Roger Glover Talks About Deep Purple, Ronnie James Dio and Ritchie Blackmore

By: Robert Cavuoto

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Roger Glover

Mention Roger Glover and Deep Purple always comes to mind. But, the bassist has ties with Rainbow, Judas Priest, Elf, Nazareth, David Coverdale and the Ian Gillian Band.

Not only does Glover’s bass work speak volumes as a driving force of heavy rock, but his work as a producer and soloist, should be couched alongside his interest in the art world. In 2010, Glover presented his exhibit, Happy Silence, at the K-8 e.V. Galerie in Cologne, Germany.

Recently, Deep Purple have finished recording and mixing their long awaited 19th studio LP, NOW What ?!, in Nashville, with famed producer Bob Ezrin.

The band is energized and have masterfully created a body of work that blends the classic ’70s Deep Purple spirit with modern production, along with a progressive mindset on this new CD.

I had an amazingly honest and open conversation with Roger Glover about the band’s decision to make a follow-up CD to their 2005 release, Rapture Of The Deep. Our conversation took many turns, as we talked about his feelings about not being inducted to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, working with Ronnie James Dio in Rainbow and not working with Ritchie Blackmore.

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Robert Cavuoto: I’m really glad to hear that Deep Purple is putting out a new CD. I think there was a period of time when a lot of great bands were just touring and not putting out new music. Why was now the right time for Deep Purple to put out the CD?

Roger Glover: Albums aren’t what they used to be. You put an album out and you almost don’t recoup. It’s not a great proposition except for the fact that you write. We work so much that private time becomes kind of precious.

You’re enticing people away from their family time to work on something that’s not going to mean that much to them, and that’s difficult to sell. About two years ago, we actually started coming to our senses and said, “Come on, this is ridiculous. We’ve got to do an album.”

We couldn’t figure out who, where, when, what or why for a while, but we did have a writing session. Then about a year later, Bob Ezrin got interested. He came to see us play in Toronto and loved the show. He came to talk the next day, and we were very impressed with him. It was all go from there.

Robert: I have to say the band sounds really energized. Was it exciting to start writing with the band again?

Roger Glover: It was. Bob really injected a great stimulus into us. He was blown away by the musicianship of the band. He said some very astute things. He said “Trying to get ahead with a big riff on the radio ain’t gonna happen. Times have changed.” He said, “What I saw last night in the concert, that’s what people want to hear. You should stretch out.”

And those words, “stretch out,” hung with us. Then the next writing session we had, we took him at his word. And just having him on board and eager to produce us was a stimulus in itself, because he’s a man with a huge track record. Those writing sessions were very productive and I think we came up with some very original stuff. Original when you’ve been around as long as we have.

Robert: It really has a classic Deep Purple feel and captures the true spirit of the band. When the band sat down to write, did you commit to revisiting that classic sound?

Roger Glover: We don’t try to be Purple; we just are who we are. We’re not actors. We don’t do that kind of acting onstage or anywhere else. We are musicians first and foremost and that’s all there is. Take it or leave it. We’ve put out a lot of albums in the last 20 years, since Steve joined the band – some of them good, some of them maybe not too good.

You never go in to make a bad album, that’s just how they turn out. They’ve all got something good to offer. As an album, I think Purpendicular was a really good full-around album.

Bananas, actually, wasn’t a bad album either. Rapture of the Deep has got some great songs particular the title track. It didn’t sound that good though, so one of the things that we really were concerned with was the sound of the album. We wanted the sound good.

At the end of the tour, emptying my suitcase, I’ve got about 20 or 30 CDs that bands have given me; “listen to this, listen to this,” as if I could help them in some way. I listen to them all, and occasionally I find that they sound better than we do. It’s a demo. I mean, what’s going wrong here?

Robert: I find that bands tend to overthink songs past a great riff, and sometimes lose sight of what they’re trying to accomplish. On this CD with songs like “Vincent Price,” and “Body Line,” they are simple songs with great riffs and melodies. I think bands forget the importance of that and try and overcomplicate songs.

