The Roger Glover Interview
Over the course of their nearly five-decade reign, Deep Purple has had three bass players in its clutches. The first one, Nick Simper, is still around and still plays, but has not risen beyond his status as being a founding member of Deep Purple. The third one, Glenn Hughes, is not only a powerful bass player, but also a strong singer, adding another, somewhat funkier layer to Deep Purple’s music in the mid 70s. The second, longest-standing and current bass player is Roger Glover. As part of the classic lineup, Glover laid down the foundation for classic tracks like “Strange Kind Of Woman,” “Highway Star,” and “Smoke On The Water” — a phrase the bassist came up with.
After he was dismissed from Deep Purple in 1973, Glover became a prolific record producer, making records with Rupert Hine, Elf (with a then-unknown Ronnie James Dio), Nazareth, David Coverdale, Status Quo, Judas Priest and Rory Gallagher. He also made a couple solo albums, and even rejoined his old Purple bandmate Ritchie Blackmore for a five-year stint in Rainbow. Since the fabled classic lineup reunion behind 1985's Perfect Strangers, Glover has been the band’s anchor and plans on staying there for the duration.
In the following interview, we zero in on the sensational new Deep Purple album for 2013 NOW What?!. We also get into Deep Purple’s rich history, including Glover's take on guitarist Ritchie Blackmore. As fate would have it, we talked the day after the 2013 Rock And Roll Hall of Fame Induction ceremony in Los Angeles, an event Deep Purple narrowly missed being a part of. So naturally, I asked him about that as well.
So, you’re in Switzerland, right?
I am, yes. That’s where I find myself living these days.
You wouldn’t happen to live near Montreux?
No, I don’t. I live on the German side, near Zurich. My girlfriend comes from here, that’s why I’m here.
The big news, of course, is that Deep Purple has a new album out called Now What?!. This is your 19th studio album and it was recorded in Nashville, Tennessee, and it’s been a long time coming since Rapture Of The Deep in 2005. Now Steve Morse told me making a Deep Purple album is like charity because you guys don’t really make any money. So what was the motivation for going in and making this record?
Well, as far as I’m concerned, there were different theories in the band about whether we should do a record again, whether we should do it and release an EP or some singles on the Internet. But the bottom line of thinking is we’re an album band and we always were an album band. We were very proud to be an album band back in the day. We kind of railed against doing singles because really we’re an album band; we’re an album band. That’s kind of strange vanity. But an album, especially with a band like us that has such a long history, an album is a sort of state of the union address if you like. And it’s the state of the band that we’re in now. And every album that we make is a kind of a point in time. And I thought we needed to do one.Three years ago we started thinking seriously, “Well, let’s have a writing session.” We had no idea where or when we were going to record it, or whatever. But then Bob Ezrin came to see us in Toronto just over a year ago and was really up for doing the album, and we liked him. It was a match really well made. So that was a great impetus. We had a really great writing session; we wrote most of the songs then. I think when you’ve got someone like Bob involved you kind of realize that you’ve got to be good. And maybe because we spent such a long time between albums we were kind of itching to write … itching to do something that really was different and sounded good.
Did Steve Morse have anything to do with Bob coming in? Because I know he worked with him on a Kansas record back in the ’80s.
Yes. He told us he’d worked with him. I don’t know where that went, whether it was from Steve, management or agency that got the idea, but obviously somewhere along the line someone contacted Bob. I really don’t know who that was.
You produced a few Deep Purple albums and gazillions of others. How was it to surrender the chair to someone like Bob Ezrin?
Actually, very easy. It was nice to be a bass player rather than someone sitting there with the discs trying to make decisions. It’s very difficult to produce the band you’re in. You know, you need objectivity to do that because whatever you say to the band, you’re just one of five opinions. And that’s tough to deal with if you’re a producer sometimes. So I’ve always been quite happy to have other producers and Bob Ezrin obviously comes with an amazing track record. He gave me a lot of respect as a fellow producer and deferred to me a lot. We worked together, actually.
So what exactly did he bring to the party?
I guess a certain excitement. And it was very important to us that the album sounded good. The sound of an album…I’ve been disappointed in the past with various albums. This one had to sound good — it had to leak out of the speakers at you. And I think that’s a lot of what Bob brought. I think he brought what a good producer does — he built good performances out of the artists.
And his way of doing it … he’s very in command. He’s like the admiral in charge of the ship. And that’s important. Once you hire a producer, you have to trust him. You may disagree with him, and he’ll listen to your argument and he’ll occasionally go, “Yeah, that’s a better idea.” He’s very quick with his decisions and it was actually very easy to work with him. It was great.
