Deep Purple's Roger Glover
Is it possible for a band that has been around for more than 50 years to put out what is potentially their best album at this stage of their career? It is if you're talking about Deep Purple. The legendary band recently released Whoosh, the 21st studio album of their career, and not content to merely put out another great record, they turned all the burners on the stove to high. Songs like "Throw My Bones" and "Drop The Weapon" are up there with the best of anything they've written in the past. Great lyrics and obviously, splendid musicianship is what these guys are all about and Whoosh is that and more. I spoke to bassist Roger Glover to find out how it all came together.
antiMusic: Congratulations on the new record. I really LIKE the last two. This one, I LOVE from beginning to end --- every single track. It's just amazing so congratulations.
Roger: Well, thank you very much. We never plan albums. Albums just appear from jamming and we have no idea what they're going to sound like. We don't have a plan or anything like that. We're as surprised as anyone else when the album is finished. "So! That's it!" (laughs)
antiMusic: All five members of Deep Purple are well known for their abilities, not just hired sidemen but active and knowledgeable song architects. Bob Ezrin is known as a tinkerer --- someone who really takes songs apart with a fine tooth comb. How does everybody manage to put aside their feelings when he makes a judgment on a song... particularly yourself who has such a pedigree of your own with producing?
Roger: That's a multi-layered question really. Bob Ezrin brings an objective viewpoint. When you're in the band and you're producing the band, you can't have that. So it makes it very difficult. So I'm very happy to have an outside producer. And the key, of course, is do you trust him?
Because not everyone agrees. We have five creative people in the band. There's bound to be disagreements and he is the one who irons it all out and quickly saves us time. We don't argue about whether it's going to be a B flat or an F. He's musically knowledgeable so we trust him. That makes us relax.
And what's a producer's job? Well, we both agree on that. A producer's job is to create an atmosphere in which people can perform and express themselves freely. And that's what he does.
antiMusic: I didn't get to speak with you the last few albums so can you refresh our memories, how did you first get connected with him?
Roger: He came to see us. I forget how the connection was made. I suspect it was our agent. But he lives in Toronto and eight or nine years ago we were playing Toronto and he came to see the show. We didn't see him that night but we had a meeting with him the next day. He said some lovely things and some pretty encouraging things and he wanted to produce us. So we thought, "Great!" What a moment that was. We didn't know it at the time, of course, but it was the start of a great relationship.
And that first album we did with him was the first one in eight years. I think we were just ready. And he encouraged us to be ourselves and not worry so much about trying to do something but just doing things. Just being natural about it. Because there's always a feeling that if you have a band name, people are going to listen to it so you'd better make it good. That's a kind of pressure. Well, then people are going to listen to it so just do what you want to do and do the best you can.
And I think that's the key really. Because how can you plan a hit? You can't. They just happen from various circumstances. The audience make hits. We just make music. So there's a divide there. "Smoke on the Water" was never even intended to be on the record. We didn't think it was that good. So are we any judge of what is going to be a hit or not. I don't think so. (laughs)
antiMusic: "Throw My Bones" is as strong as "Perfect Strangers" or anything from the '70s. I can't help but smile when I hear this one. It's got such a great riff. Tell us about the origins of this one. What's the meaning behind the title? Is that a common expression I'm not familiar with?
Roger: I don't think it's a common expression, no. The song was actually supposed to be on Infinite. We'd worked it for Infinite and it started out as a really long jam --- about a half an hour. We were just fooling around with it, just finding out which chords worked. And we worked it up to a point that we actually recorded a version of it. But we didn't like it and it didn't sit really well. And so it was left off the album. But by that time, the record company had heard a few rough mixes including that one and they were disappointed that it didn't make it onto Infinite. So they asked us, "Can you look at that one again because we think it's great." So we did. But now it's completely different than what it was. It was a long, slow jam but we had to make it into a song and not just a meandering piece of music.
