Inside The House Of The Blue Light
If you could worm your way inside anyone's house for a nose around, there couldn't be many more people worth spying on than enigmatic Deep Purple guitarist RITCHIE BLACKMORE, famed for his moodiness and reclusive lifestyle. PETE MAKOWSKI managed to track him down to his Connecticut home for a conversation about the man's personality, his music and his lifestyle.
Wherever Ritchie Blackmore lays his proverbial hat he makes sure he feels at home and you'll always find a grand atmosphere designed to convey a feeling of homeliness and spookiness; almost an accurate reflection of the man himself.
Blackmore loves Britain and Germany, he enjoys playing football (real and table) and many other sports; historically he has leanings towards the medieval era and is also obsessive about the music of that time. His latest piece of property is set in the leafy, almost pastoral glades of Connecticut, outside New York, and although fairly new looks like it was designed from the original plans of a Victorian mansion, embodying everything that Ritchie loves about Olde Worlde England.
"The place is named 'Baskerville Hall' after that well known Sherlock Holmes novel Hound Of The Baskervilles' by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who is an author I greatly admire."
The man in black revealed this interesting snippet of information via a crackly phone line. He and the rest of Purple are due to arrive shortly in Britain to lay down the finishing touches to a live album scheduled for an April release.
"The place I live in now is pretty impressive," the man beamed proudly, "it also seems to scare the f**k out of the neighbours - they keep away, which is the way I like it!"
Although this may seem like a pretty antisocial attitude, readers must be aware that, although a rather shy and retiring person offstage, Ritchie gets enough limelight when Deep Purple are on the road and therefore likes to choose the visitors who are welcome at 'Baskerville' and those who he'd like to avoid.
"I can imagine that some of the Deep Purple fans see me as some kind of miserable hermit who spends half his time locked away in a dark room, sitting in the middle of a pentogram chanting or something similar... Well, they're half right! (Laughs) No, seriously, I meet enough shallow arseholes when we're touring, and, and as the media already knows I'm not particularly fond of showbiz types. All my friends are down-to-earth people. I go out to a lot of gigs because I love jamming and have many friends who are musicians on a much smaller level. In fact, some of these musicians possess a lot more enthusiasm and dedication than quite a few of the bigger stars. I found quite a few players for Rainbow in little clubs around New Jersey".
In truth Blackmore is not as mean 'n' moody as many perceive him to be.
"People just like to stick a tag on you, it's convenient for music writers to put musicians in little compartments when most of us have many facets to our characters. Onstage I can be a maniac or I can walk off without doing an encore, and already you'll have seen two different sides of me. The fact is this; if I can't give you an accurate description of myself how the hell can anyone else think they know me unless they're psychiatrists or something like that.
Sure, I'm quite a moody person, most creative people are. But then again when surrounded by close friends I become a completely different animal. I love playing football so one day you'll find me out and about kicking leather or throwing the javelin and the next day I may be hidden away somewhere practising my cello. One night I could be down in my bar drinking German beer and having a joke and a laugh with some mates, the next I could be sitting by myself in the library drinking a bottle of my favourite German wine. Everybody goes through changes; it just so happens that if you're a well-known personality you find that a lot of people seem keen on finding out what makes you tick. If I knew the answer to that one I could earn a fortune!" (laughs).
The last time I saw Ritchie in the flesh he told me how much he would love to organise the reconstruction of a Medieval Fayre. "That's still very much a pipedream," he says wistfully, "but who knows, some day in the future when I'm confined to my rocking chair, it may come to fruition. No, but seriously, doing something like that, it has to be done properly or not at all, and getting something together like that would take a lot of organisation.
"It would have to be an accurate reproduction of one of those parties that Henry VIII had. That would freak the neighbours out!"
When I asked Ritchie about the live album and Deep Purple's plans for the future, it sounded as though everything was still in its formative stages. However, one thing that I am able to reveal is that the record will feature two completely new tracks. On a live presentation front, I'm also as sured that Purple are nowhere near drying up and there are some spectacular ideas up their sleeves show-wise. Whatever happens, this looks like being yet another successful twelve months in the life of our mysterious axe hero and his bunch of merry henchmen.
© Pete Makowski, Metal Hammer - February 15, 1988