Rainbow Rising Again
Burrn Magazine Japan - May 2018 issue
This year you've planned Rainbow shows in Russia, Finland, Germany and Czech. Are you going to change the setlist?
Ritchie: It will be very similar to last year. We don't have enough time to rehearse a completely new set. We'll start rehearsing in March. Before the shows I want to rehearse a little more this time than in the 2 previous years. We'll go to Moscow for the first show. But at first we'll fly to Germany and then to Russia. I don't like flying to Russia by direct flight. My back hurts, so I can't take a longer flight than 7 hours.
With Rainbow you have never played in Czech or Russia before. Are you doing this on purpose?
Ritchie: Over the past 20 years, I often played in Russia. Of course, it's great to go there with Rainbow, too, but it's a pure coincidence. Agents just asked if I would like to play there and I agreed, although it's quite far to go there, but I've already been in Russia a few times. I like it there, and I really like Borsch, the famous Russian soup.
Are you planning to give more shows in the second half of the year, like for example in Japan?
Ritchie: Japan is a wonderful country, but it's so far away. I prefer to travel to closer places. I don't like to sit on the plane for such a long time. That's really the biggest problem. In fact, I was thinking about going to Japan, because Mr. Udo was inviting me, but I really don't want to travel so far. Therefore, that didn't work out.
And if you fly through California?
Ritchie: I don't like California. I lived there for three years, and I didn't like it. I like to live surrounded by electricians, gardeners and carpenters. But in Hollywood, where I lived at the time, everyone was either movie stars, rock stars, psychoanalysts or doctors. It was terribly boring there. I was very uncomfortable there. But at the time, we often performed in Japan with Rainbow... That's why I lived in Los Angeles, because there was an airport near there. But I don't want to go back to California. I always say that I would like to go to California again, but I don't have enough motiviation. It's too hot, and there's too many palm tress (laughs).
And through Seatlle?
Ritchie: Seattle is too far away. But I like Seattle. A good place. Good climate, not too many palm trees.
There's a beautiful nature.
Ritchie: That's right. But I live on the east coast. There's much more European atmosphere here. The west coast is too close tot he Pacific Ocean. It's too far away from my roots. I like the cold climate here with snow.
So does that mean that you will probably never play in Japan with Rainbow again?
Ritchie: I don't want to rule it out. Mr. Udo invited me to Japan. We have a long-standing friendly relationship. We have known each other for a long time - probably 200 years (laughs).
There's a lot of young fans here who have never seen you...
Ritchie: And I thought I don't have any fans left there...
It's not like that at all!
Ritchie: Well, there's a couple of fans left... (laughs)
No, a lot more...
Okay. However - are you going to play with the same line-up as in previous years?
Ritchie: As far as I know - yes. I haven't talked with them for a long time. When I asked them if they would like to do another Rainbow tour, they agreed. But recently I had a big argument with the drummer. I even kicked him out of my house. I don't know if he will ever talk to me again.
Are you talking about David Keith?
Ritchie: That's right. We had a very aggressive discussion about politics. (Ritchie is a supporter of conservative politics and David is a supporter of left-wing politics). Sometimes it's better not to argue about politics. But I like discussing it from time to time.
What's your opinion about Ronnie Romero?
Ritchie: Ronnie is a very cool guy. He's a very calm person, and I trust him. For me the character of a musician is of great importance for the band. He comes from Chile, and when I first met him, I noticed that he's not very talkative. I like the fact that he doesn't try to impose his opinion. So with him I definetely won't be having an argument because of politics. (laughs)
What about Bob and why is his name "Noveau"?
Ritchie: That's not his real name. He's just being searched by the police. That's why he has to hide his real name. But he's a great musician - not just a bass player. He's also a great guitar player, with a strong sense of rythmn and good views about music. He's the best companion for me in terms of music, because when I'm not in the mood to get things right at rehearsals, he jumps in and knows what I think is wrong. He knows how to communicate with people and get things across. For example, we had some problems with one backing vocalist in Blackmore's Night. And he told her: "If you sing like that, it won't be good for the song". I was amazed, because I couldn't understand what I didn't like about her singing, and he immediately identified it. He's a great musician, and besides, he replaces me when I'm not in the mood to command the band. But he has one big problem. It's always impossible to contact him, and he's always lost. On tour, he somtimes calls us: "Ritchie, I'm lost, where am I ?". Sometimes we leave him a small message: "Bob, we just want to remind you that today is Friday". I have an interesting relationship with him, because I always tell him some kind of nonsense, and he answers in the same manner. He seems to understand the nonsense that I usually carry with me.
