25 Years of Deep Purple The Battle Rages On...

Interview with Jon Lord

From KEYBOARDS 1/94

'Impossible, that can't be him', is the first thing that comes up in the Keyboard reporter's mind as he sees the man who lightly strides towards him and reaches out his hand to greet him. "Nice to see you, I'm Jon Lord." So it *is* him...?

But where are the flying mane, the dark sunglasses, the leather jacket and the waistline that had curved more and more happily these last years. The oldish gentleman, with his jogger-look, his slight keep-fit figure and the grey hair, tightly bound in a ponytail very obviously enjoys the reporter's astonishment and the unuttered question concerning the miraculously changed outer appearance, that doesn't even fit in the image which the latest press photographs from the House of Deep Purple give him. "Well, I've given up on drinking, play a little sport, and it makes me feel good..."

It wasn't going to be the only surprise the reporter got that day, since during the meeting hardly anything remained of the image, displayed towards the public, of the virtuoso organ player, whose name has been named in the same breath for the last 25 years when the name Deep Purple comes up - especially in their legendary line-up (with singer Ian Gillan, guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, bassist Roger Glover and drummer Ian Paice), to which the rock world owes hardrock albums like "In Rock, "Made in Japan" and Perfect Strangers, albums that pushed back frontiers.

The Deep Purple "Mark II" concert, which will be held the same night in the Grugahalle in Essen [4-10-1993], also amazes: no trace is left of the listless impression the five-piece made to old and to new fans during many performances in the eighties. Purple '93 plays its triumphs - classics like "Speed King", "Child In Time", "Knocking At Your Back Door" and the absolutely necessary encore "Smoke On The Water" - with absolute authority.

Something that was to be expected, since the traditional adversary of Purple diva Blackmore, despite his hair turning white, looked young again this afternoon before the sold-out Gruga concert, as if he had only been eating nutricious vegetables for the last months. And the grim expression and Jon's frontal confronting poses on record sleeves and promo shots have obviously disappeared, too.

Who is presenting himself here is a gentleman, with a good attitude and perfectly shaped British manners, who is very cleary embarrassed by the fact that his knowledge of German is letting him down at the moment, since he reacts to the coffee and the still mineral water, presented on a silver plate: "Is it 'das Kaffee' or 'der Kaffee'?" This resulted in a conversati- on about German, English and French cases whilst the reporter tried to change the subject to the one that was the reason for the conversation: 25 years of Deep Purple, the new album 'The Battle Rages On', and the anniversary tour.

But it's not that easy to stop the glowing talker Jon Lord. One admiring look through the window of the old hotel Hugenpoet, situated in the picturesque suburb of Kettwig, and he has found another reason to continue the conversation: 'Isn't that a wonderful place? All this green out there, the moats... This is the second time we're staying here and the first time I have immediately asked for information - the house was build in the 13th century, was the property of a wealthy family in the middle ages. They've done a great job restoring it. I believe that even the stables are still there. It looks a bit like ancient England.' But you yourself live on the island of Mallorca nowadays. 'Yes, that's a nice place also, although I have to admit that I sometimes long for the English rain. Luckily, Ian Paice does not live far from me. When I'd like to hear some English sounds... Is this part of the interview already?' Yes, the tape is running.

KEYBOARDS: Mr. Lord...

Lord : Call me Jon. We are about the same age, aren't we? How old are you?

KEYBOARDS: Just turned 40.

Lord : (laughs) You lucky bastard. I've passed 50 [points at his grey hair]. But you have some grey hairs yourself, too, as I can see. That's a comfort.

KEYBOARDS: Talking about old age, I have to confess that one can't hear this from your new album. The band still sounds as fresh as it did 20 years ago.

Lord : Thanks for the compliment. But, to be honest, it would be better to say that the band has got the same power *back*. We've had some bad times and made some shitty albums. Luckily these were few.

KEYBOARDS: Since you've repeatedly succeeded in kindling that old fire.

Lord : Yes, it's really funny, because always when we ourselves start to believe that Deep Purple has finally died, something happens, which makes us realize that that time has not come yet. I think there's two reasons for the fact that Deep Purple still exists. One has to do with our history, the other with recent happenings.

The historic reason is one that I have recently tried to explain to our fanclub [DPAS, P.O. box 254, Sheffield], since they asked me the same question last years. My answer was: 'No matter what the result would be like, we have never gone into the studio with the intention to make a bad album.'

KEYBOARDS: No band would want to do that.

Lord : True, but I can only speak for this band. And with us it was surely the case that we have had high hopes and expectations for every album we made. We always wanted to be as good as never before.

KEYBOARDS: And, if possible, as good as you'll never be again.

Lord : (laughs) I know what you mean: since we can never be sure that there'll be another Deep Purple album? Right, I mean, we ourselves know best, that the band has been working in situations in which we'd ask who'd leave this time, for the umpteenth time. (laughs) That's the reason why we have made every album, aware of the fact that it could be our last. We'd never want people to say: 'What a lousy album. They should have thrown in the towel ten years ago.' We've reached this point a few times, but that's the way it is; sometimes the fire is there, sometimes it is not. You can't just go into a store and buy something to light it, like: 'Oh sorry, do you happen to have a Deep Purple-lighter on offer?' (laughs)

But when you look back, I think you could find that we haven't recorded many albums in all those years for which we should be ashamed. When I think about the highs and lows we've gone through, I myself am amazed how few there are. "Slaves And Masters" is undoubtably an album which should never never have been labeled as Deep Purple; and this thing from '73, "Who Do We Think We Are", surely wasn't one of our best moments.

KEYBOARDS: "Who Do We Think We Are" did include one of your biggest hits, "Woman From Tokyo".

