by Andree Schneider (AS) & Lars Wehmeyer (LW) for german DEEP PURPLE online fanclub “The Aviator“
LW: Beside your work on stage, you also work very hard to have a good and close relationship with the fans – which you can see since you’re sitting here with us. Where do you get the motivation after an exhausting show to talk to people, give autographs, have pictures taken, or to even do an interview at such a late hour?
RG: Well, you talked me into it. You bribed me with beer, followed the bus, you were sitting here waiting when I come in – I can’t get away! (laughter) I don’t know, as a band we’ve always treated the fans fairly well. I remember our last tour assistant when we were on the bus in the states, and she’d been with us for a couple of weeks, and she said one night “I’ve worked with lots of bands, I don’t know any band that treats their fans better than you do”.
A lot of bands, especially young bands just don’t consider the fans, but without the fans, nothing would be. We wouldn’t exist without fans, so I always give them a good time – I’m a fan myself, so I know what it’s like. When I meet someone who’s my hero, it’s a thrill. It’s been a couple of times, not recently, where I’ve met someone and it’s been a real disappointment because they’ve turned to be, really, well, not nice people. And the most famous people I’ve ever met are usually the nicest.
AS: For example?
RG: Vincent Price. I was told about Vincent Price the other day, what a lovely guy he was. And Twiggy, the whole Butterfly Ball thing, was lovely people, very professional, very together. I think I’ve told you this story before about Bruce Welch, have I?
RG: When I was fifteen, in school, and we had our first band, and we were just learning, we had about two-and-a-half chords down at that point, and it was all very basic djingy-djingy stuff, and “The Shadows” were a huge band in England – Cliff Richard’s backing band. They had a hit in their own right, “Apache” was their first hit. When that came out, that changed my life, as it changed nearly evey boy’s life at that point, and probably girl’s too, I don’t know. We found out that Bruce Welch who was the rhythm guitarist of “The Shadows” lived a couple of miles from our school. And so three of us trecked there one day after school, I don’t know where we got the address from, but all of a sudden, there we are looking at this house. It was not really that special house, it was a semi-detached house, quiet street, and quite nice by our standards. We were sort of looking: “He has walked through that door! He, Bruce Welch has actually walked through that door! There, his windows, he’s opened those windows”, you know, it was just a magic thing looking at this house. And within a few minutes, a car pulled up, and Bruce Welch stepped out. And we all sort of hid behind the wall, he saw us, and he said “Hey, kids, what are you doing?” – “Nothing, Sir, nothing” – “Come here! What are you looking at?” – “Oh, we’re fans and all”, and he invited us into his house, and we went in and sat there in his living room for about one hour or so, and he played some music, he played his latest favorite hits of the day, gave us a drink of water and an apple each, and after an hour he said “Right, it’s time to go” – he was just absolutely the gentleman and it left a very very deep impression on me, that someone that big could just be so ordinary and kind. That was a good lesson to learn.
The ironic thing is that not that many years later, probably nine, ten years later, I found myself in the same position of being in a huge band and kids coming up to me with tears in their eyes and shaking because I was the most famous thing they’d ever seen. I was totally humbled by that because I didn’t feel that I deserve that kind of attention. But then I thought about Bruce Welch, and I thought “He was such a nice guy to me, let’s carry it on”.
AS: Wenn you have a day off during the tour – do you enjoy it or do you feel bored, especially in the evening?
RG: Hmmm – no, I enjoy it. I try to enjoy everything, there’s no point in not enjoying something. This is a pretty grueling tour, it’s been actually really a lot of heavy work, a lot of travelling, so a day off really is kind of necessary. Frequently, I found myself doing absolutely nothing, just going out for a walk, having a nice meal – and I’m generally enjoying it, yeah.
AS: All of you are still very fit, and I have great respect for your achievements on stage. Beside the fun that you’re obviously having, it is also a very hard job. It has just been announced that you will be on tour for another two years, that’s a very long time. Don’t you ever get fed up with that?
AS: That’s good for us! (laughter)
RG: You do bring up a good point. It’s a lot harder work than people think. People think it’s a life of glamour, excitement and parties and fun, it’s not like a real job. But it is a hard job. It’s a hard job to keep focused, it’s a hard job to keep yourself in shape. We don’t really try to keep in shape, I guess the fact that we go on stage for a couple of hours every night really kind of helps. I was about to say something, but I can’t remember what it was – forget it.
RG: Now I remember what it was that I wanted to say: Years ago, in Rainbow, Don Airey and I were at a launderette at about one o’clock in the morning in the outskirts of Kansas city or something, tired as hell, watching our washing go round and round. And there was this sort of silence between us which was broken when Don said “Oh, the glamour!” (laughter). Two days ago, we arrived in Trier, at about seven in the morning after an overnight bus ride, and I went and had a bit of breakfast, and I thought I’d go to bed now and get a few more hours of sleep, and I saw Don heading out for a launderette. Actually, I needed to get to a launderette too, so I went with him. And we got a taxi and we found a launderette in Trier and we were sitting there and I reminded him of that “Oh, the glamour!”.
LW: I read in the “Bass player’s question time” that you also have a fretless bass – do you ever use it on stage, or did you use it on the album?
LW: I was thinking “Clearly Quite Absurd” would sound well with a fretless.