What can you say about David Keith? Besides the fact that you have different views on politics than he has?
Ritchie: He's also a great musician. Many famous drummers wanted to play in this new Rainbow line-up, but I wasn't very keen on taking famous musicians, because I really like Dave's playing. He perfectly keeps the rythmn. In the past, I've always had problems with drummers. They all brought huge drum kits, a double bass and loved arranging a big show, but they weren't able to keep the rythmn. For me the most important thing about a drummer is that he can keep the rythmn and has a good timing. I was always looking for a drummer who could keep up with a song, without slowing down or getting too fast. Ironically, many well-known drummers are constantly stumbling and starting to play faster. So when I started to put this band together, I thought that he would be the best choice. He's not known at all, but I believe that it's always good to present little-known musicians. It's the same with Ronnie Romero. Many singers would like to be in his place, but I wasn't interested in using any of the old singers. One night, Candice watched some videos on the computer through Youtube, and asked me what I would think of this singer. At first, I wasn't really interested - but when I listened to him, I said: "He's very good!". There was a video where he sang in the studio without any backing, so I could clearly hear his voice. I said to Candy: "Damn, he's a wonderful singer, who is this?". So she checked who it was, and got in touch with him. That was the point when I really got to be enthusiastic about the idea of reviving Rainbow. I had thought about doing something like this already for quite some time, but I couldn't find a suitable singer. I was looking for a blues vocalist, who at the same time could sing rock music. But no one inspired me, except Paul Rodgers. But this singer on Youtube had everything I was looking for. He lives in Spain, Madrid. When we contacted him, he didn't take it too seriously. Later, he said that he thought it was just a joke (laughs). I had to contact him through our manager: "It's really us! Would you like to take part in this new Rainbow line-up?". That's how it all started. After that we met up at a German castle. I played one or two Rainbow songs on the acoustic guitar and I knew he was the right guy. So that's Ronnies story. Is it worth going back to David? (laughs)
Ritchie: Ok. When I told David that I would like him to be the drummer, he said: "We need to buy another bass drum for the drum-kit to make it sound and look like Cozy Powell's drum-kit. I told him that this wouldn't be necessary. I love it when drummers play with just one bass-drum. I don't like the double-bass-drum at al. John Bonham, an amazing drummer, managed to do it with just one also. Buddy Rich, the best drummer in the world, also handled it with one bass drum. I think a double-bass drum is just a show effect. Many drummers have big drum-kits and totally forget about keeping the rythmn. I really like Mitch Mitchell, who played with Jimi Hendrix. He only had one bass drum, too. I also don't like when the drums are too loud. Was that enough arguments to convince you that David is a fantastic drummer?
What can you say about Jens Johansson?
Ritchie: There's a good story with Jens, too. Jens is very fond of Candy. He played one of our songs "Under a Violet Moon". He came into the studio at the time, but he behaved very quietly and detached, and I thought that he was uncomfortable with us and that he wouldn't want to play with me anymore, so I said: "Candy, I think he's more of a soloist, a real virtuoso". But she said: "Let's try it, we'll see what he answers". I asked my manager Carole to contact him: "Would you be interested in joining Rainbow, but in this case you would have to confine yourself to the role of Jon Lord, which would be more kind of rythmn playing, and not so many virtuoso solos that you perform with Stratovarius". And he replied: "Of course, I'm interested in this." He said that he likes to play rythmn parts in the spirit of Jon. He also added that although he's playing a completely other style of music with Stratovarius, he acutally doesn't like it that much. He even said that if he only had to play the clarinet, dressing in a leopard skin, he would have still agreed to play with us. When I heard that, I knew he was the right guy. He's a very interesting musician. Jens has the image of a progressive, fast and virtuoso keyboard player, but in fact he's not. He likes to play simple music, like blues. I was pleasantly surprised that he agreed. In addition, he's a very nice person. When I first met him, he seemed very detached, but in fact he was just shy. We communicate with him very often. I'm on good terms with him. I already worked with a lot of difficult people. So I really didn't want to get back to most of the old guys. Ronnie Romero really inspired me to return to rock music.
