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This was not the first time Rockpages.gr traveled to meet and interview Ian Gillan. And probably it won't be the last as well. The singer of Deep Purple welcomed me in his room, wearing the clothes of the stage. Barefoot with a pair of comfortable summer trousers and a pink shirt. On the table, there was his laptop on, necessary for his communication with family and collaborators, as well as for putting his notes in order and for writing for his website (www.gillan.com). Read below to find out what he told us about the Deep Purple earthquake – or big bang -, the band’s management, Ritchie Blackmore and… the naked mother-in-law…

Interview: George Anasontzis

Rockpages.gr: I just bought your new dvd documentary, the Highway Star. It's a kind of autobiographical dvd, isn't it?

Ian Gillan: Well, it's not autobiographical; I didn't write it (laughs). But it is like a biographical thing, yes. It took a couple of years. It was kicked off by the idea of doing Gillan's Inn, which is a fortieth anniversary thing. Then, I spoke to Craig Hooper, the producer, "Would you like to do a DVD?” So, he started by just doing some small shots here and there and then he started interviewing my mother, my family and all the other people and musicians and it took about two years to put it together. I think it's quite good. I mean that obviously, it would be of some interest to Deep Purple fans, but I think also, it's quite interesting because it's a human interest story, it's fascinating. I find it quite interesting. So, yes, it's biographical in a sense...

Rockpages.gr: How did it feel to get all this praise from you colleagues?

Ian Gillan: ...and criticism (laughs). I don't think it meant to come out in this way. I think it's just a question of stories, interesting stories... I mean, if I was doing something with my friends, I would tell interesting stories about it and it's very humbling to a certain extent. But, I think that if they had been very honest, they would say that I'm not always good, I'm bad too! (chuckles).

Rockpages.grRockpages.gr: Tell me about "Smoke this". It's not the novel you were writing last year, is it?

Ian Gillan: No, it's not a novel. It's a collection of writings from my website, plus about a hundred and fifty photographs that have never been seen before. It's a very nicely designed piece of work, it's mostly humorous. Originally, it was intended to be the packaging for Gillan's Inn. So, I had the book made and, cds and records being what they are, I just thought, I want to go back to the way it was with the vinyl. You had a nice gatefold cover, lots of stories, anecdotal photographs, candid photographs, a design that went hand in hand with the music, so you feel like you're in the studio with the musicians. This is how it used to be. You used to buy these lovely things and bring them home and they looked great. Read the lyrics... So, I prepared all the stuff and when I spoke to my label, Immergent, they said, you can do all of that electronically. In fact, we'd like to do a dual disc, which is what Gillan's Inn was. So, all of those things were in that disc electronically... not the same things but the same ideas, so I had all the stuff prepared. What am I gonna do with all this stuff? Shell (Sullivan) said let's put that out separately. I'm very pleased with it. It was a lot of fun.

Rockpages.gr: What really surprised me about you is that you seem to spend a lot of time interacting with your fans through you website...

