There is nothing in the world that can prepare you for an interview with Ian Gillan! The British singer can’t stop surprising you, even if the topic is WhoCares the fund raising project he is handling the vocals, while Tony Iommi, Jon Lord, Nicko McBrain and Jason Newsted fill the rest of the spots. Our talk went beyond the music, and ended up in a rather impressive, and up to date approach about the political situation in Greece, for which the singer seemed completely informed.

Interview: Yiannis Dolas

Rockpages.gr: Rebuilding the music school in Armenia, could this be a symbolic act? Can we rebuild and undo all the bad and unpleasant thing in society and make humanity more human? And can music help us do that?

Ian Gilan: Well, in different ways the answer is “yes, it is symbolic”. In this case it’s related to a particular event, but you’ve made a very good point. Music is part of that culture it takes not only the folklore and the history of the past, but it also takes the words and the attitude of its generation together and joins them together, so you have continuity. In this particular case, when I was there 20 years ago, it was just one year or so, after an earthquake that killed 25,000 people, and a quarter of a million people were homeless. This was on the days of the Soviet Union, and so it wasn’t highly reported outside the “Iron curtain”. I was there a year after the event, and I was talking to the major of Spitak, which was the epicenter of the earthquake, and he said that even then, one year later, there is no music there. (he sighs)There is no rituals, no music in the schools, or the radio… even the birds are not singing. So, it was a shock that went through the entire area. So, I said at the time “if you are ready for music to start again, maybe we can give you something”. And I went back again, and we were talking about the same thing, and there was one quotation that was remembered, when I was talking with the President, and the prime minister, both of them rock fans from way back. They are beginning now to start again, since a whole generation has passed they thought that they could start the music, so the music school seems a great symbol, so it’s symbolic on the literal sense, yes absolutely! If we could find a three quarters of a million dollars… we got a lot of money. We had donations in cash, the Armenian architectures that made all the drawings didn’t ask for money, we had builders, and material suppliers who worked and gave their products for free, we had people in Canada, and London supplying the musical instruments, and equipment, so we are doing very well, and hopefully we can get passed the finishing line with this record, if we give it enough promotion and it sells a lot of copies… it is very important.

But, if I get back to the beginning of my experiences music crossed the borders into the Soviet Union, back in the ‘60s, when the “Cold War” was at its peak. People often ask about this, and I always say that the back door was always open. The “front door” was shut, because everybody were taunting each other with nuclear weapons, but the back door was always open. You could see the Bolshoi ballet, Red Star football team, the Ukraine gymnastics team, or whatever, there were always cultural exchanges. So, music, and culture are very important to understand each other. Of course it’s not belligerence, so generally speaking, and therefore very important. Good question!

Rockpages.gr: Working with Tony Iommi, and Jon Lord must have brought you some memories. Would you say that there is a chance to work with them again in a musical project?

Ian Gillan: Well, Tony certainly! Tony and I are old friends!
We did this because… well, there was a certain amount of selfishness as well… when we were kids we have to play football with George Best, and people like for charity matches, and we raised lots of money and had lots of fun at the same time, so that was the way of doing it. With Tony, we spent some time writing the song, recording , arranging etc, on the last minute, before they recorded some friends of ours, Jon, Linde (Lindstrom), Jason (Newsted) etc, etc to play on the record, perform on it, and add their personality on the sound. And, we decided to call this “WhoCares”, ad hoc band which means that it’s just me and Tony, and whoever else is available. But, the last time I saw Tony, we had a few drinks and we decided that it would be fantastic to get together and do some more writing, so maybe there will be an album, maybe there will be me and Tony, maybe we’ll find some other projects, I don’t know… at the moment he is very busy, and I am on the road until next March, so far. So, we shall see when we got a gap, it should be fun! Tony and I don’t take long to write songs, it would be quite a productive session if we got together again… we will see, we will see…

Rockpages.gr: On the cd there is also another track, “Holy Water”. Can you tell us a few things about that?

Ian Gillan: Well, I wrote “Holy Water” as a part of another project I was doing with my record company. I’ve got about 30 songs in various stages of development at the moment, and this is one of the songs that was going to be on my first single, which was going to have two, or three songs on it. When I realized that the WhoCares project was coming up, Tony and I had just one song. We only had time to write one song, so I thought it would be better for the project I we had two songs, so I got Tony to play on this one as well. We also had a duduk player from Armenia on the introduction, it’s a blues and I thought that it’s quite emphatic with the mood of the project. So, we put that on as a donation as well. So, you get two songs for the price of one… not really!

