Ritchie Blackmore

Vibrations of a soul
Metal Hammer Interview Part 1

He is undoubtedly the most famous guitar virtuoso of modern rock: RITCHIE BLACKMORE. But he is also a personality who - to put it very carefully - under the headings 'Not easy to care for!', 'Not particularly talkative!' and 'Not very sociable!' falls. It was all the more astonishing for ANDREAS SCHÖWE that the master himself (!) As the only representative (!!) of the European metal press took him to a completely taboo (!!!) seance in his regular restaurant 'Normandie Inn' on Long Iceland, an hour and a half drive from Manhatten, invited...

If you can hold out at least five minutes with the interview before Ritchie throws you out, that's a complete success! Then you can do a lot of fun on New York's 42nd Street (the Reeperbahn from Manhattan - ed.) On operating costs! You're welcome! Just five minutes, man !!! "were among other things the encouraging words that were given to you in the editorial team shortly before your departure for NY. Wonderful! Only your own shooting is better! It is over faster!

Of course, things turned out very differently: Two and a half hours of interview, back in Manhattan at 4:00 a.m. - and everything (including the hotel bar) was already closed. The whole fun started out less promising: In the afternoon it was said that Ritchie was not in a stunning mood and the photo session was not 100% safe. Of course, in the evening on the 'Express Way 495' in question, an accident had to happen in our lane of all places: traffic jam - 20 minutes late for the interview... shit...

"I'm glad you're late," the guitar god says courteously, "because I wasn't quite ready either!" - There are things !!!

But then, the 'black man' opens the METAL HAMMER 8/93 he has brought with him with the conscious [to Gillan quote on page three: "I won't answer these questions, otherwise I'll be fired again!"

And the quote "I totally ignored Blackmore!" also catches the eye immediately. Crap! Was that the end of all communication? But as I said: It turned out very differently: "What did he say? Oh! Nice!"

The question "Ahm, how do you mean?" you save yourself in this situation. And somehow the atmosphere in the candlelight of the back room of his favorite feasting place, mostly reserved for Ritchie, relaxed...

"Now I will interview YOU first: Do you play an instrument? Guitar?"

Ahm... No... (The gag of "I play keyboards - on my text computer!" are...)

"Why not?"

Um... I tried it. But it was already too old for that: At the age of 20, the barree grips were too big a hurdle for my stiff fingers...

"You're never too old to articulate yourself on an instrument! You have something to say, don't you? And that doesn't depend on age!"

Yes, yes... Yes... But you also have something to say; or? In this respect, I was somewhat surprised that you have now accepted this interview...


Um, because you haven't spoken to the European press for a while...

"I haven't seen my father for a while, let alone talked to him! But I'm not the man who likes to give interviews anyway..."

Because over time they all follow the same routine?

"Maybe. Even if it sounds strange: I love to play the guitar for myself, my friends and fans. But I have a hard time promoting myself. I hate them Telling people: 'Yeah! This is our new album! It's turned out great! You have to hear it! Wow!' Of course, I am aware that this is exactly part of show business... That leaves me completely cold, I am really just a musician - I am not an entertainer in that sense, and accordingly I hate being part of this Biz to act! Of course, some other musicians may say that this is too narrow-minded of me, since I already have something to say. And of course I also have something to say - but primarily as a musician on the guitar!"

Maybe you can understand me now: As a musician, you prefer to express yourself on the instrument and not with words - and for me it's exactly the other way around...

"Certainly. But in contrast to music, words can be very delicate, hurtful and political..."

You mean how they are handled by the British press, for example? Because this interview is, as far as I can tell, the only one you give the European press, it sounds like problems with the British journalists...

"The English journalists do not report fairly; they do not respect the personality of who they interview. To put it figuratively: They come up to you, pretend to shake your hand, push put a knife in your stomach, turn it over a few times - and ask yourself with a sanctimonious smile: 'Well? Are you okay? Are you okay?' I really don't need such a repulsive cynicism..."

That's easy to understand. It is well known, however, that you have seen much bigger fools in my country than in England. How come?

"That's right. But I also don't know exactly where this preference for Germany comes from: I have a son in Hamburg, I find your culture fascinating, and the German team plays decidedly better football than the English! The English just kick the ball, your footballers, on the other hand, play with a well thought-out strategy! As I said: I don't know where my preferences for your country come from - maybe it's the call of the heart... In addition, Deep Purple were in Germany always very warmly received - from the beginning, throughout the years..."

