By Jeb Wright
Deep Purple's “Now What?!,” the band’s first studio album since 2005, revisits the classic Deep Purple missing from the band’s last two studio efforts, “Rapture of The Deep” and “Bananas.” One reason the band stepped up its game and went back to the future with its sound was the enlistment of veteran producer Bob Ezrin.
Longtime Deep Purple bassist Roger Glover is excited about the new music the band created — to the point that he can’t help listening to it on a regular basis. That’s quite a statement in and of itself, when you consider the fact that Glover has spent plenty of time in the control room producing albums for artists including Elf, Nazareth, Rory Gallagher and Judas Priest.
Glover talks about making the album, how it was to work with Ezrin and revealing how he turned down his first offer to join Deep Purple.
GOLDMINE: You have embraced the classic Deep Purple sound on “Now What?!” — with a twist.
ROGER GLOVER: A lot of people have said that. I keep hearing that it sounds like ’70s Deep Purple with a modern twist. It is a nice thing to hear, but we weren’t really thinking of that; we just did what we always do, which is to go into the studio and have fun. We weren’t trying to recreate anything. Maybe Bob Ezrin was, however, as he played a crucial role in shaping the album.
GM: Why did you guys use Bob Ezrin?
RG: I’ve done a lot of producing, including “Perfect Strangers” and “The House of Blue Light” by Deep Purple. It is not the best prospect for me, because I am in the band. You have to have some objectivity, which I don’t have, or that they [the rest of the band] don’t think I have, more to the point. It is an unpaid job for me, and it is long hours.
We have used other producers in the past. We did “Bananas” with a lovely guy named Michael Bradford. I thought that was a pretty good-sounding album. The last album we did, “Rapture of the Deep,” didn’t match up. It didn’t sound that great. There were some great songs on it, but it didn’t sound so great.
Essentially, we are a live band, and going into the studio and banging out a bunch of new tunes is a bit of a bore, or a chore, really. With Bob Ezrin on board, we realized that this guy has a hell of a track record, so we had better step up to the mic.
GM: What was it like to be in the studio with a producer as accomplished as Bob? Did you change?
RG: Not really. Bob recognized that I was a producer early on. He would always listen to what I had to say. Frequently, he would refer back to me when he made a decision. He would listen to my suggestions, as well, and we got along really well. We became very good friends.
It was interesting for me to see how a producer of his caliber works. I don’t know how I work. I just go in and have fun and make music.
Getting a performance out of an artist is really the producer’s key job. I have ways of doing that, and I watched how Bob did it. He was very thorough, decisive and somewhat brusque at times. He did the job, and he minimized the studio time we waste bickering over silly things like if we go to B or B-flat. He would just come along and say, “That is going to be B-flat, and that is it.”
GM: Bob and Deep Purple did this as a team.
RG: I am glad you recognize that.
GM: I think Deep Purple sounds energized and fresh.
RG: One of the luxuries we had is time to prepare. It has been a long time since the last album, and there was a great deal of enthusiasm to make this album. Four or five years ago, there was not so much, as we were always busy and on tour and doing a lot of different things, including doing an album with an orchestra, which came out very well. We live on the road, and we are away from family and domestic life. If you are not out on the road, then you are not going to make any money at all in these times that we live in.
About two years ago, we thought, “This is getting ridiculous; we are going to have to do something.” We booked a writing session in Spain. We produced a bunch of jams that could be, or would be, a bunch of songs.
About a year ago, Bob Ezrin came and saw us play, and we met him the next day. We got on very well with him. He said some very astute things, and he listened to what we had to say. It was all systems go. We went to Nashville, which is where he lives, and there are some great studios there. The idea of doing a really good studio album appealed to us.
We’ve done some albums in really strange places — in basements and castles and outdoor corridors, etc. A great-sounding album usually comes from a great-sounding studio. It was a pure joy to write and record and have this come out sounding so good. I am very pleased with it.
