A really great interview with Ian Gillan this one. As a bonus you get a little talk with Roger Glover and you get to hear a little bit about that famous “man in black” Ritchie Blackmore.
Pete Makowski is another one of those journalists that are almost as famous as those people he writes about. Actually, when he writes about some of the newer bands, he may indeed be MORE famous than his objects.
He has written for, among many publications, Sounds, Kerrang, Metal Hammer, Q and Classic Rock. I guess he will be involved with that spanking new magazine called “Planet Rock” too! (I have bought it, not read it yet, but it looks terrific).
Ian Gillan left Deep Purple to start a mini-cab firm but found that…
Rock and roll`s in Gillan`s soul
By Pete Makowski
“We all came out to Montreaux, On the lake Geneva shoreline.
To make a record with a mobile, We didn`t have much time.”
The immortal words above, as y`all probably know, are from one of Deep Purple`s most successful toons – `Smoke On The Water`. It tells the true story of the great Casino disaster which occurred when the band went to Switzerland to record `Machine Head`.
Apart from being a pretty slick crap joint, the Casino was also a highly respected European venue and was going to be the location the band were going to record utilising a mobile unit. I say `were` because just before they got there disaster struck.
It was on the night that Uncle Frank and the Mothers were playing there that, as the Purps put it: “some stupid with a flare gun, burned the place to the ground.”
“Smoke on the water, a fire in the sky!”
Purple ended up recording the album at the Grand hotel. The casino had to be completely rebuilt, which brings us to the story.
Montreux is essentially a retiring home for rich persons. Like Brighton only a bit classier. It`s a place where a millionaire can spend his last years in the healthiest of surroundings before pushing off to that great Swiss deposit account in the sky.
It`s also the home of the Montreux jazz festival which, so the city`s tourist officer informs me, is overtaking the legendary Newport jazz festival in popularity and repute.
Montreux is also now the location for a new venture. The Mountain recording studios which have been installed into the brand spanking new casino building and is run by Jack Grod and his attractive American singer wife Anita Kerr.
Although it started business last July in time for the aforementioned Jazz festival it celebrated its official press opening only a couple of weeks ago which is how I got there.
As it happened Ian Gillan and Roger Glover were present there at the same time on business. Gillan was completing work on his new album with Glover acting as producer.
Almost three years after the Casino incident the ex Purple vocalist and equally ex Purple bassist find themselves at the same location that acted as a catalyst for the album that broke Deep Purple worldwide. Could this be more than fate?
On with the story…
Since his departure from Purple, Gillan has remained fairly anonymous, apart from the occasional press release advertising his various new business ventures which included a motorcycle factory and a minicab firm.
There were sporadic reports of projected solo albums but nothing ever actually transpired and it seemed that we had lost our silver throated screamer to the world of high finance until one day, about a month ago, it was declared that Gillan was making his return with a new band and album.
Now it was obvious the guy really meant business!
Fortunately Gillan and Glover were residing at the same hotel as myself. Both parties had spent a heavy session in the studios the night previous to my arrival so I didn`t expect any contact with them until later that evening. Surprisingly enough Glover managed to submerge from his well-earned rest quite early on in the afternoon.
Since he left the ranks of Purple, Glover has involved himself in quite a lot of production work, so lack of sleep and late nights have become a part of his daily repertoire. Eyes glazed and looking generally fragile he ordered a pot of tea and we sat ourselves in an unassuming corner of the hotel lounge for a chat.
Roger Glover is a nice guy. He`s one of those people you could spend all night talking with about anything and everything. He`s a great observer of the music business and he`ll always have an interesting answer for any question you care to confront him with.
When I asked him what he had been up to over the last few months he revealed that the Gillan project has taken much longer than expected as there had already been one album recorded about a year ago.
“It was a good album”, said Glover, “but it was too much of a solo album and in the end Ian decided that he wanted to get a band together and he wanted to record something that would be much more representative of a band effort.”
Gillan and Glover have been close friends for quite a while now, even before their days with Purple they were playing together in a band called Episode Six. In fact it was the band`s drummer, Mick Underwood, who inadvertantly got Glover the job in Purple.
Glover explains: “Mick used to play in a band with Ritchie (Blackmore) and Ritchie phoned him up and said `we`re looking for a singer` and he said `why don`t you listen to Ian Gillan`. So they set up an audition and I used to write with Ian at the time so I just sort of tagged along with him `cause they were also looking for a bass player.