I’ve got to tell you Roger, I got this CD a couple days ago. I’ve been listening to it very consistently. It’s just really a great record. I absolutely love it. I think this is something that’s up there with some of your best work. Looking back at it as a whole, what’s your take? How do you see the record fitting in with everything Deep Purple’s done?
The magic period is almost over — the magic period where you finish an album and no one’s yet heard it. It’s still yours, as it were. And I must say, I’ve been playing it myself for pleasure because I love the mix. I love what we did. I’m proud of the record. I think it is a good record. It’s very difficult to come up with something that’s fresh and new, yet still retains the character of who you are and who you have been for the last 40-odd years. I hope we’ve achieved that. The only feedback we’ve had actually so far is from journalists. I’ve done quite a few interviews now and it’s been positive throughout. It’s been very positive. But yeah, I guess it’s a good album. It’s hard to judge your own album, you know.
Yeah, I can understand that. I mean, like you’re saying, it does have a large degree of that Deep Purple sound that everyone knows and loves, but you guys are stepping it up doing fresh things. You’re incorporating horns and orchestration, which you’ve done in the past, of course. Was there this conscious effort to sort of mix it up while using that old classic Deep Purple sound while at the same time expanding the palette in other areas as well?
We’re not actually thinking too much about the classic Deep Purple sound because I think we left that behind a long time ago. There was a tour we did about two years ago with an orchestra. When we’ve worked with orchestras before, it’s always been a serious kind of thing, like a concerto, Gemini Suite or something. But this time it was an orchestra almost joining the band.
I saw one of those shows at the Greek here in LA.
Right. That was 40-odd musicians on stage all in the same band, which is kind of different. But of course, orchestral and classical music has always been an influence in this band. And that I think certainly, with Don on board, a wonderful player of all genres — I hate the world genre —but he’s a classical musician. He can play beautiful classical music. He’s a brilliant jazz musician, but he really knows how to rock as well. He knows how to really rock out and that’s a great combination. I think that and that tour we did a couple years ago is really what pushed towards a classic influence in some of the songs at least. A lot of hard rock is based on blues, which is fine, that’s good, but there are other elements and we like to explore those.
There are so many different textures and levels where you go on this record. How much of it was recorded live?
Actually, it’s pretty live. With the benefit of a couple of writing sessions, and certainly one with Bob involved to come in and change things around and rearrange things and get in our hair a little bit — but we let him. By the time we got to the studio, we kind of knew — not the songs, or the lyrics or tunes yet. But certainly the instrumental parts were pretty out control. And we just played it live like a band. There’s a few overdubs, of course. A lot of solos are live. So it’s pretty live. I think it all makes it sound very fresh.
This is your fifth record with Steve Morse and your third with Don Airey and I have to say, these two guys really come to the fore. With Don Airey, it’s like you let an animal out of the cage and he’s channeling Jon Lord. I mean, where did that come from? It sounds like he’s really come into his own.
I think he has, especially on this record. He’s found his mark; he’s found his place. He’s had a great career working with many, many people and been in a few bands, but never in a band like this. I think he really enjoys it and he feels privileged to be in it. He was a huge fan of Jon’s all his life and he’s very reverent towards Jon and has a great deal of respect. But Don has to be Don. An organ is an organ. It sounds like a Hammond organ. It doesn’t sound like anything else. But it’s all in the playing. He couldn’t ever replace Jon, but he has to be himself. And he, himself, is a completely different player and there’s a whole different sensibility about him, which is right. But I think he’s confident enough now to really shine with it. And I think he does on this record.
And Steve Morse is just a monster and he’s been in the band for 20 years I guess … much longer than Ritchie Blackmore was. I think we can all agree he’s a total master with a tone style all his own.
He’s not very good with sushi.
(Laughs) What do you think he’s brought to this band that distinguishes him from his predecessor?