Ian Gillan: It's fantastic. I'm a writer. I write every day. Not necessarily for publishing, but I practice. Steve Morse is on the tour bus. He practices six hours every day, so is Don (Airey), and he's walking up and down the tour bus doing jazz or improvising some groove. Whatever. It's his second nature, so, when he works live on stage, he can hold a musical conversation better than you and I can do using words. It's more lyrical. So I do my crossword, cryptic crossword puzzle and he says to me "Ian, what is about this crossword puzzle every day? You are always doing these cryptic crossword puzzles; I can't understand a single damn clue..." "Steve, I'm just doing the same as you" "Oh, I get it, ok, ok". Never said another word, so, I practice, I write, I'm got many notebooks from my life. I record everything that interests me. I started doing this at school. Something interests you, you see something that makes you angry or makes you happy, you write it down. And then what you remember, you remember the date, the time, the emotion at the time. If you don't write it down, it will merge and blend into other thoughts and it won't be so precise. So, I started writing short stories, alongside lyrics. I don't write lyrics remotely from Deep Purple. I write when I am with them, so that they can fit with the music. But I've got a lot of ideas and I tend to write them in story form, with notation... So, when the internet came along, when I got a computer for the first time I thought, this is fantastic. I can organize things... I don't write on the computer directly. It's easier to have a notebook to write and then I organize the notes on the computer. And of course, when the internet came and it's incredible in so many ways. I'm travelling all the time, I'm in a hotel room… Years ago, we couldn't afford to make a phone call, it was so expensive to make a phone call and now we got mobile phones, we got Skype from the computer, I can speak to my family every day and I can communicate with them. And of course, when the website started a long time ago, we had this idea for a guestbook, which is an open forum, and within weeks we were full of idiots... you know, fascists, abusers, guys... well obviously Ritchie Blackmore fans who wanted to be abusive. I know that it's like losing your father or a divorce happening, I know it's very emotional when these things happen... and then people were having fights about women and, I think, crazy stuff, you know. And I didn't like the sense of them but more and more I had to interrupt and say something to change the topic of conversation. But everything scrolls down on a guestbook and disappears; it's not on the front page. So, that's when we decided to start a "Q & A" session and then, alongside, I did a "Dear Friends" letter from time to time. The "Q & A" is great and I'm just doing one now and we've done more than 75 of them. That's a hell of a lot, and there are quite a few letters on each one. So, I found it fascinating, it's amazing how many ways you can ask questions that haven't been asked before or how you're given the opportunity to say something that maybe hasn't been covered before. I think it's wonderful to have this interaction. I used to spend my time in the dressing room in venues writing letters to fans by hand. A posting in my page is like an envelope with a stamp or whatever, signed pictures or like writing a short note saying 'Happy Anniversary' or whatever might be. But, I think it's very important because these are the only people you can trust in the music business. The fans are always there. They've been absolutely amazing to us since time began. The media is very thickle... very thickle and the industry itself is also self-serving. The publishers and the record labels, you can never believe that they really love you (laughs). It's for money.

Rockpages.gr: How easy or difficult is, when you're a rock star, to feel and inspire trust to your wife and friends or a manager?

Ian Gillan: Well... [pause] that's really strange. In the early days, when you had a girlfriend, there was no other issue. Then you start playing music and other people are taking interest in what's going on. And most people change their girlfriends and you don't know why, because you're too inexperienced to understand. But all of a sudden, you are a bunch of guys in a band, behaving like a bunch of guys, and the next minute everyone is like that (making his voice thinner): "Oh, hello, how are you? I'm your new girlfriend" "What do you do?" "Oh, I'm a starlet, I want to be an actress" or "Oh, I want to be a model. Don't you think I'm beautiful?" Whatever... So everyone's got a new girlfriend and they don't even know you but they are with you because you are exciting or they see this being an exciting thing. Backstage is exciting, the music business is exciting, it's thrilling. But then, they join the family, the guys that are in the band and, of course, inevitably, because they're not doing anything, they start to fight. So, these two will be best friends and these two will be best friends and they don't like those, and what happens? They start talking to their boyfriend, to the musician, "blah blah" and then they bring division in the band. Finished. How many times have you seen this happen? How many times has it happened with soooo many bands? As far as the business is concerned, the same thing happens. In the early days, you have a manager who might be an uncle or someone's dad or something like that. When I was with Episode Six for example, we had this manager called Gloria Bristow. She was fantastic, she was like a mother to us, and because she was a PR girl, she gave lots of good advice on how to deal with the media. She wasn't very good on the business side, but she was very good towards how to deal things with confidence and to be natural and respectful, professional, punctual, deal with these things professionally, and alongside learning the music, we were trying to improve... we learnt professionalism, we learnt how important it was. We went some tours with Dusty Springfield and we were the bottom of the bill, watching, learning everything we could, and we trusted her completely, because there was no money. But even if it had been, I think she'd have been fine, she gave some great advice. Then I joined Deep Purple and the managers were shit. (laughs). I mean, I can't say they were crooks... I can't say that. But, I do remember some very painful transitions, painful things that happened. One of the guys - he's dead now -, Roger and I had no clothes...

