Deep Purple (Roger Glover) interview
Interview by Davide Sciaky
Puoi leggere l’intervista in italiano qui.
Hi Roger, how are you doing?
I’m fine, thanks, how are you?
I’m well, thank you. How did you spend the past few months of lock-down?
Well, I think everyone’s suffering, it’s not just us.
We’re out of work until next year, which is a problem, and we don’t even know yet what’s gonna happen next year.
It’s a horrible situation what we’re all in.
I isolated for about three months and, you know, I’m fortunate to live in a village in the countryside and all I can think about is of the poor people who are not living in the countryside, living in big cities and high up in skyscrapers, with five kids in two rooms.
Yeah, this is bit like I’ve been living, minus the five kids, and it’s not been very pleasant.
No, I can imagine.
Talking about coronavirus, the last show Deep Purple played was at a festival in Mexico in March, when the virus situation was already getting worse. Weren’t you concerned to play that show?
Yes, we were.
But at the time the whole thing had been set up for a long time and it seemed okay, the situation in Mexico at that time was pretty clear, as far as we knew.
As we got closer to it, hour by hour things were unfolding and I left will kinds of masks, disinfectants and everything like that, I wiped down the seat were I sat on the plane.
So, we were very aware of it and I think we were very lucky to get out of it without any problem.
Your new album, “Whoosh!”, will be released next month. Can you walk me through the writing and recording process for the album? And, in general, how does the songwriting work for Deep Purple, and was it any different this time around?
I think we work in the same way that we always worked, even back to the 70s, even back to the 60s.
As Ian Gillan famously said, “Deep Purple is an instrumental band with vocal accompaniment”.
In a way, it all comes from the music that we play, the songs, the words, the lyrics come almost as an afterthought.
Musically the band has to be challenged and we come up with things… we don’t know what’s going on top of them, so the words go on last, and it’s always been that way, this album was no different.
We have two writing sessions before an album, the first one being just a sort of free for all, we just play and play and play and things appear and try this idea or that idea, it only takes about nine days because after that you get kinda burned out when you’re trying so hard.
Then, the second writing session is when we sit through the stuff and we pick out the ones that we think are the most promising, and then we have a week with Bob Ezrin when we play him what we have done and he adds his comments, and changes things around, and then we go to the studio.
By the time we go to the studio we pretty much know what we are doing and it goes very quickly, we don’t spend a lot of time in the studio.
We record all together, we don’t layer things, we’re all in the same room at the same time, recording at the same time.
And I think that’s impor… we tried the other way back in the 80s, everyone did that, it’s trying to reach for perfection, but perfection doesn’t satisfy, it’s imperfection that satisfy.
Yeah, I guess you lose the…
You lose the humanity.
… lose the rawness and Rock side to it, it’s too clinical.
Yeah, perfection is not art then, there’s no humanity involved.
I mean, we could carry on this discussion talking about the state of current music where everything is made by robots, basically, that’s why everything sounds the same.
This is something that actually I wanted to ask you, an argument that every now and then comes about with journalists or musicians is that “Rock is dead”. Just a couple of days ago I read an article that said that the best-selling Rock records of 2020 are mostly greatest hits by Queen, Elton John, Fleetwood Mac and a bunch of others. Maybe Rock is not dead, but I think we can say that it’s not looking that well for the younger bands, what do you think?
Is it because the music is not good enough, is it something else…?
Well, I’m no professor of music but, first of all I don’t think in terms of Rock, I think in terms of music.
You know, Rock is music, but so is Jazz, so is orchestral music, so is Folk and everything, it’s all music and we sometimes forget that because we get so involved in putting labels on things you lose touch with other stuff.
I don’t listen to a lot of Rock bands, and I don’t listen too much new stuff anyway, but I’ve never listened to Rock much, partly because that’s what we do, you know, we play Rock, why should I listen to it by someone else? There’s always the danger I might start copying other people, and that’s not what I want to do either.
Music in general has just become more commercial, everything has become more commercial to the point where humanity and the natural ability to express yourself seems to be diminishing.
Back to the album, I’ve been listen to it for a few days now and if I had to find a word to describe this album that would be “varied”, because there are many different moments, many different sounds and atmospheres, and yet it always sounds Deep Purple. Was that your goal, in a way, when you started working on it?
First of all, we never have a goal, we don’t plan an album, and album is a blank canvas on which we paint songs.
We don’t know what their future is gonna be, we have no idea, the only thing we do there’s a kind of an unspoken instinct about what we put on an album or we don’t.
