Steve's Morse Code

John "Bo Bo" Bollenberg, "Progressive World", October 2000

      When Alice Cooper wrote "No More Mr. Nice Guy" he probably hadn't heard of Steve Morse. Born in Hamilton, Ohio on 28th July 1954, Steve Morse in a way doesn't fit the stereotype of the "rock star," as he is without any doubt one of the nicest chaps working in the rock'n roll circus. After having been offered an interview by phone prior to the commercial release of his Major Impacts album I kind of "declined" the offer, as I then knew Deep Purple would tour Europe a couple of months later and to me it would be much more interesting (and fun!) to meet the man "in the flesh." The other interesting point being that Deep Purple would perform with a huge symphonic orchestra and with Ronnie James Dio as support. There was no way a "phoner" could compensate for this.
      The day prior to the interview, tour manager Colin Hart had e-mailed the record company, saying my name would be on the guestlist and the interview with Steve could go ahead as planned. Having been around a cool twenty years in the business I know I can only be sure once the whole thing has happened, so when I arrived at the venue and the lady behind the counter said my name was not on the guestlist I had this voice inside my mind going: "oh no, say it's not happening!" She let me go to the back of the venue though and there I was introduced to a very nice chap who would pass the message on to Colin. A mere ten minutes later and thanks to the nice cooperation of Colin, I found myself in the possession of a backstage pass, witnessing the soundcheck of Deep Purple and the George Enescu Philharmonic Orchestra from Bucharest, Romania. My pass enabled me to walk back and forth between the venue and the backstage area, which also gave me the opportunity to speak to Ronnie James Dio, who guests on this tour, and also to Mickey Lee Soule, keyboard player with Dio's band Elf, with Rainbow, and now keyboard tech for Jon Lord. What a small world! During the soundcheck I witnessed a collaboration between Morse and the orchestra that later that night would be performed for the very first time ever and called "Guitarstring"! After the soundcheck I introduced myself to Steve. He asked if I wanted to grab something to eat and, believe it or not, I was invited to sit at the same table as Steve, Ian Paice, Roger Glover and Jon Lord! I mean growing up with Purple during my teens and now sitting with my all-time idols was made possible by the newcomer in the band. Thanks again Steve, I owe you one (or two, or three, or )
      After dinner we looked for a quiet room so we could talk without being disturbed. In the middle of the interview Steve suddenly saw he only had twenty minutes left before he had to be on stage so we left it for the time being. The final part of the interview was conducted after the concert which added a couple of more questions. I went to the gents only to find myself standing next to Jon Lord. I pinched myself, headed to the acquired room and fired my first question to a relaxed and enthusiastic Steve Morse.

      The first actual band you put together were the Dixie Grits, which through name changes became Dixie Dregs and then Dregs, and is in fact a band that still exists. What was the initial idea once you kicked off with Dixie Grits? What was the ambition?

Actually my first band was called The Plague who mainly played cover material. The Dixie Grits was the first time we wrote our own material, which was progressive rock like Yes, to which we added some weird influences such as bluegrass because it sounded like fun, and that's what's important: that people have a good time both as an audience but also as a performer. In no way was there a market for this kind of music. This happened in the south, in Georgia, in the late sixties but there was no market and I mean NONE. We could have a free concert and have people come, which is what we did normally. The most we ever charged I think was 25 cents at a coffee house. If you look at my career then you have the proof that I have never aimed at a certain market.

      Still you suddenly get a recording deal with Capricorn records so there must have been some kind of market anyway, as I don't see a record company giving you a contract merely for the color of your eyes? Certainly not way back then!

Capricon were a pretty progressive company way back then. I mean they went from Otis Redding to the Allman Brothers; they had Martin Mull, the comedian, who was one of the first of the new era of modern comedians. They liked artistic things, they wanted to do something different. They didn't spend a fortune on us simply because they had to be realistic about it. They sold some records, not a bunch but they sold some!

      Aren't you amazed by the sheer volume of output by the Dregs?

