By Jeb Wright
Deep Purple has released two new live albums… and why not? After all, this band is not only one of the most beloved bands on planet Earth, they are one of the best live concerts in the world! As great as DP has been with some of their studio releases, they are at their best when captured totally in their element… which is in front of an enthusiastic crowd!
earMusic had the band record a pair of live albums while on tour supporting their latest album Now What?! It was a great time to catch them live, as this album is the closest thing to classic Deep Purple that the band has released in twenty years. Yep, they damn near got it perfect this time! And what they did nail needed to be heard ‘live’. “Hell to Pay” and “Vincent Price” are on both albums, and these songs show a band whose members may be close to ‘crossing the summit of that hill’, but rest assured… they can still rock!
Deep Purple took to the stage in front of two very different audiences on these albums, and the difference was so apparent that it was decided to release the two performances at the same time.
One concert, recorded in Germany at the Wacken Open Air Festival, was in front of a heavy metal audience numbering in the six figures. While Deep Purple may have helped invent classic Heavy Metal, they are a long way from what Metal means today. They may have felt like they had something to prove, and they proved it… and that is contemporary Deep Purple can handle themselves quite nicely, no matter where they are playing!
The other live album was recorded in Japan at the famous venue, the Budokan. The band was on fire on this night! They had played to the polite Japanese folk many times over the past decades, so this was probably ‘a piece of cake’. This disc, if I had to choose, is the more polished gem of the releases, though both are worth the price of admission… and trust me, the CD/DVD is much cheaper than the price of a ticket!
Roger Glover took some time to discuss both audiences in detail. We also talked a bit about how the band has moved forward by NOT replacing Ritchie Blackmore and Jon Lord! Because we are talking about live albums, we couldn’t help but discuss that classic one they made a few years back, Made in Japan, and compare it to these newer live releases.
Roger is, as is the entire ensemble of Deep Purple, a class act, and a true lover of pure rock and roll.
Jeb: We are talking about Deep Purple ‘live’ albums, and I just saw you perform live a couple of nights ago. It was a great show…
Roger: I think we had a good gig that night.
Jeb: You always have a good night, Roger. It looked like you guys were enjoying yourselves, and there were lots of smiles all around.
Roger: Believe it or not, we do enjoy ourselves when we play live. Everyone has off-days, but the minute you step on a stage the adrenaline takes over and you have an audience that wants to hear you play and it is a real thrill.
Jeb: Deep Purple has been known to release a live album now and then. What makes these two recorded performances special enough to release to consumers?
Roger: When you do a prestigious gig, there is always someone interested in preserving it. Wacken is one of the biggest festivals in Europe… and Budokan, which is a phenomenal place… I think the original intention was not to pair the albums together. Ear Music said, “They are two very different audiences yet it’s the same band.” It became a neat idea to do that, which highlights the differences we see from the stage.
We see different audiences every night, but these two are extremes.
Jeb: Let’s start with Wacken. It seems like that would be an amazing gig.
Roger: It is amazing. It blew me away, as I had never seen anything quite like that. It started in a field with two disgruntled heavy metal fans who wanted to see their favorite heavy metal bands but couldn’t. The first time they staged it all those years ago, I think 800 people showed up. It just grew. The next year a few thousand turned up. They grew with it.
They are fans that became businessmen. They learned about the music business and now they’ve got their own record company, their own staging, and their own catering. They’ve developed an amazing industry around it.
When we went there, the first sight of it is just stunning. It is very well organized, which is amazing. With that many people you could see how it could be crazy and dangerous. It is just a breeze. They really look after you in the backstage area and the security is really good, it is not heavy handed at all. The food, to the stage, to everything else is just fantastic.
Jeb: It’s presented by the fans for the fans.
Roger: I always go to pains to thank our fans for actually getting up off the sofa and getting away from their computers to actually make the journey and come out and do what they have to do to get there. They buy tickets and they come see us.
The essence of music is the live experience. For that number of people, hundreds of thousands at Wacken, to do that is amazing. They are partly there for a social occasion, but the music plays the biggest part in it, or they wouldn’t come. It’s a great experience to see that number of people digging music… especially these days.
Jeb: In the liner notes that you wrote, you talk about the sea of leather and tattoos in the audience.
Roger: That seems to be a sort of uniform at Wacken.
Jeb: We have to take a second and talk about the classic “Smoke of the Water” on this album. Uli Jon Roth guests with you on this song.
Roger: We’ve crossed paths with Uli quite a few times. Don Airey and Steve Morse have played with him before. He’s an old friend and a great guy. I love him. He is a lovely character and a great guitarist. That was an off the cuff thing. He just happened to come and say hello. “Hey do you want to get up with us?” He said, “Okay.”
