I was sitting at home when the phone rang. Andrew please...Yes, that's me...Ian Gillan here....sure Ian, yeah how are you?...
Now that caught me off guard big time, but I managed to compose myself 2 days later for an interview. Ian was one of the most intelligent and interesting people I have spoken to. I would love more time someday to discuss things in greater depth, but for now, see what you think!
Hello Andrew. Have I got the right time?
You bet! How are you? Where are you calling from?
I am looking out of my hotel window over the Bay Of Naples.
I am in Italy.
Yeah, it is pretty spectacular. I am actually recovering. They make a brew here called Strager. It is a liqueur, and it means the witch! I think it had one too many last night! haha.
One too many Witches?
Yeah, one too many of the Witches brew. haha.
So you are out now on the Deep Purple Abandon tour?
Yeah we just kicked off in Istanbul, where I called you from the other day. We are going to be on the road for a year I guess. Maybe 15 months.
Is it hard to be on the road that long?
Not really. The first week is hard, because you have to get back in to match fitness.
After that it is great. Ian Paice's hands are bleeding for the first week, and I have a few aches and pains, from leaping round in an unfamiliar way, that I haven't been doing for 6 months or so.
You knock the gremlins out, and after a week or so everything's fine.
You guys seem to be, the longer you go on, the longer your tours are getting.
I think the band has always been very international. I don't know what it is. We do like playing, so it seems to make sense.
You get a new record out, and off you go.
Is the band more revitalized in the last few years?
Yeah, you could say that. The last five years has been fantastic.
We were in a terrible state around the beginning of the 90's. It was just awful. I think we were in a nose dive really, and approaching terminal velocity I would say.
Things were very bad, very miserable.
Then Ricky Blackmore left, and we haven't looked back since. It has been great.
It seemed like a big blow at the time, but in fact it was one of the best things that could have happened to us.
Then we had Joe Satriani for a year
That was an interesting move. How was that?
Just fabulous. Joe is a real pro and a good buddy, so he came and helped us out of a spot, so then had to find somebody permanent. The first phone call we made was the only guy we really wanted, which was Steve Morse, and he has been with us now
.second album, second tour, it's been great.
Well Perpendicular actually became my favourite record of Deep Purple's.
Oh great, great. Have you heard the new one yet?
Only got to playing it yesterday, but it sounds like a natural progression from the last record.
It will grow on you, yeah. I played it to a friend of mine when I first got it back from the studio, and he said it sounded like your first record, and it does!
That's the thing.
It's very fresh
Yeah, very natural. It sounds like it was recorded in the 60's or 70's - or yesterday. It's natural Deep Purple, that's the thing that appeals to me.
So you guys are pretty pleased with it?
Delighted. We have never done so many songs from one album in the show before. We are doing six songs from that album in the new show, and they fit in with Strange Kind Of Woman, Smoke On the Water and Woman From Tokyo and Speed King and Highway Star.
They fit in just perfectly.
The reason we do albums really is so we can freshen up the stage show. That's the reason we write songs.
And you have your solo record out there as well?
Yeah, well that's kind of a hobby! Haha.
Not really a hobby, you know. But I write everyday and do something everyday, and that is one of the things, that when I was pooling around between Purple jobs and everything over the last couple of years.
I put it together with a friend of mine over in Liverpool. And I am very pleased with it.
It is typical of your solo career - never straight forward, or conforming to the norm.
I think what you have to do
.there is no point doing the same sort of stuff as Deep Purple. It would only be an inferior copy.
I have always found it strange that people expect you to do exactly the same thing all the time.
In fact there is an awful lot of music, and it can be expressed many different ways.
I did a similar type of thing with Roger Glover back in 1989.
Yeah, I have a buddy that compared the record to that one.
That's right. The whole idea is to get away from the band structure, because that is quite limiting.
The writing process is totally different. When you are with a band, for instance when Purple was in Orlando, we would be in on a Monday at midday, work through till six o'clock Monday to Friday, just jamming and improvisation. We don't go in with a single thing written. Every single song comes from an improvisation. After a few days something will rear it's ugly head, and you will have the beginnings of a song.
The very last thing that happens on Purple songs, are the vocals. The tune and the words before that.
Whereas the other stuff, the tune and the words are the first thing that comes, and the music is arranged around it, which is perhaps a more conventional way of writing.
