Ritchie Blackmore

Interview Burrn Japan 1997

Burnn: I was surprised when I heard that Doogie White had been fired from Rainbow. What did not suit you having him as a vocalist?

RB: When he first joined the band, I noticed that he liked the old Rainbow songs and that he wanted to make an album in the spirit of Ronnie James Dio. And I didn't want that. Rainbow was supposed to move in a more blues direction. However, he was not a blues singer, but sang in the spirit of the old school. But I only realized it in the studio. I did everything I could with him. He had his strengths, but worst of all, nothing new could be done with him.

Burnn: You once said that Ian Gillan and Ronnie James Dio had very strong voices. Didn't it seem to you that Dougie lacked the same power in his voice?

RB: There is something strange about Dougie, sometimes he had a very strong voice. He sang "Mistreated" really well and I think he sings better overall than Ian Gillan. Ian Gillan sang well between 1970 and 1972. After that, I never heard him sing like that. At least Dougie didn't lose his voice, which is good. He's a good guy, but he's obsessed with old rock, holding onto old rock too much.

Burnn: On stage, Dougie lacked the power of a voice to be on the same level as you.

RB: Yes, sometimes at concerts I felt that he lacked depth.

Burnn: I was also surprised that Dougie was unhappy with his salary. Has he changed a lot since you took him into the band?

RB: It's weird. I was surprised. When I first met Dougie, he spent the night at his friends house on the floor. He had no home, no bed, nothing. I felt sorry for him. But when he went on tour, he began to complain when they gave him an imperfect room! I do not understand how a person who does not have his own house and who sleeps on the floor can complain about hotel rooms.

The last time I saw him was in Denmark, then he also behaved strangely. I always paid them a fixed amount of money, but we did not have a written contract, everything was agreed in words. We only had one gig in Denmark at the time, for which I paid them a week in advance.

However, a week before the performance, my manager called me and said that Paul Morris insisted on double the pay, otherwise he refuses to perform. I was furious because we had already agreed on payment, and they had to work for it. It's like telling the promoter that there won't be a gig until they double my fee. Then it turned out that it was not Morris who insisted on this, but the bassist, as well as Doogie White - they demanded to double their pay. I couldn't believe they started acting like this. They put me in a very awkward position. I had already paid them a week in advance and I didn't have the opportunity to give them that much more money.

When I realized that only money was important for them, I decided not to allow this in the future, and after the performance, I offered them a full contract, which they had to sign. Because if they acted like that once, they will do it in the future.

After the concert, I asked everyone a question: “We have scheduled performances in Poland and Russia. Will you go? If so, here are the contracts for you, so please sign them. Payment will only be as specified. If you do not want to go to Poland and Russia, then do not sign. That's all. I expect a response within 24 hours.

At the same time, promoters and agents were negotiating with me. You can't ask for more money at the last minute. They replied that they would. And in the end they did not sign the contract. Like this. I can't work with people who agree to everything at first, and then suddenly say a week later that they should double their pay. Because of this, I stopped trusting them.

Burnn: When Joe Lynn Turner found out that you had disbanded Rainbow, he said that you should take him into the band and that he doesn't care about money.

RB: Joe is very good in his field. I like him as a person. A nice guy. And he did a great job at Rainbow. "Street Of Dreams" and "I Surrender" were good songs. They're more melodic than most Deep Purple songs, so the music I've recorded with Joe has a special meaning to me. But Joe Lynn Turner is more of a ballad vocalist, so he doesn't fit Rainbow right now.

I'm looking for a singer who can sing heavy blues. Someone like the vocalist from Brother Cane, I need someone who can sing in the same way. I don't want to just go into the studio just to work in the studio. First, I don't like studios at all. I only go there to work when I have something to say. I believe that without the right singer I have nothing to say.

Burnn: Joe blames the then management of Rainbow for the fact that the band broke up, and that if he himself had discussed all the issues with you, this would not have happened.

RB: It probably was.

Burnn: Is it true that you originally planned to go back to Deep Purple for a short time and then re-do Rainbow?

RB: Yes. But then I got lazy. But by 1993, although we were constantly skating around the world in a relaxed way, I couldn’t take it anymore and decided that I had to leave. It was kind of crazy. I felt like a businessman with bags full of money, not a musician.

Burnn: Was it difficult for you to control the band? After all, Jon Lord is even older than you...