Roger Glover: Actually, you’ve just summed up the whole band, the whole history of the band.

Music always came first. The songs always evolved out of jams. You don’t sit down and write them with your brain; they evolve out of your fingers. That’s the playing; it’s what’s fun to play. That’s never changed. It’s the same now as it ever was.

We haven’t had a hit, for example. I don’t know if we can ever have a hit again. There’s a feeling we should try something a bit more basic. I write simple songs, because the band is inspired by what we’ve been talking about, we need simple riffs.

Sometimes in the dressing room before we go on, Steve and I start playing a little rhythm and moving around. Someone from the band will come in and say, “That’s great. You should remember that.” Of course, you never remember it. [Laughter] That is the feeling of having a good time with a good groove. That’s what we wanted to inject into this album.

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Robert: Two of my favorite songs on the album were “Body Line,” and “Out Of Hand.” Can you share some insights on those two songs?

Roger Glover: “Body Line” we had a writing session in a big facility for sound and lights. We were writing and rehearsing in there on this huge stage. Ian Paice had his own car, and the rest of us were in this sort of band van. So, whoever gets to rehearsal first starts playing something and then everyone joins in.

One day I walked in, plugged my guitar in and started playing my riff. A few seconds later, everyone wanted in, switched on the amps and joined in. We jammed for 10 minutes, and that was the end of it. Then we started working on some of the other songs that we’d already been working on the previous day.

The following day, we rode in the van, and Paice was there early, sitting in his car with his head bobbing up and down. He opened the car door and said, “Listen to this.” It was that jam we had the day before. He said, “It’s great.” So we said, “Let’s work on it.” It just fell together, someone must have done it before, but there it is. No one had done it before.

Robert: How about “Out Of Hand”?

Roger Glover: Yeah, that was a Steve Morse [guitarist] riff. He was toying with it for about 10 or 15 minutes, trying to figure out what it was. He tuned down the E string to a D and once he figured it out, we started joining in and playing it and saying, “Oh, great.”

The writing seemed effortless. Maybe because we hadn’t done an album in so long, we were just full of vim and vigor and ready to go. It just fell together. I can’t remember who suggested which chord change and where, but Ian Gillian [vocals] just shouted out across the room, “Change here.” Everyone was so hooked on their opinion, and that’s how the song appears.

Of course, on the backing track, he and I had to do the vocals, write the words over. What’s it going to be about, etcetera. It’s a pretty heavy kind of feeling, that song. There’s something of doom about it. Basically, it’s about greed and how greed will ruin the world – hot topic at the moment.

Robert: On “Hell To Pay,” Steve Morse and Don Airey, do an amazing job on the instrumental break really captured the whole Deep Purple sound. How that one came about?

Roger Glover: That was one of my ideas. I stuck to something simple. I just had this feel in my head. All I did was play the first few chords and the band joined in. They just add a good feel to it. This was done back in the Spanish session about two years ago. When the C goes to the E, that was my idea as well. Everyone throws in their bits.

It’s funny; you never know how a song is going to turn out. Sometimes after you done the basic backing track, you have a precognition of what it’s going to sound like. Sometimes you’re surprised when it doesn’t turn out that way. It’s an exciting journey, writing a song.

Writing a song is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.

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Robert: Deep Purple has always known by some very vibrant album covers, this one is a little bit different. Tell me about the thinking behind this cover and the title.

Roger Glover: It’s difficult to come up with album titles, because people read things into them. For example, “the independence of Armageddon days.” It doesn’t mean anything. Typical hard rock, heavy metal tone. But that’s not us. We’ve always been slightly different. And taking a cue from Who Do We Think We Are was one of the things. Ian Gillian came up with that. He actually wrote it with a question mark and an exclamation point. The record company loved it.

As much as we had hesitations about it, the rest of us in the band, Ian said, “No, that’s it. I can’t think of anything better.” [Laughter]  We’ve all kind of accepted it, because the record company said it’s great. I was a bit disappointed the album cover wasn’t more interesting than that. But, I’m happy to leave it up to them, really. Doesn’t really matter in the long run; it’s the music that counts.

