There might be a new Rainbow Album at Christmas
Mr. Blackmore, they say you like German hits. Is that correct? And what do you like about it?
Ritchie: The innocence. The German hit has something liberating. There is no such innocence in American music. Either it's hip-hop or country. In the country scene you will find the best guitarists in the world, while Schlager is a very simple, nostalgic and pure music. You do not have to think much about it. I sometimes watch the German TV show "Fernsehgarten" because it is so pleasant. Maybe it is not as innocent as it does, but it seems to me so. Rock music, on the other hand, often sounds very tense and nervous. Many musicians strut around on the stage and play as fast as possible.
So did you get inspired by German hits when writing songs for Deep Purple and Rainbow?
Ritchie: Yes, whenever I'm looking for a simple melody. The music of the Beatles and Kinks in the 60s was easy too. Like hit. The choruses are easy to sing along. That's why I made the riff of "Smoke on the Water" as easy as possible.
Where you mentioned it yourself: how did you get to the riff of "Smoke on the Water"?
Ritchie: I only wanted to use four notes, because every postman should be able to whistle the tune. Obviously it worked. As with Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. Most do not know the other brilliant music he has written, but everyone knows these four notes. I deliberately listened to Beethoven's masterpiece and thought of something simple. Ian Paice played drums. And then this riff came to me that everyone knows today.
In 1964 you lived in Hamburg for a while and played with a German band. What kind of music did you play back then?
Ritchie: I played with some German bands, but all they wanted was to cover the Rolling Stones. It was difficult for me because I did not want to copy the solos of Keith Richards. But that had nothing to do with disrespect. At that time, everyone just wanted to play the songs of the Stones because the audience did not want to hear anything else.
In the meantime, you have lived on Long Island, an island in the state of New York, for many years. Is your house an inspiring place?
Ritchie: When we moved in, it was a normal house on the shores of Long Island. But we have had the entire interior rebuilt. Now tapestries and chandeliers hang everywhere; the doors are made of cast iron. Many accessories in the house come from our travels. We don not live in a castle, but it seems a bit like that. Obviously, in the basement there is a bar in the German style, where we drink German beer. When I look out the window, I see water. And behind the house is a forest. A very relaxed and creative atmosphere.
In the summer you play again medieval songs in old theaters, palaces and castles. How innovative is the music of Blackmore's Night in your eyes?
Ritchie: Innovation in music is something very subjective. As a musician, you never know whether you have just created something completely new or refreshed something old. This is always decided by the listener. Above all, I make music for myself, and if people like it, I'm happy. When they do not like it, I am still happy. How my music sounds depends on my mood. I have no idea where my music is going. I just let it pass.
Their job is largely travel. Do you like this after more than 30 years?
Ritchie: When I travel, I would like to get from A to B without a hitch. But when you book a flight here in America, you never know whether you will arrive at the destination or spend the night at the airport. Air travel is very tiring these days. When we tour in Europe, we always travel comfortably by car. Germany, Austria and Switzerland are not only very well organized countries, they have also produced the best composers of the last 400 years. I love to look at nature and historical sites.
The new singer at Rainbow is called Ronnie Romero, is Chilean and in the rock world a largely blank slate. How did you come to Him?
Ritchie: He has an exciting voice. And he has the ability to imitate other singers like Freddie Mercury or Ronnie James Dio. When I first heard his voice, he reminded me of the early Rainbow. It was nostalgic feelings that brought Rainbow back to life. So I put together a setlist of songs that Ronnie Dio once sang. I know that many Rainbow fans in Europe like this phase the most.
Are you tired of the acoustic guitar?
Ritchie: No, after 20 years I've got used to it and find it very comfortable to play in front of an audience. When I'm at home, I play the whole day on the acoustic guitar - fingerpicking with long fingernails. When I'm on tour with Rainbow, I always have to rip my ass off to play the electric guitar with short fingernails and a plectrum.
This year you're playing a tour with Rainbow and one with Blackmore's Night. How do you want to do that?
Ritchie: By growing my nails within a week. But that will not work. So I have to glue on false nails. This is the hardest part besides learning the setlist. With Rainbow I play only once a year, which is why I have to recreate the songs each time. That makes my brain run crazy.
Supposedly, you have re-recorded some Rainbow classics with Romero. Which one?
Ritchie: "Black Sheep of the Family", "Waiting for a Sign" and "The Storm". The latter is an old song from Blackmore's Night, which I re-recorded with my Strat and loud amps. The result is a completely new piece of music - very fast Heavy Rock. By the way, "Black Sheep of the Family" was the first title I recorded after my departure from Deep Purple with Ronnie James Dio. Ronnie Romero sings it brilliantly now, changing some parts. ELO cellist Hugh McDowell helped us with the song back then.
Will there be a new Rainbow album?
Ritchie: Nowadays you do not go to the studio anymore to make long records. We're going to get these three titles out for now. I think there is far too much music published. But around Christmas, there might be a whole album of new Rainbow songs. However, the shows we're playing this year are pure nostalgia events. Sometimes I just enjoy looking back. But I do not want to warm up permanently, but rather stay flexible and only occasionally appear with Rainbow.
I read recently that you have arthritis in your fingers. How bad is it? And how do you deal with it?
Ritchie: My arthritis is mostly in the back and one of my left hand fingers is not working the way it should. But I just keep playing. Django Reinhardt played terrific guitar with only two fingers. I should be able to play with three. This is one of the big topics of my tour with Rainbow this year. I regularly get painkilling injections in my back. I can only perform with Rainbow if I'm painless. I do not exactly make it easy for my concert agencies. That's one of the reasons why I rarely play with Rainbow. To stand on a stage all night long with a heavy Stratocaster guitar is very exhausting. Last year in Prague I could not play an encore because I was in so much pain. But we all have our problems.
What are you doing shortly before a concert? How do you warm yourself up?
Ritchie: I improvise a bit on the guitar and play some scales in the wardrobe. When I'm in pain, I take a sip of whiskey. And I meditate. That makes me hover.
© German Newspaper - May 2019