GM: How do Steve Morse and Don Airey compare to Ritchie Blackmore and Jon Lord?
RG: In a word, they don’t. If we had replaced Ritchie Blackmore and Jon Lord with look-alikes, or sound-alikes, or anything-alikes, then it would have been a shame. It would have been hanging on to past lulls too much.
You have to change. When someone else comes into the band, you can’t expect them to be anything but themselves. Our band really works together when we are all 100 percent ourselves, as then there is nothing pretentious going on.
Steve and Don bring different colors to the palette. I love the early stuff that we did; don’t get me wrong. I am very proud of it, but we are who we are now, and that is really all we can be.
GM: On “Now What?!” I have to give them props because they are up front and play their asses off.
RG: Steve has been with us almost 20 years now, and Don has been with us 10 years. We know each other very well, and we play with each other a lot, and we’ve done tons of road work. We know what we’re doing, between us. We have a great deal of respect for each other. I don’t know many other bands that have the stellar musicianship that we are lucky enough to have in this band.
GM: Steve told me he is more of a songwriter than a virtuoso.
RG: That sounds like something I would say, as I think I am more of a songwriter than a bass player. What Steve believes, Steve believes, and that’s great. We all came with a lot of good ideas on this album. It is very difficult to come up with good hard rock without sounding like a parody of yourself. I think we have achieved it.
GM: There are some elements of progressive rock in songs like “Uncommon Man.”
RG: There are also a few songs that we played in G, which is a blues key, so you could say we had a blues influence, as well.
It’s all music. It is very difficult with Don Airey and Steve Morse, who are such great musicians, to play anything simple. They come up with ideas that I would have never thought of, and, whether it’s prog or jazz or classical, it doesn’t really matter to us.
GM: Was it nice on this album to just be the bass player?
RG: Of course. I got to leave all of the worrying up to Bob. His name is going to be on the record, so that is fine.
I did a lot more than just be a bass player, though, as Ian [Gillan] and I wrote all of the lyrics, which was a nice return to form. Occasionally, I will do a whole song, or he will do a whole song, but most of the time we’d just sit down. We spent about a week coming up with all of the lyrics, and that was a really fun time.
GM: “Now What?!” has a lot of songs that would sound great in concert, but how can you put these songs in a live set when the set is already filled with such classic songs?
RG: That is going to be a battle, isn’t it? We are looking at playing at least four or five of the new songs in concert. We suffer a little bit from the fact that we don’t change the setlist enough for most hard-core fans.
The truth of the matter is that people want to see and hear songs that they know. It is difficult to not recognize that people want to hear “Lazy,” “Highway Star” or “Black Night.” Although, most people around the world, most audiences we go to, in Eastern Europe especially, are teenagers and young people. We get to relive it all through them, which is a great experience.
To be honest, after so many decades of playing “Highway Star” every night, we dropped it this last tour. You can’t please everyone, so we will just have to continue to please ourselves.
GM: There are three members still in Deep Purple from the classic Mark II lineup. Who is the real leader of the band?
RG: I think the sum of the band lies with Ian Paice. The way he plays and the way he conducts himself says it all. He has been in the band since Day One, and he had been in every lineup. That gives him a kind of seniority, which he accepts quite well. We are a family; we are very close. We all love and respect each other. We have taken on quite a journey over four decades, and it is a good feeling.
GM: Ian Gillan was in the band Episode Six with you. Was he the first to defect to Deep Purple?
RG: What happened was that Ritchie and Jon came and saw Episode Six play, because they were looking for a singer. They offered Ian the job, and he accepted. By this time, Ian and I were songwriting partners.
Ian called me up, and he told me that they offered him the job and that he just had to do it. I said, “I understand.” He said, “These guys are really just looking for songs, and we have songs. Come play some songs for Jon Lord this afternoon.”
