Ritchie doesn't throw good musicians out the band
While the audience is screaming out for more, Ritchie Blackmore jumps into a shiny limousine and disappears towards his expensive hotel. "God" is not holding office hours today. We have to wait in front of the closely guarded dressing room. To pass the time we feast of barely touched cold dishes and sip a bottle of ice-cooled Chablis. After some negotiations, we are introduced to a tired Roger Glover at midnight. "I'm glad I got out of Deep Purple in time," says the famous bass player.
Roger, you just paused the performance after one song. What exactly happened?
Despite the warnings that were announced before the concert, some people threw dangerous objects at the group. Initially we pretended we didn't notice, but it just became too much. First they were firecrackers, a little later they were lit cigarettes. The drop that made the bucket overflow was a light bulb that smashed against Ritchie's body. It really couldn't go on and Blackmore walked away angry. Either you are a musician who gives people a nice evening, or you are a target. The latter is simply dangerous. Especially if you want to take into account what happened to us in the past.
Could you be a little more clear here?
There has to be only one crazy wacky madman with a gun in the front row and you lose your life. I remember performing in the States in front of more than 20,000 people. Someone then fired three shots at the group. Fortunately, they ricocheted off on the row of amplifiers behind us. The bullets literally whistled around our ears. If you have experienced that once, you are on guard. If it wasn't Ritchie today but Joe or myself, we would have broken things up too.
You have been in this business for 20 years now, is performing still an experience for you?
On tour you get to deal with so many different people who all hang around the group without having to be there for any reason. Plus, they never leave you alone. That's the annoying side of the matter. Especially through those experiences I have developed a different view of people. Got a little suspicious. Only my love for the fans and the music has remained. Of course I can see that we need a manager and a record company. Otherwise you will get even more work. But I don't like the whole entourage.
I am a working class boy and I have always rebelled against the establishment. I still do that by the way. No, I don't belong to the rich class at all. I have a nice car and a comfortable house, but I worked for it. Don't forget that before the Purple success, I spent eight years in a group that never made any money. We have not earned a penny. I have continued to believe in the power of music and I live for it. I tried to quit this profession but it didn't work out. Whether music is really worth hanging on for a lifetime is a question that I should not ask myself. There is no time for that, by the way.
In Rainbow, line-up changes are there all the times. Do you never regret letting any members go?
No. Some went because they wanted to, others were fired. However, I want to make one thing clear: no one has been kicked out for doing a good job.
Sometimes the audience has expressed dissatisfaction with a new line-up, I agree. But Ritchie made all decisions in function of the music or the closeness of the band. Whether this line-up is the best we've had is hard to say. I just know that this group is a healthy group.
Ritchie otherwise makes it very difficult for us to chat with him.
Ritchie is our leader and he makes the decisions. Moreover, it is not at all true that he is a difficult guy to work with or would not be talkative. He'll talk to us. He chooses what's best for him and I don't really see why he would do it any different.
In the past he has often been misunderstood or found his words misrepresented in the newspaper. Now he has gone to his hotel and is probably already working on the next song or concert. He experiences interviews as a waste of time.
Will you deny that he has a big ego?
I do. He is only demanding and that is his right. If you, as a musician in Rainbow, do not give everything that is in you, you better leave. This has often happened in the past. Ritchie hates people who want to be in Rainbow only for the big bucks or the ego tripping. He is smart enough to see that and those guys are the first to fly out.
When you left Purple, the group got after that even more success. Don't you think that's a shame?
No, I am glad I was no longer part of the later Purple. The success then took on really inhuman proportions and that's why rock didn't start. I dropped out after more than two years of continuous touring. I just couldn't take it anymore, mentally and physically. The human body cannot withstand such pressures, and then come the tensions that ultimately led to Purple's demise. You are constantly put under pressure, you are no longer allowed to set up your own work schedule and gradually you hardly know how much the entire industry actually earns with your songs. I will never be able to live a quiet life again. I have to play and be busy with music.
Never thought of writing the definitive Purple book?
I'm not old enough for that yet. I mean, I still can't distance myself enough from the past and the bizz. For now I am busy producing other bands and my job at Rainbow. But I might do it one day.
Is there still something like free time in your life?
Yes, but even then I work. I paint and write regularly. At home I listen to everything between Prokofiev and The Sex Pistols. With 'home' I mean the place where I live. Currently that is New York, but tomorrow it could also be London. Or my suitcase.
Hitkrant - December 22, 1982
Thanks to Tonny Steenhagen for the scan