Ritchie Blackmore

- We're talking to Ritchie Blackmore, guitarist of Blackmore's Rainbow

No, it's Rainbow.

- How do you enjoy the Australian Tour so far, Ritchie?

Well, we haven't started yet. We're about to start tomorrow, our first and last date in Melbourne. We just do tonight with a trio, Jimmy Bain on bass and someone on drums. Is it called the Festival Hall? Yes, we've already played there once to be serious and obviously I'm going to say that the tour went very well. I could be lying. We're very pleased in Australia. I quite like Australia, once the initial stages of jetlag are gone. Because it's so far to come, it's 22 hours and that was coming from Los Angeles. We had a little problem with the polarity system but apart from that the audiences have been fantastic.

- When did you first seriously thinking of leaving Deep Purple and was it hard to leave?

No it wasn't hard at all, I had enough of the little aggrevations, managerial pressure was kinda hard. I did enough with Purple and I thought it was time to move on. I actually didn't consider forming a new band. I just wanted to leave at the time. I was tired of doing the same old thing. Ronnie came along, Ronnie James Dio the singer, we got together and we made a song.

- That was 'Black Sheep Of The Family'

We recorded that, did a B-side and consequently recorded a LP. Then I decided to leave because I was more exited whilst doing that record then to be making 'Stormbringer'.

- So you was in two bands at the same time?

Yes, I was recording with Rainbow and playing with Purple. We were doing Melbourne I think...

- Sunbury

Was it, when was that? February.

- January

In January I was writing songs with Ronnie.

- How did Rainbow first came to existence? How did you meet the other guys?

Jimmy comes from Scotland, and I met him through a friend of mine. Tony Carey is an Indian, is from Connecticut in America and Cozy used to play with Jeff Beck who I know quite well, I've seen him before and I was impressed by Cozy's playing. Jeff has moved on to a kinda jazzy thing which Cozy is not into so much playing-wise, he is listning wise, he's a very good drummer, he's agressive, very mean and he was just right for the band.

- That's the current band. The first band had a different line-up. Can you tell about that?

The first band was just a session band that was more or less Elf. That was Ronnie's band. I said who should we employ to do these songs and Ronnie said "Why not use our band, my band Elf?". And I said why not. And we used them but it was just for the recording. After that when we thought seriously about making up a group we had to consider professionals. Not that they weren't professionals but people that had personalities and would project on stage.

- Did you actually tour with the first band?

No, never.

- Can you tell us about the tracks on that first album? For instance the opening track and the single 'Man On The Silver Mountain'. How did that came about?

'Man On The Silver Mountain' was written with a sheer pretenting Ronnie climbing Mount Everest, it's all about a man who climbs to a mountain, Mount Everest, a silver mountain he gets to the top and he finds the silver. And not only the silver he sees there also the rainbow.

- I noticed with "Stormbringer" and the first Rainbow album, you seem to go through a more soft and melodic face, for instance "Soldier of Fortune", "Temple of the King" and "Catch the Rainbow". Can you tell us a bit about this stage?

It was just a normal stage that everybody goes through, my extremes in music are rock, progressive rock to medieval baroque music which I love. I listen to baroque but I play rock'n'roll. I like the extremes. I don't like the inbetweens like Jazz, Soul and Funk. That doesn't interested me, it doesn't grab me.

- Do you think that this Funk and Disco revolution is going to inhibit rock bands in the future?

People have been saying that for the last four years. It's certainly very popular, but it's only popular to people who are tone deaf, it's just bash your feet up and down in the discotheque. But when it's all ball downs to it and let them listen in a room they'll all go for melodic music instead of just a thumping drumbeat.

- Can you tell us a bit about how you wrote "Catch the Rainbow"?

That was written around a color production, it was Jimi Hendrix' Little Wing. It was written around it, but that modelled it. Must have been subconcious at the time. It's a very emotional personal song and you must feel very good to play it otherwise it could been very embarrassing.