No, not really, because I write new music all the time. One time I did add up the number of records that I played on, which was over twenty, and that surprised me as I didn't know there were so many. I'm also not surprised that the band still exists, as there have always been a lot of aficionado types out there and it's always fun to play for them. We just get together and play. Now if we were to support our families doing this it would be a lot harder.

      When I interviewed Jordan Rudess not so long ago he told me that it's his biggest wish to record a Dregs album with you in the band. Apparently, although being in the band himself, he never got around recording with you. Do you think his dream might come true one day?

I'm sure we will. Jordan is an incredible musician. It's just a matter of time. But let's make one thing clear: we don't rotate our lives around anything really. There's no master plan of boosting our career or anything like that. We are musicians and when we have some time off and we like doing something together, then we will whether it does something for a career or not. I don't remember thinking about that much in my life!

      Was your involvement with the band Kansas a result of your guesting on Steve Walsh's solo album Schemer Dreamer ?

They lived in Atlanta at the time and so did the Dregs. Steve would come to see us play and we would go over to see him perform. He just wanted to have some people that he knew. That's all it was really. When I joined Kansas as a permanent member, what I wanted to do was to write new music which kind of contained all of the "old" elements of the Kansas music that I loved, such as lots of instrumental passages and polyphony, kind of like Yes. That was my idea. Unfortunately at the time the record company and the management had a big influence. They kind of said: "if you want to make this record then we want to hear some songs which can be played on the radio." So from the beginning I was kind of pushed out of the band by them at the same time that I was part of the band by my writing and by the fact that we all liked playing together. So it was a strange thing. And I ended up leaving the band as I found that I could not function as well as somebody else could under these circumstances. The presure from the record companies to write hit singles was just too much for me. I mean, I can write music and who knows that music might turn into a hit single, but don't put the pressure on me demanding me to write a hit single. What exactly is a hit single?

      Come Deep Purple. Did you at one point feel like you were only the second choice, replacing Joe Satriani in a way?

The band had booked a tour in Japan and suddenly Ritchie Blackmore quit, so it was like "what do we do now?" I believe Purple's manager talked to the promoter in Japan to discuss this, and he requested that either Joe Satriani or Jeff Beck - in other words, a well-known guitarist in his own right - would step into Ritchie's shoes. They were kind of looking for a guitarist who could fill big venues on his own, let alone as a member of Deep Purple. So in the end they opted for Satriani, as that was who the promoter wanted at that time.
Normally the band would look for a replacement close to who they know, but this time it was at very short notice. Right now, if anyone from the band would quit then the rest would look among their circle of friends to find the right person. Don't forget that the personality of someone is a huge part in the success of working together. So this line up of Purple got together by an outside force. Of course Satriani is a great professional guitar player. He can pretty much make anything sound great. It's like how can you lose with Joe Satriani playing guitar? It takes some time before you actually sense that the chemistry is going to work. They weren't writing any music together, either. So in a way that collaboration might have gone on for a while, be it not that for this tour the main idea was "performance." Who knows if it would have lasted if they came to the songwriting part. Songwriting is really where the chemistry comes in. Everyone can sit there and listen to someone's idea and say "oh yeah, that's a great idea," and then inside their head they're saying "boy, I don't like that idea but I'm gonna be nice and say I do." That's what usually happens in a polite company. What a group needs to do is say: "there's something about that idea that bugs me, but I'm not afraid to tell you," [but said] in such a way that it doesn't make you angry, but opens your eyes and makes it constructive to work on it even more so to obtain a better end result. That's what successful partnerships are made of, yet it's the hardest thing to test out, because in an audition you can't find that unless it's a miracle.
I guess it was Purple's manager who contacted my manager and that was all due to Roger seeing me perform live. If you see someone play live then you get a pretty good idea of where they're going, what they're capable of. The rest of the band heard me play on recordings by the Dregs. So again it was a shot in the dark and we all agreed to do just four shows and during that time we would find out something. The rehearsal the day before the first show, well I had some tapes to learn things, so I pretty knew much of the material when I got there. At the end of the first day of rehearsal we knew it would work because, without even trying to, we had written a new part for the set to bring in a drum solo. The musicality of Jon Lord really blew me away. Roger instantly could organize musical thoughts. He kind of held the band together as far as organisation is concerned, and Ian Paice felt so great, so easy going; he had swing in his play as well as great rock'n roll, whilst Ian Gillan wanted me to be in the band as opposed to push me out of the way so it instantly felt good. Just wonderful!

