‘Smoke On The Water’ was not even a main track on the album, it was just an extra track because we were short of time.”
Ian Gillan: Hello?
Wikimetal (Nando Machado): Hello, Mr. Gillan?
IG: Hey, it’s me, hello!
W (NM): Hello, Mr. Gillan. It’s such an honor to be speaking with you, thank you so much for your time.
IG: Thank you, good morning.
W (NM): Talking about the beginning of your career, is it fair to say that it was your grandfather was the first one to inspire you to become a singer, and who were your favorite singers back then?
IG: No, not really. I mean, he inspired me with music, of course, but not to become a singer. I was far too young to think about a career. My grandfather, my uncle was a jazz pianist and there was lots of music in the house. I think it gave me the background, but it didn’t inspire me to work as a musician in those days. That didn’t happen until I heard the young Elvis, Little Richard, Buddy Holly, back when I was a teenager. The world was changing. It was a combination. My grandfather and my uncle gave me the background, and Elvis, Little Richard and Buddy Holly gave me the inspiration.
W (NM): When you were recording “Machine Head”, did you ever imagine that after so many adversities that you had recording that album, it would change rock music forever?
IG: Oh, I don’t know. You never think about those things at the time, you just get on with your lives. It’s pretty amazing. You see, a lot of things happening that were quite incredible, the burning down of the casino… No, we had no idea what was going on. In fact, “Smoke on the Water” was not even a main track on the album, it was just an extra track because we were short of time. So on the last day we wrote this song and it stuck on, and it wasn’t until sometime people picked it up and it got played on the radio.
W (NM): You did so many incredible things in your career besides singing rock music, ranging from Jesus Christ Superstar to the narration of Chopin’s life for TV in Poland. What side projects would be remembered forever?
IG: Oh… I don’t know. You know, some of these things are commercially successful and some of them are not commercially successful. But I’ve enjoyed them very much. There are so many things. I did a song called “Get Away” with a Greek singer called Michalis Rakintzis and I loved it very much, it was a good project. I also played Charles Darwin in a production for Bolland and Bolland in Holland, “The Evolution” and that was a really beautiful production. I suppose, outside of Purple, I’ve enjoyed all my solo bands, and I think probably “Jesus Christ Superstar” was probably… And that only lasted for three hours! But it was good fun.
W (NM): So you did all that in only three hours? Any other memories of that project? We think it’s really fantastic.
IG: No, it was strange, because I was working that night with Purple and they said “come into the studio”. And I had a three hour section, I did it all in three hours. Except from the saying on the cross, which I couldn’t quite understand that. So I had to go back another day and get that. But all the singing we did in one day, yeah. And I didn’t meet anyone because all the recording was already done. I just listened to the backing tracks by the band and I was there with Tim Rice who helped me through and encouraged me. The melodies were so good it was easy to enjoy and just improvise. I thought it was a fantastic project.
W (NM): Yeah, indeed. We have a classic question on our show, one that we ask everybody we interview: If you could chose one song that makes you lose your mind, wherever you might be, which song would it be, so we can play it on our show right now?
IG: Makes me lose my mind, what do you mean? A Purple song or someone else’s song?
W (NM): Someone else’s song.
IG: Oh… Boy. “Good Gooly Miss Molly” by Little Richard.
Touring with Black Sabbath was the longest party I’ve ever been to. It was crazy. Madness.”
W (NM): OK, we’ll be listening to that in our show, thank you. What do you remember of Deep Purple’s reunion in 1984? How did it happen?
W (NM): It was very strange, you know. It was getting together, like a school reunion. Everyone was very polite, and “what have you been doing?”, nice conversations. We didn’t know if it was going to work because, of course, we all had changed and had other experiences. It was generally very nice, everyone was very polite, we were locked away in a big house in Vermont, in North America. In the winter time we lit the fire, came down to the basement and started jamming. And you could see in couple of minutes everyone smiling and thinking “yeah, yeah, it’s gonna be OK”. That’s what I remember.
W (NM): Tell us a little bit about your experience with Black Sabbath and your relationship with Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler.
IG: I’m closer to Tony, I know Tony very well, we’re still very good friends. And I love the guys, Geezer, and I remember Bill Ward, who was the drummer on the record, he was not on the tour. It was the longest party I’ve ever been to. It was crazy. Madness.
W (NM): Once again, can you chose one song from you career that you feel really proud of having written so we can listen to that one?
IG: You know, strangely enough I was just thinking about this in breakfast just now, and I was singing the words of this very song, I’m glad you asked that question. If you ask me tomorrow it will be a different song, but today it’s “Razzle Dazzle”, from “Bananas”. It’s one of my favorite Deep Purple songs.
W (NM): You’ve been doing some amazing projects in order to raise funds and awareness to great causes such as the partnership with Tony Iommi for the music school in Armenia. Tell our listeners a little bit about those efforts.
