Jonathan Douglas 'Jon' Lord
(9 June 1941-16 July 2012)
With their 1970 album ‘Deep Purple In Rock’ they
virtually invented Heavy Metal – although keyboardist
Jon Lord prefers the term Rock ‘n’ Roll. Now, as that
original group line-up launches its 25th Anniversary tour
and album, Lord takes time out to discuss their origins in
1960’s R&B groups, Graham Bond Organisation, Artwoods
– & the Flowerpot Men!, his experiences in orchestration, his
memories of Deep Purple – and the secrets of Ritchie Blackmore’s
guitar solo’s, Whitesnake and David Coverdale’s ‘embarrassing’
lyrics, the re-union, and much much more…
‘Purple are already riding high in popularity,
their new album ‘Deep Purple In Rock’ should
enhance the standing of this invigorating unit…’
(Ray Coleman in ‘Melody Maker’ May 1970)
Jimi Hendrix and Cream may have invented the Beat virus of Metal, but Deep Purple took out the patent. If, in doing so, they sheared off some of the danger, innovation, and sense of the unexpected, they also bludgeoned it into the perfect Seventies Heavy Rock product, loud, dark and beautifully meaningless. They deserve credit for long-time services to tinnitus. With ‘Deep Purple In Rock’ they became the band especially formulated for fly-away hair, with punch, power, and monstrous afterglow.
‘With the scene as overcrowded and top-heavy as
it was in late 1968, could there possibly be room for
yet another group? Deep Purple made it with
a single called “Hush”…
(Lillian Roxon’s ‘Rock Encyclopedia’, 1971)
They fell together almost accidentally. Ritchie Blackmore’s previous convictions encompass a period as one of Screaming Lord (‘Monster Raving Loony’) Sutch’s savages, and near-chart flirtations as part of eccentric Indie producer Joe Meek’s house-band the Outlaws. And Jon Lord recorded with Mod-Soul cult band the Artwoods. While Ian Paice was playing drums with a group called Maze.
The earliest Purple incarnation ambled into place around core members Blackmore, Paice, and Lord, but took yet more time hunting the style catalyst they lacked. More by luck than masterplan they charted in the USA hugely with Joe South’s “Hush” (US no.4, August 1968) – an object lesson in how to heavy-up a Pop song, followed by Neil Diamond’s “Kentucky Woman” (US no.38, December 1968), while concurrently Roger Glover and Ian Gillan were touring as Episode Six, doing equally unrepresentative air-play hit singles covers of Tim Rose’s exquisite “Morning Dew” and Jefferson Airplane’s “Somebody to Love”. With Glover and Gillan finally absorbed into 1970’s Deep Purple Mark Two line-up, they swiftly evolved their malevolently potent Rock scenario with its trade-mark seismic disruptions of riff and volume. “Black Night”, “Speed King”, “Child in Time”, “Strange Kind of Woman” – some creations are hard to improve on, so you don’t alter the format. Yet they survived for just five albums; following ‘Deep Purple In Rock’ (no.4, June 1970, Harvest SHVL777) came ‘Fireball’ (no.1, September 1971, Harvest SHVL793) to power-drill holes in your cranium, then ‘Machine Head’ (no.1, April 1972, Purple TPSA7504) with stand-outs “Smoke on the Water” and “Highway Star”, the high-point live double set ‘Made In Japan’ (no.16, January 1973, Purple TPSP351), and ‘Who Do We Think We Are’ in February 1973 (no.4, Purple TPSA7508).
‘As the excitement within the band diminished, then
the formula began to take over. It got to be a bit of a
Frankenstein’s monster that we couldn’t control anymore’
(Jon Lord interviewed in ‘Sounds’ 29th Sept 1973)
By 1974, with David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes replacing Ian Gillan and Roger Glover, the Purple Soap Opera had begun a process of diversification into an increasingly complex Family Tree of off-shoots, tangents and re-unions. There was also a perceptible shift towards the more melodic radio-hook metal that was to be developed further and more lucratively by the likes of Bon Jovi and Def Leppard. A 1991 compilation album called ‘Purple Rainbows’ charts the disintegration, opening with a version of “Hush” in its 1988 live version, and going on to include Purple-related material by Graham Bonnet (“Night Games”), Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow (“I Surrender”), Whitesnake and Dio. It’s an album that lights up legends. The final split came in July 1976, after which various combinations of solo and joint careers kept the torch blazing – until the inevitable reformation in November 1984 amid speculation that each of its (‘Deep Purple In Rock’ vintage) members had been offered a two-million inducement to do so!