      Being an American, you must know that Led Zeppelin has always been the band in the States to which Deep Purple kind of played second fiddle, if you like.

Sure, Deep Purple was more of an underground type of band than Led Zeppelin. But they always had a good reputation, they have always been a good band that you always wanted to go and see, but you were unable to see them because they never came [laughs].

      Going to your latest solo album Major Impacts , there's nothing Purple on that one. Wasn't the Purple impact high enough for you to include on this disc?

I have enough early impacts to do at least two albums. I stayed away from Purple on this first album because it would have been too obvious to play those hard riffs backed wth some loud Hammond. Furthermore I didn't have the time to search for the right tone like Ritchie's. In fact, I don't think I'll ever get exactly the same tone as him, as he's a very unique player, but I'd like to do it, for sure.

      When Magna Carta approached you with this idea, did you delve into your record collection in order to make the right shortlist and then maybe analyze the most representative track from a technical point of view?

Well, the record company just let me do whatever I wanted. They said that's the idea and I said I loved it, let's go. I told them they could come over to my studio any time and listen to what I recorded, but I didn't want to send them any tapes. Nobody ever came to my studio as they trusted me and really let me go. For my own purposes and challenges I use my one electric guitar for everything, just trying to change the sound by using different pick-ups and different amps. I also used a twelve string and an acoustic guitar for certain parts. One of the other limitations that I put onto myself was that I would not study anything. I would not listen to the artists after I decided which ones I would do, that I would just do it all from memory. That's because I wanted to get the influence not what they sound like. If you listen to The Byrds thing you'd say it's very remeniscent of The Byrds because there's this twelve string doing this melody line. In the George Harrison thing the guitar sounds very much like Harrison's guitar, you know? Things like the Clapton tune I tried to base on how I felt when I saw Cream play live in their heydays. Just the feeling of great freedom and soloing and just live energy, it was that kind of feel that I wanted to capture. The same with the Beck and Eric Johnson tune. It was just the feeling of how they played which was the inspiration. One of the first ones I had on my shortlist, which I thought would be very easy to do was Santana. However, the song I came up with sounded so "tried," I simply couldn't do it. Maybe I'll try something else next time because there certainly will be a second "impacts" album. Maybe the Mountain thing is also pretty obvious to me yet it still sounds rather different.

      When I listen to the album, to me "The White Light" track, inspired by John McLaughlin, sounds to me as having most soul.


      Then there's a section that kind of lets you hear mandolins, reminding me of Italy.

Those are not mandolins but guitars, played in the same way like McLaughlin did on "Lotus On Irish Streams" from, I believe, his first solo album [No, it came from the Inner Mountain Flame album by Mahavishnu Orchestra, as released in 1971 - Bobo]. That's where he did the picking like that, like a mandolin. I did an acoustic type John McLaughlin song because I tried to do many Mahavishnu type songs with the Dregs so I thought I'd better not do that on my own as well.

      Being such a great fan of McLaughlin and Mahavishnu how pleased were you when Jerry Goodman stepped in as a Dregs member?

Very happy of course. We went on tour about two months ago and when we were driving in the car, Jerry would still be telling me stories about John and Mahavishnu. It's fun!

      Were there certain guitarists who you wanted to tackle but who seemed to be too difficult in the end?

Right. Yeah, some of them were hard to get across. Say Chet Atkins as he was an influence as well. I tried Chuck Berry and I couldn't come up with anything that didn't sound like a true rip off. I mean, Chuck Berry played three chord songs so how could he still come up with something completely different? I tried this as a first song, and, as I write fairly quickly, when it doesn't come spontaneously, I stop altogether. I also tried Ted Nugent, who's a big influence on me. I simply couldn't come up with what is definitive about Ted Nugent to me, because he played so differently on "Cat Scratch Fever" than on "Amboy Dukes," who are pretty different stylistically, so I still haven't tied that together. Jim McCarty, the guitarist with Cactus, I liked a lot as well. I also listen to the other guitarist in Purple, Tommy Bolin, because my brother, who's a drummer in our band, told me I should check him out. He said I already sound like him, which I find interesting. Again I can't really put my finger on what it really is.