I went up and met Jon for the first time, and I was blown away by what a nice guy he was. He didn’t like any of our songs. He played us a demo of one of his songs called “Hallelujah” on a record player. He said, “We’re recording this tonight. Would you like to play on it?” I said, “Sure,” That was my audition. At the end of that song, Jon came over to me and said, “Would you like to join our band?” I turned him down.
GM: You did not.
RG: I did. I couldn’t leave Episode Six, as we had been together since our school days, and we had been through thick and thin. We had been up and down the motorways and stayed in crappy hotels and done a lot of hard work together.
The next day, I called Jon back and told him that I had changed my mind. I realized that Episode Six had gone as far as it could and that they were never going to be successful. We came so close to being successful, but we never were. We were a well-known live band, but we never made the charts, which is all that mattered back then. I called Jon up, changed my mind and changed my life.
GM: Deep Purple had several albums, but they struggled, as well. When Ian and Roger joined, something immediately changed.
RG: We were both songwriters, and that is what changed. The original songs on the early three Deep Purple albums were not really good, heavy songs. There was some interesting stuff, but the best songs they had were covers like “Kentucky Woman” and “Hush.” The music they wrote themselves didn’t do a thing, so they were a fading force. They were looking to change, and they wanted a songwriting partnership.
Ian and I are simple musicians, and we were from a pop band. We are not virtuosos — at least, I am not. Coupled with Ritchie, Paicey and Jon, who were all virtuosos and masters of their instruments, the naivety and simpleness of our songs, over their driving beat, was the magic formula.
GM: How proud of “In Rock” are you?
RG: I am very proud of it. It was a moment in time that both Ian and I grew in our abilities, overnight. I had never taken bass playing very seriously up to then. Songwriting was a bit of a hobby. All of a sudden, we were in this band where you can do stuff, real stuff, and the floodgates just opened up. In Episode Six, Ian was writing really stupid lyrics and now, all of a sudden, he was writing songs like “Child in Time,” which is one of the best lyrics I have ever heard.
GM: The original Mark II only lasted a short time, but the music has lasted for ever.
RG: When we became a huge hit, we were really going against the system. The BBC didn’t play music like that, and you really didn’t stand a chance of selling music, because it was totally underground. Heavy rock bands, at that time, were underground and out of the mainstream media. We went against the grain and we made it.
When “Black Night” raced up the charts and went wild all over Europe, there was certainly a feeling that everything was going out of control. It’s just a song, and then, suddenly, it changes everything.
GM: When you put out “Machine Head,” did you know you had done something special?
RG: No. You don’t know what an album is until the people hear it. I have a different feeling about “Now What?!,” as I am playing it for my own enjoyment, which is very rare. When I am driving along in the car, I stick it in, and I blast it up.
GM: “Smoke on the Water,” is the most classic song you have. Most recognize it for the classic guitar riff, but there is a lot more going on in that song.
RG: Who knew at the time that it was such an amazing song? It was just the right time and the right place and the right sound. We didn’t see it as a future classic song.
There is a lot more to it than the guitar riff. However, the riff is the first thing that people recognize. Over the years, I have bumped into people who say, “What is your biggest hit?” I say, “Smoke on the Water.” They go, “I don’t know it.” I go, “Duh, duh duh. Duh duh da-da.” They go, “Oh, that one!”
GM: You have a great career outside of Deep Purple as a producer. I would like to talk about some of the bands you produced. Let’s start with Elf, which featured Ronnie James Dio.
RG: We did two American tours with about a month off in between. Our agent was Bruce Payne, and he asked me, “What are you going to do with your time off?” I said, “Do my laundry, get drunk … the usual.” He said, “I’ve got this band, and they’re doing an audition for CBS tomorrow. Do you want to come see them? They are looking for a producer.” I said, “Sure.”
He also invited Ian Paice, so Ian and I went along the next day, and this band just blew us away. We thought they were a circus act when they walked out, because they were all really tiny. We wondered what we had gotten ourselves into, and then they started playing and they just blew us away.
