Interview Sounds - May 1976
Ritchie Blackmore has no love for rock and roll journalists. In his opinion, most of them are divided into two unflattering categories, some are"people embittered that they themselves cannot be in our place" on stage, and others are"bored and working for money".
The tension between the musician and journalists has spawned several rather distorted portraits of Mr. Blackmore, and during these years the grim man in black has done little, if anything, to fix or cover up the image that various rock magazines create for him.
I myself partly believed in this image of the"bad guy". When I first toured with Purple a few years ago, there were two other journalists present, and both were dreading the interview with Richie. Convinced then that meeting Blackmore one-on-one in a hotel room was akin to journalistic masochism, I respectfully refused to waste Richie's time, focusing instead on building relationships with the rest of Purple.
In the end, after three days on tour, I barely exchanged words with Richie other than a polite greeting. Moreover, during these three days I saw him only four times, two of which he played for the audience. As you can guess by now, I was very surprised when Richie recently remembered at all that he had met me when we ran into each other again for the sake of SOUNDS.
"I wouldn't want to be a critic," Richie still insists,"it must be a very boring thing to do. It would be disgusting for me to go to concerts of all these groups, especially high-profile groups."
As a recent victim of too loud a sound, I found it very difficult to defend my profession. Moreover, he made several legitimate complaints about the recent attacks by the British press on Deep Purple.
"I didn't like Purple's criticism," Richie says emphatically."It seemed to me that it was very unfair. But I thought it was typical of the English press, and they will probably do the same to us when we get there. This is so obvious. I've seen several reviews. Many people said to me:"Do you want to read the reviews?", And I answered:"No, not particularly. I don't want to revel in their failures." No band deserves that. We often do interviews with SOUNDS, this newspaper does not seem one-sided. They seem to be only interested in interviewing the band and covering the music." Headquarters, now you can all give a collective bow."But other newspapers seem to be completely closed in their small cliques, they are tired of everything, they are old, they are fed up with all this business, and they constantly throw mud at everyone. If they don't like someone, they shouldn't talk about it."
The British rock press will have a chance to gloat or fall silent later this year when Rainbow wraps up a massive American summer tour."They want us to play all these big shows in England, Empire Pool and all that shit, but we don't want to tour as a famous band. We want to play as a medium group and play in a few small venues. I would like to do a tour of England, while many people want from us only a concert in London. I'd rather give ten performances, from the largest to the smallest."
However, before Rainbow can return to their homeland, they still need to complete an American tour of forty cities.
"I'm very happy with the way things are going," Richie says with a smile on his face."I have never been applauded so much. We go to the dressing room and stay there for five or ten minutes, hearing a rumbling, elephant-like stomp, and say:"Well, yes, it's better to go for an encore," and that's very good. Compared to what was before."
"It's adrenaline," is how Richie explains the fanaticism he evokes in his listeners."When you go on stage and are afraid of the audience, and you have no energy, they will just sit. But if you take them for a living, they begin to behave as if they were struck by lightning. You need to try harder. I can't hide behind them," he explains, referring to the rest of the Rainbow members."I can put pressure on people, but at the moment everyone in the group is nice guys, so we get along well. The group does not have that behind-the-scenes fuss or the selfish things that usually come to groups after two or three years. So at the moment we are all good friends and are trying our best. But sometimes, when you play in a group for a long time, you deliberately start to play badly, or quarrel with another member, so that it is not easy for him. Sometimes I did that in Purple. There was such nonsense on the stage that sometimes it disgusted me, and I often left, because I did not want to have anything to do with what was happening there. I didn't scold Purple for the music that much. It was verbal nonsense, which sometimes passed through the microphone."
It seems that the long era of Deep Purple has come to an end. Is Rainbow expecting to automatically inherit the last remnants of Purple fans?
"We inherited them anyway, whether the band breaks up or not," Richie says bluntly, not at all surprised at my suggestion that Purple will end." I don't feel bad about them, we are great friends, but the fans left them because they love rock and roll. The fans that we got when we started recording Stormbringer and all were happy with them, but there weren't that many people like that."
