GUITARIST RITCHIE BLACKMORE ON GLENN HUGHES JOINING RITCHE BLACKMORE’S RAINBOW, “WE ENDED IT AMICABLY BEFORE IT EVEN STARTED”
Gary Graff of Billboard spoke with guitarist Ritchie Blackmore. Highlights from the interview appear below.
Billboard: What led you back to rock, and Rainbow, again?
Ritchie Blackmore: It was kind of like I was 70, and I just felt like playing some rock n’ roll on a few dates. So I basically put together the right players to do a few shows, just playing the old rock stuff, Purple stuff and Rainbow. I was doing it, one, for the fans and, two, for the nostalgia, and the singer I found (Ronnie Romero) is very exciting. Candice found him on YouTube, so I auditioned him and he passed. He’s got a great voice, a cross between, like, Dio meets Freddie Mercury. So this would mean kind of exposing a new singer to the masses, and I’m sure he’ll become pretty famous because of his voice, so that was interesting.
Billboard: How has it felt returning to that band and that particular musical style?
Ritchie Blackmore: It is good fun. We wrote some good songs back then. It’s always nice to kind of blast out on the Stratocaster for a while. But I still prefer the music of Blackmore’s Night because it’s so far-reaching and the spectrum of musical stuff is so more vast than being in a rock band. But at the same time I knew there were a lot of fans that wanted to hear the old Rainbow songs, so I did six weeks on the road playing rock n’ roll and then did the more classically inclined acoustic music.
Billboard: Was there a time you’d written off the idea of playing in a rock band altogether?
Ritche Blackmore: No. I just wanted to pursue other avenues of music, especially Renaissance, which is still my main music that I listen to and play.
Billboard: Talk about this lineup. How do each of the players distinguish themselves and how is it different from other lineups of Rainbow?
Ritchie Blackmore: The bass player (Bob Nouveau) plays in a rhythmic sense and has good understanding of guitar chords and progressions. The keyboard player (Jens Johansson) is one of the best in the world. I was a bit apprehensive about using him because he was known for his flashy ability, but when I spoke to him he loved playing a more supportive role in the vein of Jon Lord’s style. The drummer (Dave Keith) I believe should always be able to play like a metronome, and he has an inbuilt sense of rhythm, so I knew that he could do the job.
Billboard: Glenn Hughes has said you invited him to be part of the new Rainbow but he declined. Is that true?
Ritchie Blackmore: Through a mutual friend, a conversation came up saying it would be good to have him in the band. I said, “Would he be up for being just the bass player and we would have another singer singing?” My mutual friend said “Of course. I’ve spoken to him and he’s up for it.” I said, “Fine — as long as he knows he isn’t the singer, that’s great.” Fast forward to day before rehearsals and we contacted Glenn to see when he was going to fly in, and he wasn’t aware that he wasn’t going to be the lead singer at all. So I understood his situation and I told him we would have to get someone else, and he was fine. We ended it amicably before it even started.
Billboard: Are there more future plans for Rainbow?
Ritchie Blackmore: I don’t have any at the moment except for the five dates we will be doing in Europe in April. I heard tickets are doing well, so I’m happy about that.
Billboard: You’re a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer now, with Deep Purple. How do you feel about it now that it’s happened? Any regrets about not attending the ceremony?
Ritchie Blackmore: I have no interest in that type of thing. I don’t believe in people being in the position where they can say who is in and who is out in the music business. Rock n’ roll is all about freedom, not having a panel of phantom arbiters discussing who is going to be in and who is going to be out. I think Steve Miller said it best when he was inducted. Check YouTube for that.
Read more at Billboard.