“They must have decided that it would have been a good idea to get two guys who had written together because they were looking for writers.”
I asked Glover how it felt to be producing an old colleague.
“It`s quite enjoyable really. I learned a lot of production from Purple. I used to do a lot of mixing with little Ian (Paice). The way Purple used to record was to do a backing track first then the vocals. Ian (Gillan) would get most of the lyrics together, but having done that he would be lost for an idea, so it would be the pair of us who would decide what`s to go on top.
“I virtually learned production by producing Ian. So doing it now in a way is almost like stepping back in the past.”
Has Gillan`s sudden revival given Glover any inclination to get back on the road?
“No, I`ve been through various stages of wanting to be back on the road. For two reasons, one because I miss the life to a certain extent for all the bad things you get on the road it is quite exciting. And the other reason is that I want to write in a group format `cause writing on my own doesn`t come out the same way. If I`ve got nothing to write for then I write rubbish. If I`ve got direction then I`ll drag something out of the depths.
“Looking at the economics of getting on the road and looking at the things I`ll have to give up I don`t think I want to go back on the road. Before Deep Purple I had been on the road since 1965 professionally, that`s a fair while.
“It was hard to settle down at first but now that I have settled down I find that I`m more creative in all directions. If I went on the road then I`d have to give all that up.”
Even without the roadlife Glover is one of those people who has an endless source of energy and channels it in as many directions as possible. Although production probably supplies a major part of his income (he also co-owns a studios in London with Gillan), he certainly has no plans to make a future out of it and still feels that his talents are more musically inclined.
He has already displayed his versatility with his musical interpretation of William Plomers book of poetry entitled `Butterfly Ball` which has already seen one extravagant charity performance at the Albert Hall. There are plans for it to become a cartoon series for which Glover will provide incidental music.
“What `Butterfly Ball` did for me was to make me strong enough not to reject my past, but not to emulate it. When I first did `Butterfly Ball` I thought what`s everyone going to expect of me? I`m not a household name I know. Everyone`s not going to be waiting for my album with baited breath to see finally what the master`s done. At the same time there is an awareness of me, somewhere along the line, and I don`t want to let people down.
“It took quite a few months for me to get the courage to say `I don`t care what the people are going to think I`m going to do it the way I see it right? Now whatever I do in the future I`m not going to care whether it`s rock or classical, I don`t care what it is as long as it means something that`s all that matters.”
At this point a medium sized figure wearing a grey army type coat, looking slightly unshaven strolls up to the table to greet us. Why, it`s Ian Gillan looking mucho less business like than indicated in recent photographs which showed him to be sporting a matching suit and paunch.
Next to him is a tall skinny guy with long black hair who looks as if he`s been on the road all of his life. This is John Gustafson and he probably has been on the road for the whole of his life. He is the bass player and vocalist with the Ian Gillan band.
The Ian Gillan band are as follows: Ray Fenwick (guitars), Gustafson (bass/vocals) and Mark Nussyef (drums/percussion) and Mike Maran (keyboards).
Both Gustafson and Fenwick are guys who have done excessive mileage on the road with musical histories as long as Elton John`s optician bill. The former spawning from the Liverpudlian scene playing in such legendary units as The Big Three and the Mersey Beats.
In recent years Gustafson has played with Quatermass a brilliant trio who almost achieved the recognition they deserved, and more recently he has involved himself in session work like Fenwick whose most recent success was in a band called Fancy who released a hotted up version of `Wild Thing`.
Nussyef is an American drummer, he`s also a tutored percussionist and has toured with quite a few bands including, believe it or not, the Velvet Underground.
All parties have been associated with Purple in the past. Gustafson played in a short lived outfit called Hard Stuff who recorded on Purple records. Fenwick has been involved in various projects on the same label including some work on Jon Lord`s concertos. While Nussyef played with Elf for a short while, playing on their last album `Trying to Burn The Sun` before they split up to become Ritchie Blackmore`s Rainbow.
I introduced myself to Gillan and we arranged to meet after the studios reception (which I shall delve into at greater length shortly in the more technical pages of SOUNDS).
Later that evening…
Glover and Mac (all the way from Munich`s Musicland) set up the desk. Click! the tapes were rolling and the music began to surge out of the studios four powerful high quality speakers.