Lord : Yes, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the band was satisfied with the album. For we wanted to make music that we could be proud of, and some of our best songs weren't hit singles, they were album tracks.

KEYBOARDS: Pieces like "The Mule" [on "Fireball", 1971]?

Lord : I'm glad that you mention this song, since it is still one of my favourites. Although it was in fact too psychedelic for Deep Purple - and surely no single! But whether a song is good or not does not depend on whether it fits on a single or not. Some songs are really rare - they do what they please. "Smoke On The Water" for example is a song that has grown way too big over the years for the band to be able to control it. To some extend it has even turned around: the song controls the band.

KEYBOARDS: Because the audience is waiting for you to play it at every concert?

Lord : They would lynch us if we didn't play it!

KEYBOARDS: Doesn't it bother you that you have to keep playing pieces like "Smoke..." or "Child In Time"?

Lord : No. First of all the audience has the right to hear their favourite song.

KEYBOARDS: Ritchie [Blackmore] seems to think differently.

Lord : (laughs) Well, Ritchie is one of a kind. You never know how he will respond. Sometimes he just leaves the stage and ten horses couldn't pull him back on. But my personal opinion is that the people who have bought a ticket should get their money's worth. For many who come to see us it is the first Deep Purple concert of their lives and they would probably be very disappointed if we didn't play "Smoke On The Water" for them. That's the first reason why I think we should simply play the song. The second reason is that "Smoke..." is a great song and I still enjoy playing it. As long as the people want to hear it, it's okay. I have no problem with that. The only problem I have, being a musician, is when we have recorded an album which, we later realize, is not what we were initially after. "Who Do We Think We Are" is an example of this. Not that the musical ideas were bad, but as an album it was no revelation. It was an honest album though, since everybody could hear we had huge personal problems.

KEYBOARDS: Ritchie versus the rest of the band?

Lord : That's what everybody thinks since Ritchie has this image. The problem however was the entire band. At that time, everything simply fell apart and one can notice this listening to the album. We were in desperate need of a holiday, but we weren't given the chance. Our management sent us on yet another tour and another one and another and another, and now everybody knows what came out of this.

But to come back to your question: the first reason that Deep Purple always made new starts is that we always said to ourselves: 'Let's prove ourselves to the people once again and make another really good album!' For example, with "The Battle Rages On..." we wanted to show that we can deliver better things than "Slaves And Masters", which was really not a Deep Purple album at all. It carried the name, but the sleeve was deceiving.

KEYBOARDS: Since it wasn't hardrock, but pop.

Lord : Indeed. I myself was against Joe Lynn Turner from the beginning on. He just wasn't the singer I imagined. It's funny because in fact none of us wanted him, but he was the only one that was left. The guy we actually wanted, if we *had* to work with a replacement for Gillan, was the singer of Survivor [Jimi Jamison], a very nice, very quiet and very pleasant guy. He was an enormous Deep Purple fan and he would happily have taken over the job. But at the time he was afraid of his managers. They were Italo-Americans; that says enough (laughs).

KEYBOARDS: You mean, they have connections with the mafia?

Lord : Yes, they have connections with a certain "family". (laughs) They didn't want him to leave the band and he didn't dare to get into a fight with them. After a long period, during which we though he'd accept the job, he turned it down. We were very disappointed and had to do auditions.

There actually were a few good singers, but they were too young for us. I mean, Deep Purple isn't a young band anymore, but one with a long history and very complicated personal relationships. I think that every young musician would automatically be in a very weak position with us; he would be intimidated by the strong egos, who play a very big role for us. The feeling in the band would suffer from this shyness, especially on stage, where we really battle.

So one of us said: Why not try it with Joe Lynn Turner? And the others said: Not Joe again! I mean, he once was in Rainbow, then wasn't and then was - he was a kind of a "rent-a-singer"! But Joe agreed with the audition, something which surprised me, and he came and he sang like an angel, wonderful! (laughs) I'm afraid that this is going to be a very long answer to you question - you can interrupt me if you want to! No?

KEYBOARDS: No, please fill the tape!

Lord : Well okay, I will talk as long as you will let me, alright? To make a long story short: somewhere during these auditions we said to ourselves: since Gillan isn't the only one who can sing, there has to be someone else, so why not Joe? When we first came to the studio, the problems piled up and "Slaves And Masters" reflects these problems very well; the musical and personal differences.

I mean, Joe's vision on this band was not our vision. He wanted to make something out of the band, which it couldn't be and we wanted to change him into something, which he couldn't be. It was marriage made in hell, not in heaven, and this hell became extremely hot very quickly.

Roger did some real Herculean work at the time to keep everything together. Sometimes he went to Joe, sometimes to us, always to try and bring us together musically. But it just didn't fit. There was this beautiful piece, which Ritchie and I had written, "Love Conquers All" [on Slaves And Masters]. We once played it late at night, that is Ritchie and I played it together. It was very sad, very melancholy, it was introspective, but it was absolutely a Purple song, a bit like "When A Blind Man Cries [on The Singles A's & B's] or the quiet parts in "Child In Time" or "Wasted Sunsets" - a ballad of the kind we sometimes play, a blues ballad. But then Joe appeared and turned it into some sort of cabaret song.

KEYBOARDS: You should have gotten Freddie Mercury.

