There are all kind of interviews as there are all kind of singers. But when it comes to Ian Gillan the aforementioned words are converted into the singular tense and become The Interview and The Singer! Is it really important that time has flown by and the voice is not at the same level as in the past? Have you really thought how many singers can come up with those phenomenal screams in “Child In Time” and still sustain this insuperable feeling? Only one…Rockpages traveled all the way to the frozen Berlin for an exclusive interview with Ian Gillan. The three editors still remember the magical intervention of Ritchie Blackmore…Interview: Yiannis Dolas, George Anasontzis, Sakis Nikas
Rockpages.gr: It’s been four months after the release of “Rapture Of The Deep”, how do you think the new material works out when you play it live?
Ian Gillan: It’s fantastic, it’s working brilliant. There’s no plan and there has never been a plan to make commercial records, the only reason we write songs is so that we have some music we can play on stage. Obviously, we are in the record industry somewhat to a certain extent. And these records come out, so to answer that question…we have to look at the longevity of these songs. Have they actually worked with the historical Purple stuff?
So far it’s been a very good progression over the last few records. For example, “Bananas” which begun to work very very well and gave us some good stuff to fidget with on the live shows. “Rapture Of The Deep” is the second record with this lineup, so I think it’s more balanced in the family now. Working very well. So I like the way it’s all shaping because the judge is the audience, if they like they show and if they don’t they show it…
Rockpages.gr: I would say that this one is more progressive, more daring than “Bananas”, what would you say?
Ian Gillan: I’d say that you are a journalist you said what you think, I just think that we feel happy now. The music is a form of expression is like conversation. If you ask me at certain age, when I am a young man, when I am a boy, what my opinion is then I would have very strong opinions about this, that and the other. My favorite dog, my favorite musician, my one and only Elvis Presley, my best friend, my one and only best friend, my favorite colour, my favorite football team, my favorite everything…I have a very strong opinion, this is right, that is wrong, this is right, that is wrong. As life goes on you realize that it’s only young people that have definite opinions. Old people don’t have definite opinions, because you’ve seen too much and you realize how many facets there are to the diamond of existence.
So, I think everything we’ve done is better than others. For example “Purpendicular” was a such important record for Deep Purple that without that this couldn’t have been possible. In the same way that without “Fireball”, “Machine Head” could not have been possible, and if “Fireball” was not a successful record commercially, but it was very successful musically, we might haven’t been able to go any further…The industry hated us, our record company hated us! “What is this record? You just made a hit with “Deep Purple In Rock” and now you make this record, it’s completely different”. We hated all the journalists, who hated it, reviewers hated it. But it was the truth, it was real music from Deep Purple and had other aspects than just that aggressive and power rock, so is a balance, and then after that you got “Machine Head”, which is, I think, probably commercially a very successful record, probably the most successful of all, but we reached that because we were being honest with our music.
I’ve noticed people, who don’t even go to the concerts, online reviewing the setlist, so they see a list of songs and they think that’s what the concert is about. It’s nothing to do with that. They don’t review the bits in between, they don’t review the improvisation, they don’t review the atmosphere of the audience, they don’t review any of that…they just review the setlist. “Oh, they did the same show last night”. Rubbish! Τhat’s so far from the truth, that’s pure ignorance, it’s not related to fact, it’s the way history books are written. “This is what happened. Oh really? Well, I was there and it wasn’t like that at all!”. So, in an answer to your question, is this more daring? I don’t know if daring is the right word but I understand what you’re saying. Τhe band is more confident right now, and when you are more confident you are relaxed, and when you are relaxed you are more natural, you are more uninhibited. There was a time when we weren’t relaxed. We’ve been through bad times and we’ve been wrongly criticized for it and correctly criticized for it, during the era of the change over, those horrible years… “The Battle Rages On”, “Who Do We Think We Are” etc., etc. we are professionals, so we can write songs that are…OK, well crafted songs, but there’s something about the spirit that it’s missing at that time. Look back on “Who Do We Think We Are” and I think there are some good songs in that record. I look back at “House Of Blue Light” there are some good songs on that record, but there’s something missing in the overall album. You can’t feel a spirit of the band, you can see or hear five professionals doing their best, but it’s like a football team, it’s not functioning. It’s like eleven superstars that are playing on the same field but are not connected by the heart or by the spirit. And now what you are seeing with “Bananas”, I think it’s a connection, a family connection, and it’s expressed by the music. That’s what I would say. Daring? No, we don’t even think about being brave or whatever…
Rockpages.gr: Would you like to tell us something about the concept of the album “Rapture Of The Deep”, as well as the idea behind the cover?
