"We'd rather lead than follow"
With the new album of Deep Purple just hitting the stores and the "Long Goodbye" world tour ready to kick off, the timing was perfect to talk with iconic bassist Roger Glover in order to talk about the new album and their retirement plans. Is the end approaching or not and Who is one of the most underrated guitarists? Read below all the details.
"All we’re doing is facing the reality that in our age we can’t go on forever. At least we’re telling people that, rather keeping it a secret."
Let’s start with the one million pound question. Are the upcoming tour and this album going to be the last of your career?
Well, no one ever used the word “last”. Other people are using the word “last”, but we’re not saying that at all. We’re saying that sooner or later we will finish yes, but we don’t know when that is. Personally, I hope that this is not our last album. I think Ian Paice said that this might be perhaps the last real round the world tour, if it lasts that long. But the truth is that we don’t know what the outcome of this might be. All we’re doing is facing the reality that in our age we can’t go on forever. At least we’re telling people that, rather keeping it a secret.
How long it took you to complete the new album? What was the easiest, what the hardest part recording "inFinite“? And how it was working with Bob Erzin again as a producer? What he brought to the album?
The easiest thing was doing the album. The hardest thing is answering questions about it [laughs].
We did “Now What?!” with Bob and it was a revelation to us working with a producer that he was so much in tune with us. We get along very well and I think the outcome was excellent. And when we finished that album the first thing Bob said was “when is the next one?”. So, I guess it works both ways, it was much fun to him as it was for us working together. There was really no question. When we were going to do the next album it would be with Bob. He really likes working with us and we like working with him. It’s a great arrangement, we become good friends and he knows us inside out now. So there was no question if we would rather do it with someone else.
"The music of the album is infinite once it’s recorded while musicians are not"
What is the idea - or the concept if you like - behind the album title "inFinite"? Ιs it some kind of statement or it’s something you just liked as a title?
If I was Bob Dylan I would say “this is up to you to decide” [laughs].
We don’t need to explain everything, but obviously I’m explaining some things. The title came from the record company. They were looking for a symbol as strong as the question mark of “Now What?!”. We were too busy touring or doing the album to even think about how it’s going to be called and they basically presented this whole idea and we just said “OK”. You can read it whatever you like. It is ambiguous. The illustration of the album with the icebreaker going through that’s also adds to the debate of what it might mean. We never designed it to mean anything, it’s just the way it is and what you want to see that’s up to you.
Perhaps people see it as the infinite influence of Deep Purple in rock music, or something like that...
[Laughs] Maybe the music of the album is infinite once it’s recorded while musicians are not.
"Before judging an album, a good five or six year period have to pass before I look back at it and say what it was"
Listening to the new album Ι saw a band diving into their roots and approaching their music in a more bluesy way. At the same time there is a strong progressive rock element that mainly comes from Steve’s playing and Don’s Keyboards. What were you really trying to do in “Infinite”? What’s it all about music-wise?
Whatever you’re thinking it’s about, that’s what it is about [laughs].
Before we start making an album we don’t have a group meeting and sitting around the table and discuss what it’s going to happen, either a) it wouldn’t be impossible and b) if you have a plan like that then you have to fight to steak to it. So, we prefer to see what happens, we start playing and jamming and see where it’s going. We really have no idea what is going to happen. To me, before judging an album, a good five or six year period have to pass before I look back at it and say what it was. But whatever we do has to come naturally to us, sort of based to the Deep Purple kind of instinct of what’s right and wrong. Sure we have our disagreements of what’s right and wrong within the music, but it’s a compromise and it’s a cooperative effort. There’s no one person dictating the direction, whatever the direction is. It’s just how it comes out. It is much a surprise to us as is to you.
And how did The Doors cover come up? Whose idea was it?