But the thing with Purple is the groove. That's why I think these last couple of albums, have been much more natural, than perhaps the stuff that we had been struggling along with Richie with. Although the songs were good, there is more of a flow now.
But the Dreamcatcher stuff was written completely differently. My friend Steve Morris lives up in Liverpool, and we get ideas, and we develop the songs just between us.
We send tapes back and forth between the post. And he does a bit of an arrangement to something I have written, and then I will develop it a bit further.
When we have got enough to put in a weeks work, I go up to Liverpool and we go in the studio there.
But it is only the two of us on the record, and it is more of a song writing kind of thing than a band thing.
How do you manage to keep your voice in shape on the road, given your long and grueling tour schedule?
Um, well I don't drink doubles! And I don't smoke until after the show! And I don't really have a problem on the road. The only time there is a problem is when you get a cold or get sick. Then it is pretty difficult. As long as you sing everything in the right key, there should never be a problem. To sing is what you are there for really.
I would like to sing every day of the week. But we do five or six shows a week in different towns, that's good fun.
I don't normally have a problem. I have never really thought about it, but if you sing within your range, then you should never strain your voice.
You have a great range then!
Well, yeah. There are bits that are difficult for me, I do recognize my limits. As far as the normal range, the screaming part - that's easy. That's just natural.
Dreamcatcher takes in a lot of influences and variety of sounds. On Toolbox, you went for that straight-ahead hard rock sound.
Well again, that was born out of circumstances. I had a great band at that time. The band evolved out of the studio. I took them out on the road and called them repo depot. We even took them down to Australia actually.
Phenomenal bass player, great guitarist and mad drummer. They kind of shaped the music in the studio. Even though I wrote it with Steve Morris, the style will be dictated by who ever turns up in the studio.
When you get that sound, you have to perform it in a certain kind of way, otherwise it is not compatible.
And at the time of Toolbox, the Purple thing wasn't happening for you!
No I was out of the band and I wasn't particularly keen of getting back in it either. There was quite a lot of pressure in that direction.
What made you go back to record that album, 'The Battle Rages On'?
A combination of things. Just pressure really. I am a sucker for a bit of flattery.
The simple thing was, they made an album, and the record company rejected it, and everyone in the industry rejected it, and they aid we are not going to release it unless you get Ian back in the band.
And I said I would rather slit my throat than work with Richie. He was a pain in the arse.
Eventually my manager found me and everyone gathered round and said 'look - handle it this way', and as a result, I said I would give it a shot.
And I never do anything unless I am going to give it 100%, so when I came back it was all or nothing. I think that is maybe what brought things to a head.
One of those sort of tense moments was captured on the last live video that band did of that tour.
Yeah. Haha. I haven't seen that actually. Heard about it obviously!
There are rumors of the band being inducted into the Hall Of Fame. Do you think Richie Blackmore would turn up if that happened?
I shouldn't think so, because he is not the guitar player in the band anymore.
We are going to an awards show in London in a few weeks for the first time in our lives. As far as we're concerned, the guitar player in the band is Steve Morse.
There is no doubt in our minds that Richie played a big part in our history.
If somebody wants to recognize him for that, that's fine.
I have no real axe to grind as far as Richie is concerned. The whole episode is over. I think it would just be ridiculous. Steve is the guitar player in the band. Richie has had his day and made his decision. And we are all going to stand by that.
I am not particularly enamoured with this whole Hall of Fame thing anyway.
It doesn't really appeal to me. It's like the Olympics of rock n roll.
To me music is music and I don't want to be too highly principled or anything but its like being stuck in a museum. I would rather they did that when I was dead.
Do whatever you like then!
But it is like saying 'that's it boys'. It's not what we got in the business for anyway. It is a very American thing. I don't want to criticize it, but I never say myself as part of it.
You are not into everyone patting themselves on their back and telling themselves how good they are?
Makes me want to vomit really.
I said before you sound revitalized, and you have this mammoth tour ahead. Is there a life span on Deep Purple, or will you play until you drop?
We have never thought about that. We never set out to be stars. Going back to the Hall of Fame thing - the thing I dread most is being reduced to the status of celebrity. I think I would quit the business if that started happening. It's not why we got into it. You get a band together and it's great, next thing you know, you are on the road. Then it's even better.
You express yourself through the music and I don't know, I have never understood much about the money side of it, the business side of it.
I just like the music, and I share that with a lot of fans. I am a music fan myself, and that's why I do it.
So who and what do you like in music today?
