. And there it stops as far as our science is concerned. It is a bit like Zeno’s paradox actually. You keep moving the goal past every time you take a step closer. So time is most wonderful subject to talk about.

And you can make up any scale you want. I’ve invented metric time which is an alternative to the clocks we use today. It’s a 100 seconds to a minute, 100 minutes to an hour, 100 hours to a day, 10 days to a week, 3.651 weeks to a month, because we have to bow to the power of the Moon and the Sun. And 10 months to a year. In a 10 day week we have Minky, Wurzel, Flicker, Bra, Terry, Hipster, Fraulein, Wasp, Saturday and Sunday.

Paice (choking with laughter): Make sense of that!

Gillan: I’ve been talking to an astrophysicist. He is a friend of mine, a mathematician. He said that my timescale is equally valid as the one that we use today. And if we adopt it, we will be fine. We have a calendar that started for convenience.

Paice: Anyway…

Gillan: You asked about time. You see, you can talk about it forever. It’s such an interesting topic.

Paice: Until you run out of time!

Gillan: This is what happens on stage. He interrupts me every time I get into something interesting with a punch line. So time is an interesting concept. And we all see it differently. It’s a matter of perspective. Not a matter of just linear concept.

“Now What?!” sounds like a perfect combination – good old sound of the 1970s with a distinctive modern touch.

Gillan: I think it is a great sound. We certainly didn’t go in with an idea of a retro attitude or anything like that. We just happened to hit upon a producer who got us the best sound we ever had.

Paice: It was the ability of Bob Ezrin and the studio itself to allow us to capture sounds that we haven’t been able to get for the last 25 years. ‘Cause we are doing nothing differently, we never did. It just depends on how it works with the machine and how it comes out when the record is finished. Every room you record in has different sound. It gets harder and harder to find studios that actually sound good. Most studious are no bigger than this room we are now. Which is almost impossible for more than one or two people to play in at the same time.

Under Bob Ezrin’s instruction we worked in this wonderful studio in Nashville. Really, really big room. Must have been 30 m long by 14-15 m wide and two stories high. So the four of us instrumentalists could be in this room, play together, with lots of space. You cannot artificially recreate the sound that that space gives you. You could use all the technology you want but it won’t sound as the instruments working together in a big room. And I think that’s what captured that sound.

Gillan: We can’t answer your questions with the answers you want, we can only give you the way we see it.

Joe Boyd described a great producer as a person who makes the process of making music exciting. Was Bob Ezrin such a producer for you?

Gillan: No, I thought he was a hard nut. He was quite disciplinarian. He was very professional. We have respect for him. When you are writing the excitement is there because of the timing. It was a good time to make the record.

[Epic drilling somewhere in the hotel starts rudely interrupting the interview]

Gillan: This was waking me up all night.

It’s horrible.

Gillan: Yeah, it goes on all the time.

Paice: Welcome to our hotel!

Gillan: Anyway someone is making a new record. Some young kids…

This is literally trash.

Paice braves the noise and continues: Bob is not just a great producer, he is an accomplished musician. Therefore he can keep you focused on exactly what you should be doing in the new piece of music. When you keep adding things as you construct it, you can sometimes lose the original idea. There are so many new things coming and finally you find that you diluted original ideas. So it doesn’t have the same impact anymore. Bob came out and told you in a very musical way where you had gone wrong, where you must go back to. And this could save you a couple of days of wasting time in the studio, when you have to go back to the beginning anyway. And he would say, “No, you were doing this. You changed it. It doesn’t work. This is what you do to go back.” So his musical impact was really important.

Not that he helped construct a lot of the songs. He added little bits to keep it focused and keep it moving. But he stopped us getting confused. Which we do very easily.

What makes “Now What?!” special album for you?

