Return of the King of Kings
Interview with BURRN magazine - September 1996
Your first professional band was called "The Dominators", where you played together with Mick Underwood. What kind of music did you play?
Ritchie: Rock n' Roll. I think I was 13-14 years old by then. We played songs by Duane Eddie, Chuck Berry and other hits. We were just a cover band.
Rumor has it that as a member of "The Savages" you did an own version of "Hall of the Mountain King" by the group "Nero and the Gladiators". Is that true?
Ritchie: Yes, that's true. I joined the Savages, when I was 16 years old.
I've heard that the band's guitarist, Tony Harvey has had a big impact on you. However, all records have Joe Moretti on guitars.
Ritchie: I wanted to be like Tony Harvey, but it's true that Joe Moretti played on all their studio recordings. Harvey only played live. It was a great group. They were 30 years ahead of their time. It was a trio of... No, it was a quartet. The drummer, vocalist, guitarist and bass player - they played without any effects, and delivered a great show. They were dressing up as Roman gladiators. That may seem trivial, but their costumes in conjunction with the music just shocked the public. It was my favourite band when I was 15 years old. They inspired me a lot.
Did you play with this group?
Ritchie: No. By then I was 15 years old and had only played the guitar for four years. I wasn't good enough yet.
Is it true that you tried to replace Tony Harvey, when he wanted to leave?
Ritchie: That's true. I sent them my resume, but received no answer (laughs)... Tony Harvey has passed away three years ago I think. I couldn't believe it, he was only 50 years old.
Is it true that when you were working with Derek Lawrence, you recorded one session with Jeff Beck, which was produced by Jimmy Page?
Ritchie: That's true.
What was the sound like?
Ritchie: I don't remember. We recorded two songs, but I don't know what they were called. I don't even know if they have been published. Cliff Burton played the bass guitar. He had played with the Cyril Davis All Stars, but sadly died because of his drug problems. Nicky Hopkins played the piano and Carlo Little was on drums. They were members of the Cyril Davis All Stars, too, though none of them was a star. (laughs) It was strange for Jeff and myself to work with Jimmy Page as a producer, knowing that he was a guitarist himself. He was just looking out for us. It was a strange situation.
Do you have any of your old singles?
Ritchie: I don't collect my own works. It happens that I listen to my own music when I'm together with my friends. Sometimes they ask me things like: "What do you think about Stormbringer?", to which I replied: "Maybe we should give it a listen?". I think "Machine Head" is lying around somewhere in the house and I also have some Rainbow albums, but not all of them.
Do you remember your first solo single?
Ritchie: I wrote it in 1964 or 65, called "Ritchie Blackmore Orchestra", together with Greg Smith on it... No... (laughs)
The song is called "Getaway". Japan currently sells a collection, which has a recording of "Hall of the Mountain King" from your time with "The Lancesters" on it.
Ritchie: I know... I read about it in some magazine.
Mitch Mitchell indicates in his autobiography that you and himself were trying to form a band. Do you remember that?
Ritchie: I think there was something... yes, but I can't remember it clearly. We knew each other from an early age. He lived in Ealing and worked in Jim Marshall's guitar store on the amplifiers. I bought a guitar from Jim Marshall. He told me that he's working together with a drummer called "Mitch". So I met "Mitch". He is a jazz drummer and we used to play together, but I can't remember that we serious about trying to put a band together, so I can't say anything on that subject.
Is it true that you were also trying to put together a band with Matthew Fischer of Procul Harum?
Ritchie: Yes, Matthew was playing with us in Screaming Lord Sutch and The Savages in 1965. But back then he was playing bass. I tried to form a band with him and perform in Germany. I had planned that he would play the bass instead of the keys. He was a wonderful musician. But he decided to return to Screaming Lord Sutch and The Savages, but this time as an organist, he was an excellent organist. I remember when he played "A Whiter Shade of Pale" at the rehearsals. That was in 1966. He performed his version of Bach's Aria in G minor. When I asked him: "What's this? I like that.", he replied: "It's Bach's Aria in G Minor". He played it all the time, but it sounded exactly like "Whiter Shade of Pale". A few years later I told him: "Hey, your song became a hit", he said: "No, I didn't write it". I said: "You don't remember it? But you played exactly the same thing two years ago?!". He said: "No, it was something else" (laughs). I said: "But that was the aria in G minor, the same chords, do you not remember?". He denied everything. I couldn't believe that he wasn't able to remember it. Even when I reminded him that it was built on Bach's Aria in G Minor, he told me that it was something else. He said that it was written by Keith Reid and Gary Brooker, but he was wrong! I never understood, why Matthew never recieved the authorship for this song. He wrote the music! Okay, when you write music, it happens, that you build song structures around it, but the basic idea was written by Matthew. Of course, Keith Reid and Gary Brooker said: "Hey, we wrote the words!". But the song would still be recognizable without any vocals, because it's such a beautiful melody. And Matthew wrote this melody. Why didn't he get any writing credits? The fact that he denied his authorship of the song is even stranger! I know that Matthew wrote it, because I saw and heard it with my own eyes.