Lord : Freddie - God bless him! - would have sung it very well without a doubt. The people expect songs like that from Freddie or Queen, but not from Deep Purple! I continuously said: 'No, no, no - what are you doing to the song, what is this gonna be?" The feeling wasn't right from the beginning on. I have really tried to steer the piece into a different direction; I have for example put in a string quartet. I wanted it to sound a little more sour and not so sweet. The term 'sweet' could only have been used in a blues context for this piece. It was a sweet little blues, if you know what I mean. But it was not sweet as in 'sugary', and Joe sang it like it was a real kitsch ballad! (laughs)

I know that I'm talking for too long, but now, to finish you off, why I had the feeling that we had to prove something with the new album [The Battle Rages On...]. We had said to ourselves that when we were to record an album for our 25th anniversary, it had to be a real Deep Purple album, not some surrogate Deep Purple album like "Slaves And Masters". We did one three- week session, we then took two weeks off and then we did another two-week session, and with this all backing-tracks and principal overdubs were ready.

KEYBOARDS: "The Battle Rages On..." almost sounds as if it was recorded live in the studio.

Lord : We have, in fact.

KEYBOARDS: Rumours are saying that you have avoided meeting eachother in the studio. It was said that everybody had recorded his tracks seperately.

Lord : That's again the kind of bullshit that's always printed about us! We've this time really played as a band and have later only added very few things, a few guitars and keyboard overdubs.

KEYBOARDS: You have also hired Thom Panunzio to be your co-producer. Why Panunzio? He's from California, his nature is quite different from yours.

Lord : That's a good question. I myself at first also thought that Thom was a very strange choice. But it later turned out that it had been exactly the right choice for us. Thom is very reserved, very quiet, but he loves rock'n'roll and he brought along his own engineer, Bill Kennedy. A guy in his thirties, who clearly wishes he was still in his twenties, with a punk hairdo and a fifty-cigarettes-a-day voice. He insists on raising the recording volume, until right below the point on which everything distorts! (laughs)

KEYBOARDS: Especially Ritchie must have liked that.

Lord : He did. (laughs) Ritchie warmed up with him very quickly, not just because he recorded very loudly, but also because he's a very good engineer - he hasn't screwed up one single track.

It was also a very classic studio. I don't mean a studio for classical music, but a studio that was built especially for the kind of classic rock'n'roll Deep Purple plays; The Bearsville studios in Woodstock.

KEYBOARDS: But you have also recorded in the Red Rooster [Peter Maffay studio in Tutzing].

Lord : Yes, a few things, but the biggest part was done in Bearsville. This studio has this enormous recording room, built almost entirely out of wood, about 15 meters high; a bit like Abbey Road nr.1 - you can put a whole orchestra in it. Ideal to get a fat drum sound.

KEYBOARDS: Have you recorded all instruments in this room?

Lord : Yes, all backing tracks were recorded there and almost most overdubs. It was the best possible situation for us, since we could really work as a band.

Thom has really made it work. His musical contribution had its limits, but he hadn't been hired for that anyway. I mean, nobody tells this band what the songs should look like; when we're good, we're good, and when we're bad, we're bad - I mean really bad! -, but we're good or bad in the Deep Purple way. What Thom did for us, was produce the backing tracks in such a way, that the band sounded like a band. That was his job; the rest, the second session, was Roger's work.

KEYBOARDS: What did you do during the second session?

Lord : That was for the vocals. And that's a story that tells you a lot about how Deep Purple functions - if it functions! After these first three weeks Ritchie and I were sitting together in a room and he looked at me for some time and said absolutely nothing. Then I couldn't take it any longer and I asked him: "What's the matter, do you have a problem?" And he said: "I think, we all have a problem. Be honest, you're not satisfied!" "No," I said, "I am satisfied with the backing tracks, but still something is wrong." Then he said: "And what's the problem called?" What should I say? I said: " The problem is Joe, right?" I just knew, that was it.

KEYBOARDS: So you had planned up to the last session with Joe Lynn Turner still as a singer?

Lord : Yes, and it was really a problem. None of us wanted to be the one to show Joe the door, but at the same time, everybody knew that it wouldn't work with him. So Ritchie said: "Okay, we have a singer whom nobody wants, right? Help me out here!" I knew exactly what he was thinking at the moment. He didn't want to be the doorman again, the bad guy. My heart was pounding in my throat, for I thought the next thing he would say was: Let's get Gillan back! But then he just said: "We'll have to start looking for a new singer, don't you think so?" I thought: Oh man, not again! So I talked about it to Roger and Ian Paice and said: "Joe is really not the right singer for us, what do you think?" And both of them said: "Yes, we should see if we can get Gillan back!"

But this shouldn't become an anti-Joe-Lynn-Turner interview, for Joe really has a super voice, he is a great singer. But he just isn't a Deep Purple singer, he is a poprock singer, he wants to be a popstar, who has girls at his feet as soon as he comes on stage (laughs), and I wish him all the luck. But Deep Purple surely wasn't an intermediate on his way to this... You're looking at your watch?

KEYBOARDS: I was afraid time was running out. We're really still at the first question: What keeps Deep Purple together after 25 years? I still have some other questions.

Lord : Don't worry. If you've got the time - I have time enough! I won't get up and leave, since you give me the opportunity to explain a few important things about Deep Purple which are always reflected wrongly in the press and are important to me. I hope you will print them too!

KEYBOARDS: Your relationship with Ritchie for example?

Lord : (laughs) Yes, Ritchie, the pest! I mean, Ritchie has undoubtably a complex personality!

KEYBOARDS: How would you describe your current relationship?

Lord : We get along very well, better than before.

KEYBOARDS: When was the turning point?

Lord : The turning point was in '84, when we reformed the band. "Perfect Strangers" was the test and I believe that we have passed it. We're very close friends now. We've grown up, if you like.

I mean, when we started, we were both very young, both of us wanted to have the upper hand and the music was our battlefield. Sometimes I really felt that we were at war, especially on stage. Sometimes, when I came out after a 'fight', my pulse was beating so fast, that I thought: No more Purple! Which is probably the reason I still listen to classical music only in my cloakroom after every gig. In case you're interested, come back stage this evening and I'll show you the tapes I have in my suitcase - pieces of Beethoven, Schubert, Tschaikowsky, Mozart. Without Mozart I'd probably be dead and buried for ages! But I have other things as well - Miles Davis, Led Zeppelin, The Eagles. I'm a big Eagles-fan!