How would you compare Ronnie to the old singers in Rainbow?
Ritchie: He has a strong voice. There's a tension in his voice. When he wants, he can sing hard rock, but at the same he can sing very soft-melodic stuff. I like him so much because he can sing in two different styles. He sings in three different bands. In one he sings the songs of Freddie Mercury. He's very good at singing Queen songs. In addition, he has a very wide range and can take very high notes. But I don't like singers who can just sing at their top voice. I like the baritone. Long ago, when I was looking for a singer, before we found Graham Bonnet, we had a singer with a beautiful timbre. For me, timbre is a very important element of a voice. We went to write new songs in France and I found out that he wasn't able to hit the high A, the highest note for him was the upper D. He had a small range, so we asked him to leave (laughs). This singer stayed in the band for only three weeks. It's very difficult for me to write for a singer who can't take the upper A. And Graham Bonnet could sing even higher, up to F. Graham rarely sang in such a high voice, but he was very good at handling his vocals. Many of our songs are starting very low, and then went up. So when I auditioned new singer, I always tested their range. When I'm looking for a singer, I look at the timbre, range, feeling of rythmn and phrasing. That's the most important thing for me. There are many singers, who are very good at singing other people's songs, but when it comes to improvising, they don't know how to do it. Improvisation is very important. Without it, you're not able to compose any music.
I would like to compare it with each vocalist separately.
Ritchie: I can't do this (laughs). No, I'm joking. Okay, Ronnie Dio... I noticed that the fans wanted to hear more songs from the Dio era, 1975-1978. That was one of the reasons why I chose Ronnie Romero - because his voice reminds me of Dio. Joe Lynn Turner wasn't very happy about that! When he heard that I decided to use Ronnie Romero, he... Well... But in Europe Rainbow is all associated with Ronnie Dio, and not with Graham Bonnet or Joe Lynn Turner. Everyone had his own style. Ronnie Dio had a very good baritone. He sang in a very dramatic style. Graham Bonnet had a very high voice, he was more a pop singer. And Joe Lynn Turner was more of a blues vocalist. Who else was there?
Ritchie: Yes. Doogie White. One day Doogie sang very well, the other day he sang terribly bad. It was always incomprehensible with him. At the first show we did he sang remarkably, and on other nights his voice was very weak. Therefore, I didn't really like it. I remember that we had problems with him, when we were going to a Danish rock festival. A week before the show, he asked me to double his fee. He did that together with the bass player at the time and they both demanded more money. Within that week I didn't have enough time to look for another singer. I said that we can speak about that soon, when we play that show. Of course, I didn't double their fee. I paid them as planned. But he tried to blackmail me. I told him that the agent will pay them out 3 percent of the profit of each show, and I told him: "Please decide if that's okay for you or not". I don't need a person around me who asks me to double their fee one month before a show. I also said that if I don't get an answer within 24 hours, I will cancel all the upcoming shows for three months in advance. My plan at the time was to go on another tour to Japan. I wanted to do another world tour. But I didn't get an answer within these 24 hours. And that's why I cancelled the whole thing and started Blackmore's Night with Candice. A week later he called me and asked me about further tour plans and when we would send him the tour shedule. My manager told him that it was over and we wouldn't go anywhere. We don't need people who are asking to double their fee one week before a show. When we go on tour or do a show, we are setting up contracts with clearly fixed amounts. When you sign it, you can't ask me to increase the fee one week prior to a show. That's why I broke up with Doogie White. I think I already told this story. It's the truth of what happened and it was all really scandalous and unnecessary.
What can you say about your old keyboard players?
Ritchie: I liked David Rosenthal the most. Don Airey was also a great musician. You can critize him for playing in almost every rock band in the world and leaving them 2 weeks after joining them, but he's a great musician. (laughs) But David Rosenthal is an outstanding musician. David Stone... he was a bit unpleasant. We really didn't get along very well. Tony Carey was extremely talented. He is a wonderful singer and writes wonderful songs. But at the time we were unsure of him. It was all about drugs. As far as I know, he doesn't have drug problems anymore. He really was a great talent. I know that he had some big hits in Europe. He's not a session musician. I think he's much more comfortable as a indepedent musician. He likes to sing himself, but of course, he is also a wonderful keyboard player.
