Ritchie Blackmore

Metal Marketplace Interview

"There's a lot of competition around, but I'd like to thank the fans for remembering me," says Ritchie, who currently performs with Rainbow. In his spare time, he plans to hunt ghosts in enchanted hotels, hold séances to communicate with ghosts, and is also thinking about writing a book about rock and roll haunted places. "I would love to be on stage with a few ghosts," he says.

Are you ready for the tour? How long will your tour last?

- Six to seven weeks. We have just returned from Europe with the same program, so we only need a few days to rehearse.

How does this composition compare to the previous ones?

- Very good. Of course, Chuck Burgi has played drums in my band before, and Doogie White knows all the old stuff. He knows him better than I do. He tells me what to play, because I forgot about these songs myself.

Does the program include both old and new songs?

- Right. We usually play three or four old songs and three or four Deep Purple songs. It's not always the same. We try 'Perfect Strangers' and 'Burn', sometimes we play 'Smoke On The Water' for an encore.

What is your current relationship with the members of Deep Purple?

- I left because I didn't like working with a group that turned into corporate rock, it seemed to me that they did nothing. Too much nostalgia. I was angry that the singer forgot how to sing. The rest of the band didn't really care, I got really fed up with it. We were doing very well, but I felt that we were robbing people. I felt like we were playing dishonest music.

Now you are more satisfied with the music?

- Right. People ask me what it's like for me to play in small venues. I don't mind at all if the music is sincere and there are those who go to concerts. And I make more money. I was very lucky to have Doogie White in this line-up, he knows exactly what I want from a singer and combines all the positive qualities of all the previous vocalists, besides he has his own style. In the old material, he feels like a fish in water.

Now there are a lot of reunions, and they are all very successful. Does this mean the music scene is changing and people want to see these bands?

- I think yes. I think grunge was okay for a while, but then there were too many bands that suddenly started playing grunge, and it was disingenuous. There is too much grunge. Everyone was rebelling against each other, and it didn't make sense anymore. I think history can repeat itself. It would be great to see hard rock bands return to melodic content. In grunge bands, I was annoyed by dissonance in terms of vocals. It's always been hard for me to listen to it. I love melodies. What I'm doing now is very melodic. This is an acoustic project we're working on with Candice, my fiancée. It is partly based on the music of the 16th century. Guitar, vocals, keyboards and all sorts of strange instruments. Do you write music on tour?

- Almost never. Tours are everyday survival.

How many guitars do you take with you on tour?

- Usually four. I mostly use one on stage.

Do you still practice every day?

- Yes, I do, but not scales. I do finger exercises and play songs I've written.

How many guitars do you have?

- Not as much as you might think. About 12. I don't support every guitar company. I work with Fender and Washburn, that's enough. My main guitars are Fenders, I have been playing them for 25 years. Other instruments are acoustic. I disagree a bit with the music snobs who say, "The old Fenders were better." I disagree, some old Fenders have terrible necks. Fender made great guitars in the 70s and 80s.

What do you like most about the guitar?

- The shape. For me, the guitar... When I was 11, I was very reserved, and I wanted to devote myself to something. I realized that I can express myself through the guitar.

She helped you get out of the "shell"?

- Yes and no, with a guitar I just burrow deeper into my shell. And then I go on stage and open up.

Were you scared when you first performed on stage?

- Yeah, then I started drinking. I'm still nervous about whether I can get the sound I want, and sometimes I get even more nervous when we're playing in venues with bad acoustics or the band doesn't play well. It is very difficult for me to say to myself: "Another day, another dollar", unlike some of my acquaintances. We can only cross our fingers and hope for the best. There are no perfect concerts. You can get close to perfection, but there are too many variables. The electricity might go out, or a string might break. But the audience is much more tolerant than I would have thought.

How old were you when you started playing?

- Eleven.

When did you realize that you wanted to make music your career? - At 14. I played a thing called a dog box in a local skiffle band. It's a piece of string on a broom handle inserted into a tea box. I played in the Chislehurst Caverns, a cave near London that goes 22 miles underground. I had a guitar back then, but I wasn't good enough at it, so I played a dog box. I also had a washboard on which I played with thimbles.

Do you still have your first guitar?

- No, I sold it to buy a second one, and I sold that to buy a third one. I loved going to guitar shops and looking at the shop windows. I love the Duo Jet Gretsch. Now I can go and buy all the guitars I looked at when I was 15, but I'd rather look at them through the window, remembering the feelings I had before. I don't want to buy everything I would like to have. I probably wouldn't play them and they would be on the shelf.

What musicians did you admire when you were a teenager, and which ones do you admire now?

- I started with musicians like Duane Eddy, Buddy Holly and Scotty Moore, who played with Elvis Presley. With Cliff Gallup, who played with Gene Vincent. Then I became interested in Django Reinhardt, a gypsy from France, a very fast guitarist. Jimmy Bryant and Stevie West, Wes Montgomery, but I was not fond of them for long, I'm not a fan of jazz. Sugi Otis, blues musicians like that. Today I like different acoustic-electric guitarists like Adrian Legg, Gordon Giltrap, blues musicians like Coco Montoya, Jeff Healey. It seems to me that there was a period when everyone played for the sake of speed, but I was not impressed, I did not like all these runs back and forth on the neck with Van Halen's phrases. Eddie Van Halen is a great guitarist, but I don't like Van Halen clones.

What bands do you listen to?

- King's X is a very good band. Probably too good for today's market. I often see great bands failing to make it big and all the TV channels showing terrible bands.

Do you have any advice for guitarists?

- Once you've learned two chords, get yourself a good lawyer to oversee the contracts you sign. Many do not know where their money goes.

What about creative advice?

- Listen to everyone, steal from everyone and create your own style. Don't steal from just one musician. Focus on one direction. It is important. Usually when you are a jack of all trades, success does not come.

© Metal Marketplace Magazine - January 1997