Gillan: Timing, I think. First of all the band was hot, absolutely hot after a gap of seven years between albums. The empathy between the musicians that built up through the improvisation that happens on stage every night is awesome. You can’t create that artificially. You can’t create that with session musicians. And you can’t create that with a band that does 10, 20 or 30 shows a year. It can only come with the band that works every night. And travels. And goes through this incredible process of working lots of countries. So to capture that before it gets too tired, when it’s at its absolute peak was a masterpiece of management, of all the people outside the band who got us together at that time and pushed all the right buttons. So that made it very-very special.

Plus in my opinion it’s the best sounding Deep Purple record that’s ever been made without any doubt at all, by a country mile. It’s head and shoulders above anything we’ve ever done in our lives.
We also wanted to create the idea in our heads that we should remember what we are. And it’s easy to forget when you got so many other things going on, when you are absorbed into a business that tries to shape you, and put you this way, and manipulate you, and categorize you, and label you and all of those things that you try instinctively to reject. But in doing so you become formulating yourself with a defense mechanism.

What exactly were you trying to capture?

The idea was to capture the principle that Deep Purple is primarily an instrumental band. I know I am a singer but it is primarily an instrumental band and we should concentrate on the music before we concentrate on the songs. There’s a big difference. And allow ourselves to extemporize and develop a theme or an idea. And to see beauty in the texture and dynamics of the song rather than the usual construction: introduction – two verses – chorus – solo – chorus. And it’s wonderful to see this things evolve in the rehearsing room. And the guys… I say “the guys” because I sit and watch. As if I sit on a back of a wild horse and try to hang on failing miserably. But at least you are hanging on. And to watch these songs and ideas evolve with input from everybody and the producer who is saying, “This was, this way, this way” or “That way, that way, that way.” It’s fantastic. So all the circumstances have conspired to produce something that is really special.

Paice: We give him a really hard job because we don’t construct songs. We construct pieces of music. Once we are happy with construction of this piece of music, we go to Ian and say, “Write a song on that!” I think only one time in 30 years we gave him something where he said, “Look, you have to change it. I can’t write a song on this.” He always says, “OK, we’ll give it a go.” And there’s always a song that ends up on top of this piece of music, which is genius. Sometimes we don’t give him very easy things to work with.

Gillan: “Never a word” – remember that?

Paice: Exactly! Sometimes we construct it from the instrumentalist point of view. And we don’t have the same problems as the singer has. So we don’t see the pitfalls and the big full stops that we put in front of the singer, ‘cause instrumentally they work ok. We construct music the wrong way round. But in the end we get it right and it works for us.

Gillan: Sometimes I think, why, why did they add an extra bar in there?! An extra bar and a half… That’s not even relative. How am I supposed to…? OK… Alright.

Paice: It works in the end.

Gillan: I had to do five rewrites on two of the songs on this album. Most of them were rewritten at least once or twice. “Uncommon Man”… no, that was just a real problem song. “All the Time in the World” and “Weirdistan” – there were five completely different rewrites.

Paice: So there were five completely different songs to choose from on top of the same piece of music.

Gillan: It takes a while to fit it in.

Paice: It’s hard work.

Gillan: Frustrating.

It also makes the process of creating music interesting.

Gillan: It is. It makes you think. It’s a great trigger for your imagination. You can write a song about anything, if you really get inside it. You asked earlier about time. I can talk about time all day long. But if you ask about sausages, I could also talk to you about sausages all day long.

Paice: It’s a romantic song! Two lovers who leave each other over a pound of sausages.

Gillan: That’s the craft of songwriting. When we were kids we had to learn about craft. It’s like learning how to paint – you learn how to mix the colors on the palette and how to apply them, you have to learn about perspective and all of those things because otherwise you won’t be a very good painter even if you want to be avant-garde or impressionist. You have to learn the craft first of all. If you want to be able to express yourself.

Roger and I sat down for years and years in the early days learning this craft. We were writing total rubbish songs but also learning about the meter, and rhyme, and the idea of consonants, and the percussive value of words, and where vowels should be. I mean you wouldn’t want to sing an “u” sound on a high note. It doesn’t work. But if you are writing it as poetry or if you are naïve or ingénue in the game then you might make that mistake. It becomes second nature and then you can be expressive. Then you can write about sausages and time.