Is it true that Matthew Fischer played the song "Black Sheep of the Family"?
Ritchie: What do you mean?
I have a book in which is said that "Black Sheep of the Family" was written by the assistance of Matthew Fischer, with whom you have played in Lord Sutch.
Ritchie: No, that's not true.
Why did you decide to record "Black Sheep of the Family"?
Ritchie: The song was written by my old friend Mick Underwood, and I really liked it. When I heard it, I faced two problems: I myself would like to record it, but three members of Deep Purple are not going to play other people's songs. For me it's not about who wrote it. A good song is a good song, even if you won't get any money for it.
When you came back to Germany, at the time you've been a member of Neil Christian and The Crusaders, you met up with Carlo Little and Nick Simper, to discuss the possibility of forming a band, but then Nick had lost his voice and that thought fell apart. Is that true?
Ritchie: I met Nick when we were starting with Deep Purple. I hadn't met him before.
So you haven't met him at the time you were in Germany?
Ritchie: No. He had previously played with Johnny Kidd and The Pirates. He was familiar with Jon Lord.
Jon Lord played with Nick in the Flowerpot Man Group?
Ritchie: That's right. I knew Carlo from an early age. He introduced me to Ian Paice in Hamburg, when I wanted to put a band together. By then he played in a band called "The Maze", that was in 1967. When we started to put the group together, we have made every effort to find him.
In Hamburg, you had a group called "Mandrake Root". What kind of music did you play?
Ritchie: It was just a blues band. We were playing songs in the spirit of John Mayall and The Bluesbreakers.
The name of that group later became a title for a Deep Purple song...
Ritchie: Exactly. When Jon and myself composed this song for Deep Purple, I suggested this name, and Rod Evans wrote the text.
Did you write these very early songs such as "Mandrake Root" or "And the Adress" when you lived in Hamburg? Or was it later when you met Jon Lord?
Ritchie: I wrote most of these ideas in London when I met Jon. Before that I had only ideas for riffs.
Did you use any ideas from your time in Hamburg for Deep Purple songs?
Ritchie: Oh, If I remember correctly, no...
It's said that when Chris Curtis was trying to get musicians for "Roundabout", he planned that he would sing, play bass, drums and write all the material. Which role did he assign to you?
Ritchie: Yeah, good question (laughs). I think he wanted to be a singer and play bass. Of course, at first I thought that Chris would only play the drums... But it turned out that he wanted to do almost everything at the same time.
But then Curtis left the band. Was it due to the fact that he was a terrible singer? Or because he played very poorly on the other instruments?
Ritchie: I think he sang and played very badly, but then he just disappeared, so I suggested names of other drummers.
I've heard that you first played with drummer Bobby Woodman, and then replaced him with Ian Paice.
Ritchie: Yes, that's right.
But that was in Roundabout?
Ritchie: Yes... That's how it was: Woodman was a famous drummer. He played with Tony Harvey and Johnny Halliday. In Britian, he was a hell of a famous drummer, but he belonged to another time period. I suggested: "Let's try this guy", so we we auditioned him and it turned out that he played very poorly. We played "Mandrake Root", and he wasn't able to keep track of it. So my next thought was: "OK - we need Ian Paice". At the same time we were looking for a singer. When we met the singer of the group Maze, it was Rod, whom we invited shortly after to the rehearsals. Ian Paice and Rod Evans both directly agreed to join. When we listened to them, we sent Bobby Woodman to buy cigarettes. Bobby buying cigarettes always took a few hours.
The Maze had recorded their own version of "I'm So Glad" by Cream.
