Me And My Axe
"THERE'S ONE thing I want to get cleared up straight away," said an enthusiastic Ritchie Blackmore over the crackling transatlantic line, "there's this big thing about old Strat being far superior to the newer models, which of course is a load of rubbish." This controversial opener couldn't come from a more qualified source. Blackmore's name conjures up a vision of a figure dressed in black amidst a haze a swirling dry ice wielding his faithful Stratocaster, More of a symbol than an instrument, Blackmore and the Stratocaster are one.
"Some people have got a musical snobbery about older instruments," said the man from his Hollywood abode, "some of the older Fenders are terrible especially the necks and the frets. A lot of people think that the new Fenders lack the quality of their predecessors, some of them are in fact better, it's all down to the individual instrument."
Blackmore is continually buying new Strats, some of which never see the end of a show, while others are guarded with great cares all get the same special treatment, by the man himself, on the fretboard giving it a more concave surface." This all started when I had an old classical which had this type of inverted surface on the neck and I found it much easier to play on. It's interesting, I've seen a lot of guitars with this type of treatment on their necks in fact John Birch is doing this to some of his custom jobs." Although Blackmore's main axe is the Strat he does possess a Gibson 335 which he used on Deep Purple's 'Concerto For Group And Orchestra Album'.
Blackmore is currently remixing his latest band Rainbow's new album, and admits he hasn't been practising too much guitar recently in preference to his other instrument - the cello. "I've only been playing for a couple of years and it'll be ages before I get anywhere near competent. It's one of those instruments that alter with your moods. It doesn't really help my guitar playing but it's put a new dramatic dimension in to my songwriting." His interest for the cello spawns from his love for Bach (who gets a dedication on the first 'Rainbow' album) and Germany.
"I really like medieval modes, I listen to more classical music than rock and roll and I think this influences my music a lot although I try to keep rock and roll as a dominant factor." Will he ever play cello on album? "No I think I'd rather get a professional to do the job."
Amplification - wise Blackmore still uses his faithful Marshall set up and you can probably gather by his searing treble tones that the amps are 'topped up' which makes highly sensitive to radio signals, although he is gradually overcoming this problem with various screening devices.
I asked him if he's been using any effects. "No", was the adamant reply," I tried a voice bag but I didn't like the sound, it didn't really suit me, I don't really care too much for effects. I used to use one of those guitar synthesisers [the Hi Fli], they're too temperamental for me, anyway I don't want a moog."
© Sounds, April 10, 1976