by Stefan Glas for Rock Hard Magazine, Germany
Hotel Europäischer Hof, Heidelberg, Germany, Sep 27, 1996.
My talk with Roger Glover was not a ‘normal’ interview. It was done for the “Schwatzkasten” (directly translated the word means “chat box”), which is the personality show in Rock Hard. It deals more with the musician as an individual than with the latest actions of the band. That’s why the following page will be a bit different from most of the interviews you know.
By the way – this is a word-by-word transcription of the talk. It’s essence will be published in one of the upcoming Rock Hard-issues.
SG: Where were you born and where were you raised?
RG: I was born on a farm in Wales, southern Wales, in the country. I lived there till I was nine, went to Liverpool for a year and then went to London and grew up from the age of ten in London in a pub.
SG: So you’ve kind of experienced the pub music from the beginning on?
RG: Actually yes, that’s my first exposure to music I guess in about 1956. I first heard skiffle music cos they played in the pub. I was ten or eleven years old and I used to creep downstairs and the door where you entered from the private part of the pub was right where the band set up. It was a corner. If I opened the door just a couple of inches I was right behind the band. So it was very exciting. Skiffle music, I don’t know if you had it in Germany – it was sort of homemade music. You always had at least one guitar, mostly two guitars, banjo, mandolin. You had a drumkit, which wasn’t really a drumkit but it was made up of things you hit, like a washboard and you wore thimbles on your fingers and there were tamborines and stuff like that. And the bass was always a tea chest, a wooden box turned upside down and a string attached to the middle of the bass attached to a broomhandle so you made the string taut by pulling on the broomhandle.
SG: Kind of DIY instrument?
RG: Yeah and it’s based in folk music and blues, American folk music, British folk music.
SG: You’ve been everywhere in the world in the meantime because of the music. What is the place you would like to live most?
RG: I’ve had the benefit of living in two countries permanently. I’ve lived in England and I’ve lived in America. I enjoyed Australia, I enjoy travelling. India was a great experience. I don’t know whether I could live in India, but I suppose if I had to I could live in Australia.
SG: What especially fascinates you about Australia?
RG: I think they’re down to earth as a people and they’re sort of half way between Americans and British people so they have endearing qualities of both. I suppose it would be difficult for me to go anywhere where I didn’t share a language.
SG: You know that centuries ago Australia was kind of a prisoner colony of the British empire. Would this bug you or would this be no problem for you?
RG: No. Yesterday’s no problem for me. What happened a hundred, two hundred, five hundred years ago, a thousand years ago is no problem for me either. I don’t hold grudges.
SG: So you kind of live absolutely in the present?
RG: As far as I’m able to yeah. I reach for reality and I occasionally get it. That was very profound by the way. *laughter*
SG: Something that goes away from your person… You know some years ago CDs came up and now vinyl’s more or less on the decline. What do you prefer?
RG: Truth be known I prefer DAT. I’m happy enough with CDs, vinyl certainly has a warm feel to it and when CDs first came out I was very disappointed in the sound, but I think the technology’s improved a lot now and it really is very difficult to choose between one of the other. They both have problems. Vinyl, for all its good sound really takes a lot of looking after, it doesn’t weather very well. Most of the records I play now on vinyl have enormous pops and crackles in it. And CDs also haven’t lived up to their promise of being flawless. They still have problems with CDs skipping and won’t play.
SG: Especially with the cheap presses.
RG: That’s one of the reasons why I got involved with the reissue thing because I wanted to finally make sure that the quality was right. I was very disappointed in the quality of “Machine Head” when it first came out on CD. When was that, ten years ago, eight years ago? Something like that. I was very disappointed in that and couldn’t do anything about it so when I got in a position where I could do something about it I did.
SG: So “In Rock” and “Fireball” won’t be the last albums to be anniversary editions?
RG: No, probably not.
SG: Any concrete plans? As far as I know “Fireball” will come out in Germany next week. Any definite plans yet?
RG: No. I have yet to listen to the “Machine Head” tapes. I don’t know what’s on them. I know there’s no… You see, the sad thing is that “Fireball” is probably gonna be the last reissued album, other than possibly “Purpendicular”, that there is a lot of extra stuff. “Machine Head” we recorded just enough for the album with one extra track which was “When A Blind Man Cries”. “Who Do We Think We Are”, we just about managed to finish that album and there nothing…
There may be some alternative takes or some jamming possibly, I don’t know. But there’s no finished songs as opposed to “Purpendicular” where I’ve got hours and hours of jamming and lots of ideas and practically finished songs. But we’ll have to wait another twentyfive years for that! *laughter*
SG: Was is because of the excessive touring you did at that time that you didn’t have that much material?