Ritchie: That's right. Cream had a good version, but The Maze played it a lot better in my opinion.
The first albums sounded a lot like Vanilla Fudge and Jimi Hendrix. Was it done deliberately, or were you just simply inspired by the work of these musicians?
Ritchie: Second, at the time I liked listening to Vanilla Fudge, but I had a low opinion of Hendrix. I saw him only as a showman, and didn't notice anything special in his playing.
You were the opener for Vanilla Fudge in the US?
Ritchie: Yes, we have been with them on tour. We were very good friends. They were our idols at the time. Tim Bogert was one of the best bass players in the world, he was an amazing musician. He played the bass very quickly, so we called him Mr. Bullet. Ian took Carmine Appice as a god... We all had a very good relationship. They really liked us, too. And Jon, of course, often copied Marc Stein.
Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin began their first American tour at about the same time. Did you know about it then?
Ritchie: I hadn't heard of Led Zeppelin by then. But I met Jimmy Page at an airport at the time, and he told me that they were going to play 20 concerts as the headliner. When I heard Jimmy Page's playing, I thought: "OK, he plays the usual rock n' roll stuff". But when I saw Robert Plant, I realized that they will make it. He was so good that I decided that we also needed a new singer. We had Rod Evans, but compared to Robert Plant, he was just an amateur. So I decided to find a new singer, and we found Ian Gillan.
I want to clarify. You've decided to fire Rod Evans due to the fact that you needed a singer at the same level as Robert Plant?
Ritchie: Yes, I was never a fan of Led Zeppelin, my attention was caught by Robert Plant. He was great.
Rod Evans said he left the group because he wanted to move to the United States.
Ritchie: No, no. We asked Rod Evans to leave, but it's true that he wanted to move to the United States anyway. So we parted as friends.
Nick Simper said that you wanted to have Ian Gillan even before Rod Evans. Is that true?
Ritchie: If he said so... I don't think so. I don't remember. However, it was Mick who introduced us to Gillan. I asked him: "Do you know of a suitable singer for us?". He said: "But you have a singer. Do you need another one?". I said: "He's no longer needed". Then he told me to listen to Gillan.
Can you remember which songs you played in the first round of the US Deep Purple tour?
Ritchie: Yes. We opened the concerts with "And The Adress" ... Then were was "Hush"... Then "Mandrake Root", and now I don't remember. (laughs)
Shortly after Gillan joined, you recorded a single called "Hallelujah". Why?
Ritchie: I think the managers told us to play that song. Ian could sing ballads as well as hard rock. At that point we weren't so much into hard rock yet. It was a few months later when I insisted to play more rock.
Roger joined the band at the same time as Ian Gillan.
Ritchie: He came to the rehearsals together with Ian Gillan. Ian Paice and Jon Lord wanted him to join. I didn't want to, I thought about another musician, but they said: "Well, let's try him". I wanted to take one of the guys who played bass in "The Maze", but he was unavailable.
In 1972 Ian Gillan decided to leave the band, and he did after the 73 tour. Did you also think about leaving the band at that point?
Ritchie: Yes, I did.
But Jon Lord and Ian Paice convinced you to stay?
Ritchie: I was convinced by Ian Paice. I wanted to quit because I didn't like Ian Gillan and Roger Glover. I wanted to work with Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy. Phil, Ian and myself discussed the possibility of creating a new group. Ian Paice said: "Oh yeah, sounds great, but I don't want to give up the name Deep Purple." I wanted to try something else, but he said it would be safer to continue under the name Deep Purple. And I didn't want to stay in Deep Purple. Then he told me that Ian Gillan is going to leave Deep Purple, so I shouldn't have a problem with it. I told him that it's not just Gillan. It was Roger, too. So, I thought that it's better to leave the band myself. Paicey asked me: "So you will stay if we fire them?". I said: "Yes, but you can't do that". It was impossible to get the two to leave the band, just because of the fact that I didn't want to work with them. But then he said that Ian Gillan resigned himself, so I calmed down. I felt sorry for Roger. He didn't do anything wrong. He played well, I just didn't want to work with him. I had big problems with Gillan. If I would meet up with him today, we would probably have a fight, but I always had a good relationship with Roger. But as I said before, I wanted to play with someone more fiery. Phil Lynott was a very powerful bassplayer. I thought that Roger's playing was just boring.
