Star Scene: Throwback Thursday – Ian Gillan

February 21, 2013

Throwback Thursday looks at Ian Gillan, lead singer of Deep Purple. This interview was in 2013, just before their upcoming tour with Journey. We also talked about the new album and the state of the industry.

We’re really looking forward to having you back in Australia. How many times have you been here now?
About two and a half thousand times. Give or take a few. Quite a few.

Do you still enjoy being on the road?
Well, yeah absolutely, that’s part of the fun of being a musician, I love it.

Is there anywhere in the world that you haven’t toured that you’d like to go to?
Well, I’ve not been to Timbuktu, and I’ve not been to the other parts of Egypt. A few places in the Middle East – I’ve not been to Syria. But, most of the other places I’ve been to, some weird and wonderful places, particularly in the days of the Soviet Union behind the iron curtain, that was absolutely spectacular.

You were one of the first bands to do that, weren’t you?
This was well before Paul McCartney, in the soviet union days, yeah. Travelling to Pakistan and places like that.

Can you tell me about the new album?
We’re not supposed to talk about it. I can say that there’s one coming out. I can’t tell you the title, that’s a secret. I can’t tell you about any of the songs, cause that’s a secret. We can’t play any of the bloody songs! You know as soon as we wrote a song we used to play it onstage the same night and knock it into shape. You can’t do that these days.

It would go out on YouTube and everyone would hear it already…
Exactly, and they just ruin everything for everybody. You know, the whole thing. And all anyone gets in some crappy little sort of squeaky sounding rubbish [laughs]. We’ll wait until the record comes out in April and then we can play it and talk about it and everything.

That’s after you’ve been here.
Yeah, we’re not doing any new material, although stuff on stage we’ll be doing is stuff we’ve never done before.

Oh really, what sort of stuff?
t’s called improvisation. That’s what we do every night. That’s what the whole band is about. It’s based around songs that people will know. Well, some of them will know them anyway. And that’s just what we do, we go out and interpret them to ourselves, that’s what we’ve always done.

I guess that’s something that a band that’s been around for so long and worked together for so long can really do. You’d know each other very well.
Actually, talking about the studio thing, the one thing I can talk about is the benefit of being on the road and playing as a cohesive unit for so many years. We haven’t made a record for seven years and it was just marvelous to see how the improvisation just flowed in the studio.

The producer was just amazed to see all this going on. That’s how we write songs anyway, we go in the studio at lunchtime, we have a jam until six o’clock, take a break at 3 for coffee and gradually accumulate ideas and riffs and rhythms and structures and all that sort of thing until they become songs. We tailor them and knock them into shape and record them. Rehearse them and record them. So the benefits of being together for so long is fantastic.

That’s a great way to do it. So all of you were involved in writing the songs?
Yeah, that’s how it is. When I joined the band in ’69 it was just a question of the songwriters, they guy who wrote the lyrics and whoever wrote the top line, the melody, were the people traditionally credited with the songwriting. But we decided, and we were the first band to do it, to share it out amongst us because what the drummer does is just as much a part of our collective voice as, for example, I do, when I write the tune and the words with Roger Glover. But what everyone else does is just as important.

That’s very interesting. It’s probably something that a lot of people have fought over over the years and to have that agreement and work together is great.
They do, they squabble like hell these musicians.

You see 10 or 15 years later people start taking people’s names off the publishing, it’s terrible.
Is that right? I hadn’t heard of that. I don’t think you can do that.

The Eagles changed Don Felder’s name on Hotel California, they moved it to last instead of first
Really?

Yeah, there was a really big thing about it. I think he ended up taking them to court or something. Cause you’re not supposed to be able to do that.
Never heard of that, that’s terrible

Yeah it is, you should read his book, it’s very interesting.
I’ll have to go around to his house…

Is Roger Glover the person you’ve always enjoyed writing with? Have you had a favourite songwriting partner?
Not, I don’t enjoy writing with him, I can’t stand him, basically [laughs]. He’s the nearest thing I have to a brother really. I’ve been with Roger since ’65. We were in a band called Episode 6 so we joined Deep Purple together, not just as a singer and bass player, but as a songwriting team as well. I’ve got other songwriting partners outside of Deep Purple, I do an awful lot of writing outside of the band as well, but, that’s different. Purple has evolved over the years, but Roger’s been the one constant thing there, with me as a songwriter.

