Ritchie Blackmore

Although The Battler Rages We Won't Kill Time

Interview with BURRN magazine - October 1993

Looking back - it's been 25 years since Deep Purple have formed...

Ritchie: When you say this, I just think: "Really?". Because I have worked constantly since 1968 on many things and time has passed so fast. When I turn on the TV, I sometimes see the old groups from the 60ies, like The Kinks or Rolling Stones, and I'm surprised to see that they are still out there making music, too. And on the other side, I'll be 50 in 2 years and I'm kind of striking with myself that I'll be 50 soon. It's a half century, you know! Maybe that explains why I have back problems, especially when I kick the ball around (laughs).

What do you think about this anniversary? Does it mean a lot to you or do you see it just as a small page in your career?

Ritchie: First and foremost, music is a hobby for me. So it's not a career in my eyes. As soon as I start to treat it all to seriously, it's starting to drive me crazy. Maybe I should sit down more often and just practise, but unfortunately, that's not me. I have been decorating my new home recently and I can't go into the studio and write new songs when I'm busy with things like that. I think of myself as a very ordinary person who just likes to play guitar and soccer. I think music is very similar to alcohol. In other words, when I want to go out and drink, I do it, but I can't do it all the time. I just do it when I want to and it's the same with the guitar. Of course, sometimes i feel guilty: "Maybe I should practise a little bit more?", but I can't force myself to do that. When I first started playing the guitar, I was obsessed for the first 12 years. But that was 36 years ago - now it's different. Back then I thought that I have to deal with the guitar constantly. Now, I just play it, when I think that I can express something on it to other people. To touch people with your playing is much more difficult than just doing some fast runs over and over again. Learning to touch the listeners and getting their attention is much more difficult. So when I feel, that I have nothing to say, I don't take up the guitar, so I'm honest with myself and do something else, like kicking the ball around. When the guitar becomes a "work", the music turns into a torture, but that has changed for me - so these days it's just a great pleasure for me to play.

Now the group is back with Ian Gillan on vocals. I've heard that the relationship between you and Ian is very bad. So how do you communicate?

Ritchie: We almost don't communicate. When we talk, it's just little things. When we sit down together at the table, Ian always sits far away from me.

I think that's not a very healthy situation for a group...?

Ritchie: Well, our communication is very limited. It's like: "Ian, how are you?". "Thank you, all is well." We are like two tigers in one cage. But we managed to do this record somehow. (laughs) I think we both respect each other, but Ian is not interested in me as a person and vice-versa. But when we get on stage, everything changes. He knows how to make me laugh on stage, but in overall, for me, Ian is a very boring person. I don't really know how to describe him. Perhaps he could be called a "rebel soul". We are both very quarrelsome since our school days. But he uses his aggressions in his lyrics and his singing. I'm a little bit different in that aspect. However, I will never forget this one joke he did on stage in Japan I think. He was introducing "Perfect Strangers" and said: "The next song is dedicated to the football team Perfect Street Rangers". (laughs)

I think he said that at the show in Knebworth in 1985, right?

Ritchie: How do you remember so fast?

Because I have a live-album from this concert.

Ritchie: Ah, okay. He did that joke in dependence on his favourite football team "Queens Park Rangers", but the audience didn't understand it.

I've heard Gillan saying it on the record, but I didn't get it, too.

Ritchie: But the funniest thing happened afterwards. He said: "That was a song called Perfect Street Rangers, and the next one is about..." We all thought: "What is he talking about again now?". Everytime we finished playing a song, Ian Paice and Jon had to explain what Ian was joking about, because Roger always took it a little bit too serious. (laughs) We are united by one thing. We both hate the show business side. When journalists start treating Ian Gillan too seriously, he's always giving weird answers. He likes to give interviews in good company, because there are many journalists, who are just rude and asking corny stuff, so he just gives them "nonsense" answers, but with a serious face expression. I like that dry humour. Paicey, Roger and Jon are not into that. If you want to read the most boring interview, then read an interview with Roger Glover (laughs). Of course he likes to joke, too. But in a very strange way.

Is he more serious?

Ritchie: No, I just have a problem with his sense of humour (laughs).