Jeb: The set list for Wacken is a bit different. Wacken is more of a greatest hits, as not as many new ones were played. Budokan has more new tunes.
Roger: “Highway Star” had been a staple opener for many, many years. Did I say years? I meant decades. We’ve not been playing it lately as we’ve been opening with “Après Vous” from the new album Now What?!. We felt with Wacken we really needed to play “Highway Star” because it is an anthem of hard rock.
The set list changes a bit. It takes time to change. I think we’ve learned the lesson that you can’t change things that quickly. Everything is so gradual. We add or take away a song from time to time.
The set list these days remains pretty static, to the annoyance of a lot of fans who want to hear more obscure tracks.
We learned a lesson a while back. We played with a band that played only their hits. They played hit after hit after hit after hit. We were playing more obscure songs to please ourselves and those fans who liked that sort of thing. We didn’t die a slow death, but we didn’t go down as well as this other band.
This festival was a big deal. People want to hear the hits. Like it or not, the last couple of decades we have not had an album that has had a massive hit on it. We’ve made some great music, but it’s been a while since we have had any kind of hit. I don’t think hits even exist anymore!
Jeb: At the same time you are showing you are still a vital band. “Hell to Pay” and “Vincent Price” are in the set list on both of these and those songs fucking rock.
Roger: We are actually thinking of doing what we used to do on this next European tour and that is introducing a new unrecorded song. “Highway Star” started out like that. “Speed King” was like that. “Child in Time” we did before we recorded it. People download and bootleg stuff now and YouTube things now so we’ve kind of veered away from that. What the hell? Times change and we are looking to go back to that, I think… for one song anyway.
Jeb: Let’s talk about the Budokan. It is such a famous place. Tell me what playing that venue is like.
Roger: It seems to be a characteristic of Japanese gigs that when you get to the place you’re going to play you’re not aware of an audience. They are very sedate and very quiet. It feels like you’re going into an empty building. They are very quiet and they are sitting there patiently waiting, which is the exact opposite of Wacken. It is not really until you get out there that you realize there is an audience there. Don’t get me wrong, they show their appreciation, but it is much more polite.
I watched some of the footage from the Budokan show and something I never see is the audience coming in before the show starts. That was really neat. That is an education in itself. It is much different than the other one. They are dressed very casually and you don’t see a plethora of black leather.
Jeb: Music is the universal language. Deep Purple plays around the entire globe on a regular basis. You should have a sense that Deep Purple music transcends the boundaries and the language. Does that amaze you?
Roger: It does. I am very happy to have music in my life. To me, it is the rarest of art forms. The minute you hear it, then it is gone. It is invisible. You can’t smell it, touch it, taste it, you can’t open a book and read it and you can’t see it in a gallery. It is here and gone in an instant.
People ask me what it is like when I am onstage. When I am onstage I am more alive than ever. You count time in micro seconds. Your brain in on high speed because you have to react to what other people are playing and you have to listen to what you are playing. If they play something different you have to support them and there are times you do something and they have to support you. You feel so alive on stage and to me I feel blessed and very thankful to that. It is a universal language. It moves people and it has emotion.
Jeb: After all these years you could do a show -a good show- on autopilot, and no one would know any worse. You don’t ever do that, and I think that speaks volumes.
Roger: Years and years ago I went to see a friend of mine perform. His support act was The Searches, who were a Liverpool band. The Beatles came from there. The Searches had tons of hits and they were a great band. This was years after their heyday. I was really kind of disappointed. They went on and it was like very mechanical. It was like they didn’t respect their own music or the audience anymore. They plodded through it and they picked up their money and that was that. I can’t imagine doing that. It is one of those things. It is a privilege to be on that stage and because of that you do your best at all times. That is how this entire band believes.
Jeb: I love watching you and Ian Paice on stage. You never looked at each other, but you were in the pocket.
Roger: I could talk loads about Ian. When I first joined the band, after a couple of sessions Paicey came over to me and said, “By the way, I lead. I don’t follow.” I said, “Okay… got it.” It is true. We do kind of feed off each other.
There are parts of the show where we just have some fun, especially when we do “Hush.” Don and Steve do a part in “Hush” where they are trading solos and Paicey and I are basically just keeping time while they are having their fun. It is more than keeping time, actually. He will suddenly throw in a strange rhythm for just a couple of beats and I know what he’s getting at and all of a sudden I am with him. We have a bit of fun with that and we have a little smile with each other.
From him hitting the bass drum while I hit my bass guitar at the same time brings a great kind of energy. When I was 15 I saw a band do that and I knew I wanted to do that. Every night on stage I still get that feeling.
