This page last updated January 24, 2003

January 21st 2003
Sydney Opera House, Drama Theatre (spoken word)


Photo: Drew Thompson

Jon Lord "Talking Culture" - Part Two
(Q&A session transcribed by Tom Bradbury)

PART 2: QUESTION & ANSWER SESSION

There was enough time for Jon to field about a dozen questions from the floor. These ranged from his time with Deep Purple (such as the message behind the 'In Rock' album) to his solo work (such as the inspiration behind 1999's 'Pictured Within' album'. Most of these are repoduced below.

a) Was the heaviness of the 'In Rock' album so soon after the 1969 Concerto, a reflection of Ritchie's reaction to the Concerto?

"It's been perceived as that, yes. It's actually been written with that take. But in fact it wasn't quite as simple as that. We were actually already moving in that direction of hard rock. We had already back in April of that year, signed up Ian Gillan and Roger Glover and we were writing stuff that became 'In Rock'."

"It was a difficult time orchestrating and writing the Concerto for Group and Orchestra. I was getting back at two in the morning, putting on a straight pot of coffee, and working through till first light, you know, to get it finished, because parts of our management said we're booked and we're gonna be in trouble, aaaaargh! And also if you look at the Concerto program, Deep Purple played three or four numbers that night without the orchestra, and one of those numbers was 'Child in Time'. So we obviously had already written that track and performed it before. But it's a convenient way of looking at a step in our career. But we had actually all already made a decision, and it was I hasten to add, a group decision. It wasn't just simply Ritchie's reaction to my Concerto. It's convenient journalistic reporting. It was actually started by someone in that field. I think they were at the pub!"

b) What inspired you to write the album 'Pictured Within'. Was it easy to write?

Jon, after a long period of thought, followed by a short sigh, answered: "There's a kind of yes and no answer. Yes, it was easy in some parts and no, other parts of it were incorrigible. It was a very emotional time. I lost both my parents within a year of each other, just before I made the album. My Mum's departure first was bad enough. But then my Dad, who was really my hero, went a year later. And it was a spark. A lot of the music I already had, but the actual way of putting it together and making it a 70 minute suite of music in a way that sort of hangs together, was a result of that loss. And I was in the studio about six months after my Dad died, when I started. So that's I think got a lot to do with it."

"I'm EXTREMELY proud of it….I think if I never wrote another note I'd be OK. Remembered."

c) Do you handwrite all your stuff?

"Yeah I did. And still do. Although what I do now is, once I've written it down in pencil in my hand, my manuscript paper, then I've got score writing equipment – 'Australius'. I love it. What it actually does, it takes the composer one stage further into the process of music. What you do - now you can actually hand tune the library of an orchestra, print it, using music from this 'Australius' program. And change the sound of the music if you need to. We were talking earlier about the sound of 'Australius' and 'Ingenerate' programs - they're OK, but when actually performed, it doesn't sound like that. Synthesised sounds are not the major emphasis to me. However, there's enough to give you a rough idea of the components of the musical part. But it's more important to know much more about the look of the thing and the 'fittability'."

d) Back in those 'Dark Ages' of the early Seventies, how did you go about testing the ideas and whether they worked? And did you find that they sounded the way you expected?

"I did a couple of pieces after the Concerto where I had no chance to hear anything until the first rehearsal, and I think all you can do is, or what I do, and still do is, if I hear a sound in my head and I can't feel how to make it work - this combination or that combination - I will go back to the masters. I'll read a Tchaikovsky score or Beethoven to see and find out how they did it. I find that absolutely essential. You have to go back to the masters. That's how they did it. That's the process. One generation takes from the previous one, builds on it and passes it onto the next."

e) Why did it take Deep Purple so long (1999) to perform the Concerto again, and to utilise an orchestra when playing their rock music?

"I think it was a mindset. For many years the band thought 'Oh, that's Jon's thing'. I think just Gillan eventually said 'Hey let's do the Concerto again' the rest of the band said 'oh, okay'. So that's really how it happened."

"I'm not actually a great fan of orchestrations of rock music. It's not my favourite thing. However, I do like 'Pictures of Home' – I like that orchestrated. But generally I'm not a huge fan of orchestrated rock music."

f) Is it likely that there will be any more Jon Lord solo albums?

"I'm hoping to go into the studio next March. And I've got quite a lot of stuff ready for it, and I think I know what I'm gonna be doing."