Well, when he first joined the band — in fact, before he joined the band, I met him and we knew he was willing to join. He says, “What do you want from me?” I said, “Well, as far as I’m concerned, I want you to be you.” When you’re replacing someone like Ritchie Blackmore, well you don’t replace him. Because if you replace him, you replace him with someone who sounds like him, or looks like him, or writes like him, and then it becomes a parody of him. And I think a band is five people who are all really committed to the same direction. The successful bands are ones that all respect each other and you have to be 100 percent yourself. And that’s what I said to him, that you have to be 100 percent yourself. He said, “I can play anything?” I said, “Try it. If you like it, we’ll play it. There’s no rules. You don’t have to write or contribute to a formula. It’s who you are, is what we want.” And he’s a virtuoso and virtuosos have to be who they are. They can’t pretend to be someone else.Of course, he plays a lot of Ritchie’s solos note for note because he respects him. He knows people would want to hear that. It’s as much a part of a song as the words or the tune or whatever. So yeah, he approaches it with reverence but he makes it his own. I remember when Don first played with the band, he said … it was a fraught night, somewhere in Denmark. And Jon was there … he stood in for a couple of gigs. In fact, he ended up standing in for the whole tour. But that first night, I went up to him afterwards and said, “Hey, you did great Don.” He said, “Yeah, I tried to be Jon for about 50 seconds and then I realized I just had to be me.” I said, “You couldn’t have said anything better.”
I’m sure you’re aware that there still are a few people that cling to this notion that Ritchie Blackmore should be joining Deep Purple and I think it’s pretty obvious that’s not going to happen. But you maintained a long working relationship with him even as a member of Rainbow. Do you still talk to him?
I probably would if he still talked to me.
So that’s the issue. Do you miss playing with him at all?
Of course. I’m very proud to have played with him all those years and to have worked with him as a producer in Rainbow. We did have some great times. I don’t miss the past, whatever it is. I think that’s a waste of time really. I can reminisce, but there’s nothing there I miss. Times have changed, I’ve moved on, he’s moved on. I remember most of them with great joy so that’s all that matters.
There’s this idea that’s floating around that all of the living members, past and present, of Deep Purple should get together and perform the ultimate Deep Purple concert. I actually talked to Ian Gillan about this a few years ago and he told me someone in Russia had proposed that idea. Do you have any opinion about that either way?
Yes, I do. First of all, impossible. Second of all, improbable. And third of all, why the hell? (laughs). We’re here now; we do what we do now. Fans live in the past, I understand that. I’m a fan myself. I love some old recordings. My first encounter with Little Feat, for example, changed my life. I’ll always love that. But you can’t expect Little Feat to be that now, because they can’t. They’re different people.
Last night they had the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in LA where I’m at, and I was very disappointed to see that Deep Purple wasn’t included. Ian Gillan, in the same interview I did with him, told me he thinks it’s kind of an American thing but he would gladly accept that honor on behalf of the family, friends and everyone that supports the band. What do you think about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? Do you care about being inducted?
I’ve never thought about it, really. I know a lot of fans have been wanting it for years. When we were nominated, I thought, actually I have mixed feelings. First of all, I thought, it’s about bloody time. And second of all I thought, it’s actually going to be a pain in the neck because we’re on a train now going towards Now What?! And we’ve been on this train a lot longer than I care to think about 20 years ago with Steve. And that’s like stepping back into the past. Yes, it would gain attention to the band. Ritchie should be there. What would that do? It would enliven all the debates, it might be a nightmare. Who knows? He might not show up. You never know with stuff like that. So when we didn’t get in, I was actually kind of relieved.
I’m sure you’ve heard this from many other people, but you guys should be in, you should have been in a long time ago and I’ll always be pulling for you.
Talking to Ritchie, I mean, his playing, his writing, influenced far more people than people realized. Talking to Ritchie, I mean, his playing, his writing, influenced far more people than people realized. It’s almost a book on what’s become establishment music; music you hear in commercials is rock — it comes from Ritchie. And that’s sadly overlooked sometimes. And Deep Purple, with Ritchie in particular, I think really was an innovator.
I agree. Well, one good thing that’s come out of this, of course, is that over the years — in the last few recent years I should say —you have been celebrating your history with a number of DVDs and live CDs and compilations, all of which I’ve reviewed at one time or another. Do you think we’ll ever get an all-encompassing documentary with most of you guys involved in that? Has there ever been any talk of something like that?
No, there hasn’t. We leave that stuff to other people. You know, we play music. If they want to do a documentary about it, they can organize it. But we don’t actually think about it that much, no. We’re too busy living.
I can appreciate that. I’m going to bring you back to the present and just say that the album drops at the end of the month and then you’re doing the festival circuit in Europe this summer with some more dates I saw scheduled in Paris and Germany in October/November. When can we expect to see you here in the States?
I guess next year would be the time. I would hope so, anyway.
In five years, Deep Purple will be celebrating its 50th anniversary. Do you think the band will still be together and around to celebrate this milestone?
Absolutely. What else can I do?
So you’ll just keep playing “Smoke on the Water” until you can’t play anymore, essentially, right?
That's right (laughs).