Bob Nouveau plays with his fingers, although you always required that your bass players play with a plectrum. Have you changed your mind about that?
Ritchie: The finger playing is better. You have a lot more freedom when you play with your fingers. Most bass players are using a plectrum and just play: "Bam-bam-bam". Bob often changes the rythmn. He does the syncopation thing, which is why the music sounds a lot better. When you play with a plectrum, the music becomes more accurate and direct. So yes, I changed my thoughts about the bass guitar. Bob is a very good bass player. He's very good at doing both styles.
I recently interviewed Glenn Hughes, and he told me that he almost became the new bass player of Rainbow.
Ritchie: Ah, Glenn Hughes. Yes, it's a strange story. He almost joined the group. I didn't even speak to him myself, I spoke with his best friend and manager, who's also a friend of mine. I wanted to find out if Glenn was interested in this, and I was told that he had agreed. I said: "Well, nice!". So the point came when we wanted to rehearse for the first time, and I asked his friend to tell him that he won't be the singer. It would be Ronnie Romero. His friend told me that Glenn would be aware of that. Because I know that Glenn loves to sing himself. But if he would be ready to limit himself to backing vocals, it would be just great. And just a few days before the rehearsals, Glenn recieved a message from his friend in which he was told that he wouldn't be the singer. (laughs)
What happened then?
Ritchie: I don't know myself (laughs). I wrote an E-Mail to Glenn, specifying that I thought that he knew that he wouldn't be the singer. Right from the beginning it was never the plan that Glenn would be the main singer. So in the end, we apologized to each other, because I knew that he wouldn't agree to just play the bass guitar. Maybe it would have been better to communicate directly with him, instead of talking through other people. We should have sorted it out in a different way, but we didn't. We communicated through managers and friends. So it turned out to be a really strange situation. And that's when we asked Bob to join us.
There'll be a new album coming out soon of your British tour last year. Your first show was at the O2 Arena in London.
Ritchie: It's nice to be back in front of such a big audience. I started being used to play in smaller halls, sitting on a chair, performing Renaissance and folk music. It was very unusual and strange for me to play in front of such big audiences again. They all remembered the old songs! Very nice and interesting feeling. It's a very pleasant feeling that so many people still want to hear these songs. I really like all those songs, but I don't wanna play them all the time. Most likely, I'll be doing 5 shows each year with Rainbow. And I don't think about going into the studio to record a new album... There were a lot of former friends and former colleagues at the show in London. It was great. Usually the London audience isn't very corteous. However, this time it worked well. It's still difficult to believe for me that so many people are coming to our shows.
Can you tell us something about the songs on the new live-record?
Ritchie: You shouldn't ask me that. I only remember the first three songs. I decide the rest of the setlist usually on the go. Usually it's my manager, who decides that, and I just approve it. Also, I have no idea what we are releasing now. Candy is very good at all this, she has a good memory.
The first song is "Spotlight Kid".
Ritchie: Ok. I wrote Spotlight Kid a long time ago. It's basically just a quick riff. I remember that when I wrote it, I asked Don Airey for his opinion, and he didn't like it. He advised me to something here and there. So I did that, and for quite some time, I wasn't sure about the result, but now I like it. Next we play "Mistreated".
No, I Surrender.
Ritchie: I Surrender?
Ritchie: Okay. I Surrender is a difficult song to play for me, because we play it in F-sharp. It's an usual key for me to play, so I have to concentrate. It's not the easiest song, but it's a wonderful song, written by Russ Ballard. By the way, he was at our show in London last year. I talked with him behind the scenes and asked him if he would like to play with us, but I warned him that we wouldn't play it in the original key. I remember that he got a little bit confused with the chords. As far as I remember, he came on stage with a guitar - by the way, he's an excellent guitar player. He thought I was joking about the key change, but I made that change for Ronnie. For example, when we played "Knockin at your back Door" with Joe Lynn Turner we also changed the key and changed the arrangements a little bit also.
Did Russ sing with Ronnie?
Ritchie: Mistreated is played in the same key. I love playing this song. I like good blues songs. David Coverdale did a great job on that. I remember how I discussed with Ronnie Dio in the old Rainbow days whether we should play that or not. He asked me to tell him how to sing the song. I, of course, can't sing, but I tried to sing it to him how I imagined it. He picked it up, and it turned out great. After that we played it for a long time at every show. But at first Ronnie Dio wasn't very comfortable singing that song. He didn't think he would have to perform it. He was very worried about it.