Following ‘Perfect Strangers’ (1984), ‘House Of Blue Lights’ (1987) and the live ‘Nobody’s Perfect’ (1988), Deep Purple’s 1993 ‘The Battle Rages On’ launches a heavily promoted 25TH ANNIVERSARY TOUR. With Jon Lord on the other end of a telephone line from New York, in a mood for some heavy-duty reminiscing…
‘A legion of Heavy Metal musicians have plagiarised
Purple licks, removed the subtlety and produced a largely
unrelenting and humourless music. Deep Purple, on the
other hand, retain the talent to be varied and interesting
while not forgetting they are there to rock’
(Paul Lashmar writing in ‘The Observer’ 8th March 1987)
Andrew Darlington: Jon Lord? Great to have this opportunity to speak to you.
Jon Lord: Andy. Good to talk to you mate. Where are you speaking from – Wakefield? Oh really. Not too far from where I was born. (Which was actually Leicester!)
AD: Do you live in the States now?
JL: No. I just happen to be here. I came over to do a bit of business, and they got me roped in and said ‘while you’re here, get on the end of the ‘phone’. But no, I still live in England, near Henley-on-Thames.
AD: You have a new album to promote.
JL: We have indeed. They haven’t given you a preview copy yet? Then I shall have to describe it to you. I’ll try. Yes – well, OK. “The Battle Rages On” is the title track of the album. Some people would say, the way our band has been running, that it’s a well-chosen title. And it has ten tracks – fifty-odd minutes. We recorded the backing tracks last summer (1992), and then halfway through the recording we decided it had to be Ian Gillan again. He should never have left. But you know what we’re like! So he came back in the autumn and we spent the last part of that year and the first part of this year writing lyrics. The vocals were recorded in February in Florida and that’s it – the baby is christened, and ready to bring joy into the world.
AD: And this is the full ‘Deep Purple In Rock’ line-up: Ian Gillan (vocals), Ritchie Blackmore (guitar), Jon Lord (organ), Roger Glover (bass) and Ian Paice (drums)?
JL: It certainly is. And very happy I am that this is so. Basically this is the band that it should always be. It’s easy to look back with hindsight and say you shouldn’t have done this and you shouldn’t have done the other, but I just wish that this line-up had never drifted apart, and that we’d stuck together. Life would have been so much easier. But still, life wasn’t meant to be that easy.
AD: And you’re doing a ‘25th ANNIVERSARY TOUR’, with British and European dates.
JL: Yes, we’re doing two or three in London, two nights at the Manchester Apollo – I don’t think the tour’s absolutely written in stone yet, but the Birmingham NEC, you know – the usual places. Yes, it’s funny really, everyone has been reminding us that it’s the Twenty-Fifth Anniversary, but it’s just sneaked up on us. It seems like three minutes ago that we were playing the City Hall Sheffield in 1975. That’s really rather frightening. Yes… twenty-five years.
AD: Strictly it’s only twenty-five years if you date it from the original “Hush” line-up with Rod Evans (vocals) and Nicky Simper (bass).
JL: Yes. It strictly goes back to the first line-up. It won’t be twenty-five years with Ian and Roger until next year. But this tour – I think, is going to go from this year into next year, so we can legitimately call it the ‘25th ANNIVERSARY TOUR’
AD: Who do you see making up your audience now?
