FOR THE FINAL two interviews with Ritchie Blackmore and Roger Glover, we adjourned from the wine bar and the interestingly-named 'Antico Room', where Deep Purple were rehearsing, to a nearby Bedford hotel. Although said hotel was, at most, 500 yards away, this was obviously too much of a distance to handle without the benefit of a strength-sustaining snifter. So, after we'd been walking for approximately 45 seconds and had worked up a powerful thirst, it was decided that we should descend on to a nearby pub.
Ian Gillan was there, as were his DP compatriots Jon Lord, Ian Paice and Glover, as well as manager Bruce Payne, Roland 'Sex Shocker In Paris' Hyams and sundry road crew and soundmen... virtually the whole Purple contingent in fact, except Ritchie Blackmore who, almost inevitably, had 'disappeared'. No-one seemed particularly concerned, however, and soon enough hardened Bedford boozers were standing back in amazement as drink after drink was downed, the tables around us became packed with empty glasses and the landlord started phoning the brewery with a view to obtaining additional supplies. After about half an hour Ritchie waltzed in, familiar hat on head, two girls in tow, apologised for his tardiness and revealed that he'd spent most of the evening jamming onstage with a small-time local band just down the road!
Now it's been a long time since I've met Mr Blackmore; indeed I must admit I've kinda fought shy of him ever since I gave (I think it was) Rainbow's 'Difficult To Cure' album a severe drubbing when I was still writing for Spunos. But I needn't have worried. Ritchie was in a good-natured mood and, indeed, revealed to me that on more than one occasion he'd tried to persuade the likes of Makowski and Halfin to cajole me down to the odd Rainbow show, because, hell, he didn't give a damn about reviews and it would have just been nice to see me. Fair brings a tear to the eye doesn't it? To say that I felt like a prize asshole would be a supreme understatement.
So we had a friendly chat, making up for the lost years, and then finally returned back to the hotel for the interview proper.
Ritchie, like I said earlier, was in fine, lucid form - although, having said that, the taped conversation I eventually had with him was more than somewhat... weird. Glover, meanwhile, was healthily cynical about the whole Purple reunion thing, even revealing that, for six years or so, he'd actually fought vehemently against it! As with last issue's interviews, I'm basically leaving the guys to talk for themselves, with the barest amount of Bartonian verbiage. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin...
"...there is an art to playing heavy rock'n'roll, it's no use just cranking up the volume and being LOUD, there is a trick to it..."
GB: Did you have any misgivings about the Purple reunion?
RB: Perhaps initially. When we first got back together I remember wondering, will it work in the '80s, will it be in vogue with what's going on? And then I thought, sod it, who cares? Let's just go ahead and do it anyway.
GB: The new album 'Perfect Strangers' is very much a logical follow-through from 'Machine Head'. Did you plan it that way?
RB: Yeah. You see, I've always admired AC/DC. I don't like them particularly as a band, but they've stuck steadfastly to their own brand of straight-forward music through thick and thin. To my mind, when they first started out, AC/DC sounded incredibly dated. But then, suddenly, the rock'n'roll world turned full circle and the band took off. And that was just great, they kept hanging on to their principles until the right time came along.
In a way you can draw a parallel between Purple and AC/DC. We're just going to go out and do what we're best known for.
GB: Which is?
RB: Playing sophisticated rock - not Heavy Metal - and hopefully there will be a few people out there who'll like it. Maybe it's got to a point where the public is just so sick of disco music... I don't know, perhaps the time is right for Deep Purple once again. It's almost as if no-one will dare play our kind of music any more; it would be nice to think that we can convert a few people back into liking hard rock instead of feeling that they have to dance to everything.
GB: You're not a big fan of disco music, I take it?
RB: It's sickening, it's like every record I hear is so one-dimensional. No-one takes a chance and plays in 3/4 or 6/8... no, no, no, that's not allowed, you can't dance to that, it has to be (bashes nearby table several times) that heartbeat rhythm. That, to me, is annoying to say the least. In the old days you had Cream, Traffic, Hendrix... you could dance to them if you wanted, but they were basically just expressing themselves. Their music wasn't formularised for the dancefloor.
GB: This phrase keeps on cropping up in my Purple interviews, but do you think that the band's 'virtuoso ability' is something that's lacking in modern-day rock?