Joe Lynn Turner said he was very disappointed with the music you wrote for what would be "The Battle Rages On" - so he left the band. Is that true?

Ritchie: He can say whatever he wants to. All I know is that he told me, that he liked the demos we did. I think he said that he would have done them differently, than we did it with Gillan. He wanted to do it more in a pop-style. I love pop-music, and I still listen to ABBA, but Jon and Ian Paice are not into pop-music. It was a weird situation with Joe. He really likes poppy, sentimental songs. So Ian Gillan recorded his vocals over the songs we originally did with Joe, and whereas Joe sang it more in a pop-style, Gillan did it in a more aggressive way.

So whom can we believe?

Ritchie: Well, when people get kicked out of a group, theř start spreading negative rumours and changing facts around. Joe was like "I'm the only man for the job". I can't help myself laughing. I've heard other people saying similar things after leaving a group. They start spreading wrong information, but the decision to lay Joe off was done by the whole band in the end. Joe didn't leave on his own. He should stop changing the facts around.

I see.

Ritchie: Yeah. And as soon as Joe was gone, everyone began to shout: "So what now? Looking for another singer again?". In fact, that was my plan. But then Roger Glover said: "We should get Ian Gillan back, what do you think?". And I said to him: "I don't want some naked people in front of me again". Of course Roger defended him by saying: "That never happened!" (laughs) I was just joking at the time, but Roger took it very seriously. He didn't get the joke. (laughs)

However - the relationship between myself and Ian Gillan might be very bad, but he is the singer for Deep Purple. When the reunion thing came up in 1984, I was offered to work with David Coverdale, but I refused. Without Ian Gillan, it would have been pointless. Of course, David and Joe are great vocalists. When I hear Gillan's voice on the radio, I always recognize him. And when I hear Joe, it's like "Is that the singer of Survivor?" (laughs). Of course, I love Joe. But he needs some rest now. Maybe it's because of his age, but something was wrong with his voice in the end.

When Joe was gone, you also offered the singer-position to Mike DiMeo from Riot, right?

Ritchie: Right, I know him, because I've played football with him, and he's a very talented singer. But the other guys didn't want him in the band, so that didn't happen.

Most of the music from The Battle Rages On was written for and with Joe. So did you change the key to make it more comfortable for Ian Gillan to sing?

Ritchie: I can't remember. I just know that most of the songs sound very different with Ian Gillan.

You've worked with a few producers on this record. Please tell us about Tom Panuntsev.

Ritchie: I was in a nightclub in Florida. I very rarely listen to my own music, but when I was in that club, sitting there and listening to music, they were playing our song "King of Dreams" and I just thought: "Mh, doesn't sound too good?!", but the next one sounded much more dynamic. So I asked a friend of mine: "Who is this?" and he said that it was Joan Jett. The next day I called Bruce Payne, our manager, to ask him who the producer of that song is. Everytime I flew to Japan, I went to a music store in Akasaka. And funnily enough I've heard that song there again. So I went to the DJ and asked him to find out who the producer is. The sound is very important to the listener, so a song with a bad sound is totally meaningless. It's very important. The song of Joan Jett sounded much better than our stuff. So that's how we found Tom and started working with him.

He's a very nice guy, and it works very well with him. But he doesn't understand our functioning in the studio. (laughs) He's an ordinary serious producer and he's used to working on already worked-out ideas. Sometimes he would ask me: "Ritchie, which song do you want to record today?" - that was his favourite question, and I said: "I haven't prepared anything for today". So he said: "Well, maybe we should work on the ideas from yesterday?" - "No, I'm not in the mood now" (laughs). Deep Purple have always composed music on the spur of the moment - we tend to improvise and jam a lot. I think we are all excellent musicians and we all have a good amount of ideas. Sometimes I play some riff or harmony of Jon and that becomes a song after adding some more parts here and there. That confused Tom. He didn't understand what we were doing. I think he didn't even understand why he was hired (laughs).

Roger was your producer for some time now. Was he kind of jealous when you wanted to work with Tom?

