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Roger Glover on Deep Purple's unique performances

With the release of two recorded concerts from the "NOW What?!" tour, Deep Purple show their concert strength once again. Bassist Roger Glover expands on this unique Purple skill.
Deep Purple at Wacken Open Air Festival in northern Germany, 2013. Photo by Jonas Rogowski.

Deep Purple at Wacken Open Air Festival in northern Germany, 2013. Photo by Jonas Rogowski.

By Patrick Prince

Joining Deep Purple in 1969, bassist Roger Glover (along with vocalist Ian Gillan) left the pop sounds of the band Episode Six to pursue a rock group with less singles-oriented ambitions. What became known as Deep Purple "Mark II" (1969-73) — Ian Gillan (vocals), Jon Lord (organ), Roger Glover (bass), Ian Paice (drums) and Ritchie Blackmore (guitar) — would prove to be the most successful and well-known unit of the various lineups throughout the band's history.

Despite all the lineup changes (the band is now on "Mark VIII"), Deep Purple remain a strong live performance act. To capture the power of the current lineup (Mark VIII's Paice, Gillan, Glover and Steve Morse on guitar and Don Airey on keyboards), the record label earMUSIC had the unique idea of releasing two recorded concerts from two distinct settings — "From the Setting Sun...(In Wacken)" and "To the Rising Sun (In Tokyo)" — both filmed on the "NOW What?!" tour in 2013-14 by 12 HD cameras and recorded by a top mobile studio, and available in DVD/Blu-ray packages and/or audio CD/vinyl record sets.

Goldmine recently had the pleasure to talk to Deep Purple bassist Roger Glover about these latest concert releases.

GOLDMINE: As far as the releases go, Deep Purple fans have a lot to choose from when it comes to concerts — not only bootlegs but official releases. What do you think makes these two releases — "From the Setting Sun...(In Wacken)" and "To the Rising Sun (In Tokyo)" — unique?
Roger Glover: I don't think it's ever been done before, to my knowledge; to release two live albums — or DVDs — simultaneously. Usually when you play a place that's a special occasion — like Wacken and Budokan (Japan) — there's a tendency to want to record them for posterity whether they're used or not. And the idea of us pairing ( the concerts) together was not ours in the band, it came from the record company (earMUSIC). And when they were talking to me about it they said, 'What do you think?' and I said "Well, I don't know." But they then said, "It highlights the differences in (the) audiences you play (for): one in Germany and one in Japan. Totally different audiences." And I started to come on to the idea and said "that's kind of neat." We're the same band. We play pretty much the same songs and yet you're faced every night with a different audience. And these two audiences are diametrically opposite to each other, so it highlights the extremes of our audience.


GM: Can you explain a little about how audiences in Japan and Germany differ?
RG: Without wanting to generalize, the Wacken audience, in particular, is different than German audiences because it's really a festival about heavy metal and that's the brunt to it. And we're not a heavy metal band per se. We're a hard rock band. We rock hard but we don't have that kind of industrial-sized riffage that goes on. Faced with this audience, they're probably aware of us but probably never seen us before because music over the last couple decades has gotten more marginalized. You know, if you're into jazz, you're into jazz and nothing else. If you're into folk, you're into folk and nothing else. The genres have multiplied shall we say. And there's different kinds of metal. There's straight metal, there's thrash metal, there's speed metal and it's getting fractionalized even more, and that's an audience that's remarkable for its single-mindedness. It's a huge audience to start, a beautifully-organized festival and we were just blown away by the size of it, the organization and the fervor of these fans. It's stunning to see and be a part of. And unbeknownst to us this was never meant to be a pairing at all with (the) Budokan (concert). Budokan and Japanese audiences in general tend to be much more sedate, much more polite. I can remember going onstage not knowing there was an audience there until you actually step on stage. And then they erupt for a couple seconds and then they go quiet again because they're sitting in their seats waiting to listen and they're very attentive. So it's a completely different experience. Putting them side by side just to illustrate that point is a neat idea. The Japanese audience knows how to appreciate music, by the way, it's not as if it's that they're that quiet. I've learned a lot just by watching the DVDs .. of the people coming into the Budokan and sitting, waiting for the final five to six minutes before we come on. It's an education just to watch them ... they're so polite and nicely dressed, talking music. It's like the kind of atmosphere in a cathedral, where Wacken is more an out-and-out party.


