x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Deep Purple's Ian Gillan: 'You still have the undulations of happiness and misery…'

The British rock titans Deep Purple played the Dubai Jazz Festival last Thursday. We sat down with lead singer Ian Gillan to discuss touring, YouTube and that Stonehenge scene in Spinal Tap

Ian Paice, left, Ian Gillan and Steve Morse at the Crowne Plaza, Dubai Festival City. Duncan Chard for the National
Ian Paice, left, Ian Gillan and Steve Morse at the Crowne Plaza, Dubai Festival City. Duncan Chard for the National

On the benefits of being older

Life's not so rocky now. It was very volatile when you're young, you've got no experience. Your sense of disappointment is far greater, your sense of success is overwhelming. And then you've got the emotional conflict within any group that you're not mature enough to deal with until you get older. It levels out. You still have the undulations of happiness and misery, but they don't peak through to such extremes.

On the new Deep Purple album, due out in April

It's been seven years since we made a record, so everyone's getting excited about it. It was recorded in Nashville in late summer and I think it sounds wonderful. I think it's the best-sounding Deep Purple record that's ever been made. I say that because I've always been a critic of our sound, I thought we sacrificed a lot in the sound for breaking new ground, for recording in unconventional places and capturing the spirit of adventure, breaking away from recording studios as we did in the early days.

On not showing any respect on the album

We've made a conscious effort to not show any respect any more as we'd been pressured to do over the years, for radio play, because they don't bloody play the thing anyway. I was shocked to look back recently and found there were only seven tracks on Deep Purple in Rock, Fireball and Machine Head albums. And some of them were eight to nine minutes long. And that's because the music has dynamics and texture and it was a new form of music, not confined to radio discipline. We've gone back to that, which gives a lot of freedom to the development of the songs, some of which are quite long.

On YouTube spoiling everything

There's very little you can do these days about having any impact at a launch for a record unless you keep it very secret, because communications are so immediate and YouTube and everything else kind of spoils the party. Everyone wants to know everything now, even if the information isn't accurate or complete. There used to be a time when people used to hold up cigarette lighters and candles at concerts and the place was aglow to celebrate the end of the evening or during a slow song, there was this congregational euphoria that used to exist. It still does, but now it's a question of iPhones being held up.

On being the hardest-touring band in the world

Since Don [Airey] joined in 2002, we've been working more intensely than ever before. We played in 48 countries last year, or the year before, something like that. And we do five cities a week. We've got two rigs so we now do leapfrogging with the equipment so that we can make all these dates. It's absolutely fantastic, a real joy.

On Deep Purple's controversial absence from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

It's not the fans who have any say in this, it's the people in the business. It's the same people who vote for the Grammy Awards, and we never had a Grammy, the same people who vote for the Oscars, the Baftas. It's the controlling interests of the industry in America, and I could tell you many stories about this but I think all you need to know is that these are the people who thought that The Monkees were America's answer to The Beatles, so I'm not really that disappointed. But I would like to humbly thank those who have come out and voiced support.

On This Is Spinal Tap's accuracy in portraying heavy metal in the 1970s

I spent many an hour over a few drinks with a friend of a consultant of the people who were writing the screenplay and I gave them lots of little tips about my years with Black Sabbath and a lot of other experiences, some of which appeared in the film, including the Stonehenge scene. Unfortunately, the movie had a much smaller budget, because our Stonehenge was full size, and is still dismantled in shipping containers scattered in ports around the world. Also, when the band are told that their album has been deemed unplayable on the radio, this is actually because the record I made with Black Sabbath called Born Again was actually deemed unplayable because somebody went in at the last minute and turned the bass up on everything. I have no idea who that might have been.

aritman@thenational.ae

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