Ritchie: Of course he was! (laughs) He always went to the studio where I recorded my parts, with a look like: Anything for me to do? (laughs) Roger is still helping, so it's all good... I just wanted to try something different with Tom. I think there's nothing wrong about that. Roger is a very patient man. When I write a song, it starts to bore me after 10 minutes, but he can sit in the studio for hours. He can pore over hours and hours of music.

When he isn't satisfied with something, he usually says "This part is good, but not ideal for the song..." - that's his favourite phrase. When he says that to me, I usually tend to despair of it.

He has a very good hearing for all these little details and he's very meticulous. I admire him for that. I think that Roger was and still is a very important person in the group. His work, especially in the recording process always helped Deep Purple to function as a group. Today I think that Deep Purple without Roger Glover would be impossible.

Let's talk about the new songs. The opening track "The Battle Rages On" is a very powerful song. How did you come up with the idea for this one?

Ritchie: At first that song was called "Vicious Circle". But then Ian finished the lyrics and called it "The Battle Rages On". I've found that it was a very strong name, and I said to Bruce: "Let's call the album like that, too". Bruce started laughing and said that this name perfectly reflects the relationships within the group. (laughs) I've used the riff for that song already a few years ago in Rainbow.

Fire Dance?

Ritchie: Yeah, but it was much faster. I really like this riff and I played it to Jon, I think. And Jon said: "That's a good riff, fits the song perfectly". And then I told him that I've already used it in one of my earlier songs, but he said: "There is nothing wrong about playing things you've written yourself". And so the song was born. I think it worked very well within the context of the song. But I have to admit that I haven't heard the album.

WHAT? You haven't heard the album?

Ritchie: Yeah, I haven't heard the finished version of it.

You must be joking?

Ritchie: No, seriously, I haven't heard it. I could do it today, but I rather spend some time with you. My manager Bruce Payne called me up today and said: "I''ve got a tape for you, should I come over?", so I told him that I have an interview today, and I can't listen to it. I didn't want to delay our interview, so I told him to send it by mail. I don't really regret it. I have heard these songs in the studio. It makes no sense to me to listen to the album, because then I usually start to pore over it: "Oh, I want to change this and that". In fact, Roger thought that there was something wrong with the sound of it. He always does the mixing part. I think he reworked it six times. Isn't that amazing? Only he can alter the mix six times! (laughs) If I'm in a studio for too long, my head starts to hurt. (laughs) I like to get out of there as fast as possible.

I was very surprised about the intro to the song "Anya", where you play the Spanish guitar. I haven't heard anything like that from you before?

Ritchie: Firstly, I was inspired to compose this riff by a Hungarian folk song I've once heard. From Egypt to Japan - around the world, there is a very interesting range of music. And then I said to Ian: "There's a gypsy, oriental touch in that song, so can you write a proper text for it?". To be honest, I wasn't sure if he would be interested in doing something like that. But after some time, he wrote these lyrics based on what I had told him. I was very surprised.

And now about the Spanish guitar. I was in the studio one day and I wanted to write an introduction to that song. And so the whole thing started. There was a Spanish guitar in the studio, not mine, and i decided to try to play a few phrases on it. I played for about 20 minutes, but Roger only recorded the last three. It makes no sense to me to turn on the microphones and play. I write the best things on the spur of the moment without any pressure. Because especially in the Spanish style, you have to play with passion. I was very inspired that day and wanted to keep playing. Roger knows me very well, so he didn't turn on the microphone immediately. Then he asked me: "Do you want to listen to that piece now?" and I said: "No, maybe tomorrow". But to this day I haven't heard the result. Bruce Payne told me that it turned out very well.

"Ramshackle Man" has a little touch of "Green Onions"...

Ritchie: I know "Green Onions", but that's called Ramshackle Man?

Well... (sings rythm)

Ritchie: That's on the album? Do I play guitar there?

Don't tell me you don't remember, if you play or not!

Ritchie: No, I don't remember it. Even If I wrote it, it was just a studio jam, more like a joke.

Your guitar sounds much better on this record than on "Slaves and Masters".

Ritchie: Yes, Ian and Jon said that the guitar is too loud. They complained about it all the time, but I liked it. (laughs) But I don't know the end result, because as I said before, I haven't listened to the record.

Did you record your guitar parts in a different way for this album?

