Classic Rock Corner

For Deep Purple's Roger Glover, Everything Equals 1

Deep Purple in 2024: Roger Glover, Don Airey, Ian Paice, Ian Gillan, and Simon McBride.
Deep Purple in 2024: Roger Glover, Don Airey, Ian Paice, Ian Gillan, and Simon McBride. Photo by Jim Rakete/© earMUSIC
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Record cover
In the pursuance of music journalism, it’s not often that the subject of a scheduled interview tells you right off the bat to bugger off. But that’s what happens when Roger Glover, bassist for Classic Rock royalty Deep Purple, appears on computer screen via Zoom.

“I haven’t got time to talk to you, Bob. I’m reading!” he says, dramatically unwrapping what looks to be a CD copy of the band’s new studio album =1, out on July 19 from earMUSIC. “I’m actually seeing the album for the first time right now. I’m so privileged!”

Glover is, of course, joking. But he’s got every right to be jazzed about the release and the solid new music it contains from him, vocalist Ian Gillan, drummer Ian Paice, keyboardist Don Airey, and—making is recorded debut with the storied group—brand new guitarist Simon McBride.

“What that equation in the title means is up to the listener. To me, it sums up our entire career,” he says. “We’ve had such a soap opera with comings and goings and break ups and leavings and sackings.”

Rather than just resting on their considerable laurels, it’s the seventh album of new material from Deep Purple in this century, and their fifth with legendary producer Bob Ezrin (KISS, Pink Floyd, Alice Cooper, Aerosmith) at the helm. Glover says issuing new music is a no brainer.
“It’s not so much important as necessary. It’s what we do. It’s what we love. It’s the way we live,” he says with no small amount of passion.

“It’s different than pop music, which is here and gone. The reason for doing that is to have a hit. We’re not worried about that. We’re doing it to have fun and express ourselves. Sure, if it’s a hit, it’s better. But if you’re a songwriter, you can’t just stop writing.”

Younger than his bandmates by more than a generation (Glover and Gillan are 78, Paice and Airey 76), McBride, at 45, is certainly steeping into some big shoes in the six string slot. Shoes formerly worn by Ritchie Blackmore, Tommy Bolin and Joe Satriani (both briefly), and from 1993-2022, Steve Morse.

McBride was already familiar to the Purps from playing with Don Airey’s solo band, which then also backed Ian Gillan on a rock-meets-classical tour. He was originally going to be just a fill in for Morse on their previous tour. But when Morse needed to leave the group permanently to care for his ailing wife, McBride was the logical choice for replacement. No one else was even considered.

“I hate auditions. They’re a real drag!” Glover laughs.
Bob Ezrin’s return to the producer’s chair was similarly almost a foregone conclusion. “He’s energetic, dynamic, and a good musician and songwriter himself. And he works very quickly,” Glover says.

“But more than that, he recognized things in us that we didn’t ourselves. When he first saw us in Toronto 12 years ago, what struck him was the musicality and the spontaneity of Deep Purple. We don’t learn solos to play them, they’re fresh every night. And that’s what got him.”

For comparison, Glover says the band’s 1987 effort The House of Blue Light, which the band produced themselves, took six months to record. For =1, he estimates that they laid down the basic backing tracks for 15 songs in 11 days.

“There’s no such thing as ‘Take 49.’ It’s usually two takes at the most, and if it’s more than that, you lose something,” he says.
Topics of the tunes include familiar Purple territory of love, lust, scheming women, and the occasional orgy. But its first two singles address more contemporary concerns. There’s the blabbing, boring, and forceful opinion spouter of "Portable Door,” and the romantic seeker whose online dating profile photos don’t quite match up the current reality in “Pictures of You.”

“When you write lyrics, the world seeps in. You can’t ignore it. And the world around is pretty dire at the moment. But then again maybe it’s always been dire,” Glover offers.

“Conversations, memories, newspapers, we [use] it all But no one person in the band speaks for the band. That wouldn’t work for us, it would probably break us up. We stay away from politics or preaching, unless it’s an overall observation.”
Something that undoubtedly goes a long way to keeping the band together is that all five members—along with Ezrin—share writing credit on all 13 tracks. And there’s a reason.

“It takes the five of us to write everything. Nobody comes to a Purple session with a completed song. When I joined Purple, they were mostly known for doing covers. Then we started writing our own. It’s a whole feel. The way the drums are played are as much part of the writing as a riff or a word. And we always decided to share credits,” he says.

“When Ian [Gillan] and I left the band in ’73 and [David] Coverdale and [Glenn] Hughes came in, Ritchie changed that. He said ‘No, he who writes gets.’ Because in his mind, he was writing most of the stuff. Now, it’s a guitar-based band, so a lot of the stuff came from him. But not all of it.”

He mentions that even Blackmore’s opening riff to “Smoke on the Water”—one of the most famous openings to one of Classic Rock’s biggest song—is just part of its entire makeup.

After Blackmore left the reunited and best-known “Mark II” lineup in 1993, Glover said they decided to go back to more collaborative credits (for those keeping count, the current lineup is “Mark IX”).
He adds that it takes away a lot of jealousy and unease about choosing which tracks (and thus, the writer’s royalties) about which songs are picked to include. Something he feels goes against the very nature of creativity.

Glover admits to going through a rough patch after that contentious ’73 departure. “I was pretty depressed, blown apart actually. This wonderful dream I had just lived for four years of going from nothing to owning the world suddenly stopped. And it was difficult to take,” he says.

But his spirits—and professional resume—were buoyed by the sudden success of a little-known Scottish hard rock band whose third record he produced: Nazareth.

Glover stuck mostly to producing for several years until joining Blackmore’s “other” band, Rainbow. Then their paths led back to Deep Purple.
Finally, audiences across the world will get to hear both material from =1 and songs from across their 56-year history this summer as the band embarks on a world tour. It will bring them to Houston at the Woodlands Pavilion on August 17, with Prog-rock kings Yes opening.

With some creative math, the current tour marks “50 Years of ‘Smoke on the Water.’” And the album that birthed it, 1972’s Machine Head, was recently reissued in a Super Deluxe Edition.

Amazingly, its tale about a mobile recording unit, a floating Swiss casino burnt to the ground with a flare, and a cameo from Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention is a true story. More amazing was that this epochal piece of rock and roll history was never meant to be issued as a single. And its success was a shock to the band itself.
“The first single from the album was something called ‘Never Before.’ And it died a certain death,” Glover recalls. “For some reason, an American DJ started playing ‘Smoke on the Water.’ The guys at the record company said it was too long and would need an edit. But that song changed everything.”

Later that year, the band’s well-received live record Made in Japan, which also featured “Smoke on the Water,” renewed interest in both the song and Machine Head.

“I’m in constant amazement and surprise that we wrote a song and recorded it, and it became something we didn’t ever intend it to be!” Glover sums up. “It’s beautiful.”

Deep Purple play at 6:30 pm on Sunday, August 17, at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, 2005 Lake Robbins. For more information, call 281-364-3024 or visit Yes opens. $39.50 and up.

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Bob Ruggiero has been writing about music, books, visual arts and entertainment for the Houston Press since 1997, with an emphasis on classic rock. He used to have an incredible and luxurious mullet in college as well. He is the author of the band biography Slippin’ Out of Darkness: The Story of WAR.
Contact: Bob Ruggiero