RB: Uh-huh. Without wishing to revel in my own artistic values, there is an art to playing heavy rock'n'roll, it's no use just cranking up the volume and being LOUD, there is a trick to it. There are dynamics and certain progressions that you can play, but you don't hear much of that today. I think Van Halen are interesting; I don't particularly like them as a band, but there is a lot of movement, a lot of colour to the material they produce. Led Zeppelin too, now they probably defined the term 'sophisticated rock'. Things like 'Kashmir', the certain, the certain scales they would hit... that was incredible.
GB: In my introduction to last issue's series of interviews with Jon Lord, Ian Paice and Ian Gillan, I mentioned that the news of the Deep Purple reformation didn't really seem to have caused as many ripples of excitement as expected. Indeed, I thought I detected more than a degree of still-water wariness about the thing, from press and punters alike.
RB: It's funny, on several occasions I've been talking to kids in pubs and they say to me, 'Oh, Deep Purple, eh? What are you doing?' I say, 'We're back together.' They shrug their shoulders and sigh, 'Oh, another revival, is it?' I say, 'No, I've never thought of it as a revival, we've just got back together'. Then they say 'Oh God, you're not going to be like The Animals, are you?' It's all rather depressing isn't it? I mean, Christ, it's not exactly a pat on the back, wonderful, it's great you've returned, it's... 'Well, I hope it works out for you, I'm not a fan myself, but...'
GB: Do you thing that this kind of attitude stems from the fact that a Purple pulling-together has been mooted so many times for so long - and then, when it eventually does happen, it's something of an anti-climax?
RB: Yeah, all that was rather silly, wasn't it? But seriously, every six months or so for a period of years, we actually would think of getting back together. It just took a long time to organise, that's all.
GB: You reportedly wanted Purple's 'Perfect Strangers' to be as good a 'comeback' LP as Yes' '90125' album. Is that correct?
RB: Well, who wouldn't want to return with as strong an album as '90215'? It's a great record, it's got a superb sound and I like Trevor Rabin; one of the best guitar solos I've heard in a long time is on 'Owner of a Lonely Heart'. That actually moved me, it made a real change to hear someone actually doing something adventurous with a guitar instead of just running up and down the fingerboard and saying: 'Wow, impressive, huh?' The sound of that guitar synthesizer is very exciting, also. So much that I actually went out and bought one.
GB: It would have been a hoot to have had Trevor Horn at the production controls for 'Perfect Strangers', wouldn't it?
RB: Do you think so? I'm not so sure. We did think about various producers, but in the end we said, no, let's get Roger to do it, we don't want a glossy sound, we want the album to be an '80s version of 'Machine Head'. And I'm quite pleased with the end result. I think we've struck the right chord.
GB: Have you any regrets about ditching Rainbow?
RB: Not really. Generally, I was pleased with the way things were going - Joe Lynn Turner was into ballads and I was going through a melodic phase - but the trouble was, every time I wanted to play a real hard rock song, Joe couldn't quite manage it. This didn't bother me too much at first. As I say, I was going through a kind of mellow period and I thought the, 'Oh well, it doesn't matter, Joe handles the ballads well and that's just fine...
But then I started to miss the hard rock so much and that's... that's when things started to get a little weird.
GB: British fans never really warmed to Joe, did they?
RB: I felt responsible when I brought Joe over. I remember taking him to one side and saying, 'Now look, over in Britain they don't like all that cabaret stuff; just keep it hard and aggressive.' And of course he'd listen to me and for one gig he would be alright and then... he'd start prancing around again. I remember pulling him up one time backstage at Leeds. I had been playing an instrumental and he hadn't gone into the wings, he'd stayed onstage prancing around the whole time. I said, do that again and I'll punch your face in!' And for the next couple of gigs he was alright...
Don't get me wrong. Joe's a great singer, but he's too smooth to sing rock'n'roll. So anyway to get back to my original point, at the end I was kind of faced with a great dilemma with Rainbow: should we carry on doing ballads or get back to rock? I enjoyed the band's softer phase; 'Stone Cold', 'Street of Dreams' and stuff like that I really liked, but it died a death, particularly in Britain... which hurt a lot, because it means a lot to me to be successful in my home country. So in the end I got very frustrated and... that's when the first really serious thoughts of a Purple reformation entered my head.
