Special Long Interview in New York
- When you left Deep Purple, many fans were shocked and deeply upset. There were many rumors about what prompted you to make this decision. Tell us how it really was.
RB: We've been playing together for too long, since '84, after nine years it's time to leave. The main reason... and it's not a secret... was, of course, Ian Gillan. I don't mean our bad relationship with him. But then I stopped respecting him. In fact, I was against the reunion of this line-up, and I was looking for another singer. But the rest of the members wanted to play with Ian and I thought it was worth giving it a try, but after 10 days on the tour, I noticed that something was not right for me. In my opinion, he lacked professionalism. For example, he forgot the lyrics! He couldn't bother to learn the lyrics, it's like going on stage when you only have four strings on your guitar! He seemed to rely on his fans without even trying to be a professional. It didn't suit me at all. Probably, for Ian the party after the concerts was more important. I don't know what was important to him, but definitely not music. But it normal. I wouldn't mind if it didn't affect his performances. But when it comes to music, serious problems began. I even had to talk with Jon, he said that he would talk about this with Ian, but nothing changed. The fans, who knew all the lyrics, all the time heard some kind of mumbling instead of the words that he was supposed to sing. When this happened, I just went crazy. Everybody can have a problem with their voice, but he lost his voice at every concert! And then he still had parties backstage, when I saw it, I realized that music meant nothing to him at all. That's why I left the group.
- Gillan, in turn, blames you for not trying to cope with your anger and letting out anger right on stage.
RB: It's true. I could not restrain myself in a situation where I saw that the singer was simply cashing in on the audience, and felt that I could better leave. We have a responsibility to the fans... and I have to play my music well. It doesn't matter that you don't want to go on stage and play something. No one has the right to behave so selfishly.
- How did the group take your decision?
RB: When I was about to leave, I told the musicians: "After this tour I will leave the band. There are still six weeks left, you can find yourself another guitarist, do whatever you want. " I didn't tell them, "I don't like everything, I'm leaving right now," as they say. I didn't want to interfere with the careers of others. In fact, I gave them enough time to find another guitarist. But it is true that I refused to go with them to Japan.
- After that, the group got Joe Satriani and Steve Morse. They both respect your heritage.
RB: It's great. Both Joe and Steve are great, great guitarists. But Joe left the band right away, didn't he? I'm sure he quickly got tired of the problems with Ian (laughs). Maybe Steve will find out about them very soon (laughs).
- Tell us about your new project.
RB: I started thinking about this project when I was playing in Deep Purple. I planned to play in two bands at once, not yet knowing that I would leave Deep Purple, and I had to start doing this project at the end of the tour. However, then I intended to play with completely different musicians. For several years, plans have changed. I was planning to work with another singer, drummer and bass player, and the music was supposed to be a little different.
- How did you initially conceive it?
RB: It was more commercial music. I like commercial songs that can be whistled and that the general public likes. Many people think it's easy for rock musicians to sell their albums, but I don't think so. Nobody seriously thinks, "I just want to play my music, I don't need anyone's attention." Absolutely any musician strives for recognition. Even Jimi Hendrix said, "I would like to have my songs played on the turntable in restaurants." This is an axiom.
- But in the end you did everything quite differently.
RB: Yes, I put these songs in a box, but not the right one (Laughs). No, I don't think this band is suitable for restaurants (laughs), but I'm happy with the new album. I put my whole heart into it, so it's a very personal album and it's interesting. This is the whole point of rock 'n' roll - no matter how skillfully you play or what you try to prove. The main thing is how much emotion you convey to the audience, the meaning of rock is to delight the listener. In this respect, I am very pleased with the album.
- Did you immediately plan to work under the name "Rainbow"?
RB: No, I had other variants of the names, for example, "Big stretch". But that's not my idea, the record company said, "Ritchie Blackmore should name the band Rainbow." They did not pressure me, but made it clear that it was desirable. After all, the old Rainbow has a lot of fans, so I thought it was a really good name.
- At one time there were rumors that you would name the band "Rainbow Moon".