RG: There’s probably lots of different reasons. Certainly we toured a lot. In fact looking back now in the diaries I can’t believe that we did as much as we did. We put out practically an album a year and toured the world every year and still had time to write it and do your laundry. And I think possibly it was a time consideration. I also think that it was a certain attitude that the band had got into, maybe a certain laziness towards our work. We did enough to do the album and that was it. I think in a way a certain joy had gone out of writing and playing there. Not so much “Machine Head”, but certainly by the time we did “Who Do We Think We Are” no one wanted to do anything, no one wanted to get together and see and it was a real drag to do that because there was bad vibes.
SG: So the mood in the band at that time was not that perfect?
SG: We just touched your career as a producer. You produced your own albums, worked on “Purpendicular” together with the others in the band, as well as you produced many other bands. Is there any band you would like to produce very much, that would be kind of a challenge for you?
RG: I don’t know. There’s various bands that I like although I’m not a great lover of rock music. I don’t particularly care for most of what I hear. There’s occassionally something that shines through and I like that. I mean, King’s X are a good band and Soundgarden are a good band… I don’t know whether I’d like to work with them necessarily. The thing that interests me most about recording studios isn’t necessarily the kind of music, it’s just the challenge of creativity. For example I’d like to have someone put up some money so that I could do an album of purely experimental stuff. The idea being that you don’t use instruments, that you take certain key people. Say you take a Peter Gabriel and someone else, some percussionist or something like that, and you give them, say, 24 hours of studio time and you give them a knife and fork, a balloon and a couple of other things, household objects like that and say right, get on with it! Let’s see what you come up with. It’s not gonna be solo artistic, just one sound after the other, it’s gotta be some cohesive musical end result, but I would be very interested in that. That would spark my interest very much.
SG: Would you like to join in the creative process of that album? What would you like to do? Would you like to play with a cup or whatever?
RG: Oh yeah. It’s amazing what you can do if you give yourself disciplins. I mentioned Peter Gabriel because I think he’s one of the few guys that’s actually given himself a discipline to work with and he made it work for him very very well. When I first got the “Games Without Frontiers” album there was something about the album and I couldn’t figure out what it was. I liked the album but there was something, some character to the album. It took me three listens to realize that there’s not one cymbal on the album. And that, what a stroke of genius just to deny yourself something in order to make yourself work harder in other areas. I think that’s a very fair thing to do. And bands indulge themselves too much. We indulge ourselves too much. We’re not self disciplined enough in my view.
But we’re a band so I can’t dictate what the band does. The band does what the band does.
SG: Would you like to have a little bit more musical revolution inside Deep Purple?
RG: Oh yeah, I think we’re getting to the point now where we can do that. I think Deep Purple’s been a… don’t know how to put it really, it’s not been firing on all cylinders for a long time and it finally is firing on all cylinders. “Purpendicular” to me is just a start, it’s a rough start. I think we will…
SG: So you can imagine getting away from that traditional hard rock stuff?
RG: Oh no, we’ll get away from… eh, hard isn’t it? It’s very difficult. There’s always gonna be some elements of Deep Purple that’s gonna sound traditional simply by that fact that we’re not playing different instruments. We play the same instruments and we play them the way that we play them. Ian Paice will always play the way Ian Paice plays. I will always play the way I play, Jon Lord and so on, you know. At the same time a song like “The Aviator” for example would be unthinkable many years ago, because it doesn’t fit the genre that people think of as Deep Purple and it begs the question what is Deep Purple? And the answer really is that Deep Purple is anything it fucking well wants to be. It takes a certain amount of courage to do that, to lose some of the old traditional things. But I don’t think we’re losing there mate, I think in fact we’re doing the opposite. By expanding our horizons, by being more adventurous and having a bit more fun we’re actually entertaining people much more than just by churning out the same dreary standard stuff.
SG: And it wouldn’t make any sense to do a “Smoke On The Water” over and over again just with different lyrics!
RG: Someone said to me once in all seriousness, and I can understand where they were coming from, it was an interview and they said why don’t you write a song like “Highway Star” again? Now if you think about that question. Before “Highway Star” was written we didn’t know what it was gonna be like, it gave birth to itself and it became what it has become. But you can’t repeat that process. All you can do is do the same things you did before “Highway Star” was written, which is basically write music. You can’t tell what is gonna be a “Highway Star”. “Highway Star” was nothing once.
SG: Of course, it was just a good idea and it developed and it turned out what came out.
RG: Yeah, the best things happen, they’re not worked out, they’re not designed. You can’t design your future. If you could design your future everyone would write hit albums. Everyone would sell platinum albums.
SG: I think it’s a very interesting theme but let’s shift away a little bit from that.
RG: Very interesting questions by the way. Lousy tea! Better than yours. I don’t know what’s happened to your tea. If it doesn’t come in a few minutes we’ll …
SG: Good insert! Are you able to cook or would you starve if you didn’t have anyone making your meals?
