ONE AND ONE IS THREE
The name Roger Glover will not mean much to many musicians. At best, it will be vaguely recalled that someone called that played bass guitar with the illustrious hardrock company Deep Purple. That's right. Until about seven years old, Roger was part of that group as bassist-songwriter. When Purple was at the height of its fame, Roger left the band following a series of disputes. He decided to focus on production and did so not without merit. The most tangible example of this is "Love Is All", a song from the LP "Butterfly Ball".
Many will remember that song because of the cartoon that shaped the music on TV. The movie was a small part of what was to become a full-fledged cartoon. Roger Glover's production was in fact a movie soundtrack. He himself not only wrote the music, but also the lyrics. Unfortunately, the company that would finance the film soon ran out of available capital, leaving it with "Love Is All".
But Roger was not discouraged by it and continued to produce. He took care of Nazareth, Rory Gallagher and Spencer Davis, among others. In the middle of last year, he ran into Ritchie Blackmore again. His group Rainbow was plagued by all kinds of internal difficulties, which led to Roger being attracted as a producer. At that time the group consisted of Blackmore, drummer Cozy Powell and singer Graham Bonnet. Roger's input would initially consist solely of material writing and production. But no matter what auditions were done, a suitable bass player was not found.
Perhaps no one dared to take on the infamous Blackmore anymore. In any case, producer Glover decided to take care of the bass parts himself. He limited himself to the bare essentials, as his bass guitars practically did not come out of their suitcases for six years. The result was the LP "Down To Earth", which was released last year.
As a result of a new LP there must of course be toured. Promotion is indispensable, if you want to sell a record, and the musicians want to earn money. There was still no suitable bass player. So Roger was approached to go on tour as well. After some hesitation, he decided to do so. With the foregoing in mind, I decided to interview bassist / songwriter Roger Glover. It often turns out that those who are less prominent, therefore have no less to say. On the contrary.
I meet Roger at the bar of the Rotterdam Hilton Hotel, where Ritchie Blackmore (who of course does not want to do interviews except one in front of the TV) roams around. Roger is not difficult and says yes after being prepared by the record company. We retreat to two comfortable armchairs and start talking. Roger does not disappoint me. He is someone who knows what he is talking about and speaks up without any problem. Naturally, our conversation begins with his entry into Rainbow, after more than six years of exclusive production.
"It is strange to perform with a bass guitar again after all these years," says Roger. "I actually quit, but now that I'm doing it again, I like it. In the beginning it didn't go so smoothly. Now I feel like I never left. After I played for two weeks I was back again, the old one. In fact, I think I play better now than I used to. I think it's like cycling: you never forget."
Roger goes on to say that his entry into Rainbow was completely accidental. He was hired as a producer and not as a bass player. Coincidence, incidentally, is something that, as the reader will notice in the course of this story, plays a major role in Roger Glover's musical career. He therefore attaches great value to it. Why will be clear later.
"Actually, I definitely didn't intend to play in a group again. Let alone go on tour again. But I was involved as a producer when the old Rainbow still existed. We didn't do anything in the studio then. It was exclusively rehearsing what it was all about. At one point a few people left the group, so I withdrew for the time being. Waiting for them to be back in control. For some reason they never found a suitable bassist. The record had to be recorded, so I played the bass. Still not with the intention of becoming part of the group. It was purely an emergency measure. I saw it as an extension of the production I was working on. But as it often goes, halfway through the record the collaboration went so well that Ritchie suggested I join in. I struggled with it for a while.
Still, I did it because I see it as a fresh experience. In addition, I can now actually do exactly what I want: write, produce and play now and then. Of course I don't know what's going to happen, but for now I see this as something permanent. As far as something can of course be permanent. It does mean that I have temporarily stopped my other productions. I don't have time for it. Maybe that will change and I will certainly produce again. I have had quite a few offers that I have declined with some regret. For example, UFO asked me. That appealed to me. It's a great band to produce. But you can't do everything at once.
When I next suggest that many of his productions are on the hardrock surface, Roger hastens to state that he has in fact done the most diverse things. A good example of this is of course the soundtrack for "Butterfly Ball". But he has done a lot more. As his most bizarre production Roger mentions a "Bunny" from the London Play-Boy Club with who a C&W album was recorded!
"You probably don't know most of it because it is not out in the Netherlands. I have actually done the most diverse things, because I think a producer should be able to do that. For a producer it really makes little difference to which type of music it is. The problems you face are always the same in a studio. It's always about registering the sound as well as possible.