First impressions – the band sounded tight, straight to the point. Gillan certainly hasn`t lost any of his vocal form, he can still sustain his banshee screams longer than any vocalist I know. The album has more depth, light and shade than I expected with some very nice slow tempo material. There`s one number which Gillan shares some vocal
interplay with Gustafson.
The only song that registered with me immediately was an interesting new interpretation of `Child In Time` (which incidentally is the title of the album) which features some beaut soloing from Fenwick. It sounded like one helluva an album and an cassette version that`s been rolling on my machine since I got it confirms this.
The Ian Gillan band are going to be one shit kickin` band to reckon with and if they sound as hot as they do in the studio live will undoubtedly become one of the big bands of `76.
Gillan and I sauntered back to the hotel leaving Glover and Mac with the rest of the songs that had to be mixed, they had an early deadline to meet and needed all the remaining hours that were available.
Gillan, looking slightly worn, sat himself down and began to pour countless cups of tea as we both proceeded to stabilise our heads which were suffering from the evening`s celebrations. He had been out for a meal with Glover, they had been reminiscing the old days, toasting them with cognac coffees which took their toll, the mixtures of wine and spirit I indulged didn`t do me that much good either.
After being cut off from the music scene for so long Gillan seems to have renewed amount of energy.
“I`m like a kid again”, he announced with unhidden glee, “I feel like an animal”. Which is the exact opposite to the way things were when he left Purple.
“When I left Purple I was completely dissilusioned, I lost interest.”
“Do you want to know why I left Purple?”, he asked. I told him I thought it was basically through differences between him and Blackmore.
“No that wasn`t it”, he replied firmly.
“We did have our differences but that wasn`t it. In fact I`ve just spent a very pleasant weekend with Ritchie. I better get the record straight and tell you exactly why I left Purple.
“I left Purple because it was stagnating, that`s why Ritchie left Purple too. The Purple I was in got into a formulated pattern and it was great to start with but then it started to be like… it was nothing to do with people, it was like being in the civil service. I left Purple for the same reason I fell out of love with Elvis Presley when he left the army and started doing `Blue Hawaii`.
“I decided I`d never come to the point where I would have to compromise my artistic feelings, it was getting to the point where Purple records were being churned out. We started off as a progressive rock and there was no way we were a progressive rock band by `Who Do We Think We Are?`.”
Was this due to the output demanded from the band due to their success?
“No, I think it was laziness, fear. There was a difference in thought and attitude. There was a discrepancy in thought. I thought that `Fireball` was a great progression. After `Fireball` I felt we lapsed back into formulated music.
“Machine Head` was like harking back to `In Rock`, everything was the same formula. It was a shame really because there was so much talent in that band. I left Purple because I was bored, I was bored with the same old thing. I found myself pacing the shows.”
I asked Gillan what his immediate feelings were when he left Purple.
“Horrible, I didn`t even want to listen to their next album. I felt so horrible that I decided to leave, I refused to buy or listen to anything… I wouldn`t even turn on the radio. I think it was a bit of sour grapes actually, `cause I had been a part of it. I didn`t want to leave but I had to.
Was he wary of singing again?
“Yeh, there was no direction at all, like the first solo abortive attempt I recorded. That was two years after I left Purple. But then I started working with Roger and the band and it all came back to me just like that! I`m singing better now than i ever sang with Purple.”
Glover in fact played quite an important part in getting Gillan to return to the studios.
“I trust Roger implicitly, he`s forced me into all the good things in life.”
But what`s really given Gillan his confidence is the band who he can`t compliment enough. He even admits that at one time he thought: “I`d never be able to play with musicians of such high quality again… and I have!”
The whole band seem to have committed themselves fully to this venture with the same enthusiasm as Gillan, and you`ll be able to appreciate that fact when you hear the album which should be out at the end of February.
“It`s a fucking good line up”, said Gillan, complimenting himself for his choice.”
“They`re a bunch of shitkickers. John (Gustafson) is great, he thinks the same way as I do. He`s got a great voice, he pushes me.
“I`ll tell you an interesting story. There`s this song on the album called `Down The Road`. I sung that for about ten hours and I just couldn`t get it together. The other songs I did in one or two takes – great. Then Ray (Fenwick) said `why don`t you and John sing it together`. So we sang it together and did it in virtually one take. We drank twelve bottles of champagne, the two of us in about an hour and a half and the third verse sounds really drunk, it`s really great, way over the top. I`m singing `ahhhhh` with a really slow vibrato and John`s going `RAHHHHHHGGGG!!!` anywhere. And it came out really good. It means something. It`s in your stomach, not your hair. I`m not interested in head music. It`s shivers down your spine all the way down the line, that`s what influenced me.
