Purple are back with what must be their millionth record. Surprisingly better than critics indicate, the record makes good use of newly adapted keyboardist Don Airey having replaced founding (now retired) member Jon Lord. Footstomper House of Pain starts the disc off in typical DP fashion. Fueled by Aireys sonic organ riff, the blistering anthem rocker let us know the gauntlet has been thrown down. Without missing a beat Airey is all over Sun Goes Down making his presences fully known and taking no prisoners. Even long time guitarist Steve Morse seem to be taking a backseat as the keyboard dominates the first eight-minutes of this record.
Cropping up a little too early is the ballad Haunted. The track is a bit timid but aided by a signature Morse solo and Gillans intriguing voice. The record tips its hat to vintage Purple in Razzle Dazzle a real fine line/between an orgy of destruction/and a wonderful time and the zealous I Got Your Number and Walk On though a bit to bar-room for a seminal band. True clichés abound in the Stevie Ray Vaughan-like Silver Tongue and Doing It Tonight- trademark Purple still singing about a night on the prowl. Yet under it all, the boogie is just as addicting as every. Picture of Innocence the rockin title track and especially Razzle Dazzel have their musical charm.
Never A Word is a rather impressive bridge between the romp of the first half and the boogie of the second. The Gary Moore-like Contact Lost closes out the record. Its only a minute and a half long but adds a touch of class. Still viable in its umpteenth incarnation and with three original members as part of the quintet (Ian Gillan - vocals, Roger Glover bass, Ian Paice drums) Deep Purple attest they can still dance the dance.
The Deepest of Deep Purple (Bananas)
Interview by Todd K. Smith
Rock and roll comes from the engine room. ~ Ian Gillan
With Deep Purple coming back from across the pond to deliver, what is rumored to be, the entire Machine Head record we had to get the full scoop. This is what happened when we called Deep Purple vocalist Ian Gillan on his cell.
The Cutting Edge: Rumor has it youre about to get this whole Machine started again.
Ian Gillan: Were starting the North American leg of the tour in a couple weeks. Weve been on the road since June (2003) and it looks like will be out till December (2004). We had a good break over the holiday and now Im getting packed again. And yeah, were doing all of Machine Head. Its a presentation sort of thing. We do just about all the songs off Machine Head anyway in the coarse of a show its just not all together. Now it is.
In America the Classic Rock thing is a bit of a problem. In Europe we are seen as a progressive rock band thats been around for a long time. In America were considered a classic rock band and expected to only play the hits. We decided on this American tour to refocus on Machine Head as well as songs from our new album, Bananas - a mixture of old and new.
TCE: Its been a while since youve played Never Before and Maybe Im A Leo. Are you busy rehearsing?
Gillan: Yes, as a matter of fact. Usually we start a tour with a soundcheck and thats it. Some tours we dont decide what to play till were in the dressing room right before we go on. For Deep Purple it the improvisations that has been the most important thing.
TCE: With your current release, Bananas, you opted to use an outside producer instead of Rodger Glover. How did that change the end result?
Gillan: Michael was involved not only in the recording but writing too. We wrote the album in three or four weeks then went into the recording studio and recorded it in three and a half weeks. We approached it like we did in the Seventies learn the songs then go and record them. In the Eighties production become more and more overwhelming a wall of sound that didnt seem to give the individual instruments a chance to breath or be heard. The identity of the instrument was lost.
Michael helped keep it simple and was great to work with - a very funny guy. We have mutual respect for him not only is he a great producer but a highly regarded musician as well. That made it easy for us to communicate with him. A lot of producers come from the roots as sound engineers and work their way up, but it makes all the difference if theyre a musician too. After all, its the construction, the arrangements, the cutting up that make the record work.
The trap that you get into when doing your own production work is the subjective point of view. The self-editing is a pain. The band has always been fairly self-disciplined musically. But when it comes down to the actual recording with all the overdubs, and people coming and going, it gets overloaded.
TCE: How has Steve Morse and Don Airey changed the chemistry of the band?
