I could have been the lead singer of Mike and the Mechanics! Ian Gillan talks career choices…

Interview by MGM writer, Karen Hetherington

With a career spanning over 50 years, Ian Gillan joined Deep Purple at a time of transformation and without doubt massively contributed to their widespread success and change of musical direction. He has written, or co written some of the most iconic and influential songs in rock history and enjoyed a hugely successful and diverse solo career.

Due to a slight unexplained technical hitch I missed my allocated slot, but Ian very kindly agreed to be interviewed a few hours later than planned, and for that I will be eternally grateful. ..

With the Gillan vinyl boxset being released in late October and the new Deep Purple album due out in February, followed by touring, Ian’s love and enthusiasm for his music shows no sign of abating. Focusing on the period in and around his time with Gillan, Ian chats to me about vinyl, how he joined Black Sabbath – by accident, and how there will be “No Laughing in Heaven”!

KH: Hi Ian, its Karen from MYGLOBALMIND, Apologies for missing my slot earlier, I really appreciate you agreeing to speak to me.

Ian Gillan: Ah that’s fine, no problem at all.

KH: I know you’re a busy man so ill run through some questions as quickly as possible.

KH: Starting off with the imminent launch of the Gillan vinyl boxset..It is a fantastic opportunity for fans and collectors to establish or re-establish their record collections. Do you think nostalgia for bygone days is opening up the market for releases such as this? Or why do you think there has been a resurgence of people purchasing vinyl?

Ian Gillan: Ah the market, I don’t know about the market so I’m not sure, it’s definitely great to get the chance to own vinyl that’s in pristine condition, going by the sorry state of my own collection I know it certainly isn’t.

ORDER HERE: Amazon exclusive Version with 7”

ORDER HERE: Standard version

KH: A lot of people parted with their vinyl and replaced their collections with CDs and are now trying to gather them up again but as you say second hand vinyl may not be in great shape, scratched or otherwise damaged.

Ian Gillan: Yeah after a few drinks I leave them lying on the floor and the next thing my dogs walking all over them, that’s my excuse anyway….but they are a great thing to have. When CDs first came out they didn’t sound that great, when I first heard Deep Purples Machine Head on CD I thought it sounded terrible, totally flat, but after a while they came on.

KH: Do you think the artwork of an album cover is as important in these modern times?

Ian Gillan: Well these days people have a lot of music on their computer so they are missing out on that, some of the album covers were a story in themselves and you were able to pull out the lyrics and have a read through them, they were great. When I look at the albums that will be in the box set, some of the artwork on those covers is amazing.

KH: It was always a big pull for me. “No Laughing in heaven” was the first single I ever owned and I have it still, I blagged it off my uncle when I was young and used to sit staring at it for hours, the artwork fascinated me, long before I heard the song.

Ian Gillan: I can’t believe you should mention that… That is my favourite Gillan song

KH: And mine

Ian Gillan: – and one of my top ten songs . Actually, I found out the drummer Lenny Haze who played with us died last week, he was a great drummer, and I thought of it as soon as I heard as I know he will be in hell propping up the bar, I dropped him a note to say I would see him there sooner or later. I know the kind of people to who go heaven and it’s not a place id want to be.

KH: Nor me (laughs)

KH: Overall – Gillan was a very successful but fairly short lived venture – yet you had 5 top 20 albums, is it a period of your career you remember with particular fondness?

Ian Gillan: I do definitely yes, it was a busy time for us, we were recording and touring a lot but the audiences were absolutely fantastic. I enjoyed every bit of it, it ultimately ran its course… but yes, very fond memories of that time

KH: Was there any material recorded at that time which has never been released?

Ian Gillan: No, they pretty much took everything we got, it was a very busy, productive time for us, luckily we had the studio (Kingsway Studios), but no, it was either released or it was scrapped.

KH: I’ve always thought that your vocals were very easily identifiable but was it important to you when Gillan was established to have a sound that was generally distinguishable from Deep Purple?

Ian Gillan: I don’t think so… I don’t think I really thought about it at the time. A friend of mine came to see a gig at what was then the Hammersmith Odeon and he said “that was a great gig but not as good as Deep Purple”, so the next day I picked up the phone and called Jon Lord…at the time I had left Deep Purple I wasn’t really sure what I was doing.

KH: So when Gillan called it a day did you have ideas for what direction you were headed in next?

Ian Gillan: No not really, I didn’t plan anything, just opportunities arose, I just loved the music and I got lucky but there was nothing really planned. You just don’t really think about things like that …

I went for a drink with Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler and it was the longest party I’ve ever been to. My Manager called me the next day and said if your going to make any career plans would you mind discussing them with me first, I said “what are you talking about”? And apparently I had agreed to join Black Sabbath. It was like a restaurant place we were in and we went for a few drinks and ended up being swept out from under the table.

KH: Considering your talent, apart from your brief period with Black Sabbath were you ever approached with a view to fronting any other established rock bands?

Ian Gillan: I never really considered it, I did have offers from some well known bands and some less well known bands, actually… I was approached by the guy from Mike and the Mechanics, ah what’s his name?…Michael…Michael Rutherford, which I obviously turned down as it’s really not my sort of thing.

KH: Whats coming up next for you Ian? What are your plans for the rest of 2016?

Ian Gillan: Well the new Deep Purple album is out in February 2017 and then I’ll be touring, I’ve a few dates with orchestras in November too but mostly for the rest of 2016 I’m going to be putting my feet up and doing a bit of writing – which is not music.

KH: I’ve heard that the latest Deep Purple album was recorded in Nashville, Tennessee, was there any particular reason for this location?

Ian Gillan: Our producer lives there, Bob Ezrin – well between there and Toronto, so we do the work and he tidies it up, tweaks a few things… I actually only received the new album yesterday and I’m pretty pleased with it, so …yeah, not bad at all.

KH: Excellent, I look forward to hearing it.

KH: I’m sure your schedule is pretty punishing but do you ever get time to listen to other people’s music, including people you have been musically involved with in the past?

Ian Gillan: I have a very eclectic taste in music, just lately I have been listening to flamenco, I have thousands of things to listen to on the computer, but I don’t listen to rock music anymore.

KH: Would you still listen to jazz?

Ian Gillan: I still like jazz, I don’t listen to it as much as I used to but I heard some great jazz on Youtube, recently. It was so good I listened to it 3 times. My Grandfather was a baritone opera singer and my Uncle was a jazz pianist, I was a boy soprano in the choir so I’ve always appreciated different types of music.

(Ian explains he has developed a dry cough)

KH: I have gone right over my time and you should rest and preserve that voice of yours – Ian Gillan it has been an absolute pleasure to speak to you and many thanks again for rescheduling the interview.

Ian Gillan: Not a problem at all, my pleasure.

ORDER HERE: Amazon exclusive Version with 7”

ORDER HERE: Standard version

If that’s not enough Ian Gillan for you, our other interview with Ian and MGM writer Fran Suermondt is below:

Check out Part I and II of an Exclusive Interview with Ian Gillan the Deep Purple Icon

Check out Part III and IV of an Exclusive Interview with Ian Gillan the Deep Purple Icon


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