- "Temple of the King" was another acoustic track, similar in vain to "Soldier of Fortune"

"Temple of the King" was taken from a Yoga TV program I used to watch in Los Angeles. I don't do Yoga but I was just watching it. One of things I heard was very similar to "Temple of the King", I just had the riff and the progression and I gave it to Ronnie and he put the words to it. That's what we usually do, but not always...

- Did you actually write "Black Sheep of the Family", was that your idea?

No, it's written by some guy called Steve... something rather... he's not a wellknown writer but it's a song I like very much and I did it with Ronnie because Purple didn't particulary want to record it. They like to record their own songs but I liked this song very much. I just wanted to record it as a single.

- Was it put out as a single?

No, because we had so many other better songs after that. It was really an one-off which turned out into a LP.

- You got a classic type song on that first album called "Sixteenth Century Greensleeves" and you have the words on the cover. Can you tell a bit about this track?

I live near Windsor Castle It's written with Henry the VIII in mind being locked up in a castle and blablabla and Greensleeves is most probably my most favorite tune ever. It was written 500 years ago by Henry the VIII or maybe it was written by one of his court yesters. But it was written at that period.

- An interesting song you record on the first album was an old Yardbirds song "Still I'm Sad". You made this into an instrumental.

That's right. I like that song and like to fiddle around with it and I've always loved that song.

- Did you meet any of the guys in the Yardbirds? Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton or Jimmy Page?

Oh yeah, I know Jeff very well. Eric... I don't know quite so well, but I knwo him. And Jimmy Page I also know very well too. Who else was in that band... Jim McCartny. I met him, he died recently. We were going to do a benifit but unfortunately I wasn't in England to do it.

- When did Rainbow do their first tour?

That was about a year ago, it was about 8 gigs.

- And how did it feel playing totally new songs

It was very nerve wrecking at first, because all of the responsibility was down to me and for anything that went wrong I would get the blame.

- Were you ever tempted to play any old Deep Purple songs?

Not tempted no, I've been playing them for years. We included "Mistreated" but slightly different.

- What made you decide on "Mistreated"as a stage song with Rainbow?

It wasn't all said in Purple, we did it really well but it could be improved upon. I think it's now improved upon but I'm not really objective. It's to the listners to actually say.

- What made you change the line-up of the band after the first album?

I like to change the line-up a lot, new blood, inspiration. It takes a long while before you sort out the bad kind of things in a person and their weak points. When we come back to Australia it's more than likely there will be a change in Rainbow.

- Any idea when you're coming back to Australia?

Probably in a year.

- Getting on to "Rainbow Rising". How different was it recording with these musicians?

It was very different because everything was down to what I wanted.

- It's a much heavier sound

Yes this was a very heavy sound. The next LP will be a bit of both. But "Rising" was intentional to play that way.

- Any particular reason for that? Are you aim for a more narrow market with heavier music?

No, we are a heavy band, basically, but the band can play any type of music. You must have a direction. It's no good having 15 different directions on a LP.

- Are you happy with how "Rainbow Rising" sold in America? I think it only got to #30 on the charts.

It could have done better in America. I was hoping to do better than that but at the same time a lot of other records that are good haven't sold as half as much. And a lot of bad records have sold twice as much. We sold exceptionally well in England and a few other places which made up for us. America is the hardest place to crack at the moment. We've got this reputation but that's not good enough. We're fighting against 17 million bands. I sometimes wonder why I bother, I love music and playing it but I get fed up with all these little hypes.

- One thing I did noticed in your medieval interest was in the cover of "Rainbow Rising". It's an incredible cover. Who did it?

It's a friend of ours, he's Irish. He's a very famous painter, he centrate the muscles of a body and that was what we wanted to see in the hand. I forgotten his name at the moment... It's surprising how many people can not draw a fist properly. There were about 7 attempts and they were all miserable. In the end I wondered if it was worth the bother but it came out well in the end.

- Can we talk about some of the tracks of the "Rainbow Rising" album, Ritchie?

No (laughs).

- Let's take the openingtrack "Tarot Woman", this had a very organ influenced beginning.