The bass player had an enormous voice. Ronnie played bass and sang in Elf. We said we would produce them. We went to a studio down in Atlanta, and we spent a month recording their first album. Ronnie’s voice blew me away, and I did another two albums with them. I really believed in him, and we became very close.
Through that, they began supporting Purple on tours, and they obviously caught Ritchie’s eye. Eventually, Ritchie asked Ronnie into Rainbow, and that was the end of Elf.
GM: Talk about producing Nazareth.
RG: They saved my life. When I got thrown out of Purple, I arrived back from that trip to Japan in the summer of ’73, and I was in a pretty despondent state. I was in the biggest band in the world at that time, and I was asked to leave. It wasn’t much fun. I was pretty depressed.
A couple of days after I arrived in England, I was moping around the house, and the music papers arrived. There, at No. 3 or 4 in the charts was a song that I produced for them. I became a producer overnight.
I went on to produce their album that song was on. “Broken Down Angel” was done in London, but we did the rest of the album in Scotland, where they rehearsed with a mobile in two concrete rooms. They were full of fire, vim and vigor, and we really captured that on “Razamanaz.” I am very fond of that album. I went on to do two more Nazareth albums, and they were a lot of fun. They are still friends of mine. In fact, I did a solo album a couple of years ago, and Dan McCafferty and Pete Agnew sang on one track.
GM: You have a knack of getting with some incredible singers, don’t you?
RG: Well, yeah. Lucky, aren’t I?
GM: You also produced Rory Gallagher.
RG: The album was called “Calling Card,” and if ever there was a road musician, it was Rory. Being in the studio didn’t come natural to him, as he wanted to be in front of an audience. Since there was not an audience in the studio, the rest of the guys in the studio, the techs and the producer became his audience. He’d turn it on.
It was very hard to get him to make a decision, because he loved everything. We would do three, or four, takes of a song and, as a producer, I would say, “Well, Rory, I think you’ve got it on the third take.” He would say, “OK, but maybe we can do a better one. “
He would do another two, or three, and then he would come in and I would say, “I think the third one is still the best.” He would say, “I don’t know; I like them all.” He was very difficult to pin down.
At the beginning, every night turned into a party. I had to threaten to leave before Rory agreed to start working. He was a lovely guy and a very nice man. He was a very kind and humble man. He was also very funny. He was a great guy, and what a guitarist.
GM: You also produced “Sin After Sin” by Judas Priest. How did that come about?
RG: I just got a call one day and was asked if I would like to produce
Judas Priest. I really didn’t know who they were; I knew they had a couple of albums out, and I had seen their name in the newspapers, but I didn’t know anything about them.
I got to meet them at rehearsal, and after every song I would make a few comments, and all I would get was a surly look from the guys. I thought, “Well, this doesn’t feel right.” I finally said, “You obviously don’t want me as a producer.” They told me that they wanted to produce themselves. I said, “Fine, go ahead and do that. I don’t want to produce anyone that doesn’t want to be produced.” They were kind of relieved. It was their record company who wanted me. We shook hands and we went our separate ways.
About two weeks later, I got a call from Glenn Tipton, who said, “What are you doing?” I said, “Not much, why?” He said, “We’re in the studio, and we’re having a bit of difficultly. Do you want to come down and help us out?” I said, “I can do that.” He said, “Oh, by the way, we’ve sacked our drummer.” I said, “So, you’ve gotten nowhere in the studio, and now you don’t have a drummer. Who are you going to get to drum on the album?” He said, “Simon Phillips.” I knew Simon, as he played on one of my solo albums. I had known him since he was 17, and he is a great drummer.
I went down to the studio to listen to what they had recorded, which was the worst crap. I went in, and we were able to finish the entire album in six days. They had written the songs, so they just had to perform them. We had to mix them. It was kind of a salvage job.
GM: Any final thoughts on “Now What?!”
RG: People call us old fashioned for making an album, but I don’t think it’s old fashioned at all. I think it is us; that’s what we are. I also think it is a good one, so go out and buy it. GM