GM: Festivals crowds can be tough because you have to win over parts of the crowd who aren't there for you.
RG: Definitely. It's a challenge for sure. The difference between the two: Wacken, there were hundreds of bands on — probably literally hundreds — whereas Budokan was a single show and there were no other bands on. Totally different atmosphere.

GM: "Made in Japan" was partially recorded at Budokan. Have you noticed a change at all acoustically or is it pretty much the same?
RG: Acoustically it's a pretty nice place. It had a good sound on stage and that makes a big difference to how the performance is and how it affects us. You play some places — especially indoors places like gymnasiums and stuff — where the echo is so huge it's a cacophony. It's not so enjoyable to play those places. When you get a good sound its like surfing a wave. It's easy by comparison.

GM: The sound at festivals, for instance, can get lost and can travel weirdly.
RG: People go to festivals obviously for the music but not just the music. It's an event, it's a social occasion, it's a party for a week, amongst like-minded people, and they're certainly there to see different bands, and, as you say, you're faced with people who aren't necessarily your audience. But that's great. I actually like that. We're playing to people who haven't had a chance to see us before. Makes it new in a way. Makes it new for us.

GM: With Deep Purple performances, no one concert is alike. There is improvisation in every Deep Purple concert. And fans collect these live performances like Deadheads collect Grateful Dead jams. Deep Purple fans seem to be very in tune to the catalog of live performances whether it's a official releases or bootleg. You once told Goldmine that you had mixed opinions about bootlegs — and other band members themselves had mixed opinions — but even the bootlegs serve a purpose. You made the quote: "When I listened to some of the bootlegs I realized what a dangerous band we were."
RG: It's true. When you're in a band you really don't know what you are, what you represent to fans. We know what we are between us. And bootlegs in the early days were definitely frowned upon. It was illegal and they didn't sound that great. But I remember when I was considering reforming Deep Purple for "Perfect Strangers," whether it was a good idea or not, and that was when I started listening to some older recordings and thinking, "Actually, we were a lot better than I thought we were." (laughs) I was all for it then. And as soon as we started playing I knew that it was right. We jammed together and it felt so good. We've always been a live band. The whole point was live. Back when I first started with the band, you know, we didn't get played on the radio. We didn't have any kind of coverage or anything. It was just the audience that was there that night. Actually, nothing much has changed in that respect. Music is a kind of a strange and wonderful art form. You can't touch it or smell it or see it. The moment you hear it it's gone. With a museum you can look at things, with books you can read them and so forth but music's just here and gone. And the only way you can actually capture that is by recording something live, which is not the same experience as being there of course. Being there is everything.

GM: Everyone references "Made In Japan" but "Total Abandon: Australia '99" was a really good live release. It had shown that even though Steve and Ritchie (Blackmore) were different types of guitarists, they both knew how to improvise live and made it very interesting for the listener.
RG: It's always been a band of, well, certainly three virtuosos: Ritchie Blackmore, Jon Lord and Ian Paice. I mean, it floored me when I first met them and played with them ... Wow! They're in another dimension to what I had experienced before and it's all about the playing. A lot of the songs were written to show off the musical part of the band. Rather than write a song that you wanted to be a hit, we write the music first and the stuff comes afterwards. And it was always that way. When we were looking for a guitarist before Steve, I remember mentioning the fact that, "Yeah, we can get a young kid guitarist and he has all the right looks and everything like that but it's got to be a virtuoso. It's got to be someone who is really different and special." And Steve Morse fitted that bill. He is different and special. I remember him asking me, "What do you want from me?" and I said, "I want you to be 100% yourself." You're not replacing Ritchie Blackmore. You're just the new guitarist in the band. It's a change. It's a new direction. I think many fans aren't comfortable with change. They want what they loved first. And that's great but you can't be what you were. You change all the time. Everybody changes as they go through life and as a band I think one of the reasons why we've gone on so long is that we have changed. Yet the spirit has remained the same.


