Ritchie Blackmore

Deep Purple 40 Years in Rock

While on tour, the legendary Man In Black revealed how he feels about a DP reunion how 'that' riff came about, and how medieval minstrelsy can save your life. How did you come up with the Smoke On The Water riff?

I was jamming with Ian Paice at a soundcheck, because we often used to get to the shows early. I said to Ian, 'give me a time or a measure that we haven't played lately', and he put down that particular beat, and I just went straight into that tiff. It's related to a medieval way of playing, because in those days they played a lot in parallel fourths. That riff wouldn't sound the way it does if it wasn't played in parallel fourths (A+D, C+F, D+G, instead of the more usual fifth-based power chords, A+E, C+G, D+A - Guitar Ed.) But Paicey and I just went through it and it sounded like a backing track. I feel that we did things in Purple which were a lot better than that, that didn't go anywhere.

How did you get into medieval music?

Back in 1972, I was listening to some lute-based pageantry music. I was blown away by David Munro, who played crumhorns. The dance music of the 15th century blew my mind, and we translated it, or the simple melodies and counterpoints, to the guitar. We've got shawms all over the house. It's such a change from Purple, where you go on stage and hit a huge rock chord. Nowadays, I really have to play something. I get very nervous about it sometimes. I admire people like John Renbourn and Gordon Giltrap, who can just go out and do their stuff alone. But a lot of Purple and Rainbow fans turn up at the gigs, which is gratifying.

How did your passion for castles develop?

Whenever Purple were touring Germany, we could stay in the local Holiday Inn or local castle, so I'd take the castle. Why not? Of course, you don't have a coffee shop, but you can do without that for a few days. I'd always gravitate towards castles and, after a while, I was spending all my holidays in European castles.

Then I thought, 'why not take the band'? Purple couldn't play in the courtyard of these places because the band was too big, but when I put the new band together, we could do it. We're getting in thousands of people, so it's becoming difficult now, but at least we get to stay at the castle, which suits us like a pig in shit!

You have a some outlandish stage uniforms.

People say, "why do you wear all that stuff?", and I say, "why not?" It's better than wearing the baseball cap and long shorts nonsense. And something is ingrained in me about wearing a uniform of some kind on stage, from when I was in The Outlaws and we dressed as cowboys. Or when I was in The Savages and we wore loincloths. I wouldn't go as far as gold lamé suits, but dressing up on stage is all part of it. Laurence Olivier once said that he had to go on stage with either a moustache or make-up on, or he couldn't act. I relate to that.

Are you attracted to the philosophy of the music of that period, or are you escaping the realities of today?

A little bit of both. People keep saying to me, "when are you re-forming Rainbow or rejoining Deep Purple?" I always say that I'm in no hurry to do either.

The other guys in Purple have said, if Ritchie can be persuaded to do a reunion, we'll have a reunion. You're clearly the linchpin.

Yes, lynch being the operative word (chuckles). I'm the bad boy, aren't I? The bad little doggy who left the band. But I would do it, for nostalgic reasons, for a week or two, for the fans, for old time's sake. Just as I'd like to see a band that I liked re-form. But I wouldn't go into a studio, because I think there's a lot of promise in what we're doing with Blackmore's Night. It's got me excited about getting back to playing guitar, whereas, before, I always preferred kicking a ball about in a soccer game than soundchecking.

But you returned to Purple for a good few years.

That's right. But it wasn't for a good reason. I got back together because of money. There was a lot floating around and I thought, 'well, it won't be for very long'. Being the lazy person that I am, I stayed with them much longer. I enjoyed some of it, but after 30 years of hard rock I was getting stale. I found myself not playing anything that I was impressed with. I was coming up with riffs and that was it.

Does this include Rainbow?

Some of Rainbow, but less so, because that was more my kind of band. I was kind of leading, but with Purple you don't lead, because there are five guys. There was a lot of music that I didn't like which we were playing. It's like anything else. After a few years, you get tired of the same thing. Sometimes it's not them as much as me. I get bored with the same set-up.

© Record Collector Xmas Issue 2004