We did a cover on the last album on a Jerry Lee Lewis song, I think it was a bonus track. So, during these sessions Bob said we should do another one a bit of fun. And it was Ian Paice’s suggestion the “Roadhouse Blues”, because he played it with a tribute band. We aren’t looking to any complicated song that we have to learn and rehearse a lot before we record it. It has to be something that’s in our blood. So, it has to be something that comes from our former years that we’re familiar with. Once Paice said “Roadhouse Blues” we were like “ok we do that then” and the decision was made. Half an hour from then, after we got the words from the internet and thought the bare bones of the arrangement, half an hour later it was done. It was very quick. It’s one take, vocals and everything all one take and that’s the essence of a cover track really. It’s to be something you just have fun with. We did one version of it and we said “ok, it’s close enough”. [laughs]
"It’s not like the old days when you did an album and you had to tour to support it. We tour anyway."
What is the motivation for men of your age to create new music? It has to do with creativity and getting the best of it while it’s still there? Do you somehow relate the end of Deep Purple with your lives, so not letting this go feels like helping you stay around for more and more time?
I wish I thought of it that way. [laughs]
I’ve been a musician for all my life. Even when Purple finishes that won’t mean that I’ll stop being a musician and a songwriter. It’s something you do and that we all have done for the last 50 years. And just because Purple finishes, that don’t mean that we’re finished individually. It just means that the band is not viable anymore for whatever reason, wherever it would be health or...
If people won’t come to see us that would be a pretty good hint to stop, but fortunately for us that’s not the case. We can find an audience everywhere in the world. We tour wherever there’s an album or not. It’s not like the old days when you did an album and you had to tour to support it. We tour anyway. Maybe it would come a time that we will make an album and don’t tour at all. I don’t know. We never close any doors, we’re always left them a little bit open.
"We never knew what "Smoke On The Water", "Highway Star" or "Lazy" were gonna be. At the time we recorded them they were just a song on an album"
During your career you have written some really great songs. Some were based on pretty simple structure some were based more on progression and technical stuff. So, what makes a song great in your opinion?
Mmm... I don’t know what makes a song great. Like I said we don’t plan things, it’s not like if we sit down and say “alright, let’s write an iconic song”. We don’t know what the song’s future is going to be. We never knew what “Smoke On The Water” was gonna be, or “Highway Star” or “Lazy” or any of those. At the time we recorded them they were just a song on an album. And nothing changed since then. We write songs, we put them out and see what happens to them. And I guess some will go on… they are like little babies. You give birth to a song, you watch it grow up, some mature and some don’t. So it’s hard to say which thing is going to happen first.
"We don’t do what other bands do. We’d rather lead than follow."
In my humble opinion Deep Purple never took the credit they deserve for being a significant influence to bands that played major role in shaping the genre of heavy metal. The bands always refer to you as a huge influence, but I don’t think that the fans are really getting it. It’s always about Black Sabbath. Do you agree and if so why you think this is happening?
Well I don’t know if this is happening, because you’re telling me [laughs].
We don’t think in those terms, we don’t think all this as a competition. We don’t think that some band is bigger than us or some is not. We sort of have our own path. We have never been a fashionable band. We’ve always actually stayed under the radar as far as that concerned. We don’t do what other bands do. We’d rather lead than follow. So we don’t think on those terms. If people like us that’s a good thing, if they don’t like us that’s also great, we don’t care.
"There’s no humor in metal and we have humor"
During “The Long Goodbye Tour” you’re going to be the headline act for some major heavy metal festivals such as Hellfest and Graspop. How you feel about that and how you expect the fans to react?
First of all, we expect nothing, that’s up to other people. Music is music and if you start getting into genres and then sub genres and then sub-sub genres... is it heavy metal, is it thrash metal or is it heavy cabaret metal? I mean it’s pointless...
Music is music to us. We don’t consider ourselves as a metal band at all, we’re a rock band and a rock band has all kinds of emotions to it. It’s part jazz, part classical, part folk, part pop, part… whatever. There are no bounds to our music. It’s not like we set to ourselves two lines which we will not pass. I’ve heard a lot of bands and they all sound very similar and I think that maybe that’s not a good idea for us. We don’t sound like anyone else. If there’s any purpose to our songs and our sound it’s just to be who we are not try to be someone else. We don’t care about the radio, or the pop charts. If we were influenced by that we’d be lost. We’re on our own road and that’s the end of it.