KEYBOARDS: Is this kind of music your secret weapon against Ritchie?

Lord : Well, Ritchie is at least a very big friend of classical music. But on stage he knows how to hide this side of his personality. (laughs) On stage the slogan is always: Whose fire is burning better this evening, his or mine?

KEYBOARDS: The hardrock guitarist against the classic keyboard-player?

Lord : That's the territory on which we've fought for a long time. But what came out of it was sometimes very exiting, wasn't it?

KEYBOARDS: Like the marriage between Liz Taylor and Richard Burton. They could live together, but couldn't live without eachother.

Lord : (laughs) That's a good analogy to Deep Purple. I mean, if you know that deep inside your heart you have to tolerate a person, that he is your fate, then it can be heaven or hell for you, but you have to cooperate also. It was never that hard on me. For Gillan, I believe, it was a lot harder, he has suffered a lot more. But I don't want to pretend to be a white mountain top who looks out over things.

The only thing I know is that the nice phrasing "they have parted company because of musical differences" is a lie. Things like that look good in the press, but with Deep Purple it was always personal differences. We can't help having five genuinly different egos, we are egoists! (laughs)

I mean, when we met for the first time, we didn't get along very well. But we concluded that we were equal, considering our skills, and that we could make something special together. But this was only possible on the basis of compromises and sometimes these compromises are more to the satisfaction of the one than to the other. Sometimes Ritchie got a larger part, sometimes I, sometimes Gillan.

KEYBOARDS: And what about Glover and Paice?

Lord : Ian [Paice] stayed out most of the time - a very wise decision, I must say! (laughs) -, and Roger [Glover] always tried to negotiate. In the end Ritchie got most of his way most of the time. When I look at it nowadays this was probably for the best, because Ritchie is without a doubt the cornerstone of the band, he defines Deep Purple. He is always 100 per cent convinced that what he wants is the only right thing to do. You have to learn to handle with that - especially when you think that he's wrong -, but we did alright by it.

KEYBOARDS: Until now, if I count correctly, there have been seven Deep Purple line-ups...

Lord : ...of which three were identical.

KEYBOARDS: The line-up which will be playing now is once again the legendary "Mark II" line-up. Do you have an explanation for the fact that this is seen as the definitive Deep Purple line-up?

Lord : Yes, and it's really easy: we have made our best records in this line-up! All records we have made without Gillan for example were not the records we could have made with him.

The amazing thing about it is that in the beginning Ian seemed like a stranger in the band. He didn't know what to do with his wonderful voice. Roger is somewhat like Ian's interpreter. I mean, Ian comes up with really weird ideas in his singing, just to see if they can fly. But then they crash and burn and Roger's task is to extinguish the fires and to pick up the pieces. What I want to say is that nobody in the band knows in which direction Ian wants to go with a song - except for Roger! Ian needs Roger to explain it to the rest of the band. They are really the perfect team.

KEYBOARDS: I think it's interesting that you describe Ian and Roger as a team. Usually bass players are named much sooner in the same breath with drummers, and Glover and Paice make up a really perfect rhythm section.

Lord : Yes, they play VERY well together, they don't need to look at each other on stage to know what the other will do. But in general I think that one cannot underestimate the importance of Roger to the band. He is not the quiet bass player in the background, he is a person who interferes and knows how to level bumps and to negotiate between the parties - something that is extremely important to this band. And he is a very, very good lyricist, he writes almost everything.

KEYBOARDS: You can't see from your credits, who write the lyrics.

Lord : Most lyrics are Roger's. He's also written the lyrics for [the album] "The Battle Rages On...".

KEYBOARDS: Do you care what Roger's lyrics mean, if they are auto-biographical or have a distinct meaning, with which you can sympathise, or do you give him all the freedom he wants?

Lord : Well sure, the lyrics have to fit the music. But they always do with Roger.

KEYBOARDS: And what about content?

Lord : Here, I think, we are on solid ground. Hardrock or metal is surely not a genre in which political or social meanings are given, like in blues or folk. It's music in the first place and everything the people want to get out of it is done through the notes and the sound. This means that the meaning is principally a musical one, an emotional one.

KEYBOARDS: Do you think you can still bring out the musical meaning that is associated with the name Jon Lord in 1993's Deep Purple? I mean your love for classical music?

Lord : Oh yes, surely.

KEYBOARDS: Is "Anya" [on "The Battle Rages On..."] such a song? The intro and outro sound very classical.

Lord : Yes, but I have only written the intro after the song had basically been finished. When we were recording the backing tracks, we noticed that something was missing and Ritchie and I confered what could be it. Then we discovered that the beginning wasn't right and that the ending wasn't perfect either.

KEYBOARDS: Classical elements are a very good grip for songs like this.

Lord : Yes, and we often work this way. In this case, I recorded my test version and Ritchie recorded his. Then we tried to combine the both of them and as you can see, it worked.

KEYBOARDS: It seems to me there are two kinds of song intros, which are principally different. The first creates a starting-point for the song; it sets the tone, it determines the athmopshere - "Smoke On The Water" with its massive guitar riff is a good example of this one. The second kind of intro is one where the song "stands" as it is and one just has to decide how to start and end it. Often the result is a keyboard intro, which may be repeated at the end of the song; but the actual song start after the intro, with a guitar riff for example, and the ending is nothing more than some sort of epilogue.

Lord : Yes, I agree.

