Roger Glover & Ritchie Blackmore
''ROCK'N'ROLL is the perfect art which conceals art, that satisfying spontaneity which can be achieved only by taking intense thought'' Kathleen Cleaver (paraphrased)
"A Wop Bop Alu Bop A Wop Bam Boom!!!" Little Richard
DEEP PURPLE are back in business; YEAHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
On the eve of the release of the new 'live' album, 'Nobody's Perfect' I talked to Roger Glover and Ritchie Blackmore.
RG: "Made In Japan" was initially only supposed to be available in Japan, in those days, live albums were something we approached with due caution, especially as we had been bootlegged a lot and most of the bootlegs were total crap! There's some good ones out now, in fact I've been a bit of a collector of late (laughs), anyway 'that's besides the point... when we did 'MIJ' we only agreed to do the record if we had total control, we mixed it and if we didn't like it, it doesn't come out. So we recorded it, on very primitive equipment may I add, Martin Birch flew over to do it.
We recorded three dates, and I remember the first date everyone in the band was very aware that they were being recorded and we played very woodenly. The second night was where most of the tracks came from; the second night was in Osaka. We did one further night in Tokyo, and I think one or two tracks came from that... but that was a bit of a wild night! When we got back to Britain we were blown away with the quality of the whole thing and it was only then, after we mixed it that we decided that we wanted it out worldwide.
And looking back on it I think that 'MIJ' was the key to Purple's success in the States, because although 'Machine Head' had gone gold, it wasn't until 'MIJ' came out that the live version of 'Smoke On The Water' went to the top of the charts.
That was the year that Billboard gave us an award for selling more albums than anyone, I'm not just talking rock bands... I mean anyone! And it's incredibly ironic that all this happened at the same time that DP fell apart."
PM: There's absolutely no doubt that 'MIJ' was and still is a historic live album, apart from the obvious reasons why do you think this is so?
RG:The reason why it was THAT good had nothing to with the way it was recorded or anything, it was because it captured the band at its prime. And as every band member will tell you, you have periods when you're playing well and equally times when you're not so hot. Some gigs are good, some are bad- hopefully even the duff ones are good enough. I think even when Purple are on their lowest form we put on a reasonable show .... we hope (laughs). But there's always those nights when you come off and think 'wow, what a great gig! The audience was fantastic, the hand played great the sound was good and everyone had a good time and you think wow, I wish I had recorded that!' Then again Ian Gillan has a completely different point of view, as far as he's concerned live performances are live performances and should be left that way... he's really not in favour of live albums."
PM: That reminds me of a film I saw called 'Diva' where there's this opera singer whose shows are amazingly popular and she's getting all this pressure to do a live album but she adamantly refuses because her feelings are that the magic of live shows can never be captured on plastic, because it's all about a magic between the audience and the performer.
RG: Yeah, I know the film you're talking about, and that's how Ian feels about the whole thing. In fact he, never listened to 'MIJ' until one night I forced him to hear what he contributed.
PM: Moving into the present, how did the idea for 'Nobody's Perfect' come about?
RG:I guess it all started towards the end of the sessions for 'The House Of Blue Light' my idea for it, as a producer was that we should go somewhere and write all the songs and then do some gigs in small clubs and play the songs in.' Cause we always seem to write material in the studio and once we perform live, there's a problem. That's why the act didn't change for so long, cause all the new songs we did on, for example 'Who Do We Think We Are' didn't translate to the live arena very well.
PM: Who Do We Think We Are is a very studio orientate album.
RG; "Exactly, and I've always thought that the band is at it best when its playing live, especially now. That's when the spontaneity happens, that's when the magic happens. In the studio I think we tend to get a bit of red light fever. Anyway that was my idea for 'The House Of Blue Light', it didn't work out that way. I really tried to convince the band that this was the route to go, but we went the usual studio route and although I think 'HOBL' is a good album, it does miss certain Purple trade marks, so when we did the tour, I insisted that we had a 24 track mobile studio with us to record every gig. Normally when you record a live album there's a huge mobile truck out the back, a bunch of technicians wondering around, mike leads everywhere and it's one great big pain in the neck when you're trying to do a gig that night and, also there's the fact that everybody's aware that it's being recorded so that everybody plays very woodenly. My idea was to have a 24 track with us, all the time, so that we got used to it and forgot about it, which is in fact what happened. By the end of the tour we had tapes of 20 concerts that we kept, that's 40 eighty inch reels. So I had a whole load of stuff to go through and extract the best performances, and think it paid off really well. Because after a few shows the band did forget the shows were being recorded and everyone relaxed.
