Ritchie Blackmore

And The Interview Rages On
Metal Hammer Interview Part 2

Clear and brief: Part Two of the exclusive Interview with Ritchie Blackmore. The Deep Purple guitarist doesn't mince the matters this time either when talking to Andreas Schφwe and answering all questions without any constraint.

Your long service equipment-designer John "The Dawk" Stillwell said once to me: "Nothing against Ritchie Blackmore! He's a very nice person, but also a strong personality and an absolute perfectionist! It's a pity that most of the people see him the wrong way!" What do you think are the reasons for the fact that most of the people get you wrong and how do you deal with it?

Ritchie: I like it! Principally, I provoked it myself. I don't believe in bullshit – that's why I have a lot of personal conflicts with different kinds of people – and sometimes even with my friends! Apart from that, I'm absolutely not the bootlicker type: "You must now be especially nice to the journalists so that they write something great about you!" or: "Nonsense! The only thing I have to do is music!

I already said it before: I am a musician and not an entertainer, who sappily praises his own new record: "This is definitely our best album, bla, bla, bla!". I definitely can't say a thing in that kind of style. This reticence, among other things, is what people get wrong.

Or the story with "This is the head of your record company..." I don't say "Nice to meet you!", because it's not "nice" for me to meet him. I actually see before me all the musicians who don't even get the slightest chance to make a record, whose backs get broken by exactly the same people... I can't feel any respect for such kind of people and I say straightforwardly: "You mean nothing to me!".

Of course I'm also aware that we have to talk business – only business - with these people, because we're also, in some way, part of the deal and, alas, we can't completely keep ourselves out – but as individuals they really don't mean a thing to me! Moreover I'm also quite moody. For example, when I wake up in the morning and feel I have nothing to say on that day – why should I give interviews in the evening? On top of that it's somebody who talks to you only because it's his job, somebody who doesn't respect the character of his interlocutor? Well, that's how it comes to: "Ritchie is strange!" Sure, my mindset is somewhat unusual and not always very helpful – but it's sincere! I can't be nice to somebody I don't respect!

You also seem to be at loggerheads with your homeland. Deep Purple will play five shows in Britain on their Battle Rages On Tour while, if my information is up to date, there will be twelve shows in Germany!

No, that's simply a question of organization! I would love to play a couple more shows in my home country...

Really? I mean, during the Slaves and Masters Tour 1991, some rumors reached us that you refused to play encores in England...


As far as I know in London...

Hm, I have great problems with London in general... Before I answer to that I have to make one thing clear: I never play an encore because it's expected of me or because it's part of the "job". I do it because I feel that the audience is on the same emotional level as I am, that they feel the way I feel and so that provokes further emotional spurts on the guitar. An encore is something special for me! If I feel this special something it's no problem to play 15 encores if you like! I've never had that special feeling in London. On the contrary: I won't play the Wembley Arena in London as long as the first 20 rows are still reserved for VIP guests!

Our true fans sit from row 21 on, although they are the first to stand in the queue for tickets and spend the night knees to their chin! I don't want to see there upfront some spoiled sons and daughters of government officials who have received their tickets from Daddy and are gracious enough to go to a Purple concert, because they have nothing better to do at this time – that pisses me off! I want to see our true fans there, on the front! By the way Bruce Springsteen has the same problem! As we're not able to change this on our own we don't play in London but in Brixton – not far away for our fans but surely too far away for the so called "Special guests"! That's all on the subject of "London"...

As we're on our way to bring things out from the shadows: The mixer of the last warrant tour, David Kirkwood, told my colleague that "somewhere in Scandinavia" you had no interest in the audience and played the whole gig through from your wardrobe...

That's not true! That was 1968 or 1969 in London! The stage in the small club there had the size of a desk and there was absolutely no place for me to step on the stage let alone move a muscle! And David was not with us at the time, he joined us later... But, admittedly, it's a kind of a joke everybody likes to tell...

When I compare the set lists of all Deep Purple live albums I notice that you obviously almost never change you program: Old classics like "Smoke on the water", "Strange Kind Of Woman", "Space Truckin'", "Lazy" and "Child In Time" seem to be supplemented with the new popular ones "Perfect Strangers" and "Knocking At Your Back Door", at the most...

On one hand we're just a lazy band, which doesn't like to experiment much on stage. On the other hand most of the time we have the impression that the audience doesn't want to go without those classics – there's simply not much room for other songs!

Yes, but nevertheless I'd wish for some surprises – songs which, according to me, are just as well full of atmosphere but remain somehow neglected and underrated: "Sail Away" from Burn for example: or "Pictures of Home" from Machine Head...

Hm, "Pictures of Home"... I must admit I'm quite forgetful and, accordingly, almost can't remember how these songs are played! By the way the same goes to the more recent ones too – for me it's as if I haven't heard our new album yet! So, when we rehearse I almost have to start from the beginning! But "Pictures of Home"... Maybe we should really play it live!?

An interposed question – as we're already quite deep in Deep Purple's past: What do your first singer Rod Evans, your first bass player Nick Simper and Derek Lawrence, the one who produced your debut album Shades Of Deep Purple actually do now?

Nick is a greengrocer, Rod the lion tamer is somewhere in California, and Derek – no idea!

Okay, back to the present: In general, does a musician of your status have a say when it comes to business issues and details? Can you freely decide which band you take with you on tour? Can you influence the choice of the songs which are to become singles or are going to be recorded as videos?

I arrange the support band with my manager: I like to take good friends or bands on tour which really support and help us. As some German concerts are partly sold out we don't need to worry if the support band is going to boost the ticket sale or not. I could generally say that I like to have control over some things...

What about the single "Child In Time", for example the one published in the Benelux countries at the time? The song was faded out in the middle in order to be faded in on the B-Side. Didn't you feel like screaming when you heard how one of you most grandiose compositions got impiously ripped to pieces?

No, because I'm aware all that the various people experience my music in a different way. As a fan I would of course try to get the "real" version. But after all the question of the single versions is the record company's matter: It's their job to promote the album!

Isn't it at least possible for you to help your son Jurgen Blackmore and his Band Superstitious a bit on the business issues, as for example the contract negotiations with the record companies?

No! My father couldn't help me at the time – and I can't help Jurgen! And it's OK that way, because the sons must fight their own way, especially in this tough business. They have to find their own place and the means to deal with it. Record companies don't give a damn what I recommend them, anyway. The people there have their own agenda: They always look for the things which are currently in trend – and that's exactly what I can't stand!

The last question can only be: How long do you think you can go along with Deep Purple and when would be the time for you to say: "Okay that's it! It's time to go!"?

I'm certainly aware that we don't have another 25 years ahead of us – but we're surely going to hit the 30! I already mentioned it: In the meantime everybody follows his own projects. After this tour, for example, I'm going to start a new band – Roger and Jon are even probably going to be involved. Maybe in two, three years we'll come to a point when we'll say: "Let's do something with Purple again!"

We don't hate each other's guts as many people think: We all have a balanced relationship which allows us to come together now and then – like magnets which attract each other from time to time. And all that is very refreshing, for us as individuals, as well as for the audience, our fans: Our friends have not heard "Child In Time" live for quite some years now – and it's high time they did!

I personally feel the same way: I'd like to see Procul Harum or Cream live again! Of course not every year, it would become boring! But at least every five years or so, just hear the good old songs again? Exciting! One links certain songs to particular memories, and memories are very important for your life, for your soul! And the best part of rock ‘n' roll is: it can bring back these memories, because rock ‘n' roll is a way of life, too! It's not a temporary fashion!

Andreas Schöwe, Metal Hammer nr 11 - 1993