RB: No, I did everything the way I wanted. John was just a performer.

Burnn: Always wanted to ask if it was true that you once wanted to recruit a singer named Terry Brock to Deep Purple?

RB: I don't remember. When?

Burnn: Not long before Turner came into the band.

RB: Who is this? Where else did he sing?

Burnn: He sang in the band Strangeways.

RB: Never heard of it. I don't remember anyone named Terry at all. We auditioned with this guy from Los Angeles, he was good, but he didn't suit us. He wasn't very good at coming up with melodies for our music. But I don't remember any Terry Brock.

Burnn: You always seem to have a hard time with vocalists. Are you thinking of quitting and switching entirely to Blackmore's Night? Or will you still be looking for a new singer?

RB: Yes, I want to keep playing hard rock. Besides, Candice is not a hard rock vocalist. That's why I keep my eyes open and look for good singers who can sing hard rock. But I'm in no hurry. This may take a couple of years. And we already have six or seven songs ready for the next album.

Burnn: Maybe you should record an instrumental album without vocals?

RB: I don't want to record such an album. I want to hear the voice, I'm happy just to play the guitar to a good vocalist. I don't really like listening to instrumental things. Lately I've written some instrumental compositions, but I don't think I'll record an album or give a concert with purely instrumental music. It's boring. I can't express myself without vocals.

Burnn: The band did surprisingly well on the Rainbow songs on this tour.

RB: Yes. Many Rainbow songs have good melodies. 'Sixteenth Century Greensleeves', 'Temple Of The King', 'Ariel'... they're all melodic enough for Candace. In general, she manages to sing Deep Purple songs, but I don’t want to. At one show we played "Smoke On The Water", some fans liked it, but others started asking: "Why are you doing this?".

Burnn: Fans always have their own opinion. Yngwie Malmsteen recently asked me to tell you, "Tell Richie to get Ronnie back in the band."

RB: If he promises to go to each of our concerts, then I can bring Ronnie back (laughs). Then convey to him my request: "I beg you, play more slowly."

Burnn: I will! Did you decide on your own which songs you would play live, or did you discuss it with Candice?

RB: When I was preparing for the Blackmore's Night concerts, I realized that we have about ten ballad songs on the album, but not fast enough songs. That's why I wrote the song "Under A Violet Moon". At first I planned to play the whole album. But some songs, like "Ocean Gypsy", were too slow, so I dropped them.

Burnn: Is that why you only performed "Wish You Were Here" once?

RB: Right. "Spirit Of The Sea" is also slow, so we only played it twice. As for Rainbow songs, Candice could sing "Catch The Rainbow" but she's also slow. Therefore, I decided to use more lively compositions.

Burnn: I associate Sixteenth Century Greensleeves with Ronnie's powerful vocals, and I wasn't sure how Candace would handle that song. But her voice fit into the song. Did you have any doubts about this?

RB: I love the way she sings it in a duet with Jessie. Songs can be played in different ways. It is not necessary to sing assertively to convey the same emotions.

Burnn: Were there any other Rainbow songs in rehearsals that you had to turn down?

RB: She tried singing some Deep Purple songs, back on the Deep Purple tour in Germany, I was surprised how well she did Deep Purple stuff. When I heard that, I laughed, not because it was bad, but because it sounded great. She captured every nuance. If we started playing these songs live, they would sound very good and perky. Her soft voice is perfect for "Perfect Strangers", it's one of my favorite songs and I even thought about including it in the program, but then I decided that it would be too much and I was afraid that it might damage her voice, so I decided not to do.

Burnn: Is Candice's voice less likely to dry out compared to the rock singers you've worked with before?

RB: No, you have to take care of the condition of her voice. In fact, she is sick now, so if there was a concert today, she would not be able to sing. That's why I was so worried. In the future, you should try to arrange tours no longer than two weeks. I'd rather put the tour on hold if the vocalist loses her voice so she can get her voice back. So it was with Joe. Worst of all was Ian Gillan. He always lost his voice after two weeks on tour.

Burnn: And David Coverdale?

RB: He was good. At first, he was often out of tune, which worried me a little, but over time he began to sing better. But now a lot of people say that he lost his voice again, so I don't know what's wrong with him (laughs).

Burnn: By the way, on tour I was struck by how well you play acoustic guitar. You must have been doing a lot.