That was because I couldn't pick up anything myself, so I let him have a go. It's that type of song where you need elongated notes of which an organ or synthesizer can put forward a guitar. I thought the intro was very good, also it was showing off we had an organist/synthesizerplayer who didn't only back me up but can play for himself, play solo's.

- The next track, "Run with the Wolf", how did that came about?

It was just a riff we had together, I threw down the riff and Ronnie sang the melody, the lyrics. Very simple riff, there are no hidden messages behind it. Maybe it is from Ronnie's point of view. Ronnie can explain better the effects of the lyrics and what they meant. I never listens to lyrics. I write all the basic foundations and riffs and sometimes Ronnie will write the melody. Sometimes I hum him some kind of vague rhythm or a vague melody which he'll take up very quickly because he used to be a trumpetter in a orchestra. He's very good in picking up on things like that, he's very musical.

- "Starstruck" is the obvious single on the album

It's just about a girl who followed me around which we thought was quite funny. She's french. She just followed us around everywhere we went, no matter where we went she turned up in the front row. Waving and all that. One day I was having my breakfast and I looked out into my garden and I saw the bushes moved. And her face popped up in the middle of the bushes and I thought 'oh Christ, she's here again'. And I set the dogs on here, they're not violent but they start to licking her face and then she ran off.

- Do you see "Do you close your eyes" as an encore song?

Yes, sometime we use that or "A Light in the Black". What about it?

- Sounds to me like it's influenced a lot by Bad Company

Yeah, I like Bad Company a lot, especially Paul Rodgers. Sometimes things like that get to my head. I don't have any of their LP's cause that would be fatal. I would come up with riffs they would have done two years previous, not knowing it. I wanted to have an effect like they did in "Allright Now".

- Is it right if I say "Stargazer" is your favorite track on the album?

Yes, I like "Stargazer" very much because taking the orchestra on that was great fun. The original concept was made on a cello. I play cello, not for very long, two years I play now and the only thing I can play on cello was da-dada-da (hums the riff). It was a different way of lookin' at a rock song. I played it on the cello and it was quite interesting to see all these cello's playing something that I played within two months.

- You ended up with two incredible solo's on the second side, one in "Stargazer" and the other in "A Light in the Black". Any special message in that?

Not as far as I'm concerned. I don't go for messages and if I do I don't talk about. But then again Ronnie would explain that better to you if you want to know a deeper meaning to "A Light in the Black".

- To me it seems you had a little more time when recording this album. The production was so much better than on the first album, particulary on Cozy's drums.

That's right. We had to go back in the studio again and redo the drums sounds because we weren't happy. That's why those drums are so prominent. We just made a point because on the first LP they were lost between pressing, compressing, limiting, bloody mixing. In the end you get so sick of hearing the LP so often you just want to put it down and forget about it.

- Your guitarwork on "Rainbow Rising" was also a lot heavier than the first album. Any reason for this

Yeah, as I said before I like extremes. On the first I want to show people I could play quiet. On the secondly I want to show people I hadn't lost the knack of playing loudly, that's what they want to hear.

- Are you enjoying playin' more these days than two or three years ago?

I never enjoy playin', I don't like playin'. The only times I like playin' I'm really smashed outta my head. I'm constantly unhappy with my sound, this and that. Things like technical faults, buzzings, overtones from the amplifier, the amplifier break up or blow up, strings breaking, going out of tune. It's so frustrating sometimes you wonder why you do it but there again you always come back to play.

- Are you a perfectionist?

Not a perfectionist, I just like things to sound as they can. A lot of people might say you want to be a perfectionist, he wants it right every night. Well, I do want it right every night but is almost impossible these days. A lot of bands get up onstage, boogie around, get drunk and say 'this is it'. We're having a good time, this is all about. But I can't do that. If I have a bad sound, then the next day I'll spend all day try to rectify that sound. That's what I've been doing on this tour, because we have technical problems with my amplification.

- I believe the Sydney gig was very poor audio-wise

Yes that's right, I wouldn't do an encore because my amplifiers blew up. It wasn't because of the petrol shortage as somebody said. I wanted to set a light to them in the end because I was so frustrated I couldn't do an encore after 25 minutes. I just wanted to blow them all up to show that I was really disgusted with the whole affair. The audience wanted an encore, I wanted to do an encore but we couldn't.