It’s hard to define what that is, it’s just a feeling, it’s a feeling, it doesn’t matter if it’s a weird ballad or a strange… it doesn’t matter, we are not bound by the fact that we have to produce Deep Purple sounding records.
I think maybe we’ve have earned that right for having been around so long, defying expectations is always good.
We don’t have any expectations of ourselves, other people have expectations, we can’t really worry about that. We do what we do, and it turns out that way, why should we fight that?
And it’s not gonna be in everyone’s taste, we are not out to impress everyone, we’re not out to have everyone love us, we’re not out to have a huge global, total, universal, huge hit.
We’re in the old fashioned way, just having fun writing music, and I’m sure lots of people don’t like it, we get criticized, of course, but that doesn’t matter to us.
I always remember in the early days there was this feeling in the band that we were not following other people, we were leading.
You have to lead.
Maybe that’s part of our success because of that, we don’t follow trends, we don’t think about fashion, we are resolutely ourselves.
It doesn’t please everyone, but that’s the way it is.
This album is the band’s twenty-first over more than 50 years of career. I guess this is a question you hear a lot, but where do you still find the inspiration after all this time?
[Laughs] That’s a good question, the best answer I can give you is something I thought when I was about eight years old.
When I was about eight, I lived in Wales, in a village, and every week we go to the market in the main town and there was a cinema there, and the cinema had big posters outside with the catchy titles of movies, and I actually did think, “What’s gonna happen when they’ll run out of movie titles?”.
Now, that’s a silly thing to think, that’s a typical eight years old thing to think, you can never run out of anything.
Things change and evolve, there are new ways of doing even the older things, that’s how mankind has been going on; we find new ways of doing the same things.
Following up on this thing of you having been around for a long time, I’m wondering if and how your approach to creating music has changed over the years. Because, I mean, when you start you want to make it, you want to make a living as a musician, you want to become successful. Now, many years later, you have been part of one of the most successful and influential Rock bands ever, I guess that might change the way you approach music.
Yeah, that’s looking at it from the outside, from the inside we’re just musicians making music, we love what we do and don’t want to stop.
At least, I don’t want to stop, that’s my reason for living, that’s music.
Yes, lucky we are, lucky and very fortunate that we’ve had a career like this, no one could have predicted that.
But it’s not hard to keep going, because if you’re a creative person that’s what you are, you’re creative, you don’t stop being creative when you’ve had success, in fact it’s the opposite.
Yeah, I guess that there are also more expectations, so you sort of have to keep making music.
Yeah, but again, we’re not interested in impressing people, we’re more interested in impressing ourselves.
You just said that you don’t want to stop, but a few years back, because of the name of the last tour, “The Long Goodbye Tour”, some people thought that would be your farewell tour. What was the thought process behind that names, was it a sort of joke, or what?
Well, at the time there were a few medical problems with the band and certain members thought, “We should stop while we’re on top”, as it were, stop while we’re ahead.
I thought that was premature, but that thought did persist.
We are not gonna name a date when we’re gonna finish, I’m totally against that.
Doing one big, spectacular last gig is the opposite of what I want to happen.
I just want to continue working until we stop, and that’s it, no announcements.
But there was some kind of pressure that we should mention something like this, so Ian Gillan came out with that, “The Long Goodbye”, I think it’s a great title, how long is “long”? Well, how long is a piece of string.
If it gets longer, how bad can that be?
So here we are, and we don’t know the answer, when we’re gonna finish, like anyone doesn’t know when they’re gonna die.
We take it day by day.
Yeah, this is another thing that I wanted to ask you, if you’d call it “the final tour”, once you set your mind on a tour being the final, because I guess there is a lot of responsibility with it, because if you don’t actually call it a day it looks a bit hypocritical…
…or like you finished your money.
We are who we are now, we’re not who we were then.
And who we are now, you know, we’re in our seventies and we are approaching an end, that’s obvious, but we don’t want it to end and we don’t know when it will end.
In fact it might have already have ended: we are out of work for a year and there’s no certain guarantees that it’s gonna happen next year, because the world is in a horrible state.
We are falling apart as a planet, that’s very, very disturbing, very frightening, very worring and it’s difficult to keep being optimistic.
I’ve seen the booklet of the album and noticed that Bruce Payne is not mentioned. He’s been your manager and Deep Purple’s manager for a long time, what happened with him?
We kind of reached an end to our productive years with a manager.
