Interview with Ian

by Simon Copeland

Friday 16 February 2007

With credit to 'The Sun'.
Read the article online at

Simon Copeland (SC): DP, Sabbath and Led Zeppelin effectively created heavy rock and ruled the early 70s. Were you all mates or was there a lot of rivalry? Does it rankle that there's a tendency to deify Zep these days because, like The Beatles, they're no longer with us? Do you think DP are penalised for being survivors and carrying on?

Ian Gillan (IG): I was a huge fan of DP before I joined, and was completely in awe of Led Zeppelin. When Sabbath came along we all sat up and took notice. It didn't occur to me that speculation would take place many years later in what has become a retrospective assessment of the genre.

I was not aware of any rivalry between the musicians, although there was definitely something going on between the aficionados and it was of course inflamed by those who like a good story.

If we're being penalised I really haven't noticed, as things are going better than ever. Maybe the industry is looking the other way, but that is great for us. I mean we started off as an underground group.

SC: What do you think of the term heavy metal?

IG: Well I've been called a lot of things over the years; some of them not too pleasant. But, Heavy Metal is a term that is just unintentionally clumsy. It induces anything from a raised eyebrow to mild nausea in most of the musicians I know. However it is nowhere near as offensive or irritating as the equally unintentional but much more damaging knell of death known as Classic Rock.

SC: The Darkness, who supported you a couple of years ago, seem to have crashed in spectacular style. Any advice for Justin Hawkins and Co from someone who has seen it all?

IG: To aspiring musicians I could give plenty of good notions based on experience - such as how to get the best out of your skills and avoid the more obvious pitfalls. But if you just want to be famous then all I can do is wish you luck; it's probably too late for advice.

Nothing at all wrong with good PR; you must let people know what you have got on offer. But if you build up an enormous wave of hype then it's almost inevitable you're going to struggle in the rip.

SC: As a musician who has worked your way up, what do you think of Xfactor and the way it makes "stars", then quickly forgets them?

IG: It is beyond my comprehension and has nothing to do with real original talent.

Imagine a band entering the competition with, for example, the young Elvis Presley on vocals, Jimi Hendrix on banjo, Keith Moon as Batteur and Jack Bruce on Bass. They wouldn't get past the village hall auditions.

Why? Because they don't fit the shallow, dated profile that exists in the stupid heads of the gobby panellists and King Television's insatiable but self-devouring lust for content.

Here Today, Gone Today - what do they expect?

SC: How difficult was it leaving DP in 1973 at the height of their powers then seeing your band continue with David C? What did you think of Mark III? How difficult was it deciding to rejoin in 84 and, particularly, 92?

IG: The leaving was sad, particularly as I wasn't really sure why I was doing it. I bought the records Burn and Stormbringer with David Coverdale on board - I still have them today - but I couldn't play them. At the last minute something told me that it would be like watching my Ex making love to someone else.

'84 was easy because there was still a spark of desire and an element of mutual respect, and that resulted in the record Perfect Strangers. Rejoining in '92 was an entirely different matter though; we struggled for a while until Ritchie left and the sun came out again.

SC: Can you tell us what were the main personality differences between you and Ritchie? Did you go out of your way to annoy each other ? Was part of DP's early success that - like many other great bands - there was a love/hate relationship between the main players

IG: Well, I have to be honest. The main personality difference between me and Ritchie was that I was terrific and he was a twat. No, of course we didn't intend to annoy each other; we got on great. In fact Ritchie was my room mate for the first year. He had a great sense of humour - very dark humour, but nevertheless he made us laugh. There was no love/hate thing, but Ritchie did have dominant tendencies and I don't like being shoved around, so I guess it was inevitable that our relationship would not flourish in a positive way. I think all five of us were main players at the time.

SC: What do you think Steve Morse has brought to the band/song-writing?

IG: He's brought Steve Morse. No matter what your skills the most important impact you can have on a group is through your personality. Steve is an amazing writer/player, he still practises for six hours a day - on show days too. When you listen to Steve and Don Airey jamming you can hear the articulation of a style more lyrical for example than you and me having a conversation.

SC: Ever get bored playing Smoke? (Do you ever get bored being asked if you get bored playing Smoke?)

IG: Take a wild guess. Put yourself in my position. No, it's like there's an untamed stallion or a high powered motorbike parked outsider my log cabin. I can just jump on board and take off - feel the wind rush through my hair.

Pavarotti told me he was jealous of me. We were doing Nessun Dorma together at his annual fundraiser. 'I have heard you sing (Smoke) many times now and every time it is different; not a lot, but just different enough for it to be interesting, no matter how many times you sing it. With Nessun Dorma I have to be technically exact with every performance - any deviation from the accepted classical delivery and I would be crucified. I am jealous, you are a lucky man.'

In fact the song is now public property and the audience - being the sixth member of the band - looks forward to it every night.

SC: Is it true you invented head banging?

IG: That's a definite pissabolity; I was quite an enthusiastic head banger. It was not really head banging - more hair floating. I discovered that if I moved my head in a certain way it created a contra-dynamism of the old Barnett Fair; I had no idea until I saw some pictures.

In fact I hadn't much idea about anything because my untamed hair obscured my face almost entirely; I lived in a lonely world. Another thing about which I had no idea was my nickname at the time. I was known as 'The Nose' because - apparently - that's all of my face that was normally visible.

SC: Are plans under way for a follow-up to Rapture?

IG: I know it sounds peculiar but no, we don't have any plans. We never make recording plans, never have done, except at the last minute of course - to book a flight or something. However I'm sure we'll all turn up at a studio one day at the end of the 'Rapture…' tour. Put on the kettle, then make some polite enquiries about the prospects of Sunderland, QPR and Notts Forest, before drifting into the room and going mental for five weeks, by which time we shall have a new record and the basis for another two year tour.

I love it!!!

SC: Anything left for Ian Gillan/Deep Purple to achieve?

IG: Are you kidding?

SC: And finally - a bit unfair this, I know - how do DP now compare with DP then.

IG: Not unfair at all. I can only give you a subjective comparison. We've had some ups and downs, but you have to look on the bright side. I think we've done pretty well; whilst the personnel has changed a bit, we now have the most settled line-up ever and still have sixty per cent of the then.