“Listening to Jackie Lomax, The Big Three, Cliff Bennett a million other people, Jerry Lee Lewis all these people who shivered my spine when I was a kid, they really knew how to sing, really singing with power not just warble, warble, warble. I think that sensuality has so much to do with rock. One of the first bands I saw live was Screaming Lord Sutch and The Savages and the guitarist used to hold the axe next to his groin like a phallic symbol and I thought `wow, cock music!`.
“I like quiet music too, it doesn`t have to be raving, any sort of music that has earthiness to it. Even something like Solomon Burke`s `Down In The Valley`. And it`s sexual, rock and roll is very sexual, if music hasn`t got something that appeals to my animal instincts then I don`t like it.
“Anything that I record has got to have some earthy quality, basics, the lyrics on this album are all to do with sensuality, sexual connotations, everything is basic.”
A good description of Gillan`s music-basic, straight down the line. Having such a powerful line up around him is going to cause a lot of creative electricity. After playing in a band with as much individual talent as Purple Gillan obviously wanted equally potent musicians around him. I asked him if he liked competition in a band structure.
“Love it!” was the immediate reply, “Ritchie said to me, one day at the end of a series of rehearsals before Purple started going on tour, he came up to me and said `if you start putting on a good show, really doing well then I`m going to try and blow you out. That`ll make you do better and it`ll make me do better.` So me and Ritchie had a great threatening hold on Purple, the music never suffered. There was a great sense of competition between us.
“It`s the same with this band. I set the band up I`ve chosen the people I wanted and that`s it. I want them all to really entertain the people, I want them to come through. I don`t want people to just come and see me, I want them to come and see the whole band. And if anyone in the band starts to shine through then it`s going to make me work that much harder.”
Straight after the album`s finished the band are all going to meet up in Paris and begin rehearsals in preparation for their onslaught on the world. Gillan has already thought of some interesting visuals for the show, which I won`t reveal, but he basically wants to keep the whole thing straightforward, although he`s very concerned that the audience get their moneys worth.
“I mean, if we just played the music, then the kids could sit at home and listen to the album, they`ve got to be entertained.
“By now the Swiss birds (of a feathered variety) were beginning to chortle their dawn chorus (the bastard things get up at four o`clock in the morning out there) and we were slowly beginning to dissolve into our seats. Before heading for our sleeping quarters I finally asked Gillan about the re-recording of `Child In Time` the song that used to be a showcase for the man`s amazing vocal delivery.
“The reason I recorded `Child In Time` was because people told me it was a song that people would remember me by. Roger tonight said to me `that`s the best lyrics you`ve ever written`.
“I would say that `Child In Time` is a connection. There`s a certain amount of logic behind using it, because I suppose out of all the Purple songs, if somebody was to pick out a song which was my particular thing in Purple then I suppose they`d pick out `Child In Time`, `cos I suppose it was more me than anything else I did with Purple.
“I was listening to some of the tracks earlier today and the only connection between this album and Purple is my voice, `cause that doesn`t change… maybe it`s got a bit better since I left Purple. Ray doesn`t play anything like Ritchie, Mike`s keyboards don`t sound anything like Jon and the same goes for the rest of the band.
“The whole sound is different, the whole attitude and approach is different. But you`ve got that connection, a link. So when I make my re-entry which is what it is after two and a half years since leaving Purple for those people who would like a link, something to relate to, then that song is there.
“I`m taking the same attitude I did with Purple: if people like it then I`m really pleased and I`ll do everything I can to pursue the particular things they enjoy. If they don`t like it then I`m really sorry, it`s a shame, tough shit `cos I`m really enjoying it.”
I have personally transcribed this from the original paper. Any errors in the text from the original magazine may not have been corrected for the sake of accuracy. If you have a music-related web-page where this fits – please make a link to the article. With credits to the original writer of the article from all of us music fans!
This number of Sounds also contains articles/interviews with these people: Evelyn Thomas & Ian Levine, Shaun Cassidy, Jimmy Page, Cate Brothers, Julie Tippetts, Adam Faith, Pat Travers, Yes, Jesse Winchester, Phil Collins.
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