RB: There was also such an idea. I love the moon in all its forms, it inspires me a lot. By the way, my next project will be called Medieval Moon and Dances. In it, I plan to work in the genre of gypsy music. Of course, there will be completely different musicians, it will rather be a solo project. Actually, when I read the local Long Island newspapers, I saw that there are a lot of groups with the name "Some Moon" and "Moon somewhere." I thought there were too many bands like that... That's why I dropped the name "Rainbow Moon".
- Do you feel the difference between 1975, when you formed the first Rainbow lineup, and now?
RB: This time everything is going pretty tense. Twenty years later, it's already quite difficult for me to create a new group. It seems to me that now I will have more responsibility if something goes wrong. For example, in 75, I thought: "I'll just play for my own pleasure, we'll see what comes of it, I won't be upset if it doesn't work out." I had a different mindset, as if I wanted to show what exactly I want to play. Now I take the band more seriously... So I try to do everything as best I can. However, I am 100 percent sure that leaving Deep Purple was the right decision. I had to leave that group, even if I ended up working as a baker or plumber. But when I gathered this new group, I thought: "Will it make sense?"
- Were you satisfied with the album after its completion?
RB: Of course. When I got home, I got drunk in my home German bar, and my friends and I started listening to this album. I haven't done that before. When I hear my own music, I start to criticize it and get very nervous. Almost always it seems to me that it sounds worse than ever! But this time, when my friends started telling me that they liked the album, I agreed with them. This is my first time.
- How did you find the band members?
RB: We walked around the city at night, looking for musicians. We went to different bars and asked: "Can you play bass or drums? We have a place in the group "(laughs).
- But seriously?
RB: I heard Doogie's voice on some recording when I was sorting through the pile of accumulated tapes. I liked his voice, and I asked my girlfriend: "What kind of tape is this?" His London phone number was written on the cassette, and we told him that we would very much like to see him in our project. Like that.
- What are your criteria for the voice?
RB: First of all, the singer must be a good person and sing from the heart. Let's just say I would like the vocalist to become my voice. But it seems to me that now there are not enough good singers. Many are recruiting groups of friends! Because of this, it is impossible to listen to many vocalists, because they are only required to be good friends. It was the same with The Beatles, but they were lucky in this (laughs)! When a person does not know how to sing, and friends tell him that he has a cool voice, this will not add charm and skill to his voice. Jeff Beck, one of my idols, once said: "All singers are masturbators!" Of course, he has the right to say so - he worked with Rod Stewart! After that, I would stop working with vocalists altogether. I agree with him. It is rare to find singers who really know how to sing. So I was lucky to find Doogie.
- In many bands, the vocalists are responsible for writing the melodies. Was this the case with Doogie?
RB: He made a big contribution to the creation of the album. This surprised me. Once I played one riff to him and asked: "Can you sing along to this?" Two days later, he brought a cassette tape containing eight different vocal melodies for this song. It amazed me. "How about this? So wait, I still have another option. " Each option was interesting in its own way. It's not often that you meet a person who has so many good ideas. Then I realized that he could be useful to us.
- Tell us about the rest of the group.
RB: Greg Smith I saw in one bar, he was just a strong enough hard rock bass player that I was looking for. I immediately decided to take him to the group because I liked him as a person. The drummer... actually, we changed him two weeks ago. The album featured John O'Reilly, a great drummer, but he has a slightly inappropriate playing style. He didn't know how to swing, swing the way I would like... Instead of him we have now Chuck Burgie, who already played in Rainbow. As soon as Chuck joined the band, rhythms that we could not work with before became available to us, it's amazing. He does a great job with the syncopation that I play a lot.
- How did Paul Morris get into the group?
RB: I met him about ten years ago. He got my attention back in 1981 when I auditioned keyboardists for Rainbow. But then I decided to take David Rosenthal, even though Paul showed a good result. He reminds me of Beethoven. There is a lot of fire, aggression in his playing, he is a very passionate and quick-tempered musician. This helps him a lot in self-expression, music conveys the life and emotions of a person. Sometimes he pisses me off, but he is a real musician. In Deep Purple, everyone completely lost their aggression, they had no feelings for music, and I believe that musicians should have a temperament, for a musician it is necessary. Nobody knows when he will explode, but he can play! It suits me. I also explode sometimes (laughs).
