Saturday, June 11, 2011
DEEP PURPLE Guitarist On Touring With Orchestra: 'We're Not Going To Change The Songs'
Over the past four decades, Deep Purple has grown accustomed to touring as a five-piece. Suddenly, the band must accommodate about 41 more musicians.
"That's a lot of empty (instrument) cases in the dressing room," says Purple guitarist Steve Morse with a laugh.
Last week, the band behind "Smoke on the Water," "Highway Star" and "Perfect Strangers" kicked off a tour accompanied by string and horn sections, with shows tomorrow in Holmdel, Saturday in Atlantic City and Tuesday and Wednesday in New York. But Morse promises Deep Purple's classics aren't being, well, classicalized.
"This one isn't going to be orchestra-based so much as: It's the rock band Deep Purple playing, with strings and horns being added for some color textures," the guitarist says.
"We're not going to change the songs — I mean, there'll be a few little cameos and features — but the basic idea of the show is: We're doing what we do, and having more texture where it's appropriate."
This isn't Purple's first foray into classical accompaniment. In 1969, the band released "Concerto for Group and Orchestra," an album-long piece composed by Purple's then-keyboardist, Jon Lord. "Concerto" preceded Morse's tenure, which began in 1993. But three current members — singer Ian Gillan, bassist Roger Glover and drummer Ian Paice — date back to the 1969 album. Keyboardist Don Airy, a member since 2002, rounds out the current lineup.
Morse reports that a conductor will travel with the band on this tour, and regional musicians will play shows as geographically convenient.
"There are a few shows where they're going to travel a bit, but mostly, it's going to be local," Morse says. "Our arranger-conductor — since he plays violin, actually, very well — will be in charge of making sure they know what to do.
"Most important is keeping them on the beat with the music. A lot of classical players can read music great and everything, but the whole rhythm thing — maybe they don't feel how exact it needs to be to make rock 'n' roll rock."
Since the genre's birth, rock has utilized strings, from the Drifters' "There Goes My Baby" through the Verve's "Bittersweet Symphony." While strings don't necessarily equate "classical," it is classical players who often play strings on rock songs. Morse's view? It's all music.
"For me," he says, "styles in music are very blurred. I don't see a line, really, defining them. But I know people do, so I try to be aware of them from time to time. Rock and classical styles seem to blend very well. You know, rock has always had the same chords, really, as classical music, the same notes — with the exception, possibly, of some of the bent notes on the blues scale.
"I don't think it's too much of a stretch to combine the two. With most styles of music, it's really more about attitude and the repetition of certain things that define a style. I always encourage people to think of music as just one thing, with lots of variety naturally built in. The best musician of all, I think, is one that has seen and done it all."
Morse points out that he is now the longest-running guitarist in Deep Purple's sometimes stormy history.
"I've been in the most years, consecutively," he says. "And the tour that started almost 18 years ago hasn't ended yet."