The Glover Version

"Guitarist" (UK), April 1991

      Ritchie Blackmore's recent recollections threw new light on the Deep Purple phenomenon. Now it's time for his long-time producer, collaborator and bassist, Roger Glover, to have his say. Purp freak Gibson Keddie goes in at the Deep end...
      According to the annals of Rock Lore, Deep Purple invented METAL, their legendary Mount Rushmoresque In Rock LP establishing a precedent that moulded a multitude of followers. Tying down the ambitious noise of The Purp's glory years was Roger Glover, whose influence on the sound of the reformed Purple has sinse extended to the producer's role. However, it is as a rock bass player of impressive longevity for which he is best loved, and as suchhe's been seen over the years toting a bewildering array of instruments. Opening our exchange with a bit of a loosener, I wondered which planks he favoured today...
      I noticed your photograph recently in a Warwick advertisment, endorsing their Streamer bass...

Yeah, but I fight shy of endorsements as such. I have a Warwick,and I use it, but my philosophy tends to be that if I find a bass that I feel good playing, then I'll use it, and it doesn't really matter what make it is. But the bass I'm using at the moment on the album, and the one I'm using on the tour, is a Steinberger, and it's a lovely bass. Mind you, ten years ago I found a Hondo - it was a really cheap Danelectro copy - and I fell absolutley in love with it. It was a terrific guitar and as a result I bought a double-neck Hondo - an 8-string with a four - and that was good too, but it certainly doesn't play the same way that the first one did.

      Do you collect guitars? Most players wouldn't describe themselves as collectors per se, but for one reason or another guitarists tend to amass a 'collection'...

I've got a lot of guitars at home that I've been through - they've been my playing guitars at the time - but I often still think, 'My God, I wish I still had that first Precision of mine...!'

      I remember you with that - what happened to it?

Believe it or not, I think I swapped it for an amp! You never thought about things like that at the time - I needed an amp, I didn't have any money to buy one with, so the Precision had to go. Same old story...

      You've been seen with a few basses in your time. Can you remember them?

After the Fender, I went on to a Rickenbacker 4001 stereo. Mind you, before I had the Precision I used to have a Fender Mustang...

      I had one of those too; I thought they were super little basses. Did you like the one you had?

I liked it in the studio, but I found that when it came to using it on stage it wasn't big enough - both in sound and in neck lengh - so I moved to the Precision, then to the Rickenbacker. Mind you, all my life I think I've been searching for a sound that probably doesn't exist, and I've come to the realisation that the sound I'm looking for is more in my fingers than in the instrument, although I'm sure that anything you feel good about playing helps you to play better.

      Listening to you, and watching you play that Rickenbacker through that huge stack of Marshalls with Deep Purple in the late '60s was one of my influences - that thundering, loose strung Ricky bass 'clank' was a force to be reckoned with...

To me, it was always too distorted. It was a typical case of the grass being greener. I'd heard various American recordings on which Ricky basses were used, loved the sound and thought I'd try that. But it was always 'clank, clank, distort, distort' - just too distorted really. I always had a feeling that I wasn't underneath the band the way that a bass player should be, and that I was competing with Jon and Ritchie in the mid range, and generally muddying up the overall sound.

      I think that most players have a notion of their ideal sound when they start out. Back in those early days,with Episode Six, were you aware of what sound you wanted?

No, not really - at least I can't remember conciously thinking of it. I became a bass player by accident, and started with an old solid-body copy. Actually, I remember that first Precision I got... I went home with it, stood it in the corner of the room and studied it for about two hours, loving it,loving every cuve on it, every knob. And then, when I got tired of that I'd turn it around, and look at the back for another two hours! Just a pure love affair with that guitar...
It's a feeling that you've made it. isn't it, when you've got a bass like that. And I think that was the overriding passion with me, the fact that I'd got a Fender Presicion, so I didn't have to worry so much about the sound; the sound would take care of itself. All I had to worry about was the playing of it!
I used to try and build my own speaker cabinets too, but I probably increeased my knowledge of carpentry more than my knowledge of sound! I spent ages doing that before I came to the conclusion that the people that built speaker cabs probably knew best. But, then again, it was another learning process...