      By doing this Major Impacts album don't you get extra respect for the "older" musicians who had to do with what was available at the time as opposed to the digital age of today?

In a way people had more technical abilities in the sixties than they have today. In those days it was easier to have your own voice because there were not ten thousand other bands around. Record companies were picking up new talent launching their careers as opposed to saying "let's go sign 100 bands this month and throw 'em all against the wall to see if anyone will stick!" I mean, in those days maybe they had 2 or 3 channels on the television; it was a time where disk jockeys would pick what they wanted to play based on how it made them feel. They would introduce the band and explain who it was each time they played a record. It was just a different time. I went to see concerts where the Dave Brubeck Jazztrio would play before Janis Joplin, followed by The Isley Brothers, then Jimi Hendrix and then Led Zeppelin. All on the same day. Today you have like "death metal day" where all the bands look alike and sound alike.

      In the sixties musicians really had to be original and talented as they had no examples to follow. A guy like Jimi Hendrix might have picked up a thing or two on the way, but his way of playing guitar was unique in the entire world. Today everybody can buy instruction videos, interactive CD-ROMS, follow master classes on Internet, go to music high school. Now you can learn every lick in the universe. How difficult is it today to remain original?

I don't know because I do lead a sheltered life in a lot of ways. I don't immerse myself in everything new that comes out, and I live away from the big city. I'm never part of what's cool or hot at the moment. I live pretty isolated from being cool. So it gives me every opportunity to sound exactly like myself. Trying to be myself might not necessarily sound interesting to a guy who's trying to make big bucks in the record business, but for me as a musician, to keep my own identity, it works great!

      So in a way this works out perfectly for you because, once a tour starts, you already know you'll be back at your isolated place after a while and once you're at home you are looking towards a new tour in the future. So this certainly keeps the balance level at all times.

Life on the road is pretty isolated as well. You are surrounded by the same small group of people. The only other people you meet are the bands that perform as a support. The only new music you get is these demos that people keep giving to you. They usually come up to you and say: "well I did this demo three years ago and it sounds really crap!" So why the hell do they give it to me? Record companies never listen to me, so they're giving it to the wrong person and they should keep on doing what they're happy with. They shouldn't go around handing out demos for the next three years and then call everyone assholes when no one gives them a deal!

      Don't you take a portable computer on the road with you?

I have it set up at my hotel room right now to record ideas. In fact, I've improved it so I can store it on those 250 MB removable discs. It will hold enough material like an idea, not the entire arrangement, but as soon as I get home I have plenty of material to work on.

      Major Impacts is not your first encounter with Magna Carta, as you already did two songs for the Yes tribute and two for the Rush tribute. Didn't they ask you to do "Tarkus" for their ELP tribute as well?

I got a rough demo of what they wanted me to do, but all I could hear was Emerson. All I could hear were keyboard riffs. I tried them on guitar but it didn't sound right, it didn't impress me as being as good as on organ. Sometimes you can do things on guitar that work, things that originally weren't written for guitar, but to me this ELP thing really didn't work.

      It would be like asking Jon Lord to do a Hammond version of a Jimi Hendrix classic

Exactly! And in the case of ELP, because it was such a big centrepiece, there was no way I could do it.

      In the end did you check out what guitar player Marc Bonilla did on the "Tarkus" track?

No I didn't. In fact I haven't heard it simply because Magna Carta didn't send me a copy of the album [loud laughs]. I never go to record stores as I get depressed there. Especially their hype of "this is the coolest album of the moment" is something which makes you puke. I mean they're leaving so many people out.

      Don't you feel that current bands are helping each other more than ever before? I mean, I never heard of Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and Uriah Heep guesting on each other's albums in the seventies. Yet now members of Dream Theater and King's X and Shadow Gallery, etc etc they all help on each other's albums.