RG: *laughter* Yes, I’m able to cook. I enjoy cooking very much. I cook at home. I’m a vegetarian, I’ve been a vegetarian for about, nearly ten years. And that presents quite a problem on tour, especially in places like Germany which is a big meat eating country. Although I must say German society accommodates vegetarians much more than say the Spanish do. I ordered down to room service; I said could I get a pizza without meat? And he said: “Pizza without meat?!” So that’s what you’re up against. But I like to cook. I like Indian food particularly, it’s what I specialize in. And my wife and I we don’t go out much when I’m home, because the best restaurant in the world is our own house. It’s therapy, cooking. And cooking is also only a part of it. Cleaning up and washing up is also a part of it as a lot of people forget. You can actually enjoy that part of it too if you think of work as its own reward.
SG: So did you create any special Roger Glover recipe?
RG: Well I do a kind of mixed vegetable curry that is not from a book. And it’s different every time I make it. It doesn’t amount to a particular thing, it’s just, you go by feel or by instinct.
SG: It might be strange to ask this question, because Deep Purple are idols to many musicians; but does a musician like you also have idols?
RG: Oh yeah. It’s very hard to come to terms with the fact that I am in a very big band, because most of my life I actually don’t feel that way. And I sometimes wake up in the middle of the night and pinch myself and go “God is this real? Is this really my life?” It’s a very strange feeling and life for me is based in reality. I often think that sometimes I’m a pretender that I’ve somehow fooled everyone into thinking that I belong here. I don’t know, it’s very odd. What was the actual brunt of the question?
SG: The musicians you admire.
RG: The musicians I admire. I suppose I admire writers more than musicians. I think I’m more the writer than I am a musician. I think I’m more the writer than a producer, although sometimes they’re pretty much hand in hand. The musician in me takes third place I’d say. So the people I most admire I suppose are people that write. Bob Dylan is my big all time hero as a writer. I don’t think anyone can touch him for songwriting. And that’s not measured in successful terms, that’s just measured in how profoundly his songs touch me. No one else touches me quite as much. There’s plenty of other writers that I like. Randy Newman’s a great writer for his own right. I like Ry Cooder. I like odd things. I like Penguin Cafe Orchestra just because it’s so absurd it’s wonderful. Eccentric. As technical players there’s very few people I looked up to. Paul McCartney was, strangely enough, probably the biggest bass influence on me. Not that I like his music, I just like his bass playing. I’ve listened to Jaco Pastorius who’s done the Weather Report things and I have a great deal admiration for stuff like that. But it doesn’t affect me as much as a good lyric. A good song.
SG: So the lyrics are more important to you than the music is? Do lyrics come first for you?
RG: No, it’s all together really. A good song is organic in that music and lyrics are equal and they feel right together. Elton John, for example, writes very organic songs. You can’t imagine the lyrics and melody being separated from one another, they seem so right. It’s very difficult to do that in a band situation because it’s not one person doing it. Maybe I suppose in Elton John’s position it’s not one person there either, he relies on lyricists. But I think we found a few things on “Purpendicular” where we feel that we can write what I would like to say organic songs. Songs that just feel right. I don’t think every song on the album is totally successful but I must say I think the consistency of songwriting on “Purpendicular” is higher than we’ve managed to achieve in a long time.
SG: If you take a look at the stuff people invented in the world what do you think is the most important invention?
RG: Bicycle clips. It stops your trousers getting in the chain. Wonderful invention. Second to that I think a computer chip has revolutionized everything in the last twenty years. The car engine has got a lot to answer for. It’s probably ruined our lives, the car. It’s probably ruined everything actually. That and eating meat *laughter*.
SG: So you’re a kind of militant vegetarian?
RG: No, no, not actually, that was just a joke. I’m very forgiving, if people want to eat meat that’s fine. I do think the world would be a better place if they didn’t, but I’m not gonna change that so there’s no point in going on about it. I think sooner or later, certainly in the next hundred years or so, more people are gonna be eating vegetables than meat because it is healthier. However, that’s a whole other matter and I promise you I’m not a Chrissie Hynde.
But the computer, I was looking at some the other day about micromachines. On a siliocon chip you can actually have a physical machine, a cog and wheel going round and it’s the size of a pinhead and that’s one step, but it’s still a physical step. I think the next series of computer is not gonna be on silicon, it’s gonna be in sort of DNA strand. It’s gonna be a chemical thing. As much as we’ve lived… In my lifetime I’ve seen some amazing things. We have lived in a incredible age of discovery where the rate of progress is blinding, it’s almost going up in a straight line. Though we haven’t seen the end of it yet, I think there’s gonna be far more things. I sometimes think how archaic it seems to pick up a telephone. That is gonna be a lot different in the future. Communications are gonna be very much a little thing that you have with you all the time.
SG: I guess we can’t really imagine what might happen. If you look back fifteen years people wouldn’t imagine to have a computer like the one we have today.
RG: Unfortunately the very act of imagining some bright utopian future also brings up the possibility that it may not be a bright utopian future. It may be actually a pretty awful future. A future in which the world disintegrates, that countries cease to be and everything becomes tribal again. It seems to be an ever-fractious world. So you got lots of things frightening. You got progress racing ahead one way and we seem to be slipping back into Middle Ages on another level.