JL: (Long pause). It’s funny. I was just thinking about that before this began. You see, we still get the young Rock ‘n’ Roll audiences, those who never saw us first time around, or maybe saw us back in the Eighties, and some obviously who didn’t. But they’re still going to come and see us because we’re known in the Rock ‘n’ Roll business as one of the Rock ‘n’ Roll bands from that time. But also we’re bound to attract the – I suppose you’d call them the thirty-something’s. I don’t know this time around. All I know is that last time around, on the ‘Perfect Strangers’ tour and the ‘House Of Blue Lights’ tour, 1985/6/7 – y’know, we got very young audiences. And then on the tour we did with (temporary vocalist) Joe Lynne again it was archetypal Rock ‘n’ Roll audiences. So it’s really hard to say. I don’t know.
AD: It’ll perhaps be interesting to wait and see.
JL: Absolutely. But I think the audience for the albums is going to be different to the audiences who come to the concerts. I think there’s two kinds of audiences. The older people who might buy the CD might not necessarily want to come to the converts. They might no longer like the Rock ‘n’ Roll live thing. So yes, it’ll be interesting to see.
AD: After so long on the road, do you still get the same buzz from working?
JL: From recording – yes. A qualified ‘yes’. But on stage – an unqualified yes. That’s the way it happens for me. That two hours on stage. That’s still without peer in my life. That’s the brilliant moment. Playing is the highlight. The studio I find a little bit more tiresome, always have. I’ve never been a great studio musician. I don’t mind if it can be done as quickly as possible, that I like. That’s OK. But to go over and over and over something constantly searching for some kind of meaningless perfection just drives me to distraction.
AD: In an interview with ‘International Musician’ magazine Ritchie Blackmore was once asked how much preparation he put into his guitar solo’s before recording. He replied ‘everything is done spontaneously’. Is that still true of the recent re-union albums?
JL: Yes. Very much so. Obviously the technology is around, so you can use it. But what I normally do, or what Ritchie normally does with solo’s is – we’ve done the backing tracks, and then you say ‘OK, that section needs a guitar solo’. So Ritchie will then go into the control room with a very long lead so that the lead goes out to the amplifiers still in the studio, and then he has playback to himself in the control room. So he can sit there and hear it in perfect high-fidelity. Then he will take up eight or nine tracks, and do eight or nine different solo’s. And he’ll pick one. A few days later he will give himself time to think about it and he’ll pick the one he likes. And that’s roughly the same way that I do my own solo’s. But I like to take the first or second take, even if it’s got a couple of flaws in it, I like to get as spontaneous as I can in my solo’s. You HAVE to be spontaneous on stage. ‘Cos a solo is – if you like, it’s an improvisational comment, in a way, on the song. It should be part and parcel of the song. It shouldn’t be stuck onto it like an extra appendage. So that’s how you do it on stage, and that’s how I like to TRY to do it in the studio.
AD: Because your musical roots are actually in improvisational Jazz, including the work of organist Jimmy Smith.
JL: Yes. I started playing the organ through listening to Jimmy Smith and Jimmy McGriff, y’know, the JAZZ organists. And Georgie Fame, Graham Bond – they were organists I listened to way back in the mists of time. So that’s where I came from initially. But I got a very strong grounding in Rock ‘n’ Roll when I started to play with Ritchie. I was very lucky because I have quite a few influences to play with.
AD: What keyboard do you play now? You used to play a Hammond C3 organ.
JL: Still play it. Yes.
AD: That’s unusual today. Aren’t you tempted away by any of the newer electronic keyboards?
JL: I’ve made playing Rock ‘n’ Roll on the Hammond organ my musical life, and I do it, that’s my instrument. That’s what I play. And the challenge of integrating it into a band like Deep Purple has always kept me on my toes musically. It’s great. I love it.
AD: I spoke to Zoot Money recently – another former devotee of the Hammond organ, but he now plays a wafer-thin little electronic keyboard.
JL: Did you really? I know. I did a little tour with him in Germany. We did a – we put together a fun Blues band a couple of years ago. And George (‘Zoot”) came along. And I said to him ‘what the hell are you playing?’ And he goes (in accent) ‘ah lad, it’s a lot easier to carry around!’
AD: You feel the Hammond has a greater richness of sound which such modern keyboards can’t quite achieve?