And the candidate for the singer position in Babyface was John Lawton?
Ritchie: Yes, we had been negotiating with him. He lived in Hamburg at the time and showed interest. We were ready to work with him. But nothing came out of it, because I returned to Deep Purple.
Ian Paice said Phil Lynott was not a very good bass player, and that you were very disappointed with him. Is that true?
Ritchie: Oh... As far as I remember, he was a great bass player, very rythmic, could play a lot of different styles, and besides, he looked great! So I don't agree with what Ian says.
Did you already communicate with Glenn Hughes when Ian Gillan was still in the group?
Ritchie: Oh yes, I went to see him at the Marquee.
At that time - did you see him already as a candidate for the bass guitar? Or even as a singer?
Ritchie: Bass guitarist. He has a very good voice, but it's too high. I prefer the voice of David Coverdale.
When you went to Glenn Hughes' gig, you didn't know Coverdale yet?
Ritchie: Yes, we found him 2 months later.
When you first started rehearsing with Glenn, did you ever think about making him the main vocalist?
Ritchie: I don't think so. We needed a powerful voice.
"Black Night" is based on "Summertime" by Ricky Nelson.
Ritchie: Yes, I got the idea of "Summertime".
The band Blues Magoos had a song called "Nothing Yet", which is very similar to "Black Night".
Ritchie: Yes... Someone else has already told me about that. But I hadn't heard this song. The first time I heard it was about 4 years ago, and, of course, immediately thought that it sounds very similar. But before that I hadn't heard it. If I had known it, I would have said so. The first part of the riff "Black Night" is based on the bass line of the Ricky Nelson song "Summertime". But we changed it a little. However, when we wrote that song, we were all drunk.
Is it true that when David Coverdale came to the audition, he had a great voice, but he looked very bad, so he had to loose weight and have a surgery for strabismus treatment?
Ritchie: Yes, that's true. Look at his eyes now!
He auditioned in August, but he was announced as your new singer in September. So within a month, you had corrected his look?
Ritchie: At first, we put him on a diet, and after that we sent him to the hospital where he was operated on his eyes. Ian Gillan looked very good, and the replacement had to look just as well. When I first met David Coverdale, he was very thick, had a mustache and slanting eyes. He looked very strange. I said: "He has a very strong voice, but he looks bad, he can't replace Ian Gillan". To which Jon replied sarcastically: "Well, I think he doesn't look so bad" (laughs). Then we asked for the opinion of people from our company. I said that I would agree on him to join the group only if he would change his look. He sang great, but I was also interested in a good appearance. When I met him a few years later, I was amazed how much he had changed. (laughs) He looked completely different. I saw him in Whitesnake, and he was like a whole different person! Now he has changed again. I don't know what happened to him. Of course, you need to look good for the entertainment industry. But... If I didn't know what happened to him, and would have met him, I would have asked: "Who are you?". I wouldn't recognize him. He had a thin face and became very skinny. Previously, he had a very muscular body. But he looks very strange. Maybe he had an anti-wrinkle surgery? I've heard that you have to repeat this every 5 years, so maybe that's why his face has changed so much?
Are you disappointed in Glenn Hughes because he was carried away by funk music?
Ritchie: Yes, in a way.
Glenn told me that you told him exactly where his place on stage would be.
Ritchie: I don't remember. It was all arranged.
He said that during the "Burn" tour, you told him that if he goes to your part of the stage, you would hit him on the head with your guitar.
Ritchie: I can't remember... but he had a habit of walking around all over the stage, getting up in front of me, so I said: "Glenn, your place is there". We had the same problem with Joe Lynn Turner.
But that doesn't mean that you hated him?
Ritchie: Oh, I loved Glenn. I like him as a person. He was a very nice guy. I really like him. When I was in Los Angeles a few years ago, I called him and said: "Glenn, let's meet up", to which he replied: "I can't leave the house". When I asked him why, he told me that he weighs 200 pounds, and can not leave the house because of obesity! But I liked him as a person. His voice was something I didn't like. I prefered David Coverdale's voice. I often had to explain to him that he should just adjust David's vocals. Glenn's voice is too high, too thin. If you compare these two as people, I would choose Glenn. But I prefer the singing-style of David Coverdale.
In the early stages of that line-up, you'd lived together in Hamburg as friends... It's a pity that it all ended like this...
