Ian Gillan of Deep Purple and Black Sabbath interview
Ian Gillan took some time for It’s Psychedelic Baby to talk about some of his latest project. Gillan and Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi are currently promoting their project called “WhoCares” with the intent to support the rebuilding of a music school in Gyumri, Armenia. Both Gillan and Iommi have spent a lot of time in Armenia, fallen in love with the country and the people and have dedicated a lot of work to a nation still shocked after the earthquake that struck Armenia on December 7, 1988 at 11:41am.
The collaboration of Gillan and Iommi, who have worked together before on the Sabbath album “Born Again” is really something special. We must also mention other names involved with this project, such as Jon Lord on keyboard, Iron Maiden drummer Nicko McBrain, former Metallica bass player Jason Newsted and guitar player Linde Lindström are also featured on the album.
It’s a great pleasure and honor to talk to you for It’s Psychedelic Baby Magazine. You are very active these days and you have been working on a very interesting charity project called »WhoCares« with Tony Iommi from Black Sabbath. Your main intent is to support the rebuilding of a music school in Gyumri, Armenia. You and Iommi both have spent a lot of time in Armenia. Tell us about your views on Armenia. How did you two decided to do this?
Thank you. Our decision was made on a plane whilst Tony and I were returning from a trip to Yerevan where we were honoured by the president for work on the album ‘Live Aid Armenia.’ When I spoke to the mayor of Spitak (along with Gyumri in the epicentre of the devastation that took 25,000 lives and made ten times that number homeless) a year after the event, he told me there was still no music, not in the churches or schools or on the radio, it seemed even the birds had stopped singing. ‘We’re not ready yet’ he said. Almost a quarter of a century later, they are ready. And the music school is symbolic of a new start. Construction begins this month and will take about a year. The contributions of many people are invaluable; our efforts with the music is just a part of it I’m proud to be involved with.
The list of musicians, that also appear on this project is amazing! How was it to work with them and how did you and Tony got along musically?
I know Tony well and love working with him; when he comes up with an idea I know exactly what’s expected of me. Old mates John Lord and Nicko McBrain were in the studio with Tony and myself, and the others were added remotely.
The album features a lot of new songs and also some rare ones. How did you guys decided what to add and what not?
The list was mostly compiled by Max Vaccarro at Edel records. Max has been a driving force behind the project.
Let’s travel back in time a bit. I have the 60’s in my mind. Between 1962 and 1964 you were in a band called The Javelins, where you were known as Jess Thunder. Then you joined Wainwright’s Gentlemen until 1965. The band recorded a number of tracks including a cover of The Hollies hit “Ain’t That Just Like Me”. The first major band you were part of was Episode Six and I would love if you could tell us a few words from this period of your life.
These bands were the formative part of my professional life and I loved every moment with them. It was in Episode Six where I met Roger Glover who joined Deep Purple with me in 1969.
While being in Deep Purple you toured the whole world and played at so many festivals. Is there any special place, country or perhaps a festival, that you were most inspired by?
Festivals are great; I love the sound of music in the open air. It reminds me of my trips to the fairground when I was a kid. My favourite of all the greats is/was Reading, where I played quite a few times.
A while back I interviewed bassist Paul Dean from Jerusalem and he mentioned your name a couple of times. You actually find them. I’m really amazed what a raw energy they had. Really impressive…
Paul was the brother of my girl-friend at the time and got hooked up with a band called Jerusalem which I produced at my studio Kingsway Recorders. I thought they were original with a great attitude…and their songs were very good – if a bit whacky.
What plans do you have with »WhoCares« and what are perhaps some of your other future plans?
There are no plans at the moment for WhoCares, although the ‘band’ will remain on alert for another project. At the moment Tony and I have our hands full with other stuff.
Since It’s Psychedelic Baby has a lot of fans of late 60’s and 70’s psychedelia I would like to ask you if you could name a few good bands, that inspired you back then in those years. What did you like to listen as far as psych goes?
Frank Zappa, The Doors, Vanilla Fudge, Cream, Moby Grape.
Monday 16th July 2012 Jon Lord passed away, which is a great loss for the music world. Would you like to share a memory?
Forgive me but it is still too close for that.
I want to thank you for taking your time. I wish you good luck with your charity project and all the best to you and Tony. Would you like to share a message for your fans and for the readers of It’s Psychedelic Baby Magazine?
Thank you all in psychedelia, may your gardens be full of Bambis and honey bees.
Photo © Tommaso Mai
Interview made by Klemen Breznikar / 2012
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