Paice: And we are lucky. English is an incredibly percussive language which lands itself wonderfully to music, to writing songs. That’s why you don’t hear so many great rock’n’roll songs in Italian. The language is too soft, too many vowels. [Paice utters this phrase with a pronounced Italian accent.] It doesn’t work. It doesn’t have hardness to it. It’s beautiful to listen to and it’s fantastic in opera but it doesn’t work on a popular music level. We are blessed with the language which is just suited for that, we have so many words rhyme beautifully with other words. And they are rhythmic. And that again really helps.

Gillan: Scottish would be a great language to sing rock in it. If there was such a language… And even if there was, no one would understand it. Sorry, my father was from Scotland.

Keys on “Blood from a Stone” are reminiscent of Ray Manzarek. Was it an intentional homage?

Paice: When Don chooses a keyboard for a particular song, he has a sound in mind. ‘Cause the sound of keyboards is infinite: from a Hammond organ to a full Steinway grand piano to every synthesizer you can think of. The mood of the song just made Don think I want this sound. Sure, that’s what Ray used in the Doors stuff. But that’s what Don wanted. Somewhere in the back of his minds he may have been thinking I really enjoyed what I heard before and I’d like to do something like it. But everybody has those influences all the way through their lives. Not just in music. It’s whether you choose a red car ‘cause you like somebody else’s red car. We make choices, but when it comes to music you make an individual choice about what’s the mood I want to convey.

Gillan: And sometimes that mood just has to be a Fender Rhodes.

Paice: It just has to be that sound or else it wouldn’t work. You know if you heard a Jimmy Hendrix track with somebody playing a trombone instead of a guitar – that wouldn’t sound right.

Mr. Gillan, you mentioned in one of the interviews that the set list would consist of new, old and obscure tracks. Could you tell us a bit more about the obscure tracks?

Gillan: Songs like “Maybe I’m a Leo”, “Mary Long” – songs that have become a favorite with the fans and with the band, songs where there is a story or songs that capture a particular moment in time. Songs that are not really played on the radio. Songs that we have great affection for. Songs that the band likes because of their musical construction, because it’s very pleasing to play.

And I have to be honest here, we never set out to please the fans. We never set out to construct a set list or a record thinking I wonder what they’d like. We’ve never ever done that. We’ve been totally and completely selfish in everything that we’ve ever done. And we keep our fingers crossed and hope they like it. Because we think that that’s the secret to being happy. Basically to play what you want to play and do the best you can in the style that is natural to you. If you try to second guess what the public want or what the next fad will be in the recording you are never going to win. And quite frankly if you are fashionable today by definition you are unfashionable tomorrow. We stay consistent to what naturally comes out of the well of our ideas. So the obscure stuff is sometimes just for our own pleasure.

Paice: The problem with obscure pieces today is that after one show they are not obscure anymore. As soon as you come off stage the set list is up on the Internet. Somebody taped it with a telephone. So what you thought would be a nice surprise for the audience… well they know what you are going to play the next day. It does take a little bit of the impact out but there is nothing we can do about that. As Ian said we play what we think will be interesting for us and hopefully a surprise for the people. OK, the surprise is gone ‘cause they know what may be coming but the interest of listening to it – that’s still there. And we have to keep that attitude, we cannot change that.

Gillan: There used to be a thing – what happens on the road, stays on the road. And now what happens on the road – goes on YouTube.

Paice: You know we had this new music to play for the last six months. But we couldn’t do it. Everything had to be kept a secret. So when production for the record could be done properly and promotion could be done properly. And it’s very difficult. In the old days we would actually work out new songs on the road and put them in the set before they were recorded, because nobody had the ability to record it. So you could learn. But you can’t do it anymore. It’s a shame.

With the new intro in Austria recently we feel a new set-list is coming.