Ian Gillan: I can only give you my opinion. This band is not U2, I am not Bono, my opinions, are my own opinions, not those of Roger Glover, or Steve Morse, Jon Lord, or Ritchie Blackmore, or anyone else, which is why I write the words the way I write them, which is why I use euphemistic descriptions, which is why sometimes the truth is buried under a second or third layer of meaning. My first responsibility, as I said earlier, is to do a good job, so words have to sound good. They have to sound like an instrument, they have to have the right percussive value, performance has to be good. For me, when I am writing words it’s important to have a feeling of the fact that this is an album, it’s a very important time and a short space of time that reflects everything we have. It’s like a family going on holiday and you take photographs, on the beach, swimming, sun bathing, fooling around…and a good time of year. And then afterwards you put them up on your computer screen, or in the old days you had them on a book of printed photographs, and that’s an album. Τhat’s why I like to call a record an album, as opposed to a cd. We didn’t say… “Oh, here is my latest vinyl!”, we’d say “here’s my latest album”, so why would you say “here’s my latest cd”? Cd is a crap piece of product! It’s just a nasty cheap piece of material that so happens to be the medium, or the vehicle for one of the most precious things we have, which is music. And because it’s so cheap and plastic and nasty, that’s one of the main reasons people don’ think they have anything important on their hands, you can’t respect the artwork on it, you can’t respect the design, you can’t respect the packaging, it’s just cheap and nasty, typical of this industry. So, people just look at the music now, which is why downloading is so popular. Why bother with the cheap rubbish? That’s another reason for it. But the idea of having an album, a collection of music at the time, it’s an important historical document, particularly for a band with a history…that’s trying to think of itself as having a future. So, for me it’s important to have a thread to tie these things together, as if we were on holiday, or as if we were having a party, or as if we had a serious debate, or as if we were back at school, or whatever…so, the thread on this one are questions about our human spirit.
The last one was about politics mostly, “Bananas” was about the fact that we for centuries have lived under a system of law and order and all of the sudden we live on this system of rules and regulations, it’s completely different thing, and the all the bureaucracy is now managing all affairs of ours, individually. So, there is no sense of individual responsibility at all and those that want it, can’t have it. This is the next step, it’s a spiritual thing, and I look at what’s happening on the news right now, before I came down here. I am looking at the promise we are having in the world right now. I am very interested to see how Turkey is going to react to this Moslem issue of the cartons in Denmark, it will be absolutely fascinating to see their response (The interview took place in February). I grew up in an age when people that worshiped the same God, everyone thinks that their God is the only God, that…let’s take for example the Christian God. I was a church goer when I was a kid. I watched in Northern Ireland Protestants and Catholics blowing up the Jesus out of each other on a daily basis and anyone who stepped in and tried to separate them was also getting murdered. Αnd then on one side of the street and the other they were murdering the children and grand mothers. They were doing it with happiness, in the name of their God. It turns out that it’s the same God, two different fractions. We’ve seen the same this year in Iraq as have been fighting ritually this atrocious stupid war. And we are seeing it now in larger elements between major religions and my train of thought followed many trails, connections with my life and my interpretation…I am one person, I’ve got no answers to anything, but I know one thing, there’s only one thing that it’s a fact and that is the Bible was written by men, that I do know. So I am asking my self, what is a prophet? And I am looking at the fact that great leaders are sending their armies to war, saying God is on your side, the leaders of the opposition are also saying the same thing. And then they get home, after murdering each other, winning or losing in this was, which includes bombing mass populations of civilians, or ….in the name of their God, and the same at the other side. When the war is over and they get home and they go to their mosque, or their synagogue, or their chapel, or their church, or their cathedral, they are told there is only one God. There is a dichotomy here, there is a contradiction of any train of thought of any intelligent person might have, and when you talk about intelligence, I am talking about someone who asks questions…when I was at church, I was in the choir and I loved it, and I do understand, I have experienced the feeling of congregational euphoria-do you know how many wonderful words come from Greek?- I remember flying home, like being in love, my first romance, when you fall in love something chemical happens inside your body and you feel your feet are not touching the ground, your spirit is uplifted and that’s why is an impressionable age, the young boys and girls of 10, 11, 12 around the time of puberty, those evidence develop, your questions of reason, your sense of understanding your environment, your environmental understanding of your real parents and your culture is beginning to make an impact on you in the way you can actually start questioning you for the first time which is why so many ritual, so many symbolic things happen to young men and women at that age throughout history.