And the key to it really is the keyboards, that string part. I remember being in a bar with Don about a year or so after Infinite came out. We were on the road somewhere after a gig and he started humming something. And I thought it was a famous piece of classical music because I thought I recognized it. I said, "That's great. Who wrote that?" "I did", he said. And then it came back to me. It was from that jam. (laughs) So to me, that was the thing that really made it work. Ian Gillan wrote those words. I think "throw the bones"...although I don't like to analyze songs too much because I like ones with various meanings, but I heard him say that throwing my bones is like the original form of throwing dice. Now I didn't know that until a couple of days ago.
antiMusic: "Drop The Weapon" is top notch. There is so much energy in this track. That one sounds like something that came together in a hurry after you guys got warmed up in the studio.
Roger: Well, that actually started as a riff that Steve started playing. And it's a notoriously difficult bass part so I struggled with that one. I first thought, "I don't think this one has much of a future." However, I could not have imagined that it actually would turn out to be the track that turned out. It's typical. When you're five in a studio or a writing session, where it goes is a bit of a mystery because everyone puts in ideas here and there and it changes things. Suddenly it takes on a whole new form that you didn't expect.
And that happened when Gillan started singing, "Drop The Weapon." We were all like, "Well, that works great." So again, that was down to him. We write songs together. We always write the music first and the vocals come after and it's been that way since 1969. And Ian and I do the words, sometimes together, sometimes alone. On this album, he did a lot of it himself.
antiMusic: You said that when writing, it's the five of you in the studio. What role does Ian play then while the music is being created if his major contributions, obviously aside from vocals, are the lyrics?
Roger: Well, he's there through all of the jamming stuff and while we're practicing riffs and chords and trying to do things, he's busy writing in his book. He writes a lot of stuff. Most of it doesn't fit but he just keeps writing stuff. He's got reams and reams of notes about various lines or titles or meanings of things. I do the same thing. I write little snippets of lyrics here and there and every now and then you just dip into it and pick a line or two out, if it works.
antiMusic: One of my favorite tracks on the record is "Nothing at All". The opening flourish by Steve and Don almost make it sound like something by YES. How did this one develop?
Roger: Steve started playing that chord sequence that first day in the writing session. We had worked on it for an hour or two. That night, I remember thinking why is that chord sequence stuck in my head? It's not a riff as such. It's just a very simple chord structure. And yet I love the feel of it. I love playing bass on it because it's a pumping kind of bass. We didn't know what would become of that.
Ian Gillan came up with that idea....quite a deep thought, actually and at first I wasn't too sure about it. I didn't even like the title. Nothing at all. That sounds really negative. But he really believed in it and that's fine. He's the singer. He's got to sing it. And I think the message really, in the song, is maybe sort of an over-arching feeling of time.
People keep telling us that we've been together 50 years. Well, we're not counting but...you know. 50 years is nothing. In cosmic terms, it's a blink of an eye. So I think that he was just trying to point out that time is just all relative. Our lives are over so quickly. Our careers. Everything is over so quickly. Whereas the planet is still going to be here when we're long gone.
So Mother Nature is "the old lady smiles" (in the song). Because Mother Nature will take care of things. People talk about saving the planet but the planet doesn't need saving, We need saving. So that's kind of an ambiguous way of saying something like that. It's very difficult to put into words. The meaning is so profound. But to put it into such a light-hearted manner is slightly ironic and I really like it.
antiMusic: "Step by Step" is a really great, interesting song. A real mysterious vibe on this one. What's the story behind it?
Roger: Well, Don started that. He was playing a sequence on the organ and we all just joined in and said, "That's a pretty complicated sequence. What chord is that?" And so we learned it and worked out kind of a rough arrangement for it. Then Bob heard it. Bob comes in after the second writing session and listens to everything we've done and them pulls it apart or criticizes it or whatever.
And on that one, he made notes. I remember reading the notes and it said, "Not sure about this one. Maybe we should forget it." But he didn't know what it was going to turn into. Well neither did we but we weren't ready to forget it so we said, "No, we're not discarding that one." And it's become one of my favorites too because it's such a weird....typical Steve and Don working in their chords. I'm just a simple bass player but they're doing the hard work.
antiMusic: "The Long Way Around" sounds like a stallion has just busted the fence and is on the run. You and Paicey are on fire. What can you tell us about this one?
Roger: Yeah. I can't even remember how that one started, really. I know Ian Gillan has talked for years about how when Keith Richards has an obstacle, instead of going around it, he goes through it. So it's become a funny little aphorism of his over the years so where he got the words for that one I don't know. You'd have to ask him that. But that galloping rhythm is certainly fun to play.
antiMusic: The absolutely awesome "No Need to Shout" sort of reminds me of a slightly slower "Speed King". And it seems like this would be a no-brainer opener when you get back to start playing shows again.
