Hi Ian, what’s up?
I’ve been up doing interviews for the last four hours – for Australia mainly, because we get to Australia before Singapore. And when we get to Singapore, we’ll be there for three or four days, so I’m pretty much looking forward to that.
What do you have planned for Singapore?
We’ve been to Singapore many times – I’ve got lots of friends in Singapore, and we don’t do so much sightseeing these days. We have a nice conversation over a meal, and I’m looking forward to that. I can’t remember the names of all of them, but I do like Doc Cheng’s [in Raffles Hotel]. I used to like going there.
Will you be playing anything new at your gig here?
There’s an album coming out in April, yeah. Unfortunately, we can’t play any of the music before then. We used to write a song in the afternoon on the tour bus and perform it live on stage at night. But now, you can’t do that.
So what’s changed?
Well, within five minutes [of our performance], the whole world will see a horrible tinny, miniature, squeaky version of it on YouTube.
Right, the iPhone camera…
It’s so destructive. It’s a shame, because it spoils everything. We’ve been strictly forbidden from performing any of the new material. But then again, we do jam anyway, and everything’s improvised on the night, so who knows.
So audiences might get a preview?
No, they won’t [laughs]. We’ll save that for next time.
That said, what's it like, touring in a whole different era?
The touring is the same – nothing’s changed. That’s the great thing about live performance – technology doesn’t really affect it, apart from improving the situation. The equipment is a little less bulky now and it’s a little more reliable, and transport is a little more reliable, I think because we cover so much ground. But the company is still the same, and the music is still the same. It’s all strictly business between the band and the audience; it’s a shared experience and so, to that extent, nothing has changed. Outside influences have very little effect on live performances.
What's the difference between releasing a record then and in 2013?
Well, the industry has changed. It’s the end, isn’t it really? It’s like the end of any other era in history. We’ve gone through a period of orchestral music, painting or literature; I mean, it’s like the end of the Frank Sinatra era, to be honest. When electric guitars, amplifiers and Elvis Presley came along, that was the end of that, and the beginning of something new. The reason why we write songs is so we can have new material for our stage shows, and to that extent, we’re happy with what we’ve got.
I had a lot of correspondence with kids recently on my website about the anti-copyright laws, and the way things are being affected by the Internet and downloading – ‘freeloading’. The thing that came across from quite a few of these kids – they were very polite and respectful to me because I’m a really old guy, that sort of thing – they were saying, ‘You’ve just got to get used to it, that’s the way things are now'. I suddenly realised that people feel entitled to music, without being aware of the effect it has on the record industry.
I don’t bemoan the fact because things change, but it’s everyone talks about one thing destroying another. It’s not really that – I think that one thing has come to the end of its useful life; it was getting tired. How many more songs can you write in that way? There are so many kids now, so many young talents that need to express themselves in different ways. I think you’ve got to face up to reality, really.
But in an ideal world, how would you prefer things be?
I don’t like things not to change. We live in a Darwinian world – where it's survival of the fittest and adapt or die. I think really the adaptation is what we see now, the evolution, the mutation, if you like. The trouble is that there’s so much of everything. There’s so much consumerism, there’s so much materialistic desire to have this and that, and there are people there to fulfil those needs all the time, but it really is getting massive. You think about the number of kids making music today, and the knock-on effect of is that, sadly, the vast majority of them won’t last very long. It’s very much an ephemeral experience.
Do you feel that you were lucky to have been making music when you were?
Yeah, absolutely! It was incredible. I was there from the beginning to the end of it. But others will experience something different now, and I don’t think it’s necessarily music in the conventional sense. Because computers make the music now, you just say what you want, press a button and it will churn it out for you. I sit there and watch it happen all the time, so it’s not difficult. But it’s the background now; it’s very difficult to understand how these things work because I wasn’t a part of it, anymore than I could understand or reject my parents’ observations on what I was doing. Now I can resist the temptation to comment on what’s coming next.
So were you autotuned for this record?
My dear, no. Heaven forbid! We learn the songs, we sit there and jam. We write from noon till six everyday, and after a couple of weeks, some songs emerge. We learn and write them, practice them, go into the studio and perform them altogether at the same time. And no, there’s no autotuning [laughs].
I’m sorry, that dehumanises the voice. And the trouble is, with production techniques, particularly from the '90s onwards, when every atom of every part of the spectrum of sound is still something, you can’t hear the room in which the music was played, you can’t hear the air moving, you can’t hear the intake of breathe from the singer – it’s just one wall of sound people feel they have to fill every part of. Of course, that destroys the texture and it destroys dynamics. There’s no change of tempos anymore; you never change tempos, because everything’s gone to a click or drum track. There’s no dynamic tension, so everything’s a wall of sound. It’s different, it’s ok. I don’t get it, but there you go.
So you guys are on Twitter?
Twitter? I don’t have Twitter. It’s not my way of life, observing everything that happens every time I’m moving around.
But Deep Purple has a Twitter account now.
Yeah, there's a link on your website.
I didn’t even know we had a website.
Yeah, it’s on your website as the ‘ffficial account for English band…’
Yeah, I guess they do that, and they’re doing a great job. They’re fantastic people, and we support them as best as we can. I haven’t got time for Twitter, to be honest. I’ve got a website that I do much longer pieces on and more in depth stuff; I don’t have time for gossip, basically.
So... one of your other stops on tour is in Kathmandu.
We've played in some very strange places over the years, and under some very strange circumstances – in earthquakes and wars, in volcanoes and hurricanes and typhoons, and on mountaintops during blizzards. We played in the Kremlin, and Kathmandu is another exciting place to go, as is Singapore.
Compared to Kathmandu, Singapore’s certainly not more interesting...
I’m not so sure about that area of Nepal, but like most cities, you get down to the dirty deeds of the metropolis. I don’t even know if the performance is in Kathmandu, or if we’ll get on a donkey and go somewhere. It’s happened before.
We’ve been on fishing boats too – in the Faroe Islands, we had to get our equipment from the main town to another island where we were performing. There was a strike going on, and we had to sail. I’ve been through some amazing things in the Soviet era, and just working in Beirut in '66 and '67. You learn to think in ways that aren’t just your own.
Deep Purple perforrmed at The Star Theatre on 12 Mar 2013.