Rockpages.gr: Yeah, I remember that...

Ian Gillan: So, we said, can we borrow 100 pounds to buy some clothes, because we look like tramps. He said "Gillan, if you ever give me any shit about money again, I'm gonna throw you back in the gutter where I found you". And I'm like... Wow, that's pretty severe, that's pretty strong stuff. And the other guy had a signed contract, cause we didn't have any advice before signing it, so all our copyrights were signed with this guy. And he still has it. Every song we did during that period. And I didn't like him and I still don't like him. And that's what I learned since then, that the music business is these two elements that don't like each other but they can't exist without each other.

Rockpages.gr: Were you ever reading the contracts before signing them or it was a matter of faith?

Ian Gillan: I was reading them, but I didn't understand them. I didn't have any advice, any lawyer, I should have had lawyers to read it through. Oh, there was a lawyer, but he was employed by the manager, so... "Go on, it's ok, son". They were doing this as a favour. They really thought - I mean, I must say, to give them credit -, they really believed that we were nothing and they were creating everything. They didn't understand the music, they didn't understand the fans, they didn't understand why we needed better equipment and they thought we were... just like today's kids, you know, hit today, gone today, and they wanted to make some money out of it. But I think that...... maybe I'm being too cruel... nah... (laughs).

Rockpages.gr: Well, everybody's trying to make money for hιmself...

Ian Gillan: These guys were rich already...

Rockpages.gr: The richer the more greedy...

Ian Gillan: You are right. But that's not real wealth. Real wealth is health, happiness, family, strong spirit, beautiful pictures, music... that's wealth. Money is just being rich. There is a fundamental problem here, as far as capitalism is concerned. When they stopped using beads and stones and coins and started having money as a currency for convenience, then it's understandable. It's not a problem at all. But when money becomes a commodity and it's just like something you produce, and people make money by doing nothing, except making money, it makes money less valuable. And thing like currency speculation and gambling on the stocks exchange to make profit is using money as a commodity. That to me is a crime in my mind.

Rockpages.gr: I agree with you... well, maybe it's not a crime...

Ian Gillan: No, it's not a crime, because the people make the laws and the ones who are in control of the money, they are all connected. And that's not a conspiracy theory...

Rockpages.gr: No, I think it's pretty obvious everywhere... Anyway, back to Deep Purple, now, who are mostly like a family, with cousins and uncles... Do you think that these several line ups were a positive factor that contributed to the overall success of the band?

Ian Gillan: I don't know... You develop some very strong family connections with relatives and it is a good analogy. The roots were very heavily planted... I mean, Jon (Lord, keyboards), Ritchie (Blackmore, guitar) and Ian (Paice, drums) had already been together for a year and a half, made three albums and quick success in America. So, they bonded, quite well, quite strongly with the other two guys. When Roger and I joined the band, it wasn't just as a singer and a bass player, as a song-writing team, but as two friends that had been together for maybe five years, and so, we had a bond as well. So, what you have is two families joined virtually and it worked. It worked very well and it worked immediately. It was this amazing, volcanic reaction. And it's hard to destroy something like that. I think the idea of then dealing with things we hadn't experience - we were experienced with the music, but dealing with that kind of success, under that kind of management regime, - was very difficult. And a classic example of the negativity of it all was when I wrote my letter of resignation, nine months before I left, and nobody answered it. It was really a cry for help, 'I'm not happy, blah blah blah', I wrote to the manager, I showed it to the band, nobody reacted, nobody said anything, maybe they just thought, "oh he is an asshole, let's get rid of him anyway". But nobody could see the problem... because, I didn't really know what the problem was. I just wasn't happy with the way things were moving and Ritchie was getting a bit dominant anyway, and that's why our relationship never really flourished any further because. I didn't want to dominate the band, I just didn't like being pushed around and so, I become an asshole instead. That was the easiest route. But, nothing was dead and I think when Roger called me up to do the Butterfly Ball, two years later, when Ronnie (James Dio – he is referring to the live performances of the Butterfly Ball) dropped out, I just jumped at the opportunity and the next step, you take your guitar and go back into it... There was always that idea that Deep Purple might reform, so, when Perfect Strangers came along, it was wonderful. We all got back together and it was a great feeling at the time, and when Ritchie left, that nearly killed us.

