Ritchie Blackmore

Interview March 2017

- Mr. Blackmore, with Deep Purple you have become one of the pioneers in hard rock. Is it true that you consider the band's most famous song "Smoke on the Water" to be "weak and boring"?

Yes! If you play it at every gig, it can get really disgusting and boring. I preferred "Child in Time". Unfortunately, Ian Gillan no longer had the voice to sing it in concert. He came up to me on stage and said: "Richie, today no "Child"!". Then, for the sake of laughter, I began to play the first bars of this song, and Jon Lord picked up on the keyboards - Ian almost fell into despondency! He was drinking all last night and had no voice (laughs). I thought our fans would not like this, because they wanted to hear this song!

- Exactly 40 years after the glorious album "Rising", last year you revived your band Rainbow, although for the last 20 years you have played only folk rock. What made you return to hard rock?

Partly it was due to nostalgia. I just wanted to rock again as long as my arthritis allows it. Before that, I had to undergo surgery on the ring finger of my left hand in New York. If the operation had gone badly, I would never have been able to play the guitar again. But the surgeon was my friend, we play football together. Therefore, I trust him. And he did a really good job.

- In the revived Rainbow, you are the only member from the old line-up...

I found an excellent singer, Ronnie Romero. His voice impressed me so much that I decided on this revival of Rainbow. My wife found him and his band Lords Of Black on YouTube. When I heard him sing, I was immediately mesmerized! By the way, he is from Chile.

- However, many fans criticize the band, saying that it is a cover band.

Let's not forget that in Rainbow I have always worked with new, unknown singers - from Ronnie James Dio to Joe Lynn Turner. Prior to that, they were also unknown. I like discovering new talents. It motivates and inspires me. The concerts of the revived band went well, so in 2017 we will perform again. Also I will play with my band Blackmore's Night.

- Unlike Deep Purple, in Rainbow you are the real boss. Do you consider yourself an alpha male?

Purple has always had five votes, and therefore five opinions. It was tiring. When I said goodbye to Deep Purple and created Rainbow in 1975, total control was important to me. I don't consider myself a born leader, but I want music to sound the way I imagine it to. For this I am ready to take full responsibility for the group.

- Are you a perfectionist?

I don't like that word. I would rather call myself meticulous.

- And how does this affect the work in the group?

When I notice that my fellow musicians on stage don't bring anything, I get angry. But the same thing happens when I play badly myself. During the concert I should be in a good mood. It wraps me up. Fans have the right to expect a better performance, they pay to enter. This must be respected.

- In Deep Purple, you often refused to give an encore!

Exactly. Naturally, an encore shouldn't be required, it's a reward - for the fans and for the band. When I notice that the audience is inattentively listening to us, it makes me angry. As well as when the group plays at half strength. Then there will be no encore. Whether you like it or not!

- How would you describe yourself?

As a rather straightforward and honest, but sometimes unpredictable person. I always express my opinion clearly. With me, people know how I feel about them. I am also critical of myself, and do not like to play along with someone. It has always been so.

- You have your own head on your shoulders ...

When I was five years old, my mother asked me to smile for a family photo. I replied: "No, why should I do this?". I have always been a serious person, but my character is not as bad as it is often said (laughs). When I'm drunk, I smile more.

- Rock stars are also always associated with cocaine...

But I have always stayed away from it. I do not need it. Also, I have never tried LSD. I already have quite a rich imagination. The only "drug" I take while on tour is sleeping pills, which I take when I can't sleep.

- Let's talk about Germany. It is known that you love our country very much. How did it come about?

As a young musician, at the age of 17-18, I came to Hamburg to play several concerts with a group there. This was shortly after the arrival of The Beatles. At that time, Hamburg was already considered a real musical metropolis, and England was boring and old-fashioned in comparison. I fell in love with a girl named Margrit and married her. I like the German mentality: work hard and celebrate to the fullest! I also love German architecture, markets, half-timbered houses, as well as classical composers such as Bach and Beethoven, do not forget about good beer and cuisine: sausages, fried herring and cabbage rolls.

- In the mid-80s you returned to Hamburg with Purple to finish the album "Perfect Strangers".

