IAN PAICE: interview with Deep Purple's legendary drummer

Interview by Fabrizio Tasso


Calvari (GE), Italy



We intentionally waited a little before publishing this interview to Ian Paice given the sad circumstances that recently affected the Deep Purple Family (the sad passing of Mr. Jon Lord). When we met Ian it was the 40th anniversary of two historical records like “Machine Head” and “Made In Japan”. This legendary drummer amazed us with his affabilità and humbleness, reserving us a special treatment. Enough preambles…ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Ian Paice!


RRM: Let’s talk about this celebrative event, you must be very fond of this club to choose it as a location for the this single European date, can you tell us how you got in touch with the owners?


Ian: I don’t choose these things, I have a good friend, who looks out for all my solo things, people come to him ans say “is ian available to do this?” And if I have the time and feel like doing some music then he arranges the thing, so it could be here, it could be somewhere in Brindisi, as long as there’s someone good to play with, cause I enjoy playing, and for me it’s very important to keep playing. If you dont play for 3, 4, 5 weeks, seriously, you can loose things, the standards can fall down, and the difference between the really good players and the normal players is not very big, it’s just 2%...but that 2% is very important, so I take the chance to play when I can and I had the chance to play with some different guys that are very good.


RRM: We are celebrating the 40th anniversary of Machine head and Made In Japan. Can you tell us something about the times when you were recording them? Did you expect at that time that these two albums would become milestones in the history of rock?


Ian:The amazing thing about any classic piece of music is that you don’t remember too much of the creation of it because most good records run very quickly, that’s part of the reason they are good. Because you manage to capture something when it’s very fresh, you only can do it when you play the song maybe two or three times, four times maximum, if you played 20 times you might get it perfect but it would have no magic, because you would not be excited. The thing with Machine Head was that the whole thing was recorded in three weeks, in difficult situations, so all I remember is the stuff around the music, not so much making the music... it was simple, we went in, we played we listened back to...take two... take three was good enough ad we moved on to another piece of music. So I remember anything else but I dont remember the was: oh that was good, let’s move to another one!


RRM: Can you share some particular memory of those crazy Japanese nights?


Ian: Made in Japan was meant to be recorded only for Japan, Warner Brothers wanted to record the first rock band that had ever been to Japan. They thought it could be a good way to led the market to more hard music, so they suggested that we recorded two or three nights in Japan. So we said “okay, all we want is our engineer and you take are of all the expenses”. And we thought “okay you have it for japan, and we won’t do anything for a couple of months, but then we would like to have it for the rest of the world if its good”, and Warner said “okay, have it”. So we made the recording and then we had a night off before the other show, so we could listen to the tapes and it was good, not just the playing, but the excitement, the sound, everything was very good. So we said we would definitely use this, and we gave the japanese the chance to make their recordo know, in Japan a record costs about five times than in the rest of the world...we thought it would have been a really nice live record to put out but it was so close to the release of Machine Head and In Rock, that it would sell few copies, instead it sold as many as Machine Head and more than Machine Head, cause the fans of the time, if they had seen us live, they understood it, they were back in the concert over again...but again, if you ask me about playing three nights over 40 years ago I cannot tell you. The recording at the Budokan was okay but the best tracks came out of the Festival Hall in Osaka which had the perfect music hall design for sound, while the Budokan is designed for people throwing themselves at the show...although it’s a great venue it’s not the best sound you can have ...but those two nights we had in the festival the sound was good, we played good, so we knew that the recording was okay, it would be okay, but trying to remember the music..that I cannot do...


RRM: What kind of emotions does a drummer feel during a solo?


Ian: Drum solos are a weird’s hard to do a good one every many things have to be have to be in the right state mentally...the drums have to sound correct and you need ideas...if these things are in place you can probably do a drum solo, but if anyone of them is not correct you bluff, you pretend this, you make things up but it’s not genuine, you do just some of your tricks and you try to get out of it as quickly as you can cause it’s all about imagination and imagination comes when the sound of the drums is sweet and beautiful, when the sound of the drums is not correct you can do nothing. You just use a little bit of knowledge you have to make your hands do what they have to do, than you try to finish as quickly as possible. When you get it right it’s a fantastic feeling.

RRM: always regarding live albums, in the last years many live performances by Deep Purple have been released in their different line ups , one of the most epic surely is the Cal Jam, have you got any special anecdote to share about that particular gig or about any other show that meant something special to you.