Roger is a free-lance producer, which means that he is not tied to anyone or anything. He learned the ropes of producing in his Purple era. The group produced its own records in close collaboration with engineer Martin Birch. In effect, that meant that the group members knew exactly how they wanted it, but needed a technician to translate those musical wishes into a recording technique. In the overall event, Roger became more and more important, especially when it came to his input on vocals.
"I did a lot of vocals with Ian Gillan. I didn't sing myself, but tried to show him what would sound best in a particular piece. I think I learned quite well how to deal with a musician. That is very important. I learned a lot of the technique of course by paying close attention and asking Martin Birch every time why he did it. Yet I didn't do those things to become a producer later. It was pure interest. My first production happened completely by chance. I ran into a friend who couldn't find a suitable producer. Just with no ulterior motives I said I wanted to do it. My next production was Nazareth. Why they actually asked me back then is still a mystery. But it went very well with that collaboration. We were successful, so the choice when I left Deep Purple was not too difficult. I was more or less in production and so I could dive deeper into it. So a new career was obvious."
Roger didn't leave Deep Purple just because a new horizon lay ahead. The disagreements within the group had been causing the necessary aggressive complications for some time. In addition, Roger increasingly felt that his activities within the group were just "work". So the tension was gone. When asked, he says that he does not see himself as a professional when it comes to music. He is an "amateur", Roger Glover explains, and then one who makes money.
"I don't think I work in the sense of so many hours of work and so many hours off. They did asked me that. I actually work 24 hours a day, or rather, I'm busy 24 hours a day. Someone like me has no fixed hours and because I like to do what I do, I don't see it as work."
As a result of his activities as a songwriter, during the Purple period it was very irritating to Roger that he and Blackmore wrote all the material, while the entire group was credited with it.
"Yes, Ritchie and I actually wrote everything, although Ian Gillan did a lot on the lyrics. That has to be said. But you can imagine that it caused quite a bit of upset. You get the feeling that two or three men did the work. It was not that Jon Lord and Ian Paice were lazy. They really worked, but really only when the songs were done. Jon arranged some now and then. Ritchie in particular had a lot of problems with that."
The way Roger used to work, also applies to Rainbow. That implies that Ritchie or Roger make a riff or a chord progression, and then work on it. Texts are not there yet. The whole group then works out the first ideas together, after which they enter the studio. In the Purple era, it was Ian Gillan alone or Ian Gillan and Roger Glover together, who provided the lyrics. That has changed at Rainbow. Roger now takes care of the verbal part alone. Writing songs in groups like Rainbow and previously Deep Purple is basically a matter of putting ideas and lyrics together.
"That's how Ritchie and I work now. Only the center of gravity is different compared to the past. Ritchie takes care of the musical part for a large part. I do the rest and write the lyrics. So I'm quite clearly working on production, because I have a number of ideas processed into a whole that is as interesting as possible. Furthermore, just like before, I will tell our singer (Graham Bonnet) how to sing."
"Much of what I produce is more based on the musical angle, artistically as you want. More than that I work with sound. Many groups and solo artists don't really know how to structure a song. I don't mean to say that I'm such an expert, but I have a lot of experience with it. And I think some songs always sound good. However they are performed. But there are few. Most of the songs sound mediocre, but are huge. If that doesn't happen, the result is a very mediocre product. So the important thing is to get the good out of a mediocre whole. A good song always sounds good."
To give the reader a good impression of how a musical career like Roger Glover's can depend on chance: he, like practically a whole generation of musicians, got into music through a school band. The group in which Roger played was called Episode Six. Besides him, Ian Gillan was also present. Roger initially had no ambition to ever become a professional musician. He saw it purely as a pleasant activity.
"It has only changed in the last six years. I now take my profession quite seriously. Even when I played in Deep Purple, I didn't see things seriously. We never tried to be successful. We just got used to it. Nowadays the business aspect is becoming more important. In that sense the music world has changed enormously. Not for the better, I think. The worst thing I think is that the experiment has disappeared. That's the good thing about New Wave. Not that I like all that music, but at least it is fresh. They dare to experiment. And that is necessary, because it makes older musicians think."
In '69 Roger left with comrade Gillan his first group to play in Deep Purple. Purple was also still in its infancy, but could boast an American hit. Initially the intention was to only attract a singer. Deep Purple already had a bass player. One Nick Simper. But because Roger and Ian wrote quite a bit of music together, Simper was thrown out and bassist Glover also had a new appointment. For him it was a step forward. Never before had he earned anything from music and now he suddenly gets a fixed weekly wage. Such a luxury!