JL: Not quite, no. Like I say, if there is a challenge in slotting it into my kind of music, then that’s a challenge I shall have to take up.
AD: You mentioned Graham Bond earlier as an influence, he played Hammond organ on the R&B/Jazz circuit during the sixties.
JL: He was my mentor. I learned from him. The GRAHAM BOND ORGANISATION used to play at the same Blues Clubs that the ARTWOODS used to play at. We were usually the interval band, so I used to – figuratively speaking, sit at his feet. And I used to pester him with questions about how to get the Hammond to sound like this, like that, like the other. And he taught me an enormous amount. Superb musician. Very odd man, strange man, but a brilliant musician.
AD: As a continuity, you also mentioned Jimmy Smith as an influence; you recorded his “Walk on the Wild Side” with the Artwoods, and later still performed the same number live as part of your temporary link-up with Tony Ashton on the ‘First Of The Big Bands’ project (April 1974, on Purple Records). I’m also very fond of the Artwoods records, the ‘Jazz In Jeans’ EP and the ‘Art Gallery’ album (1966).
JL: Ah, bless you. Yes – I’m very proud of the things we’ve done. I’ve had a great career. I’ve been very lucky.
AD: I wondered if you were aware of the current interest in Deep Purple history and prehistory – not only CD compilations of early Purple Singles A’s and B’s, but also re-issues by the ARTWOODS, the OUTLAWS and EPISODE SIX.
JL: Good Lord. The things they do to the poor unsuspecting public! I understand bits and pieces are filtering out, y’know. It’s really strange to have your professional life come out again for scrutiny on CD. It’s a strange feeling. It’s bad they happened this year though, isn’t it?, I mean, after twenty-five years!
AD: I don’t think it’s bad. I find the Artwoods re-issues intriguing.
JL: (Laughs). It’s very much of its time though isn’t it? I’m proud of it, proud of it. It was four or five young musicians searching for something a little bit different, and we had a lot of fun doing it. Great.
AD: An album review in ‘Record Collector’ magazine credits you with recording as part of the Liverpool group RIOT SQUAD too.
JL: No. I wasn’t. No – I knew the guys very well, but no, I wasn’t in that group. I think I might have done some studio work with them.
AD: But you DID tour with THE FLOWERPOT MEN, alongside Deep Purple’s first bass-player Nick Simper. (Concocted by prolific ‘Ivy League’ song-writing duo John Carter and Ken Lewis The Flowerpot Men scored a massive hit with the astutely generic ‘flower-power’ cash-in “Let’s Go To San Francisco” (Deram DM142) – no.4 in August 1967, and less so with its follow-up “A Walk In The Sky”. A touring version of the group was fronted by session-singer Tony Burrows).
JL: I toured with them. I was their Musical Director for about six months.
AD: But you didn’t record with them?
JL: No. I try to keep that out of my CV (Laughter). “Let’s Go To San Francisco” was never one of my favourite songs.
AD: Another aspect of your work has been your classical cross-over projects, beginning with Deep Purple’s ‘Concerto For Group And Orchestra’ (Harvest SHVL 767) which originally debuted with the Purps and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall in late 1969, and was actually the first Deep Purple album to chart (no.26 in January 1970). (More recently the press reported ‘It was hard-rock legend time on 24th September 2009 when 68-year-old keyboard-player Jon Lord performed ‘Concerto For Group And Orchestra’ with the RTE Concert Orchestra at the Irish National Concert Hall in Dublin.)
JL: Yes – those (laughs) flawed pieces. I had a great time. People were kind enough to indulge me. To give me an orchestra and the Albert Hall to play in, it gave me a glorious start. It’s the kind of thing that a true composer stuck in his garret somewhere would give his right arm for. But just because I was a Rock ‘n’ Roll musician, and Rock had an audience, I was indulged to the extent that I was allowed to play with orchestras. I learned an enormous amount and I made a couple of albums I’m really proud of. But I don’t count myself as a classical composer by any stretch of the imagination. I’d like to be. God knows, if I had the time I would do it. When I do have time I attempt to point myself more in that direction. But I had a wonderful time with those, a great time. And of course, it helped with what we did with Purple.