      Did you feel your playing was developing the way you wanted it to, as the band developed in the late '60s? It must have become obvious that the successful Purple sound was that bass-heavy hard rock, with the improvisations over the top of that.

With regard to that, I've always been frustrated as a bass player. You know, I'll go into music shops for a look round and see these young guys playing the most incredible things on bass, and thinking: 'Jeez, I couldn't do any of that...!' I've always had a bit of a complex about my bass playing and so most of my thoughts are concerned with writing; I always felt I was more of a writer. And although, as far as bass playing goes, I can do the job, I never had any desire to be a standout player, and never felt I had the discipline to concentrate on being solely a bass player - probably to my detriment , as I wasn't playing with with the kind of authority I would have liked for a hard rock band.
It can get quite confusing sometimes these days, as far as having a defined role on stage goes. Ritchie has a guitar synthesiser with him on stage, plus a set of bass pedals - both of which can go lower than the range of my bass, and frequently do! So the bass end can get very muddy, especially with Jon's Hammond organ added to that - again, an instrument with the capability of producing far lower notes than I can.

      Does that cause you to compensate by altering the bass lines? Do you,say, listen to some of your influences to help you re-examine your contribution on bass?

Yes. To quote an example: when you listen to, say, the Meters, that sort of New Orleans sound, the bass playing is so sparse, but what it does it does with such authority that it really comes across, and I always felt that that was the situation I wanted to be in. It's a s if I've never had a focus of where I wanted to be as a bass player. I worry about the sound too, but not overly...

      In that vein, what about Motown? James Jamerson is a much -quoted influence, and lent such a flow to some of those records...

When I was driving around London last week, I had some Motown on the tape machine - Diana Ross. Listening to the bass playing, it encompassed the entire feel of the song - the bass line provided the counterpoint to the melody more than anything else. Relating that to my own experience, it's very difficult to play in a band, produce it and mix it because I always tend to play myself down, and play everyone else up! But with those thoughts earlier, regarding the position of the bass line in a song, on this mix I sat down and tried to work out what the key elements of the songs were, what makes them work. And on the new single, Love Conquers All, it's the bass part, because it outlines where the chords are, and the guitar is just keeping basic time. So I could definateley put that down to a Motown influence...
Talking of the '60s, do you remember that whole 'loudest band in the world' thing? I remember seeing you in Edinburgh in '69, and on that tour you played the Caird Hall in Dundee where the volume was so loud that the plaster was falling off the ceiling. They mounted a piece of this plaster onto a plinth and presented it to you as a trophy..!

      That sounds familiar..! You were actually in the Guinness Book of Records with that title, weren't you?

Yeah, the problem is that it became something that was very hard to live down, although it was of so little importance to us. That situation came about because we were touring in Europe and America, and to save shipping costs we decided we'd have two lots of gear - it was obviously all Marshalls at the time - an identical setup either side of the Atlantic. However, as we became more successful as a band, the equipment increased because of the size of the gigs in America - huge arenas and so on - and it got to the stage where we couldn't afford the outlay of having identical equipment on either side. So we had one huge setup made which could cope with the arena-sized gigs, and took that to America. At the end of that tour we played what was then the Astoria at Finsbury Park, with all this stuff, and it was only a three thousand seater! The problem was that once you get used to playing at a certain volume level it's very difficult to back off - it becomes alomost like a security blanket - and the thinking was also that if you didn't play at that volume level then you weren't giving of your best. Unknown to us, the Guinness people were there - it wasn't pre-arranged or anything - and so as a result of the volume levels at that gig we became 'the loudest band in the world!'
To us it was a hoot, and we had a good laugh over it - I mean we only held the title for a year I think, before The Who took it over - but we seem to have become the band most associated with that. Now, though, we go out of our way not to be too loud!
Our whole attitude to performing has changed now,and not just as to volume levels. For instance, in those days when we were in concert, we'd shuffle around on stage between songs, light a cigarette, have a drink, with no attempt at showmanship, or keeping things going. It was, ' number?' heads down and go! We felt we were breaking rules, if you like, and by turning the volume up wew were being rebellious!
I suppose it's all changed around now. Everything goes through the PA with small amounts of equipment being used in the backline, although some bands still use a wall of Marshalls as a backdrop rather than a backline..!
The first band I can remember using a PA like that was Fleetwood Mac. They were supporting us at some gigs in the late '60s, after their glory days with Peter Green, and they were all playing through the PA. We had seen their gear and thought, 'Puny!' But that was the way to do it. Nowadays, we're still loud - rock music needs a certain amount of volume for impact - but we hope the volume level is enjoyable. If I go to a gig these days and it's too loud, I'll walk out!