We played some festivals were there’s lots of heavy heavy bands, but to me heavy bands have basically one emotion. There’s no humor in metal and we have humor. It’s not clownish humor or circus humor and we don’t take ourselves so seriously. We don’t have tattoos or a lot of fancy leather or jump up down like animals [laughs]. We are musicians and we play music. It’s very-very simple.
Do you think that this tour will bring you back to Greece?
Oh certainly I hope so. The Greek audience is great.
What you think about your career as a producer? Which is the album that you did your best job outside of Purple?
It’s like comparing coffee with oranges. You can’t do that. There’re a lot of albums I enjoyed doing more than others. Honestly, I could not answer that question if I’m not reading a list of what I’ve done to figure it out...
"When people are talking about the great guitarists, they always mention Page, Beck and Clapton. But what about Gallagher?"
So, instead of picking your best moments as a producer, tell me how it was to work with Rory Gallagher.
It was great! First of all, I knew Rory from the late ‘60s. We toured together with Taste. Back when I joined Purple Taste was the opening act on several tours. So, I was aware of Rory and then when he gone solo... he was a fantastic blues musician.
When I was offered the job to produce him I thought it was a real high honor actually. He was a lovely guy. To me if we’re talking about people being underrated, he was totally underrated. When people are talking about the great guitarists, they always mention Page, Beck and Clapton. But what about Gallagher? What about Blackmore even? He doesn’t get the same mention as the rest. Or Hendrix for example. There’re many great guitarists and the older get mentioned. Like we talked about Purple and taking our own road, Rory was on his own road. He defined what was current and he just played what was in his heart. And that’s the best you can do. Whether it’s successful or not, you still got to play from the heart.
And how different is to work as a producer on your band’s albums?
It’s very difficult to be in a band and produce it. First of all it’s a like a pointless task. It’s one opinion out of five. It’s very difficult to have an overview and the objectivity that a producer needs really. What you do is ending up pleasing everyone in the band and therefore pleasing no one. It becomes production by committee in the end, certainly as far as the mixing concerned, because everyone wants to hear themselves in the mix. But some times this is not the case. A good mix doesn’t means that everybody sounds equal. It takes an outside source in order to convince the band of that. There’s always a case where the singer says “I’m not loud enough”, or the guitarist says “The solo is not loud enough” or the drummer and so on. It’s like a losing battle when you produce your band. But having someone like Bob Ezrin... We trust him. We trust him to do what’s right for the song and for the band and not for anyone individually.
"Success is not being rich and famous. Success is not being on top of the charts. Success is how you feel about yourself"
My last question has to do not only with your relationship with Richie, but with people in general. I don’t know exactly what was going on inside the band back in the day, but why do you think people grow to be so apart from each other when clearly they have more to share than things that divide them?
I think that from the outside, when people see a band being successful, they think “why the band breaks up while being successful?”. And that’s because people see success in different ways. Success is not being rich and famous. Success is not being on top of the charts. Success is in your heart, success is how you feel about yourself. People talk about my solo records, they don’t sell that much, but does that make me unhappy? No, it doesn’t, because it’s already a success. Because I did them. That’s the success. People don’t measure in those terms. If you do an album that it doesn’t sell, well fair enough. You can analyze why it didn’t sell, maybe it didn’t sound right or the songs weren’t right or the timing wasn’t right, you didn’t get enough publicity... there’s all that kind of reasons you can go into, but it’s really a waste of time. Once you do an album it’s done, move on. Whatever it’s gonna be. And the feeling of the band is not looking at now. We always are looking for the next thing not the last.
So is it so difficult to maintain good relationship with your band mates?
If you respect each other, no, it’s not. But we’re getting along pretty good I think. We have differences of opinion but we don’t want to kill each other [laughs]
OK, fair enough. Thank you Mr. Glover for your time. It was really an honor talking to you. I wish you all the best.
And thank you very much, I appreciate all your help.