"I really don't know what it's going to be like. I mean, I know what the tunes are right now, but I don't know how it's going to fit together. Writing-wise, I can't stop. And I suppose most of you know that I have stepped out of Deep Purple, in case you hadn't noticed! I thought it was time. It was one of the hardest decisions I've ever had to make. And it only took about 12 years! So you know, it was very very hard to make, but I feel good about it. And the rest of the guys said 'do you want us to carry on?', and I said 'well that's fine.' That's Deep Purple - an atomic toy - it never stops.

g) What made you want to leave Deep Purple?

"The fact that I wanted to write more and record more and do other things. And I just didn't have the space. And touring eats up a lot of time and it eats a lot of energy. And it eats up a lot of will power."

"I'm pretty much par for the course for most musicians, right - you have to give yourself a routine. It's no good saying 'I'll just wake up – I feel inspired'. It doesn't happen like that. So I just sit down and start to write and see what happens. And because of doing that, something does happen. You may throw it away each day, but it's really important that this is what I ought to be doing."

"So you'd expect me to record the new album about March-April, I hope. So by the end of this year I'll have a new album."

h) Regarding the Gemini Suite and Windows - how do they fit into your overall musical development following the Concerto?

"The Gemini Suite - I was very pleased with that. That was a BBC commission as a result of the Concerto, and we did it the following year, with Malcolm Arnold again. And I recorded it. And I thought that was an extremely important orchestration."

Regarding Windows, Jon said that whilst living in Germany, he met a "wild, crazy" German conductor who wanted to bring together rock and classical music. He explained that a German publishing company wanted him to write a "bizarre performance" to close off the piece, and he only had two weeks to write it. So he called up "a few mates", and after a few sleepless nights of writing what he could, he wrote the last movement which was a bit of a "rave up". He admitted it wasn't one of his finest hours!

i) (This was my question to Jon) What's the history behind the Concerto's lyrics? I believe Mr Gillan was a little delayed in meeting the deadline.

"He wrote the lyrics the same afternoon as the Concerto! I would ask him, 'Ian, are you writing the lyrics?' 'Yes Jon I'm writing them.' He would say that day after day. And then we got to first rehearsal with the orchestra. 'Uh, I've got them somewhere, I've got them somewhere.'"

"He wrote them just before the dress rehearsal. And he wrote them in an Italian restaurant over a large flagon of cianti with Malcolm Arnold. Malcolm was a famous toter, he loved to drink. He doesn't drink anymore. But at the time he was famous for that. In fact, Gillan and he became sole buddies in that department. They turned the lyrics in about lunchtime."

"And what's lovely about the lyrics is that there is a genuine heartfelt thing on Ian Gillan's part in saying 'What shall I do when they stand smiling at me? Look at the floor and be cool? What shall I do when it all goes wrong? How will I know and start singing my song?'"

j) Is it true that Spinal Tap was based on Deep Purple?

"NO! [jokingly]. I know who it was... Iron Maiden."

"Any rock band in the Sixties and Seventies have played in Spinal Tap mode. And that's the brilliance of the film."

"And there is a quote – Bruce Dickinson and I had an interview in the mid-Seventies, along the lines of 'I see us as sort of, Rock & Roll Gypsies, you know like, traversing the highways and byways of the planet, and bringing... err... bringing joy to people!'

"You could see Rob Reiner, reaching out with his hands in the air and saying 'I've gotta have some of that!'"

k) Do you listen to opera music?

"I rarely listen to opera now. I don't know why. I used to listen to a lot more. But I listen mostly to orchestral music now. I try to avoid the term 'classical' music because it's not. 'Classical' music is Mozart in the 18th and the 19th centuries. But it's become the term. I mostly listen to that, and quite a lot of jazz too. I'm extremely fond of that. I love to listen to Bill Evans play the piano."

Which then prompted a question from a member of the audience: 'Not Iron Maiden?'

Amongst rapturous laughter from the audience, Jon explained: "That's my other album. Get the Iron Maiden wrist bands out man, and just walk around the land!"

l) The Final Question: 'Where does the music come from, for you?'

"I've discovered quite a bit about myself over the last 10 years. One of these things is the more spiritual side. I do believe that there is a connection between spirituality and the ability to make solid, something as amorphous as an idea. I also feel that it's somewhere here [points to his heart]."

"Just thank God that it does come to me - I must be paying the bill!"

Jon then finished the presentation by thanking everybody for attending and remarking that he had enjoyed every second of it.

Many thanks to Tom Bradbury for transcribing.

Part One - Interview

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