Jeb: There are only two guys who could replace Ritchie Blackmore and Jon Lord and they are named Don Airey and Steve Morse. I mean that.
Roger: The secret to that is that you don’t replace people. They are indivuals. When I first met Steve he said, “What do you want from me?” I said, “Actually, I want you to be one hundred percent yourself. You can’t be in a band and be productive if you’re trying to be someone else.” He said, “So I can play anything I want?” I said, “Yeah, if we don’t like it then we will tell you.”
You have the freedom to do that if you’re being yourself. If we had replaced someone as iconic as Ritchie with a look-alike, sound-alike player then it is sort of false and you’re not really moving forward anymore and you’re sort of entrenching yourself in the past. Change is necessary, but people don’t want change and they don’t like change. Some fans say they preferred it when Ritchie was in the band and that’s fine. That is an opinion and there is nothing wrong with that. We can’t do that. You can’t be who you were. You can say that of anyone, not just a band. No matter what, you can never be what you were. What you can do is to be the best of what you are now.
Jeb: Steve and Don are damn fine guys. Don even got us beers the other night.
Roger: He doesn’t even do that for me! They are nice guys. We all get along pretty good. Of course we have our disagreements and our arguments but they are never personal. They are always productive in the end. We are a pretty friendly band.
Jeb: Since we are talking live albums I have to bring up Made in Japan. The fact is you were there for all three of these live albums. How is making a live album different now?
Roger: Boy oh boy… gosh. Made in Japan… we actually didn’t want to make that album. At that time live albums were considered a rather cheap alternative if you had nothing better to offer. They were a budget thing. We only did that because the Japanese record company agreed to our terms, which were that it would only come out in Japan and it would only come out if we liked it and we had the right to mix it.
They agreed to all of that. We never thought it would come out anywhere else. I remember that Paicey and I were rather interested in the mixing aspect. We went into the studio and we were blown away by what we heard as it was so much better than we thought it would be. There are a few from that era… it was the beginnings of Purple. By Made in Japan we had honed our craft pretty well, but it was still pretty unpredictable.
These days are different. We are all aware of being recorded in minute detail and 3D and high definition and all of that. There is not a lot of difference in the attitude of the playing. You don’t play any different because it is being recorded. Don told me he didn’t even know it was being recorded [laughter].
Jeb: What are the future plans of Deep Purple?
Roger: We are working on the next album. Now What?! was such a good experience for us. It was a real shot in the arm. I think we are going to start recording soon. We’ve had a couple of writing sessions. We will record next year and there will be another album.
The point of playing live and touring… that is how Deep Purple started. The band was not really a studio band, we were a live album. Live was the main thrust of our existence, and it still is. Nothing has changed there as we exist live.
Jeb: You are the guy who is at the mixing board and you totally care about this music. It is obvious. I am going to give you a chance to brag. When you’re mixing this stuff, do you ever think, “Damn it, we’re still pretty fricking good.”
Roger: [laughter] I can be pretty critical, too. I think you have to be, really. The only thing that comes to mind when you asked that question is about Made in Japan. I heard a fan talk about a live album that was recorded but never released in Stockholm in 1970. He said that Made in Japan was one of his favorite albums, but he preferred Stockholm. Ear Music just released that as well.
I listened to it and it blew me away all over again. I am constantly surprised by things that you hear that you have not heard for a long time. In 1970 Gillan and I had only been in the band for a matter of months yet the performance onstage, especially from Paicey, Ritchie and Jon was monumental. I got quite emotional just listening to it. It is amazing stuff. I still feel that kind of thrill when I hear stuff that we’ve recorded. I actually play Now What?! for fun and I don’t normally do that.
Jeb: Is it the same experience with these two new live albums?
Roger: I think of the two shows I prefer the Budokan. I think Wacken -maybe because it was such a different audience for us- I think there was a degree of trying to impress when we didn’t need to. When you’re trying to do something you don’t succeed as much as when you’re just having fun.
Jeb: Last one: Did you know Phil Collen of Def Leppard is in the crowd show on the back of the album cover for Made in Japan? He told me he was on that cover one time in an interview I did with him.
Roger: The picture is from The Rainbow which was called The Astoria in Finsbury Park back then. I don’t know why they did that. It is interesting that he is on it. He was a fan. Without the fans we would be nothing.
I always have that feeling when people come out to see a show that just makes it great. These new albums are a neat idea as they are bookends because they seem to be two extremes. It is an interesting juxtaposition between the polite Japanese crowd and the heavy metal crowd of Wacken.
The views of the comments below are not necessarily those of Classic Rock Revisited