      You've been involved in production for a long time now. Bearing in mind what you said about your bass playing, was that a deliberate attempt to gain more influence over the way the band sounded?

Not as such. We always knew what we wanted to sound like as a band, and used an engineer to help us capture it...

      That was Martin Birch wasn't it?

That's right. And everyone would be in the studio, especially at the mix, with their hand on their own fader, pushing it up and up. But the novelty soon wore off, and what happened was that everyone would only come in to do their bit, then leave. But I was genuinely interested in what was going on in the studio and really learned from there, as I tended to be there most of the time. I'm not naturally drawn to electronic equipment, but I've learned how to produce records the modern way - without a band - simply because I felt I should know how to do that. But I've come to the realisation that however much technology is used, it's the old story of coming back to one person and a guitar with the songs. Otherwise you end up with something that sounds good but has no value.
I remember Ritchie once saying that writing in the hard rock idiom was one of the hardest things to do, that it was stifled by all sorts of limitations: what people would accept, etc....
You're stifled by limitations, and you're also stifled by your past. It's almost a religious crusade with me now. I always tape everything we do, especially when we're jamming at rehearsals. That started when I heard Ritchie play this killer riff, and when we stopped, I asked him to play it again and he said, 'What riff?' - he hadn't even realised he'd played it! A lot of our songs come from jams, and that riff could have been the basis for a good song. New ideas sound fresh and exciting at the rehearsal stage, and that's another reason I like to have the tape rolling.
The problem is that the basic notes of Smoke On The Water almost said it all - most riffs use those notes. There's nothing you can do except to use some or other combination of those notes, so you're talking about degrees away from that, as opposed to original music.
On the other hand, for example, ballads are a piece of cake to write - just pick any couple of chords, put a lazy beat to it, the singer can wail away over the top of it and it'll sound half decent. But to write a good, up-tempo hard rocker is exceptionally difficult.

      I thought the riff for Knocking At Your Back Door from 'Perfect Strangers'marked a return to form for Deep Purple...

Great riff! Ritchie really is the riff king! We'd had that one for a couple of years; I've got tapes of us jamming over that riff in Rainbow - but we couldn't write anything over it that was satisfactory at that time. Best to save them for another day. When you get a good riff, there's two ways you can go: you can either write something that goes with it, and both methods have their strenghs and weaknesses.

      After your 'departure' from Purple, were you glad to have the production aspect to concentrate on, or did you feel, because of the bad feelings, that you wanted to leave music altogether?

Well, I never felt that I wanted to leave music. The way it worked out was that,as a result of my experience producing DP, I'd done some production work for other bands. And when I left Purple one of the records I'd produced, Broken Down Angel by Nazareth, was a number one. I was also doing some work for Status Quo and so it meant I had other avenues open to me because of that. And of course, a couple of years later, Ritchie asked me to produce Rainbow... and I ended up playing in the band.

      Did that make you obvious choice for the producer's chair with the new Deep Purple?

I actually said at the reformation of the band that I didn't want to be the producer, even though I had the experience. And I said that we should get someone else in, but Ritchie, who's very astute at times,said, 'It's going to be difficult for you not to produce this band, isn't it?' And in effect that was quite right, because I can't just sit back, do my bass part and go home. So it started like that, but then the niggles started: this wasn't right or that wasn't right, and I was trying to listen to everybody's point of view. But in the end I had to say, 'Okay! Either I get to do it my way or we get somebody else in to do it'. And of course, typically Deep Purple, a decision was never made. We were still having fights about it, but in the end I did it the way I wanted. You have to be strong as a producer, otherwise it'll go nowhere. As a result, I now feel stronger and better as a writer and a producer than ever did. It's just unfortunate that I don't feel the same way about my bass playing...