"It was all very coincidental. Then I didn't realize it at all. But when I look back on that period now, I get scared of all that luck. When I and Ian joined Purple, the group was known for good songs. Even though there were people in the group who could write, so they first attracted Ian Gillan, especially for his voice, and later on me too when they found out that we wrote a lot together. Actually, they didn't need a bass player at all. I'm also not a good bass player in the sense of someone like Jaco Pastorius. I have no illusions about that at all. I'm good enough to be able to do what I have to do. I've always had that attitude. That's why I'm not group leader and I did not form a group after Purple. For me it should have been no more than always having to be third choice. It had been a return to the Episode Six days. Now and then a performance, now and then an LP, without good luck and that's why it would hve been very annoying.
So production was a godsend for me. It was fresh and I could go in all directions with it. But now that I've been doing that for six years, I feel the need to do something new again. That is why I now play at Rainbow, where I have exactly the combination that I like: I play, I produce and I write. As I told you, it happened again by accident. All my life things have happened to me, I have not let them happen."
When asked how long Roger thinks he will be part of a group like Rainbow, he replies that it could be a few months as well as a few years, but adds that he is "not getting any younger" (he is 34).
"Questions like that are always difficult to answer. I can't imagine myself as a 50-year-old rock star. But you can never know."
The oil crises of 1975 put a radical end to a promising project involving Roger. The product in question was the movie theme for a cartoon called "The Butterfly Ball and the Grasshoppers Feast". Roger did finish the LP, but the total cartoon never came. The oil crisis made the financiers decide not to make further investments.
Roger: "That was very annoying, but we were not the only victims. In England they stopped every production that did not seem financially successful in advance. The song was played a lot in the Netherlands, but it didn't catch on. Here it did, just as in France. That video was in fact the 'pilot' of the film to be made. My work included writing the music and producing. I hardly played the record myself. I believe two songs bass and here and there a synthesizer. I'm not an executioner either, you could call me 'home made'."
Which brings us to the recording techniques. Roger says he knows enough to be a technician. So here too he uses his attitude of knowing enough to be able to do what is necessary. He rightly remarks that you have a technician next to you for the technology. He does say that there are two different types of producers.
"You have the producer who comes from the technical field. So he was a musician. Of course I belong to that. But I know enough to be able to judge whether a recording engineer is good or not. If he cheats on me, I notice it very well. I don't need to know more. The recording technique is academic. I know what sounds I want to hear and it's his business to get them out. If he can't, I can make suggestions. That's enough. I don't want technical become a producer because it can get in the way of the artistic side of things. I can put it even more clearly: when I flip a switch on the mixer, I know what happens and what the result is. I don't know how that happens or why. And I don't need to know."
Occasionally interrupted by avid Rainbow fans and a somewhat unclear operating TV crew, we continue our conversation. Roger goes a bit further about his productions and states that a good producer must have his personality. Richard de Bois also said the same a few months ago. This mainly lies in the ability to interact with people.
"Someone once said that the art of producing can be summed up in two words: Henry Kissenger. In other words, you have to be a true diplomat. So often you get the situation that you get musicians with a certain hang-up in the studio," and that you as a producer just have to figure out how to approach that man. So the art is to get the best result out of someone in a cold environment like a studio. So you have to be able to put people at ease and give them a bit of a definition of what they are doing.
Take a guitar solo for example. Often, if you let someone play a long time, you get to hear all the clichés out there. You have to be able to convince that man that what he is doing can be done by anyone else. You have to make him realize that you want to hear from himself. And how do you do such a thing? With one it is easy, with the other very difficult. You have to sense that. You have to be able to judge whether you are handling someone very carefully, or whether you are telling someone that they are just playing a lot of bullshit. A lot of psychology is added."
Although Purple has always self-produced, Roger believes that nine out of ten artists need a producer. He explains that for the recording of his so far only solo album "Elements" he chose a trusted technician: Martin Birch with whom he had worked so often.
"If you are going to record rock music, you have to pay a lot of attention to the drums. More than anything else really, because rock music exists by grace of the 'beat'. The percussion provides that beat. When I listen to other records, I listen. always very good at the drums. But if you're playing with someone like Ritchie, you should pay at least as much attention to the guitar sound as he can't play well when he's got a bad sound. In fact everything is important of course, but I always suggest priorities. At Rainbow that's the drums and the guitar. That's what the group sound is based on. As far as the bass guitar is concerned, I'm less concerned."
"You can set everything just as well, but one musician always sounds different from another. The instrument doesn't really mean anything. It's about the man behind it. You can set a fantastic bass sound via a line output, after which another bass player, excited about the good sound want to give it a try. Often it suddenly sounds really bad. You have people who come into the studio with a Gibson Les Paul and a Vox AC 30 and then want to sound like Jeff Beck or Eric Clapton. Of course not because they're not Beck or Clapton. Sometimes you just can't explain that to them."