It’s very sad, Bruce is one of my best friends, we still talk, we’re still friends, but we felt the need to change and so we changed.
It doesn’t make any difference to the band, to the music of the band.
“Smoke on the Water” is one of the biggest Rock songs ever, the first one many learn on their instrument, you get to an instrument store and like, half the times you can hear some kid playing it. Do you remember the specific moment, if there was one, when you realised how big the song had become?
Yes, when we recorded it, we had no idea of its future, in fact it was almost left off the album.
Do you know the story about how we recorded “Machine Head”? Because that’s really part of it.
Yeah, you were in Montreux…
Casino burning down and all that.
Within a couple of days, Claude Nobs who was a Swiss guy sorting everything out booked us into a small theatre nearby and we were there for one day, we recorded a very quick instrumental thing we had no idea what it was, and as we were recording it the police stopped us because it was past midnight and we were keeping the whole town awake.
So, we couldn’t record there and five or six days later we ended up in this closed down hotel and we recorded there, that’s when we recorded ‘Highway Star’, ‘Lazy’, ‘Pictures of Home’ and all the others and we found we were one song short, we needed another song, and we thought, “What about that jam, that one thing that we did at that small theatre?”.
We looked at it and I thought, “Why don’t we just write a song about what happened to us here?”, and so we did, “Okay, let’s put it on the album”.
We didn’t think it was gonna be the song it was gonna become, it was other people, it was the public, if you like, certain DJs started playing that and when the live album came, when “Made In Japan” came out, the live version, we realised then that ‘Smoke on the Water’ was something special, we didn’t even know it.
Maybe that’s the key to it, we did without thinking: if you try to write a blockbuster song, you can’t.
We wrote that purely instinctively, very quickly, and it was off the cuff… boom! We didn’t know.
Looking back now and analysing it, we can see the strengths that ‘Smoke on the Water’ has, the amazing riff, it’s very difficult to come up with riffs that sound that original, there’s only so much you can do with riffs, but maybe not, maybe there are other things you can do with riffs, and that was one of those moments.
The song, even though it was written honestly, it was just like a story, there’s a certain mystery to it that’s intriguing.
I remember back when I was in Rainbow, years ago, I went to do an interview in San Diego, at a radio station, and the guy said, “Roger Glover, Rainbow. Tell me Roger, have you been in a band before Rainbow?”.
I said, “Yes, I was in a band called Deep Purple” and went, “Oh, Deep Purple! Is it true that you guys set fire to an island?”.
Oh my God [laughs].
Word for word, it is so clear to me because it was such a ridiculous question!
Yeah [laughs] and it made me think, I’m a lyricist as well, I love lyrics that have layers of meaning, and although we didn’t have any layers of meaning in that song, somehow the words have a mystery to them.
So, maybe that’s the answer as well, I don’t know, it’s hard to analyse stuff.
Yeah, and that’s something that I thought when I was writing these questions, that is something that happened with other bands, like with ‘Paranoid’ by Black Sabbath which was also written in like 5 minutes.
So, maybe when you just go without thinking too much, from a honest place, that might be where the biggest hits are born.
I think that in a way our modus operandi, our M.O., is that we don’t know what we are doing, we just go ahead and do stuff because it pleases us.
Someone asked me a long time ago, “How come you don’t write songs like ‘Highway Star’ anymore?”, I said, “Well, we do, they don’t sound like ‘Highway Star’, but we didn’t know what ‘Highway Star’ was gonna be when we wrote it”.
Every song you write you have no idea what its future might be, so you just keep going by instinct.
You’re right there, when the brain takes over and you start thinking too much about what you’re doing, as opposed to just doing things instinctively, there’s a change.
Instinct is a very powerful thing, and spontaneity is a very powerful thing, we’ve always believed in that, most of our stuff comes out of spontaneity.
We don’t go in with a finished song, if I went to a writing session with a finished song, “Hey lads, I’ve got this song, I’ve written everything, what do you think?”, it wouldn’t go down very well because it’s not a Purple song, it’s a Glover song.
Purple songs come out of the meeting of five minds, you can’t do that on you own.
Well, I’m not saying you [laughs] we can’t do that.
As you mentioned Rainbow, a few years back Ritchie Blackmore reformed the band, and of course you’ve had a big role in the band considering that you played on four of their eight studio albums. I was wondering if you were contacted to be part of this new lineup, or if you wish you were?
No to both.
I haven’t spoken to Ritchie since he left.
That’s his choice, so… I’m a huge fan of Ritchie, by the way, I think Ritchie is a marvellous player, and I am more than grateful that I was in a band with him, or two bands with him.