      There was obviously tremendous pressure on you to reform the'classic' line-up. What did you feel about all that?

We were aware of the 'reunion' thing, and in fact it had become a bit of a yawn, but whatever Purple was, it seemed to have become much bigger than the five of us. I remember thinking that the reunion, if it took place , would be two things: it would be a huge anti-climax all round, and it would be viewed as completley anachronistic. So I had to ask myself, 'What is it about Purple that holds this attraction for people?' And I remember driving in the car one day with the radio on, hearing this piece of music and thinking, 'That's good... ' and it was us! And that really started me thinking positivley about getting back together with the rest of the band. When we did start playing together again it was absolute magic, it just felt so right. And that started the whole thing moving again...

      What are your feelings about the whole process happening all over again - the album. the publicity, then the tour..?

I'm pleased with the new album ('Slaves and Masters'), but at the same time I think the band now is so good that I'm itching to get back in the studio again, because I think we're capable of so much more...

      All those years, and the enthusiasm's still there?

Yes, sure. I view going back on the road differentley, though. To me, the road is a necessary evil, and I've absolutely no desire to see Frankfurt airport, or any other airport, ever again. But obviously I will. Those few moments on stage, though, are priceless!
You know, I remember all those years ago, when I used to play in Germany - the usual sweatshops, night after night after night, 45 minutes on, 15 minutes off, from 7 at night until 3 in the morning every night of the week, except weekend when it was 4 in the morning, really heavy work. Then I still wasn't far from being a schoolkid, and I can remember, despite all that, thinking, 'Here I am, doing what I always wanted to do, playing four strings in front of an audience and being paid for it!' Even nowadays, when I get up on stage, I still feel that feeling, and remember that thrill from all that time ago.
I started off, as I said earlier, being a bass player by accident, doing what everyone else did, taking the two top strings off a Spanish guitar and putting in a little pickup, so to have gone from there to using this Steinberger with Deep Purple onstage now, always gives me great pleasure.

      Are you using an effects rack on this tour?

No, I find it hard enough to get a good pure bass sound. I think effects just muddy the situation.

      That's exactly what Ritchie said in his interview with Guitarist recently: he finds that processors thin the signal out to an unacceptable level. He has such a 'Fat Strat' sound that you wouldn't want to lose it. Not many people sound like him...

When we're in the studio, or turning up to rehearsals, and it's just him and me, it's such a pleasure to listen to him. I just marvel at him and think, 'Wow, I'm so privileged to be getting this personal concert'. He just blows me away. But that sound is him, it's in his fingers. I think people are starting to realise that you can buy all the equipment that you think will make you sound like a certain person, but you'll only be disappointed when you inevitably don't. As I said,that sound is fro within.

      Bearing in mind that you used a Precision for a long time, did you ever get backache from wearing that big old thing?

I get backache, but I thought that was just old age! But funnily enough, I was given a '62 reissue Precision by Fender Japan, which was really nice, but I couldn't believe the weight of it! By the time I'd put it on and tuned it, I'd had enough! Actually this Steinberger is pretty heavy, but it's a lovely guitar to play...

      Did you have any trouble adjusting to the headless style?

Yeah, it was a bit strange at first. I kept thinking I'd fall off the end of the fretboard! Mind you, that wasn't my first experience with headless basses... When I was playing with Rainbow, I had a Gibson Thunderbird bass, a lovely bass to play - I wish I'd been in Purple when I had that. Anyway, we were playing one night and it was virtually the last chord of the last song in the encore. I was playing away, and I suddenly became aware that I couldn't feel any strings, so I looked down and the strings were just hanging down off the bass. I looked up at the fretboard and the head had disapeared! The T-birds were very weak, construction-wise, directly behind the nut, and I must have accidently touched my mike stand with the head of the guitar and - WHACK! - instant headless bass..!