I was very aware that 'Made In Japan' was considered an important album, a classic in its way or whatever and I was aware that of all of the people who buy are records, there's a large proportion who are just across the board rock fans and then there's the die-hard Purple fans and they're the people I care about. If we'd have gone into the studios with these tapes and overdubbed guitar, drums etc or whatever it took to make it sound super it wouldn't have been true to the faith. I'm just a great believer that in live we're at our best, I'd be hypocritical if I over dubbed new vocals or new solos. So I did my utmost to keep the album as honest as possible.
PM: Which makes the title 'Nobody's Perfect', all that more relevant.
RG: Yeah right! I don't think people want perfection, I think they want the magic of the night. They want the feel of the night. It doesn't matter if it's out of tune here or there or if they've missed a riff, in fact that adds to it, it gives it character. 'Made In Japan' was a hundred percent honest album and this one is ninety nine point five percent. I admit to taking certain segments from one night and sticking it in another show.
PM: What's the difference in the sound of the band then and now?
RG: I think we play better now, obviously then we had a lot of fire that we probably don't have now as a band. Purely technically we're playing better than we did then. It's interesting to listen to the older songs and listen to the performance we put in now, they've tightened up a lot and probably got a lot faster. lf you listen to 'Smoke On The Water' from 'MIJ' and then from 'Nobody's Perfect' or 'Nobody's Purple' as we call it, it's different enough to warrant a place on the album, I was initially quite concerned about putting too much of the old stuff on this album.
PM: I'd like to do a brief track by track run down and talk some more after, kicking off with the classic opener 'Highway Star'.
RG: OK, It would be very difficult to have a deep Purple live album without making 'HS' the opening track. Originally 'Highway Star' was written on a bus going down to Portsmouth to play a gig. Our opening song until then was 'Speed King' and we were getting fed up with that so we wrote 'Star' and debuted it the same night! In fact I've seen MTV clips of us performing 'Highway Star' before we recorded it and it's kinda interesting to see how it evolved. Actually 'Speed King' evolved in the same way, we performed that a good eight months before we ever recorded it, which is why I wanted us to do some small shows before taking any of the material into the studio for the 'House Of Blue Light'.
PM: I'm surprised to see that 'Speed King' isn't on the album. Why's that?
RG: We don't do it very often live. The fact is that we couldn't record every song, it's as simple as that.
PM: Next, 'Strange Kinda Woman', that originally was one of your hit records, was it intentionally composed as chart fodder?
RG: I think that it probably was although I'm sure that we denied it at the time. It was the follow up to Black Night' and that was a massive hit for us. In fact we were following a huge hit album and were writing 'Fireball' at the time, so we were under a lot of pressure to produce a hit. We wrote the song down in Devon at a house called The Hermitage, it was a mad time... lots of hauntings going on and seances - a great period in Purples history and 'Strange Kinda Woman' was written there, in fact I've still got tapes of the first ever jam from which that song came from, and it didn't really chance from the jam. I have a collection of classic tapes revealing how songs were born and great jams that will never be released on album but maybe with a little more work on them they may see the light of day. But I don't think thats the kind of thing we should do while the band is alive and kicking.
PM: 'Perfect Strangers'
RG: 'Perfect Strangers is the best song we've written since our reunion, as far as I'm concerned. I'm very proud of that song. I think as good as the studio version was, the live version is great. 'Perfect Strangers' to me, is my favourite song to play live and the audience reaction is always great.
PM: 'Hard Loving Woman'
RG: That's another number that could've done with an outing before we went into the studio with it, it's pure pumping rock and roll, another good song to play live.
PM: 'Bad Attitude'
RG: 'Bad Attitude' is probably the hardest song for us to do live for some reason. Again I think it's better live than the studio version and its a song that really does suffer from translation from the studio to stage.
PM: 'Knocking At Your Back Door'
RG: The running order on the album pretty much the same as the gig, since we tend to build an emotion through the show they should do that on record also.
PM: 'Child In Time'
RG: Uhh, not Ian's favourite. I think it's one of the other classic songs that Purple wrote along with 'Smoke On The Water'. Fabulous lyrics, that's pretty much all Ian- nowadays the writing is spread fifty-fifty, occasionally still one of us will come up with the whole idea, for example 'Wasted Sunset' is all mine whereas Child In Time'' is all Ian Gillan and too me. They feature some of his best lyrics.
PM: Next up we have two more all time Purple classics: 'Lazy' and 'Space-Trucking'
RG: To be honest I don't think the version of 'Space Trucking' on the album is one of our best moments. The best one of that was recorded in Phoenix, in fact a lot of the performances come from our shows in Phoenix which is the night that Ritchie broke his finger and you can actually hear the moment it happens during 'Space Trucking', because of that we couldn't use what I considered to be the best version. Normally when something goes wrong Ritchie is renowned for storming off the stage, he's not one to hang around if things are not working. This gig not only did he finish the song but he came back on and did an encore! And that just goes to show that Phoenix was a magic gig for us.