Since You've Been Gone...
Ritchie: Oh, yes. Since You've been Gone. We also play this one in a different key. Ronnie Romero has a lower voice than Graham Bonnet. It's an interesting, again written by Russ Ballard. The middle part of Since You've Been Gone is played in D flat. For a guitar player, that's a very unusual key. I like it, but with all the shows in the last 2 years I had the bad habit of not learning the songs properly. So on stage it's like I'm playing them for the first time. (laughs) Sometimes I'm playing the wrong chords. It upsets Bob. But Jens is there to overdub that, so no one notices my mistakes. It's a great song. Everyone can sing along. it's basically a pop song. Sometimes I like to play pop songs. I'm very often critized for doing that: "Why does Ritchie play pop songs?". Because I like it! And I don't think that all music should be heavy sounding. The constant heavy sound makes me very tired. I love melody. I only want to play music with a good melody. Many modern bands are not interested in playing good melodys. There's some weird music out there. It doesn't make any sense to me. For me, the most important thing is the melody.
Man on the Silver Moutain...
Ritchie: All right. Man on the Silver Mountain was played in the original key. There are a lot of different chords in the song. I really like to play it. I don't know what the lyrics are about, because Ronnie Dio wrote them. I was only responsible for the music. Do you know what it is about?
Ritchie: No? If you find out, tell me. I don't understand them. When we first toured America with Deep Purple, everyone thought that "Speed King" was a song about drugs. Ian Gillan always said that this wasn't true. It's a song about fast driving, not about drugs actually.
Soldier of Fortune.
Ritchie: Ronnie wanted to play this song. I also wanted to play something on the acoustics. Beautiful song! The first part was written by David Coverdale and the second one was my idea. It turned out great. He composed the first part on the piano, but I wasn't happy with it, so I told him to change it slightly. It was great to write songs like that together, 50/50. In Deep Purple, we never wrote songs together. There were always two or three people who really worked, and the rest didn't write anything at all, but they were still listed in the credits. They wanted democracy. I know that Van Halen had the same problem. Sometimes even songs, which are written by just one person, are credited to the whole band. Strange, isn't it? But I shared the credits with the others, because I wanted them to be happy. Otherwise, it would have lead to a total chaos. There would have been a lot of complaints.
All Night Long...
Ritchie: I wrote this song a long time ago with Graham Bonnet. There was an interesting situation in the studio. I wrote the melody for Graham, and I wanted him to sing it like I told him to. I said: "Graham, here's the melody, I want you to sing it." I started playing the chords and he was singing. And then he said: "How about if I sing it like this...?" And after 30 minutes it was a completely different melody than the one I wrote. At the time, Roger Glover was the producer. I decided to go out for dinner, and said to Graham: "You know the melody, please record the vocals, I'll come back in an hour and check it", and went to eat. When I returned, Roger said: "It turned out just fine!". "Well, let me listen". And he turned the record on and it had completely different vocals (laughs). I said: "What's that? I wanted Graham to sing my melody!". He asked: "So you wanted Graham to sing your exact melody?". I was very angry. I said: "I want him to sing it exactly how I wrote it!". In the end, he sang it, as I wanted him to sing it. The melody, they came up with, was just awful.
Difficult to Cure.
Ritchie: One of my favourites! It's based on Beethoven. Everyone has a solo in that. Usually it always has a drum and keyboard solo. I also played it with Deep Purple after the reunion. Ian Paice wasn't very happy to play it. He didn't want to play it, because he thought of it as a Rainbow song. I told him that it's just a great instrumental. Ian Gillan loved it, too. Therefore, his opinion was of no importance at the time.
Child in Time.
Ritchie: Child in Time is a difficult song in terms of vocals. It has very high notes. I didn't think Ronnie Romero would manage to sing that. But Bob said he could! I said: "Okay, let's try it." - and it turned out great. It's one of my favourite Deep Purple songs. But we couldn't always play it with Deep Purple. Ian Gillan often asked me to skip that song. But he wanted to skip it every night. I told him: "Ian, everyone wants to hear that song!". It's like a hymn for the fans. I remember one show where he came to me and said: "Let's skip it!". But I just started playing it, Jon joined in, so Ian had no other choice than going to the microphone. I think he was a little bit afraid of singing it. But when I started playing the first chords, the whole crowd went crazy. It was really impossible to leave it out. After that, he hated me even more (laughs).
