"Aardschok" N3, March 1996, 21.02.96

I've played with the Dixie Dreggs for about eleven years, but at a certain point I got the feeling the spirit was no longer there. In all this time, I think we've had vacation for about two weeks, and the band was having a hard time because of drug-related problems of some of the members. On this night, we did a bad gig, which I hate. Next night we played again, followed by another night. That was too much for me, so I stopped. We had done everything to keep the band alive, and in those days we were 'underground'; you couldn't hear us on the radio. A bad gig was exceptional, and very irritating for me. Make that three on a row, that's it for me. I started mowing hay and digging holes with a bulldozer for a couple of months; I'm a countryman you know. Besides, that's very healthy work, 'cause you are being put back into reality in no time. After some months I discovered some things were missing. I liked the work, but I enjoyed myself more when I was making music. So I decided I would like to play again. A way to achieve that was to start all over again. What did I need? A bassplayer, or a keyboardplayer who could hand the bass as well, and a good drummer. In the Dreggs evrybody was satisfied musically, but the way of living and the touring led to drug-use for some. With my own band I had no such problems. In a trio mistakes are more conspicuous; when someone drinks a couple of beers before a show, others will notice that immediately.

      After some solorecords you played with Kansas.

That was after 'High Tension Wires'. Kansas was disbanded for some time, and I knew them for a while. We lived in the same city. Their singer Steve Walsh wanted to work with them again when they would give it a new try. Then I said I was prepared to help them out when ever they needed a guitarplayer. I worked on some tracks and it went alright. It was almost like we started a new band; everthing happened so naturely. With Deep Purple that was different. Purple is a good selling band, and has her own identity for along time. The question was whether I was prepared to play with this already-excisting band. That was more like 'a real decision' for me. I asked myself if they knew who they asked. We did a short tour first, and did lots of repetitions to see if it worked. That proved to be a smart move. I look at it as a blind date; sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn't, and then it's nobody's mistake. That's just how it is. When Satriani had finished the tour with Purple, they called me. I think it was never the purpose that Satriani would become a permanent member of the band, because, one way or another, he wanted to continue with his own music. Luckily it hit off from the start. I intended to be myself, and not to act different from who I am. Tours are long, you're with eachother almost night and day. You don't want to fool eachother for that do you? Beside that, I had a choice; continue my own music, 'cause I can make a livin' out of that too. That pretty much took off the pressure. Deep Purple likes to improvise, and gives me a lot of space to do so. That's a perfect situation.

      When I listen to your records, Dixie Dreggs till 'Purpendicular', I notice that your music never changed a lot. The main differences are the line-ups and the instruments that are used. The music itself didn't change that much.

Haha! You can't say goodbye to your style. Style mainly consists of repetition of certain elements, though I try to avoid repetition as much as possible. I always wrote and arranged the greater part of my music myself. I also told Purple how I work in the studio. I always have in my head what will be the next I want to try. That's in my nature. It's very difficult for me not to mention my own opinion. Therefore I asked the other bandmembers whether they would please keep the things which work within Purple, and not to use the rest. At least they know best what suits Deep Purple best; they ARE Deep Purple. Eventually everything turned out to happen very naturaly. Ian Paice jammed on a beat he liked, most of the times I could come up with something to play along. Jon and Roger filled that on, and Ian Gillan made the lyrics. This was the most natural way of componing I ever whitnessed.

      In 1995 you released "Structural Damage". I understand that you will release a new solo record this march. What's the relation between your own work and your work within Deep Purple?

I can't tell you much about that new record; we're still working on it, and for example, there are no titles yet. I made 'Structural Damage' since I've been in Deep Purple, just as "Full Circle" with the Dixie Dreggs. I toured with a number of guitarists. I further played with Steve Lukather and Albert Lee. I keep busy. By the way, "Full Circle" already was released a year ago by Capricorn, but I understand their distribution in Europe isn't that good. Haha!. It's the first studioalbum by the Dreggs since the beginning of the eighties.

      I have been told that you even stopped playing for a while to start as a pilot.

That's right. I did airlines for a while. As a pilot, you start with a reasonable salary, and when you make progression, you end up with a very good salary and lots of free-time. That gives you time to play again. My idea was to get a life like that, and to do gigs once in a while. But, after being a professional pilot for half a year, I realised that making music is the most natural thing for me. It's just the certain aspects of the music industry that make me sick. Just like every industry has the things that make you sick. So I got over that; the unpleasant things are part of life too. I just keep looking at the good sides of the business. I'm more enthousiastic than ever, and I started playing with a more mature attitude. When I get tired of things, I think back of my time as a pilot. I had worked hard for it, and I got the job. That makes me realise that you can basically do everything; it just depends on what you want to do. And so I choose for the music. The best is that your work is something you like the most! Besides, I don't see touring or recording as a 'work'. The reason I get paid for it is that I have bills myself to pay. The nasty thing is you can't do what you want while travelling. We travel very comfortable with Purple, but we always got to be in the hotellobby at an exact time!

      The records you made after you left Kansas are more aggressive than you earlier records. How come?

That was because of my band. 'High Tension Wires' was actually made by myself. After that I needed a drummer and a bassplayer to re-record my programmed drum- and bassparts. So, in fact they had little contribution. "Southern Steel" was made with guys who did contribute a lot. Those people were hardrockers from New Jersey, you see.

      Was it a hard job to replace Ritchie Blackmore? For a lot of people, the MarkII line-up is "the ultimate" Deep Purple.

All those people should just come to our show and listen. How can you judge such a thing without hearing it? And above that, the band is not the same as it was twent-five years ago. I'm able to play Blackmore's parts, but I'm not him. Out of respect for him, I did certain things the same way he does it; on other parts, I take more freedom. The band gives me that freedom. I can make the intro's as long as I want. Whoever is the guitarist in Deep Purple, the public will know him well at the end of the show, haha! They will have heard his licks more than enough, haha! I did some shows with Purple last year. The main part of the public didn't even know my name, but on the front rows, there always were those die-hards asking were Ritchie was. I don't bother with that at all, 'cause that's logical. He was one of the founders of this band. But at the end of the show they'll know I play with just as much passion and energy as whoever else. And they can hear I'm a fan of Deep Purple. I try to do it as good as possible, and a solo like "Highway Star" can't be played different. It's so beautiful!!