KEYBOARDS: It seems to me that you favour the second way of working, since two things come together in Deep Purple, which are hard to intertwine in one and the same song: hardrock and -still- classical music. So: a classi- cal intro, a classical "outro" and in between the actual song.

Lord : Yes, and with that you have pointed out one of our weaknesses. It would be best to create a synthesis, right? But Deep Purple has always worked like this, from end to begin. This means, as soon as we've finished a song we determine whether the beginning and ending are right. Often we conclude that the song as such is okay, but that the beginning is not quite right and the ending could also use some revision.

KEYBOARDS: For the song endings, the simplest solution would be a fade-out.

Lord : It only seems that way. Personally, I don't like fade-outs. They are some replacement for a real ending - the confession that we couldn't come up with one. At least at concerts one has to have come up with one, especially when one plays as loud as we do from beginning till end. You just don't have a fade-out. That's why we design a song most of the time like this: an intro, which grabs you, verses and choruses, which are not disappointing, and finally a chord, which guarantees that the song will actually be remembered!

KEYBOARDS: It sounds like you have found a formula for success.

Lord : (laughs) No, we have not. Purple also has to work hard to come up with something every time. To come back to "Slaves And Masters": the album seemed quite okay to us at the time and about some tracks, "Truth Hurts" or "Breakfast In Bed", which I thought were interesting, I said: Yes, okay, I can live with that. But in the back of my head I kept hearing Gillan sing and I can't imagine any other singer for this band.

This is enough of a formula to me: Gillan's voice, Ritchie's guitar! If there IS something like a formula, than it's Gillan's voice, Ritchie's guitar. The rest is of minor importance and the song structure does not play any part. Ritchie comes up with the matching riff and Gillan will do justice to every song. I mean, "Burn" [1974] was really a good album, but I don't know what Gillan would have made of it.

KEYBOARDS: The singer was David Coverdale.

Lord : Yes, and he was as good as he could be. But he wasn't Gillan.

KEYBOARDS: Have you heard the album Coverdale just made with Jimmy Page [of Led Zeppelin]?

Lord : Yes, very disappointing, don't you think?

KEYBOARDS: But Coverdale was the best possible replacement for Robert Plant.

Lord : But he doesn't need to be a replacement for anybody! He did such a good job in Whitesnake. And Jimmy is - besides the fact that he is a good friend of mine - such a great guitarist, that I thought: Why does he do that? On this album ["Coverdale Page", 1993] both have only tried to be something they aren't, especially Coverdale. He tried to sound like Plant. Something I find very unfortunate, since there are so many Metal bands with no real identity. Especially for this reason Coverdale should have sung like Coverdale. He has such a great voice, somewhere in between a pop and blues voice. I couldn't find it on this album however. It just wasn't Coverdale - it was Plant, filtered through a different character. I was really disappointed, I have only played the album once and never since.

But then I'm not a music critic, and furthermore I know from experience how much it hurts when you have made something and put your heart and soul into it and then someone comes and says that it is all shit. That's why I hate criticising other people's work and I'd like David [Coverdale] and Joe [Lynn Turner] to know - if they by chance read this article - that they have my sympathy and that I don't want to run down their work. I'd just like to say that I have been disappointed at much of their work. But this was also true for many of the things Deep Purple made.

I mean, everyone of us has these darker moments - I have certainly known them! - when you wake up at three in the morning and fall into a depressi- on. Then all these obscure thoughts come into mind and you say: Your work is worth nothing, your life is worth nothing, everybody hates you. Something which of course isn't true, but it is still a cruel feeling. And since I'm very receptive to this I wouldn't want to be the reason that others have these moments too, because I point out their mistakes!

KEYBOARDS: You have only co-written three of the songs on your new album, "The Battle rages On", "Nasty Piece Of Work" and "Anya". Why haven't you composed more?

Lord : (long pause) I'm sorry for not answering your question right away, but I don't want to say anything wrong, since this is very important to me. Let's put it this way: My contribution to this album was principally playing the organ, not writing. This is because Ritchie had very clear ideas from the beginning on what the riffs and chords would look like, and his ideas were so convincing I didn't want to ruin them.

But I have helped out on a couple of arrangements and got credit as a co-writer for those, and that's okay. We in Purple have always had very precise and fair rules. It's not like in other bands where everybody's fighting on who gets the biggest share. We really try to treat eachother fairly.

KEYBOARDS: Didn't you have any songs of your own this time, which you could have proposed?

Lord : Certainly, I have lots of material, but it wouldn't have fitted into the context of the album so I didn't want that.

KEYBOARDS: What was your material like?

Lord : (laughs) It was very different. I don't know whether it would have fitted on any Deep Purple album.

KEYBOARDS: Then why not release a solo album?

Lord : I will!

KEYBOARDS: When? Your last colo album ["Before I Forget"] was released in 1982.

Lord : Yes, this was one of the most widely opened secrets in the music business! (laughs) I don't know if there were two or three people who heard it. That is, it was a flop.

KEYBOARDS: Is that why you haven't made a solo album for such a long time?

Lord : No, that's not the reason. I just didn't know what the next album would look like and I didn't feel like just releasing something. First, I wanted to be sure myself about what to release.

KEYBOARDS: Do you know it now?

Lord : I wish I knew! (laughs) Maybe next year. I certainly don't want to release anything of which I'm not absolutely convinced. I'd really like to select from everything I did until now. But at the moment I'm still in the stage of orientation and sometimes I feel like I'm a rocking chair which is rocking back and forth to extremes! We'll have to see where it will finally end up - not in the middle I hope! (laughs)

I mean, I was the one who played the organ solo in "Hard Lovin' Man" [on "Deep Purple In Rock", 1970] and I really dragged the organ all the way through the studio. And I was the one who made Sarabande [1975], with all it lovely classical, Spanish, jazzish, bluessish elements. That's all a part of me, since I see myself as a musician with a capital "M", which means that I like any kind of music as long as it's good!