GM: Steve Morse does handle Ritchie's leads well on vintage cuts. And he gives them his own personality.
RG: They come in with respect for what was before and that's important. And some of the solos, for example "Highway Star," Ritchie's solo — although it was ad libbed or partly worked out in the studio — it's become as much a part of the song as the words and the melody or anything else. And yet (Steve) treats that with respect and puts his own spin on it. And the same with Don (Airey). When Don first joined the band — he came in at first when Jon was ill and couldn't do a tour — Don came in and did a pretty good job on that first gig. And I went up to him and said, "That was great, Don. You did really well." He said, "Yeah, I tried to be Jon Lord for about a minute or so and then I realized I had to be Don Airey." I said, "You couldn't have said anything better, Don." You have to be yourself in a band, You can't be someone else. You can't pretend to be some sort of cardboard cutout.

GM: Even though they're great musicians, you have to put yourself in their shoes. They're taking over for two musicians who were very popular with the fans.
RG: Well, I'm a new guy. I joined a year and a half after the band started. (laughs) But I know how that feels.

GM: Uli Jon Roth coming onstage for "Smoke On the Water" at the Wacken gig. That was a nice touch.
RG: That wasn't planned. He just turned up. He was just there at the festival, so... and he's a good friend. We've known him before. He's a lovely guy. "Why don't you get onstage and play with us?" "Yeah, okay. Fine." It was simple.

GM: Speaking of "Smoke On the Water." Do you ever tire of playing it?
RG: I don't mean to be disrespectful but the only boring part is people asking me about it. (laughs) It's a great song to play. I love playing it. And it's not just solos. When I change the bass part every night, I have fun with it. It's a good song because it has a skeletal structure that you can just have fun with. And I don't think we can ever get away with not playing it. It's become such a ritual. And a lot of places — especially in Europe and other parts of the world — as we get older the audience gets younger. Eastern Bloc countries and places like that, the audience is usually in their 20s. And younger. And they're experiencing it live for the first time. You see, you live it through eras and their experience. And it's always fun to play, so, no, I never get tired of it at all.

GM: Which track do you think comes off best in these two live concerts?
RG: "Lazy" always seems to be a very popular song everywhere we go. It starts off and people don't know what's coming and as soon as they hear that beat you can hear the audience go "Yeah!" You know, that's also had a life of its own. A great song to play as well.

GM: And the audio was mixed under your supervision. You have had a long career of production work — your own music, the band's music and other people's music — you've seemed to enjoy it.
RG: Well, I don't usually produce much these days. Mostly in the '70s I did all my main work as a producer. I spent about six years being nothing but a producer. And then I joined Rainbow as a producer. Actually, I wasn't even going to join the band. I was just producing the band but somehow I ended up being part of it. But I've always been interested in studios and how things work. Writing a song and producing a song are in some ways part of the same process. You write something and arrange it and record it in such a way to make the best of it and that to me is like part of the writing process. But I didn't mix these (concerts). I just wanted to make sure the guys knew what they were doing. And they were great — Eike Freese and Alex Dietz — in the studio as producers and in those mixes as engineers. And I wasn't there very long, just a few days. And they'd send me stuff. Technology is good in many ways. One of them is that they can send me a mix, I can listen to it, make comments and send it back. But that was the extent of it. I had a lot of faith in them as a team. They did the brunt of the work.

Did you always find it harder to produce your own material, compared to another band's?
RG: Yeah. Well, I don't mind producing myself but producing the band that you're in is difficult. And I've done it out of default a few times when perpendicular we decided we don't need a producer, let's do it ourselves. Which means I do the work and they generally regret it. (laughs) I much prefer to be produced by someone I really have a lot of faith in and Bob Ezrin was just a wonderful guy to work with. He had done work that I never could have done myself.