SG: How do you personally see it, positive, negative?
RG: I’m by nature an optimist. And I had a meal with a friend of mine the other day, and we all have children and talking about schools. You see children growing up with very few of the ideals that we had when we were children and not maybe enough of the drive and the necessity to improve yourself. Kids today have everything thrown at them, handed on a plate, it’s instant gratification; where is the will to overcome odds and make something of yourself? Maybe that’s an old man talking. And I was expressing this and he said that’s just because you’re getting old. Actually kids today are much better than we were. They may not have some of the skills that we had but they got other skills that we didn’t have. And he saw it in a much more optimistic way than I did, and I thought I was an optimist. So in general I think mankind will overcome its obstacles in some way, shape or form and will survive for the better. Maybe it’s not for the better that it involves huge industrial societies and cars and things like that. Who knows, it may be for the better that we wipe ourselves out and start all over again. That’s an optimist for you! *laughter*
SG: How about women. Do you prefer strong or weak women?
RG: That’s an interesting question. I’m not into weak women in particular, I like strong women. I’m not one that has any fixed philosophy about who is more dominant. I’m pretty much a team player. I’m very happily married and my wife and I are very equal in our responsibilities, in our outlook, in our sharing each other’s lives. The head of the family is both of us. I don’t know. I don’t treat women as women really, I treat them as individuals. I judge women and men pretty much on the same basis. If they stimulate me, if they’re nice people, if I can connect, it doesn’t really matter whether they’re a man or a woman. Obviously there are some characteristics in women that I find more pleasurable than those of men men, but they’re strictly the physical kind. As far as minds there’s no distinction to me. I think women are by and larger cleverer than men. They make men think that men are in charge when in fact it’s women. This is a very general view. I like an independent woman. I don’t like someone who just likes to be told what to do. I like a free thinker.
SG: So you kind of accept the saying that behind every big man stands a big woman?
RG: Well, there does if you’re married. From my point of view anyway it’s a distinct partnership. Whatever one does the other is part of. I’m only here because my wife understands that this is my life and accepts the fact I go away and in fact makes me strong enough to be able to do that. And looks after the home front and our children to such an extent that I can feel comfortable by leaving home for six or seven weeks at a time, two months, three months. Last year it was seven months. I saw my children once in the summer, I saw my daughter one day in the entire summer. Life can get tough sometimes, but I’m not gonna complain about that.
SG: That’s the faith of rock musicians.
SG: Which political position would you like to reach? Or is there anything you would like to be in society life?
RG: No, I’m pretty happy with the position I’ve got. I don’t care for politics very much, mostly because half the time I don’t know what I think about anything. And I don’t think I’m that unusual. I think most people have different opinions depending on the day of the week, or they shift in opinions or they simply don’t have an opinion but adopt one because everyone else has the same opinion. People that stand up and say: “This is the problem and I have solution”. I immediately distrust because to me, the problems that we face in the world are far more complex than their simple solutions will ever allow for. It’s a very very very complex place and simplicity really has a very little place in it. Things get pushed to one extreme or the other, one pole or the other, until they become almost meaningless. To me that’s no answer. I’d hate to be in a position where I was trying to convince people that I was right, because if truth be known I’d always doubt myself too much for that. I think who’s got that much confidence has got to be wrong.
SG: You already had several record companies in your career with Deep Purple. Do you feel like you’ve been ever been treated wrongfully or fooled by a record company?
RG: Oh yeah. Record companies are just people. That’s the hard thing to realize. It’s like a newspaper. Newspaper takes on such an important aspect, you see it everywhere you go, you see the headlines, you see the name of the newspaper. And it’s hard to actually face the realization that a newspaper is just people who are writing. If you actually see a newspaper you see an office and some computers and typewriters and real people. That’s all a newspaper is. And a record company is the same thing. Some record companies have been very good to us, some have stabbed us in the back. The worst thing they really do is ignore you, when they don’t work for your product. It’s always a struggle in this business because it is a business. Between the business of it and the music of it, the fun of it, the art of it. When I was a kid in school all I wanted to do was have a hit record. You’d do anything for a hit record. You’d sing any stupid novelty song as long as it was gonna do that magic thing and transport up the charts. But that’s as a youth. When it actually happened to me and I had a hit record I was actually disillusioned because I thought something golden would happen to my life, but it didn’t. My life was exactly the same, it’s just that I had a hit record. So I was slightly disappointed with that. It’s one of the hard realities of growing up is a hit record is nothing but. It’s nothing really. You got a bit money in the bank and someone recognizes you. But other than that there’s no fundamental change that happens to your body, there’s no psychological thing that comes over you that makes you a better person, you’re the same person. And I think I was extremely fortunate in that the first success I got was with Deep Purple. I’d been in bands before and made records and we’d had various bits of success here and there but the first real success I had was with Deep Purple. And it was really music not designed to be successful, it was music that just came out of us naturally. It would be a terrible thing to be remembered for something you hated. I think I’m very fortunate in that the thing that transported me somewhere was something that wasn’t done for business reasons, it was done for the music reasons. And although, there’ve been times in my life where I’ve slipped and gone either way, for example Rainbow.
