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Ian Gillan

antiMUSIC: It's surprising that you're the only one from that big triumvirate, Sabbath, Zeppelin and yourself and you've not survived but thrived. Some of the other bands had things that made it impossible for them to continue but it's strange that creativity is still not a problem on your part.

Ian Gillan: Well, I think so. I hate to say it because I don't want to bang on about Ritchie, but listen I've had some great times. And quite honestly I hope, we've reached that age now. I hope he finds some happiness, and I hope he's enjoying what he's doing. I really hope so. But once that monstrous ego was removed from the set up, and everyone gets up…there's no leader in this band, and we just enjoy what we're doing. It's a rotational leadership, not on a weekly basis, but if somebody's got a good idea, we'll all listen, ya know. I hate to say it, but there's a thing called enthusiasm. It's an unknown factor. For some reason we grew up in an age of tremendous enthusiasm and optimism and it's just the way the way we grew up when we were kids. It was post-war situation. And the dynamics of society were completely different. I guess it was only recently it started, I guess around the grunge period, which started with punk really, with what I call the long guitar strap, when suddenly everything became very pessimistic. Very self-centered. Very focused on the inner me. "I hate you, I hate society. I hate all of this." It seemed to be almost inarticulate as far as I'm concerned, as far as music, the stuff I grew up with in the '60s and '70s. Which seemed to be able to criticize and be constructive at the same time. In other words, I was told at school, unless you've got a better idea, shut up.

antiMUSIC: You've been partners with Roger going on 40 years now. What symbiotic elements are present in your working relationship?

Ian Gillan: We came from similar parts of West London. We came from a similar environment, although our approach to life was different. He was a stinking hippie. Went to art college and I was a rock 'n roller. Jack the lad. Hard drinking. Women and all that sort of thing. I guess we rubbed off a bit on each other. What I can say is that over the years, he's the nearest thing I ever had to being a brother 

antiMUSIC: Gillans's Inn is now out. I have not yet had the good fortune to hear it. What can you tell us about recording with all these guest artists?

Ian Gillan: A couple of years ago, I was having a chat with my manager on the phone and during a lull in the conversation he said: "Look I've been thinking. You've been a singer now for about 400 years. It's about time you did an anniversary record or something special don't you think?" And I thought it was going to be an easy thing, because I thought he was talking about a compilation, I got to work burning a few CDs from midi files and played them in the car and realized very quickly that this wasn't going to work for two or three reasons. The older songs were incompatible sound-wise, They were different eras, different musicians, different studios, and different approaches. Although the underlying element, I suppose was that I was involved on every one of them, but the extraneous factors were quite significant and made it uncomfortable to listen to no matter how I put them together. The other point of course was that there was no Episode Six or Javelins recorded material which was suitable to go amongst this stuff. Then I began to realize what a nightmare it was going to be licensing all this stuff…all the hundred of record labels I'd been over the years. Then I made a few phone calls and with a beginning of an idea, and sent a few email messages and I think within a day I got a reply from Joe Elliott and Tony Iommi and Joe Satriani and Jon Lord and all the guys in Purple. And they said, "Yeah count me in. I'd love to do it. Brilliant." So we then changed the entire concept around. And I had this imaginary pub called Gillan's Inn, and you walk in and it's a free bar and there's a stage bar with all the equipment set up and all our mates are there and we just get up and have a jam and each one gets up and plays for 3or 4 songs and we all mix up amongst each other. And so of course it all turns into this most amazing thing because I'm suddenly trying to select the material and I'm going well if Tony Iommi's coming We've got to do "Trashed" which is the opening track on the Born Again album. And I said, "This is perfect because I have Tony Iommi, Ian Paice and Roger Glover all together, which is what we did. Sounds awesome. Similar thing. "When a Blind Man Cries". I really wanted Jon Lord play the Hammond solo on that one because it's very much him. Now who could we get who is not on the list already, that's got a nice blues touch. And my producer says "What about that Jeff Healey." Bloody brilliant. He said he's right here in Toronto so we phone him up. And said "How you doing. It's been a long time" because Jeff used to jam with us a few times. So I explained the concept and said "Would you like to play on "When a Blind Man Cries", hoping he'd understand the irony and he said knew the song and respect the lyrics a lot, Jeff being blind and all. So we ended up with him in the studio with us having a riot for three or four…I've got a hand-held camera on most of the stuff. I mean I had to hear Joe Satriani on "Unchain Your Brain" which is from the Glory Road album. And we just got to San Francisco, chatting for half an hour and he said "Right, now what would you like me to do"" So I played him the track and he jumped straight in and at the end, there are 36 bars of outro, and he hadn't even heard it (laughs) and it was just some of the most exciting improvisation. 

