Being unable to tour the globe to support their successful studio album “Whoosh“, it would be easy to assume that a group of established musicians like Deep Purple would have been at a loose end. Touring, which had been part of their respective DNA for many years, was strictly off their agendas. However, after an idea was mooted, it grew some legs and became fully-fledged into the band doing an album of completely other people’s songs. “Turning To Crime“, as the project became known, is soon to be released and I was able to catch up with legendary vocalist Ian Gillan to discuss the musical project which had developed.
Rather than having a lot of additional time on his hands, Ian indicated to me that he enjoyed having the time off the rock and roll treadmill. Actually, the time now offered up to him was utilized to complete “several projects.” However, when pressed regarding what these may actually involve Ian instead preferred to hold his cards very close to his chest, preferring to “actually not reveal details until the music was actually close to being released.” He did, however, mention “several musical projects” and even used the word “book”, albeit briefly and without any more information. Watch this space on what those might actually involve.
Deep Purple as a band are no strangers to playing some cover versions – from their early days and their version of “Hush”, right up to recent studio albums. However, this album would be the first that the band would have created in separate parts. And not actually in the same studio. Ian stated that once he first heard several demos that came from Roger Glover and Ian Paice, that immediately engaged him and he was from then straight on board with the idea. In terms of song selection, I had asked if everyone had submitted their own tracklist of favourites. Ian stated that their original list numbered around fifty songs which they managed to reduce to the more manageable twelve which feature on the final completed album. Laughing, he added that none of his own personal requests had made the final cut. “So, I can’t be asked about them.” I was curious if recording an album in this completely different format of separate studios and different locations had proved difficult as Purple are known as a band that like to jam off the individuals and create music in a freeform style. Ian stated that since the introduction of digital recording in the 80s, the band had occasionally “phoned in” certain musical elements on other studio releases. He also seemed to indicate that it did not present as much of a difficulty as I had expected. Ian went on to explain that it would have been too easy just to replicate the original songs, but even after playing music for so long with the other musicians in the band they still managed to blow him away with the depth of their individual talents as they presented their own Purple-ized versions. After listening to the final album regularly over the last week, what is conveyed to the listener is the sense of fun, and certainly, that was also conveyed by Ian when discussing the album’s conception. Spot that very familiar classic Purple riff thrown in on keyboards during the track, “Rockin Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu”, for example.
As the band approach their first live shows in quite some time, Ian indicated that all the band members were really looking forward to getting back on the road again, as essentially Purple were happiest at being able to spontaneously jam on stage, outside of the structure of their songs. He was also looking forward to playing some songs finally off their recent successful studio album, which they were unable to tour due to the global pandemic of Covid19. Ian also shared that the band had an alternative name. Due to Ian being a huge fan of classic comedy from the 50s, The Goons, he recently revisited some classic comedy sketches which he first listened to on the radio with his grandfather in his shed many years ago. One such episode was called, “The dreaded Lurgi” – which has now become adopted by the band as their alternative name for Covid. While originally designed as a comic sketch, I was quite surprised on researching that reference to find out that it did actually bear some accurate descriptions of the current global crisis.
Returning to discuss the fact that many classic rock bands are scaling down their touring and some bands stopping touring completely, Ian was quite put out when I dared to suggest that perhaps that day could be soon dawning for Deep Purple as a band. That was very quickly dispelled as he indicated that retirement was not in their current mindset and that, while he fully recognized physical limitations that came as standard with aging, the band were still playing and enjoying the life of a professional musician no less than they ever had previously. He quickly put that down with, “would you ask a gardener when he was going to stop gardening?” I took the point…
Concluding, I asked if he still had hopes dreams, and ambitions that still drive him personally. Stating that he never actually had any goals or defined targets through any stage of his career he said that creating music was just what he did, and if people enjoyed what he and the band created, then that was a bonus.
This was the third time that I had chatted to Ian, and I have always found him very engaging, very passionate about what he does, and as a long-standing fan, I am eagerly anticipating the several projects that he had completed and alluded to would bring next.