When I was asked to produce Rainbow my sole function was really to make it more commercial. That’s what Ritchie wanted, that’s what the management wanted, They wanted to be commercial because they needed to sell records. And that’s when “Since You Been Gone” happened. Now that was a distinct move towards something commercial. But for the most part of my life I think I’ve remained fairly true to that first thing that I found, which is just the fun of making music. I love music, I love listening to it and I love playing and that’s really what it’s down to. The business side of it is a kind of necessary evil that I have to partake in from time to time. I don’t usually get to know people in record companies very well. They’re non-entities to me. We have a manager who deals with them. There’s certain people on a day-to-day level that we meet and that are very nice people. But I tend not to trust them too much. “Accidentally On Purpose” was a good case in point of a record company stabbing us in the back. We finished that album and it was out a week and they dropped us. They dropped us for some political reason. It was nothing to do with us. It was nothing whatsoever to do with us. And yet there’s this album that we put a lot of our heart and soul into and suddenly all the money went from the promotion. The rug was pulled out from under our feet and we were left dangling with nothing but an album in some shops that wasn’t getting any promotion. That’s a hard pill to swallow. I was very depressed about that. But there you go, that’s in the past. I got over it. And the album still stands to me. I’m happy with the album and whatever it does. If people like it – great. It doesn’t have to sell in large quantities for me to happy about it.
SG: You always wear hats onstage. Could you imagine after your musical career opening a hat shop?
RG: No, I can’t imagine that. That’s purely Spinal Tap. Yeah I could sell hats. “What size are you, sir? Six and two quarters?”
SG: Do you also have it in brown?
RG: “I’m sorry we don’t have that.” See I could do that. Have you seen Spinal Tap?
SG: You like to paint very much. Tell us something about that.
RG: In fact I’ve just been out walking in Heidelberg looking for some tube of white water colour paint. I’ve always painted. That was my first career. From my early age I always drew and painted. Through school it was always my best subject. I was not very good in school. I only had three good results; English literature, English language and art. Everything else I was very poor at; Math, languages, sciences, you know – hopeless. And I went to art college when I left school for about two years. And I always thought that art would be my career and I don’t know in what aspect. Whether I’d have been a designer or a painter or a interior designer or architect or whatever. I don’t know, something to do creative things. But music kind of chose me. I didn’t have much choice. But art is something that is obviously in my blood. My father paints, my mother paints, my daughter now paints and she’s very good. And I paint. It’s purely a hobby, very few people see my work, I don’t sell it, I don’t exhibit it. I don’t know why really, I don’t have a great deal of faith in what I do that people would want to buy it. I do it purely for my own release if you like. Something I have to do from time to time.
SG: What was the worst gig you ever played in your life?
RG: See that’s a very journalistic question. They always want the worst, the best, the biggest… Always the extremes and life is, as I said before, far more complex than that. Worst gig I ever did in my life? You’d have to give me a couple of weeks to go through my life to figure out what that is.
There’s several times when I’ve wanted to be off stage. That I felt not comfortable being onstage. One of them was in Birmingham NEC in ’93, when Ritchie was already going to leave the band, he’d already told us he was leaving. And we had about ten more concerts to do knowing that he was gonna be leaving. Sort of uneasy at the best of things. And we went onstage in the Birmingham NEC and he started throwing water around and throwing a tantrum. That was one of those times when I couldn’t wait to get off stage. I just felt like I really don’t belong up here and I don’t want to be here.
Another time was when we played Budapest in Hungary and the cycles were wrong and so the organ was about a semitone flat to the guitar and the bass and we didn’t know what it was, it just sounded absolutely awful. The first notes of “Highway Star” were just awful. And you can’t do anything about it. You’re there, you can’t stop and tune up and figure out what the problem is you just have to somehow carry on. I don’t tend to dwell on those, the worst.
SG: Imagine you were the program director of MTV, what would you change?
RG: Everything! *laughter* I’d close the station down. *laughter*
I’m not a great video fan although I think there are some good videos. It’s an artistic environment in which creative people can do wonderful thing. But by and large it’s just devalued music to me, it devalues the mystery of the music. I much prefer to read a book than see the movie because I’m invariably disappointed by the movie. And I think the same goes for a video. I’d much prefer to listen to the music than watch the video. It’s a different medium really, it’s not a medium I’m very much involved in because I’m in rock music and to me that’s much more to do with pop music. Although it’s a distinction that is very blurry at times. To me it’s quite a strong distinction. Pop music is not a reason for anything other than just to pass some time, whereas rock music has a bit more depth to it and it has more meaning to me.