Ritchie: No, as usual. The only difference is that I recorded my guitar on the attic of the studio. So the guitar sounds very powerful and loud. We recorded it in a German studio. That's the whole difference. At first, the engineers didn't understand what I wanted them to do soundwise, but in the end they were as amazed as I was about the results.

"A Twist in the Tale" is the fastest song on the album with a very unusual ending. Was it a conscious decision to finish the song that way?

Ritchie: That just developed very naturally when we were jamming around. I liked the idea of leaving that song in a kind of shuffle rhythm.

This song would have been perfect as an opener for the album...

Ritchie: Maybe. I haven't decided about the order of the tracks on the album. You're asking the wrong person. I think Bruce Payne did these decisions, you should ask him. I personally didn't even know that this "Green Onions" song landed on the album. It would have been better as a bonus track. It's a totally useless song.

So you don't even know which songs are on the album?

Ritchie: I'd have to think about that. A song called "Solitaire" should be on there, right?

Yes. There are 10 songs on the album (showing the tape to Ritchie).

Ritchie: Well, maybe I should give it a listen... at some later stage, If I'm not busy looking out of the window and I'm in the right mood and... (laughs)

You can have the tape now. (laughs) Why did you never record any bonus tracks for Japan?

Ritchie: Are there no bonus tracks for Japan? Mh, maybe because these bonus tracks generate extra costs for the record company? I don't know. Albums with bonus tracks are selling better. I don't know why we didn't include any bonus stuff for you. Roger is an enthusiastic collector of everything related to Bob Dylan. I personally like to collect singles, albums and B-sides of Buddy Holly. Sometimes the songs on the second side of a single are not worser in any way than the songs on the first side. Record companies usually decide what to put on the first side and the musician usually puts his favourite tracks on the second side. So many artists actually prefer the B-side of their records.

The song "Son of Alerik" springs to my mind there...

Ritchie: Yes, it was a good song. The song was born during a jam session, where we played about 10 minutes. Roger really liked the result, that's all.

It was only released in Canada and in some European countries. Why did you not release it in other countrys?

Ritchie: It's better to ask Roger (laughs).

Which songs do you like the most from the new album?

Ritchie: Well... "Anya", very melodic song. I also like "The Battle Rages On". "Lick it up"? - what's that? I can't remember. How does it sound?

Maybe you should give it a listen yourself (laughs)...

Ritchie: Okay (laughs). "Time to Kill", I don't like this one. Joe sang it in a different way. Back then, I liked it, but then Ian changed it completely, so I don't like it anymore. "Twist in the Tale" is the fast thing, right? I like that. "Nasty Piece of Work" - a name I came up with. I even wanted to call the album like that for some time.

Really? And why did this not happen?

Ritchie: Yes. I have no idea.

I see - you must be very proud of this album (laughs).

Ritchie: "Solitiare" was very difficult to sing for Ian Gillan, he had some problems with the arrangements. The original version was very melodic, it's a 100% Joe Lynn Turner song. "One Man's Meat" ... I can't remember that one either. (laughs)

If you had to release an album with your seven favourite Purple tracks, which songs would you choose?

Ritchie: My answer today would probably differ from the future...

Okay, let's move on to the next question (laughs). Have you ever heard about a band called "It's a Beautiful Day"?

Ritchie: Oh, yes, I know them very well. We stole their song.

And they stole your song "Wring that Neck" (laughs).

Ritchie: We toured with them in 1968. They then started to play this song called "Bombay Calling". I've listened to that song and said to Jon: "It would be cool to play something like this". So we made a jam around that tune in the studio adding our own touch to it. And then Ian wrote the words and "Child in Time" was born. But after the song became very famous in 1972, we've been approached by their respective owners. I told them: "We stole your song, but you also stole our music two years ago. So, since we stole from each other, why don't we leave this subject peacefully?". We were very lucky as you see (laughs).

Why did you change the working title "Hard Road" to "Wring that Neck"?

Ritchie: Honestly, I don't know. In the US it was called "Wring that Neck" and in the UK, it seems to be called "Hard Road", I think. But to be honest, I can't give you a proper answer to that question.