Well what do you say to that? Um, last two records I was listening to was Foo Fighters and Smashing Pumpkins, and the Chili Peppers. Plant - I love him. God, there are so many things you can talk about.
Anything by Chrissy Hinde. There is a band in Poland called the Acid Drinkers, that I think are unbelievable.
There are a lot of bands I see around the world that I can't remember their names. There is a lot of bands in Liverpool in England. I just go and watch them every night.
There is a lot of crap on the radio here in England that you really have to pick and choose who you listen too.
And Lenny Kravitz is great too. Great stuff. Bob Marley too. I don't just like rock music.
In your autobiography you said the Gillan band '78-'82 held some of the most treasured touring memories for you. How do you compare that with touring with Purple today?
It's different you know. We have things a little easier with Purple. Also that was nearly 20 years ago! And I think to be honest, the touring I did in '89 through '92 with the Gillan band, in the Soviet Union and all around South America - that was pretty spectacular as well.
I tend to work a different way to Deep Purple. I think Steve Morse is very much the same way with his band. Purple is a big thing you know, when we go out on the road there is fifty crew and three busses, five trucks and goodness knows what. When I go out on my own, the last time there was only eight people and that included the band!
There was four in the band, a tour manager and three crew. We had light and sound provided as we went.
We played in big venue's too. In the Soviet Union we played a football stadium for a week, then move on to another Stadium and play there. But these were in pretty obscure places. Right through from the Black Sea to the Caspian.
And playing such places in between like Bolivia. Incredible places.
The thing is we travel more in an informal way, because there is not such tradition. We take the scenic route; we get off the highway and have some fun.
The amazing thing is it is a very procreative situation. You find that you are living such a fascinating and interesting life, and meeting so many people, that you have an endless supply of material for your next record.
Not only that, but you inspired. And you see how different cultures are intertwined and you see how music is important.
I could talk for hours about the crap you see on TV, and the reality of life in the universities in Tablici, and the Russian soldiers coming back from Afghanistan armed with train shovels to put down the nationalists. And they are cleaving heads in the main square, and all this is being woven into a tapestry over the course of years as big as the whole wall of the university. So vivid that you know it is going to be hanging there in 1000 years to remind them.
And yet they write folk songs about the latest football match or the local Joe that got married last week. There are these wonderful national singers with magic harmonies and yet they hardly have two pennies to rub together.
They grow their own food and they make wine and beer and live good, you know. And music is a vital part of it.
And in the middle of the night, sitting with the Cosecs, under the cosec tree, on the river Niepra. Two hundred clicks down from Kiev you learn so much about these people and you realize that our culture is pretty pathetic by comparison. It has become so sterilized.
I often think back if I want to rationalize things. You see it on CNN, 'now we are going to this war here' and they spend five minutes on each war, or famine or earthquake. The fact is these great cataclysmic events actually mean something to the people that are involved in them.
It is not just a passing thing on TV.
People that are struggling for freedom are up to their necks in it.
So it goes into their music, and it lasts a lot longer than a soundbyte on TV.
I think that is the wonderful thing about touring. It is a very rich experience and it makes you feel very humble.
Is there anywhere you haven't played then?
So are you getting there this time around?
Nope. Not this time. There is also a few North African countries we haven't played yet. And we haven't played in Vietnam yet either.
And haven't played China yet.
Any solo dates for the Dreamcatcher record?
No, no time for that. Maybe when the Purple tour is finished I can squeeze in a couple of dates. Hahaha!
I may do a few dates, but the album will be a year old by then.
It is quite a departure, quite a musical statement, a cameo and it's a fun thing.
The great thing about these albums I have noticed, if I compare it with the Gillan Glover record - if they have it, if a person owns it - it is the type of record they play a lot.
You can play it in the background and it's gives off a nice vibe.
So not everybody will have it, but those that do will appreciate it!
Yeah I think so. Well, I think everyone in the world should have one! Haha.
You need one of these things for the ambience of your house!
Absolutely. Okay Ian great talking with you.
Okay then matey?
Nice talking to you. I expect we may get down to Aussie with the Purple package, as soon as the bad weather starts up here, in the Northern Hemisphere. That's what we normally so. I think we are doing Australia, South Africa and South America early on next year.
Well, we would love to see you guys down here.
Yeah, I have your number here, so I will give you a bell. So if we are over there - come and have a beer.
I'll be there in a shot! Thanks Ian.
Alright buddy, Cheers.