Ian: I think there is enough live recording of the old music, I think that the monitor boots are very interesting cause they show differences every night, little differences in music every night, and it shows a different historical part of the band. It’s too easy now to keep sticking out live records of the same track, it’s beyond our control, so now we have a lot under our control, so we make sure that the only things that do come out are the things that are really good, or things that are different enough to make them valid as an historical statement of Deep Purple, not just to put another eight tracks out so that the die hard fans would put another twenty euros in it, it’s not just for that, so if we find something good or something we think is important, from before or even from yesterday, we consider it, but it has to be different enough and it has to be good enough, but some of the old things we found, the way the contract was written...we had no say, the old management and the record label owned the tape and they could do what they wanted, as long as they payed us our royalties we had no say in it.


RRM: Has the same happened with the Cal Jam?


Ian: The Cal Jam I think is okay because it was the best documentation, audio and video, of that line up, it’s worth the money of a fan who wants to see it, cause there’s not very much of that time period on video, we recorded a couple of shows, but that was a special show, you don’t get to play in front of three hundred thousands people every night!


RRM: Any special recollections about that night?


Ian: Only the caos! Our contract said we would go on at sun-down, because normally the headliners would go on at the end of the night, but we knew that if people are listening to music all day, if you go on too late people are tired, even if they’r your fans they are tired. So we were the headliners, Emerson Lake & Palmer were the second on the bill, so we told them “you can finish the show, we will go on as soon as the sun goes down” so we would be the first band to have the effects of the lights, for videoing, for tv and for the atmosphere on stage. Festivals would normally run slow, but this one run fast, so they were ready for us before the sun went down, so Ritchie said, “no I’m not going”, the sheriff said “if you don’t go I will arrest you” so he hid and he couldn’t find we had to get him on stage in a flat case...once he’s on stage the sheriff can’t get him cause they cannot stop the show, cause then it’s more trouble, after the show we still had to get him out hidden from the sheriff who still wanted to arrest it’s just caos! Playing is the easy bit!!


RRM: What were the innovations brought by Deep Purple in the musical context of that time?


Ian: You have to remember to varying deegres we were all kids, I was the youngest, 20-21 years old, to me everyday was a party, every day was playing a concert, going to a club, getting a little messed up and in the end get some money for it. So it was great, my life was one big party, although the other guys were a little older, they still had a lot of fun, so I didn’t analyze what I was doing. I was playing with some great musicians, to a lot of people who enjoyed what I was doing, and I was making money, I didn’t think of anything else but that, cause I was a kid, I was wonderfully stupid, wonderfully naive and stupid and having a great time!


RRM: You worked with some truly amazing singers over the years, to mention just a few, Ian Gillan, Joe Lynn Turner, David Coverdale… Who impressed you most among them? and what do you consider to be their main peculiarities and contributions to the band?


Ian: Ian’s contribution at that time was paramaount, cause in that period of time he was unique, nobody else did what he did, nobody else had that scream, lots of kids can do it now, lots of kids can sing stairway to heaven, but they didn’t write it, it’s the first one who’s important, and Ian was the first one to bring rock n roll singing to this level, you know? This absolute manic-animal thing, so he was incredibly important. David is a great singer, David learned to become a great singer, but is he that different from everybody else? I don’t know...there’s so many blues singers..Paul Rodgers, David Coverdale, if you go on you can probably put ten guys who have great voices...the best physical voice is Joe Lynn, but he does not have the ability to be different, it’s not a criticism, some people are different by nature, some people are blessed with a great voice, Joe Lynn is blessed with a great voice, but because it’s just there maybe he never had to try to do something to make it more, I think people who have to fight a little harder find a way to do things differently, which people relate to...but Joe Lynn was a great singer, he was not the right guy for Deep Purple...but there was nobody else out there who could sing!!


RRM: actually there’s another anniversary recurring this year, that is the 30th anniversary of the album Saints and Sinners by Whitesnake. Can you share any reflection about your permanence in the band?


Ian: Whitesnake was the funniest band I’ve ever been in, we never stopped laughing....well we stopped laughing when we found out how much money we didn’t get and how much money David did get!!! But when we were on the road it was just like going to Disneyland, there was no reality at all, Mickey and Bernie were just so funny, everyday there’d be some chaos, they would have been thrown out of a hotel for being too was never ending..just fun fun fun! And for the 18 months I was there it was a really good time. For making the record we used to go to this crazy castle on the Welsh border of England, we would be down in the cellars, in the dungeons...and when you’re in these really old places like 500-600 years old your imagination starts to go....and you’re down there on your own and you hear this [crack!] so you start thinking there are ghosts everywhere! “whats the matter?? Theres something in there!!!... And then it was a cat!!! But when you had a few drinks you really believed it!! So it was a grat deal of fun...


RRM: Thank you for the time you dedicated to us Ian, it was a honor to make this interview!


Ian: Thank you very much indeed and greetings to all readers of…what’s the magazine’s name again?


RRM: Rock Rebel Magazine!


Ian: To all readers of Rock Rebel Magazine then!