I don’t know what I’d change, I’d probably vary the format a lot more. I hate the idea of targetting an audience. If I was an MD I think I’d probably indulge my own tastes and hope they coincided with other people’s.
SG: Something different – a crazy question; Imagine an alien landed outside and you have to tell him that the earth is a nice place to be. What would you say? Go to a Deep Purple concert and you’ll be convinced? *laughter*
RG: Well I’d have to be convinced that the earth is a nice place to be first of all. And for the most part it is. Of all the arts music to me is the hardest thing to pin down because a painting sits there, it’s a real thing and you can look at it and go back to it. A poem you can read again, a statue you can look at. Music is there and it’s gone. As soon as you’ve heard it it’s disappeared. You can only really listen to music in your memory of what you’ve just heard and judge it. And one of the hardest things to teach my children is the value of expressing yourself to the highest form that you can.
And if you listen to some classical music or you listen to some rock music or jazz whatever, you will hear, to me, the height of creative expression. So I’d give them a couple of albums and say go and listen to those and take them to your own world. Because in music you hear all emotions, you hear everything that anyone can possibly express, in a wide range of music. It’s the good news medium, music. It tells us that we’re not alone in the world. That deep emotions we’re all capable of and we’re all capable of joy and sorrow in equal measure. Joy and pain, I just read about this, there was a lovely quote… We’re faced with joy and pain, pain being the shadow cast by joy. Bright as your joy is, that’s as long the shadow is. In fact it’s a great lyric on Purpendicular: “Heaven wouldn’t be this high I know, if the times gone by hadn’t been so low.” It’s always an equal measure.
SG: You’re really into that stuff I think.
RG: Well I’m fifty years old, I’m not into fast cars and women any more! *laughter*
SG: Did you ever have the feeling of getting crazy in the next second?
RG: Yeah. I’m not quite sure what you mean by the question, but there are times when I’ve questioned myself. That’s a very personal question actually. Questioning your own sanity. I think I’m a pretty sane person, I think. I think I’ve had an extraordinary run of good fortune in my life to be where I am at this stage. And I’ve seen a lot of people who have had similar success and have that very success turn them and change them as people into something less than they should be. It’s almost like a test. Alcohol is a test. Drugs are a test. Fame’s a test. Money is a test. If you can handle all those things and you have come through it with a good character…
I think I’ve handled myself, I pretty confident I’ve handled myself in a fairly sane way. But there’s always a doubt that it hasn’t turned you in some way and you can’t recognize yourself anymore. But I suppose the best gauge you have to go on by that is the way people react to you, especially people who know you, my family for example. I mean my mother would not recognize me if I’d changed that much, so I don’t think I’ve changed that much.
SG: You’re quite active on the Internet. What do you think about it in general?
RG: Well, I think I was flattered first of all by the attention that Deep Purple was receiving on the Internet. That was my first thought. That there were all these people talking about us. That we’d just done a couple of gigs in Florida at the beginning of last year, and I flew home to New York and my son was there, my stepson I should say, was there with the computer on and said: “Look, you played well last night!” Wow, you know. And there’s a review, you know. And I was astounded by that. Wow. And so the implications of the Internet really opened up, I’d never thought about it before.
And I think that’s why I got involved in it really. I can just print stuff out and it goes out to millions of people. It doesn’t actually go out to millions of people, but it goes out to actually quite a few by comparison. And it’s grown to such an extent, I mean the World Wide Web is now commonplace. And I think in a way it’s like any good thing, any good technological breakthrough brings with it a bad side. And the bad side of the Internet is that you can lose yourself in it, you can lose your own personality. There’s some people for whom loneliness is a way of life and it has given them possibly a little ray of sunshine into their lives, but it’s also concreted them into a lonely room far more than they were before. There’s no substitute for human contact on a real level.
And most of what goes on in the Internet is not really of any great import. The guy who invented the telegraph – I was reading a book, and he said that the guy who invented the telegraph was amazed at his discovery that we could send morse codes. He said now we have the ability to communicate over vast distances only to find out that we’ve got nothing to say to each other. So, there’s a great fear that an enormous amount of completely useless information careening across the world to no great end, except it’s another way of twiddling thumbs. So I’m a little wary of it and I still take part in it, although I can’t get on when I’m on tour very often. I don’t take it quite as seriously as I did – if I ever took it seriously; I don’t know. It’s lost its thrill to a certain extent because I can see the kind of people that I find myself talking to… Not all of course, I’ve actually met some very nice people through the Net. Usually people on the Purple thing that I’ve got connected to are actually very nice people. Very loyal and very interesting people. But there are others who are mostly, I think, just bored and lonely – and boring.
SG: You talk so much about literature, could you imagine yourself ever writing a book?