Ritchie: One of my favourite Rainbow songs. It has a great ending. Something interesting happened in the studio when we were recording that song. We recorded it in Munich with an orchestra of 27 musicians. It was a great orchestra, and the conductor wrote the arrangement and asked me what I thought of it. I thought it was too voluminous. He was dissatisfied with my remark, but the next day he returned to the studio with a new arrangement. But I said: "There's still too much of everything." I wanted the orchestra to play along with Ronnie Dio repeating this phrase: "there-ta-ra-ram", and so on. I didn't want the orchestra to be too much in the foreground. In the end he did everything the way I wanted. The conductor - of course - was unhappy, because the orchestra just played the most basic parts of the song. He was very proud of his own arrangement. But I wanted the orchestra just as an accompaniment for the vocals. There also was a solo violinist. When we recorded the ending, the orchestra stopped, and the violin player continued to play a beautiful solo in a hungarian spirit. He improvised for like 2 minutes, it was just incredible. I looked at Martin Birch and realized that the recording was over. That poor fellow was still playing like a madman, but the recording machine was no longer running! I said: "That's just fantastic!", and Martin said: "There's just one problem - the recording is over". The violinist came into the control room, sweating and asked to listen to the recording. When we explained to him what happened, he was very unhappy. I felt very sorry for him, because he was playing a really incredible improvsiation, but we weren't able to record it.
Ou, that's sad.
Ritchie: It happens.
Still I'm Sad.
Ritchie: Did we actually play "Still I'm Sad"?
Ritchie: Okay, I always thought it was a good song.
I heard it from the Yardbirds.
Ritchie: Yes, that's the Yardbirds. I like the melody, and at first it was recorded as an instrumental. But originally it's an Gregorian anthem of the fourteenth or fifteenth hundreds.
Long Live Rock n Roll.
Ritchie: For this song, I wrote not only the music, but also the lyrics. I came up with this riff and the phrase "Long Live Rock n Roll" and showed it to Ronnie Dio. He liked it and wrote the rest of the lyrics. At first I thought it sounded kind of stupid, so I suggested that he writes a different lyric to the song. But five days later he came back and said that it worked very well. I was surprised and pleased about that. It was the only Rainbow song where I had some influence on the lyrics. Usually the lyrics were written by the singers.
Ritchie: Black Night is a very old song based on a song from 1962 called "Summertime". If you listen to the bass guitar there, you'll hear the Black Night riff. Jimi Hendrix stole the introduction to Hey Joe from the same song.
Ritchie: Yeah, Burn. I wrote that song for Deep Purple. It's a great song. It has a very bright drum sound on the recording. In the middle, I'm playing in the spirit of Vivaldi or Mozart. There's also an interesting story to that. Jon Lord brought a record of my idea for Burn to his home, and when his wife heard that, she asked him if it was "Fascinating Rhythmn"? In the 1920s there was a thing called "Fascinating Rhythmn", and Jon said that he had never heard that song. When he told me about it, I had to laugh. I didn't know that song either! But it sounded very similar, although it's played at a different pace. That happens sometimes. The number of notes is limited, and sometimes you copy things that were already there many years ago. It has nothing to do with plagiarism.
Catch the Rainbow.
Ritchie: Catch the Rainbow has a very old-fashioned melody. Ronnie Dio sang it perfectly. It was one of our first songs. We just turned the recorder on at our first rehearsals, started playing and this song developed very naturally. Ronnie Dio was perfect at improvising. He immediately started to sing - it was great. Then we added some harmony parts and the song was finished. With the last part we came up a little bit later. Because of tax problems, we had to finish the album in a studio in Jamaica. I wanted to record it in a normal studio, but the manager said that we would have problems with the taxes, so we had to fly to Jamaica. The studio there was awful, but we managed to record it.
Smoke on the Water.
Ritchie: Yes, everyone expects this song from me, and I don't hate it. It's a good song. Ian Anderson told me that he hates his song Aqualung, because everyone wants to hear it. And he has to play it at every show. There are always some songs that the audience expects from you. Smoke on the Water is a good song. Any guitarist can play it. In many guitar stores they even started to hang out signs with "Please don't play Smoke on the Water" (laughs).