Robert: When can we see touring?

Roger Glover: I think it’s going to be next year. We’ve got a ton of festivals to do this year and a couple of European tours later in the year. Europe’s our market, to be honest. We’re a lot bigger here than we are in the States.

Unfortunately, because of the old classic radio syndrome. I did an interview with classic rock radio, I looked at their playsheet and there are four songs of ours on it. It’s “Hush,” “Highway Star,” “Smoke on the Water,” and “Lazy”. And that’s it.

Nothing we’ve done in the last 35 years has meant anything. That’s what we get in the States. We get an older audience that just want to go out and relive their university years when we were a really big band in the early ‘70s, and that’s a diminishing audience, as well.

Kids are the big thing, and they don’t even know we exist. That’s why it’s difficult, getting a tour in the States. We’ve got big tours happening all over the world.

Robert: Tell me about the pros and cons of touring now vs in the ’60s and ’70s?.

DeepPurple?Roger Glover: It was a whole lot tougher then. It’s easier now. We get to stay in nice hotels and have decent transport. Before, we stayed in the cheapest place in town. We’re not out to party after work. We’re in our 60s now. In fact, even 20 years ago, Paice and I had a night off. I think we were in Zurich, and we decided to get a nice meal.

We were walking along the street and we came across a rock club with music and girls hanging out the door with a cigarette. Without saying a word, both of us veered in the opposite direction. Times have changed. [Laughter].

It was opposite of what we would have been doing in the early days? The idea of going into a pub and having meaningless conversations with people for no good reason, spending a lot of money and getting wasted, as opposed to having a nice meal and a decent bottle of wine. I’ve changed.

Robert: Tell me about finding the right mix of new and classic songs to perform live for your audience?

Roger Glover: The simple answer is the new material hasn’t hooked onto the mass of public consciousness the way those old songs did. The audience we’re playing to is getting younger and younger and hearing them for the first time, so we kind of live it through them in a way. Playing new material is always great and fun for us.

Robert: How do you make those classic songs fun for yourself every night when you’re playing many of them for 30-40 years?

Roger Glover: Feed off the audience. The audience supplies the fun, we just supply the music. Certainly, if you come to a Deep Purple show in, say, Poland or the Czech Republic, or Russia or Ukraine or somewhere like that, you couldn’t even recognize them if you were used to an American audience. They’re all young. They go crazy. They get nuts. They love the old songs. It’s what they want to hear.

Many are hearing them for the first time, so you kind of relive it through their ears, their experience. And in any case, we’re not just a cabaret band who just go through the songs. We’ve played them. We play them every night, and they’re played different every night. When we were doing a tour of Germany, there’s probably about 20 or 30 people who come to every show, because they say that every show is different.

I don’t think we’re as different as Grateful Dead used to be. You look out in the audience and see people being happy. There’s nothing better.

Robert: There is a lot of talk here in the US about why Deep Purple isn’t in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. What’s your take on the whole?

Roger Glover: Actually, it doesn’t bother us, to be honest. Someone will say, “This is the 40th anniversary of such-and-such album,” and I say, “Really? What are you going to do, celebrate? We don’t celebrate. The idea of being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, yes, it’s a very nice honor – very nice in principle, but it’s not something that’s uppermost in our lives at all. I was quite relieved when we didn’t get in.

Robert: Why was that?

Roger Glover: It’s disruptive. We’re on a course now. We have a new album coming out, a whole new impetus going on in Purple world. And that would have disrupted it. It might have got us more attention, but in the process, it had the potential to be quite a catastrophe.

Ritchie would have to be involved for sure. I don’t know where Ritchie is. We haven’t spoken since he left the band. And that’s down to him; he wants to keep himself to himself. I have no idea how that would work out. It might be extremely uncomfortable. It might be good. Who knows? But, it’s not something that we’re particularly concerned about.