AD: You credit the work of Jazz musician Dave Brubeck as an influence on ‘Concerto For Group And Orchestra’.
JL: That’s right. That’s what gave me the first idea. It was actually an album called ‘Bernstein Plays Brubeck Plays Bernstein’ (1961). It was the New York Philharmonic with the Dave Brubeck Quartet playing a ‘Dialogue for Jazz Combo and Orchestra’ written by Dave Brubeck and conducted by Bernstein. At the time I thought ‘wouldn’t it be great to do that with a Rock Band?’ I never thought I’d be in a Rock Band that could handle it. But when I was in a Rock Band that could handle it, my manager said – at the time ‘I remember you saying something about that, do you still fancy doing it?’ And naturally I said ‘sure’. Next thing I knew he’d booked the Albert Hall and ordered the Royal Philharmonic. So I had to do it. He called my bluff. And… it was a mish-mash, but a lot of fun.
AD: I wondered if perhaps Frank Zappa’s forays into orchestration had played a part.
JL: I hadn’t heard anything he’d done before that – only the Mothers of Invention stuff. No, really I was doing it completely in the dark. I mean, I’d been trained as a musician, I’d done the theory of music and all that kind of stuff for years when I was at school. So I knew how to score – theoretically! But I’d never scored anything that had ever been played. So to be suddenly confronted with a 120-piece orchestra, and to have to score for it was approaching a nightmare. So I bought a couple of books, famous books on orchestration, and I taught myself, and by the grace of god – and the genius of (conductor) Malcolm Arnold who accepted it and got the orchestra into shape, it just about worked. And obviously… it did what it was supposed to do, which is basically to make people sit up and say ‘DEEP PURPLE? Who are they? what is all this about?’ And of course then, at that time, we were playing every Club, Ballroom, and Concert Hall in England. I can remember playing six or seven nights a week up and down the country in 1969/’70. So – you know, when the right album came out – which was ‘Deep Purple In Rock’, we had our audience just built in and waiting for it. So really Deep Purple made it through a combination of immense hard work – y’know, we’d play anywhere, that hard work, and being just in the right band at the right time. And that little bit of publicity that came from the ‘Concerto’ didn’t do it any harm.
AD: You later did the ‘Gemini Suite’ (1972) performed live in September 1970 at the Royal Festival Hall with The Light Music Society Orchestra, and recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra. And I enjoyed your album based on Bach pieces – ‘Sarabande’ (1976), recorded near at the Stadthalle Oer-Erkenschwick, near Düsseldorf with orchestra conducted by Eberhard Schoener.
JL: Thank you. That’s my favourite. That’s the one I’m most proud of. I’d like to do that with a little more… leisure.
AD: ‘Deep Purple In Rock’ is still considered the classic Purple album. Issued 3 June 1970, its iconic visual pun cover-art of the group-members immortalised in stone – ‘in rock’, referencing the Mount Rushmore American Presidents, was inescapable through the months of its chart-reign. It helped define a new, younger Heavy Rock audience, those who – in Bowie/Mott The Hoople’s words ‘never got off on the Beatles and the Stones’, but couldn’t relate to teen chart-gods T Rex or Slade either. Its issue also coincided with their first hit single – “Black Night” (issued in June, no.2, 17 October, beneath Freda Payne’s “Band Of Gold”), which saw them on ‘Top Of The Pops’ providing a strong visual identity. Although “Black Night” – its melody nicked from a Ricky Nelson bassline, was only included as a bonus extra on ‘25th Anniversary’ CD re-issue, its two ‘B’-sides “Speed King” and “Living Wreck” were on the original album, alongside ten-minute epic “Child Of Time”, “Bloodsucker”, “Flight Of The Rat”, “Into The Fire” and “Hard Lovin’ Man”.
JL: It’s one of those benchmark albums isn’t it, from that time. That – along with ‘Led Zeppelin II’, I suppose, and a couple of others. They sort of define the early Seventies, don’t they? I’m very proud of that album. I mean, it was white-hot that album. It was… no harsh problems at all, it fell out of the band. It came – like “Highway Star” was written in five minutes on a bus, in the back of a bus going down to Plymouth (a track that later appeared on Deep Purple’s ‘Machine Head’ album). It was really a wonderful, lyrical, marvellous time.
