Ian Gillan has been quite busy of late. Since the release of Deep Purple’s “Rapture of the Deep” album, he has released “Gillan’s Inn” in 2006, his first solo album in a long while, in dual disc format. Then a solo U.S. tour (his first in 27 years!) followed to promote the album in between his busy schedule with Deep Purple. This year has seen the release of Ian’s career spanning DVD “Highway Star,” a magnificent two-disc set documentary film running over 6 hours. On top of that, many of Ian Gillan Band- and Gillan-era albums have finally been properly remastered and released on CD. In the meantime, Ian is actively touring with Deep Purple – an incredible feat considering the man is almost 62 years of age.
This interview focuses on Ian’s recent activities, along with a question which I have always wanted to ask him since 1978. This conversation finally gave me an opportunity to clarify a long-standing mystery for me. Anyways, here’s the latest interview with Ian Gillan.
–Ian, thank you very much for coming on for interview today. How are you doing?
Ian Gillan-(IG): Oh yes, doing great, fantastic, thank you. I’m on a break with my family in Portugal.
–That’s wonderful. I understand that your European tour went fantastic as well.
IG: Absolutely amazing. I can’t imagine a better tour. This just keeps on getting better and better. Bigger audiences, more dates, I mean what more can I ask for? When we were kids, we used to look at our diary and go, “Oh my god, we only got one gig next week and only one the week after.” So this is absolutely amazing. Amazing audiences too, averaging 17 and 18 years old. They bring a lot of energy into the show, you know.
–You have a U.S. tour coming up, and I understand that you are to visit Florida this time, the area which you have not played for over six years now.
IG: Not professionally, no.
–Are we to expect a different sort of set list for this leg of tour compared to the ones for the European leg?
IG: I don’t know, we haven’t talked about it. There would be the usual mixture of stuff and all, whatever. I don’t know what kind of audiences we’ll get over there, but I doubt it’ll be the same as Europe. You just don’t know what to expect, so… I mean, we don’t really tailor the show according to the audience because most of it is improvisational anyway. The set list for whole Deep Purple tour wouldn’t change much, but the shows change from twenty minutes to thirty minutes a night. So something’s going on there. Also, I don’t really like to talk about set list if people hadn’t seen the show because they might get a wrong idea.
–I understand. However, I still need to ask you this question even though it might touch the area a bit. How come “Things I never Said” was not included in “Rapture of the Deep” album despite the fact that this song is being performed live at just about every show?
IG: Sorry? It’s not on the album? It sure is!
–Actually, it was not on the original U.S. release. It finally came out here when the tour edition of the album was released on the second bonus CD.
IG: Oh, I have no idea what’s on what anymore (laughs). Apparently, there’s a new Deep Purple DVD out and I didn’t even know about that, so there you go. (laughs)
–That song by the way is one of my favorite tracks on the album and I’m glad it’s being played live.
IG: Good! It’s a wonderful transition from 6/8 rhythm into a swing, a 4/4 swing, and it’s a very clever transition. It works very well on stage and starts the set off in one of those embracing ways musically. There’s no break between the first four or five songs. We just go, bang, bang, bang, and it works very well.
–The band has been together for the last twelve years except for Jon Lord’s retirement. This remarkable stability, if you don’t mind me saying so, is a welcome change for Deep Purple, isn’t it? Especially for many long time fans…
IG: It’s a welcome change for us too (laughs). I have to tell you, there’s been nothing more upsetting thing in my life to have the stomach turning nervousness about what the hell is gonna happen today. You never know what’s around the corner. To know that you can turn up with the mates that you get on well and you respect professionally, and challenge you on stage while respecting what everyone else’s doing is the most amazing feeling. So that stability has brought the renaissance for Deep Purple.
Trans-world activities of Deep Purple
–Since Steve has joined the band, Deep Purple has played more than a handful of important gigs in Florida, such as 2001’s Sunrise Theatre gig which was documented as “Perihelion” DVD. How do you feel about Florida in general?
IG: Well, a friend of mine wrote a song called “Make Florida Your Last Stop on Earth.” (laughs) I think Miami has re-designed itself as far as I can see. I’ve got lots of friends in Florida and, of course, Steve Morse lives there. And he flies his planes all over the place, so yeah, I think it’s the most incredible place. I’ve been to all over the places in Florida myself, from Key West to all of the cities in the north. East and West, it’s got the benefit of Atlantic Coast and the Gulf too. What more do you want, you know? Where are you, in Miami?
IG: That’s a great area. I’ve been up and down canoeing on St. Johns River and, in fact, I spent so much time canoeing the rivers there and it’s absolutely wonderful! I spent three hours once just staring at armadillo (laughs)!
–(Laugh) I’m glad to hear that you like where I live. Changing our subject here a bit, you have an upcoming orchestra show in Greece, right?
–How did this come about?
IG: I don’t know, someone phoned the office. There’s a guy called Friedmann Riehle and he’s an arranger. He’s got some really amazing arrangement on some of Deep Purple songs which he played to me four or five years ago when I was in Prague. He’s connected with Prague Symphony Orchestra and tried to do this a couple of times before but never came about because either I wasn’t available or the orchestra wasn’t available. So this time he’d hooked up with The Thessaloniki State Orchestra and they said, “We haven’t got any dates at the end of June but would you be able to come down and quickly put a date in there?” So I said, “Sure, I’d love to,” because I remembered that his arrangements were pretty amazing. So that’s going to be a pretty good experience. I love doing different things anyways, so it’s gonna be a good experience for me. And since then, apparently there’s another inquiry coming to do the same thing somewhere in Spain, but I don’t know much about that one yet. So this may become my hobby (laughs).
