Ritchie Blackmore

Asbury Park Press Interview 1997

Ginger Baker once said that drummers are born, not made. Do you think one should be born a guitarist too? For example, do long fingers give you a genetic advantage?

- I think it's something in between. It seems to me that a musician must have an innate inclination. But you still have to do a hell of a lot of work - although some get it faster than others. Probably. But for the most part, it's just practice, practice, and more practice.

It is interesting. I often think about musicians like Mozart and Bach. Or, for example, about Glenn Gould. I watched a documentary about him the other day. He said that he learned to read music before he could read ordinary words. This suggests that he must have had a past life if he knew music so well from such an early age. It's the same with people like Mozart. So, perhaps, musicians are really born, as they were already musicians in a past life.

You said that it's hard for you to hear when other guitarists play something that you can't play. Can you tell us about your view on the competition?

- Interesting topic. Music should be listened to just for the music's sake, but sometimes when I listen to bands or guitarists, I always think apprehensively: "Wow - maybe they've done more than me and will play much better than me." Part of you want them to play something that you can learn, grow and start playing better yourself. But human nature says, "Well, I hope they're not that good" (laughs). I notice that I'm still not sure about my guitar playing in many ways, just as I'm not sure about myself in general.

You always look very tense on stage and rarely smile. I remember your smile in the 1984 Perfect Strangers video. What can make you smile?

- You are right - I remember that in that year I really smiled once (laughs)! When I smile, I always feel very embarrassed. I start to think: "What am I doing?" Because I'm not used to this. I have a terrible habit of taking things too seriously. I have a reserved sense of humor, and everyone thinks that I am a very serious person, but this is not at all the case. I have mastered the art of not smiling. People ask me: "How do you manage to keep a straight face?". I guess I was born that way. I was born with a serious expression on my face. I was born gloomy (laughs).

You played on the new "heavy metal" album by Pat Boone. Why did you agree to this?

- Because I have a lot of memories connected with Pat. I remember being inspired by him at school. He has a wonderful voice. It seems to me that it was bold of him to perform on the hard rock stage. "Smoke On The Water" itself, in which I played, is recorded in the style of a big band. It wasn't easy to play at first. It's not just three chords. The orchestra played augmented fifths, augmented nones, flats and diminished chords. I thought, "Wow this is not going to be easy to play!" But recording with a big band turned out to be interesting. He did a good job.

You will be performing with the new Rainbow line-up in New Jersey. Are you happy with the group?

- Yes, now I am happy with the band I play with, as far as it is possible for me. Very good line-up. They know how to swing. Playing rock 'n' roll is not easy. For me, this is a subtle art. Many bands just go on stage to make a lot of noise. And for me it is important that there is swing in the group. There is swing in this group.

You didn't want to call the band Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow, but the label twisted your arms. What would you like to name it? And what other compromises had to be made?

- As far as I remember, I wanted to call it "Rainbow Moon". But the label wanted to put my name in it, they thought they could sell more copies that way. They were the ones who paid all the recording costs, so I agreed and said, "OK." But I'm a little tired of the fact that my name is in there.

It's Blackmore's Rainbow - I don't know... Like... Although it's my band, I don't want to think of myself as... Half the time the singer is just as important as the guitarist. The drummer too. And so it turns out the stamp: "Oh, this is my group, and I'm the boss in it." So I become... When I worked for others, I never liked the bosses. Everyone hates bosses. Maybe that's the whole point.

Aren't you afraid that age will begin to affect your game - that your fingers will move more slowly, or that arthritis will appear?

- Mom often told me: "I hope you don't get arthritis like I do." Because she had arthritis in her hands. I often get bursitis. By the way, because of this I wear a copper bracelet. I believe in the old adage that copper rubs off and enters the bloodstream. I don't believe this is just an old housewife tale; it helps me. As far as I know, Jeff Beck has arthritis. Soon it will appear with me, given my age, I am 51 years old.

You're doing well. You have always loved football does it help you stay in shape?

- I just keep drinking (laughs). I often played football. Two years ago I injured my knee. But now I'm playing again. And not to get fat.

I think you just need to worry a lot. I worry about everything. When there is nothing else to worry about, I worry because there is nothing to worry about.

I'm wondering, have you ever wanted to become the greatest guitarist in the world? After all, many people really think you are exactly that.

- I will never become the best guitarist, because there will always be someone better. No. When it comes to competition, I am frustrated by my own narrow-mindedness. I think that I should study more, know more, be able to play in any style. Something always upsets me. I very rarely enjoy my own game, because I always think: "Well, I could have played better." In my subconscious, a tedious voice constantly sounds: "Well, yes, not bad - it'll do for now."

But I'm always looking for the best notes, the best playing. Sometimes when I play something and they say to me: "It was very cool", I say: "Oh yes, I was lucky." But then I think, "Wait a minute. Maybe I'm not just lucky. Maybe you should tell yourself that it really was good. It is very difficult for me to say to myself that I played something well or even great. Most of the time I think, "Mmm yeah. Yes, it looks good."

© Asbury Park Press 1997