- I've seen many encores bands done before but none come very close to the encores that Rainbow do

We do put a lot into it, so that's why. It would be very easy for us to do a simple encore, and everybody go home happy because we did another song. But that extra song takes so much out of us that we've to put everything into it. It's a flamboyant song and intensive, jumping about a lot. We're not gonna do that unless we really got the innitiative and everything's right to do it. I hope we'll do it tomorrow.

- You really open ups on solo's on that last encore and you smash your guitar

Well, I can open up because I don't have to worry the guitar is out of tune for the next song because there's no next song. And this is partly why I can go kinda crazy because I canlet go out all my frustrations.

- I was a bit disappointed why you don't play more songs of "Rainbow Rising"

That's a matter of taste. We change from day to day, whatever we want to play. A lot of people are going to be disappointed one way or the other because we doesn't play this song or that song. But in general I think the act is quite exceptable.

- I think Rainbow concentrates on a total audio visial stage performance. The stage and light show is almost the best thing I've ever seen. Who's idea was it to put in this incredible rainbow?

It's a combination, it was an idea of mine. I think subconsciously it was prompted by the California Jam which had a miniature rainbow then and I was very into rainbows at the time and colours and things. Not colours and music, but colours of the sound, all weirdo things. I just like the name Rainbow, it's no big hidden message behind it but I thought it would be nice to have a rainbow on stage. Then I spoke to Tony Mazzuchi who put ideas like that to work. I asked him to built me a model, I drew him what I wanted. He built me a model which looked right. At first it was all like hell let loose, nobody knew what they were doing. I had buzzings on my amp because the arch of all the lights worked as a perfect magnet which doesn't agree with the amplification. But I'm very glad we use it now. It's no so much we use a rainbow but it's an added bonus to the audience. We don't need a rainbow, we've done several concerts without it with Jethro Tull who incidently is my favorite artist. We played with him without the rainbow.

- Did you support Tull on that concert?

Yes in America, he's like God out there.

- Which is your favorite Jethro Tull album?

Oh Christ, that's all I play all of the time. He's streets ahead, years ahead of anybody.

- Are you enjoy playin' on stage now as much as you used to?

It depends from night to night. I'm a very moody person, the slightest thing can put me off on stage. I never know whether it's gonna be a good or bad show.

- It doesn't affect your actual guitar playing though, we talked to you after Sunbury and guitarwise that was one of the best concerts I've ever seen. And talkin' after the show you told you weren't very happy with it...

Can't remember that.

- To the average viewer or listener that was an incredible concert.

I really don't know much about it, we just flew in and flew out.

- It was very cold.

We got a lot of money and that was about it.

- You start your set with a song called "Kill the King". Is this a new song?

Well, it's a new song we threw together because we intend to open up with "Tarot Woman" but it didn't worked.

- No? Why?

I don't know. The rhythm was wrong and we couldn't get it together. It's a studio number so I got this riff together, Ronnie sang over it but we're not too happy about that song. It's just to get loose on stage.

- When can we be expecting a new album from Rainbow?

In 1979, that should be OK. Another reason why I left Deep Purple was that I wanted to release one LP a year. With Deep Purple we're turning out like sausages. All the time we had to get into the studio after a world tour and all that. Sometimes it just didn't worked. It started to annoy me. It was a big hype, let's have a product. It doesn't matter if it was good or bad. We must have a product. I'm sure in Bach's days and Beethoven and people like that. They took their time and wrote there symphonies and concertos whenever they wanted to. They weren't pressurized into touring the world and jumping into studiuos with no ideas whatsoever. To be in a hotel doesn't inspire one to write a song. Not with me. The last I want to do is play music in a hotel.

- What part do you think suffered with Deep Purple?

"Fireball" was very bad, "Who Do You Think We Are" was just average. "Machine Head" and "In Rock" was very good.

- How about "Burn"and "Stormbringer"?

