Ritchie Blackmore

Rainbow's Riffmaster Rocks On

"There's a lot of competition out there but I'd like to thank the fans for remembering," says Richie, now touring with Rainbow. He planned to use free time to do some ghost-hunting in haunted inns and hold seances to communicate with spirits, and is thinking about putting together a book about haunted rock'n'roll places. "I'd like to perform on stage with a few ghosts," he says.

After a 13 year hiatus, guitar legend Ritchie Blackmore has revived Rainbow and is touring to support the band's latest release, Stranger in Us All. Ritchie, who plied his trade in Deep Purple from 1968 to 1975, went out on his own in Rainbow from that year through '84, when he rejoined Deep Purple for Perfect Strangers and stayed till '93, is now recommitted to Rainbow and plans to stay on the road with it into '97. Richie talked about his plans and more in a recent telephone interview.

G: Are you ready for the road? How long will the tour last?

R: Six to seven weeks. We just got back from Europe with the same act so we only have to rehearse for a few days.

G: How does this lineup compare to previous ones?

R: Very good. Of course I've had Chuck Burgi in the band before on drums, and Doogie White knows all the old material. He knows more than I do. He tells me what to play because I've forgotten.

G: You're doing a mix of old and new songs in the set?

R: That's right. We usually do three or four songs from the past and three or four from Deep Purple. It varies. We try to play "Perfect Strangers" and "Burn" and sometimes "Smoke on the Water" for an encore.

G: What is your relationship with Deep Purple now?

R: I left because I didn't like working with a band that was corporate rock, I didn't think they were going anywhere. Too much nostalgia. I was concerned with the way the singer was not singing. The rest of the band weren't particularly bothered by that but it really got to me. We were doing very good business but I felt we were ripping oft the people. I didn't feel what we were playing was honest.

G: You're more satisfied now?

R: That's right. People ask me how it feels to play smaller places. I don't mind at all as long as the music's honest and there are some people there to watch. And I make more money. With this lineup I'm very lucky to have Doogie White, he knows exactly what I want in a singer and combines all the good points of all the old singers as well as having his own style. He's so on the ball with knowledge of the old stuff.

G: There have been a lot of reunion tours of late, and they're doing well. Is that an indication of change in the music scene, in what people want?

R: I think so. I think the grunge thing was okay for a while but there were too many bands suddenly becoming grunge bands and it was dishonest It was saturation. Everybody is rebelling against everybody else and it doesn't mean anything anymore. I think it might go the full circle. It would be nice to see hard rock bands back with melodic content. What bothered me about the grunge bands was the dissonance coming from the singer. I always found that hard to take. I love melodies. What I'm doing now is very melodic. It's an acoustic project that involves my fiancee Candice and myself. It's loosely based on the music of the 1500s. Guitar, vocals, keyboards and all sorts of strange instruments

G: Do you write while you're on the road?

R: Hardly at all The road thing is every day survival.

G: How many guitars do you take on tour?

R: Usually about four. I usually use one on stage.

G: Practice every day?

R: Yes I do, but not scales. I do finger exercises and songs I've written.

G: How many guitars do you own?

R: Not as many as people think. I have about 12. I don't go endorsing everybody. I endorse Fender and Washburn and that's enough. My main one is Fender which I've played for 25 years. The others are acoustic. I'm a bit against that musical snobbery where people say, "The early Fenders were the best." I don't agree, some of the early Fenders had terrible necks. Fender made some excellent guitars in the '70s and '80s.

G: What do you love most about the guitar?

R Its shape. The guitar for me, when I was about 11, I was very introverted and I wanted something to relate to. I found I could express myself through it.

G: Did it bring you out of your shell?

R: Yes and no, I just went more into my shell with my guitar. Then I'd go on stage and be an extrovert.

G: Was that scary, the first time on stage?

R Yeah, that's when I'd start drinking. I still get nervous, as to whether I can pull out the sounds I want to hear and I get aggravated sometimes if we're playing places where the acoustics aren't right or the band isn't playing well. It's very hard for me to say "another dollar, another day,' unlike some people I know. You can only just cross your fingers and hope for the best. You never get a perfect show. You can come close, but there are too many variables. The electricity can go off or a string will break. But the audience is a lot more tollerant than I would think.

G: How old were you when you first started playing?

R: 11.

G: And when did you know you wanted to do it as a career?

R: 14. I used to play a thing called a dog box, in a local skiffle band. It's a piece of string on a broom handle that goes into a tea chest. I played in Chiselhurst Caves, it's ww miles of underground caves near London. I had the guitar then but I wasn't good enough to play so I played the dog box. I also had a washboard I played with thimbles.

G: Do you still have your first guitar?

R: No, I sold it to buy my second, and sold that to buy my third. I love to go to guitar shops and look in the windows I love the Duo Jet Gretsch. Now I could go and buy all the guitars I used to stare at when I was 15 but I'd rather stare through the window and take myself back to the feeling I had in the old days. I don't want to buy everything I'd like. I probably wouldn't play it, it would be on the shelf.

G: What players did you admire growing up, and who do you like now?

R: I started ott with people like Duane Eddy and Buddy Holly and Scotty Moore who played with Elvis Presley. Chris Gallup who played with Gene Vincent. Then I went to Django Reinhardt, a Gypsy from France who played very fast. Jimmy Bright and Stevie West. Wes Montgomery, but for a short time, I'm not a jazz fan. Shuggie Otis, blues players like that. Today I like some of the acoustic-electric players like Adrian Legg, Gordon Giltrap, blues players Coco Montoya, Jeff Healey. I think there was a period where everyone was playing speed and I wasn't too impressed with that, running up and down fingerboards doing Van Halen licks. Eddie Van Halen is a great guitar player but I don't like all the Eddie Van Halen clones.

G: What bands are you listening to?

R: King's X is very good. Probably too good for today's market I often see great bands who go nowhere and very bad bands who are all over TV.

G: Have any advice for guitarists?

R: Once you've learned two chords, get a very good lawyer to watch out for what contracts you sign. A lot of people don't know where their money is going.

G: What about creative advice?

R: Listen to everybody and steal from everybody and get your own style. Don't steal from just one person. State your case in one area. That's important. If you become a jack of all trades you don't usually succeed

© Gerri Miller, Metal Edge Magazine - February 1997