IG: You know, today, when we have modern communications, we hear all about the problems with Katrina in New Orleans, we hear about tidal waves, tsunamis, the big disasters and earthquakes around the world. In 89, this huge earthquake happened in Armenia and 25 thousand people were killed, a quarter of a million were made homeless. And not many people heard about it because it was still part of the Soviet Union at the time. I was performing there as a solo artist and I saw the devastation and spoke to the mayor of the town, and he said there’s no music in the town. This is one year after the event and there’s no music in the church, no music on the radio, in the schools. Not even the birds seemed to be singing. So I said “Oh well, maybe when you’re ready for some music, maybe we can do something”. One generation later I was called to Armenia to meet the president, and he said “I remember this quotation, “when you’re ready for some music, we can do something”. So will you do something?”. And it was perfect, they had this school that they didn’t have funds for, and I think that music is a great symbol. It’s very symbolic of people’s culture. It’s not just contemporary music, but traditional music too. I think it’s very important for the children to be able to express themselves, and music is one form of expression like all forms of culture, like sports or that sort of thing. But it was a good opportunity to get involved and maybe bring music back into their lives. So Tony and I decided to form this ad-hoc band called Who Cares and tried to raise some money towards the funding. And it’s all going very well, I think they start building in a month of two. It’s a fantastic story. We’ve got people in Canada sending musical instruments, we got a guy in England sending musical instruments. He shaved all his hair off and made 50 pounds to send to the fund. It’s really fantastic.
W (NM): So in the Who Cares project did you record just an album or can the fans expect new albums and tours?
IG: Well it’s just two songs at the moment. Tony is very busy with a secret project and I’m busy with Purple. But the last time we met we said we must do more, maybe next year or something, we’ll do some more. But we have no plans, we just got together to do this one project in Armenia. But, as always, when I’m with Tony we have a great time. So it’s possible, we might do some more.
My grandfather and my uncle gave me the background, and Elvis, Little Richard and Buddy Holly gave me the inspiration.”
W (NM): When can the fans expect a new Deep Purple album? We heard that you might be thinking, considering, recording a new album, is it true?
IG: Oh! I don’t know. We went to Spain in March and we had a really good time, but we didn’t really come up with anything. I think we weren’t really focused and really we’d been touring so much, we just went down there and we drank some wine and slept most of the time, I think. I think it will happen when it happens, naturally. Probably next year, I should think so. But no plans.
W (NM): You released a very nice statement regarding the passing of the heavy metal singer, Ronnie James Dio. Any memories you’d like to share with our listeners, from Dio?
IG: Oh… Ronnie was a dear friend and we were very close personally. We had wonderful times at his house. I did an album called “Gillan’s Inn”, 5 or 6 years ago and Ronnie and a lot of my friends were performing in it. We were looking back the other day and thinking what a shame for all of the people that passed away now. Lots of personal memories. Ronnie had a great sense of humor, you know. He was a very funny guy. We were going through Munich airport and I had to buy some handkerchiefs, socks, t-shirts, something like that, quickly, because I had lost my luggage. So I’m in this little store and I’m looking at the socks, they’re selling packs of socks and I was thinking “I should by two pairs of socks” or whatever. And Ronnie said to me “socks, drugs and rock’N roll” .
W (NM): That was a great one, man.
IG: Yeah, he was a funny guy.
W (NM): Thank you for sharing that one.
IG: My pleasure.
W (NM): You were one of the most influential singers of all time. What would be your advice to kids that were just starting a singing career?
IG: Well… I think that’s a good question, it depends on what you want. If you want to be successful commercially really quickly, you go with whatever is trendy, whatever is fashionable and get on board really quickly. The problem with that is that as soon as that fashion is passed, you’ve adopted that style for the sake of fashion, by definition you are out of fashion and it’s all over. But if you really want to be a singer, than there are two important things: find your natural range. Don’t try and sing in somebody else’s voice. But at the same time copy your heroes, enjoy it when you’re young and let all the influences come through, all of them. Not just one style. Enjoy singing all day, sing in the shower, and sing all time. After a few years of doing this with semi-pro bands and semi-pro performances or whatever, sooner or later you’re going to be a singer and find your own voice, that’s the important thing. To have real identity so that your personality comes through in your voice so when people hear they’ll go “ah, I know who that is”. Whereas if you copy and develop a style, the same as everybody else, for the sake of fashion, you will sound like everybody else and you won’t develop an identity. So I think it’s important, when you’re young, to copy Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Little Richard. I copied Ray Charles and Fats Domino and Cliff Bennet, Brooke Benton, Solomon Burke, all that sort of thing. I did all those songs and learned all about the music, how to interact with the musicians, to enjoy the melody and to learn about timing and phrasing. All those important things, but also to find my own range and to know in which key you’ll be singing in because certain things change and you should always be comfortable with your own voice. Sorry, that’s a long definition, but it’s a good question.
W (NM): We are running out of time here, can you leave us a last message to all your Brazilian fans?
IG: Thank you so much. We are having the most wonderful time, it’s always great to come back here. There’s always excitement in the air, I can feel it. The energy is incredible. We just get so excited for the concerts. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.
W (NM): So Mr. Gillan, I would really, really like to thank you, I’m really emotional here because I’ve been a fan for the past 30 years and I think you’re one of the greatest legends, you are one of my rock and roll heroes. Thank you for everything you’ve done. I’m almost crying here, I’m really sorry about that.
IG: Oh, that’s very nice, thank you so much. Nice talking to you.
W (NM): I’ve been to every single concert Deep Purple played in Brazil and I’ll be there in São Paulo on Monday night. It will be a real honor.
IG: OK, come and say hello.
W (NM): Thank you so much Mr. Gillan, I appreciate it. It was really nice talking to you.
IG: And you too. Cheers, mate.
W (NM): Cheers.