PM: You're five quite diverse characters, can you tell when you're going to play a good show?
RG: I'm the eternal optimist, I think that every show's going to be great. I will it to be great. Most nights I go on with a positive attitude and say 'yeah, it's going to be great tonight' while Ritchie will say 'no it's not!' and a lot of times he's right. But I never know if it was lousy because he kinda willed it that way, or if it's natural. One night I went up to Ritchie I said 'I think I'm nervous tonight' and Ritchie surprised me by saying 'I'm nervous every night'.
PM: 'Black Night'
RG: It's one of those songs I love the way that song was born. It happened one night in the studio after we finished 'Deep Purple In Rock' and the management were screaming for a single, because there wasn't an obvious single on the album. So we thought that we'd humour them, because we never thought of ourselves as a singles band. We spent a whole afternoon trying to get a riff and nothing happened. Round 7.30 we decided to go down to the pub and stayed there until closing time and came back to the studio completely drunk whereupon Ritchie picked up the guitar and started playing what was to become 'Black Night' and we said 'yeah, that sounds great let's do that'.
PM: Where did the riff to 'Black Night' originally come from?
RG: I'Il probably get into trouble now for revealing our dark secrets. I think it came from Ricky Nelson's version of 'Summertime', it doesn't sound anything like the record but that's where the inspiration came from, I can trace a lot of the original influences with songs.
PM:'Woman From Tokyo'
RG: Never really made it live, it's appeared on one of the various compilations before and in brackets it says live version which was baloney because we never did it live! We only started doing after the reunion.
PM:'Smoke On The Water' is another number that can either be great live or a total disaster!
RG: I think 'Smoke On The Water' is the biggest song that Purple will ever have and there's always a pressure to play it, and it's not the greatest live song, it's a good song but you sorta plod through it. The excitement comes from the audience. And there's always the apprehension that Ritchie isn't gonna want to do it, 'cause he's probably fed up with doing it.
RG:'Hush' is the Bette Noire of this album. I don't know where the idea first came from. It started with various members of the band and the record company, we haven't been able to get to the bottom of it, but the idea behind it was that it was virtually 20 years ago to the month that we first released it. I was convinced that it was pointless trying to do a version of 'Hush'. We played what we had been working on and the original version was much better, I mean it sounds, like an old record but you can't take away from the fact the band sound like they're having tons of fun; loose but tight at the same time. At this point I was convinced that 'Hush' was the wrong thing to do, shouldn't bother to try it. Then we came into the studios one night after a few pints and it was one of those nights in the studio that happens all to rarely where the band had fun together. And Ian Gillan came in with a great attitude.
PM: I heard Ian was reluctant to get involved in the project.
RG: Ian was reluctant about doing the live album, it was only when he heard the tapes. Anyway back to 'Hush' Ian got this attitude and took charge, wrapped the microphone around his leg which is no mean feat I can tell you! Stuck his fist in the air and galvanised the band. We did one take of it and it was great, it wasn't perfect by any means, it speeded up and slowed but it felt great. We had a couple more tries after that but it didn't have the magic of the first take and that's what's on the album. Everything that's on there is live, except for a guitar overdub. By this time the band were into doing everything live, Ritchie went for a solo and wasn't concerned about the studio surroundings that would normally inhibit him. The release of this album is perfect timing for us because 'The House Of Blue Light' was disappointing, it did OK, it would have been nicer to have a bigger hit with it. It misses that trade mark associated with Deep Purple which this live album, has written all over it, this is real Deep Purple, this is a definitive statement like 'Made In Japan' was a statement about the band in '72, that was the state of the band, this is the state of the union address.
PM: So next immediate plans?
RG: We're going to be doing a small tour, we were going to be doing a couple of big summer gigs, but the 'Monsters Of Rock' fell through. So we put the word out to promoters and the response has been fantastic which is how the mini tour came together.
PM: Final question; putting all the obvious bullshit aside do you still enjoy playing live?
RG: Absolutely! Probably more than ever!
Can't say fairer than that! Roger Glover has always been a verbose and prolific artist always with a strong opinion unlike Ritchie Blackmore who is renowned for his reticence when it comes to press interviews. By the time to read this Deep Purple will have done a Press Conference in a castle at Frankfurt to announce the release of 'Nobody's Perfect' and as Ritchie Blackmore probably won't be present although, he will be somewhere in the vicinity. What you are about to read is a METAL HAMMER EXCLUSIVE which Ritchie did out of friendship (which spans over a decade) and also he invited me to stay at the castle with him, which means readers of MH will get another EXCLUSIVE view of the whole press charabanc. Anyway rather than boring you guys to tears with my opinions of themaninblacks genius let's get on with the interview.
PM: We've never done a phone interview before.
RB: I know they're horrendous, can't you just make it up?