That was OK, different. And I didn't liked what was to come next. It was not my idea to confirm with a few funky rhythms with Glenn. Because he was into that, so was Jon and Ian. I wasn't keen on what we play although I suggested riffs and that. They got distorted somehow, they came out like very cool, kinda take off black musicians, soul music which I then realised was not me. When you're into medieval baroque music that's the farest off soul, shoeshine, jungle music. They wanted to be very cool, classy which we did for one LP and they wanted to carry on. On which they did with "Come Taste The Band". I've heard that 3 or 4 times and I think that's exactly the way they were going. There's nothing wrong with that direction but not for me.

- I felt it was a heavier album, more in the vein of Deep Purple.

I think they wanted to get back to the roots, tryin' to recover the things they lost on their way but I wasn't interested in doing that. There were too many hang ups, it was five ego bastards including myself. And we were all like I do wanna play this and I don't wanna play that. It was very silly. "Soldier of Fortune" for instance, I had to ask Glenn to play that on the fact that I was going to play one of his songs. He hated it. To him there was no rhythm there, no jungle beat, so this is rubbish. But it's a great song, it's kinda soft melodic. He just thought it was nonsense. It's not pulling Glenn down, he's just not into this kinda music. I thought there and then 'that's the end'. I can't deal with these people that are so narrow minded who play shoeshine-music all the time.

- You didn't wanna play on "Hold On"?
No, exactly. That was one song that the whole band wrote and I had absolutely nothing to do with whatsoever.

- You do a little guitarsolo...
Yeah, I did a solo just to show I was there but that was like playing a solo on "God save the Queen". Not to put the song down, I just didn't like it. It's not my type of music.

- Where does Rainbow reside now?

All over the place, Luxemburgh, London, New York, Los Angeles.

- Where do you live?

Surrey to Los Angeles and Hollywood. Basically I stay In Hollywood most of the time for taxreasons. England is... I'm a concervative and I won't work under the labour rule so that puts me out.

- How do you find living in America?

Kinda hard, but it acceptable. The second best, I like to live in Germany. In one way I lived there a long time but it so much into the woods. It's so remote of all the music that's going on.

- I noticed you do most of the recordings in Germany.

Yeah we do, because of taxreasons we can't record in America, we can't record in England, France, Jamaica or Sweden. Germany is OK, I lived there so long. It's a second home.

- What do you think of reggae music?

I don't like it obviously, it's related to the shoeshine business. There's one song by a group called The Fox or something like that with a song "Only You". Fantastic song, that and "Dancing Queen" by Abba I want to buy. And people say to me 'how do you come you like them, they're terrible'. They are very very smart and very very good but it's trendy to put down the biggest group. I put some one down if they are big, small or different, if I don't like them. Like I said about AC/DC. I like them as friends but I don't like their music whether they are as big as Abba or very small.

- How often do you practice guitar?

It depends.... Not very often on the moment, maybe an hour a day, just to warm up. To get my right hand going.

- Do you think about writing songs very often?

I'm not a very good writer. That's my problem. I wish I could be a better writer. I've come to a stage now where I can throw out guitarsolos, amaze people and do this and that but it doesn't mean pretty much because I've done it all before. I'ld like to write proper songs that move people.

- For instance?

For instance what?

- Is there any artists that you admire that write songs that you would like to?

Yes, I like Paul McCartney and Ian Anderson, especially Ian Anderson. His songs are beyond me, he's beyond the public. By the way he sells too. The way that he can put across a melody... I just write riffs and chord progressions, but I'm working on it...

- What do you think of boogie bands like Status Quo and ZZ Top?

ZZ Top is a good band, they have a good guitarist. Status Quo I'm not too much into. It's all been done before by Chuck Berry, but then again it's all been done before by everybody whatever. Boogie music just doesn't do a thing for me.

- The Beatles. What's your opinion about them?

Excellent. Probably the best band that ever lived. Without a doubt, along with Hendrix and Jethro Tull.

- Do you have any other interest besides music?

Yes, psychic research. I'm into how people tick, why they tick and what they here for... Which I do supernaturally through certain waves. It has nothing to do with witchcraft, I know about that but I'm not into black magic. I know about it and I observe it but I'm not into it.