Roger: Maybe. Maybe. That came about suddenly. We were in the first writing session in Germany where we were before moving over to Nashville. We had a tea break at one point and when we starting back, Don just hit this big chord and immediately I felt the urge to start playing something. And I played the first thing that came into my head and it was that riff.
antiMusic: I was just going to say that the riff sounds like it was generated by you cuz it seems to be quite close to your bass solo.
Roger: Yeah, we'll maybe that's why. And Ian and I did those lyrics together. It was kind of a hard-driving track so it needed a hard-driving theme to it. A bit of anger at politicians. Not all politicians. Just the bad ones.
antiMusic: "Remission Possible" sounds like it came directly out of one of those jams you mentioned. Tell us why you decided to run with the song the way that it is and not flesh it out.
Roger: Yeah it was from a jam thing. Don started playing that and we all joined in. It was a fun thing to do. Bob Ezrin had this idea of putting three songs together to make a mini-suite, starting off with "The Power of the Moon", into "Remission Possible" and then into "Man Alive". And there's a meaning there, if anyone wants to find it. I haven't found it yet but there's something in there quite drastic about the extinction of mankind.
So "Remisson Possible" is the craziness that mankind is just going into. And then comes "Man Alive" which is a possible end to us. I mean, we write from life. Not just what we think but what we read. What we hear. What we listen to. Stories from people. But all the lyrics are based in some kind of truth.
antiMusic: "Man Alive" is just amazing. I love the slow build and the effects on the vocals that just give it an almost extraterrestrial vibe. It's majestic, with an almost cinematic feel in places and doesn't follow a straight musical narrative all the way through. Tell us how this one came together.
Roger: Yeah. Well all the solo bits were done in one take in the studio. And that's what Bob encourages. Just let fly. Do what comes naturally. And Don and Steve started meandering around. It sounded haunting. That bit that Steve plays is very memorable but it's very simple. And that's a hard thing to get. Simple things that sound memorable. Good riffs are hard to find and some think they've all been done. (laughs) But they haven't.
I remember when I was a kid, about eight years old or whatever, seeing cinema posters and thinking, "What's going to happen when they run out of movie titles?" (laughs) There's always ways to do new things.
antiMusic: What was behind the decision to revisit "And the Address" which only Mr. Paice was part of originally?
Roger: We have this habit of doing a cover on every album. Well, the last three anyway. And I suppose while we didn't talk about it much, there was a feeling that this could be the last album. Corona virus has had an effect on that because of course we can't tour so we'll probably go and do another album in the meantime...next year or something. But Bob came up with the idea that the very first track on the very first Deep Purple album in '68 was "And the Address". So he said, "Why don't you cover that one on this album and since it's the last song, it's a nice kind of circle?"
We had fun doing it. The whole point of doing a cover is just to have a bit of fun. We're not that serious about it. And we don't want to reinvent songs that much. But we did that one pretty much exactly as the first version pf "And the Address".
antiMusic: When you and Ian joined Purple, your first recording was In Rock. The band was having a go at producing it themselves. First of all, how much experience had you before that with Episode 6 that you brought with you? Secondly, Martin Birch was one of the engineers that you used. What memories do you have about him?
Roger: When we first joined the band, we learned the band only had a few songs which was "And the Address", a version of "Help" and a couple of others, I can't remember now. But as we started rehearsing after that and started writing songs. They came very, very quickly. The first couple of rehearsals produced "Speed King", "Child in Time", "Into the Fire"....about half of In Rock was written in seconds. There was just a natural feeling between us all. I'd never done an album before but I had been in the studio doing singles with my previous band.
But we were recording for a couple of days and then gigging for a few days so we'd work in different studios because whatever was available was what we were looking for. And for the last two songs on the album, we used a studio in London called De Lane Lea, as it was then. Martin Birch was the staff engineer. It was at a time when the live shows were crazy and yet studios are not crazy. Studios are sterile places.