You’ve both been in and out of the band at different times, but you both ended up back there again, which is great.
Yes, exactly.

I think Ian Paice is the only one that’s been there the whole time?
[pullquote]Some people just feel they’re entitled to everything now without paying for it. So, I pointed out what devastating effect this has, not on me, it’s too late to affect me, but the effect that it has on the whole music industry.[/pullquote] Ian Paice, yes, he was there from ’68. He’s the sole survivor of the original band. When you think about it, when Roger and I joined in ’69 already they’d got through one singer and one bass player [laughs]. And they’d already made 3 albums, so I mean, we joined on the fourth album, Deep Purple in Rock. I think that became the nucleus of what happened in the future. So yes, we’ve been drawn back, it’s like a family, you know?

It’s nice to see you coming to Australia so often
The funny thing is, you can’t go anywhere unless you’re invited. So that’s the really fantastic thing. And I’m really looking forward to this tour. I mean, it’s a great ticket, fantastic.

… and touring with Journey
Yep, looking forward to that, it’s going to be great. I want to be in the crowd, not on the stage.

I guess you’ll have to look it up on YouTube
Yeah, thanks a lot [laughs]. I can’t stand it.

It must be very frustrating for you, having gone through years of being able to control everything, then all of a sudden things start popping up all over the place.
Well, I was told by some kids – we were talking about a different issue – it was to do with the copyright situation. Some people just feel they’re entitled to everything now without paying for it. So, I pointed out what devastating effect this has, not on me, it’s too late to affect me, but the effect that it has on the whole music industry. With regard to young people coming into it, because there’s no money to invest any more. Everything’s shrinking. It’s the end of the music business as we know it. I mean it will evolve and mutate into other forms, but it won’t be the same as it was. Also, the thing that ticks me off is the quality of it, it’s such rubbish quality.

That’s the biggest problem at the moment – someone that comes and sees you on YouTube and they don’t hear the proper thing.
I guess people are easily satisfied.

It’s hard to get people’s attention at the moment when there’s so much out there.
What can you do? Just come along and see it live, that’s the only way.

And I think, the only way for a lot of musicians to make any money now
Yeah, well, we’ve always been playing live. I don’t think it’s a question of money. It’s just that that is the medium for us. We played in 48 countries last year.

That’s amazing
It was just a constant moving thing. It’s wonderful really, to be actually sharing the experience. Because the audience is actually the 6th member of the band. It’s such an intimate thing and a shared experience. It’s fantastic.

You cannot share that remotely through a device. Through a very small, crappy, device. It’s just impossible to equate the two. The performance and that particular medium.

You’ve finally been recognised by he Hall of Fame. Are you happy about that or a bit over it now?
I don’t think we have

I thought you’d been nominated?
Yeah, but I think they’ve passed on Deep Purple.

Oh really? That’s terrible. Everybody around you from that time has got in.
It’s strange. I’ll tell you what. you don’t know what to say about that. When I left school, when I became a musician, the one thing I really wanted to do was escape being institutionalised. And I see these things very much as institutions and I respect them for what they are. You’ve got to remember that these are the people, these Americans, are not American public, but the American business people who decide these things are the ones who decided that the Monkees were the American competitors for the Beatles. That they were in the same category as the Beatles. So you’ve really got to not be worried too much about the thinking behind all this.

You see it in a lot of things. We have a Hall of Fame in Australia and we see a lot of deserving people being passed over. It’s very frustrating.
Well look, I watch these things and I know quite a bit about the inside of the business, so the things like the Grammy awards, and all those other things, it’s all insider trading. It’s all who knows who and who knows what. They settle it behind closed doors over a bottle of wine or a glass of beer. And it’s all sorted – you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours. It’s the same people that get awarded all the time. And if you’re out of the loop, as we are, we don’t even have a publicist. I guess we do in each country when we’re a tour, but we’ve never had a publicist for ourselves. It’s a different world. So what I’m saying is, I think when we started we were pretty much described as an underground band. We were playing in clubs and colleges and stuff like that, and I think we still are to a certain extent, as far as the media’s concerned. Which suits us perfectly.

It’s nice because you can still get that connection with the audience.
No, it’s real. It’s absolutely real.

This interview originally appeared in
February 21, 2013 – 3:51pm — Mandy Hall

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