- Did the new musicians inspire you during the rehearsals?
RB: No (laughs)! However, when Greg brought his beer to rehearsals, I was impressed, it was an interesting, very strong beer that he brewed himself. That inspired me (laughs).
- In our last interview in 1991, you said that you never record concept albums and do not have a clear idea of what the final work should be like. Have you worked on a new album with the same attitude?
RB: Yes. Even if at first I define something for myself, then everything changes. Everyone who worked with me knows this. I think that's why they consider me a problem person, especially those who invest in me (laughs). I cannot plan anything in advance, including when creating an album. If I have to work according to a pre-established plan, I start to howl with boredom. I am attracted to change. Otherwise, the work becomes boring and I'm not interested in it.
- What does the name "Stranger In Us All" mean?
RB: This is a phrase from the song "Black Masquerade", these words mean that there is an inner stranger hidden in each of us. I believe that anyone who thinks they know themselves is not really aware of themselves. I know this from myself - sometimes I myself do not understand why I did some actions, it was as if there was another person inside me in those moments. Was it me, or was it some other person? It seems to me that it has something to do with the soul. Yin-Yang, good and evil, white and black... two elements, completely opposite to each other. People often ask themselves, "Why did I do this?" This all is "the stranger in each of us" who constantly accompanies us. It is a mysterious distorted world that we cannot control.
- I would like to meet this stranger.
RB: I meet with him all the time. But in my case it seems to me that this is a woman. I'm looking for my man (laughs).
- All this has to do with introspection.
RB: This is a serious topic. I always feel like a different Ritchie Blackmore - when I eat cheese and watch TV I'm one person, and when I eat toast, I feel like a completely different Ritchie Blackmore. Even on stage, it sometimes seems to me that it is not me who is playing, but someone else who has settled in my body. This happened to me in Hamburg at the Star-Club in 1963. I didn't drink alcohol then, we played in a club, and on stage I was completely lost, but one day I started looking at the frets and my hands seemed to start playing, and I just watched. It took me a while to realize that hands are playing by themselves. What was it? I repeat, I didn't drink then! Although I did not discuss it with others and only told the bass player about it, I could not forget it. This is not exactly what I had in mind, but maybe it was just the work of that very other person. If so, then it seems to me that my stranger inside is my good friend.
- He helps you...
RB: Protecting me. I am sure about that. But there are people who are completely absorbed by this essence. For example, I have a woman I know with a terrible man inside who constantly pulls her in the wrong direction. But we deviated from the topic...
- Let's talk about songs. Did you write them spontaneously or did you systematically work on writing them?
RB: Pretty spontaneous. I don't like making rough sketches of songs, my best songs come out during improvisation, I don't like writing music far-fetched. Especially if it's rock. When you write music in the spirit of "Moon River", you first need to come up with melodies and write a song on their basis, but rock and roll is based on improvisation and expression of harsh emotions, it is such self-expression without thoughts. I can't think for months on the songs and how my new album should come out! When they ask me how I want to see the result, I answer: "I have no idea." In other words, if I'm inspired, then I start playing... that's all. I'll drink two beers, get inspired and the song will come out by itself, that's what rock is to me. Sometimes I think more deeply about the songs, but more often they are always born by themselves. Otherwise they get too complicated. We play rock, not jazz. I need to play music that helps me relax.
- So you have to be in a good mood to write music?
RB: Right. It is important. I have a lot of music that doesn't make it to the albums, because when it comes to recording, I just give up. When I come to the studio with the intention of recording something, the microphone placement starts, and then the drum tuning... after all this, I already lose my mood. And when they say to me: "Well, start, please," I feel like: "Yes, I've been waiting for you for two whole hours!" (laughs). All freshness disappears, the music stops coming from the heart, and I begin to invent it out of my head. I don't think you will very much believe it (laughs), but many of my works, which are considered to be the best, were recorded in this situation: "Is the microphone already set up? Do the drums sound natural? Well, okay!". Okay... And I start playing the first thing that comes to mind. When you play in a supportive environment, wonderful music is born. But I haven't had this for a long time. In general, I would like to record the next album on tape without saying a word to anyone.