There's another twist here because it's a dual disc because I had wanted to do something more. I have missed very much the days when you could open a gatefold, final album and flip through the pages and look at all the beautiful photographs, candid shots, the anecdotes the lyrics, the extension from the studio through into the design of the product that draws you into it, and acts as a some kind of conduit between you and playing the record for the first time when you're introduced to it. It's somehow seen to be a class thing, and yet over the years with have these, since the digital age, we have these CDs which always arrive in broken bits of plastic for some reason or another. I actually met a guy a couple of weeks ago, who can actually open a new cd in less than 10 minutes! Quite remarkable. Because of the packaging….I've thrown more cds out of the window, having not played them.

So I wanted to do this book and so I wrote this book and had all the parts, so I was talking to John Trickett who is the CEO at 5.1 Entertainment / Immergent Records which is my label in California, and he said "Well you know you've still got a problem because the stores aren't going to rack it. You've got to be a conventional size in the stores. We could sell some in bookshops and we can sell some on the Internet. We could do that. Why don't do that all that you want to do it electronically. Since then for the last six months they've been working their nuts off in the studios there. There's a guy there named David Cates (?), he's the designer. He's a big fan and he just put the stuff together and we've been going back and forth. And I'm actually thrilled with it! I've never had a record company work so hard on a product. SO all in all it was a thing of joy, and of course a time to meet up with some old friends and have a few beers that was good too.

antiMUSIC: I've heard Ronnie James Dio is on one cut. Why would you invite another vocalist? 

Ian Gillan: Well, it was basically a party and I'm inviting mates. Ronnie said 'You fancy popping over for a glass of wine?" And I said to Ronnie, "While I'm over there, why don't you just exercise your tonsils on a couple of these things. (laughs) It's very simple. It's not even harmonies. It's just straightforward backing vocals, and I'd love to have you on the record just to say you were there and to show the world we're good mates." And he said he'd love to. He's on two or three songs just singing along. Same with Joe Elliott, except a little more, he's doing harmony. 

antiMUSIC: At this point in your career, your back catalogue is so enormous, how is it possible to remember all the lyrics to your songs. I know you get into the rhythm of the set after awhile but have you ever, at the beginning of a tour, come out some nights and just gone blank on a certain song?

Ian Gillan: I work very hard on my words. But the answer to that is yes (laughs). Which is why for the first 2 or 3 shows I always have a prompt book on the drum riser, open at the page, just in case, hopefully nobody sees me but they do sometimes spot me now and again taking a quick glance at the next line. Once I’m set on the song, I’m alright. The funniest moment of all time, was the opening of the Black Sabbath tour, doing “War Pigs” or “Iron Man”. For some reason these words are like toxins, they would not burn into my brain (laughs), just wouldn’t absorb. Ozzy was the singer and obviously his stuff….I had to learn it and I could not. And these are the simplest of words but it wouldn’t sink in. My brain was “Reject, reject”. So I had a prompt book that I had put on the front of the stage, and I practiced in my kitchen turning the pages of this plastic display book with my feet, so I could do it, sort of…

antiMUSIC: inconspicuously?

Ian Gillan: Uhm, yes, inconspicuously, yes, in front of 12, 000 people, but that would have been all well and good but we were laughing so much at Stonehenge and the disaster with the dwarf and all that, that I completely forgot. And the cheapskates had spent millions on the production except at the rehearsal the day before they hadn’t used the dry ice, which came billowing out at a shoulder high cloud. And I was racing to the front of the stage because I had forgotten the first line of the first song. And it overtook me. So I squatted down at which point the floor lights came on and blinded me, so I was just trying to swat away the strobe and poking my head out every now and then. You know what an auspicious way to start off a tour. Very lovely. It was wonderful. Longest party I’d ever been to. (laughs)

antiMUSIC: It’s still amazing to hear you scream on the new record. I’ve heard that you’re not one to pamper your voice by any means.  To what do you attribute your fantastic voice remaining intact with the amount of touring that you guys do? Just good fortune?

Ian Gillan: Yes it is. I mean I have used my voice everyday of my life and I grew up in a musical family. I was a boys soprano in the choir, when I was a very young boy. And you know when you do something every day, you kind of get good at it. On concert days I still get tickles in my tummy. I have to keep my adrenalin levels low by meditation and other things. And I walk on stage I’m just completely relaxed. And yet exploding with energy. I think it goes back to that enthusiasm thing. But I remember the days when I wasn’t singing well at all, so I think it’s just as important to be in a mentally good frame of mind as it is to be in a physically good shape. I keep a reasonable eye on myself, I mean I drink. I would say moderately, as compared to what I used to. I don’t have a drink until after the show. I’ll have a couple of beers during the show. I walk miles everyday with my dog when I’m home. Not that flat level walking, It’s more of a hill and cliff walking. And I swim miles too. So I keep myself in reasonably good shape. But I don’t like gymnasiums and things like that. I don’t like the smell.

antiMUSIC: Believe me I could talk to you all day. But I know you’re busy. Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us and continued success with both your records.

Ian Gillan: It was my pleasure. Thank you for your interest. All the best.

Morley Seaver and antiMUSIC thank Ian Gillan for the pleasure of this interview.


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