Ritchie: That's true. But the problem was in them. Glenn, even though he was a great guy, was completely addicted to drugs. And David became very conceited, he thought of himself as one of the biggest stars.
Did Glenn already take drugs when you wrote for the album "Stormbringer"?
Ritchie: Oh, yes. At first I didn't know it until I was told about it by Ian Paice. They tried not to talk to me about it, because I don't like drugs. I heard that even Jon took drugs at the time. With Ian Paice I don't know 100%. It was Jon, Glenn, and... maybe David Coverdale, but I'm not sure.
After the recordings for "Stormbringer" you went on an US tour, where the opening act was a band called ELF. That's when you first noticed Ronnie James Dio?
Ritchie: At first I thought he was just a good singer. Nobody liked "Black Sheep of the Family". I needed a singer, so I asked him. But I didn't know how good he was until we went into the studio. In the studio he sang and acted much more experienced than the rest of ELF. His voice sounded different. I was surprised at how good it was, but our plan was to record "Black Sheep of the Family". I just wanted to escape from Deep Purple. They refused to record the song, and then I heard the voice of Ronnie and just thought: "Wow, great!". We did it very quickly - in 2 hours maybe.
When you recorded the first Rainbow album - were you only interested in Ronnie or his bandmates, too?
Ritchie: Ronnie in the first place, but they had a good drummer and bass player, so I decided to take all of them in the group. I thought it was a good idea. But when we came out of the studio and started rehearsing, I realized that the drummer couldn't keep up with us, so we had to find a new drummer, which was Cozy Powell. We had the same problem with the bass player, so he was replaced by Jimmy Bain. It all worked very well until I tried to explain to keyboardist Mickey Lee Soule, which parts he has to play, to which he replied: "Errr, okay...". He constantly played sloppy. A week later, I said to Ronnie: "He's a good guy, but we can't use him". So we took Tony Carey. So now all of Ronnie's bandmates had left. I don't want to criticize them. The ELF musicians did a great job in the studio. For some time I thought: "This the best team, wonderful musicians". But when we started to rehearse, each of them began to show problems. First it was the drummer and bass player - so I had to replace them. By the way, I shouldn't say this, but a few days ago we were offered to arrange and play a three month US tour with Dio.
You mean a tour of Rainbow and Dio?
Ritchie: We were supposed to play with Ronnie on the same show. I said it was a bad idea. I like him and I might work with him again someday, but I don't want to arrange such a show. Imagine the audience shouting twice for "Long Live Rock & Roll" in one evening.
So that won't happen?
Ritchie: It won't. Everyone was ready for it, but I said that it was meaningless. Nothing would come out of it. We would have played almost the same songs.
When Ronnie James Dio left the band in 1978, you offered the job to Ian Gillan. Is that true?
Ritchie: That's true. It was interesting. When I went to Ian's home to make him this offer, I thought it was a good idea. He said: "Let's discuss it". And when he started drinking that evening, I began to realize that he hadn't changed (laughs). When he drinks a half bottle, he goes crazy. I remember that I looked at him and thought: "No, what am I doing here?". Becuause... he began to behave strangely, and I just waited for him to refuse at that point. When we finished the bottle, all the old memories (laughs) came back to me. When I thought of all this, I got sick with it. We used to have a good chat. He treated me very well. But he was still the same crazy guy as I remembered him from the old days. When he said: "Ritchie, please, give me time to think", I said to myself: "If you say yes, I will leave my own group" (laughs). But in the end he refused. I was so glad that he said no, because I didn't know what I should have done, if he had agreed. He's just crazy.
There is another rumour that you tried to get Jon Lord into Rainbow in 1981.
Ritchie: I never thought about inviting Jon to Rainbow. Where did you hear about this? Very strange rumour. That never happened. I don't know why, but everyone thinks Jon was the leader of the group and wrote most of the music. Jon just loved more than any other to speak on behalf of the group. But if you would have come to the rehearsals, you would have seen the true state of affairs. Once I called Ian Paice and said: "Sorry, I can't come to the rehearsals today". Jon thought: "If Ritchie doesn't come, let's try to work on our own ideas. What are we going to play?". They told me later that these were horrific ideas.
You said that you didn't like the voice of Graham Bonnet, but you had no other choice. What did you mean?
