Some very interesting musings in this article with maestro Jon Lord, one of the most important organ players in the history of rock. This one should please the Deep Purple fans out there. Enjoy!
Lord of the deep
Interview by Steve Peacock
Jon Lord was at home in Barnes, and slightly bewildered to be so. For the second time in six months, Deep Purple had to cut short an American tour, and both times for the same reason. Last time, Ian Gillan got ill, with hepatitis; this time it was Ritchie Blackmore`s turn.
“I`m trying to work out what I`ve done wrong,” said Jon. “It doesn`t seem fair that the same group gets hit twice by hepatitis in six months – both times in the middle of an American tour. It seems that every time we go there we take two steps forward and one back.”
“To me, `Machine Head` (the new album) is the apex of what we started to do with `Deep Purple In Rock`, and I don`t really think we should carry on along quite the same line I think we should try and go round a few corners with the next one.
“Some people say about the group, probably with some justification, that we don`t seem to have progressed very far since `Deep Purple In Rock`, though certainly inwardly each musician has progressed enormously – the writing talents have improved, our way of working together has improved, and we`ve got a much better working relationship between ourselves and with an audience. But where some of that justification lies is in the fact that we haven`t really deviated from the very set line, and I think it`s time we started to shoot for the stars a little bit more.”
In other words, having consolidated their position as a tight, heavy rock band, it was time to be a little more adventurous. “My feeling has always been that with our tempos – the speeds we use and the kind of rhythms we choose for our numbers, could be a little more inventive. I think we`ve sometimes underestimated the ability of our audience – the people that like us – to accept something a little bit more. Just because people like `Hard Rock`, unquote, it doesn`t mean it has to be in 4/4 or a shuffle.
The talents of the band are equal to far more than we`re doing, while not putting down what we`ve done on the last three albums, and we`ve learnt a lot in that time. But I think we could now extend our boundaries a little bit. That doesn`t mean that we should do something in 5/4 just for the sake of doing it in 5/4, but we shouldn`t throw out the possibility of using different times and styles, bent to our own style.
“I think we`ve always been a little scared of losing what we gained with `Deep Purple In Rock`, because each individual in the band had spent so long trying to achieve something, that when you eventually get there half of you is saying you should perhaps move on from there, while the other half is saying `don`t knock a good thing`. I`ve seen it happen to so many bands – the first successful thing that happens to them tends to re-write their career for them for the next year or so.”
As he said, it`s something that happens to a lot of bands, but did he tend to think in terms of what might be good for the band`s career?
“Not any more. The trouble is that when you`ve got five people in a band you`re going to get five different ideas of what`s going to be good for the band`s career. But for instance I`d think it would be excellent for our career to show a reasonably significant movement in direction on the next album. But I usually try to think as little as possible in those terms and more in terms of what would be good for the music we play, which will eventually determine the career anyway.”
So for him, whatever promotion and things the pop business gets up to, the music will out in the end? “I think it`s the only thing that`s got to matter in the end. On the rare occasions when we have over-concerned ourselves with extra-musical considerations, I think we`ve taken a little tumble. You know, when we`ve let ourselves be co-erced or co-erced ourselves into doing things just because they`d be good for our career. I`ve often found that because it`s either destroyed something we`ve been trying to build up musically, or it`s destroyed someone`s confidence in you because you`ve gone against a couple of principles they admired you for, it`s in actual fact not helped our career. So I like to think of the music, and everything we do going towards that, and our performance on stage, and try not to be involved in anything else.
“But I hate talking about `The Music` – it always sounds a bit false to me; especially when we`ve said over and over again that we`re basically a rock and roll band, and a loud and fairly unsubtle one at that. I`d like to think we could be just accepted as that, and then if we do something that`s a natural extension of that, but perhaps, a bit surprising…”
It was, he admitted, a great temptation to go out on stage and play the things you know are going to go down well, and they`d fallen into the trap sometimes. And he, like Ritchie, had gone through a stage where he played “as many semiquavers as I could”. But they`ve both changed their ideas on that, and today Jon says he`d like to be known as “a reasonably funky organist” more than a speed king. As to the future of Purple, he says it`s really a question of using what they have:
“The thing is, I think, we`d like to stay within the structure of the band as it exists – which is a five piece rock band using organ, bass guitar, drums and voice – and use it in any way possible to increase the ability of the group to entertain.”
Like most bands, Purple had had their crises in the past, but now they seemed to be settled. “I think we`ve reached a lucky point in our lives where we can afford to take things at the right tempo, rather than that dreadful spurt we did after `Deep Purple In Rock` was big; we were working so hard then that the most simple argument could develop into `I`m going to leave` with no trouble at all. Now I think we`re a little slower coming to the boil.
“But you see the band still thoroughly enjoys playing on stage in front of an audience – there`s not one member who doesn`t feel that`s still the best moment, so I think just from that point of view the band will probably stick together. A couple of us are at the point now where we probably wouldn`t join another group if we left this one.
“But it all depends – it could last another three years, or it could last another three months; you never know when a group`s at this stage. It`s a happy unit and a successful one, so it could concievably go on for a long time, but somebody might just get to the stage where they think they`d really rather be doing something else.
“And I don`t think the group would continue if one person left – we`ve reached such a point of interdepenance. I`d be able to tell you better if it happened, but I think we`d call it a day.”
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: Wishbone Ash, Maggie Bell, David Clayton-Thomas (Blood, Sweat & Tears), Matching Mole, Marc Bolan, Ornette Coleman, Peter Frampton, Rod Argent, Rita Coolidge, ELP, Robert Altman, Happy And Artie Traum.
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