To be precise: It's been 25 years now. A quarter of a century of Deep Purple - a quarter of a century in business. Where is the attraction for you, now to come up with a Purple album again? I mean, a man who has decisively influenced two generations of guitarists could start his own Guitar Institute of Technology; write his memoirs; or produce young, talented bands instead of going on tour again and having another round with the business guys...

"I don't have the ears to work as a producer! And I couldn't produce another band for the simple reason that I don't feel what other musicians are trying to express on their instruments! I also like this fresh fun attitude: If I were to produce a band, the fun would be gone pretty quickly - for both sides. It's different with Purple: We get together every couple of years and do what WE want. It works this time even better than we initially thought. Usually it's Roger who says: 'Let's get together again!' However, we are still not the big friends that the whole world might think we are - it's more of a casual artist friendship! And we will all split up afterwards and pursue our own projects - until this magical reputation brings us together next time will hopefully be the case again on my 50th birthday in a year and a half... But music is generally a very personal thing for me, I could never rush to the next best studio if I think a new, stunning idea I prefer to live out this idea for myself and my friends on my instrument - and that's where it stops! Music is a kind of vibration of the soul! I usually want to keep things to myself - which of course is open to the public grows into a small problem..."

If you compare today's rock scene with the standard of the scene 20 or 25 years ago - what has changed for the better and what for the worse?

"20 years ago there were almost exclusively original bands that also had something to say: Jethro Tull, Procul Harum - or Mountain! But today? At most Guns N'Roses! Their singer is a very empathetic person, which he also knows how to express with his singing. But besides Guns N'Roses I can't think of any other band today. Metallica? I don't see that! Okay, I like Lars' drum play - but then you can hear it. I don't think Metallica should be compared to Jethro Tull either. Jethro Tull are too sophisticated, too clever! U2? I don't see that! I know that U2s are pretty popular, but for me they are just lower Average, because too little comes across on the emotional level. Today you have so many bands - but I don't know what they all want! It's almost always the same with them: No feelings, no substance, no songs, no ideas..."

So a kind of 'generation gap'?

"Yes, maybe..."

A lot has happened in the technical area over the past 25 years. Where do you see the one who gave and gives decisive impulses to many guitarists, currently still reserves in the development of their technical skills?

"Technique is a very dangerous thing. Most guitarists these days just play fast. But I don't know what they are trying to do with it, because from an artistic point of view, with the best will in the world, I can't find a statement! That's why I'm also glad that many of my colleagues limit themselves to expressing themselves on their instruments; trying to express something... It's not about speed or technique, but what you convey to other people with your instrument hat: Slow down! Say something!"

During these 25 years the sound of Deep Purple has hardly changed. Didn't you really even feel the urge to try something new like other_bands did? Metallica, for example, have hired a new producer with Bob Rock - and they promptly achieved the greatest commercial success in their history!

"We never thought like that - we always wanted to be ourselves, have a good time together and play OUR music! If we hire a well-known producer so that our records sell better, we would Subject to the laws of this business again! Of course we want to do rock'n'roll - but without being overwhelmed by this biz! And I believe that this is a great art nowadays: simple, innocent and yet clean! Mine People think people are tired of hearing perfectly produced records, I've listened to some of those albums recorded under the direction of star producers: They may have the most powerful sounds - but they have no soul; the artistic statement is equal to zero!

The new Deep Purple album THE BATTLE RAGES ON came as a surprise to many people, as they said you would try to reform your old band Rainbow again after SLAVES & MASTERS and the '91 Purple tour...

"Sorry, but that's really just a rumor! I never had any intention of reforming Rainbow afterwards!"

Why is Joe Lynn Turner no longer in the band?

"We are all rock'n'roll fanatics and wanted to keep this streak. But Joe tried to steer us into radio-pop-rock. Of course the idea is a good one: We also want to reach as many people as possible via radio - but not if we have to turn our sound inside out! Joe is completely obsessed with these bombastic radio commercial sounds - he really wants to write hits. He certainly has excellent hits ideas and his positive moments, but we didn't want to compromise or even be brainwashed in terms of sound. The rest of the band then spoke out in favor of Ian. Not me: for example, the last time he drank an awful lot and therefore a lot Causes trouble... But this time he pulled himself together. And accordingly he did an excellent job on THE BATTLE RAGES ON. And for Ian there is for us just the personality, there was hardly an alternative..."