RG: Yeah! I’m writing a book called “When I Write The Book”, either that’s gonna be a song called “When I Write The Book”, I don’t know. But ever since Ian Gillan wrote his book I was er, how can I say this nicely? It skips over so much, it’s a very surfacey book that I sometimes think that I should be the one to write the real book, the real story. But then I think well who the hell’s gonna be interested in it. You know, have I got anything worth saying? (YES! – SG) At least Ian’s got a way with humour, you know. He develops his anecdotes. Things that happen become stories and he’s very much into that. And I don’t have that interest in telling old stories and retelling them and retelling them and retelling them till they become fable. If I write a book I’d like it to be very honest and real and weak and human. To tell the real story about me. Not the story about Deep Purple per se, although obviously the story of Deep Purple would come into it in a big way. So I’m torn between actually what I want to do. Whether I want to write a story about Deep Purple or whether I want to write a story about myself, and if it’s a story about myself is it worth writing? So I don’t know. Yes, I do write. I write stuff, I write stories, I write my journal. Maybe I should just, one day, publish my journals. But I think they’d be pretty boring things.
SG: You never know. Let the people judge.
RG: Maybe, maybe.
SG: If you think back to your early days. I’ve seen a lot of practice rooms of bands. Have you ever had a real terrible practice room?
RG: Practice rooms to start with were always rooms in our houses. The back room or the front room, whichever wasn’t being used by the rest of the family. In the early days I can’t remember much. Practice rooms were just places really that you found that were convenient, that didn’t cost too much. Gymnasiums, youth clubs, dance halls, clubs, anything went really.
The only place I can remember, which isn’t so long ago, during “The House Of Blue Light”. We’d done “Perfect Strangers” in the basement of a house in Stowe, Vermont and it was very a crammed basement, it was a very low roof and the fact that we made a record that sounds so good in such terrible circumstances is still a miracle to me. But we’ve always given ourselves these kinds of handicaps. It’s traditional with this band. Anyway, come to do the next album we found a place again in Stowe, which was a theatre, an old wooden building called The Playhouse. That’s where they put plays on in the summer seasons and stuff. And it was closed, it had been closed for a couple of years. But it was there, it was a big box and there was a stage and seats all around. And we basically took it over. We had the mobile recording studio parked outside and we had all this space in which to work. A real stage was set up and all the gear went out in the seats and stuff and we made ourselves… we spread out. And we spent three months there and in that three months I think was probably the unhappiest three months I’ve ever spent because nothing went right. The music did not flow. The feelings in the band were muddled. The place was damp, even though we’d had heaters going on, there was a profound dampness to the place. Ritchie thought it was haunted – but then he thinks everywhere’s haunted – but it plants the seed. It never really came alive for us. If I listen to some of the outtakes of us trying to do songs like “Bad Attitude” or “Mad Dog”, it sounds so awful. It sounds… there’s an atmosphere there that was not conducive to music. And I think that place in itself goes a long way towards the eventual demise of Deep Purple in those days. It’s one of those… If we hadn’t been there, if we’d been somewhere else and had a great time and made a great album who knows how different it would have been.
SG: Have you ever been close to going to jail? Rock musicians on the road sometimes really get problems that they are not responsible for themselves.
RG: No, I never got close to going to jail. Rock musicians suffer from a reputation that’s based on a few rock musicians. I was never a particularly destructive rock musician. I know people have gone to jail, Ritchie went to jail for example. I got arrested once in my life. I was sixteen at the time. I was at a party and we’d been having a bit too much cider, and at three o’clock in the morning we decided to play cowboys and indians in the high street. And I was suffering a terrible death because someone had just shot me with a billiard cue from behind a doorway. We were kids and all of a sudden there’s police everywhere and I was arrested and hands up, into the van, off to the police station, spent the night in jail. We had to go to court. We were charged with disorderly behaviour or something like that and I had to pay a two pound fine. Two pounds actually was quite a lot of money. Two week’s pocket money. It was the closest I got to being incarcerated. I didn’t enjoy that cell that much.
SG: A night experience.
RG: Yeah, and probably put me off for good. I’m not really a trouble maker.
SG: Deep Purple already joined in musician’s soccer teams. Have you also been a part of it? Do you like sports?
RG: I’ve never been particularly sportsmanlike, the two sports I really indulge in are skiing and scuba diving, the things I like to do most. I did soccer, cricket, rugby and stuff when I was at school, but I was not a natural athlete, it always gave me a headache. In fact, because of that whenever wednesdays came and wednesday was sportsday I used to take time off from school and go and sit in a coffeebar and figure out how I could be a big popstar. *laughter* That was my dream.
So sports never came into it. Funnily enough until later when Ritchie was into sports and wanted to play soccer all the time I started playing soccer. From the age of about fourteen or fifteen I didn’t play soccer much until I was well into my forties. And I didn’t really enjoy it that much, but when I got out there I did enjoy it. I didn’t enjoy the politics behind it it became a political thing. But you know, there were times when I did enjoy playing, yes. I’ve more recently discovered tennis which is not anywhere near as political and it’s much easier to organize. Organizing a football game requires that you get at least a dozen people to make it interesting, you know, and that can be difficult sometimes. But I’m not really into sports per se. I like watching a good soccer game. Any good game I like to watch. But tennis, I seem to connect with tennis.