Sometimes people say to me: How can you play this music, when you make different music at the same time? How can like both rock music and classical music? To me this sounds as if they are saying: How can you eat meat when you also eat potatoes? Personally I have no problem with this at all, I don't like this pidgeon hole mentality. That's what I like about someone like Miles Davis: He played with Charlie Parker, he made the album "Bitches Brew" [1970], which changed jazz for all times, and later he even played pop songs - things like "Time After Time" [by Cyndi Lauper, off the album "You're under arrest", 1985].

I have no problem with the fact that I'm considered to be a Renaissance-man in the context of rock music. The only thing I do have a problem with the narrowmindedness of some people. I think it doesn't hurt you to listen to different kinds of music and not just the one. For me there is only one law in music: it has to touch my heart before it reaches my head. For that is the magnificent thing about music: it crosses all national and cultural boundaries. Music is really the only way for an Etheopian and a Lapp or an Eskimo and an Australian to understand eachother, without one of them having to learn the other one's language first.

KEYBOARDS: When you write music, do you know in advance whether a song will fit into Deep Purple's repetoire or can better better saved for a solo album?

Lord : That has always been a small problem for me. I have always considered it to be harder to write for Deep Purple than for myself. It doesn't matter how important the organ has been for Deep Purple from the first day on - the guitar is the centre of Deep Purple! I mean, I know how a guitar works, I can also play a few chords, but of course it is easier for me to write on a keyboard. Two or three pieces on "In Rock" and "Machine Head" were created on the Hammond, but the biggest part arises from ideas Ritchie developed on his guitar, and from then on we discussed how to fit in the Hammond. Because of course the Hammond has always been an essential part of the Deep Purple sound from the beginning on. I believe we are really the only big rock band that has always worked with a Hammond. There were always these three elements: Gillan's voice, Ritchie's guitar and the organ.

KEYBOARDS: Maybe that's the reason, as you have said, "Slaves And Masters" is not a real Deep Purple album. On the album the organ was missed, you have put the synthesizer into the foreground.

Lord : Yes, and I have only noticed afterwards that this was a mistake, since it was exactly that - besides Joe Lynn Turner's voice - what made one question the identity of the band. But at the time it seemed inevitable to me, since the songs we had were not right for organ, it had to be synths.

KEYBOARDS: The decision to put away the organ and use the synths was not taken because you were considering to modernise the old Purple sound into one for the nineties?

Lord : No, that was not the reason. It would be easy for me to say this, because it sounds plausible. But it wasn't the reason. It was simply the case that I looked at the songs and searched for places to fit in the organ, but there were no such places. There were only places in which sometimes a fill was lacking - for which synths are much better -, but there was no room for organ solos. On "The Battle Rages On..." this was no problem, thank God, there was enough room for the Hammond. I was very happy about this.

KEYBOARDS: Are you interested at all in synths or are they just a nice addition to the piano and organ to you?

Lord : (laughs) Yes and no. Of course I use some instruments on stage which are midified to get a certain sound. I have for example a Korg Mi and a Wavestation, but I would rather see them as necessities. I love organ and piano most of all.

KEYBOARDS: Where do you get your Hammond sound from nowadays?

Lord : Still from a B-3. But it's not the same one I had at first. It's a B- 3 Ritchie bought when he founded Rainbow [1975]. I have played on it for the first time on "Perfect Strangers" [1984]. The lower part of the instrument is missing, I have removed them some time ago and replaced them with steel legs, so that I could transport the thing easier, but besides that it is still an original B-3 without special effects with the same old Leslies and the same old amps and speakers. I haven't changed a thing.

KEYBOARDS: What do you use as master keyboard?

Lord : A XB-2. For two reasons: first, because it is just as good a MIDI- keyboard as any other, since the differences aren't that big; second, because I would still have a very good Hammond sound if my main organ were to desert me. In any case, it is the best "fake" Hammond sound I have heard until now. Of course, it doesn't come close to the original Hammond...

The Hammond I have at home I don't take with me on tour anymore, I'm a bit afraid it wouldn't survive it. I have bought it in 1972 from Christine McVie. The thing has been used for quite some years now, but it still works wonderfully well and I don't know if this can be said of more recent keyboards in twenty years. Christine later tried to buy the organ back from me, when she had all this success in Fleetwood Mac, but of course I didn't give it back to her. At the time, when I bought the instrument from her she was broke and needed money urgently. This transaction was in fact a very sad thing. But whoever can put his hands on an original Hammond won't let go of it ever again, if he's in his right mind. (laughs)

KEYBOARDS: To come back to your solo project: will it be another fusion of rock and classical music?

Lord : Well, I have written some orchestral music already and I'd like to hear what it sounds like when it is played. I however have also some songs for female and male voices and I know whom I'd like to give them to; but it's too early to name names. And I have songs I'd rather sing myself.

KEYBOARDS: That would be a first for you.

Lord : (laughs) One is never too old to try something new. When you don't trust yourself to do something anymore, you're dead. (laughs) But I also have instrumental music for piano, for synthesizer... I mean, I'm someone who continously spits out music, that's all I can. I have so much of it, I'm beginning to lose track. The only thing I have to do is to find the right windows for them: what fits on one record, what songs are better divided over different records.

KEYBOARDS: Being a composer, have you never had the feeling everything has been done, either in rock'n'roll or classical music or jazz?

Lord : Certainly, I have to confess that has also happened to me. You have written something and you're very happy with it and then you hear the same thing on the radio and think: Oh, shit! And you throw it in the bin, even when you know you didn't steal it but that it was just a coincidence.

