This interview were done on location by Tommy Vance in November 1984, when Purple were rehearsing for the world tour in Bedford, UK. They appeared on the B-side of the limited edition "Perfect Strangers"/"Knocking At Your Backdoor" 12" single.
Tommy Vance ran the Friday Rock Show from the late seventies to (I think) 1991 on BBC Radio One. Later it was moved to a Sunday evening slot, re-titled simply The Rock Show (with the catchphrase "TV on the radio!"). Tommy then left BBC for Virgin AM and VH-1.
Tommy Vance has been one of the oldest, most experienced broadcasters in British radio, starting out on pirate radio in the 60's, he's also done a stint as compere at Top Of The Pops, and last I heard he now works at VH-1. Great guy, big Purple fan, he always kept broadcasting BBC sessions and stuff in the 80's, plus he's the first guy Ian Gillan phoned up in April 1984 to tell about the reunion.
TV: In talking to all the other people in the band, it seems extremely apparent that the central person in the band is you. They all say, with a lot of respect, that you are, and indeed probably were, the driving force of Deep Purple from Day One. Is it going to hard for you to become part of a unit and to, if you like, subjugate your own natural instinct to be a total leader.
RB: Um... no, because I've had a long time in doing that, I've had 8 or 7 years with Rainbow. Being a leader is all very well but you have certain responsibilities, which I became very tired with. So this is very refreshing, the fact that I can just play and be a lead guitarist, instead of having all the responsibilities, and people coming to me saying: 'I want more money' and 'How come you're getting more press than I am'.
All those little quibblings that will go on within a band. If you have your own band it's not as nice as it might sound. So to me it's very refreshing to be able to be a fifth person in the band. I still have my way in certain areas, in certain directions, I suppose music being the most important. But when you have your own band you have total domination in any sphere whatever that comes around. But I prefer it to be just slight leadership in the musical area. That suits me fine.
TV: During the time that you were a leader of a band, what would you say were the greatest pressures that were put upon you. Were they financial, or were they surrounding yourself with people that would enable you as an individual to shine, or were you always searching for somebody who would be the perfect band member...
RB: The last one is probably closer to the mark. Financially, everybody has their problems, but I was always looking for somebody... I was looking for those people that I knew were out there, that were great musicians which never had exposure. And I was always looking for the perfect member of the band, which I never really found, because there isn't a perfect member. And I'm not the one to judge anyway from that point of view. Although I did judge, but I had to judge because If I didn't make the decision nobody else would.
TV: There's an amazing interplay, which I've always felt was apparent, between yourself and Jon Lord, which I think is still apparent on the current album [Perfect Strangers]. Is it something that you have found easy to reintroduce.
RB: I've noticed that at rehearsals, there's a chemistry there. There's a rapport between Jon and I in music because we both admire the classical scales, the classical foundation of music. (149k) I might play something that immediately sparks of something in his brain and he knows where I've pinched that from, where I've taken that certain little extract from. So he'll play it as well because he'll have fun and think: 'Ah yes! I know where you got that from.' And vice versa. Ten years ago, I found it very difficult to emulate Jon, so that's why I always led the improvisation. I would go off and improvise and he would copy me. Now I find that the more I play, I have acquired this musical way of knowing what he is going to play. So it's a nice balance, he can take the lead and I can copy him and vice versa. But as I said, in the early days it was more that I would take the lead because I wouldn't know how to copy him. But Jon is such an accomplished musician. I mean, you can go to the toilet and he can probably emulate that sound on his side, on the keyboards somehow -- he does it most nights. No, I'm only joking! It is very nice and it's very convenient some nights, especially when we don't know quite what we're playing, just to...one to play something and the other one to copy, and it always sounds very worked out and very organized, but in actual fact it's not. Jon is such an allrounder too, he has so much knowledge. Wherever I go, whatever particular area I go into, he knows where I'm going. So it's a nice chemistry in general.
TV: How many guitars have you demolished on stage?
RB: Um... Let me think... One, two, three...
TV: But you do believe in a show. It's evident the times that I've seen you, the times that everybody's seen you...
RB: That is the ultimate, to give the people their money's worth.It sounds very corny but I get most upset some nights when I feel that the sound or the lights are not up to par, and that's why I go into my proverbial moody... people saying: 'Oh, he's in a bad mood tonight, he's walked off.' I walk off in disgust because we can't come across to the public at a 100 percent of what we should do. Sometimes I can see the faces in the front row and you can tell that the people are not hearing the right monitor mix or they're not hearing the right PA mix. That really does bother me, I can't just go on stage and play and go: 'OK, we're making money and this is just another night.' Every night is special, but it's so difficult, you have so many... it's like winning the pools, there are so many things that can go wrong and usually they do.
TV: What sort of a show will people see when they see Deep Purple. What sort of 'visualization' will they get involved in. Will it be an enormous type of show say, like KISS, or will it be a sparse visualization?
RB: I would like to think it's a bit of both. Of course the music is the most important thing. We're rehearsing now... we'll rehearse for three weeks to get the music right. Then we'll rehearse for a week or two to get the lights right and the production. We could quite easily go over the top with the production, but I don't think that's what the kids want. They want a little bit of that, but in then end it's down to the artist.
TV: A lot of people have said that the probability is that Deep Purple will re-introduce 'taste' into rock music.
RB: I think that was probably said by the rest of the band. Who knows? What is taste? It's an opinion.
TV: Of all the guitar solos that have been recorded by you, which would you say is the one that you are happiest with.
RB: I really can't think offhand... I'm quite pleased with the solo work I did on this new song called "Under The Gun" [from Perfect Strangers]. That wasn't bad.
© Tommy Vance, BBC November 1984