British rock legends Deep Purple return to the fray with their new album, Infinite, on April 7th. Scott Adams has a chat Ian Gillan about the record...
So, the release of a new Deep Purple album, Infinite… We’re none of us getting any younger and inevitably every time the band puts out another album or embarks on another tour the question crops up – is this the last? Is it|? Have you made that decision yet? Is it even time to think about it? “It’s about two years away. It’s a two year tour for the album. It’s been put forward that we should call it a day, so we had a band meeting, but we had too much wine so we didn’t really have a decision at the end of it, and so your goodbyes are going to be a bit longer than average. It’s like getting rid of unwanted guests from your house after Christmas. It’ll happen when one of us keels over”.
I sincerely hope not! What makes this lineup of Deep Purple work for you? “It’s all about human chemistry really. There’s no other category for us but Deep Purple, even when you have a group of blokes who’ve been together for as long as we have, in an office, at work, as relatives…. You get together, go down the pub, you have a chat about things, and it’s always a fresh conversation, even though the theme might be vaguely continuous or connected – with the past – there’s always a fresh element to it. So… that’s what you do when you go down the pub”.
This record seems to have a bit in common with it’s predecessor, 2013’s Bob Ezrin-produced Now What?!. What springs to mind about the recording of that album, and how that had an impact on Infinite? “It was a turning point, working with Bob. He said something very interesting even before we were working with him. He said ‘I would like to see you guys doing what you used to do; not in terms of the way you play your music, but the way you approach your music. And that is if you play something good and you want to extemporise upon a theme, you do it’. On the first three albums Roger (Glover, bass)and I were with the band, there were only seven tracks on each album and some of them were quite long – seven minutes long, eight, ten minutes long – and the reason was it was a good vehicle to have extended pieces on. The construction of it – the symphonic elements, the soloists, were all driven to their natural end instead of being compressed into this three minute thing. During the ‘middle ages’ of the eighties and nineties, when we produced ourselves, there was a tendency to think of the radio. Going back to Smoke on the Water, that was seven minutes long on Machine Head. No-one heard it apart from the live crowds, and it wasn’t until someone came along to a gig in Los Angeles and heard the audience reaction to it and thought ‘ah, that would be good to play on the radio!’ so they cut it down to three and a quarter minutes. We were never any good at making pop songs – Deep Purple is primarily an instrumental band and that’s what we should do. And that’s what Bob was saying with Now What?! – Just relax, extend your stuff – I’ll tell you when it’s getting too much… but just enjoy yourselves and the music. So the old way of approaching the construction came back and everything got a little bit more exciting again. And that showed on Now What?! It was a big difference to previous records. It was a major milestone as far as we were concerned. And so this Infinite record is a natural extension of that. It’s not the same, but it’s walking along the same path”.
What’s the concept behind calling the album Infinite? “Well, Stephen Hawking said that before the big bang there was nothing. But he was obviously wrong. There must have been something before the big bang, even if it wasn’t in our understanding. It was a metaphysical whatever-it-might-be so obviously infinity does exist. In a series of bubbles, or however you like to look at it. And if infinity does exist then there was no beginning, and if there was no beginning then we’re not here by definition”.
So it’s all Stephen Hawking’s fault then? “Well no, he just picked up where Euclid left off. I blame the Queen myself. She’s infinite”.
You said once you an angry young man. You seem to be getting a bit fired up on this record. Are you still an angry young man at heart? “I didn’t say that. I said I was an angry young man, then I went through a period of complacency in middle age and now I’m fucking furious! Life goes like that, a bit up and down, and I’m angry about a lot of things… I’m not angry, just involved, and reactionary, and pissed off. Politics mostly, that gets me excited… it’s good to get worked up because then you can get some venom into your work. I like that”.
So maybe a show built around the last couple of albums on the next tour? “I think of all the things we have to do, the most challenging is building a good stage show. We never used to do what we thought people wanted us to do. We’d do, like most bands, of our kind, what pleased us. And what made us feel good -keeping our fingers crossed that the audience would like it too. If you do something that your heart and soul is in, and that you’re happy with, then that transmits itself to the audience. Hopefully, It’s always been that way, and I hope that it will continue to do so”.
Deep Purple’s twentieth studio album, Infinite is Released on April 7th by earMUSIC