AD: Do you have a favourite Deep Purple album? Would it be ‘Deep Purple In Rock’?
JL: I think that would have to be it, yes. It’s a bit like the old ‘Desert Island Discs’ question – if I had to take just one, I think it would have to be that. Either that or maybe ‘Made In Japan’, because ‘Made In Japan’ was a band playing absolutely on the top of its form. I don’t think I’ve ever played as well as I did on those two or three nights in Japan. I listen back and I think ‘Christ, is that me?’ I didn’t know I was that good! Excuse me immodesty. So maybe that one. I don’t know, but it’s tough to choose ‘cos I love ‘em all. They’re all great. There’s bits on every single one of them that encapsulates a certain time of my life for me.
AD: Following the final split Ian Gillan charted with his own group GILLAN, Ritchie Blackmore scored with RAINBOW, while you and Ian Paice joined David Coverdale in WHITESNAKE. Do you have good memories of this period?
JL: Oh yes I do. Certainly of the first two or three years. I joined (Whitesnake) in the end of ’78 – and left in 1983. The last year wasn’t that happy. But certainly those first two or three years were marvellous for me. A great fun band. You know – we did some… in the middle of a time when everyone was out buying, you know – Punk was huge by then, and what were they called?, the New… Romantics or something? All those people. And all those kind of bands, early Midge Ure and all that kind of thing. And right in the grip of the teeth of that, we were the top-selling concert-ticket band in Europe. By 1982. And we were playing, like, sort of modern R&B. So I’m very proud of what we did. It’s a shame the way it fell apart.
AD: The whole new ethos of that time was very antagonistic towards the traditionally macho posturing of Heavy Metal. And Whitesnake received a lot of critical flack, particularly for the alleged sexism of the lyrical content reflected by Chris Achilleos’ sleeve-art for the ‘Love Hunter’ (October 1979) album, of a naked woman straddling a giant phallic snake!
JL: Of David’s lyrics? Yes – he liked to write that way, didn’t he? I must admit the rest of the band used to be a little worried about David’s lyrics (laughter). We felt like saying ‘hey, can’t you… you know?’ Occasionally he wrote some wonderful glorious poetry, which he got into some of his songs. Rock ‘n’ Roll poetry I’m talking about. I mean, like, the opening lines of “Here I Go Again” (no.9, 28 November 1987) are great – ‘I don’t know where I’m going, but I sure know where I’ve been’, that’s a classic opening line. So I had a lot of time for his ability as a writer, except when he used to get into that ‘Slide It In’ double-entendre sex bits. I must admit I found it a tad embarrassing.
AD: It could be argued that tongue-in-cheek sexual bragging is part of the R&B legacy, at least as far back as Muddy Waters.
JL: Oh absolutely. But David’s double-entendre’s were more like SINGLE entendre’s (laughter). They didn’t really cover up, whereas in some of the Muddy Waters things, like “Back Door Man”, it was a little bit more subtle. David tended towards the unsubtle. I don’t want to give you the impression that I don’t respect David. I’m very fond of him. We had a great time. But there’s a sour taste in my mouth about the way it all fell to pieces. I was leaving anyway before I got the ‘phone call from Ian Gillan in 1983 saying ‘do you fancy a re-union’. I was really on my way out then. Although this did trigger it.
AD: In a ‘Melody Maker’ Whitesnake interview (dated 5th May 1979) you said ‘this will be my last time in a band’.
JL: Did I say that?
AD: You did say that, yes.