Temple of the King and Carry on Jon were only played once. Have you rehearsed them? Or do you play them spontaniously?
Ritchie: Yes, we rehearsed Temple of the King. Many of our fans go to several shows, and that's why I like to change the setlist as often as possible, so I decided to play Temple of the King. We also rehearsed Carry on Jon. It's a dedication to Jon Lord. I try to include as many songs as possible on our setlist. It's influenced by many factors what we play - the hall, production, equipment, promoters... So it's difficult to make up a setlist. The most important thing is that the fans are pleased.
Do you think the 2017 tour was better than in 2016? Do you expect 2018 to be even better?
Ritchie: Yes, I agree. We have a strange situation with this band, because we perform 4-5 times a year, and then we have a break of 11 months and don't see each other at all. That's why we are sounding a little bit unrehearsed and weird at times. I also have to change my way of thinking for this music. It's completely different to the music I play with Blackmore's Night. On the electric guitar I'm using a plectrum, and on the acoustic guitar I'm playing with my fingers. I need long nails for that, and when I play rock music, I have to cut them short. After the Rainbow tour last year, I had to grow my nails again very fast within 3 weeks, which was quite difficult. I put acrylic on my nails - do you know what that is?
Ritchie: It makes the nails harder and stronger. But I also had surgery on my finger two years ago. That also causes problems sometimes.
Do you have problems with your left hand?
Ritchie: Yes, I have some problems with it. I'm even a little bit afraid to play at times. If it gets much worse, then I think I'll have to stop playing. We all have health problems, I've heard that Eric Clapton has hearing problems, and Jeff Beck has arthritis. Getting older is not a pleasant thing.
I understand. At the shows last year, you reduced the number of Deep Purple songs. Are you going to increase the number of Rainbow songs this year?
Ritchie: Yes, I will play everything to make people being tired of listening to us (laughs). It doesn't matter what I play - some people will always be unhappy about the choice of songs. If we would only play Rainbow songs, we would be told that we should include some Deep Purple songs. It's an endless debate. Previously, I was constantly asked when I would be returning to Deep Purple, and when I returned to the band back in 1984, people asked me when I would reform Rainbow. I have a huge catalog of songs, but I don't want to play all of them and stand on stage for a week.
With this new Rainbow line-up you have already released three albums. Are you involved in the production process?
Ritchie: I don't take any part in it. Even when they ask me to listen to the mix, I tell them that I don't care about it. I leave that to others. I'm too lazy for that. If I would listen to the mix, I would be dissatisfied with so many things probably, that I would have to be in the studio for weeks. I also have a bad habit of not listening to my own records. Bob was complaining that the mix on the first live record wasn't good, but I couldn't say anything, because I hadn't even heard it. Also I don't like watching myself on video. So basically I don't know anything about our releases.
Even your previous DVD?
Ritchie: I didn't watch it. I don't even know which DVD you're talking about.
The Memories in Rock DVD from 2016. It was a very successful release.
Ritchie: Could be.
You also released a new song called "Waiting for a Sign". Did you write it together with Ronnie Romero?
Ritchie: The lyrics were written by Candice. We sent the song to Ronnie, and he put his vocals on it. I came up with that riff already a long time ago, and I wanted to check if Ronnie was able to sing the blues. He did an excellent job. By the way, Candice sang on the demo version.
Are you planning to release some more new songs? You said prior that you don't want to release a whole record.
Ritchie: I'm thinking about writing a few more songs. But I still have another band. So I'm torn between two projects. When you want to write rock songs, you need to work as a band, play all together, and in Blackmore's Night I can write a song by just strumming along on the acoustic guitar. Renaissance music is quite different from rock. It's played with completely different instruments and it's much quieter. For rock, you need to gather the whole band, go somewhere, play around with ideas, and start from there...
So you're not ruling a new Rainbow album out?
Ritchie: I don't know if I can write a whole record. I think it would be good to record 2-3 more songs. But my main focus is on Blackmore's Night. I would need to find time for both projects.
After Ronnie Dio left the band, you never played "Kill the King" again. Why? Do you not like the song anymore?
Ritchie: I don't like that you like it (laughs).