Jon Lord once said: 'This band needs a singer who has enough personality to include the strong characters that can be found in the Purple line-up, including on the To be able to lead the stage! ' Has Joe Lynn Turner Failed On This?

“Definitely! But I have to emphasize at this point that Joe is still a good friend of mine and that I had a lot of fun with him for two years! And Joe is an excellent singer - but he actually doesn't have the personality that Purple needs. Ian is a completely different guy: he goes on stage and he's 'Mister Rock'n'Roll'! He is just himself! That was exactly Joe's problem: when you saw him on stage, you would automatically ask yourself, 'Who is he? What does he want? Does he want to play Foreigner now?' He played that David Lee Roth Party Animal role and lost his own identity with it. I tried to dissuade him, but unfortunately it didn't work - he's probably too 'Mister Show-Biz' for that!"

Was Joe involved in the songwriting for THE BATTLE RAGES ON after?

"Yes, he wrote this radio song: 'Time To Kill' - that's his melody"

After the end of the Joe Lynn Turner era, did you ever think about hiring David Coverdale as a singer or even Deep Purple in the Mark III line-up - including Glenn Hughes - to reform?

"No, never! I really appreciate David as a singer, but he has developed in a completely different direction than that he can now sing again at Purple, let alone replace Ian..."

Was material used for THE BATTLE RAGES ON that was left over from other recording sessions? 'Fortuneteller' by SLAVES & MASTERS, for example, was a leftover from the PERFECT STRANGERS production...

"The riff on the title song dates back to around 1985. Back then the track was called 'D-Tune'. Otherwise we hardly used old ideas. Anyway: I can only write songs when I'm inspired by something. And then nobody can predict what will come of it. Music is like life: Both have to be fresh. I can't sit down like Elton John for me and write songs with intent! Just what I feel in the moment, is expressed in my music - straight from the heart!"

Jon Lord also once said: Our classic way of recording albums has always been to play live together and to forego individual recordings of the different instruments. Was this 'classic way' also used on the production of THE BATTLE RAGES ON?

"Mostly yes. I know that a lot of bands tend to record everything track by track - but I could never do that in such a way! A band has to play together live once - like on the stage!"

But that means that you were in contact with Ian during the production work for THE BATTLE...

Yes, even a couple of times! With 'Anya' for example: I had the riff and the melody with this Hungarian theme... I don't usually tell anyone what to sing about, especially since the lyrics are not my job anyway - Ian is great there. Hardly anyone else understands how to put two possible interpretations into the text! But in this case I said to Ian: 'It would be great if you could write lyrics adapted to this musical theme!'

... which he obviously did. Apropos 'Anya': 'The Gypsy' on STORMBRINGER; 'Gypsy's Kiss' on PERFECT STRANGER, 'Firedance' on the Rainbow album BENT OUT OF SHAPE - and now 'Anya'...

"... all these songs have the same theme..."

Exactly: It looks like you have a special relationship with gypsies...

"Yes! Musicians also have something about Gypsies about them: They are free, very lonely when they have lost each other, always on the move..."

But back to Gillan one more time: There still seems to be tension between you and him. In your opinion, what are the reasons for this ongoing exchange of blows? And what makes it possible for you to work creatively in a band in which such personal antipathies are the order of the day?

"Money, hahaha!"

Really just money?

"No! Ian is a very uncomfortable person with his quirks, with his whole behavior - we just don't fit together on the mental level. I know: I'm not exactly easy either - but Ian on the other hand, he's an excellent songwriter who has a lot to say. Ian is also very honest on the stage, he doesn't try to be someone else. And that's exactly what makes him a refreshing note in today's rock'n 'Roll landscape! So musically we fit together very well, because I'm just myself on stage and I'm not going to do the Steve Vai trip because of me! But as soon as Ian and I leave the stage - we don't work off stage! At no time!"

But how can a band like Deep Purple write songs at all?

"It's very simple: Even if I don't like him as a person - I respect Ian as a musician. The same applies to Ian. But this tension, this mutual respect spurs us on to creative top performances: If I give him something to work out, he doesn't want to give himself up in front of me - and vice versa, of course, I don't want to be in front of him!"

So much for the first part of this exclusive interview. More in our next issue. And this much can already be revealed: Ritchie answered all other questions openly, honestly and courteously without any restrictions...

Andreas Schöwe, Metal Hammer nr 10 - 1993