I think the key here has to be the invention of the ADAT. The second reason is staying in a circle of semi-starving artists. People get paid for what they do but they don't get paid enough so that they could stop working altogether [laughs]. So sometimes you get this call saying "I'll give you so much money if you play so many tunes on this album," which is much more interesting, instead of "start a new band, come up with a concept, write everything, record it, produce it, and starve on the road for three years." Now they come up with a little bit of money for a small contribution and you look whether at all you have some free time on your hands and you just do it. And then an ADAT arrives in the mail and you just do your thing and the next you know, the money's in the mail, too. There are so many good musicians around nowadays and with the computer formats they can all be heard on one project or another so it would be a waste not using them.

      As a guitarist you're also very much interested in the technical aspect of it all, whether it's guitars, amps or even the recording part of the process. Can you still enjoy listening to music or are you constantly analyzing each release to know what amps have been used, what kind of mike was used, what type of effects, etc

It depends. If it's done very well I won't analyze it the first time around and just enjoy it. If it's not done very well I just can't help but analyze it. I don't know how the mind works, I really don't know. It's a little bit of a curse sometimes. If there's something that bugs you, I will try to find what the problem is. My nature, my personality will simply say to me "why am I not enjoying this?"

      You are currently performing with a philharmonic orchestra. How different is it working with an orchestra that size?

Well, there's a lot of changes we have to make. First of all, my rig is much smaller and less loud, on stage anyway. Whether it sounds that way upfront depends on the soundman. I make my equipment as low as possible so you can easily see the orchestra behind us and during the concerto I'm actually sitting down during certain parts to take away the attention. The timing is the big issue. But we very much got that solved. During the concerto there are long periods where I don't have to play so when I have to step in again I feel like I'm not warmed up to do the job properly. On the parts especially where Ian Paice is playing it easy to keep time together.

      Imagine if there were only either electric or acoustic guitars in the world. Which would you prefer?

Oh boy. It depends whether at all I would have to perform. If I was to perform in front of a large audience, then I'd chose the electric guitar. If I was only to play on an intimate level then I'd settle for acoustic. Anyway, acoustic guitar becomes an electric guitar once you start performing in front of a large audience because whether at all you're using certain pickups or a microphone for one reason or another it has to go through speakers so it becomes electric anyway. You can have more dynamics with an acoustic guitar just because it's a clear tone as long as you don't compress it. But with an electric guitar you have a huge amount of dynamics there if you use it.

      By now Steve gets a little stressed out because there's only twenty minutes left before he has to hit the stage and we simply forgot to look at our watches. So next up was watching Purple perform with the George Eonescu Philharmonic Orchestra with Miller Anderson performing the wonderful "Pictured Within," Ronnie James Dio doing "Sitting In A Dream" and "Love Is All" (amongst others), and then Deep Purple delivering songs like "Ted The Mechanic," "Fools" and a brand new Morse composition called "Guitarstring," which they performed there and then for the very first time.
      Suddenly it's the end of the show and Steve performs kind of a mini impression of his Major Impacts album, bringing in riffs from "Sweet Home Alabama," Zeppelin, and The Stones in order to finally hit the well-known opening chords of "Smoke On The Water." Before you know it, it's all over, and the houselights go on. Once in the backstage area, I wait a little until it's OK for Steve to continue the interview. This time we do the remaining bit in the Deep Purple dressing room, whilst Roger Glover and Jon Lord are entertaining a fifteen year old handicapped guy who was born without any arms. The kind, human approach, plus the fact that each individual member of the band takes time to talk to, sign autographs for, and have pictures taken with the guy, really astounds me. The only other time I ever met the band was backstage in Brussels many, many years ago when Ritchie was still in the band. Then they wouldn't even come out of their dressing rooms to speak to the fanclub president! Now Roger offers this guy a beer, whilst Jon Lord looks how this youngster lights his cigarette, whilst holding a lighter between his toes! You could see it on this guy's face that this was the best night he ever had. When I asked him how he got to like Deep Purple, he answered that in the area he was from they played good rock music instead of stupid house and techno. So there are still some good places on earth!
      So I ask Steve about this new song called "Guitarstring" which was rumoured as having been written five minutes prior to the show.