I think it would fit Ronnie Romeros voice very well.
Ritchie: Yes, could be. By the way, as far as I know, he is singing it in other bands. But I think that it's a bit too similar to Spotlight Kid. I haven't heard this song in 35 years. I would need to listen and decide if it's worth playing. We could play "Self Portrait", that's a good song with a pretty complicated harmony. So if we add a new song to this year's setlist, it would probably be "Self Portrait".
Gates of Babylon would also be a nice addition, but you never played that one live.
Ritchie: Yes, Ronnie would sing it perfectly. I never played it, because I could never remember the riff. It's constantly changing throughout the song. In the studio we were recording it in different parts, but at the shows I wouldn't be able to remember all that. It's one of my favourite songs, but when Cozy and myself rehearsed it, we weren't able to do that one properly - there was no swing and the rythmn was falling part - so I saw no sense in doing that one live. That's also why we still aren't playing it.
You also released a remake of "I Surrender" with Ronnie's vocals. Do you want to record more remakes?
Ritchie: Well, yes, it's possible. But most likely, we'll record a couple of old things and some new songs. With age I became quite lazy. I really prefer to just sit back or have a nice walk in the woods.
Which Rainbow song would you say was the most important one for you? Many people think that you like "Street of Dreams" the most.
Ritchie: Yes, "Street of Dreams" is one of my favourite songs, and one of the best songs that I wrote. It's probably on the first place. Joe Lynn Turner sang it perfectly. One of my favourite songs - probably the best one... Or maybe not.
Which other songs are you proud of?
Ritchie: Maybe "Whole Lotta Love" and "Stairway to Heaven" (laughs).
When Ian Gillan left Deep Purple for the first time, you wanted to work with Paul Rodgers.
Would you still like to do that?
Ritchie: Paul Rodgers has worked with a lot of bands and he still has a great voice. But, believe it or not, I'm still more excited by the sound of a mandola. Rock n Roll interests me to a lesser extent, and just playing loud doesn't motivate me anymore. Meanwhile I prefer to play the acoustics - I'm obsessed with Renaissance music.
Are you currently writing songs for a new Blackmore's Night album?
Ritchie: No, we aren't. I wrote so many songs for Blackmore's Night and we spent so much time in the studio over the last years that I really want to rest a little. We have a sort of vacation. And Candice has to take care of the children. We don't have a lot of time to do music together and work quietly on ideas. When we start playing, our kids are jumping on Candice's head (laughs). So it's quite difficult.
Of all the albums of Blackmore's Night - which ones do you like the most?
Ritchie: I really like the first album, because It felt like I was jumping into fresh water. I wasn't sure about what I was doing, but it was very interesting, because it was something new. Before that, I had always played rock n roll and it was always the same sheme - guitar, bass, drums and keys. In Blackmore's Night we use shalmeijs, mandolas, nickelharps - it's all very difficult.
Fans around the world have been waiting decades for your return to rock music and it all happened in 2016. Were you surprised about the positive reactions? Or did you expect this?
Ritchie: No, I was very surprised. When we were going to play the show in England that year, the agent told us that the tickets were sold within 15 minutes! It seemed strange to me. I couldn't believe how many people remembered what I did with Rainbow. When Ronnie Dio and myself were doing Rainbow, the band was famous, but it wasn't popular. Why now? I was amazed.
Unfortunately, it's unlikely that you come to Japan...
Ritchie: Our concerts are often visited by fans from Japan.
What do you want to say to your fans in Europe prior to the upcoming shows?
Ritchie: I'm amazed at how many people want to hear my old music. For me it's just nostalgia, but also an incentive, and I like to play those songs. I'm very happy that so many people come to listen to this music, and that it's not forgotten.
And fans from Japan won't be able to see you...
Ritchie: Yes, I'm sorry that you don't get the chance to see us. I would love to play for everyone who wants to hear my music, but, unfortunately, sometimes the distance is a problem.
Are you planning on performing with Rainbow in the USA?
Ritchie: Probably, but we have some organizational problems here. I haven't decided anything yet. Even if we are going to perform here, it would be just one or two shows. And certainly not in California (laughs).
Most likely in New York?
Ritchie: Most likely, New York or Connecticut.
Thank you for the interview.
Ritchie: Thank you!
© Burrn Magazine Japan - May 2018 issue