- You don't believe in it?

I believe in it, oh yeah. And I believe in white magic, I believe in God. It's a whole thing with me.

- How about UFO's?

Yes, I believe in that. I've seen lots of them. Why shouldn't I.

- I believe there's a concert you played with Deep Purple in Germany, there was a guy in the audience who threatened to shoot you because you weren't playin' well, is that right?

No. There was some guy that didn't threat to shoot me, but he was on LSD and he had a Colt 45. He was firing at anything. We were very vulnerable and he was at the balcony. Luckily they arrested him and took the gun off of him. But you do get the cranks, especially in America. You do feel very vulnerable up there if someone wants to throw something or have a go at you. One thing I won't tolerate if someone's throw one thing at you. I'll go offstage and we have a certain security lot that gets down into the audience. I just can't take people throwing things. If they don't like it they should leave.

- Have you any favorite rockguitarists?

Jeff Beck, he's good. Apart from him Mick Taylor can be a great blues player. No, I'm into violinists. There are a lot of bad guitarists around and I know exactly what they playing. After playing 20 years you intend to know except for people like Segovia and that, but I'm not really into classical guitar too much, I'm into classical organ and violin. And obviously Bach, Bach is my favorite composer.

- And your favorite rockband is Jethro Tull?

Yeah, but there are not a rockband. I don't know what they are but they are incredible.

- There's been a new album released in Australia last week, called "Made in Europe" by Deep Purple. Have you heard the album?

On and off I heard it, a few times in the studio, cuts from it, but having played that set for a long time I wasn't really interested. I was leaving the band at the time we made it. As I announced my departure they ask me to do them a favour. They said just record a live LP with us. I said I would, I did it but I didn't want to have anything to do with it. It has come out now, so great.

- Did you help produce it?

Oh no, I had nothing to do with producing, mixing or anything.

- On that last tour, was it actually said to the people that it would been the last Deep Purple tour.

No, not at all. Because they thought of going on, carrying on, so they didn't wanna say that we're about breaking up, they rather would have it that I would leave which is fair enough. That's what I said they should do. At first they did want to break up but the management talked them into staying together with another guitarist. Tommy Bolin was a great guitarist. He's very unkind to his body. If he gets out of that he'll be a good guitarist.

- Is he a live guitarist. I saw him on stage with Deep Purple.

Oh yeah, I saw him on stage with Deep Purple. He's probably not into that way of style of playing.

- What are you going to do when you get too old to play?

You never get too old to play, you always become wiser. You get too old for the pop market. I never give up guitar playing. I'll always play. I'll play the cello. I like to be in a quartet playing classical medieval music to relax by. I always do like to go onstage and bash out a few things but it can be difficult because if you have Bay City Rollers to contend with and that sort of market. I personally don't wanna have anything to do with that. That lot and the Osmonds, not to be detachmental to them because the young people do need young people to be associate with. It's no good oldtimers coming onstage to play to them.

- How do you feel about Marc Bolan?

I don't feel anything about Marc Bolan. I don't know, I used to know him but I haven't seen him for years.

- David Bowie he sort of lived a new revolution on drerss and style of playing with "Space Odity" and "Life on Mars".

Well, you could say that. You can also say I wasn't in on that revolution. I didn't take any notice of it. It's just publicity stunts and hype. But he's a nice guy, he's not the world's best singer so you have to come up with a few things.

- What can we be expecting of Rainbow in the future? Any plans of taking Rainbow to the top, rockwise?

Not necessarily. I would never consider myself in competition with those bands. I hate that. That's what I loath about the business, as well as interviews, which I'm doing right now. It's competition. It should be just to get up there and play and enjoy yourself. yeah, it's so hard. It's only natural that you want to be better than the next person. Human nature. And I'll leave it at that.

- Can we do a promo (for the radioshow), one promo please.

Not promos, I don't do that.

- Just saying like: "This is Ritchie Blackmore for 3DB".

No, I don't do that.

- OK, thanks.

© 3 DB, Melbourne, Australia 21 November 1976