Don Airey took over for the legendary Jon Lord in Deep Purple when the elder Lord decided to retire from the band. Airey, the logical choice, has had an amazing career, playing with some of the greatest men to ever brandish a guitar, including Ritchie Blackmore, Gary Moore, Randy Rhoads, Brian May, Brad Gillis, Tony Iommi, Glenn Tipoton, KK Downing, Steve Via—well, you get the picture.
He is Heavy Metal’s best known keyboard player, a dubious accolade, but an honor that Airey wears with pride. In a genre based on the electric guitar, the keyboard is usually given the background treatment, if given the light of day at all. Airey, along with Deep Purple’s Jon Lord, have changed all of that. Purple’s love affair with the keyboard is well documented but it was Airey that brought the instrument to new heights when he wrote and performed the opening to "Mr. Crowley" on Ozzy Osbourne’s Blizzard of Oz.
Now, after two decades, Airey has released his second solo album, an ode to the universe, titled A Light in the Sky. The musical concept album see Aireys showing off all of his influences and even brining out two songs that could have been on the next Deep Purple album. The album is a complex weaving of styles that will thrill any fan of any of the bands Airey has been a part of. Read on to learn how the album came to be as well as how Airey went from seeing Deep Purple perform in 1971 to becoming their current keyboard player.
Jeb: A Light in the Sky is your second solo album but there was a bit of gap between this one and the first.
Don: I took a quick break of twenty years. To be honest, this one comes down to the fact that somebody offered me a record deal. I had been working on stuff since the last solo album, so I had a lot of the material. I got the tracks together and put a theme to it. The label is an instrumental label, so much of it is instrumental but there are a few songs as well. I tried to really show my past influences throughout my career.
Jeb: The song "Shooting Star" is the one that Purple fans and Rainbow fans will be excited to hear.
Don: "Endless Night" as well, as it is pretty much a Rainbow track.
Jeb: There is classical and rock and there is some very unique music. With the theme of the album, I would call it ‘spacey’.
Don: When you have a warehouse full of keyboards, which I have, you are going to get some pretty spacey stuff. I have a big interest in astronomy. I have a big telescope, and I live in a place where the skies are very clear at night; there is not much ambient light. I read a lot of Steven Hawking stuff and books about where we come from and how the universe was formed. Nobody actually knows how life was formed but they know how everything that constitutes the earth came about.
Jeb: Is this a lifelong passion of yours?