I brought in some of the parts today and all of the other parts I brought in yesterday and I was still writing parts right before we got here. We finished the tour in South America and there was a tune called "Night Meets Light" and it was orchestrated by a genius guy from England who played on it, his name being Graham Prescott, who played on the live version of it. I decided that whilst the concerto is so laidback, we needed something more uptempo. The idea was for everyone to do a kind of solo thing, so I made a very short, high energy piece on which I would use the orchestra just a little bit.

      Once you joined Deep Purple, was it understood that you would help out with the writing as well?

That was the understanding from the beginning. They wanted somebody that could do the writing with them and have the right chemistry. That's the hardest thing really as there are so many good guitar players out there but very few have the right personality, the right chemistry.

      Looking at both studio albums you've recorded with Purple so far, all songs are credited to the entire band, although I'm sure certain ideas came from just one person.

A bunch of them came from guitar riffs. What happens is Ian Paice and I would sit around and jam. I would come up with a certain riff, which could be used as a verse, and some other stuff which might work as a chorus. We record those jams a lot and when Roger or the other guys hear those jams they come up to us and say "hey, what about that idea or that jam? We certainly can make a song out of that." So Ian would try and come up with the melody and some words and then the other guys might think they need a bridge section and would take it from there. So most of the times the main idea comes from me and Ian Paice jammin'. Usually I come up with two different ideas simultaneously because it's boring to do the same thing over and over you know.

      Can you tell me something more about a song called "The Turtle Island Shuffle" performed by Dick Pimple. Apparently that should be Purple in disguise with you being credited here as a certain Mo St. Severe?

Jon shuffles letters around from people's names so Steve Morse became Mo St. Severe during the Purpendicular sessions in 1996.

      The song was actually released.

They released it? Oh my god! I think it was initially recorded for the fanclub.

      Going back to Major Impacts , in the closing section for "Prognosis" you refer to it as being very Yes-like, whereas I hear a lot of Pat Metheny in there.

Because of the vocal? When Pat started working along with this Brazilian percussionist, they would sing along with the melody, which is very close to what you hear in "Prognosis." I'm convinced Jon Anderson could do something very similar. When I listened back to it afterwards, I was also amazed it sounded very much like Pat Metheny with this Brazilian guy. Metheny has also been a big influence on my playing. Pat and I are friends. We went to the same school together.

      Being a great Yes fan, weren't you a bit jealous when they took Trevor Rabin on board? Didn't you think that Yes with Steve Morse could have written better, more complex material in the style of Close To The Edge ?

I know Trevor, and I could never have done what he has done. The guy is a genius and thanks to him, they reached an audience which otherwise might never have come across Yes in the first place. Trevor is an amazing guy. I watched him work, I know him, I think he's a brilliant musician. I saw him put together a demo using samples of Jon Anderson's voice, then putting it through a sampling machine and then play the demo that he wrote so you would hear Jon Anderson sing in words that didn't make sense as Trevor had sampled them. He's a master of so many disciplines and then again you look at Steve Howe and he's totally different. But you have to love Steve Howe because he's original and very different. Steve is the main reason why I picked up classical guitar in the first place. He also plays on one of the Dregs albums. When he was still part of Asia he once came to my farm in Georgia when they were on tour. He's a really fearless guy who wants to give everything a try.

      Do you think you might collaborate with John Petrucci in the future?

We're already doing it. We have already written a couple of tunes together but the difficulty is finding time because he's constantly touring with Dream Theater and I'm on the road with Purple. There was a Dregs and Dream Theater tour in Florida and I invited John over to my place and we wrote and recorded some stuff together knowing we were going to do an album. It will be intense guitar stuff! As far as other musicians are concerned, John was a little pissed off by other Dream Theater members collaborating on Dream Theater-offshoot projects, so I don't think there will be any DT members on our project, although obviously we both love the guys because they are amongst the very best musicians around! We definately will be looking for people who can be very low profile because we want all the attention to go to the guitars. The nice thing is that we're not with a major record company and thus don't have major recording budgets. We simply have this idea, talk to independent labels about it, and once they're interested we just do it. I see an album as nice to do and an artistic outlet but I can't really see records as a steady income.