Ritchie: At first, I wanted to have Graham in the group. I remember that he used to sing very good, but when we really started working together, I thought that his voice wasn't really suitable for our music. But Roger said: "Let's give him a chance". At that point I no longer had the chance to look for another singer, so I agreed to use him. We had no other choice. But it was almost impossible to work with Graham. I think Graham and myself almost never talked to each other. As far as I remember, even Roger didn't like Graham. He used to say: "God gave Graham his voice, but took away everything else". So it wasn't very long until I insisted to find another singer. It was really difficult with Graham. He was constantly complaining about a sore throat. He said it was too cold, then it was too hot. It wasn't very easy.
When you went to Denmark to record "Difficult to Cure". Was Graham still in the band by then?
Ritchie: No... No, maybe for a very short time, but I don't remember it.
Graham said that he went with you to Denmark, but he didn't like the material, so he returned to Los Angeles and decided to leave the band.
Ritchie: No, it wasn't like that. I was looking for another singer and found Joe Lynn Turner. Then I called Bruce Payne and told him that I'd found a new singer and I wanted him to join the group. So I asked Bruce to fire Graham, but he said: "Graham is insisting to stay in the group". Then I said to him: "Tell him that if he doesn't leave, we will have 2 singers and he will have to sing a duet with Joe". After that Graham said: "Then I'm leaving." That's how it really was! But Graham, of course, will never admit that he was fired. He will always say that he left on his own, which isn't true.
So when you found Joe Lynn Turner, you immediately offered him the job as the singer?
Ritchie: I think so.
Joe said that you called him, introduced yourself, and he couldn't believe that it was really you. But you asked him to come to the studio for an audition and...
Ritchie: Oh, yes, that's the way it was.
But you went to see Joe in concert before?
Ritchie: Oh, yes. I saw him singing somewhere in New Jersey. Due to the fact that I was going to dismiss Graham, it didn't take much time until I asked him to join us.
Is it true that after the release of "Straight Between the Eyes" Ian Gillan spoke to you about the idea of a Deep Purple reunion?
Ritchie: Yes, he always wanted to reform Deep Purple and I didn't really know what to say to that. I think at that time I said to him: "Sorry Ian, but I think that's not what I want to do at the moment".
Is it true that you were offered to do a Deep Purple reunion with David Coverdale?
Ritchie: That's true. But I wanted to work with Ian Gillan. I don't know whether that was correct or not... (laughs) I don't like Ian Gillan, but I respect him. David is a someone I don't like, too, but in another way. We have a complete different outlook on life.
Ian Gillan is your generation and David is a bit younger than you...
Ritchie: That's not the reason. I think that the best period in Deep Purple history was between 1970 and 1974. With David, we also recorded some good music, especially "Mistreated". But when we came to "Stormbringer", it all went downhill. The group sounded the best with Ian Gillan. So I thought the best singer to reunite with would be Ian Gillan.
When the Deep Purple Reunion took part, have you ever thought about going back to Rainbow at that point?
Ritchie: I don't remember... (to the interviewer ->) I would like to order another beer. One for you, too?
Yes, thank you.
Ritchie: I don't drink alcohol when I practise the guitar, but I can't be on stage when I'm sober. When I play in front of people, I'm always very nervous.
Nervous? Even now?
Ritchie: Oh, I'm very shy. Every time I go on stage, I'm very nervous. Everyone says that I'm angry because of my bad mood, but the real problem is that I'm nervous. When I get nervous, I get angry. Performances on stage are a very uncomfortable thing for me to do. When I'm drunk, I find it easier to cope with it.
I see... By the way, in 1988, you fired Ian Gillan...
Ritchie: I always wanted to fire Ian Gillan, but he kept coming back (laughs).
Joe Lynn Turner told me that you were going to build a group with him. Is that true?
Ritchie: In 1988, yes. Joe loves to exaggerate things... At that time I wanted to work with him, but I never gave him a call for Rainbow. While Joe was available, I was looking for another singer. Two weeks ago I read in some fan-magazine that he said: "Ritchie had talks with me about a reunion", and that he was angry that it didn't work out. I don't know, maybe it was a joke, but I still haven't talked to him. Perhaps he wanted to make his fans happy. He has sent me his new album, and I didn't like it. I mean he's still a good singer, but...
But in 1988 you've wanted to gather a group with Joe?