If the current Rainbow line-up lasts long enough, it might even surpass Purple in popularity. The group is surprisingly well-coordinated, it has a lot of enthusiasm, and it is Richie's merit that he decided to assemble a group of musicians equal to himself, without going down the simple path, recruiting several unknown servants for himself.
"It has to do with selfishness. There are many bands - I hate to name them - but there are some trios that have a guitarist and the band bears his name, while the rest of the members do as much for the band as he does. That's why we're trying to shorten our name, the Blackmore part.
My name is in the title just to let people know that I am in this group, it is a signal to my followers, because we want to get as many fans from the beginning as we can. As soon as they see our concert, they will understand that this is not my group. But first you have to present yourself in such a way to get people interested.
Rainbow already has a fairly large following, and the group also targets old heavy metal maniacs who grew up with purple music and who are scared off by new bands like Kiss and Aerosmith.
"It must be weird," Richie agrees." Musicians like Jack Bruce, he is one of my favorite musicians - what is he doing now? I do not know". Where did all the idols of the sixties disappear?" People have destroyed themselves, mainly due to drugs, because they did not take care of themselves. You need to set boundaries and not use drugs too often. That's what cut most of them."
Quality control has become a major issue in rock, especially with today's guitarists.
"I think people understand that," Richie concludes, rather optimistically, "but they're pretty confused that everyone around them says these musicians are good. You can go to a Kiss concert or anyone else - at least they always say they can't play anyway - but now there are a lot of bands that think they are good, but they are not. And teenagers think, "Yes, this is not a very good group; but it is generally accepted that they play well, so I'd rather think it's a good band." It's only when someone really strong comes along that they start, "Oh, this guy is really good." The guitarists I imitated played much better than those who are imitated today. Musicians like James Barton and Scotty Moore were much higher level because they were about fifty years old, as you can imagine, they already had thirty years of experience. Today's so-called great guitarists, whom everyone admires, are not good at anything. People spend their time listening to such musicians. They should listen to the old school guitarists and build on that. Today everyone is closed on posturing, glamor. "Well, that way we can sell some records." Bam-bam-bam, a few notes of sustain, somehow played notes ... This gives rock and roll a bad reputation, most rock and roll bands."
But as one of the most respected guitarists in rock, does Richie consider himself the fastest cannon in town, a significant musician that all newcomers are trying to build their base around?
"Not. No, I never thought about it. I always listen to different guitarists, but actually guitarists don't inspire me anymore. I'm more interested in strings like violin and cello. Musicians playing such instruments know what they are doing. They devote their lives to the instrument. And in this business, everything has become too much related to fashion. Everyone thinks, "I don't want to work. I'm going to become a guitarist", that's just idiocy. Such people can be seen immediately. Guys who have been playing for twenty years like Jeff Beck - he is great and you can hear it. He didn't take up the guitar for the sake of being on stage. Today everyone plays in a band. If they are good musicians, okay, but this is not the case for many of them. Musicians in orchestras, classical musicians - they need to have a good level. There is a certain barrier that they need to cross to get into a good orchestra. In rock and roll, if a guy is vaguely like Jimmy Page, then he already has half the ingredients of success. This is stupid".
However, Richie is still optimistic about the future of rock.
"Everything will be OK. Everything is going for the best. It seems to me that all these groups will hold out for another six months, and then they will begin to slide down. Probably, you shouldn't expect that there will be musicians among your listeners. I know the bands you are thinking of, these bands manage to attract people for a while because the listeners are not musicians and they don't want to go to a John McLaughlin concert. Personally, I get bored of listening to John McLaughlin play. You can call me a musician, but I get bored listening to him, because I start thinking: "What is this?". You know, it's great if he himself really likes it, and there are some people who love it, but most would rather go to concerts of other bands, because they put on shows, and I really see common sense in this. But this is show business. This is not music."
However, Mr. Blackmore himself is not averse to using a couple of tricks on stage.
"When we get to London, we will use a new trick. Spectators will find metal belts in the chairs, they will be told to fasten them, and we will electrocute many of them. Especially in the critics' box.
© Sounds Magazine - May 22, 1976