In today's issue

Deep Purple to headline Emirates Airline Dubai Jazz Festival

Nothing has changed except the medium, frontman Ian Gillan says

  • By Leslie Wilson Jr, Special Features Writer
  • Published: 09:05 November 22, 2012

  • Image Credit: Supplied
  • Don Airey, Ian Paice, Ian Gillian, Steve Morse and Roger Gloverof of Deep Purple.

Famous for mega anthems like Smoke On The Water, Highway Star and Black Knight, British rockers Deep Purple have been dishing out heavy metal for over 40 years.

As practitioners of hard rock, they have captured the attention of millions of fans around the world, enveloping people’s senses with their catchy melodies, sly improvisation and articulate rhythms.

They have earned a reputation as the personification of classic rock, so the announcement that Deep Purple will headline  next year’s Emirates Airline Dubai Jazz Festival 2013 at Festival Park, Dubai Festival City on February 21, might come as a surprise.  But it shouldn’t be, says Anthony Younes, CEO of Chillout Productions, the organisers of the festival.

“Deep Purple played many international jazz fests, including the most famous one, Montreux Jazz Festival, and this where they came up with Smoke On The Water,” he told tabloid!.

The Emirates Airline Dubai Jazz Festival, with a new sponsor this time around, runs from February 14-22, with an opening weekend of concerts, the Jazz Garden from February 16-20 and a closing weekend of concerts from February 21-22.

“The Emirates Airline sponsorship adds to the allure of the Dubai Jazz Festival and we are very pleased to be associated with a highly-acclaimed international brand over the next five years,” said Younes.

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“The 2013 edition of the Emirates Airline Dubai Jazz Festival will include some of the finest musicians, who will perform a diverse portfolio of musical genres. We invite music lovers from around the region to attend this special event that will offer much more than jazz.” Tickets for the annual event, now in its 11th year, go on sale in December.

“Thank you very much for having us,”  Deep Purple frontman Ian Gillan told tabloid! this week, giving a hint of the passion that we can expect from the band onstage. “That will be our first show after Christmas so the band will be exploding with energy.”

tabloid! spoke to Gillan about his music, fans, and the legendary Elvis Presley.

Excerpts from the interview:

How do you keep up the enthusiasm and energy over the tours and the years? What’s the secret?

Well, I don’t really know. We never planned this far ahead. Possibly it’s the way we set ourselves up in the beginning. We had no ambition, except to make the band as good as possible. Every street where I lived in the south of England had a band, so you try and steal the guitar player or the drummer from the band in the next street, just to improve your own band and all we cared about was just playing music that we loved. We didn’t give much thought to image, in fact we don’t have a publicist -- never had one -- and we never [gave] thought to the normal business things. So there’s a basic simplicity to the ethos of the band which has survived and I don’t think it’s changed in any way. The music’s kinda matured with us -- it’s grown up a little bit I suppose -- but it’s still got all the energy and enthusiasm that we had as kids. Apart from that, I couldn’t answer your question because I’m too close to it. All I know is that it’s full of energy and we still love it.

How would you best describe the Deep Purple sound?

It’s very easy to describe a solo artist because you instantly recognise the voice. And I think with Deep Purple you instantly recognise the sound. It’s not just a sound, it’s a feel. I think it’s quite instantly recognisable. The rhythm section is very important. Our drummer swings like a train and that’s very unusual for rock’n’roll drummers -- they normally bash their drums, so there’s a little more subtlety to Ian Paice and Roger [Glover]. I think the combination of the Hammond [organ] and the guitar are fairly distinctive and probably my voice is recognisable, I expect. And I think the style of the music also ,because of the input of everyone in those formative years. We had influences such as orchestral compositions, Hammond organ, jazz, blues, rock’n’roll, soul, Tampa Mowtown, folk, you name it, it’s all in there. So there’s quite a range of texture and that’s as simple as I can make it.

What classic Deep Purple songs best lend themselves to where the band is at this stage of its career?