Ritchie: Yes, but that was with Deep Purple. When we couldn't find a suitable singer, I offered the job to Joe. However, the other members of the group were against it, because it was too much associated with Rainbow. But he came to the audition and began to sing... "Slaves and Masters" is a great album. I love this record. Many people will disagree with me, but I like it. One of my favourite albums.
You really like this album, but I know that Jon Lord hates it.
Ritchie: I think he changes his mind, depending on the person he's talking to. Unfortunately this is the case. Sometimes it seems that every word out of Jon's mouth comes from Ian Gillan. Ian Gillan himself said that Jon Lord is a weak character. Unfortunately, despite the fact that Jon was a great musician, he judges the albums not by their quality, but rather by the fact what his friends think and how well they've sold.
When you recorded "Slaves and Masters", Joe had an offer to work with Foreigner...
Ritchie: Oh, I heard about that, too. Foreigner offered him a job, but he refused. I don't know the details.
By the way - recently Helloween singer Andi Deris admitted that you invited him for Rainbow?
Ritchie: I don't know him. Who is that guy?
The singer of the German band "Helloween".
Ritchie: I've never heard of them.
What about Lenny Wolfe?
Ritchie: Never heard of him, too.
I've heard that "Stranger In Us All" will be released in the United States in late fall. Under the BMG label?
Ritchie: No, it's not BMG. It will be released in September at "Fuel Records". This indie label.
Are you going on tour there in support of the album?
Ritchie: The negotiations on this issue will be worked out tonight. I have two offers at the moment. The American agent offers me a tour of the US and the European one offers a tour through Eastern Europe. At the moment, I haven't decided on where I want to tour. In the summer I was offered to play at festivals in Germany, Vienna and Scandinavia, with ZZ Top and Joe Satriani as the openers. In September I want to work with Candice on a new album.
You're going to make music together?
Ritchie: I write the music and Candice writes the words. The music is in the spirit of Mike Oldfield. The group will consist of Candice, myself and two other musicians, among them is another woman who sings and plays guitar. Candice will sing and play some other instruments. At the moment we're rehearsing every week. Just like in the old days, we just sit down, sing and play the acoustic guitar. It's excellent. It's like going back 40 years in the past. Or even 400 (laughs).
Tell us more about this album.
Candice: Okay. We will start recording in September. This music sounds very medieval. I explored this music through Ritchie, and we both like it a lot. A big amount of this music was written in the period between the XIV and XVI century. We didn't know how to transfer all these old lyrics into our time, so I decided to write new lyrics. Then I asked Ritchie: "Wouldn't it be nice to make it a little bit more commercial?". The album will also include five songs that are not based on the structure of Renaissance music. But most of it is Renaissance music, ballads about ghosts and the sea, love themes. But we tried to make it all a little bit more contemporary.
Ritchie: That's right. I love the music of the Renaissance, but I never wanted to play the music of the XVI century in it's purest form. Although we could do that, we prefer to transfer these old melodys to our time, changing the melodys a bit and adding new lyrics. The album will consist of four old songs of the Renaissance, and six or seven songs, sounding more modern. I don't want to concentrate only on Renaissance music - we stopped somewhere in the middle, and modernized it a bit. Many people like this music, but most importantly, I like it.
Candice: It helps you to relax.
Ritchie: Yes, and it moves me to a different era. People who were listening to music, said: "I felt like being in a small beautiful garden 400 years ago". That's the effect we're searching for.
Candice: Our house is near the sea, and sometimes we sit outside with a glass of wine, listen to this music and watch the sunset. We have demos of some tracks, and it has a calming effect on the mind.
Ritchie: At the seaside it's best to listen. When there's no neighbour in sight, I put it on and sit in the garden... just wonderful (laughs).
Can you tell us something about some of the songs?
Candice: Ritchie, can I reveal the names?
Candice: I need his permission (laughs). The song "Renaissance Faire" is based on music of the medieval composer Tilman Susato. Two songs are based on his melodys. I think he's one of the most popular composers of the Renaissance. This song is about Renaissance Faires, where people dress up in costumes of the time and talk about the past. We love to attend such events, so I thought it would be nice to write a song about that. People usually say: "Your dress looks completely abnormal". (laughs) But these fairs are there to feel like going back to another world, another time. Tilman Susato also lived in that particular time. We also have a song called "Spirit of the Sea". It doesn't have elements of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, but it's a very atmospheric song; it's about a woman who's waiting for her lover for ages. What else... "Shadow of the Moon", "No Second Chance"... So far we have about 10 songs.