RG: I tried a fretless bass on it. It wasn’t mine, Michael Bradford had one in the studio, Michael Bradford has a lot of guitars, he’s a guitar collector, he’s an amp collector, and I thought that as well, and I did try it. Unfortunately, I’m not that good a player, you’ve got to be really spot-on with pitching, and although it sounded quite promising, I realized it was going to be too much trouble to go over and over and just get it so it is actually spot-on, so I abandoned that idea. But, yeah, I thought that too. The fretless bass I’ve got is an acoustic bass and he actually sounds more like a double bass and you’ll probably hear it on my next solo album because I use it at home quite a lot. But it sounds more like a double bass, it’s more like a jazzy sound than an electric bass.
LW: How did you like the exhibiton of Evi Ivan’s paintings in Cologne?
RG: What can you say if someone spends a lot of energy painting your likeness – she’s a very good painter, I find her very inspiring as a painter, I like the freedom that she throws the paint around, sureness. I think it’s just a great honour to have that, least I could do is go and have a look at it. I’d never actually seen the paintings in reality, I’d only seen prints before, and I actually was amazed at how large some of them were. I’d only seen them in a small format. She’s a lovely painter and some of her paintings, not of the band, some landscapes and stuff are truly inspiring. Great.
LW: I think it’s very nice of you to actually go there and see the paintings.
RG: She’s a lovely person. Anything I can do to help her get some success or recognition is the least I could do.
LW: We talked about your “corridor photos” – there’s another photo on your web page that I like very much. It shows a million cameras pointing at you – did you take that photo yourself?
LW: Do you remember where it was, or in what situation?
RG: It’s somewhere in the far east, I think it’s either Kuala Lumpur or somewhere like that, I can’t remember exactly, I’d have to probably go through my journals to find out.
LW: I think it’s really intriguing that you’re actually putting the visitor of your site into your position. You get to change views. All of a sudden you’re looking at the cameras from the other side. I think that’s really fascinating.
RG: It’s an interesting thing just to have that many cameras pointing at you. The first time it happened is quite unnerving. You get very self-conscious and stuff. I’ve lost the point of being self-conscious now, I am what I am, take it or leave it, that I suppose comes with experience. I suppose when I was younger I tried to live up to the image that I thought I should be projecting, that of a hard core musician, hard rock band, you know, and someone intelligent, trying to say the right thing and of course ended up stumbling over my words. I learned to relax in front of cameras, but it is an usual situation to be in, to be faced with that phalanx, that’s the word, a phalanx of cameras – lovely word.
LW: Especially for the visitor who’s usually not in the situation, it’s very unusual.
RG: Every now and again you find yourself in bizarre situations. The first time we went to Poland, I got a taste of what it must have been like to be in the Beatles, because they went nuts. We had a police escort, there were people hanging out of balconies and windows and just getting to the gig, there were thousands of people in the streets, sort of trying to catch a glimpse of us. That’s a bizarre situation to be in, I can’t imagine what the Beatles went through, that kind of world attention, or Michael Jackson for example, anyone that famous, must be really surreal at times. I don’t envy them. I’ve always felt very grateful that Deep Purple have achieved some great popularity in the world but we were always fairly anonymous, we were pretty much allowed to be ourselves, going to supermarkets or going down the streets, no one usually bothers me.
LW: Final question: Following the show in Dortmund, you mentioned that you are planning a new solo album, and you also mentioned just now. Would you like to tell us any details about that project, a follow-up project to “Snapshot”?
RG: There’s nothing really to tell, I constantly write songs, well, I constantly start songs, I don’t always finish them. I think Snapshot was a really good experience, I enjoyed making that very much, it was great to get some of my old songs out instead of sitting on a shelf somewhere. One of the songs was written in 1978, and it’s been hanging around ever since, I never knew what to do with it until I did Snapshot. That was the “Bargain Basement”. And there’s lots of songs and stuff.
While I’m sitting at home, I don’t write Deep Purple songs. It’s almost impossible to write a Deep Purple song, because Deep Purple songs evolve out of all members of the band together, it’s a kind of chemistry, it’s a playing thing. But writing at home is different, because I’m home, because it’s quiet, I usually pick up an acoustic guitar, it’s usually a more introverted song, a sensitive song, I guess I’m naturally more a singer and song writer.
AS: Do you know which people will be involved in the project? Same as on Snapshot?
RG: I would certainly start out with that intention, yes. I enjoyed working with Randell Bramblett very much, I enjoyed working with Joe Bonadio, the drummer, very much, all the other musicians, Joe Mennonna, the guitarists – I was very lucky actually, I had some gerat performances from people I’d not met before, so certainly I would start off with that. Probably the one thing I would do is include my daughter more.
I want to do some writing with her because she’s actually more experienced now. She’s in a band and she’s done some recording with other musicians, and she’s actually evolved into a fine singer. She has a particular kind of voice, I wanted to write from her point of view rather than have her just sing my songs. So, as difficult as it is, because she lives in London, I live in a suitcase, to get together, we did manage to get 24 hours together in which we did two songs so we’ve got two songs and we want to do some more stuff together. I also want to sing more myself. I don’t want to sing the whole album, I certainly think Randell has a killer voice, but I would like to do maybe two or three songs than just the one. What can I tell you about the songs? I don’t know, I think maybe in some ways they reflect my private life which has gone through some upheaval in the last couple of years, and the songs tend to be kind of written from a point of view of experience. Actually, I’m trying to change a little bit now because I played some ideas to some of my family and my mother said “They’re all sad!”. So I’m trying to write not such sad songs. But you can’t talk about songs really, you have to listen to them. It’s hard to talk about them. It’s like trying to describe the Mona Lisa – “Woman with a smile” doesn’t quite make it.
for a complete version of the interview (including several DEEP PURPLE questions), head over to The Aviator