RB: Yes, for the last two years I've been playing mostly acoustic. For me, this is a big challenge. This is probably why my finger started hurting. Acoustic is much more difficult to play than electric guitar. When I went to the doctor to consult about the finger, he asked himself: “You have been playing the guitar for 35 years, why are you only now having problems?”. I think that's the point.

Burnn: Playing unplugged instruments has come into vogue lately, but few rock players have mastered the acoustic guitar as well as you.

RB: That's a big compliment for me. The transition to acoustics was not easy for me. In some ways it is very different from the electric guitar. The strings on an electric guitar are much easier to pick, so it's easier to play fast, but on an acoustic it's much more difficult because of the high scale. You won't be able to play some tricks on acoustics, but the possibilities that it opens up when you learn to play it justify everything.

However, it is still unusual for me to stand on stage without jumping from place to place to turn on the audience. When I stand on stage with an acoustic guitar, I get very nervous. It's like I'm in my soul and people are looking at me. It's like I'm performing naked in front of everyone. For me, this is something new. Running around the stage was much easier.

Burnn: Jimmy Page loves acoustics too. How do you rate Led Zeppelin, who were often compared to Deep Purple in their time?

RB: In my opinion, Jimmy Page came up with a lot of interesting riffs in this band. "Kashmir" and "When The Levee Breaks" sounded very interesting. But I've never been such a big fan of Led Zeppelin, although I respect them.

Burnn: Is there any rock guitarist that you consider to be especially outstanding right now?

RB: I used to listen to a lot of rock 'n' roll guitarists, so I don't listen to them much anymore. But Eric Johnson is very good. Against his background, many seem mediocre. He's very natural, I've seen him in concert, he doesn't rely on tricks at all. This is real craftsmanship. And he can do tricks if he wants to. I was very impressed.

Burnn: You once said that Vanilla Fudge and Mountain inspired Deep Purple.

RB: I liked that Vanilla Fudge played eight-minute versions of the songs and didn't try to be commercially successful. And before them, no one had such vocal harmonies. When we first formed the band, we tried to create music in the spirit of Vanilla Fudge. And Tim Bogert was a great bass player.

Mountain was the first band to have a very dirty guitar sound. Even Jimi Hendrix admired Mountain. After Mountain, there were bands like Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin that tried to imitate them. I really like Leslie West's acting. He also did not rely on tricks, but played with his soul. They had wonderful songs "Theme From An Imaginary Western" and "For Yasgur's Farm" which had the wonderful voice of Felix Pappalardi.

Burnn: Don't you think that if you had a bass player like Tim Bogert in your band, you would have a hard time with him?

RB: Right. I know Tim, but I would never work with him (laughs). He's interesting to watch, but I'd go crazy if I was in the same group with him. But he's a great bass player.

Burnn: There are a lot of Cozy Powell fans in Japan who dream of you working with him again. What do you think of it?

RB: He's a tough guy. Will he read this article (laughs)? Cozy is a very aggressive, direct drummer, and that's too much for me (laughs). I prefer quieter drummers, so his way of playing really annoys me. That's why we don't work together anymore.

Burnn: Out of all the drummers, was Ian Paice the most comfortable for you?

RB: Well, as drummer it was the easiest with him, but he hates melodies. He cannot stand them and does not understand other musicians with this (laughs). I don't think he understands why songs need more than one chord. For him, the drum part is the most important thing. In second place is the drum set, and in third place is its sound (laughs). Believe it or not, he knows nothing but drums. Cozy was not like that at all, he always listened to melodies, adored melodic music. But Ian has nothing to do with that. It's strange - when there are three chords in a song, he already thinks it's too much (laughs). Why change chords?

Ian Paice and I met in Hamburg. I said that I would contact him when I got the group together. And a year later I invited him to the group. He's a good drummer, but when it came to melodies, he always annoyed me. He constantly bothered Jon Lord and me. Jon and I loved melodic music, and when we wrote something melodic, he would go, "Hey, that's bullshit again."

But he has a good sense of swing. I prefer jazz drummers over rock and roll drummers. In rock, I really like drummer John Micelli, who played with us on our recent US tour. He is the best rock and roll drummer I have ever worked with. In general, he likes jazz drummers more, and he is not familiar with the old rock and roll.

© BURRN Magazine, Japan - November 1997 issue