Is it true that you were planning to form a band together with Phil Lynott and Ian Paice called "Baby Face" in the first half of the 70ies? And is it true that a potential vocalist for this group was a guy called "John Lawton"?

Ritchie: Yes, true. But after a few days in the studio, we were already disbanded again. Phil wanted to concentrate on Thin Lizzy and Ian Paice lost interest. He didn't want to give up Deep Purple. I was thinking about leaving Deep Purple at that time, trying to do something else. And yes, John Lawton was a possible candidate for the vocals. He's a very good singer.

A song called "Guitar job" was writtten about the same time. There's just guitar and drums, probably Ian Paice. The authorship is attributed to Deep Purple.

Ritchie: There's no bass or any other instruments?


Ritchie: Strange, maybe it's an unfinished song? Sometimes they release things without my knowledge. Money! I have no idea about this song. Do you know the song "Painted Horse"?

Yes, it's a take-out from the "Who Do We Think We Are?" sessions.

Ritchie: Right. We haven't even finished that song properly! I hate the fact that it was released in this form. But the record companies try to sell everything they can sell in one form or another.

Did you have any other candidates than John Lawton for the singer position?

Ritchie: No, at first we wanted to be a trio. The singer should have been Phil. But he had a very small range, so we decided to use John. He lived in Hamburg back then, and he flew over to us from Germany. I can't remember that we had any other candidates for the job.

There are many "pirate" recordings on the market with concerts of Deep Purple. Many groups try to go against that, but you don't seem to care?

Ritchie: We know about this, but as I said before, I'm a collector myself, so I don't see the problem, and have nothing against it. When a band goes around the world, touring, there are always people recording the shows. In some countrys, album sales even start before a product gets released. It's funny. Even if you establish an exact release date for something, the record companys tend to do it their own way. But there are some changes in the law now. And soon they won't be able to do that anymore.

Let's move away from that topic. "Black Night" was recorded especially for "In Rock" as a single, right?

Ritchie: This is a song that we've recorded after we had finished the recording of the album. When we presented the album, the record company told us that we needed a single. One night we went out to a bar, got drunk, went back into the studio... and the song reached number two in the UK charts. Our record company was waiting for this (laughs). But, interestingly, despite the second place in the UK charts, the song wasn't a big success in the United States. With "Smoke on the Water" it was quite the opposite - it has become a big hit in America and was quite unnoticed in the UK.

When Ian and Roger joined Deep Purple in 1969, the group did a lot of improvisation on stage. Was it because you were trying to imitate Hendrix and Cream, or was it just because you had such a little vocal repertoire with Gillan?

Ritchie: Of course, the latter. But Ian Gillan had a big potential. He was a singer with incredible abilities. His voice inspired me back then. I don't think I could play in a band give the same concerts every night, playing everything exactly as I did the night before. I'm not sure If I could handle that psychologically.

Your shows are always different from each other...

Ritchie: I tend to get tired on the third day of a tour, so I like to improvise, change things. I play different intros and endings, extend or shorten my solos... It makes no sense to me to give concerts, when each of them isn't unique. And what's also important is. If you make some mistake on stage, you can't shout: "Guys, what now?". You must be able to cover it and pretend that everything is going very well (laughs).

In the first years of Deep Purple you played covers of The Beatles and the Rolling Stones. But when you wanted to cover "Black Sheep of the Family" on "Stormbringer", the other musicians weren't happy about that. Was that the reason that you quit the band?

Ritchie: Yeah, exactly. But we were also having some other problems. So it was a kind of a natural decision for me to leave the group.

But it's strange. Some years before you've also covered other people's songs?

Ritchie: Well, most of the others in the band liked "Black Sheep of the Family", but I got turned down immediately. The others said: "We're not going to play other people's songs". I tried to convince them of doing it, but it was hopeless.

Who refused to do it? Coverdale and Hughes?

Ritchie: I think it was Ian Paice or Jon Lord. But I won't go into great detail here.

I think it was Jon, because I find it hard to believe that Ian Paice was against it...

