Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Ritchie Blackmore: "I Get Very Bored And Distracted Very Easily"

Fender.com recently conducted an interview with guitar legend Ritchie Blackmore (Deep Purple, Rainbow, Blackmore's Night). A few excerpts from the chat follow below.

Fender.com: As a founding member of Deep Purple and Rainbow, it's very interesting that you have also become so successful in a totally different genre. When did you first feel an inclination towards Renaissance-inspired music?

Ritchie Blackmore: I felt an inclination towards Renaissance inspired music ever since I heard the song "Greensleeves" when I was 11 years old. And then again in 1972 when I heard David Munrow & Early Music Consort of London. I would always listen to this music at home or in the hotels on the road. I was fascinated by the sound of woodwind music from that era.

Fender.com: Blackmore's Night's debut album, "Shadow of the Moon", became a gold record, while the latest album, "Secret Voyage", debuted at #1 on the Billboard New Age charts, spending four weeks at that position and 41 weeks in the top ten. Although you've said you aren't a fan of being in the studio, you have certainly had tremendous success with your recordings. What creative approach do you take when making albums?

Ritchie Blackmore: The creative approach starts with a vague melody and vague chord progression, which I put down on a small hand recorder. The next step is Candice [Night, Ritchie's wife and Blackmore's Night's singer] humming a melody and we both decide whether there is any potential with the idea. If there is, Candice will go write the lyrics and we put that down on the recorder as well. I never make demos. Then when our producer is in town, he comes to the house and stays with us. We have a small studio downstairs. It's really a tavern turned into a studio. We record it in the house. I like to be spontaneous in the studio. I usually don't have too much worked out before I play.

Fender.com: You and Candice are often inspired by your castle visits, and have mentioned that you usually take the time to learn about the folklore of the local European communities that you visit. What's one of the strangest tales you have come across?

Ritchie Blackmore: Schloss Waldeck. It's a castle that we visit and sometimes play at that has a witches museum. It goes back to the 1300s. One night we did an interview in the dungeon and heard all sorts of paranormal sounds and screams; people walking with chains attached. We later found out the castle was made into a prison and many people were in chains while there.

Fender.com: "Secret Voyage" has been reviewed as an album that takes its listeners on a "musical quest — a voyage through time and space." The single "Locked Within the Crystal Ball" does that with a traditional melody written by King Alfonso X of Castile serving as the seed for your final arrangement and composition. Candice has called this the "Blackmore-izer." Can you describe this creative process in more detail?

Ritchie Blackmore: It just naturally unfolds. It makes the job much easier when you already have a melody that exists to work on. Sometimes it works adding modern instruments. Sometimes it doesn't. I think it worked on "Crystal Ball".

Fender.com: You also revisit the Rainbow classic "Rainbow Eyes" on the album. That was known as one of the softer Rainbow songs, described as somewhat ethereal. Did it lend itself well to a Blackmore's Night song, and how did you determine the re-arrangement?

Blackmore: Anything that is melodic lends itself to be included in this band. Originally it was very acoustic and this time around we added the electric guitar to give it a different dimension.

Fender.com: Your guitar intro to Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water" is widely considered as one of the most famous rock 'n' roll riffs ever. The lyrics of the song were inspired by the experiences the band had when a fire broke out at the Montreux Casino concert hall in Montreux, Switzerland, but how did you come up with the famous riff?

Ritchie Blackmore : Ian Paice (Deep Purple drummer) and I often used to jam, just the two of us. It was a natural riff to play at the time. It was the first thing that came into my head during that jam.

Fender.com: It's been said that you never play the same set when you tour or play a song the same way twice. Is this improvisational style a desire to stay unique, a continual search for perfectionism, or do you just get bored easy with being repetitive?

Ritchie Blackmore : The last one. I get very bored and distracted very easily. I can never remember set pieces, set lines or set anything. I would never be able to be an actor.

Fender.com: Is it true that when your father bought you your first guitar at age 11 it was on the condition that he was going to have someone teach it to you properly or smash you across the head with it?

Ritchie Blackmore: Yes, that is true. He did say that. I think he was used to me, again, getting bored very easily and that it was a passing phase — that I wouldn't carry on playing the instrument. I initially wanted to be a trumpet player, but they were too expensive. Then a drummer, but they were too expensive. So my dad bought me a guitar. It was cheaper. I wanted to be Eddie Calvert; he was a trumpet player, when I was 8.

Fender.com: Could you talk about your evolution as a guitar player, from those early classical lessons to Deep Purple and Rainbow bassist and producer Roger Glover helping you to recognize that while playing with speed can look flashy, that slowing down and holding a note is also a true art?

Ritchie Blackmore: I realized when I first started playing the guitar I wanted to be very fast. Then I realized, when that wore off, that playing slower and with more feeling and emoting was much harder. It took me a few years to get used to playing slowly. Now I find it harder to play fast.

To read the entire interview go to this location.

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