Roger tells us inbetween that he used to play bass on a Fender Precision or a Rickerbacker 4001. He still has the latter, but it is hidden somewhere deep in the Glover house. Roger used an old Gibson Thunderbird for the few bass parts he provided in recent years. He also plays such an instrument during the Rainbow concerts, although it is a new one. The original Thunderbird sounded fine, but landed a bit unluckily on an American floor. The result was a broken neck, so the bass guitar is under repair. To be able to participate in the Rainbow tumult to some extent, Roger decided to play the Rainbow bass installation. This installation consists of two cabinets with Gaussian speakers powered by Crown amplifiers.
Our conversation is then disrupted for the umpteenth time. This time Roger and Ritchie Blackmore have to get the TV interview. He disappears for half an hour, which makes the undersigned decide to grab a beer, assuming that the conversation will be over. I then decide to focus on drummer Cozy Powell, but he is also taken. In the hallway, however, I bump again via via into Roger Glover, who suggested continuing the conversation. Ritchie Blackmore follows him, pointing out the importance of the upcoming sound check. Whether we just want to make it short. Roger hardly responds, while Blackmore tells me that sound checks are 'very important'. With those words he disappears towards the bar, where he finds it necessary to make dishonorable proposals to my girlfriend. He is willing to allow an interview 'in his room', he declares magnanimously. That Blackmore.
Roger tells me in the meantime that he has the necessary instruments and recording equipment at home. "I have just enough to do with the ideas I get: some recording stuff, some keyboards, a drum kit, an amp and a bass guitar. At the moment I don't do much with it."
"I'm not someone who tinkers whole walls together for myself. In addition, when it comes to my own music, I think a lot in terms of lyrics. In Rainbow we don't work like that, but for myself I spend a lot of time with words. A piano therefore is a suitable instrument. On a bass guitar you cannot write, or it must be music in which the bass is central. You can write music in very different ways. Much depends on the mood you are in. But at home I really only play, I do the real work in a studio. When you work at home, there is not that tension that surrounds you in the studio. I need that tension to work properly.
Look, if a studio costs £ 50 an hour, you want to work! I work towards that. For example, I book a studio and musicians before I even have one song. If I have that big stick, then I go to work. I know then that if I have nothing good in the evening, the musicians have nothing to do and a lot of money is lost. I know from experience that if I don't have that tension behind me, I won't do anything. No stress, no music. I try to remember things I think of as much as possible. Fortunately, I have an excellent memory for melodies. But when in doubt, I record pieces. I can read music, but way too slow. So I start from memorizing and recording. The latter can get out of hand. I always have a small cassette recorder with me and have come into possession of thousands of tapes with riffs, bits of text, melodies. Of course, nothing ever happens to most of them. I'm too lazy to listen to them all. In fact, it is not necessary, because you usually absorb and never forget the things that are really good.
From the foregoing it could be concluded that Roger is one of those producers, who writes music and then looks for someone to record it. Nothing is less true. He'll even tell you he's not recording to release. For him it is purely about the execution of musical ideas. If anything is ever done with it again, excellent, if that will not happen, also well. An expensive hobby you would say, were it not that such work is a kind of investment for someone like Roger. But he has never approached anyone, it has always happened the other way around. At most, he suggested someone like Eddie Hardin (then with Spencer Davis) take on a good producer for once during an alcoholic night. To which his management called him and asked if he wanted to do it.
"I write for myself, not as a singer, but as a producer. That is my profession. It has been different. In the" Butterfly Ball "time, for example. Then I had a clear idea of who should sing or play which song. It works differently because you have to think about the capabilities of those people. Also with Rainbow it is somewhat like that. I write music with the sound of that group in mind. With the voice of Graham for example. He has a good voice with many possibilities and can therefore sing unusual melodies. You then have another possibility. Other people have a good voice, but a more limited range. You take that with you. In principle, I write for myself. Not for myself as a singer or something, because I am not a singer, but just to create something. When I have something ready, I am actually not interested in it anymore. It's all about doing it."
As a result of "Elements", Roger's only solo LP so far (which I have never heard before), we get to the point of endless recording sessions. Roger made Elements in two weeks and claims as a result that too much money is wasted on excessive studio hours.