Ritchie: Well, since we are talking about things like this, I'll tell you something. At the time I had a very bad relationship with Jon. It all started at one point. In the beginning of Mark 2 we usually attributed all five musicians to each song. However, Ian Gillan, Roger and myself didn't like that. At one point Jon wasn't showing very much enthuasiasm for the group and was always late for the rehearsals. When we wrote "Strange Kind of Woman", Jon wasn't even with us. However, when it came to the release of the song, Jon was credited as one of the authors. I said to him: "How did you get the credits, if you haven't even been with us, when we wrote that?". To which he just replied: "I'm a member of the group, just like you". When I think about that now, I can't help laughing. I remember Roger's face at that moment (laughs). Ian Paice was always mentioned in the credits because he was always there at the rehearsals. But Jon wasn't interested at all at the time. It's true - believe it or not! But I think it's better not to go any deeper here.

Such stories can become a sensation.

Ritchie: I think it will promote the sales of your magazine (laughs). I have a lot of similar stories, but I think it's better I don't tell them all. (laughs)

From 1968 on you played with Deep Purple for 7 years, then you did 8-9 years of Rainbow, and since your reunion in 1984 it's been almost 10 years now...

Ritchie: Deep Purple is a very comfortable band, because we're very well known. But there are positive and negative sides to it. When I agreed to do the reunion, I never imagined that it would last for so long. We still have the power to play these big shows. But we also get older and who knows - maybe one day we will come on stage with oxygen masks and our wheelchairs (laughs).

But I take each day as it comes. I just live day to day. For example, I really like Procul Harum. Recently on TV, I watched their new show and they're still in good shape. ELP, too. It's nice that all these bands are still doing what they do best. But if you listen to Motley Crue - what can you find there? Did they do something new, something unusual? I don't think so.

How would you sum up the 25 years of Deep Purple?

Ritchie: These 25 years of Deep Purple seem to be very fundumental for other people. But we just like to make music, that's it. When we were young, we were just rebels. I was just trying to find myself. When i was young, I was disgusted of the British selfishness. I didn't like my life in the UK, so I moved to Germany. In Germany I didn't know the language and felt a lot more free. Before that, I thought I would go crazy. Over the years I have learned to control my feelings.

You used to play a Gibson ES-335 through a VOX AC-30 amplifier, but for the last 25 years you play the Stratocaster through a Marshall. Can you give any advice to other musicians how you've found your perfect equipment?

Ritchie: No. (laughs) Maybe it was wrong to play with the equipment for so long (laughs). No, No, of course not, I'm just quite happy with my equipment. I'm an ordinary person and I'm not interested to dig into the piles of new technology. Of course, when I was a teenager, I wanted something new, and I was constantly searching for new equipment. But at one point it's better to stay on your equipment instead of changing it again and again.

Were these 25 years happy years for you?

Ritchie: I don't know what happiness is. I don't know by which criteria you can demonstrate having a happy life.

Are there any things you regret now?

Ritchie: I guess I should feel sorry about some people who have gone out of my life, but on the other hand, it's kind of natural. People come and go, so I don't worry too much about that.

In a recent interview with Gillan, he said that you are going to reform Rainbow after this project. Is that true?

Ritchie: No, I'm not going to revive Rainbow, but I want to assemble a new group, and I just started to plan everything. There will be new musicians, and the music will be slightly different. Over the years, I've started to get a little bit bored of just playing straight hard rock, and I think it's time that I'll try to do something more towards blues-rock. But that's not so important now. At the moment, I have to concentrate my focus on Deep Purple, advertising the new album and then going on tour. After everything is finished, I would like to work with my new band and then I'd like to go back to Deep Purple when I'm 55. Wouldn't it be nice if we would gather together again every couple of years?

Why do you not call the new band "Rainbow"?

Ritchie: I don't like the idea of calling it Rainbow, because I would have to work with my old record company again. I still don't like the name Rainbow. It pleased me only for one year. I would like to call the band something with "Moon". Because according to a list of my ancestors another name in my family tree was "Moon". That's why I would like to call it like that.

Do you already know which musicians will be in that band? Any famous musicians?

Ritchie: I think most of them will be little-known. Maybe I'll ask Roger or Jon. But I haven't decided on that subject yet.

BURRN Magazine, Japan - October 1993
- translated from Japanese language -