–That’d be a great hobby, really.
IG: Yeah, sure is.
–How was your experience of singing with Luciano Pavarotti?
IG: Amazing! Can you imagine doing “Nessa Dorma” with Luciano Pavarotti the maestro? It’s unbelievable. He’s a very generous man. Very kind, and… He was (laughs)… You know, he said, “You want to sing what? Are you fucking crazy?” (laughs)
–(laugh) Did he really said that to you?
IG: (laughing) Yeah. Some people say he’s crazy, some say he’s genius. I think he’s a true genius. He’s a very nice guy, and he’s very helpful. And he does everything in good spirit. Of course, he understands, and I understand that he’s not a rock singer and I’m not an opera singer. The simple fact is that we are doing this for a charity and a benefit. It’s just like when I play football. I am not a professional footballer, but I loved playing football with my hero and idol George Best for a charity and things like that. So it was really to raise money for Afghani kids and Iraqi kids. We did it twice. It was an amazing experience. I have to think that “Nessa Dorma” is the greatest rock ballad that’s never been recorded as such.
Looking back the past 40 years and Gillan Days
–Your latest DVD release, “Highway Star” is a wonderful rock documentary film. How difficult was it to package 40 years of your professional career into just six hours? Was it easy for you?
IG: Not really. Um… I think the credit must go to the producers as they have done a brilliant job. What they’ve managed to put together, I think, is relevant because they didn’t look at it as fans. I think they looked at it as a human interest. That’s the way it comes across. It was set out to be a television documentary. So I think that was the criteria they followed. I think it works great.
–I think one of the most interesting moment is when Ian Paice says “The band should have protected the singer.”
–The voice of a group cannot be replaced unlike the instruments…
IG: I know, but… you don’t understand these things when you’re younger. I didn’t understand it and he didn’t and… (Sigh) There’s no substitute for experience. I don’t think anyone likes to be pushed around. But the whole thing with Ritchie was that he was the same way not just with me but with everybody. He was the same with musicians in Rainbow. He has a dominant tendency and that’s his character. He wants to dominate the situation. That’s why our relationship never really bore any fruit apart from the early days. As I said, you can lead me around my nose, I mean, you can even offer me carrots and I’ll do anything for you. But I just don’t want be pushed around. I think that’s human nature, you know.
–If I may, can we talk about your Gillan days?
–What is your feelings regarding the recent Gillan remasters?
IG: It’s the same as it was with Deep Purple. Deep Purple records were originally recorded analog, on tape and issued on vinyl. When they copied them to CDs, I nearly cried ’cause they were HORRIBLE! People didn’t understand that you actually have to remaster the stuff if you are going to record it digitally. Analog recordings just don’t transfer without a little help. That’s why every one was saying that CD’s don’t sound nearly as good as vinyl in the early days. The reason was that people weren’t using the technology correctly. New recordings were good on CDs, but at that time everyone was transferring old catalogue onto CDs to generate new sounds. Consequently, nobody knew what they were doing. The same thing happened since Gillan band was recording albums on vinyl. It wasn’t until 1982 that we really start getting CDs in shops. I pretty much finished with the Gillan band by that time because I was about to join Black Sabbath. And even Black Sabbath’s prime issue was considered to be vinyl because CD was still fairly new. And so to me, it’s absolutely fantastic to have these things sounding as they did on vinyl because that’s the reason for it. Also to be with a company that’s an offshoot of BBC is a specialty. It’s a bit like Bluenote Jazz series which was re-released on CDs. They kept the integrity of the original covers and the artwork, which was something no one bothered to take care of because it’s too small. Right from the artwork through to the sound, it’s great, just great. I’m absolutely delighted with the way it’s been done.
–If you have to select one Gillan album to recommend as your favorite, which one would that be?
IG: (laughs) Well, my favorite has always been “Double Trouble.”
–That’s mine as well.
IG: Good! The reason for that is that was the first time we used a proper producer in the studio. It taught me a big lesson. I hated it at start, but then I realized that the kind of sound I was producing really didn’t have a long life. But I think the thing I like the most about that is the live recording of “No Laughing in Heaven.” It’s just… It makes my skin get goose bumps and my hair stand on it when I hear the audience at Reading Festival. It’s just amazing.
— “No Laughing in Heaven” was the opening number for your last year’s solo U.S. tour as well, correct?
IG: Yes, absolutely! I just listened to the recording that I just signed off on last night of Gillan’s Inn Tour of the United States. We had cameras and recording equipment at House of Blues at Anaheim. I just listened to the concert last night. That’s going to come out on DVD sometime in near future which I am really thrilled about. That was pretty amazing.
–Since our time is running out, this is the last question. In 1978, I saw your performance in Shibuya Kokaido in Tokyo with a new line up of Gillan band. That night, you seemed aloof and even a bit of sadness around you for some reason, I felt. What was going on then?
IG: 1978, you say?
–Yes, with Steve Byrd on guitar and…
IG: Yeah, I wasn’t there (laughs). I wasn’t thrilled with everything. It was just confusion. I was trying to find my way back into music business, you know. I was out for a few years and wasn’t quite sure what I was doing. Well, that was a good observation on your part (laughs).
–Ian, thank you very much for coming on tonight.
IG: Nice talking to you, come say hi in Orlando!