Rockpages.grI spoke with Bruce Payne (Deep Purple manager) in a dressing room in Helsinki and told a couple of stories about what had happened to Ritchie and Deep Purple... When I came back in the band, the record company said we gonna cancel the contract if we don’t get Ian back in. Ritchie refused. The rest of the guys said, “Yeah, we made a mistake”. So, Ritchie refused and insisted on a payment of a quarter of a million dollars directly into his bank account, non returnable, to work with me. The other guys didn't know that. They didn't get any money. Nothing. The record company paid him on condition to make the record and a minimum one year tour. And of course he didn't. We did the record and only half a tour. And in the dressing room, in Helsinki, there were tears, some people were crying, it's like somebody in the town has died or your parents are getting divorced. It was horrible and nobody could see the future until Bruce told this story about Ritchie and Jon Lord looked up and said "What!?" and Paice said "What!?" and Roger said "You must be joking..." and I said "Let's give him one more shot" and Bruce said "Look, I kinda anticipated this and we got to go to Japan now, let's give Joe Satriani a go, see your debt for the rest of the tour, give him some breathing space and we'll see what happens" and it worked... Right, bastard (laughs). So, that's what happened and we went back to the hotel and Ritchie came in smiling, absolutely confident and happy that he killed Deep Purple. So, we smiled back... "Not yet, not yet..."

Rockpages.gr: That was the last wave...

Ian Gillan: That was the last wave. Last time I spoke to him, last time I saw him. And you know what; we had no problem since then. It's been just glorious. The transition of John retiring from the band was wonderful. It was like your grandfather retiring. We still love him and his spirit is still in the band. Well, yeah, it is a family spirit and it's very strong. I think the years of David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes, I mean, the different formations are all important parts of the story of Deep Purple. I've got a thing... a guy at the BBC did it, it's all the Deep Purple family tree, and I've got the original one in a frame and people often stop to look at it. It's a fascinating document. A friend of mine came round and said "Bloody hell, what's this?", "This is the Deep Purple family tree". He looked at it and said "That's not a tree, that's a fucking jungle". (laughs). It's a forest... and it's true.

Rockpages.gr: I've seen something like this somewhere and it's amazing that a large part of the history of British rock passes through the Deep Purple family.

Ian Gillan: Almost, yeah.

Rockpages.gr: I think that apart from this story about Ritchie and the money, which I wasn't aware of...

Ian Gillan: You can publish that. I think it's only been trouble...

Rockpages.gr: As you see things in the past, could you say that Mk. II could have lived longer if you had reacted in certain cases in a different way?

Ian Gillan: Who can tell? I think the thing between me and Ritchie was pretty serious at that time. We didn't get along very well, we spoke but he was becoming more... "Write this", "do that", "that's crap", "Jon, you play that" so he was becoming very dominant with the band, "we're gonna play this kind of music". We did Woman From Tokyo, it's the best shit I had in that one (in Who Do We Think We Are) and he didn't turn up, kept us all waiting for weeks and weeks when we were making Who Do We Think We Are, generally behaving a bit as if we were the backing group. That's not how it was meant to be, that's not how it started and to have stayed longer, you can't alter people's personalities. If I had stayed longer, then possibly we might have had... physical fights... and then maybe Purple would have finished permanently. You look back the quantum chaos idea and think if this happened, if that happened... Maybe if I had stayed with the band, I wouldn't have met my wife, maybe I wouldn't have my daughter, maybe I wouldn't be living now or talking to you, maybe I'd be dead...

Rockpages.gr: By Blackmore?