JL: The awful thing about being in bands is that guys like you can throw back at me things that I said ten years ago. Or fourteen years ago in that case. I honestly felt that at the time. You know, I really did. I saw no reason to think any other way. And at the beginning of ’83 when I decided to leave Whitesnake there was no ulterior motive beyond the fact that I was displeased with the way that I’d been treated. About a couple of things. And it was only after that, after I’d given my decision, that Ian Gillan phoned me and said ‘how do you fancy…?’ And I still didn’t say… nobody said yes. We had a meeting here in the States. In a town called Greenwich. And we sat round a table, the five of us, and actually asked ourselves the question – ‘can we play together again?’ And thank god we said ‘yes’. If you’d have told me that in 1979, I’d have said ‘no way’ – which is why I made that statement then.
AD: Have you heard David Coverdale’s album with Jimmy Page – ‘Coverdale•Page’ (Geffen Records, March 1993)?
JL: Yes I have. I’ve always made it a practise to try not – in my professional life, to criticise too strongly other musicians, ‘cos I know – it’s not that easy a life! you know – OK. Once you get success it’s pretty easy, but it’s still – there’s a lot of hard work goes into what people do. They don’t – nobody TRIES to make a bad album, let me put it that way. But I must say that I was disappointed with the Coverdale-Page album. It’s not – I played it, and I’m going ‘COME ON, GRAB ME, GET ME’, y’know? And it never quite did. I mean, there’s some wonderful moments. Jimmy is a great guitarist. But I didn’t feel that it really caught fire. I don’t know about you, I never felt that it totally caught fire.
AD: It’s the kind of album that must have looked good on paper.
JL: Absolutely. When I first heard they were going to do it, my first thought was – WHAT? David and Jimmy? Because I know them both very well. Well – obviously I know David extremely well. But I’ve known Jimmy for years. I don’t know quite how long… (thinks)… I dunno. And then I thought about it, and like you say, on paper you think, yes, it looks pretty good. And the guy who was going to mix our album was doing the engineering and producing for them (Mike Fraser). So little bits and pieces filtered back to me. That it was taking longer than expected and so on and so on. And – as I say, the end result was, I’m a little disappointed. But – there are a couple of moments when my hair stood on end, and goose-bumps, you know? David sounds like his voice needs a rest on some of the tracks. He sounds very very hoarse. Maybe he should take some of the money he earned on that huge ‘Whitesnake’ (Geffin Records, April 1987) album, and just lay back for a while.
AD: Do you accept the role of one of the alleged inventors of Heavy Metal, is it a term that you’re happy with?
JL: Somebody once said to me ‘your band are the fathers of Heavy Metal’, and I said ‘THE CHILD IS NOT MINE!’ (he laughs easily).
AD: So how do you regard the contemporary bands who have presumably grown out of your pioneering work with Deep Purple?
JL: (A long pause) I hear some good things. I hear some things that make me cringe. But that’s the same in any music isn’t it? I can’t possibly make a sweeping statement and say ‘I like THAT kind of music without ANY reservations’. In the same way that very few people like a whole album, there’s tracks you like and tracks you don’t. But some of the bands that have resulted are superb at what they do. I went to see Metallica last year. I think they’re supposed to be one of the credible bands. I met the guys and they were very pleasant, and they played a superb show. They played a couple of Deep Purple numbers as a tribute to us which was very nice. Superb stuff. But it’s not… it’s not… all of it is not what I would choose to go and listen to. But they’re brilliant at what they do. If you want high power stadium Heavy Metal they’re very exciting. But at the same time, I’m not a dyed-in-the-wool fan.
AD: What about Def Leppard?
JL: I like them. They’re good lads. Yes – I’ve known them a long time. Yes, I think I probably prefer Def Leppard if I had to choose between the two.
AD: You prefer them because theirs is the more melodic side of rock?
JL: Slightly more, yeah – but that’s not their fault (laughs), it’s mine!
AD: Are the relationships within Deep Purple good now, after all the break-ups, recriminations and reformations you’ve been through?
JL: Yes, but when we get together there’s no problems. That’s not the problem. The problem is when we’re apart. Once we’re together and working it’s pretty good. There’s too many good times stored up between the five of us to let it just drift apart in acrimony. That would be wrong. I’m really glad to see it back together again.
AD: Yes, good luck with the tour and album.
JL: So – you got anything else Andy? Nice to talk with you. Thank you for a good interview, I enjoyed it…