But I really hate this argument - don't you? I mean, if Beethoven had always spied on Mozart and had said he had already done everything, then we never would have had these masterpieces, the later string quartets for example.

I believe music gives birth to itself all the time, it has no beginning and no end. Music ressembles canibalism in some ways: it eats itself and something else always comes out.

No, it is really like a painter saying: Oh God, I wish they hadn't invented some of the oil colours I paint with! Or like a poet saying: The world is in such a state, words do not come to my mind to describe it. But that's not the world's problem, it is the poet's problem! When nothing comes to mind anymore, oneself is the one who is doing something wrong.

The material we have to work with in the western world are twelve chromatic notes - and that's quite a lot! Whoever can't do anything with them... (laughs) I confess, there's always times in which music comes to a stand- still and becomes sterile, but I have never given up hope that something new would come later. The eighties certainly wasn't the most fertile decade for rock music, but I've had the feeling the story continues and hasn't come to an end for a few years now.

KEYBOARDS: Looking back, do you think you have already made your masterpiece or would you rather think it's still to come.

Lord : I wouldn't look at anything I made so far as being a "masterpiece". I mean, there are things I'm proud of and others I'd rather forget. But the word "masterpiece" is too big.

KEYBOARDS: What are you proud of?

Lord : I'm proud of some of the things I did with Purple.

KEYBOARDS: I meant your solo work.

Lord : Then I'd say: "Sarabande". That is surely the best solo record I have made.

KEYBOARDS: And the most successful.

Lord : Yes, and rightly, since the compostitions were good, the musicians [Andy Summers, guitar; Pete York, drums; Paul Karass, bass; Mark Nauseef, percussion; the Philharmonia Hungarica] were outstanding and the conductor [Eberhard Schoener] understood the music. Everything came together and I have to say, nothing I made before or since comes close to "Sarabande".

KEYBOARDS: Not even your "Concerto For Group And Orchestra" [performed on the 14th of September 1969 with Deep Purple and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra London]?

Lord : No, not even "Concerto". Although it was okay for that time. It did have these wonderful verses Gillan wrote for the second part and still spring to mind: "How can I see when the light is gone out, how can I hear when you speak so silently..." And the way he sang it, so soft, so lyrical - one was really touched.

KEYBOARDS: Some musicians were shocked however.

Lord : Not just them! I mean the musicians were obliged to play and some of them hated it! And even the people in the audience weren't all that thrilled. But it was 1969! Have you seen the video recordings?

KEYBOARDS: Yes, there is a video [VHS Connoisseur Collection CCV 1003, England] now.

Lord : Did you look at the faces? Some of them had faces as if final judgement was cast upon them. (laughs)

KEYBOARDS: Because the mixing of rock and classical music was unknown at the time.

Lord : Yes, it was sacrilege. But I think everything one does is a product of its time. Some things in this "Concerto" were really very much dead weight - I'd be the first to admit it! -, but it was only an experiment. I only wanted to try and break these boundaries that seperated rock'n'roll from classic.

KEYBOARDS: Looking back, do you have the impression you succeeded in this?

Lord : Well, I feel that the walls aren't that high anymore and I'd be happy if someone said I made a contribution to this.

There were others really. [Keith] Emerson for example also made a contribution and also guys from the "other" side - Malcolm Arnold [English composer, conductor of "Concerto For Group And Orchestra"]. But I haven't got the right to claim all the fame for myself.

On the other hand I don't want to reject anything I once did afterwards; I can now only look at some thing from an, if you like, 'wiser' perspective. I mean, nowadays "concerto" sounds somewhat old-fashioned, but that doesn't change the fact that it was important at the time. And, to be honest, I still like it - the melodies, Gillan's singing, Ritchie's angry guitar (laughs), the whole atmosphere. I wouldn't distance myself from this. I wouldn't be able to, because it was really important for me at the time. Are you interested in how this happened? You can say no, it's a long time ago - a story for the history books. (laughs)

KEYBOARDS: Nevermind, begin!

Lord : Alright. (laughs) I had just heard an album "Brubeck plays Bernstein". It was the Dave Brubeck Quartet and the New York Philharmonic [Orchestra], conducted by Leonard Bernstein. I didn't think the album was that brilliant, it was just "interesting" - although I really loved Paul Desmond's saxophone and I was a fan of Brubeck's piano playing, but that wasn't very important either.

It just gave me the idea: Why not try something like this with a rock band? Why don't we try to break the barriers between popular music and this so called "serious" music - in both directions? This was when I was still playing with in the Artwoods [band of Ron Wood's older brother Art Wood]. It wasn't the band I could have done something like this with; but a few years later I was with Purple, and I remembered this.

And they had two managers who really had quite a lot of money in an old sock somewhere to pay the orchestra with. I thought: Here's the band, there's the money and I've got the idea! (laughs)

So I went to the manager of whom I knew he possessed the largest amount of musical imagination [Tony Edwards] and said: "Tony, I have an idea." He said: "What's it like?" I played him the Brubeck record and he said: "What's this?" And I said: "A jazz band playing with a symphony orchestra. But I want to bring together a rock'n'roll band and an orchestra!" He said: "You don't mean Deep Purple, right?!" And I said: "Who else?" He was like struck by lightning and asked: "And who is going to composed this "symphony?" And I said: "Me, of course". And he: "Do you actually know how to compose an orchestra?" I said: "Nope, but I'll find out".

That's how it went then, an endless ping-pong game, but I finally got him to throw in some money. I mean, afterwards it of course somewhat scared the shit out of me! Although I'd done a composition exam, I had only until then composed for a string quartet for four strings, four woodwinds and a small choir - things like "April" [on "Deep Purple", 1969]. I had no idea if I could come up with a score for 110 orchestra musicians and I had only a couple of weeks left to compose the thing. It was all going too fast but despite this I felt like I was given heaven on Earth. But that anyone besides me would take the project seriously... (laughs)

KEYBOARDS: You didn't count on that?

