Crash Magazine Interview
Long ago was it that the eccentric Ritchie Blackmore, world-renowned guitarist from Deep Purple and inspiration for a whole army of young guitarists, a real interview consented, not only a brief commentary on the latest LP, but a conversation of a personal nature! A conversation about the life and music! CRASH! has made it. Read exclusively here, what Anders Tengner learned from master.
Many will think he's an odd ball. Maybe they are right. But that does not change his existence as a living legend. And living legends are often rumored they are extremely eccentric - are they not?
What I noticed immediately with Ritchie Blackmore is his intelligence, alertness and cleverness. Usually the man in black is more introverted and aloof, but when I sat with him for three hours and we had some beers, all this mystery about him suddenly disappeared....
Crash: How would you summarize the three years since the Deep Purple comeback?
Ritchie: These three years have been very varied. I'm happy again with Deep Purple, because there are professionals. They don't make the nonsense rants like the 21 year old newcomer musicians do. In Rainbow sused to sing a certain Joe Lynn Turner. He left no gag out, he behaved so kindish, only to be noticed. On stage he has just a poser. He wanted to steal himself the show.
With Purple it's not like that. We have a code, which states that each band member plays his part as his best and no one tries to steal the show of another band member. This code will be observed and respected by all of us. For example, if I play a solo, Jon will put off his keyboards and Ian will disappear from the stage. If Jon Lord does his solo, the rest of the bands will leave the stage, so Jon is in the spotlight. When Ian sings a particular piece, we play a little quieter.
Each member of Rainbow was on his own. When I was playing a solo in Rainbow, Joe Lynn Turner did not go off the stage, but went to the fans to shake hands. So he stole the show himself. I had some pretty sour times. He was quite new to the band. But I later took revange on him. When the spotlight was on him, I just started playing solos and even shook the hands of the fans in the first rowss. I must have behaved pretty stupid. We were like two little babies...
With Deep Purple this does not happen. We do not destroy hotel rooms anymore, like these new bands do today. We have done something like that twenty years ago. The new groups will think if their idols smashed hotel rooms and bars, they should do it too...
In Deep Purple we are looking for meaningful things and if we find none, we just do nothing! Another typical example for some new bands: They will host a press conference and there is a cold buffet. You know what will happen. They will throw the food through the room, or what ever throw around, and think, "This is original. We are the greatest." My God, this is all so boring ...
These are reasons I'm not so happy to be part of the rock'n'roll and it keeps me away often from such events. If I'm not on stage, I rather talk about gardening or prefer psychology, but never oabout R'n'R!
I would also never hang around with these crazy-looking musicians in bars like 'The Rainbow' in LA. They onyl want to know what I use for strings or congratulate me on the new LP. But in reality, they think, "Good, your CD deos not sell anymore, because I want to sell more LPs ....."
All these people with the crazy clothes and dyed hair. You think I'm a snob because I do not talk to them. They think I would be a comical fellow, if I do not turn around when I had one of them tapped me on the shoulder .... I knock no one's shoulder! I try to stay away from the rock'n'roll life. Therefore, I also live in a small town in Connecticut. Most of my friends are roadies and ordinary people."
Crash: Do you think that the rock business is "wrong"?
Ritchie: "Yes, if you can be wrong, you're accepted in the rock business. I can not do it. That's one reason why I refuse sometimes encores. I can't be wrong. If I'm not happy with the audience happy, I do not want to play an encore. Encores have become so obligatory. The purpose of adding a sort of reward for the fans, is gone completely lost through hte times."
Crash: Is there a significant difference between Deep Purple in 1972 and 1987?
Ritchie: "I think we are still the old ones somewhat older, of course. No, we have not changed that much over the years. It's funny, almost boring...!
I'm always arguing with someone, Roger will always try to solve the problem, Ian will always leave the room and pour soemone beer on his head and Ian Paice, meanwhile, will always be either counting money, or watch horse races on TV.
One moment I agree with Ian Gillan, but we argue in the next! the same with Jon Lord. Ian Paice I hardly have disagreements with, I'm like him best."
Crash: Isn't it a burden, to be an influence for so many new guitarists?
Ritchie: "No, because I am me and the others make me into their model. It is not easy to always keep the same standard. When I played on Machine Head something really great, the next time I should do it even better... I don't like this pressure! So many people come to me and tell me: 'Oh, ten years ago, I thought you were really great because you played wonderfully!" But I know that I am now much better than I was ten years ago. The other musicians do not want to know that, because they themselves play in bands and see Deep Purple as a competitor. Therefore guitarists give as example 'Ritchie Blackmore ten years ago'..."
Crash: Have you ever tried to be better than others? Have you tried to be the best guitarist?
Ritchie: "This is a difficult question but I do not think so, but I'm not sure. Ofcourse I try to do my best, but in the end it is up to the people who decide who is good or not...
Yuo can not be the 'best guitarist'! There are many different aspects, according to which one can judge: A guitarist has a very good phrasing, another a great sound and a third writes very good songs....
There are too many guitar players and styles. Anyone who claims to be the best is crazy! They have no clue how to play guitar."
Crash: Do you think that particularly younger viewers understand at your shows, that there is a legend on stage?
Ritchie: "I don't know. I change my mind about it every day. I often see a lot of older guys in the crowd. It's our advantage. We prefer both! 13- to 15-year-old kids, as well as 35 years-olds, The young ones make a lot of noise, while the older ones just stand there and make absolutely no sound.
I personally like fans who listen! They are dearer to me than fans who go crazy only because one has that feeling. You play for a bunch of idiots who are totally drunk!"
Crash: How is it these days with your relationship to your home country, England?
