Deep Purple are on the road! Once again, as they have done for three decades, the tour is taking them all over the world, playing everything from the small comforts of the House of Blues clubs to the vast space of the Wembley Arena. Unlike many of their contemporaries from the early seventies, Deep Purple are still on top of their game. Witness the new CD! Abandon bristles with energy, shines with classic songwriting and explodes with the power of hard rock not heard from Purple since the classic Perfect Strangers album. Just before finishing the recording of Abandon, I caught up with lead singer Ian Gillan at the cozy Cat & Fiddle Bar on the eve of their Los Angeles House of Blues show. Over a few pints of beer, we enjoyed a laid-back evening talking about Ian the person and Ian the business man and Ian, now the main man in Deep Purple...
Shockwaves: Why a small tour through the House of Blues this time?
We've been in the studio since the end of August 1997 and we love to go out and play. We did a few shows just before last Christmas and now these here in Los Angeles. The House of Blues is a perfect place for us at the moment. What does this do for you as you return to the studio? First, it gets you back in touch with playing live and in front of an audience; and second, the studio does tend to get a bit crazy. Also, it lets us practice a couple of new tunes. In the past, I have recorded so many tunes and, a couple of weeks into the tour, I often wished I had done something like this. It's like a jacket... after you've worn it a couple of times it feels much more comfortable.
Shockwaves: Your shows are always very loose; with plenty of improvisation...
Yeah...our shows have always been like that. There's always a lot of improvisation. You never know what is going to happen next, but there is always some framework to it. But we don't know any other way to play! The attitude is very loose, the band is tight! We never do a show as such, we just get up and play the music.
Shockwaves: The best representation of this is on the Japanese reissue of Made In Japan, the 3-CD set. Recorded on three consecutive nights, you can see that the songs are drastically different; each show has its own individual vibe. To me, that's mastery! How does Steve Morse fit into this type of live setting and the style of Deep Purple in general?
Absolutely great. He has such an eclectic style of music as his background, but he grew up with Deep Purple. He is very familiar with the start of the band and what we were doing over the years, in the studio and in concert. He's brought in his own distinction and yet he is a wonderful team player. He's been a leader in his own band running the show, yet he seems very simpatico. He trades well with Jon...
Shockwaves: Was he the proverbial much needed kick in the ass?
No, not really. The band did not need it! We were raring to go, when Joe Satriani played with us. That was the transition period for us. A great deal of confidence returned to all of us. Our music was regimented at the time; it was becoming too automatic and there was a lot of tension, but these last five years have been just fine. Steve has become the highest common denominator. He's not just someone following the train.
Shockwaves: How do you compare Steve to Ritchie Blackmore, or even Bernie Torme' from your days with Gillan, the band?
Steve, he's got a much wider range of influences than any of them, especially Bernie, bluegrass and jazz. His approach is so broad, not just heads down whatever! He is almost hard to describe.
Shockwaves: And what do you know of Bernie Torme, who just released a new CD called Wild Irish. Ever tempted to work with him again?
I went to his house a couple of years ago and we wrote a couple of songs together, but nothing ever came of it. He's doing his thing and I am doing mine...
Shockwaves: What was going through your head when Blackmore left the band five years ago? Ever thought of just calling it quits?
Well, the feeling up to that point was despair. Nobody wanted this to happen, but you know, when he left it was like...wow! Honestly, we were in a nosedive with Ritchie, there was no real future for this band. When he left, he made it very easy for us to pick it up again. When we were looking for a replacement, Steve was number one on everybody's list.
Shockwaves: What are your goals of the new album, personally and as a band?
No ambition at all, no goals... just writing some good songs, really... there is no game plan. Actually, there never was any game plan even when we came together in '69 - I just love being a singer in a hard rocking band!
Shockwaves: Tell us more about the recording of Abandon!
You never know what comes out at the end - it's the same approach: You go to the studio. You work six hours a day and crank it out. You jam, jam, jam. Roger has a DAT player where he keeps track of all the ideas. It is purely just an exploratory exercise. Everyone's energy comes up, people come up with different ideas, a little structure here, a little structure there. Something may sponsor a lyric or a tune - it's a routine of writing that we've been in since day one, really, it is just the joy of it. The idea of lyrics and tunes, it's everyone's job to contribute. So Roger and I worked on the songs as such, and it all comes out at the end of the day - sometimes it comes out okay, sometimes it's not.
Shockwaves: You write as you go in the studio?
Yes! We never come in with anything; it's such a nebulous form you never know what the mood is going to be. If you come with a pre-conceived idea, you may be trying to pull something through that isn't natural. Sometimes it will be very funky, sometimes bluesy, sometimes it will be straight ahead rock - whatever. We go in to make a record, and you just throw yourself into it - that's it. You don't aim for a certain style - we don't say it's going to be this on this record or that on that record, so there's no organization.
Click Here For DEEP PURPLE SHOCKWAVES Interview Part 2