Ian Paice is one quarter of the legendary rock quartet Deep Purple and one of the world’s best drummers. He is also the only group member to have been present in all its line-ups.
Paice wasn’t always interested in drums – until the age of 15 he played the violin. He started his career as a drummer performing with his father who played simple numbers in a dance jazz band, and Paice began playing along. Their repertoire included waltzes, foxtrots and quickstep.
Ritchie Blackmore came up with the group’s name, with other suggestions including Orpheus and Fire. But Deep Purple was eventually settled on – after the title of his grandmother’s favourite track on a pre-war Duke Ellington recording. Their debut album Shades of Deep Purple was recorded in just two days, over the weekend of 11-12 May.
Paice’s career in music didn’t come to an end after Deep Purple’s split. He then formed the band Paice, Ashton and Lord, comprising vocalist and keyboardist Tony Ashton, organ player Jon Lord, guitarist/vocalist Bernie Marsden and bassist Paul Martinez. The superheroes of this supergroup all possessed powerful egos, a fact that no doubt contributed to the group’s break-up after recording its only album Malice in Wonderful. Two years later Paice joined the band Whitesnake, a collaboration that lasted until 1982. He then got together with Gary Moore until 1984, working with, among others, Pete York, George Harrison and Paul McCartney. In 1980, Rod Evans, one of Deep Purple’s founding members, decided to reform the band and got in touch with its original bass guitarist Nick Simper. Though Simper turned him down, Evans still went on to tour under the Deep Purple name with other musicians – lookalikes of the band’s original members. It took a court injunction to block the tour and stop a concert taking place at an eighteen-thousand-seat stadium in Los Angeles.
In 1984, Ian Gillan managed to revive the band in its “classic” line-up of Ian Paice (drums), Roger Glover (bass guitar), Ritchie Blackmore (guitar), Jon Lord (organ), and Ian Gillan (vocals). This line-up proved successful for several years and saw a number of new recordings and record deals, including one with Polydor Records, along with reunion tours. However, Gillan left the band himself just before its twentieth anniversary.
Ian Paice continues to perform today along with other musicians such as Deep Purple co-member Jon Lord. They also, incidentally, are married to twin sisters. Ian’s wife, Jackie, is the organiser of the charitable venture Sunflower Jam, at which he and his fellow musicians play great music to help raise funds for a particular charity.
» You’ve just come back from a trip to Russia – what were your impressions?
Each time we go there – be it Moscow, St Petersburg, Ekaterinburg – we see the changes. Life, I notice, is sometimes still hard for people, but they have a belief that things are getting better. People seem to know more, travel more. And another observation – it’s becoming more global, more like everywhere else in the West. But the world is getting smaller these days. When we travel there’s less and less adaption.
» Word has it you had tea with Mr Medvedev, the President of Russia - how was it?
Yes, I was in Russia with other artists like Tina Turner to do a concert in the Kremlin, and that’s where we met Mr Medvedev. It turned out he’d been a fan of ours since his teenage years... During the visit it was the first time we’d had a night off in Moscow, and he invited us for shot of vodka and a bite to eat at his beautiful country residence which was amazing. It was a nice and informal meeting.
» Did you take a present with you?
Yes, I got him drumsticks. I couldn’t think of anything smaller I could put in my pocket.
» What, in your view, is the key to success – talent or hard work?
The longer you do something, the better you become at it. Over the years I’ve been playing drums I’ve learnt a lot – not everything but my knowledge base is huge. But if you play from the book, you don’t communicate to anybody. If you don’t allow art to get involved, then you can’t transmit your emotions. Clearly, I can’t be brilliant every night but as long as I try and give it all I can, then it’s fine. A lot can be learnt but everything needs a foundation for growing, i.e. talent. Why can some people draw just okay and others produce masterpieces? That’s the spark from nature some people are born with. It’s just like some people are born two metres tall – you might want to be that height, but there isn’t much you can do about it.
» Do you think in your case it’s genetic? Your father was a piano player, wasn’t he?
I don’t know if the ability to play is genetic. Some things are cultural. Music was always in my house when I was a child. I had more possibilities to pursue a career as a musician when I wanted because my father already worked in this field.
» Why has none of your children become a musician?
Each of them has a musical talent. My son, for example, is not interested in being on stage but he writes music and is happy to be in the studio. My daughters have great voices but chose to do something different. It’s their choice. The most important thing for me is that they are nice people and are happy.
» Maybe, as you were travelling a lot you didn’t have time to influence them musically?
It definitely made them stronger. But I’m lucky that when I go away I can be a 15yearold kid again and be silly like a teenager. You can only do that for so long – you need to come back to reality, and my reality is very nice. Thus, both sides of my life were balanced. By being away, I missed more than they did – they had only one person to miss, and I had four.
» You and Jon Lord married twin sisters. Couldn’t you find anyone else?
That’s not my problem – I married first. But seriously, when you’re in a band you get locked into each other, and your social circle shrinks. When Jacky and I got together, her sister became a part of our group. So, the fact that she ended up marrying him isn’t surprising – she was in close proximity.
» What are the relationships inside a band like? Are they a bit like in a family?
They’re exactly like in a family – people spend a lot of time with each other, they squabble, they have fun. They do a lot together but the fact that they can work together very well doesn’t mean that they have to like each other. Over the course of time little things can become huge and some personalities can have difficulties being around each other.
» When you look back, when was the best time for the band?
The most important time for the band was in 1969, when we got the first band change. We were together for 15 months and had no direction, and suddenly it all came together. After that, the next two years were fantastic. Then little cracks in personalities appeared... Now it’s amazing again because no one has ego problems, and we understand that the fact we’re doing it and enjoying it still is a miracle.
» Why do you think your concerts still draw big audiences?
I don’t analyse why or how we do it. All I know is that we do it well. My theory is that something transmits from that time when the music was written, and it resonates with people of all ages. There are teenage kids at our concerts these days and they seem to enjoy it as much as their parents and grandparents who are 60. It‘s magic...
» Where are you playing this summer?
We’re shortly doing a tour in Greece, Israel and a couple of countries in this region. Last year we did so many countries and tours – we’re being lazy this year. We’ll do one show in London in November at the O2. And we’ll help my wife Jacky on the Sunflower Jam, her charity project, which is different from other charity dos where you’re expected to give your money and leave. This event is about music and making money for good causes.
You’ll see and hear musicians doing things outside their general sphere of work – Robert Plant doing a blues number, Paul Weller doing a Joe Cocker song, some amazing musicians putting together an amazing house band. Sunflower Jam is just fun! This year we’re taking it to the Albert Hall. It needed to grow a bit, and what building is better than this! It has such a magic atmosphere with all its Victorian opulence. And everyone is encouraged to dress casual. There are no black ties, the wine is flowing, and you should just forget your worries and prepare for a headache the next day!
» How did you cope with the temptations of drugs and alcohol?
This temptation is there whether you work in the entertainment industry or in a bank. In our business, if you’re successful and the money is there, people expect you to do stupid things, so alcohol and chemicals appear. But you don’t have to do it. Over the years I’ve lost several friends, famous and not, to drugs and alcohol. And I can say they would have been the same people, had they not been musicians. It’s in your character. When I was young, I drank too much – it was my vice. Drugs never interested me, maybe because we grew up in a village... There are people who don’t have direction, and don’t have the intelligence to understand that this is not the battle to win. You can also lose your creativity, as eventually you will shut down and stop communicating your ideas. There are people who have success now, and you can see that if they’re still alive when they’re 50, it will be a miracle. If nature gave you talent, make sure it goes as far as it can.
interview by Elena RAGOZHINA