Ritchie: "I have a good relationship with my native southern England. To northern England, I basically have no special relationship, although we there have the most fans. A common hobby for all Englishmen is to complain about everything under the sun. One day I was sitting with my American girlfriend Tammy in the car, as a fan arrived, he said: 'Ey, Ritchie, normally I would have asked for an autograph, but because I know that you do only make music for the money I don't do it!" Tammy asked me then if that was now a fan. I replied: 'Yes, but it was an English fan, he likes me and my music, but he thinks I have too much money ...'
It is extremely difficult to understand the English - unless you're one yourself. If I'm in America, I also constantly complain. Tammy then asks me why I'm upset again and I answer: 'Look at the crazy people on TV. All ran after an egg and wear helmets (he talks about American football).' What the hell is that shit?
One said once: 'The Americans love to talk and talk ...' They love American football. because there's three and a half seconds, and then action is the commentator starts talking and talking. Then the viewers begin to speak, to talk and talk. Next, they talk about the two football teams, it takes the whistle from the judge and a half seconds followed by action. Then again begins to everyone to... talk. That is fun for them!"
Crash: Your relationship to the English press is not the best...
Ritchie: "And, you know why? Because they make us always bad, they are not very interested, see what they write. They want only rumors and nonsense when we perform in England, it's always the same. 'Oh, these old men just play rock music. It's a shame. And Jon Lord shall return to a boring solo, and they're all sooo ugly...' Do you think something annoys us? Not a bit! In an article they even once said, I wear a wig. I mean, what's this?"
Crash: Yeah, the thing with the wig has caused quite a stir...
Ritchie: "I've noticed the 'Ritchie Blackmore is wearing a wig, he is 41 years old, maybe he has a wooden leg and possibly his mother was a whore...' I wonder why the press published such things. What is the sense? Do you understand now why I hate the English press? "
Crash: Musically seen Deep Purple is still with the best. Have you sometimes found it difficult to write new songs?
Ritchie: "No, is not. If I am feeling good, I just go into the studio and play one of a few ideas that we develop later together.
But there is the problem of repetition, if we write new songs. Roger and I play something, often you have the idea that you played it before. If you can't remember when or what it was, you think you're going insane."
Crash: You claim to be a moody man. What annoys you most when you are on tour?
Ritchie: "I hate it when fans throw objects on the stage, I absolutely do not understand why some people have to throw objects at a concert. After the third song I always start to look at the audience as if I hear annoying noises.... it makes me mad. I can suddenly not concentrate anymore because of such trifles. If I'm at a concert does not play well, I'll find something to complain about. If I'm on stage I think a lot too. I can not do anything against that."
Crash: What is the perfect concert for you?
Ritchie: "A concert with high musical performance, the audience is in my opinion not at all a factor to the success of a concert. A loud audience drown out musical weaknesses. The perfect concert for me, is when a band live also one hundred percent plays!"
Crash: What is your opinion on your two comeback albums, "Perfect Strangers" and "The House of Blue Light", are you satisfied?
Ritchie: "I'm pretty happy with them, the LPs are okay, I don't listen myself to them any longer, I like the second one better. I like every song..."
Crash: Do you miss Rainbow now and then?
Ritchie: "Yeah, sometimes I miss the total control that I had with Rainbow. I had become accustomed during the eight Rainbow years very much, and now I'm again a member of an equal band, it's a completely new feeling. What I miss are especially the songs "Maybe Next Time" and "Since You Been Gone." Those were great songs. My favorite number though is "Snowman"."
Crash: Deep Purple music is -mistakenly- often seen as 'Heavy Metal'....
Ritchie: "We are really no HM Band We play hard rock. Simple hard rock with symphonic bits. HM leaves me personally completely cold. The music in general has become very synthetic. Whenever top-40 songs are on the radio, I switch it off. And refuge in classical music. Deep Purple plays hard rock with conviction. We are five good musicians and we love to play rock and roll!"
Crash: Have you ever feared that your comeback could not last long?
Ritchie: "First not, but in the mean time... First we thought, we are simply Deep Purple. We play like we are. We asked ourselves whether we wanted to be commercial and opted for a 'No'. Good, that we were able to sell with our style still many LPs. I mean, it would be not difficult for us to produce hit songs. But we want to keep true to ourselves. So we did not do it. It was very refreshing to hear "Bad Attitude" of our new LP on American radio. I was very proud when I heard it. It seems as if people checked that we do what we want. And if they will continue to accept, I've no more worries. "
Crash: With Rainbow you were in the end commercial. Did that really came from the heart?
Ritchie: "Yes I like also good commercial songs. My favorite band always was Jethro Tull.
I also liked ABBA. They had great songs. I always dreamed of Agnetha the blonde. She interpreted the songs in a way that appealed to me much. It always sounded like a lonely girl. I know that feeling and I had that in any other band.
I can not get that feeling from Michael Jackson - certainly not!"
Crash: To finish, what would have disastrous consequences for Deep Purple?
Ritchie: "If all the bars in the world would be closed for a week. Anything else would be no reason for the split up of the band..."
Crash: So you see yourself for the next, say five years, with Purple?
Ritchie: "I don't think so. My ultimate desire is to play in a Renaissance music group from the 15th and 16th century...
I would like to organize a large gathering for musicians who are interested in the Renaissance era, where there's making music, where you look at medieval story telling and even dressed in the style of this era is. I plan something and eventually it will also be realized..."
Crash: And if that happens, what would happen with Deep Purple?
Ritchie: "Well, that will be the end of Deep Purple. Then we'll disappear...."
Anders Tengner, Crash Magazine, Germany - May 1987
[Translated from German language]