Ian Gillan: No, I don't think he could kill me... [pause] no, I don't think we'd kill maybe. [pause] I don't think I'd let him kill me. Nah... But I could have been in the wrong place, the wrong time, have caught a disease. No, he can do almost anything but I wouldn't let him kill...

Rockpages.gr: I guess you are aware that Blackmore's manager is now his mother-in-law...

Ian Gillan: Yeah...

Rockpages.gr: And she rarely lets him give a solo interview.

Ian Gillan: Really?

Rockpages.gr: There has to be Candice Night as well and also she doesn't let him give interviews to rock magazines and Deep Purple questions are not permitted...

Ian Gillan: Well, I don't know why that is... I've got some naked pictures of her... (snickering).

Rockpages.gr: (Shocked!) Of who? (laughs).

Ian Gillan: His mother-in-law. Amazing!?

Rockpages.gr: (laughs) And she also believes that the best singer that Blackmore has ever worked with is Candice...

Ian Gillan: Well, it's an opinion, isn't it? I mean, I could say Bob Dylan is the best ever, because of the emotion, but someone can say "Yeah, but he can't sing in tune", while a devoted fan will believe that he's absolutely fantastic. I would argue the case for Bob Dylan being a great singer, because singing is what touches people. If you wanna be a technician and Candice wants to be the best singer, that's fine. But I have got naked pictures of her mother.

Rockpages.gr: (laughs) Maybe you could send me a couple to put with the interview...

Ian Gillan: They are too pornographic (laughs).

Rockpages.gr: We could make them a little blurry... Speaking of pictures, what happened with the Machine Head t-shirt logo? There was a rumour...

Rockpages.grIan Gillan: Oh, it's very simple, it's hilarious. When you're in Deep Purple, you're in Deep Purple, you sign up etc. Now, Ritchie was getting paid, he got paid for everything and sometimes he got paid more than any other people. He got his lawyer to say to Bruce Payne "You can't use my image on the Machine Head, I don't wanna be on it". So, Bruce said "Ok, so we just blur his face so he's no longer". That's what he asked for. So, then, Ritchie started suing Bruce, cause he was angry and I think it's been tried at the court several times.

Rockpages.gr: So, he went to court for that...

Ian Gillan: Not the court, but to the prehearing to a judge to apply to go to court. But the judge keeps saying "That's stupid, you asked your image not to be used, so they took it off and they just blurred it. What do you do?" It's all too silly.

Rockpages.gr: Sometimes, I feel that Ritchie is not himself sometimes...

Ian Gillan: Well, it's his naked mother in law who probably did it. I don't think that Ritchie actually even knew about it.

Rockpages.gr: That's exactly my thought...

Ian Gillan: It's the naked mother (in law). (laughs)

Rockpages.gr: Anyway, I was wondering if that hotel you had, had anything to do with the idea behind the Gillan's Inn?

Ian Gillan: ... Oh, you mean the hotel I had. That wasn't called Gillan's Inn, that was called the Springs. I was a great designer. It's a beautiful hotel, it's still there now, it's still a fantastic hotel, it's in the newspapers regularly, but I'm not a good businessman... That was a long time ago, in 1978...

Rockpages.gr: Gillan's Inn would be a nice name for the hotel though...

Ian Gillan: Well, we named the album like that because we wanted to make it like a jam session, and there are always guests making an appearance, like a pub, you know, "Oh, come around, jump up, sing a a couple of things, the beer's free, this is the setlist, jump up and join in for a couple of songs". And I found this pub in Buffalo, New York, that is actually the picture on the front, a psychedelic kind of place, really long bar and it's very smelly. (Chuckles) A lot of loud music, it's great.

Rockpages.gr: Last time we met, you told us that you hated every journalist that didn't like the "Fireball" album.

Ian Gillan: I couldn't have said I hated them...

Rockpages.gr: Well, I do remember that word...

