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Drummers Centerfold
Drummer to Drummer Interviews
Steven Scott Fyfe talks with Ian Paice

Molson Center August 18th, 1998

S.S.F.: How does being known as a "legendary rock drummer/artist" make you feel?

I.P.: It's not something you think about. At the time when my career started, music was very open and free and that was an opportunity and a chance for musicians to actually give them a way of building their individuality. I was lucky to have that time in the sixties when those things were open. I believe, if anything, I brought a different way of looking at rock n' roll with the influence of having grown up listening to my father's Big Band music. I did this not intentionally but the influence of swing was in me. I was lucky and fortunate to have been given by nature a good internal metronome, and independence of my limbs.

S.S.F.: Where do you still find your creative juices, the musical enthusiasm and still rocking after over 30 years?

I.P.: I still basically enjoy it. When you're a kid, you pick up an instrument because it's fun and you enjoy it. And if you're lucky, nature smiles and you can make a living playing your instrument. Now anybody who goes into music thinking that's going to be his career is a maniac. What you should never loose sight of is it's fun and the fun goes away when it becomes business. You see, there are days when you don't feel like playing but you have to, there are days when you don't feel like travelling but you have to. At the end of the day, the actual playing has to remain fun or else, why are you doing it?

S.S.F.: Many bands have stated Deep Purple as being the pioneers, the influence, the standard. How do you respond to this?

I.P.: I think we've made some interesting records. We've made some strides in rock n' roll that maybe wouldn't have been made by somebody else. I think we've also made records and shows that weren't clever. The thing with a band like Purple is that there are never any guarantees of what you are going to get because we don't go on stage and do the same thing every night. Within the context of a song, what happens in the middle is anybody's guess. This can be great, average or not very good. I enjoy this flexibility. It's more interesting to have this flexibility rather than to rely on something true and tried formula. If you need the creative juices to be fired-up all the time, I think you have to have that slight edge of not knowing what's going on therefore to always be ready and to respond and react with something new.

S.S.F.: From your vast discography, is there a particular record that comes to mind?

I.P.: The real clever answer here would be to say the next one [laughs]. Actually, it's "Made in Japan". It's still the one, after all those years, the most honest and probably the best live record ever made and it's through a load of wonderful events that it was all put together. It was being in Japan when it was a new territory, being in a great hall with a great sound. We had so many new numbers which were honed by being on the road for two to three months and they'd grown out of their studio format into being live vehicles. We had a great sound engineer, Martin Birch, who captured all that on some of what might be termed "very primitive equipment" and all those things came together to make that record.

S.S.F.: How do you balance your touring, family life and health?

I.P.: It sounds strange but I think I could probably do two shows a night. When I was 20 or 25 years old, I would do one show and be completely shattered. Now, this doesn't mean that I am stronger, well maybe I am, but I actually know how to do it better. I am fairly lucky my health is pretty good. I drink a little too much, eat a little too much and like most people don't exercise enough but "touch wood" I'm still healthy.

S.S.F.: How would you define your approach to putting tracks on new material?

I.P.: When you go into the studio you have to basically say there are no rules in making a record. You may be asked to play a certain tempo that is not one of your favourites and one that you aren't particularly good at because no one is good at everything. At the end of the day, whichever route you've taken to make that track is the right one. I have tempos, which I enjoy listening to but find it difficult to play. Medium slow tempos are a little uncomfortable for me so if I can help myself with a click track I will do so. Some tempos, I can use my internal clock to do the business. If I have to have eight takes and if I end-up with the master tape being taken from say three different takes, I don't care, as long as what I end up with at the end of the day I can live with forever. It doesn't matter how you get there as long as you get there.

S.S.F.: How did the chemistry workout with Steve Morse when you got together for the "Perpendicular" record?

I.P.: At the time when we were working on the album, Steve and ourselves were still getting to know each other. Although it's a very nice album, there are still some moments of, not confusion, but some of the understandings that you have when you've been playing with somebody for a long time that haven't really quite blossomed on that record. But with the latest record "Abandon", we've had like 200 plus shows to actually get to know each other. For example, Jon and myself know exactly what we're going to do without even looking at each other, we know what the other one is thinking. This takes time to build up. Now with Steve, we have that feeling of knowledge where he might go at a certain inflexion on his playing.

S.S.F.: Without going into the playing comparison with Ritchie Blackmore, you obviously all seem to have a hell of a good time on stage and this was not always evident playing with Ritchie.

I.P.: Ritchie enjoys the turmoil, the craziness. Sometimes if everything is running smoothly, he'll think something is wrong and that makes for a lot of stress and eventually is non-productive. We've been doing it for so long now that, if we can't enjoy it at this stage of our careers and show people that we're enjoying ourselves, then something is wrong. We're not twenty year olds trying to look sexy, throwing big poses on stage, we're just musicians who have been fortunate enough to have been given a long career which we enjoy immensely and you can't hide that and if you do, you'll look stupid. Also with Ritchie, we let him dominate the writing process for too long and ended up loosing a decade. It's up to us to come more often to North America and to let people know that we still put on a great show and you better come see us before it goes away.

S.S.F.: Can you comment on your long-time relationship with the Pearl family?

I.P.: I dig Pearl drums and have been playing them for 15 years. I wanted to slightly hold on to the past and when I heard Pearl was making a limited edition of the Silver Sparkle finish; I asked them to build me one. I just wanted that colour because it gives me a little bit of something that was before.

S.S.F.: What bands do you find yourself listening to?

I.P.: I don't listen to much rock n' roll because I find most of it totally unstimulating. A lot of it becomes more corporate and everybody thinks they have to sound like something and be like something. I listen to lady singers, I find them more inventive and tuneful and I also like Jazz. Some techno stuff not mainstream, but every now and then, some band will throw its hat in the ring and grab you. I enjoy a band called "Massive Attack".

S.S.F.: What would you say to drummers who wish to follow in your footsteps?

I.P.: The only advice that makes sense to me is you must try to be yourself. It doesn't mean you can't take from your influences but there is no point in being a clone of me or Simon Phillips or any guy that you can think of. There is no point in being number two at anything. Try and be true to yourself and take all influences you can, but try to bend them a little bit so that they become yours. This way you build an individual style. There are times to be a clever drummer and times to be a drummer who holds everyone together. Just enjoy playing.

S.S.F.: What about practicing?

I.P.: There are no rules for practice, some people need to practice every day for lots of hours and enjoy this. Some people just can't get into that. At the end of the day you play for the fun and if success comes along, that's really a bonus. Don't take the fun out of playing.