PM: Absolutely not! This reception for the album at Frankfurt sounds like fun.
RB: It should be we're all going to be wearing costumes and silly stuff like that.
PM: Will the band be playing?
RB: No, but there'll be some wandering minstrels.
PM: This all sounds vaguely like the renaissance fair idea you were talking about the last time we spoke.
RB: I know what you mean but this wasn't my idea, funnily enough, the record company might have read about it and thought 'what a good idea' and decided to follow it up. I'm sure the band are convinced that it's my idea.
PM: Are you all actually going to dress up?
RB: Yup, I should imagine that Ian (Gillan) will probably dress up as a nun (laughs).
PM: Getting onto the album. how did 'Hush' come out?
RB: We did it in one take and kept it. Initially it was strange because Ian didn't know the melody and we didn't know if it was in the right key for him, we just played it basically how we used to do it and Gillan joined in with a bottle of scotch and we thought "yeah, that sounds good" and Paicey wanted to do it again and again and we did it three or four times and me and Roger thought that it wasn't sounding as good as the first version, the first one was completely spontaneous... so we just kept the-first one. Initially there were mixed feelings in the band, certain parties were saying why are we doing this? I thought it was a good idea because we never had a studio version of something live sounding. We had a crack at 'Black Night' too, but that didn't work out.
PM: With 'Hush' it must have been strange because both Ian and Roger weren't on the original versions.
RB: That's right and at first I thought Ian might feel a bit strange about it, but he was well up for it and did a great job.
PM: Are you going to start playing it live?
RB: I doubt it.
PM: What's the difference between MADE IN JAPAN and NOBODY'S PERFECT?
RB: MADE IN JAPAN was done really fast. I'm pleased with the new album because it shows how the band has improved, it's not like a re-hashed MADE IN JAPAN; NOBODY'S PERFECT shows what Deep Purple are like twelve years later as far are playing ability goes. On tracks like 'Lazy' the playing is much better. We've learnt to paly better, at least I hope we have (laughs).
Originally we were going to go back into the studio and do another studio LP but there was a lot of outside pressure for us to record a live album, promote that and then go into the studios again.
PM: Are you talking about pressure from the record company?
RB: No, there was just a general opinion gathered from conversations with audiences and people in the know that people wanted to hear what we did live. A lot of people wanted to hear new versions of the classic songs, so we thought right we'll do this properly.
PM: Have you heard any of the new Malmsteen album?
PM: What do you think?
RB: I'm getting a bit tired of hearing guitarist flying up and down the fretboard, that gets really annoying after awhile. Joe Lynn Turner and Yngwie, there's a match made in heaven!
PM: Have you got any opinions on thrash music?
RB: Yeah, I don't like it. Everybody's trying to play as fast as they can.
PM: Also have you noticed that there's been a sudden revival in the interest of Zeppelin. Has that been happening in the States?
RB: I think that it's just a myth that Zeppelin are perpetuating. Everybody was interested until they reformed. They played at the Atlantic 40th birthday party the other day and they were just terrible. The drummer (Jason Bonham) was great but whoever mixed the sound ought to get shot. It wasn't really that they played bad, but the sound was so awful it was like it had been mixed at the BBC, the snare drum sounded like a corn flake packet. I was amazed that the band would let such low quality pass. We get offered those kind of shows and when people ask us if we're interested we always say only if we have total control of the sound. Then there's a bit of oohs and ahhs and a couple of days later it's all forgotten about. Somebody always wants to do the engineering on them, somebody tone deaf!
PM: Have you heard the Joe Satriani album?
RB: I've only heard one side, it's a bit like Yngwie, flying up and down the keyboard.
PM: There seems to be a lot of guitarists playing faster than the speed of light.
RB: Yeah, like I said it's really getting annoying, I don't know really what to say on the subject. I think these players are going through a phase. The trouble is that one guitarist will buy the other guitarists record, put it on the record player, slow it down, learn the licks and then play it faster and then he thinks he's better than that guy, because he can play the same lick faster. And then another guy comes along gets the other guys record and copies him and so on. It's beginning to become a joke. It's like quoting Shakespeare at 1,000 miles an hour. What's the point? It's like having a blow job in two seconds!
PM: Do you try an consciously try and avoid the six string race against time?
RB: Yeah, but it can be difficult because people come to shows expecting you to do the business, so I sometimes make a deliberate effort to play or go the other way. I sometimes think "I'm not going to play fast, because that's what everyone's expecting". Sometimes you can get caught in the middle, I just usually end up being myself anyway. I've noticed that's there's a gradual trend developing of people who want to hear notes. Like my old drummer from about 20 years ago used to say to me, let's hear some notes, fuck all those runs! I want to hear something that moves me!
© Pete Makowski, Metal Hammer - June 20, 1988
Photos: © George Bodnar