Lord : On this success? No. I hoped for it, but I didn't count on it. I mean, I was famous at a stroke!

That was the great thing about the late sixties and the early seventies: If you were prepared to take risks you could always find someone to give you the money to do it. Some people used this to the fullest and have thrown themselves into the craziest projects, they thought were incredibly ingenious, but the rest of the world fell asleep to. But I don't think this is very serious either, it was just important that everything was possible.

And many of it survived. I mean, there are people - also people who hadn't been born at the time - who nowadays spend all their money on obscure sixties and seventies recordings. But it's okay, because it broadens people's horizons - if only for the fact that they might learn from it and not make the same mistakes again.

Because nothing you do is wrong, just as long as you learn from it. Not just for music, either rock'n'roll or metal or hardrock or classical music or jazz, but for every goal in your life, I'm convinced of this.

KEYBOARDS: You have just made an interesting division between rock'n'roll, metal and hardrock.

Lord : Yes, but metal is a part of rock'n'roll, right?

KEYBOARDS: Yes, but metal and hardrock are not the same, are they?

Lord : Well, there are a few differences. Led Zeppelin used to be metal, Deep Purple was - and still is - hardrock. But I believe there is not a real dividing line between the two.

Apart from that, nobody used the term "metal" then, not even Jimmy Page! We called it "hardrock". I first heard the word "heavy metal" around 1980 or 81; before this, everything Purple or Zep made was simply hardrock. Nowadays I see the difference: Led Zeppelin was more blues-influenced, which might explain they had their first success in America: Deep Purple was a lot more European from the start with these classical elements. But the difference wasn't this big.

There were hardrock elements in Led Zeppelin and they even made pure folk, looking at their acoustic work. But we had those too: "Anyone's Daughter" [on "Fireball", 1971] - a song we accidentally play this tour - was country-folk, and other pieces like "Woman From Tokyo" were melodic hardrock. And "Speed King" [on "Deep Purple in Rock"] is probably the first example of speed metal, although the word hadn't been invented at the time.

But something I'd like to made clear again and find very important: "Speed King" was not a song about Speed, about drugs, but a song about playing fast. Just go through the lyrics: "Good Golly, Miss Molly... Tutti Frutti..." - a text we didn't have to write ourselves, because it existed almost entirely of quotes from old rock'n'roll songs. It certainly wasn't about drugs, it was just: How fast can Gillan sing? (laughs) And if I may be not so modest, I'd say: When you look at some early Deep Purple material - I mean the things we did before the arrival of Ian Gillan and Roger Glover, I think you'd find quite a lot of roots for things that happen in hardrock and metal nowadays, for example in trash or speed metal. "Speed King" is speed metal, no question about it.

KEYBOARDS: Only the roots for death metal are looked for in vain.

Lord : Something I'm proud of, and I believe that I can speak for the whole of the band in this case.

I mean, just look at the word - "death metal"? Don't the guys who play this stuff have anything else to do, but to celebrate death? Why not celebrate life? It's so precious and we have so little time on this planet, and we'll get to know what death is like soon enough. Just look at what's happening in Bosnia now! Does anybody really believe you can convince people who are confronted with death every day that it is fun to parade death?

No matter how much it sucks - this life has a lot to offer: Beethoven's ninth, Leonard Bernstein's music, your wife, your girlfriend, your children! Death is a chapter we'll start to read when a higher power invites us to - I hope in a pleasant way! (laughs) I may be not unhealthy to remember that this day will come for everybody. But until that, we have to make music for life. If there is music on the "other side" nobody knows. I personaly doubt it.

KEYBOARDS: One last question: Deep Purple now exists for 25 years...

Lord : ...sometimes more, sometimes less. (laughs)

KEYBOARDS: Why didn't you release a CD box to celebrate your anniversary, like for example Led Zeppelin and Jethro Tull did?

Lord : Frank Zappa would probably have said: Just what the world needs - another boxed set! (laughs) I believe our record company is planning one, but it will just hold the familiar recordings. Whether or not it is really necessary...

KEYBOARDS: Is there no unreleased material?

Lord : Surely there is, we still have some unreleased songs left, but they are few. We do have a lot of tapes of jam-sessions and I hope we are able to release them one day, since they show a side of Deep Purple you would never imagine in your wildest dreams.

I mean, ever since we reformed the band in 1984 we have played more jams than songs, and there are some wonderful recordings among them, especially from Ritchie. He plays fantastic lyrical things, partly even jazz. It will all depend on the fact if we can some day bring him in a good mood and soften him, because he owns the tapes. Everyone of us owns such tapes and everybody is free to release them or not. But I really hope that we will one day get the chance, especially to show the people what a wonderful musician Ritchie is. Until now everyone only knows his wild side, the tip of the iceberg. This is mostly his own fault of course, since he held up this image.

I think he should now be able to let go a little. (laughs) I mean, I have also learned now one can survive without an image. Until recently I dyed my hair, because I thought I had to look like I was twenty when I was fifty. Then I stopped this and allowed myself to leave my hair really grey.

When I stepped on stage the first time this tour I was really scared, because I thought they would boo us for they would feel betrayed: "This is supposed to be Deep Purple "Mark II"? Where's Jon Lord?" But when I was out there, nothing happened! It was a great moment for me to realise that I could have grey hair, that I could be over fifty! A few years ago I would never have allowed a photographer to take a picture of me without my sunglasses. You understand? Long hair, dark glasses - a tough image. I didn't need this anymore, I'm passed that.

Published with kind permission from the friendly Highway Star.