I remember the time at the Tennessee studios, as well as one very unusual employee named Drafi Deutscher...

- "Marmor, Stein und Eisen bricht"...

Exactly! At that time, I did not know how famous he was as a hit singer.

- It's hard to believe that you listen to hits at all...

I know. Everyone thinks I'm joking. But it's true. I like to remember Roy Black and Rex Gildo. Schlager singers are the soul of German music. They are largely based on folk music. In the USA, where I now live, hip-hop has become folk music. But I'm sure I'll find some cure for it (laughs)...

- As a football fan, you also follow German football.

Exactly. I watch Bundesliga games all the time. In the US, you have to say "Soccer" all the time. Football here is quite different: players run around in funny costumes and run after an egg-shaped ball, catch it, and fall to the ground with it. And so every three seconds. I will never understand American sports culture. For me, Franz Beckenbauer is a model, he played elegantly and always thought through his actions. It seemed to me that he feels the rhythm of the game like a musician. Unfortunately, I never met him, but someone handed me a 1972 jersey from him with the caption: "Best wishes for Richie." It hangs on my wall at home.

- You are personally acquainted with Lothar Matthäus.

Yes. I met him in the 80s through Didi Zill, my friend. That was when he was playing for Inter Milan. We chatted for hours about football and music. He knew a lot of my songs. When I invited him to the concert, he said: "If I come, you will have to play very well!". He spoke like a true leader. I liked it.

- Your passion for the Middle Ages amazes many. If you had a time machine, which period would you like to travel to?

I don't need a time machine. I was already in Germany in 1563.

- Sorry what?

Yes, in a past life! I was a minstrel there, a court musician. Moved from place to place and tried to make ends meet. He led a simple life, but was content with it.

- Amazing story! Life was definitely not the best back then...

True! Life was very difficult, but I didn't care. Music, my profession, was much better. I love Renaissance music, the sound of shawms and bagpipes. Everything was easier. There was no radio, stupid PR managers. You could play whatever you want. But I definitely had problems with the feudal system and constant wars. In our Blackmore's Night group, we return to medieval feelings - but without wars, broken heads, plague and cholera.

- Your first guitar was bought by your father.

Right. I was then eleven. My father demanded that I learn how to play normally. Therefore, in any weather, even in a storm, I rode a bicycle to a guitar teacher who lived ten kilometers from me. Another teacher of mine was Jimmy Sullivan, also known as Big Jim Sullivan. He was very strict and said that if I didn't study normally, I shouldn't come to him again. I remember it!

- At the beginning of your career, you played in The Outlaws and played along with Jerry Lee Lewis on his German tour...

Yes, we played along thanks to our manager Don Arden. This is the father of Ozzy Osbourne's wife Sharon, he is not one to be fooled. Then he slipped us into the "murderer", as Jerry Lee calls himself now - and not without reason. At the time, I almost trembled in awe of him. I heard that the musicians he does not like, he hits right in the face...

- And how did he treat you? Remember your first meeting with the "killer"?

Certainly. We were rehearsing with him, I was playing a guitar solo, and he suddenly got up from the piano and came up to me. He extended his right hand to me for a handshake. I shook his hand, continuing to play the solo - with one hand! This impressed him. After that everything was fine...

- You also had stories about ghosts in an old castle in France ...

Yes, that was in 1977. We rented a studio in Château d'Hérouville, an old cold castle not far from Paris. Elton John, Uriah Heep and David Bowie have already worked there. I was there with Ronnie James Dio, drummer Cozy Powell and keyboardist Tony Carey. But everything went wrong, nothing worked. Then I arranged a séance at which the name "Baal" came up clearly. He was responsible for all this chaos, I don't know why. It was so creepy in this castle that we went to bed only in the light of day! As a result, Tony could not stand it, he lost his nerve and left the group...

- Let's get back to Deep Purple. You had constant problems with Ian Gillan...

It's more like a love-hate relationship. We hated and loved each other. The problem is that we are both leaders. That is why there were constant disputes and frictions between us, often purely out of harm. Jon Lord often took my side. He was not a leader, he was a balancing agent when we started another turmoil.

© Alex Gernandt - German Press, March 2017