Gillan: When we were looking at a permanent guitarist the last thing we wanted was a Ritchie clone. That would not enable us to remain progressive. We wanted a great musician and see where it went from there. Steves been with us now for nearly ten years. He can be quite forceful at times hes defiantly got his own point of view. He still leads his own band, does clinics and practices all the time. Hes given us so much, not only in music, but also in intellect and humor. Hes a pilot to boot so hell be flying us around on occasion.
Right now the band it in a very good place. I feel its everything a band should be. We are road-hardened musicians but we still love it. We all get along famously and we try to keep the performances bright by changing the set around. Don brings an unbelievable amount of musicianship to the group. I dont think in the past hes been able to have the freedom to be as improvisational as he is with us. He has complete freedom now to be as expressive as he wants to be.
TCE: You can really hear it in House Of Pain and Sun Goes Down.
Gillan: His enthusiasm is just what we needed. The band has a history of evolving and weve always tried to be true to the spirit of the band. John (Lord) was frustrated in that he didnt feel he had enough time to fulfill his solo commitments as an orchestral arranger and composer. Thats really his lifetime ambition. It had been heading up for several years and he just decided now was the time to focus on that work. But hes still very much a part of the Purple family. He phones up regularly backstage and asks what the set list is.
Dons been sitting in for John on several occasions. When the final change was made it was relatively seamless. But his (Dons) enthusiasm is amazing. We all come from the same background which is important. You dont have people pulling in all directions musically or socially. Everybody understands what the job is and how it has to appear. Were all musicians. When were not on the road or recording we are writing. None of us sit around; we all have other music related projects going on. That way we keep this spirit of the band intact.
TCE: How has your audience changed over the years?
Gillan: Its been real interesting. Theyve actually doubled from where we were ten years ago. Thats due to a combination of things. I think there is a certain amount of disillusionment with the over produced bands of the past few years - and with the pop singers. As kids get older they let go of their pop idols and look for real musicians that can actually play. I did the same thing with my pop bands when I was younger. The idea of people actually playing instruments its an idea thats actually astounding. You grow into that. If you look at pop music most of it is done by session musicians. The bands look great but can they actually play? Its all about image isnt it?
I remember in my early days there was a hero of mine, Cliff Bennett, who had a fantastic voice. Every time I went to see him I wanted to be where he was on stage. I was drawn to the band. Its a shared experience. I try to remember that. When youre on stage youre not playing to a brick wall, youre play to real people. Its important that you show them your humanity.
TCE: Whats up with the Bananas title and the cover photo? Its engaging but unexpected. I know its deeper than it looks.
Gillan: The photograph on the back Rodger spotted in an Australian newspaper. Its a very provocative picture and tells you straight away of exploitations. In Europe we have this idiot bureaucracy I termed the Idioucracy - a governmental movement designed to gather all of Europe in an attempt to form one federation. Im going to fight it to the death, in a non-violent way or course. I will vote for anyone against Brussels and the Idioucracy. My biggest complaint is with all the regulations. We are regulated to such an extent that every little thing that effects our everyday lives is becoming bureaucracy. Bananas are just one of those things.
There are 20 pages of regulations as to what is a legal banana and what is an illegal one. And its not only bananas, its cucumbers and grapes and pears everything. A legal banana must no shorter than 14cm and no longer than 27cm from the collosum to the peduncle. The angle has to be a certain way. So its illegal to eat those gorgeous little stubby Indonesian bananas or the Brazilian bananas because they dont fit the mold. The only people who produce those bananas are the one who are genetically controlling them. Its developed into quite a political thing.
It seems trite on the surface but like many of the songs on the new CD it has two of three layers underneath. As a lyrist I keep a notebook with me and anything that makes me cry with laughter or really gets me angry are written in there. When the time comes to pen some lyrics I pull from that notebook. I believe that the best songs are the ones written in five minutes. When Im writing songs I can sense the mood as to how the instrumental part is developing. Ive always felt the words should fit the music. Its easier for a lyricist to adapt to the mood rather than the whole band to lyrics. After all rock and roll comes from the engine room.
Websites: Sanctuary Records, Highway Star and Deep Purple.