But somehow the live experience that we were going through came through and Martin just captured it very well. I remember when we were doing "Hard Lovin' Man", Jon was in the studio rocking his organ back and forth like he was on stage. It was just this very powerful thing so we decided right then and there that Martin Birch was going to be our regular engineer. We were producing ourselves. We didn't really want to but we knew what we wanted. We just needed someone to capture it. And he was the perfect guy. We had the same sense of humor and we just got on really well And he did great.
antiMusic: Considering you're such a prolific writer and also that Purple works out a lot of the songs through jamming, how do you get your musical ideas across during these sessions? Do you sometimes stop and grab a guitar and play an idea that comes to you or do you write everything from a bass line perspective?
Roger: No....I don't know how I write. Writing on bass is difficult, I write more on guitar or usually on keyboard. In a writing session, it's all bass guitar. But at home...I remember there's a song on Infinite called "Birds of Prey" and that came from a 15 second bit of bass-playing that I did at home. Every idea I get, I put it down on a little digital recorder.
We were in a writing session for that and were doing a really complicated song and during a break, Paicey came over to me and said, "Got any riffs?" I said, "Yeah, I've got a few" and I played him a few things. I played him that one and he said, "That one sounds good. Let's work on that." And so it came to pass. But usually I just play them in the studio when we're in a writing session.
antiMusic: I assume with this COVID business going on and sidelining your potential to tour to promote this record, your second career, painting, must be doing fairly well.
Roger: Well, of course, this is the longest time off I've ever had in my life. But it gets quickly filled with family, cooking, gardening and all the usual sort of stuff. And yeah I've been painting but also writing a book and writing songs and the day is full of stuff.
antiMusic: So I guess, would it be fair to say that you were the one to introduce Blackmore to Ronnie James Dio considering that you also produced Elf well before Rainbow.
Roger: Yeah, probably. I think it was 1972, we did six American tours in that year. Some of them were on a few weeks long. Others were a couple of months long. Bruce Payne, our manager...actually he was our agent at the time. He said there's this band in upstate New York. They were doing an audition for CBS and asked if we wanted to go along. He asked me and Ian Paice. So we went along and saw the audition and were just blown away.
They were a really rocky sort of bar band, a boogie-rock, piano based...piano and guitar of course. But they just rocked our socks off and so we said, yeah, we'll do that. And on that first album, I was just blown away by that whole band really but Mickey Lee Soule and Ronnie Dio in particular. Ronnie was the bass player then as well as the singer on that first album. Anyway, I liked that band so much, I really believed in them. So I did two more albums with them. And I also used Ronnie on The Butterfly Ball which was my project at the time in '74.
So we became very good friends. They stayed at my house and we became really, really close. And they supported us on a couple of tours and that's when Ritchie saw Ronnie.
And in fact, Ritchie, when he left Purple, took all of Elf to record his first Rainbow record. And by the time the second album came around, he had sacked all of them except for Ronnie.
antiMusic: And you've still got connections with Mickey today, I guess. I see his credit on the new record.
Roger: Yes. Mickey Lee is one of my oldest friends. He's still plays piano but he also looks after me on the technical side. He's my bass tech. But he's been on every solo record that I've done, in one form or another.
antiMusic: As we mentioned before, the band started producing themselves with In Rock. After you left Purple, how was it you were able to transfer that experience into a whole other career with producing? You lined them up and started knocking them off right away. How did you get your name out there so fast?
Roger: Well, pure luck, really. I arrived back from that last tour. The last gig we did was in Japan in '73. And I arrived back home in a pretty bad state. I was pretty depressed. Can you imagine being kicked out of the band when you're the biggest band in the world? I wasn't kicked out. I was just eased out, let's put it that way. You can't fight what other people want. I got back home and was in a pretty bad way for a few days and then the music papers arrived on a Thursday, as they usually did. I opened them and glanced through and looked at the charts and found that Nazareth were #4 on the charts with a song that I produced. I was just totally amazed.
I think the first production I did was a guy called Rupert Hine. But then Nazareth asked me. And I have no idea why they asked me. Maybe they just wanted a name on the album. I have no idea. But it came my way and I went into the studio with them and recorded this one song and Boom. It came at a perfect moment. So from the depths of my depression, I rose up again. I became a producer. People started coming to me. And that was that.
Morley and antiMusic thank Roger for taking the time to do this interview.
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