The construction of a song doesn’t change, it’s just the way that the food is cooked. It’s also the improvisation. A friend of mine came to two shows in Germany on the last tour, in Hamburg and Frankfurt, and he said to me, ‘you did the same set as you did last night’. But I said to him, ‘last night was one hour and 40 minutes, tonight was two hours and 16 minutes’. So how do you account for that? It’s the improvisation. All of that provides the excitement and I think probably the menu has changed much.

You have had a lot of changes in band members over the years. What are Steve Morse and Don Airey like to work with?

Steve joined us 20 years ago and I think his style was different to Ritchie’s and also to Joe Satriani who bridged the gap between Ritchie and Steve Morse. Steve is an American to start off, so his roots are quite different to ours, that southern rock kind of style, and he uses the guitar in a different kinda way. He’s got four fingers and a thumb on his left hand so he figures he might as well use them all. So he’s quite an incredible technician and Ritchie was too, but in a different way. Don is a mountain, he’s got so much energy and power and he absolute stuns me every night.

You have been screaming rock music for over 40 years. How do you do it?

I think it’s quite natural, I do a lot of it, and so I keep myself fairly fit. My mates who were singers they quit to enjoy their success or raise families and they didn’t continue. Then they tried to come back years later but it was very difficult because vocal cords, unlike guitar strings, are unforgiving, you can’t change them. So I think I’ve been singing all my life, and therefore I’m pretty match-fit, so to speak. Most things are within my scope, I sing pretty naturally so it’s not a strain, never has been.

How do you define a rock singer? Who in your opinion is the greatest?

It’s all very different; I don’t think it’s a science but if you were ask me who had the greatest voice in rock music of all time I would have to say a young Elvis Presley, without a doubt. He was the Pavarotti of rock music. I remember listening to Dame Kiri Te Kanawa a few years ago on the BBC and the presenter asked her who she thought was the greatest voice she had ever heard. I was expecting her to say something like Caruso, Joan Sutherland or Pavarotti, but she said the young Elvis. He touched us all, he got through to us, his personality. Technically he was perfect, his pitch and tone were absolutely wonderful and his sense of rhythm, something came deep inside him that literally did touch us all. That’s a secret of greatness.

Befitting the success Deep Purple has achieved, the band has been nominated for the Rock’n’roll Hall of Fame. How much of an honour is this, or is it?

(Laughs.) Without being asked I was nominated for an MBE a little while ago and I was a bit fed up with these sorts of things and then I rationalised the situation. When I was a kid, the last thing that I wanted was to be institutionalised and sort of fought against the establishment all my life. However, when I had a chance to think about the nomination I realised I saw people getting excited about it around me and I realised it’s for family and friends and it’s not for me alone, it’s for the people who have supported us all through these years particularly through the bad times. So I look at it in a different way now,with a certain amount of humility.

In your day you had to go through auditions before you were given a recording contract. Is it easier for today’s entertainers?

I think it’s probably a double-edged sword. It’s more difficult in one sense because there is so much of it around now -- the completion is so fierce. In our day there wasn’t so much going on and you only had to be good enough to entertain people, which we did when we were kids. You just had to be capable rather than anything else, you had to have minimum of 120 songs in your repertoire. But I think really the idea then was to follow what the public wanted rather than try and do it through the business. I wouldn’t want to be starting right now, I think it would be a lot more difficult, to be honest.

How do you measure the role that the internet played in the world of popular music?

If you’re over a certain age you can only be objective about it and if you’re not of that age you’ve got to accept that you’re not part of it. I to start off resented youtube because every little note that you did was on the internet before the end of the concert virtually and I couldn’t understand how people would sit and listen to a concert that sounded great to me in a venue, on some rubbishing little ear-pod. How could understand the music or appreciate it? But then again it’s a question of expectation and entitlement.

What kind of music do you listen to these days?

Rasputin, which I play when I want people to go home -- a bass singer and a baritone singer. It’s gorgeous but it scares the hell out of people. I also like big band swing, Dean Martin is one of my favourites.