      I believe John Petrucci is also involved in recording with a classical orchestra, together with Jordan Rudess?

Yeah, Jordan is a great orchestrator. Jordan is really amazing. John is a fantastic guitarist, he's the most disciplined, most perfectionist. Eric Johnson is that same way too but in a different style of course. John is an electric guitar virtuoso.

      You were nominated no fewer than six times for a Grammy, yet you never won any of them. Which category were you nominated in and why do you think you never won.

Each time I was nominated in the category "best rock instrumental" and I lost to people like Paul McCartney, Flock of Seagulls when they were big, even The Police. You can't win something like a Grammy without being a household name. If these guys ever wrote an instrumental tune, then it had to be an obscure tune, yet they won because, as I said, they are household names. Actually you don't know who nominates you but my personal guess is that it's mainly the press people. It feels exciting when you receive an invitation to the Grammys in your letterbox to attend the evening, but I only went there once. On the other occasion, I played during the aftershow party. The "best rock instrumental" is a category that they don't show on TV anyway, so very few people would actually know you won it. So it's not really a big thing. In fact it's the same as getting a gold or platinum album. It gets you respect, but in the meantime it doesn't change the fact that there're a lot of people that don't get recognized, people who have done as well or even better.

      Getting back to the Purple thing, did the band kind of demand that you should play as close to the Blackmore sound as possible?

No, pretty much the opposite. They said "we want somebody completely different who's original, who has their own personality, and sound, so like it or not, they got just that. There's lots of guys who could've done Ritchie's stuff. They made it obvious they didn't want to replace Ritchie. Ritchie was very original so they wanted someone new who could be as original as well.

      What are you currently working on?

I'm working on a new solo album. It won't be like Major Impacts 2, but it'll be the trio of myself, bass player Dave La Rue and drummer Van Romaine. Most of the material has already been written. I think we have two more songs to do. Then in November, December and January we'll be working on that part-time. It'll probably be released on Magna Carta as well. There will certainly be a second Major Impacts album as well. Names that I want to tackle on that album are Santana, Pat Metheny, Ted Nugent, Joe Walsh, Jim McCarty, Rick Derringer, Johnny Winter, BB King, Chuck Berry. There's so many influences and I'm really concentrating on the early ones when there were not so many guitarists around. I certainly have to come up with more names than there will be songs on the album for the simple reason that you don't know which ones will work and which won't. The majority of the ones which will be on Major Impacts 2 are the ones that seemed too difficult the first time around. Now I'll have more time to delve into it.

      Having played with the Dregs and Kansas and Deep Purple, is there still something you want to achieve, a big Steve Morse dream that you want to come true one day?

What I really want to do is write more stuff on electric guitar, with typical Celtic Irish influences, [performed] by traditional Irish players, and we're working on that right now. I have recorded one song so far which will be used for a benefit CD to help the Native Americans. Actually I wrote two songs for that album but one is done with Paddy Keenan, an Irish musician from the Bothy Band. You can compare it to Riverdance but with weird, loud guitars. I want to make sure I piss off all the traditional Irish people and make all the rock'n roll people rise their eyebrows and say "what is this?" Other people that contribute are like Sonny Landreth and Lucinda Williams. I would also like to play with every aspiring musical genius in the world. I sometimes dream of Jimmy Page coming up to me saying "hey Steve I'd like you to produce my album." I know it'll never happen but it's something I dream might one day happen. Never say never! I'll just keep on doing this as long as I have fun doing it. The day I no longer have fun in playing music I might take up being a pilot again!

      With sincere thanks to Colin Hart, Anne Leighton (Magna Carta), Yvo Tap (Mascot), On The Rox, Ian Paice, Roger Glover, Jon Lord and of course Steve Morse.