GM: You have done wonderful production work. One of my favorite albums — and you've claimed that you went into it as a salvage job — was Judas Priest's "Sin After Sin." It's a wonderful album and it sounds great. I've read where you came in and you thought it was the "worst crap" you ever heard, but when you left everything seemed fine.
RG: It wasn't quite like that. I went to rehearsal to meet the band and there was a bit of uneasiness about the situation so I talked to the band after spending the afternoon listening to their new songs and I said, "You don't seem to be too happy with me being here." And they said, "Well, we rather produce ourselves." I said, "Well, fine. I don't want to waste your time or my time on having a situation that's untenable." So I walked away from the project. I said good luck, I wish you luck, the songs are great, and this that and the other. And it was later that they called up — Glenn (Tipton) called me — and said "Are you free?" I said "Well, what's the deal?" He said, "Well, we fired the drummer and the recordings we've made, we are not really too sure of. Can you come down to the studio and maybe help out a bit?" And I said sure. But "You fired the drummer?" He said, "Yeah, we have a session drummer called Simon Phillips." And I said. "Well, I know Simon he's a good friend of mine. I've worked with him. He's a brilliant drummer." And we only had limited time. We had to finish the album in six days. And since Simon is an ultimate professional, he learned the work very quickly. Listening to what Judas Priest would become a few years later, "Sin After Sin" is a much more contained, much more a studio sounding album, not just swamped in echo with big riffs and things. Judas Priest were evolving at that time. Maybe I should have embraced their vision a bit more but we didn't have time to think about it. We had to get it done. But, yeah, I listen to it now and I'm pretty pleased with it as well.


GM: Deep Purple still perform "Into the Fire" and "Hard Lovin' Man." Can you believe that "In Rock" had its 45th year anniversary this year? That is such a classic album.
RG: That was the first album I ever made. In Episode Six ... we recorded singles in my previous band. We never made an album. We just made singles because we were a pop band and we just wanted to get up in the charts. That was the deal. When I joined Purple it was a whole different universe to what I experienced before. Same with Ian Gillan, we joined together from the same band. I remember "In Rock," how it just unfolded before our eyes when we started writing it together. Purple before that had been known for not just writing their own material but taking other songs and rearranging them and making them different. The big hits, they didn't write: "Hush" and "Kentucky Woman" and so on and so forth. And when we first started writing together it's just that something magical happened. It just fell together. I think about that sometimes because we play "Hard Lovin' Man," and "Hard Lovin' Man" was about half way through the recording or towards the end of the recording process of "In Rock" and that to me was when the live experience we were going through at the time — live we could get pretty wild. I mean, it was crazy unpredictable stuff — and with"Hard Lovin' Man" that live experience had come into the studio with us. And I remember seeing Jon doing his solo and he's rocking the organ back and forth — the Hammond — like he did onstage and making sounds out of it that it was never designed for. To me that song in particular was where we really gelled into the band that we would become. And we play that now and it amazes me how old that song is and yet it still sounds very fresh.


GM: One of our writers, Martin Popoff, had written an article about Deep Purple deserving of a Rock Hall induction ("The Rock Hall Diss of Deep Purple"). He stated: "They are the adults in the room, amongst too many old bands unsure what to do with themselves, and ultimately embarrassing themselves." If you think about it, it is kind of true. There are bands that stay around for the sake of staying around but with Deep Purple you feel like there is an actual enthusiasm about playing and keeping it going. I thought that was a great way of putting it.
RD: I think he accurately described it. I get asked about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame a lot. And through the years I've gone through different feelings about it. There was a feeling where I should just say, "Well, fuck off. We're not interested." But I think it's more important for the fans, and families and friends, than it is for us in the band. We're sort of ambivalent about it. If they do it, they do it; if they don't, they don't. It doesn't really matter to us. We're on our own course. But I do think it's a shame that if they are going to do it, they didn't do it 20 years ago when Jon Lord was alive. And when I see other people get inducted in that really don't deserve to be there ahead of us ... Purple started out as five people and what branched out from Purple is almost a history of rock in itself, you know. There are so many bands whose influences come that from the early '70s Purple. Ritchie in particular. Ritchie was an amazing guitarist, way ahead of his time. And I think that informed a lot of the heavy metal players later on. The second wave of rock, if you like. The Judas Priests, and the Saxons and so on and so on. It still goes on. Purple was the stone thrown into the pond and the ripples are still moving out. And when I read one comment by one of the voters from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame who said, "Deep Purple, they're just one-hit wonders." What?! That fooled me to hear that — that someone can think that. Well, If it happens, it happens. It's not a big deal for us.

Oh, and BTW, Deep Purple is inducted into the Goldmine Hall of Fame.