- I would like to talk about specific songs. "Ariel" has an interesting oriental sound, how did you write it?
RB: I wrote this song at home, in my bar. I came up with the instrumental part, and my fiancee wrote the lyrics, she sang the chorus at the end. She has great musical ability and helped us a lot with the album. She wrote the lyrics for this song in five minutes! This is surrealism, a mermaid comes out of the sea and awakens the depths of the sea, stuff like that. As you know, I am not very good at poetry (laughs), I only listen to the texts of Bob Dylan, and the poetry of other poets does not interest me. Therefore, I respect people who can write good lyrics. At first we planned to use this song in our future medieval project. However, it sounds so good in hard rock processing, I thought it was perfect for this band and decided to include it on the album.
- Has the atmosphere of the song changed a lot in the rock arrangement?
RB: Yes, first I changed the key from A minor to E minor. After two weeks of work on the underlay, it turned out that the tone for Doogie was too high. So I decided to downgrade it to E minor, which made the A minor backing no longer suitable for us, so we had to make a new backing, drums and bass, on the computer. In short, this song is actually the only one playing. But sometimes the neat computer rhythm is very appropriate. When it comes to rhythm, I'm very picky. I take tempo very seriously. It determines everything, so the tempo must be extremely accurate anyway. On stage, I can come to terms with the fact that the pace sometimes accelerates, then slows down, but not in the studio. However, many drummers in the studio cannot keep the same tempo. For example, Cozy Powell had a problem with this. But John and Chuck haven't got that problem, at least not yet.
- How did you compose this oriental riff?
RB: I always insert these Turkish scales somewhere (laughs), as long as it is acceptable on American radio. The main thing is not to say: "What is this? We will not play Turkish music! " (laughs).
- The song "In The Hall Of The Mountain King" features music by Edward Grieg.
RB: Edvard Grieg is a Norwegian composer, I am attracted by his personality, he was a weirdo. I read books about him, he was a hermit. His music is filled with depression. It seems to convey what is happening in my head. This is a wonderful melody. I am fascinated by such majestic and melancholic melodies. I first saw the fourth act of "Peer Gynt" on TV at the age of nine, I heard "In The Hall Of The Mountain King", and this music just mesmerized me. I immediately had clear images of caves, witches with long nails. Mom couldn't understand why it interested me so much (laughs). By the way, I already wrote it down once, in one session in 64. Then it was an instrumental.
- Why did you decide to record a new version of "Still I'm Sad"? And why is it the last track again?
RB: We played it at rehearsals, the musicians said it sounded great. I already played it at concerts with vocals, it was not very interesting to me, but the guys asked it very much. When people from the record company found out about this, they insisted that we should record it. I was tired of it, so I just couldn't bring myself to properly start recording. Of course, it would take only an hour to record, but after five minutes I got tired and said: "That's it, I won't play any more." The fact that it is last does not mean anything. At first it was supposed to be a bonus track. Anyway, "Still I'm Sad" makes me sad all the time... (laughs).
- Guitar solos in rock music have become almost an indispensable element of any song. What do you think of it?
RB: It annoys me. I think this is wrong. You can insert an alternative bridge or something else into the song, why should there be a guitar solo? In my opinion, it is absolutely not necessary in music. I understand that a musician who is proud of his playing wants to show off in a solo, but I doubt that it will be appropriate everywhere. This was a problem in Deep Purple, especially live, where we had to have guitar and keyboard solos. There is nothing more dumb than two solos in a row!
- Do you choose your solo takes yourself, or is it the work of the producer?
RB: So and so... but I get bored in the studio quickly. First, the bass and drums are written for the song, and it takes me ten minutes to complete my parts. So I usually record three takes and pick the best one. Sometimes, when it's good, I leave the whole take, but more often I put together a solo from several takes. Can a producer give an objective assessment?
