This interview with Ritchie Blackmore of Deep Purple appeared in the February 1991 issue of Guitar World. To see the Blackmore cover—and all the GW covers from 1991—click here.
It’s a cold, rainy night in Connecticut. Executive Editor Brad Tolinski and I are in the lobby of a fine hotel, waiting to meet Ritchie Blackmore.
The veteran guitarist has, in his infinite mercy, granted us a rare interview. (Perhaps the imminent release of the new Deep Purple album, Slaves And Masters, featuring Purple's latest member, Joe Lynn Turner, has something to do with this.) At the moment, Blackmore is dining with some friends; he is to join us at the conclusion of his meal.
Tolinski and I are a bit apprehensive. Blackmore's irascibility is legend, as is his antipathy toward the press. To make matters worse, even some of those close to the star have warned that he could become "troublesome." I feel like I'm about to meet Darth Vader.
As I examine my tape recorder to ensure that everything is in working order (I'm always worried that it will break down), a grim scenario plays itself repeatedly in my brain: The interview has commenced. I ask my first question—"How does this version Deep Purple differ from past formations?" Blackmore stares at me, his features growing black with rage.
“How dare you ask me that?” he barks. "Take that!" He bops me over the head with a white Strat, which falls all around me in splinters. The angry man rises and stalks out. End of interview.
I return to an uneasy reality, but calm myself with the thought that my guitar hero can't possibly be such an ogre. Then I remember that as a youth, Blackmore had a penchant for throwing eggs, tomatoes and four-pound bags of flour from moving vehicles at passersby (with particular preference, presumably, for elderly women in wheelchairs.)
At last, a member of Blackmore's entourage comes by to say that the great one is ready. We enter the dimly-lit dining area to the accompaniment of mellow piano music, diners' chattering and dishes clattering, and seat ourselves. After a few moments, we are joined by Ritchie Blackmore.
He looks great—better than he did ten years ago, which is far more than can be said of most longtime rockers. As usual, he's dressed in black, except for a white ruffled shirt that makes him look like a French nobleman. He grasps our outstretched hands ("a good sign," I think) and we introduce ourselves. Blackmore seats himself, and orders a beer.
"Are you ready?" I ask, and Blackmore nods his assent. But before I can ask the first question, he points at my tape recorder and in thick British tones says, "By the way, that's not on."
"Oh no," I think. "The tape's busted!" My worst fears, realized. Tolinski stares at me, horror etched on his features. I examine the contraption, but it seems to be running smoothly. I turn to Blackmore, a bit befuddled, and insist, "It's moving. It's on.”
"Just checking," he says slyly. And with that, the interview commences. Within a few dizzying moments he demonstrates that, his reputation notwithstanding, he is a hell of a nice guy, funny—a great dude to hang out with. He even performs a magic trick, changing a nickel into a quarter before our very appreciative eyes.
Two hours pass. The restaurant 's proprietor stops by to announce, "Closing time." I wholeheartedly thank Ritchie for being so cooperative. "Thank you for being so attentive," says this amiable bane of rock journalists.
GUITAR WORLD: How does this edition of Deep Purple differ from past formations?
Musically, I would say the singer doesn't drink as much. [laughs] But seriously, the older I get, the more I want to hear melodies. We really worked hard on constructing good, memorable songs and interesting chord progressions. That 's what excites me at the moment.
It also helped that our new singer, Joe Lynn Turner, writes and sings great melodies. With Joe, we didn't have to rely as much on heavy riffs. When I was 20, I didn't give a damn about song construction. I just wanted to make as much noise and play as fast and as loud as possible.
As a guitarist, what were you looking to do differently on this new record? For instance, the solo on "King Of Dreams" has an exotic tinge that doesn't appear in any of your previous work.
I wanted that solo to evoke a certain mood. It isn't meant to be a pointless exercise in speed; that's why it's very sparse. I was trying to make it an extension of the vocal melody and have it express something that was connected to the bloody song. I didn't want to just show off some trick I'd learned at the music store on Saturday morning.
When writing, or when engaged in preproduction for an album, do you work solos out in advance?
I never work out my leads. Everything I do is usually totally spontaneous. If someone says, "That was good; play that again," I'm not able to do it. The only solo I've committed to memory is "Highway Star" [from I972's Machine Head]. I like playing that semitone run in the middle.
[Keyboardist] Jon Lord plays more textures, rather than actual lines, on this new album.
Jon likes to see what I'm going to do and he enhances that. He's not a leader; he likes to follow.