Interview with Ian Gillan
August 7, 1998
by Steph Perry and John Perry
We met up with Ian Gillan after the Deep Purple show at the Meadows on August 7. Gillan is Deep Purple’s lead vocalist and is touring in support of their latest release, Abandon. The title is a perfect one after seeing him perform — he still rules the stage after 30 years. Ian has a long list of accomplishments both with and without Deep Purple, most recently a solo album called Dreamcatcher (on Forbidden Records).
Gillan is an avid reader and writer, and says that he writes no less than one and up to twenty pages a day. His autobiography is in the final stages and he’s written a couple of screenplays that he hopes may move into production. Although he’s too busy to surf the net, Ian enjoys reading fan mail through his website at Gillan.com and encourages people to write in.
The Dreamcatcher record really shows off your mellow side — especially after seeing you tonight, we see how you can really rock hard! Did you enjoy writing and recording it?
Yes, I mean for me, rock music is a multi-faceted thing. When I started listening to music when I was a kid, I got off very much on Little Richard and Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry but also, there was the Everly Brothers and Buddy Holly. I think the idea of texture and dynamics is something that we try to bring into Purple…for me it’s a much wider thing. Music is like literature or food or conversation or emotions…so the opportunity to do something outside the expected limitations of a traditional lineup rock band…is very exciting.
What instruments did you play on the album?
I wouldn’t say I actually played any instruments, really…but I strummed an acoustic guitar, I played congos and I tapped a few percussion instruments and I played harmonica. Most of the instruments that I used were in the writing stage. Steve Morris did all the arrangements and played the real instruments, so to speak.
What’s the story behind the name Dreamcatcher?
It was captivating…The idea of filtering out the bad dreams and letting the good dreams come through. As the album was meant to be a very positive one, I thought let’s use the dream catcher concept so people could get good vibes out of it.
What are your thoughts about music today and how does Deep Purple fit in? What does the future hold for Deep Purple?
It’s different in every country. One of the problems is the actual industry itself. The two countries that are the biggest problem are the UK and the US. That’s where music is progressing least at the moment and that’s because of the restrictions of the industry. Because of the grip that the advertisers and the programmers have…Most people I know have far more intelligence than they give them credit for…the damn radio, you turn it on and all you hear is exactly the same stuff all the time. That’s frightening and it’s been going on for a long time now. I think there’s very little we can do but put our heads down and carry on. The fact that we do travel internationally…I collect enough experiences to give me certainly, and Roger [Glover], the inspiration for the lyrics for the next album…We were in a very bad situation around the turn of the 90’s when Ritchie [Blackmore] left the band. The band was in a nose dive, really. Things have been picking up very well since then and we’re very optimistic about the future.
We understand that you like to write.
I think writing is a joy. I think if there’s any responsibility that an artist has, the number one is to be expressive….it’s good because you find yourself working very well as a conduit and finding your own way of getting a perspective on things. If you can gain a perspective, it’s so much easier than just being in there amongst it, and writing with a very limited view.
Can you tell us about your experience recording Jesus Christ Superstar?
Well…I had no idea it was going to be that successful. It was a profoundly interesting project and Tim Rice was very helpful. It didn’t take long. It took just two 3-hour sessions. I was a little daunted at the idea of trying to interpret the part of Jesus Christ, and Tim said “look on Christ as a historical figure, not as a religious figure, and you’ll find it a little easier”. And it was very good advice…until I came to the scenes from the cross, which of course was quite profound. And apart from that, they ran out of money and they couldn’t pay me my session fee…so Tim said, “Sorry Ian, I was going to get you 200 pounds, would you mind having a royalty instead?” So I got the royalty instead which turned out to be okay [laughs]…It was a great experience and I was very thrilled to do it.