- What songs on the album do you like the most?
RB: Too Late For Tears sounds very interesting. All the studio versions are played slowly, although I have a habit of playing everything as fast as possible, but in the studio you usually have to take care of the clarity of the sound to the detriment of the live sound, but in Too Late For Tears I played very naturally. "Ariel" also came out naturally. The first take sounded like I was drunk, so I had to re-do it, but the second I was able to play better.
- I was surprised how skillfully you play on this album. Don't you feel like you've reached a new level as a guitarist now?
RB: This is a very nice compliment. I would like to think so, but I do not think that I have achieved something special that no one else has done before. I am still moving towards perfection. I rarely manage to film what is in my head, but I just try to make the music the best I can. This is the reason why I left Deep Purple. Everyone was surprised that I decided to leave, but I did not try to annoy others. Those who only think about money call me a problem person, but I just want to make better music, that's all, and I want to be honest with myself.
- Your signature Fender model was recently released. Is it true that you developed it yourself?
RB: Not really, Fender copied this model from my guitar. Of course, I did scalloping myself on my guitars. I skinned the frets myself... However, this is all rather complicated. It is much easier to do this using the factory method.
- How did you start using scalloped frets at all?
RB: I was 13 years old, I found an old classical guitar with this neck and I liked it. It was very convenient to play on it. Then I thought, no one had done this before me. It seems to me that after five years John McLaughlin began to play on such a neck. Nowadays many musicians use these bars, but scalloped bars do not build well. I play the strings very softly, but when others pick up my guitar, it immediately starts to get upset.
- What is the most important thing for you when choosing a guitar?
RB: The most important thing is white, nothing else matters (laughs). Of course, the feel of the guitar, the straight neck is important, although sometimes it's not very good, the resonance, the sound. Lots of things, but most importantly, the feel of the game.
- Do you think your Strat will have a different configuration in five years?
RB: Of course, I am constantly changing something.
- What frets do you use now?
RB: Sometimes I want to put Gibson's modes, sometimes Fender ones, but the main thing is that they are big, then everything suits me.
- Do you experiment with pickups?
RB: Regular Fender pickups sound best. However, in concert halls, they often get faint, so I use Dawk Sound pickups that a friend of mine makes. They have cut high and low frequencies. In the studio, Fender pickups sound great, but they are too noisy at concerts... maybe they should think about it.
- By the way, I noticed that you began to use the tremolo handle less often...
RB: Yes, I stopped using it. When I started playing with it, in the early 70s, only Hendrix used it. Then everyone started playing with it. Then I knew it was time to finish. Although recently it has started to go out of style. Blues playing is in vogue now.
- Have you tried using lock tuners like on Floyd Rose?
RB: No. Leo Fender came up with a wonderful tremolo. I have a friend who knows how to tune it correctly so that the guitar builds. Balancing all of this is not easy. It seems to me that even Hendrix had problems with the formation, because he did not know how to properly rebuild the mechanism.
- Have you stopped using Marshall?
RB: I don't use Marshalls anymore. Probably because this amp has become too fashionable. I want to break away from fashion. I am currently using a 60 watt Engl amp. At home I have been playing with little Engl for a long time, it sounds good, so I decided to use it in the studio too.
- When did you start using baseball picks?
RB: What are you talking about? I play with other picks, they are square, with a pointed side.
- This is the form of a baseball base (laughs).
RB: Seriously? I hate baseball. That's why I didn't understand you.
- How would you define this shape?
RB: The shape of the arrow... The shape of a house with a roof. In fact, these picks are called "Plectrum" and were played by the famous British guitarist Bert Whedon. I started playing with them when I was 13 years old. Nowadays tortoise shells are not easy to get, manufacturers try not to harm animals, and my picks are made of plastic .. But I also play well without a pick. Like the intro to "Smoke On The Water" and all that. The difference is small, but playing with your fingers makes some difference.
- Well, let's hope you don't have any accidents before the November Japan tour (laughs).
RB: I really hope so. Everything is changing so fast that I don't know what will happen in two weeks (laughs).
© Young Guitar, Japan - November 1995