Rockpages.gr: You performed in front of the crowd in Armenia, both just after the earthquake in 1990, as well as now, 20 years later. What was the reaction you got, now, and twenty years ago? 
Ian Gillan: Well, times are different, people behave differently. Everyone thinks that in ‘69 and the ‘70s the crowd used to go crazy… well the didn’t actually, they were very quite! They used to applaud politely, and clap, and dance, and whatever… it wasn’t the complete mayhem that it is today. When I was in Armenia I played  four nights at the Sports Hall in Yeodrum with the Gillan band and I was there with Deep Purple, we played the same venue. And, the audience, generally speaking on the Deep Purple gig was 18year old kids, so that was very strange… an entirely different  generation enjoying the music. And should I say different generation? Yeah, they behaved differently…
Rockpages.gr: What about the rest of the band? Nicko McBrain for Iron Maiden, and Jason Newsted, an
ex-Metallica member. How did these guys hooked up with you?
Ian Gillan: Well, you know when Tony and I finished writing the song, we had a recording of my voice and his guitar, and some drum machine. And we thought that we’d better get some real guys for this, so we called some friends. I called Jon Lord, and send an e-mail to Nicko, Tony called Jason and Linde (Lindstrom) and that was it! Nick was on his way back from Florida, Jon was on his way back from Hungary, were he was playing the concert there, and so the timing was perfect, they were available for the day, and they were available a week later for the press launch in London. It just worked out perfectly. You know, I don’t think of them as being famous musicians, I just thought them as being my friends…

Rockpages.gr: Well, you know they are famous too!

Ian Gillan: You don’t think about that…

Rockpages.gr: Maybe if you are Ian Gillan you don’t!

Gillan: We just wanted to get some good guys playing on it, you know…

Rockpages.gr: Was there any chance, in any way that Ritchie Blackmore could get involved with that, like he did last time?

Gillan: No, he wasn’t!

Rockpages.gr: I mean for “Smoke On The Water”…

Ian Gillan: He was on the video, but he was not involved! When that video was made everybody was in the studio at the same time having fantastic time. There was great camaraderie, great fun… we all had a drink together afterwards, and it was just fantastic. The atmosphere over two days- I thought it was two days- was incredible. Ritchie refused to see anybody, he came in at the studio all by himself, there was nobody there. We didn’t see him come, we didn’t see him go! They just had the cameraman there, and the recording engineer, and the guy that showed him around. So… involved he was not… as always!

Rockpages.gr: A Deep Purple question now… on your recent shows in Greece you had Nick Fyffe replacing Roger Glover. From what I can remember from Deep Purple’s history, replacing a member like that is something extremely rare for the band. How did it feel with Nick playing with you guys?

Ian Gillan: Ahh, great! It was an emergency! Roger was having a baby! What can you do? We had to get Nick in because the baby was late. It’s not the same of course, but Nick is fine he is a great player and did the job really really well!

Rockpages.gr: Unfortunately, it’s not possible every time there is a need for help that musicians, actors, athletes, and other celebrities can gather round and help by organizing benefits and all that. What can we do to motivate more people in everyday life?

Ian Gillan: Well, that’s a good question…  I think our lives have been taken over by the state. I don’t know about Greece, but probably it’s the same as the UK, where the Government wants to do everything. I’ll tell you another problem that we have, our life used to be very simple before we joined the EU… very simple indeed… we lived for hundreds and hundreds of years under a system of law and order. Very simple! And now we live under a system of rules and regulations, and it’s very different. Because, these people would know democratic authority, not stupid regulations to control every element of our lives, and they are enforced by the power mad idiots in the town halls, not the top people, but small town politicians who love a bit of power. And, it’s changed our lives slowly but surely. We’ve become automated, and we have no… you can’t do anything in England. I could give a hundred examples… for example if you want to have a charity garden fair for example, sell some stuff for charity, you want to have a barbeque and invite you neighbors, if you want to have a folk dance, a street party, you can’t do it! You have to pay for an insurance,  that they’ve made sure that nobody can afford it. You can’t have fun anymore, you can’t do things spontaneously! And so, people just… they can’t invite their friends, and they have to pay fees so that some others can make a few pennies, or Euros, or… drachmas! Remember these? Hahaha! What they want to do is just control the  lawn lines but that’s not possible in recent history. So, we are finding it difficult in this world… musicians have regulations that you won’t believe! But, I don’t think that you’d want me to start on that, because it’s destructed enforcement that changed our lives, a
nd I am extremely angry… maybe we should have a rebellion! A European Spring… A European Autumn… how about that?

Rockpages.gr: There is a lot of talks about that and maybe we’d see one in Greece, as things are not going well at the moment, actually they are going pretty bad!
Ian Gillan: It was an unfortunate entry into the EU! You were cursed into joining the EU! Greece didn’t meet any of the financial requirements; it was a ridiculous situation, forcing you into the allegations, absolutely outrageous!  It was illegal! I was researching that last week, and everyone admitted it after the event, even the Greek Prime Minister, he said “Yeah, we didn’t meet the requirements”, it is outrageous! And every democratic vote in Europe, around acts like the Maastricht treaty, and also the… treaty nobody wanted it but they were forced. The Irish were sent back again! They voted “No”… “Oh, I accepted it”, go back and vote yes! It’s not democratic, it’s corrupt and in my view it’s unworkable...

Rockpages.gr: And unfortunately we are prisoners of useless politicians…

Ian Gillan: Absolutely, it is not democratic and it’s corrupt… we can’t go backwards, so let’s go forward and I’d support anything that would tear these things to shreds and rebuild it!

Rockpages.gr: Well, then maybe you should lead a “musical revolution” over here in Greece and bring the WhoCares guys with you…

Ian Gillan: Maybe I will! Most of the stuff that I wrote in an album called “Bananas” was very political, very much about this sort of things, so maybe then I should have gone spiritual, and I should re-address that…


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