We know that since time begun there have been leaders to take care the affairs of the state, in a small tribe, or in a family, there will be the patriarch, or the matriarch, who will look after our well-being, make sure if there is food, make sure that our security is OK, protect us, adopt us in the environment, in a physical sense. But all intelligent leaders became leaders for some reasons. Because they are able to think above…they can see further, you have to be chess player, you have to be two moves ahead. Unlike right now you take a look at leaders in the West who only learned how to play Monopoly, they didn’t know how to play chess, which is why people like…the Eastern leaders are so smart, because they do see in the long term, beyond their living existence…so, alongside these leaders came the witchdoctors and they were taking care of the spirit, the people who questioned the leader, we all know we have a spirit.
There is no doctor who ever lived, to my knowledge, that during an operation into the brain, or into the heart-my wife had two heart operations-but never once the doctor said “Ahh, eureka! I’ve discovered the human spirit!”. The human spirit there it is! It’s amorphous, it’s…what is it? Is it God? Is it God inside of every one of us? Is God a product of our environment; is God a matter of choice? Or is God a convenience, created by the witchdoctors to keep this must potent of human forces under control. Now I am not talking about conspiracy theories because I think it’s an absolutely natural part of humanity’s evolution, but to get to the point of the meaning of the record, what I am trying to say is that I’ve read the population forecasts of this planet for 150 years time, and I studied Jenkin, it’s unsustainable, we cannot sustain the way we are going…I am not talking just about physical need for food, I am talking about…we are becoming a plague, humanity is becoming a bad thing. And so, like all things it’s either going to die, or mutate, if I was saying this in my country 200 or 300 years ago, just even hinting at the direction I am thinking, I would had my head cut off for it as being heretic or a cult leader, or whatever, so I have no emotion to this whatsoever, it’s purely academic. It seems to me that we have two choices, you either follow the Darwinian approach of adopt or die, the survival of the fittest, evolve or “Goodnight Erin”, as so many other species on this planet have already gone because they weren’t able to adopt, and, well I think they are smart enough to make that choice, I think we are being forced into the position of making that choice now, which would be some kind of metaphysical existence. I don’t think we can run around in those funny vehicles we call bodies. I think it’s about time that the spirit, the human spirit evolved, we do understand empathy, we understand very well. I know what you’re thinking, we speak different languages, but I know what you are thinking, not every word of course, but from your body language I can tell if we are having a good interview, or a bad one (he laughs), I can sense a bad atmosphere when I walk in a room when I walk in and I know how people feel the closer you get, the ,more understanding you have, for example in a family, or a team, or a group and every attempt to move from empathy to, for example, telepathy has been forted, people who embark on that line of thought have been demonized by religion, and also by the state who knows exactly where the bread is buttered. So I think now we have the greatest University of life-ever existed, which is called the internet.