Ian Gillan: Maybe I'm joking. A little bit. I don't think I can ever feel hatred, I don't remember feeling hatred, except when I was very young, when I was a teenager, at school, but then I felt hatred because I was very confused about my personal situation in society. About Fireball... Sorry, please, finish you question...

Rockpages.gr: Well, I was wondering if this kind of negative comment, like in the Fireball era, has affected you in a positive way...

Ian Gillan: Well, I think it does give you strength. Sometimes, if you get a negative comment in the way of criticism, you resent it just because they're right. And when you're young, you don't like it, you don't like being told that. When you get a little old you think "Oh yeah, I kinda knew that". So, I'll take that on board. But, sometimes, you get negative criticism that is just patently stupid. Judy Sims wrote in Disc "I hate rock groups, particularly when they can't play music and Deep Purple is a classic example of musicians who can't play music". That is so bloody ridiculous because I'm not a musician... not officially... but I consider those guys to be the best musicians I've even heard. So, that is why we got a positive out of a negative, because we called the next record Who Do We Think We Are, because her quote was "Who Do They Think They Are". It is like judo, the martial art. Someone much bigger than you comes out and you use his strength against him.

Rockpages.gr: What made "Fireball" so important?

Ian Gillan: "Fireball" was important because it was the second album, and because it unleashed the vital other elements of Deep Purple. In Rock was an explosion.

Rockpages.gr: Like the Big Bang...

Ian Gillan: Like tectonic plates... Me and Roger and those three guys just coming together and it worked, it was like an earthquake...

Rockpages.gr: Or like the Big Bang (I insist...)

Ian Gillan: (Laughs) Haha, well, yeah, haha, maybe that's stretching a bit, but yeah. (laughs). You know, it was huge, it was a Big Bang, not that Big but it was a big bang. That was just the first coming together. When I realized the background of Jon Lord, the time he did the concerto and just before that, and Gemini Suite just after that... and you suddenly realize that Roger, not as part of my songwriting team... me and him... him and me, but as a musician, as a thinking musician, not just his bass playing, but his life, and what had been part of his life before, his emergence in folk music and sciffle and of course the early Bob Dylan and his understanding of all of that side of music and its history in his body. Ian Paice immersed in Big Bands Swing music, idolizing Buddy Rich, and to these days, still swings more than any drummer in the world. Just absolutely incredible and made Deep Purple feel like a big band. So, when we shifted a little bit from that out and out rock, that heavy rock... we then shifted a little bit, you hear Jon Lord's emphasis is not just with classical music and orchestral compositions, but Jimmy Smith (1925-2005, jazz musician who performed on the Hammond B-3) and the stuff he used to play with the Artwoods; that funk, that blues, that soul… and Ritchie's amazing chops that he could make a guitar talk. Just with rhythm and playing... unusual approach to things. All of this was beginning to come out because of the confidence in the band. The In Rock stuff was still there and we were showing we could do more, and that (Fireball) acted as a platform, as a springboard to Machine Head, the next record. Because, we could not have gone directly from In Rock to Machine Head. If you compare those, Machine Head was quite sophisticated in terms of writing constructions... So, Fireball came in between and if you analyze it, you can see the springboard and that's how we got there. And when we were told "Oh, no, you're not doing the same again", “this is nothing like In Rock”,” this is going to be a disaster” and it was, commercially, we thought... well, basically, fuck you. This is our music and we will not be manipulated for commercial reasons. That's why we were very strong about our clothes, and that sort of things, we got very anti music business by that time. So, often I like to reinforce this by saying Fireball is my favourite album. I don't know if it is my favourite album, I just think it's very significant album.

Rockpages.gr: Thank you very much for your time…

Ian Gillan: I appreciate it. Thanks for coming so far. I really appreciate it.

 

I was preparing to go and reminded Ian of our previous meeting and that, although his throat was in a bad condition during the interview, the next day at the concert his voice was amazing. I asked him how a singer is trying and manages to keep his voice in a good shape… “Nothing, really”. A little bit of practice, proper nutrition and generally being in good shape… So, if I do all these, will I be able to scream like that?




 
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