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Robert: You mentioned that you haven’t really spoken to Ritchie in quite a while. When did you last speak to him?

Roger Glover: I actually bumped into him in a bar in New York. It was pretty alarming. I was walking into a bar and he was walking out. We almost bumped nose to nose. We had a drink, and we chatted for about half an hour. He was going on about the business side of things, and he was pretty pissed off.

But, I didn’t feel any kind of animosity from him. But, since then, I’ve heard he didn’t approve of my remixing of the Machine Head album, so he was never going to talk to me again. I don’t know whether he means that or whether that was just something someone said. Early on, I did send him a couple of Christmas cards to keep in touch, but nothing came of that, so I guess he wants to keep his distance.

I’m a great fan of his. He’s one of the greatest guitarists ever and totally underrated. He is someone who influenced more guitar players than any of the bigger guitar players, the Claptons, and Becks.

Robert: I have a question about Rainbow. What was it like when Ronnie James Dio was leaving the band and Graham Bonnet was coming in?

Roger Glover: I produced three Elf albums, so I knew Ronnie very well. They even had a party at my house in England for Rainbow about ’78 or something like that. Ronnie said to me then, “Do you fancy writing some lyrics with me for Rainbow?” I said “Sure.” Nothing ever came of that, but what did come out of it is Bruce Payne, who was my manager and also Rainbow’s manager, during a visit said, “What are you doing tomorrow? Do you want to go down to Chicago to see Rainbow?” So I did. It was nice to see him and I got offered a job as the producer.

The first thing that happened for the new record, my new production for Rainbow, were some rehearsals in Connecticut during which I noticed there was a huge gulf between Ronnie and Ritchie. I went to Ritchie’s house and he handed me a cassette and said, “Give this to Ronnie. See if he can work on this.”

I go to Ronnie’s house the next night and say, “Ritchie gave me this cassette for you to listen to. Ronnie said, “Ehhh, don’t like it. Here’s my idea for a song.” And he gave me a cassette for Ritchie. It seemed like I had done that for a couple of weeks and I woke up one morning and Bruce said, “Well, that’s it. Ronnie left.” All that was left of the band was Ritchie and Cozy Powell [drums].

So, we had to start from scratch, and I helped them do auditions and go to other people and they got a bass player, but they never really settled on a bass player. We started recording, and we didn’t have a singer. Actually, we did have a singer, but the very first day we were in the recording studio, Ritchie and I had a talk. He said, “What do you think of it?” I said, “Oh, he’s okay, but you need better than that. He said, “Well, okay, sack him then.” I said, “You want me . . .?” He said, “Well, you’re the producer. Sack him.” I had the unfortunate job of telling tell this poor guy it wasn’t going to work out.

So, we started recording the album without a singer. We recorded over half the album before we found a singer. In that process, we had half-a-dozen people flown in, and we were doing this in a castle in eastern France.

We had Don Airey in the band, of course, at this point. The bass player was there, but he didn’t play bass on the album because he couldn’t learn the parts quickly enough. So I played bass. And then I’d teach him what I played.

Then we found a singer, Graham Bonnet. By the time we finished the album, I’d played bass on the album and written all the songs with Ritchie. He said, “Why aren’t you in the band?” I said, “No one’s asked me.” Eventually, the call came, “would you like to join Rainbow?” and I did.

Robert: Who were some of the singers that you brought down after Ronnie left?

Roger Glover: One went on to become quite well known, a guy from Krokus, Marc Storace. He just didn’t quite fit with us. He’s a good singer. I don’t think anything came of the others. None of their names have risen to prominence.

One Comment

  1. 2013-04-14 Guitar International | dpnowwhattour (1 year ago)

    [...] “I was a bit disappointed the album cover wasn’t more interesting than that. But, I’m happy to leave it up to them, really. Doesn’t really matter in the long run; it’s the music that counts.” http://guitarinternational.com/2013/04/14/roger-glover-talks-about-deep-purple-ronnie-james-and-ritc… [...]

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