Gillan: Don’t read too much into it.

Paice: Yeah, there will be, but Austria a couple of days ago was just a one off show. Very, very difficult, cause you are playing in the middle of the afternoon, outside, in the snow, at a very high altitude. It was a very good show and everything but we didn’t have everything in place to actually rehearse new songs. And it wouldn’t have been the right place to play new songs. It was a big party event. People just wanted to hear some songs – rock’n’roll for an hour and a bit – and then carry on drinking. Playing rock’n’roll at 1 o’clock in the afternoon is not the most natural thing in the world. Not unless you haven’t been to bed, then it’s OK.

Gillan: And the crew is still throwing up from the night before… I’m afraid we have to wind it up.

Thank you very much!

Paice: Nice questions, well done. Thank you.

Gillan: Cheers! I enjoyed it very much. Thank you.

It was an honor for us!

[Both Ians proceed to sign our vinyl and limited editions of “Now What?!”.]

Anastasia Kuvaldina, Andrey Gusenkov (deep-purple.ru)
Exclusively for Rock FM



12 Comments to “Rock’n’roll at 1 o’clock in the afternoon”:

  1. 1
    Brad DeMoranville says:

    Nice interview. I’m used to them getting all the same questions as other interviews, and giving more or less the same answers. This interview went Above and Beyond. 🙂

  2. 2
    Ignacio Dinamita says:

    wonderful interview, I really enjoyed

  3. 3
    LRT says:

    Great, really dug down deep!

  4. 4
    Marie Rose says:

    Every interview with these guys feels like an adventure rising from a grey common day. First the expected questions followed by very unexpected and interesting answers. The next album should absolutely have the title THERE’S MORE TO US…:)

  5. 5
    Finn says:

    Very fine, but I still dont accept the idea of “we will not please the fans”. When we play one song as a surprise then it’s not a surprise anymore due to internet.
    Then play 50% the same and have 30 more songs to chose from for the next 50% of the set. Then you will never have the same set every night. Must be fun and great for you on stage and for sure more fun for us who goes to many shows during a tour. Give us all (including yourself) some surprised from now on. Every night should be fun and new. Life is to short not to have just a bit fun every day. Also on stage and in front of the stage. But what is time and life time?

  6. 6
    Ricardo Daniel Carreras says:

    GROSISIMOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOS !!! GENIOOOOOOOOOOOOOOSSSSS !!!!

  7. 7
    LRT says:

    Notice how they also elude to not being songwriters, to justify what… being instrumentally virtuosic and progressive? I think the lyrics are better than even they give credit for.

  8. 8
    dpdave says:

    Great new Gillan metric time scale but I’m glad there isn’t a Knickersday to go with Braday.
    A person could have a very up and down Knickers day.

  9. 9
    ron says:

    I’m hopping we have an hour of purple on “That Metal Show.” The timing is perfect. The show tapes this month!!

  10. 10
    Tracy(Zero the Hero)Heyder says:

    Hey Ron, I hope you aren’t kidding. I have been pushing for that for a while. If it is true, it follows suit to the Alice Cooper appearance just before Bob Ezrin took the production helm after Cooper bitched about Purple not being enducted into the RRHOF. Gee, weird how I knew huh???? I’m not as dumb as I look.

    Ch-BeerZ?!

  11. 11
    purplepriest1965 says:

    Yapping, moaning, crying…….

    Damn, the R & R Hall of Fame shit debate is back.

  12. 12
    Tracy (Zero the Hero) Heyder says:

    Relax Priest. I wasn’t remarking on the RRHOF issue. I was referring to ‘ron’ stating that taping for ‘That Metal Show’ was this month and that I have been advocating they appear on it for a long time. Of course, I do still want them inducted in the RRHOF and believe next year will be their time. Especially after them being nominated this year finally and the spotlight it put on them along with the release of their fabulous new album. ?erfect timing to go on That Metal Show.

    Ch-BeerZ?!

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