So there is freedom of exchange people’s ideas, and you are beginning already to see the beginnings of censorship and the beginnings of government control, and the fear that this strikes into the heart of our leaders, who are basically in their turn controlled by the people behind the scenes, and there’s no conspiracy theory there, we all understand who is running this world, it’s not our alleged leaders, it’s the pressure that’s put on from behind, and it’s globalization, it’s a reduction theory. Everyone chooses different words for taking over a company that used to make shoes, a family company in Nottinghamshire or whatever, or in a small town, where the whole town, the whole village relied upon the product, or the idea and suddenly is bought, and then…what did they buy, they bought the name of the company, because it’s successful and then they go to India, or China, or somewhere else to make the product, and all this people now finished, and treated as nothing. If you follow that line of thinking to its logical conclusion everything in this world would eventually be owned by one man. It will take a while yet, but it’s accelerating to the point where the corporations and the stock exchange, and the idea of freedom, market forces, capitalism, and democracy…mean different things. I remember when I was in the USSR before the Berlin Wall came down, people were crying for democracy. And you know what it meant to them? Democracy meant “I’ll be able to have a television”, “I’ll be able to have a car”, “I’ll be able to watch movies”…so democracy to them meant Walt Disney, Chrysler cars and Big Mac’s! That was their freedom, that’s what they wanted…we had it a little longer than that, we know that’s not the answer so I think with all these things if we are allowed to talk about intelligently and in an instructive way and accept the arguments as well, then we can consider the possibility that we don’t actually need to have bodies to exist. We feel very strongly these things in our heart, you’d never been allowed to develop…I know I can feel my father in me…human beings are great with rituals and symbols. The day I kissed my father he was dead, I had to identify him…whether it was the symbolism of the kiss, or whether it was the realization of what happened, but it was a day later after he died, I felt him, instantly…very powerful feelings. But, I’d also triggered other things and I’ve felt my aunts and uncles, people I’ve know as powerful forces in my life they were dead into my life. Then I realized that there were other people in me that were still alive. That I was influenced by, or moved by emotionally, or intellectually…and then you start thinking about the infinite process…and you go back through generations…and you think well, this must have been happening all along…we have instincts, we have things that we don’t know how we know, or why we know them…they talk about five senses, taste, sight…we have other senses too, innate senses…we have the sense of balance, the sense of danger, the sense of…all these things that are primitive things, that are primitive things that have been suppressed. So the idea of moving on to me it’s quite exciting. And I think it’s something worth discussing. I am afraid that I see God in a different way to the conventional manner.
There must be a God, because we need a name for it, whatever it is, and God it’s as good as a word as anything else, but as far as the existence of this universe…if we don’t learn from what we’ve had in our lifetimes, or what we can pass on to our children, we will surely perish. That is for sure. Death is inevitable. The beginning and the end of everything exists within the great infinity and we can only see, like the people in flat-land that could only see in two dimensions, and when a spear came through their page, they could only see the line, they couldn’t see the spear, and it had to explained where it was so they could understand, so we can only see the universe as “The Big Bang” and whatever it is in the future…the big pot if you like. Scientists, philosophers, all say before “The Big Bang” there was nothing. They go back to a singular point, a singularity in physics…well we know that that just can’t be so! There is something that we know that before something there must have been something else. If you go through any of that you have to think it’s something maybe we don’t understand, or a dimension that we haven’t known to exist, that every time that we have something, our human adventure that we had, we made it work. Look, where we are sitting now, all of this is the product of human imagination, the chairs we are sitting on, the weaving of the carpet, the wood, the cutting, the shape, electricity, machines, glass, water…that we don’t have to drink from a stream! So, we think of it as normal, where all of these were products of human imagination. So, I’d suggest we should perhaps take a look at our selves and things that make us feel good and adapt to. Τhe future for me is contained in many of the lyrics in this record…I could go on…(laughs)
Rockpages.gr: In the album there is a satirical song –another Greek word- MTV. Do you think that Deep Purple’s career have been neglected in comparison with let say Led Zeppelin?