That was great, that was a great part of my life and I loved it but, you know, things happen, you go separate ways and I wish him the best of luck in what he does.
We’re on a different track now.
Since the beginning of your career a lot has changed in the music industry: from vinyl to CD to digital music, now there’s a big influence of internet, Spotify and so on. What do you think is definitely better in the industry now compared to when you first started, and is there anything that you wish hadn’t changed from then?
[Laughs] I never thought about that but…
Music and sport back in the 60s, and the 70s, were the only two outlets: to escape from poverty, you could either become a sportsman, a footballer, or you could become a musician in a band, nothing else, really.
So, that almost became like religions, to fans as wall as players, music meant so much to so many people.
I’ve heard said not long ago, “There was a time when one song could rule the world,” and that can’t happen anymore, it just cannot happen.
I mean, if it does it’s not worth thinking it’s a good song or anything, it’s just got some catchy novelty value or whatever.
But, yeah, the streaming and the whole business thing is all about money, whereas back in the 60s it was not that.
Yeah, of course money always played a part, but the impetus for doing what you did was coming from the heart, not the wallet.
And I think that the whole idea of celebrity is pretty sick, admiring someone for what they do is one thing, but it’s not a religion anymore, there’s no message, just our existence in the 60s was a message.
Now there’s no message, we are who we are, take it or leave it.
And you have to do that with life, it is what it is, you take it or leave it.
You have to, to a certain extent, learn with the times.
Yes, I’d like to make mono singles on vinyl [laughs] and in fact we tried that, even back in the 70s with ‘Strange Kind of Woman’, we were still thinking, “Mono is a great thing as well, let’s do a mono single”, and we tried to do a mono single and the record company said, “No, we don’t even have the equipment to do that anymore”.
The thing that is frustrating is that there is a lot of good music around, it’s just that now music became Rock and Jazz and Folk, there are always all these labels, and now those little labels have proliferated, there’s now thousand of labels, and somehow it’s become niche, everything’s niche.
I love all music, I don’t love just one kind of music, to me it’s all music, everything is music: you like it or you don’t that’s the only difference.
It’s good or it’s bad, opinions comes into it, if someone likes something and you hate it that’s natural, you can’t win people over.
Obviously Deep Purple has become a name that people kind of, in a way they know what to expect, but then we defy expectations.
I agree with you, I think people are a bit too obsessed with labels today, a new song comes out and the discussion around it is, “Oh no, this sounds so 70s Prog, they used to be more like 80s Prog…”, while question should be just… is it good music?
To us it’s all songs, songs are the fuel by which the car runs.
Without songs, you can play riffs, scream a bit, but that doesn’t make a song.
I guess we’re old fashioned in that respect, we write songs, we don’t aim for anything, it’s just expression.
We’re not aiming to make a hit, we’re not aiming to be successful, because our success derive from the fact that we weren’t aiming that way in the first place.
I remember that when I was in Episode Six, the band that I was in with Ian Gillan before Purple, with Episode Six we’d have recorded anything as long as it was gonna be a hit, we just wanted a number one, and we tried nine or ten writing singles and none of them was successful.
When I joined Purple it was the opposite, the instincts and the band then were primarily, “We’re doing what we wanna do”, and the chances of it getting successful were minimum because BBC wouldn’t play anything that sounds like that in England at the time.
It wasn’t exactly a suicide trip, it turned out to be the opposite.
By not wanting to be successful we became successful.
I guess it was as we were saying before, going with the heart instead of the brain, not thinking too much.
Cool, so that was my last question, thank you for your time, it’s been a pleasure to talk with you.
Thank you it’s a pleasure talking to you too, I appreciate the support, thank you very much.
The interesting thing about interviews is that people ask you questions and you don’t know the answer to them.
In a way it’s a self-discovery as much as is it for you magazine, or radio station, or TV, or whatever it is.
It’s an act of self-discovery, when people talk about what I think about things, I never ask myself these questions.
That an interesting way of seeing it, I never thought about it.
For me of course the challenge is asking you something that nobody else asked you…
…otherwise it would be boring for the both of us.
I remember me and Ian Gillan went on a television program in England, I think it was in the 80s, and the VJ, a woman VJ, I can’t remember her name, asked, “What’s all this about “Smoky Water”?”, that was the question! [Laughs] So, thank you for not asking that one!
Thanks again and have a nice rest of the day!
Thank you and the same to you, keep safe!