Back in Black
Eclipsed Rock Magazine - February 2018
You've said that you like Heino and German Schlager music. Was it just a joke or did you really mean that?
Ritchie: I didn't become a musician to give interviews all the time. I know that it's part of the business, but I'm not so much into that side of the business than many others. Many other people are going public to promote their new product or their upcoming tour. Sometimes I'm also very bored of the questions in interviews, so I'm trying to say certain things to confuse people and make it more enjoyable for myself.
So that quote about you loving Schlager music was such a thing?
Ritchie: Do I really have to answer that? Okay, with Blackmore's Night we've been in many German TV shows of that sort. We even did that with Deep Purple back in the day, where we played in TV shows with Schlager musicians. These musicians are often very clever and nice people and very successful with what they're doing. And when somebody like Heino can be successful for so many years, he must be doing something right. Musically his music is not my taste, even if I really love many pop songs. I really like Mike Oldfield, whether he's doing pop, folk or more experimental music. And ABBA are probably the biggest pop band ever after the Beatles.
Did you already love pop music as an angry young man?
Ritchie: When I started to make music in the 60ies, Beat music was very popular. Tommy Steele, a british rock n roller was my first idol. But then The Beatles became more popular, and other bands like Procul Harum really inspired me. The Yardbirds with Jeff Beck were a big thing at the time for guitar players, but when Jimi Hendrix came along, everybody was like: "Wow, who's that?"
With other words: What happened in the 60ies between London and Hamburg inspired you a lot...
Ritchie: I wasn't a very successful musician back then, but I was in The Outlaws and Screaming Lord Sutch and that taught me a lot for what was to come. With Screaming Lord Sutch I've learned that you have to put on a good show. Just standing in the corner and being introverted wasn't enough. Jimi Hendrix wasn't the best guitar player in a technical sense, but he could entertain people by destroying his guitar or setting fire to it. We all had deep respect for Jeff Beck, but watching Jimi Hendrix was an experience that you would never forget.
Being a showman played a big role in your stage presence in the 70ies, up until the late 80ies. And now you're touring around with Rainbow for the last 3 years again, but you seem to be very introverted on stage.
Ritchie: Would Hendrix, being over 70 years old, still destroy his guitar on stage?
You once said: "I can play anybody else's ass off!". Was that just a thing you said to get attention or did you mean that in a serious way?
Ritchie: I know what I can do, but also what I can't do. For example, I'm very bad in remembering songs. And with that I don't just mean songs of other people - also my own songs. When I started to became involved again with rock music three years ago, I had to relisten to almost all of the old songs. I had forgotten most of it, except for a few songs that we had played in Blackmore's Night over the years. But that quote of myself was definitely a provocation.
Your first gigs with Rainbow in 2016 created mixed feelings under your fans. While many people were really happy to see you on stage again playing rock music and had only positive comments for your new singer Ronnie Romero being able to sing so many songs from your catalogue like "Child in Time", "Smoke on the Water", "Stargazer", "Long Live Rock n Roll" and so on, other fans missed your fast finger work on the guitar and your aggressive stage presence.
Ritchie: We've already talked about the show. But I think that Ronnie is a very good performer and he gives the rest of us the freedom to concentrate on what we're doing. For some time I thought, that it's very important to be very fast on the guitar, and some of the songs need that kind of fast playing, but at some point in my career I knew: I don't want to come from A to B with as many notes as possible. Today I think: Less is more. Looking back on our first shows: I think that we should have rehearsed a bit more and the shows would have been a lot better. I also think that I didn't really perform every song of the set quite well.
The performance in Birmingham 2016 or the shows in 2017 in general were a lot better than the first two shows.
Ritchie: It's really a lot of fun to play with this band. The other guys are getting more and more confident. And Ronnie Romero is a fantastic singer. On the other side, I'm happy to play for all the fans that grew up with my old music. The shows in the very big halls or arenas are almost to completely sold out. So not only Heino is doing something right (laughs).
How would you compare this Rainbow line-up with the others?
Ritchie: I will say something now, that is probably gonna upset a lot of Cozy Powell and Dio fans, but that's really how I think: This line up is the best line up Rainbow ever had. On the other side I'm always in the now on stage and off stage, which means that I had always loved the current line up of any band I was in the most.
So when you will be firing a musician sometime in the future, the new line-up will the best one you ever played with?
Ritchie: Of course, or it wouldn't have been necessary to fire him (laughs).
Glenn Hughes said that you wanted him as the bass player for the new Rainbow line-up, but in the end your presented a line up, consisting of completely unknown musicians.
Ritchie: Yes, Rainbow was always my vision. So it's natural that you're surrounding yourself with new people. I feel that playing with unknown musicians is much more inspiring. Deep Purple was Jon Lord and myself. David Coverdale told me that Jon wanted me on one of his next records, but that sadly didn't happen anymore. When we're playing "Child in Time" I always think of him. "Soldier of Fortune", which was written by David Coverdale and myself, is another one of those songs. Jon loved that song.
© Eclipsed Rock Magazine - February 21, 2018