Ian Gillan: Well, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath had the advantage of breaking up. And once they break up they are not a threat to anybody. The music industry hates things that they can’t control. That’s business. If you are a good businessman, you have to control your product, which is why there has been this love and hate relationship between musicians and businessmen. They can’t exist without each other. if you want an audience, as a performer, which is natural, you have to either join the circus, and in the old days someone would go to town a week ahead and put the posters up around the town saying “The circus is coming to town”. And the day before they had the elephants and rhinos, and going through the town banging the town saying “The circus is in town, it’s in the field on the edge of the town”. Now you have your publicity kit, you have the media of course, which is the modern way of publicizing things. If you are in the circus there’s no point of just doing tricks to the open sky, or the animals in the field. You have to have a currency of somehow in order to keep it going. You have to perform in front of people. Since time begun that has been the case. People have been making people laugh. We had the courtjester; somebody who has in those days wasn’t paid by wages, but by patrons. So that the very rich people would hire musicians or painters, or entertainers to their parties, or to be a court favourite and so they just went on the road. What you have now is a modern version of that and of course because if you have an independent company this small, just like any great concept, or ideology, communism…anything you like, works in a small sense, so to get an independent company it’s great…you get people like Chris Blackwell, Richard Branson, all those guys, the guy who is running Eagle Records, the guy who is running my record company in Los Angeles now, John Tricket, absolutely committed to the artist…because they are together, they depend upon each other…it becomes successful and they split up, and they split it to two and each goes the same way. They become two separate entities and all of the sudden they get share holders, and the share holders interest is to own their own profits, so you can outsell everything, get rid of the marketing, get rid of the PR, get rid of the A&R department, and then the company exists with no reason, it’s just a self-debarring.
As far Deep Purple is concerned, we were on a small label with EMI, called Harvest, when I joined and there was a great intercourse between the band and the business people, but as I explained earlier with “Fireball”, Deep Purple was not the band that was ever going to do as it was told, or behave itself musically, or intellectually… “if you do this, we’re gonna do this, because that is what it comes naturally to us”…it’s a difficult path, it’s not the Rock’n’Roll highway, it’s the cynic route, and so, I think in the eyes of the media too we never played the game, we never have. We were not concerned with other clothes we wore, we weren’t concerned with our image, to a certain extent we came a little after Led Zeppelin and a little bit before Black Sabbath, we were short of in the middle. I looked at a video and I thought “my God, that is Ritchie Blackmore”, but it wasn’t! it wasn’t Ritchie at all! You see there was a man in black doing all this but it was Jimmy Page who did it first exactly! And I thought “My God!” And then I look at myself, I copied Elvis Presley, we all copy, we all evolve…we disagree with everyone including our managers, including ourselves, including certainly the media, we would not play the game, which is why as you call it the respect, if you like or whatever and I don’t necessarily think that we deserved it because they, as a long term plan if you like, we didn’t know it at the time, but it was a long term policy, and we come near to death in one or two occasions as a family, but we are still…(the lights in the hotel living room flicker)
I am sorry I shouldn’t have said that things!!! (laughs)
Rockpages.gr: Maybe it was the comment about Ritchie Blackmore…
Ian Gillan: No…he ain’t that powerful! He is good, but he is not that good!(laughs)
Rockpages.gr: You said that you haven’t released your best album yet. My question is how do you imagine this album be or sound like?
Ian Gillan: It was a philosophical comment, it’s not a fact. I think you have to have that approach. If you are a painter, you go through different periods of your life, you go through your blue period, your cubist period, your post impressionist period, different styles, you are affected by or express something more clearly, more beautifully, more effectively than you’ve ever done before. For me…there are seminal moments in your life…when you think you are capturing a moment, there is only one thing you need to do to qualify as an artist, it doesn’t matter if you are good or bad…Charlotte Church, a yound lady I respect very much, she has beautiful voice and she is a classical trained singer, that had transformed into a wild child, she likes the pub culture, she is very intelligent and she said for example, one of her great quotes that the media conclude and misunderstood…it was so beautiful to see those journalists making such incredible fools of themselves, because after they’ve written it they realized that she was being ironic and she said “Oh, I can’t stand Bob Dylan, I can’t stand the sound of his voice, he’s got no vibrato!”. Well, of course she was being ironic, what she was trying to point out was what a genius she was with the words she was singing and it was completely unimportant that he hadn’t a classical voice or anything like that, so that’s what all that pop programs do now reduce everything to the lowest common denominator. So, I think the idea of having not produced your best work yet involves a great deal of humility and self-sacrifice and not being able to say, well yes I did write “Child In Time”, and I should have stopped then because I would never improve. You have to have the dream of being able to do something better. And so that’s what I meant with that, it wasn’t a literal thing…