SG: Back to music. Which instrument, speaking of its sound, do you really hate and think should be strictly forbidden?
RG: *laughter* Hmmmm, you know, I never used to like the sound of trumpets much. They were always too harsh. But that’s not to say that it can’t be played in such a way that it can be beautiful. But in general, sort of a blaring of trumpets, especially a top… an orchestra sometimes jars with me. But I can’t really say I hate anything that’s musical. There’s nothing really that I hate. In my mind now I’m going through all kinds of musical instruments. It’s like a computer – do I hate it or don’t I hate it? And I can’t come across anything that I hate.
SG: So it’s kind of like you said, you like to experiment and you’re open to everything.
RG: Yes, absolutely. I got fed up with electric guitar once. When I did “Elements”, the solo album, there’s no electric guitars in it. And that’s because I just got so sick of hearing the same old fast solos. I’ve been through, in Deep Purple… I left Deep Purple three years before and producing all other bands, Nazareth and so on and so forth. All these electric guitars all seem to sound the same to me. Expressing the same thing. And I got very fed up with that. But that went away I mean, I’m into electric guitar more than ever now.
SG: So could you even imagine like having a free jazz band on tour with you?
RG: I can imagine that. I can’t imagine the audience liking it. I think it would be very very… See I love all music, I’m one of those unfortunate people, I like too much. And I think in a way that’s what gives Deep Purple a certain depth is that we grew up in the fifties all of us, at a time when music was not quite so channelled as it is now. Music, you heard everything on the radio. You didn’t have stations that played pop music or rock music all day long. You had stations that played traditional English brass band music, classical music, gospel, jazz, folk, everything. That was all music. Pop music was the thing that went up the charts, but all music had its place in our lives. And I think that is very much inherent in the way we think of things and the way we play things. Those formative years were very broad and maybe that’s given us a broad spectrum of music on which to base ideas. I feel sorry for kids, especially in America now, who grow up and they have two or three radio stations – I’ve seen it in my own children – two or three radio stations to listen to and they listen to the same kind of music and that polarizes people. You start polarizing music into white music and black music and to me that’s totally unhealthy because the kind of music that I play owes probably more to black music than to any other kind of music. As soon as you start differentiating and getting prejudices into music then you’re losing the very value of music itself. Music then becomes a team sport, you support your team and you hate the others. And music to me is not like that at all. It’s the opposite for me. So that’s that.
SG: I heard that Ian will do a new single to be released on the Internet. This is something very new. Nobody ever did this before.
RG: I don’t know much about it. I know the song. I’ve heard him writing the song over the last three or four years. It’s been one of his little tunes that… You know – Ian sometimes gets hold of these tunes that get hold of him. They tend to take him over. It’s great, it’s a charming tune. It’s not a particular rock thing or anything like this. It’s just a tune he wrote.
In fact, we both suffer from that. I suffer from the fact that I cannot channel my music a lot of the time. The things I write have nothing to do with anything, have nothing to do with Deep Purple, sometimes not even to do with any recognizable form of music. I do a lot of experimental stuff. Silly tunes, sloppy tunes, sentimental stuff and ballads – I write all this kind of stuff. Not because I want to, just because it comes out. Then I dunno what to do with it. So I’m stuck at home with tons of stuff, half baked, half finished ideas, bits and pieces – so I’m actually thinking of collecting the best of it and putting out a little stupid album of silly tunes…
SG: …just fragments of songs…?
RG: Just fragments. Yeah.
SG: Why not? Would be something new, too.
RG: Well, I gotta get them out of my system, ’cause they’re clogging up things, You know.
SG: …get rid of them…
RG: Yeah. I don’t expect they’re certainly – they’ll not really be on the top of the pops. *laughter*
SG: *laughter* But as you said: You had one hit album and that’s enough for you. You had that experience, now you know that don’t need to have any more.
RG: That’s right. I mean actually – an album to me is succesful if I like it. It doesn’t necessarily have to sell. Of course you want it to sell, you don’t do an album not to sell. But that disappointment when something is not a hit doesn’t hit me so hard these days. If something’s not a hit, I just feel sorry for the people that haven’t heard it. But sometimes I’m glad things aren’t a hit, when they’re not particulary good. It’s a complex world.
SG: You’re right. I guess we’re always coming back to the same points more or less.
RG: Yeah, we do that.
SG: So – maybe let’s just go outside…
RG: It’s been a very interesting discussion, actually some very original questions and I like that. I didn’t think I’d have anything to say, but as soon as you start talking…
…but as soon as he starts talking, he’s got a lot of interesting stuff to say. Too bad that we did not have some more time to talk. But maybe you guys from the web-crew can convince the band to let some more talks follow on the next tours. Just tell me time and place, I’ll be there…
Interview by Stefan Glas.
Transcribed by Rasmus Heide and Andreas Thul