By: Dennis Cook
On June 3, 2007, Kansas City classic rock station KYYS gathered together 1,683 guitarists to simultaneously play Deep Purple's "Smoke On The Water" and beat the previous Guinness Book World Record. The four-notes that open the song may be the most widely recognized riff in popular culture. Not bad for a little rock combo that started in the backwater of Hertford, England in 1968.
| Deep Purple|
They've gone on to release nearly 20 studio albums and innumerable live collections with multiple lineups, always staying true to an aesthetic that helped give birth to the descriptors "hard rock" and "heavy metal." Since 2002, Deep Purple has consisted of Dixie Dregs shredder Steve Morse (guitars), Don Airey (keys) and foundation members Ian Paice (drums), Ian Gillan (vocals) and Roger Glover (bass). While many might (and do) argue for the sanctity and brilliance of the classic lineup with founder/guitarist Ritchie Blackmore and keyboardist Jon Lord - both instrumental alpha males of the highest order – one has only to listen to today's Purple to know they're every bit as switched on and capable as any time in their history. What's more, there's a consistency and naked joy to their music making now that's sometimes been muddled by drama and ego in the past.
Despite many of them approaching senior discount status, it's abundantly clear the minute they start playing that Deep Purple doesn't intend to give an inch to ANY hard rock band. The primordial muscle that drove monsters like "Highway Star" and "Woman From Tokyo" like a steel spike into our collective conscience remains fully intact. They just look like they're having way more fun now.
While Led Zeppelin may be getting barrels of ink for their solitary reunion show, Deep Purple has been marching around the globe for close to four decades, warmly embracing their beloved back catalog but also moving forward and creating new chapters with a determination most young bands would envy. There's a startling lack of nostalgia because this music remains very much alive for them, fueled by steady touring and a sharp refusal to rest on their laurels.
When the great electric bassists of the past 50 years are rattled off, Roger Glover's name is often conspicuously absent. It's a bloody oversight but anyone who's really listened to the man can hear his ferocity, thumping groove and technical daring in Les Claypool, Victor Wooten, Reed Mathis and many more. We sat down for a chat with Glover before a concert in San Francisco this past August (see our review here). Face-to-face backstage, Glover was a casually dressed, quiet, very articulate gent with reading glasses hanging from a chain around his neck. It's a far cry from the perpetually erect persona he thrusts at us onstage, the one with a bandana clinging tight to his head while he sweats and ripples with palpable power. Like many great artists, Glover is a bundle of grand contradictions that ultimately fuel the depth and feeling in music that's stretched across generations and the entire planet.
JamBase: Let's start by talking about Deep Purple's latest studio album, Rapture of the Deep (released November 2005 on Eagle Rock with a Deluxe Edition out June 2006), which you've been touring for almost two years now. There's something special about this record that begs inclusion on a list of your band's best.
Roger Glover: We tour whether we have a record out or not. Touring is a way of life. It's pretty much the only way to promote a record these days, in America these days anyway. Classic rock radio wouldn't even take a look at us. Live is always where we've lived. We've always been a stage band. Studio albums have always been fraught with difficulties. Sometimes they came easy but often full of difficulties. In fact, a strange phenomenon is that an easy album always seemed to be followed by a difficult one. I don't know if that's true for other bands but it's certainly true for us. Deep Purple In Rock (1970) was easy, it just flowed out, Fireball (1971) was kind of tough. Machine Head (1972) was a breeze, Who Do We Think We Are (1973) was tough.
JamBase: And it just goes like that?
Roger Glover: Perfect Strangers (1984) was easy, House of Blue Light (1987) was tough. Maybe Rapture of the Deep broke that mold a bit. Bananas (2003) was a breeze and so was Rapture. Maybe because we had a producer [Mike Bradford (Butthole Surfers, Kid Rock) helmed both releases], maybe because we had a change of lineup, I don't know. You can talk about reasons and excuses till the cows come home. What's the word I'm looking for? Ah, hypotheses!
That's such a wonderful word!
They're dying out, by the way. The only few I know are in Africa.
You mentioned the lineup change. There's a rather complicated family tree as one tries to follow Deep Purple over the years. How do you think that's affected the music? There's a core to your catalog that you're probably going to play no matter who's in the band but looking at the current lineup, what's distinctive about this bunch of guys?
We get along pretty good, and have really since Steve [Morse] joined the band, which is now 14-15 years ago. It's been a relatively happy band. Not to say we don't have our differences or fights. You take any five people and put them together and you'll have some fights, but it's not a fight that destroys the band. It's a fight for something you believe in. You gotta fight for your corner, you know? But it has been a fairly contented lineup, in that respect. Contentment can sometimes breed lackadaisical attitudes but it hasn't.
| Deep Purple|
There's a real hunger in the band that comes from the fact that when Ritchie [Blackmore] left we were determined to carry on. And that determination is very strong. I suppose that's because of the unhappy Blackmore years of the late '80s/early '90s. There was a will to not give him some kind of moral victory and have the band fold when he left. We all felt very strongly about that. Joe Satriani [who filled in when Blackmore abruptly left in November 1993, staying on through summer of the following year] led the charge, as it were, and gave us hope that there was life after Ritchie. And, of course, Steve Morse was that person.
Years ago I was talking to someone really famous about – and I don't want to name drop so I won't tell you who – the idea of being in a band where everyone is equal and speak their mind and come up with ideas without fear of being made fun of or just plain rejected. I always thought I'd have to leave Deep Purple to find that because I desperately wanted that. I love being in a band. There's nothing like it. I don't like being a solo person. Just being in a team is really very satisfying. When Steve joined it actually sort of happened physically. We were standing around in a circle, all of us throwing in ideas, and we'd decided to share the writing no matter who came up with what – which is something we hadn't done since the early '70s. We were all looking around at each other and it was pure joy. That's why Purpendicular  is such a favorite album of mine, not necessarily the music but the time.
Continue reading for more with Roger Glover...