Ritchie: We also have a new song called "Stranger's Tune".
Candice: "Stranger's Tune" is a song about freedom.
Ritchie: It was written in the 1520s.
Candice: Like "Greensleeves", for which we have come up with a new arrangement?
Candice: We also recorded the original version of "Ariel".
Ritchie: "Ariel" is very difficult to play sometimes. Doogie sings it in E and Candy in A, it's not a simple song. I tend to mix up the notes when I play it with Candice or Doogie. Recently, I heard the version for Europe, which was reduced to three minutes, they left some of the parts out. That was very funny.
I think your fans are really addicted to your creativity, love and understandment for music. It will be very interesting to see which kind of music you'll prefer to play in the end.
Ritchie: I think so too. But I think I prefer this new project. Something about this music touches my soul. It's not just background music, these songs really want to be listened to. This music is sitting in the depths of my heart. But there is a caveat: the album is almost entirely acoustic, but there are electronic drums in two songs. And two others maybe will have real drums on it.
Are there going to be any big guitar solos on it?
Ritchie: I think the most important thing is that it's a good tune, a good melody. The melodies on this album are much more important than anything else. There are some guitar solos, but not too much.
I can't wait to hear your new album in a style that you actually love to play.
Ritchie: Many people have asked me to record a blues album, but to be honest, I'm not really interested in that. I'm not recording this new album to do something unusual, I just do it because I love this music. It took me 25 years to do this. I used to play rock n roll music, which isn't so structured than this music. Solos are not my main priority anymore. For me the most important thing is the melody. I think it's wonderful music. I've finally reached the psychological level, where I can just quietly play this kind of music. I was listening to this music for years, but I couldn't play it, because I wanted to show people my abilites. But now I finally just want to play some good music.
There's a lot of passion in this music.
Ritchie: Oh, yes. This music has a lot of passion in it, it's full of fire.
"Page & Plant" are also doing a lot of stuff acoustically.
Ritchie: That's right. Jimmy Page plays the acoustic guitar.
Last year, our readers voted your last album as the best CD of the year. Rainbow became the band of the year and you've been on the top for the best rock concert tour. Candice, you were also involved in all this, you are the background singer.
Candice: Yeah. (laughs)
Ritchie: And she writes the lyrics.
Now all attention to you.
Candice: Wow (laughs). That's very nice, but I'm actually most proud of Ritchie. He's the leader of the group. If I remember right, the song of the year in your magazine was "Black Masquerade"?
Candice: It was the first time that I really wrote any lyrics. I never thought anyone would be interested in my poems or lyrics. Doogie had problems coming up with the lyrics for that song, so I helped him out.
Ritchie: Doogie was trying to come up with lyrics for a week. He had some very strange verses. The producer said that they weren't good enough, and then I suggested: "I will ask Candy". I gave her a call, and she wrote the words, while she was on a ferry on the way to us. When she had arrived, she showed us the words, and I liked them, the producer was also satisfied. It all worked very quickly.
Candice: I wrote the lyrics in 20 minutes.
Ritchie: She wrote the lyrics on her way to the studio. Doogie was very jealous. But we told him: "No offense", but his lyrics were just awful. Therefore, we used Candy's.
Japanese fans like your voice and your lyrics.
Candice: Thank you (laughs).
Ritchie: She's a born musician, she has a great talent. When I met her, I didn't know that she was interested in music at all, but it turned out that her hearing is better than mine. I have to practice a lot. When I practice, all you can hear in my room is me slowly picking "ta-da-da-da-da", when she is very quick with everything.
Very nice (laughs).
Ritchie: There's one thing of Bach, which I'm still not able to play.
Candice: Is it so serious?
Ritchie: You know, it's my favorite concert of Bach.
Are you serious?
Ritchie: Seriously. In the middle of it, there's a typical course of Bach's style, which I still can't play properly.
Can I ask you one last question?
Ritchie: No, you can't (laughs).
Have you heard Deep Purple's new album "Purpendicular"?
Ritchie: No, I haven't heard it. But I was told that it's a good album, because Steve Morse is a very strong guitar player. The only weak thing is probably Ian Gillan's voice. (laughs) I'm sure Roger Glover has a different opinion on that.
BURRN magazine - September 1996