GB: Most people would finger the 'Rising' album as the pinnacle of Rainbow's career. Would you go along with that?
RB: I'd go along with 'Stargazer', that was a great track. But some of it was duff. But I'd agree that there is something about that album. It was made very quickly, it's a very honest recording...
GB: 'Rising' has a very dense sound to it, don't you think?
RB: I think to call it 'primitive' could be more apt. But yes, overall it is a very good album. I remember saying to Ronnie Dio at the time, 'We're going to find it hard to follow that one up'. Of course, we were both much younger then and Rainbow was a relatively new band, it was a fresh challenge for us both. They were good times, but when things began to get a little weird around the time of 'Long Live Rock'n'Roll' ; there was too much friction going down... but a lot of that was due to me, I must admit.
My mood thing can get so involved. One day I'll figure out why I'm so moody...
GB: Are you conscious of your 'mood thing' when you're putting yourself through it?
RB: Yeah, and there's always a reason why I do it; I don't just do it because I enjoy upsetting people. To start with, most lead guitar players are sensitive individuals, unlike say, singers or bass players or drummers who tend to be more brash and extrovert. And this sensitivity can turn into destruction sometimes. I often say to myself, I wish I wasn't quite so sensitive, so tuned in to the way people conduct themselves and if I get a kind of negative feeling from someone then I'll respond in kind.
It's very difficult to relax, and I think that uptight feeling, that feeling of being on the edge, can be very frustrating - especially when you're on the road. I just need the slightest provocation and I'll be off. When the pressure's on and I'm touring I get incredibly moody, because I feel there's so many people who aren't doing their jobs. People like the guys who are doing the lighting, the spotlight operators and so forth, they just don't give a sh**t. I go to do a solo and I'm in the dark or whatever... everybody's after a quick buck, they're so lackadaisical, there just isn't any discipline.
GB: It's impossible to achieve total perfection, though...
RB: I know, I know, but that doesn't stop me trying to get as near to it as possible. I mean, take that instance I mentioned to you about not being spotlit when I take a guitar solo. When that happens, it throws me for about a minute. I think, 'That's incompetence' - and then all sorts of thoughts start running through my head. 'Why did he do that?' 'Was it incompetence?' 'Did he do it on purpose?' 'Why didn't he do his job?' 'What is going on?!' All those of kinds of weird thoughts, you know.
It's a case of value for money. The kids pay their money and they don't want to see a shabby, semi-professional show. Monitor mixes, too - they're another of my great bugbears onstage. Picture the scene: you're out front, you're all fired up, the audience is with you, they're jumping around, you start playing... and suddenly all you can hear is: ERRRRRRRRRRR!
That messes me up. And I get very strange when I get pissed of. Very weird. I kind of retreat into myself and become extremely self-destructive. I say: 'Alright, if the soundman's going to behave like an amateur then I'm going to play the next song behind an amplifier and show him what amateurism is really all about!!' It's very much a case of 'cut off your nose to spite your face'. I'm a firm believer in that and it gets me a terrible name. If we're doing a bad show and I'm playing badly myself, then sometimes I'll play even worse because I'm so disgusted with what's going on. It's weird, isn't it?
GB: Is all this what was behind the infamous no-encore, seat-trashing debacle at Rainbow's Wembley Arena appearance?
RB: Yeah, I remember that particular episode well. I remember trying very hard to get the audience going, to give a part of myself to them, but in the end all I felt was rejection. It was like playing in front of a mausoleum. So I decided the band wouldn't do an encore, The crowd had rejected me, so in turn I rejected them.
I'm just not very professional in that respect. I can't just shrug my shoulders and carry on going through the motions, I just get very...weird. Don't get me wrong, sometimes I like a good, hard audience; that's fine it's excellent discipline. But at Wembley I felt rejection.
GB: What about the times when crazed punters still insist on going wild while you're trying to pick out a particularly sensitive solo?
RB: That irritates me as well. If they can't just sit back for a second and listen to the quiet parts, then that bothers me. I've played for such a long time that I like to feel that I can do a bit more than other guitarists, that I can express myself a little more lucidly. But quite often I don't get the chance.
GB: Ritchie, are you EVER satisfied?
© Geoff Barton, Kerrang November 1984