"You get situations like that of Fleetwood Mac who spend nine months in a studio. Unfortunately those nine months are not reflected in the end result. A quickly recorded LP is often much better musically than one that took months. you don't have time to set things right or justify excessively often. Nor do you have time to discuss everything for hours on end. It has to be speeded up. Hence my attitude of preparing for the evening in the morning and then recording in the evening. It's okay to make mistakes, sometimes it's good to have them in there because it brings out a sense of the moment.
If you have the time to listen to it for another two weeks, you're going to change everything again in an attempt to make it better. Often you achieve the opposite and at least get the spontaneity out of it. Spontaneity is very important, which is another reason why I like to write in a studio. Everything you do is fresh. Afterwards you are always dissatisfied, no matter how long you have thought about something. If you are no longer like that, then you are on the wrong path."
"Rock music is a creative activity, but not an art. I believe you should never take rock music too seriously. If you do, you find yourself too important, so that you no longer see the truth of your music. I am pretentious. I've been there myself. Maybe now, because of what I'm telling you. But 'pretentious' is a relative concept. What one person finds pretentious, the other doesn't find. So you can never judge such things properly at the moment, only afterwards. In any case you have to make sure that there is always humor in the music. In Purple we consciously tried not to be too pretentious. The lyrics always had humor, the music was very direct and we never really tried impress people. So we didn't show how well we could play, or how deep our lyrics went. We just wanted the audience to have a good night."
With the foregoing, Roger actually sums up very concretely what matters to him. As he is about to travel towards sound check, he asks me where tonight's concert will take place. I tell him that the location that night is the AHOY-Hall and then explain to him what kind of room he can expect. Roger listens carefully and explains that 'rock audiences' often only get a bad deal.
"We used to do a lot of festivals. We stopped doing that because we didn't like it and neither did the audience. Why all the trouble? I prefer a theater that can accommodate at most three to four thousand people. Unfortunately that is for a group like Rainbow unattainable. A tour like this costs so much money... just look at the amount of equipment we have to carry with us. It's really appalling I even sometimes wonder how the roadies get the whole thing from one place to another."
At this point in the conversation Roger and I were actually halfway up to say goodbye. However, when I ask him if all that equipment is really necessary, he sinks into the pillows for a while. And states that that is indeed the question. Do you really need all that equipment?br>
“Regarding Rainbow (Roger is a bit frugal and phrases very cautiously), you have to think of it like this: We play at a certain volume because Ritchie plays at a certain volume. He has always done that and he will not change. For the group that means we also have to play at a certain volume. Now there is basically nothing against volume, as long as you use it intelligently. So you have to ensure that there is dynamism in the music. That you are not constantly at the same level, and that you use the volume as an instrument in itself. Because that is what it is. Or rather it can be. You can say something with it. Volume should therefore not be abused."
Roger talks a little further about that volume, where I cannot help but get the impression that this is an unsolvable disagreement. Rainbow plays, as will be shown later during the concert, very hard. In practice, therefore, little remains of the thesis so carefully formulated by Roger. He himself can do little or nothing about it, while on the other hand it is very likely that he cannot even check the sound in the hall from his place on stage. Too bad for him that was bad. Not to say at times abysmal, because besides a wall of guitar sounds, booming drums and overstrained sounding vocals, little was left standing. Only in the firmly arranged rock numbers did Rainbow reach an acceptable level in that regard. Roger is probably hardly aware of this during the concert. Even less during our conversation, of course. I get the impression that this is some kind of controversial issue from the fact that Roger is quickly mention something else. He says that after the roadies and the travel and accommodation costs plus rent from the PA and lights have been paid, little or nothing of the wages is left. The group has to earn the money from the record sales and hope that it will be boosted by the performances.
"We hardly ever make money from the tour. That was already the case in Purple time. The annoying thing is that the person who pays for it is the fan. He has to pay a lot of money for a ticket, after which he often only looks after the group with binoculars. But that's rock & roll. I can't justify everything we do, because I don't believe that everything we do is good. You could argue that you can perform in smaller venues, so our costs are lower and the fans therefore have to pay less entrance, but that is not possible for two reasons: firstly we reach fewer people, for which the chance that we will come out of the costs is a lot smaller, and secondly there is the tension of a big rock concert, which cannot be reached in a small hall. It is not only about the group and the music that is played. The atmosphere is equally important. In other words: one and one is three.
Roger Glover gets up to make his way to the sound check. In doing so, he emphasizes that he sees himself as part of the whole. "I'm not playing to show people how fast I can play, but to try to give those people a good evening. I don't need to prove that I'm a brilliant musician. It's just pure coincidence that I'm on stage. I am nothing else than all those people present in the venue. Just a coincidence."
© J van E, Music Maker April 1980