Here’s new addition to the Journalism archives. It’s Cameron’s interview with the always quotable, Ritchie Blackmore of Deep Purple. This Q & A was done for Circular Magazine’s November, 1974 issue. Cameron also spoke with Ritchie on related (and different) topics during the same time period for the following publications:
A Cynic’s View of Deep Purple
The additions of singer David Coverdale and bassist Glenn Hughes, Burn, the well-publicized American tour on Starship One, the California Jam . . . It seems like the last Deep Purple barn-storming ended just a couple weeks ago. Yet those prolific rogues are assaulting Fall with another burst of activity. A strong new LP, characteristically titled Stormbringer, has just been released. An international tour is already underway. Suffice to say Purple is back for more pillage with scarcely a moment’s rest.
It was the morning after Stormbringer‘s final L.A. mixing session when we spoke with lead-guitarist and founding member Ritchie Blackmore. The weary Blackmore, always refreshingly cynical, proved in fine self deprecating form.
Blackmore: I spend so much time making the fucking albums, I get pissed off with talking about them. Especially when I get asked about the words because I have nothing to do with lyrics. So don’t ask me what they’re about ’cause I don’t have the slightest.
Do you really think that Deep Purple listeners pay any attention to the lyrics?
I don’t know. I don’t listen to Deep Purple.
You’ve said in the past that there were plenty of subtleties in Purple’s music.
There are. If people are clever enough, they’ll catch them. If they don’t, that’s too bad, it’s their tough luck . . . We’re not geniuses. Nobody . . . well, there’s been a few around. Hendrix was a genius for about three years, then he went downhill. Cream put out some great stuff for about two years. McCartney’s doing it. Paul Rodgers is a genius. But so often, people just miss the point. As soon as they hear anything loud, they go, “Well, this is heavy metal rubbish,” yet when they hear a folk band playing trash, they go, “Well, that’s nice.” It’s all very stupid.
Have you officially moved to America?
I have two houses at the moment, one in England and one here in Oxnard. I’ll probably move here within the next six months. Jon (Lord) and Ian (Paice) are coming out, Glenn (Hughes) may come as well. Dave (Coverdale) wants to go to Ireland. Tax situation is getting pretty bad over there.
Won’t that make it fairly difficult to keep the band in shape, with all of you spread out over the world.
Not really. We never socialize. We only meet when we’re making an LP or when we’re touring. We never – how do you say it? – hang out.
How will it affect you, living in America?
It’ll lower my standard. Without a doubt. I know that there are a lot of silly people in Los Angeles. You probably know that as well. As long as you know what you’re in for, you can steer clear of it. But if you’re the least bit gullible, you go down with them. I’ve seen a lot of people come here and just blow it completely.
But you don’t really live in Los Angeles.
That’s true. Oxnard is just north of Malibu, about an hour from L.A. It’s pleasant to be right on the beach. I haven’t been on it yet, I was just about to go, actually, when we had to do this interview.
But getting a tan will completely destroy your image.
I won’t get a tan. I’m only going out when the moon’s out. I don’t get up to the sun anyway. I go to bed about 4 or 5 in the morning and get up at night.
Listening to the new album, there are only about two or three songs that fit into the heavy metal Deep Purple mold. It’s very much a Black album.
Glenn is heavily into R&B. He lives for funky music. So it obviously creeps in from his side. Funk doesn’t really turn me on. As long as it’s got melody it’s okay, but I prefer heavy metal things. We can handle funk, though; we do it quite well. I just don’t particularly like that stuff too much. The real out-and-out funk, the Black stuff . . . it’s very monotonous. I think we’ve managed to keep the melody and heavy rock influence without losing out to an endless James Brown soul riff.
Your playing on this album seems more lively than it’s been in the past.
I don’t think so. I don’t think there’s as much life in it this time as before. You’ll always get this, though. Some people say it’s good, some people say it’s crap. I always go by an average. You can’t always top yourself in the studio, so you have to go for a good average of songs that turn out decently. It’s hopeless for me to really try to turn on in the studio.
How do you compare Stormbringer to Burn?
Amazingly enough, I like them both. I’m trying to think of the songs on Burn . . . I like the song “Burn” itself. “Sail Away” I thought was great. I suppose there are a few more good tracks on the new album. For once, though, I think we’ve got two good albums out in a row. It’s usually up and down. In Rock was good, but Fireball was terrible. Machine Head was very good, then we went down with Who Do We Think We Are? Not counting Made In Japan, which was all right I guess, we went up again with Burn. I thought more than likely this would be a downer. So I’m happy about everything. I was a bit worried because as a band we don’t rehearse at all, to be honest. We’re very lazy. We tend to sleep a lot, watch television . . . do anything but write songs. But when someone says we’ve got to get an album together, at least we’re professional enough to work very quickly. And we churn a record out. We’re not too dedicated as a band, but I think as individual players we probably are. Getting together is always a bit of a struggle. Getting Jon out of bed and me to the gig. Always trouble.
So you don’t stare out at the moon much and play gentle melodies on an acoustic guitar?
Hate to ruin the illusion, but no way.
I hear you’re coming out with a solo single.
I’m still working on it with a friend of mine who sings in a group called Elf and Matthew Fisher on organ. It’s just a song I wanted Purple to do, but the group refused to play it. So I got together with some pals to do it. It’s called “Black Sheep of the Family.” Nobody’s ever heard of it. It came out on an album by Quatermass about four years ago. Everybody seems to be doing things on their own, so I thought I’d have a go.
On the whole, how do you think the newest Deep Purple is shaping up after the first year?
They’re good. It’s still five ego crazy musicians fighting for the spotlight, but that will always be there. If there were any problems it would be in that respect. Everybody wants to be the star.
Why then do you shun the spotlight on stage?
Well, I don’t want to be a star as much as I want my music played right. I’m very domineering and pushy. I really could care less about being the star, just as long as the star is doing my material. If I listen to someone else play music, if it doesn’t grab me right off, I’ll ignore it.
I mean I could be a big guitar star and all, but, in a way, that’s best left to people like Jimmy Page, who look good in white suits. I always get embarrassed when I start flaunting myself. I could be very sexy on stage and all that business, but it doesn’t really turn me on. I think I’m being rather silly. If I start wiggling my hips, I do that for maybe half a minute and then stop. It’s degrading.
You think you’ll ever outgrow Purple?
Of course. The only question is how soon. It does get frustrating. You can practice till you’re blue in the faee and people will still miss the point. But as soon as I play guitar with my feet, they go, “Yeah, that’s good.” So you wonder whether it’s worth it. Everybody seems to like this new album, though. I don’t know why, but they all do. Glenn played it for David Bowie the other night. Bowie loved it. I don’t know if that’s a good sign or what.
Courtesy of Circular – Cameron Crowe – November 25, 1974