Following the news in July that guitarist Steve Morse will be stepping back from the legendary hard rock band DEEP PURPLE, after more than a quarter of a century, his former bandmates have announced that, after an abundant summer of touring, Simon McBride will join the band permanently.
Collectively, DEEP PURPLE stated: "We are thrilled that Simon has agreed to join. Simon's playing is up there with the greats. Of course, Steve can't be replaced, the same as Ritchie [Blackmore], and Steve has a long legacy with DEEP PURPLE. In Simon we have not found a replacement, but an extraordinarily talented and exciting guitarist in his own right. The reception from audiences over the summer has already been great and we are looking forward to the forthcoming dates in the U.K. and Europe across the rest of the year. It is clear that Simon also holds great respect for those before him. We are all excited for what the years to come hold for the band."
Simon stated: "I'm very happy to be asked to join the band, at the start of the pandemic if someone would have said to me that I was going to be the new guitarist in DEEP PURPLE, I would have just laughed, but here we are and it's happening. DEEP PURPLE has a history of great guitarists so I'm very honored to be asked to be part of that. They are all amazing musicians and more importantly, I have become very good friends with the guys so I can't wait to continue touring and even perhaps some writing and recording."
Last month, McBride spoke to the "Scars And Guitars" podcast about what it has been like for me him to step into the shoes previously filled by Ritchie Blackmore, Tommy Bolin, Joe Satriani and Steve Morse. Regarding his approach to playing DEEP PURPLE's classic songs, Simon said: "At the end of the day, for me, with this gig, there's been lots of people saying, or asking me will I play like Ritchie or will I play like Steve or will I do this like Tommy or Satriani or whatever. So that thing initially kind of confused me a little bit; I didn't know what to do. It was only when I was talking to [DEEP PURPLE keyboardist] Don Airey about it, and he just said, 'Forget about it all. Just be you. Play your own thing.' That's it. Which I did. And I kind of started to relax a little bit and just be myself.
"When you start to think about who else has been in the band, you get a little bit confused what to play or when to play or what to do or 'should I play this like Ritchie?' or 'should I play it like Steve?'" he continued.
"Everybody has their own opinion on the guitar players in DEEP PURPLE and which ones worked better or whatnot. I [am] respectful to everybody who's played there, because they're all good players — every single one of 'em — so whether it's Ritchie or Tommy or Steve, I just kind of [am] respectful to what they've done in the past, and I just do my own thing most of the time.
"There's certain things you have to play. Like 'Highway Star', for example, I'm not gonna play anything different to what's there in the original, because why the hell would I? [Laughs] That's my attitude. If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
McBride, who had previously toured with both PURPLE singer Ian Gillan and Airey, among others, added: "I learned a lot from Don Airey over the years, playing with him, because when he plays some of the Jon Lord parts, he's, like, 'Well, have you heard the keyboard solo?' I was, like, 'Yeah.' And he said, 'Well, why in the hell would you change it?'
"Some people can be, like, 'Oh, I need to do my own thing.' And I go, 'Well, I'm sorry. But these guys spent a lot of time in the studio, or wherever it is, creating these pieces of music that fit the song. So why would I be so arrogant to say, 'I'm gonna change that just because I wanna play my own thing'? 'Cause I know, really, I wouldn't come up with anything better.
"It's case of just… I just go on and do my thing and I don't really think about it too much, what people say. People will either like me or hate me. I don't know."
As for the response he has gotten from the DEEP PURPLE fans, the Irish blues-rock guitarist said: "To be honest, everybody's been so nice and so cool and so kind, especially on the social media stuff where it's all been very positive. You get the odd negative one, but I don't read a lot of it anyway. But it's really cool that people accept me, because it is a legacy band and they've been around a long time. I really appreciate that people are digging what I do, and I feel it every night onstage. Some of the shows we've done, some of the audience reaction has been incredible.
"We played a show in Macedonia. We came off. We did an encore and stuff. And then 20 minutes later, the audience are still shouting," he recalled. "I'd never heard this my entire life — 15, 20 minutes of 10 thousand people shouting for more, just constantly, and they wouldn't leave. Even Don Airey and Roger Glover were standing there in shock, going, 'We haven't heard this in a long, long time.' I'm not saying that's all for me; I'm just saying that's just for the band.
"I'm very [happy] that people like what I'm doing because it is always hard stepping into a band where you've had [laughs] Ritchie Blackmore, Steve Morse, Joe Satriani and Tommy Bolin. They're not small names by any means, so it's always very… I think if you just play and have fun, that comes across and people respect that and people will really see.
"I'm 43, so I kind of grew up in that old-school playing method anyway. 'Cause I grew up in the '80s and '90s, so I guess I'm still part of that older generation, if you wanna call it. So the way that I play would still fit very well, whereas maybe some of the new, modern players wouldn't fit. I don't know.
"Yeah, the response has been brilliant. I can't complain at all. And I thank every single person that has said a nice thing about me."
In July, Morse officially left PURPLE to care for his wife, Janine, who is battling cancer.
Morse's announcement came four months after the guitarist said that he would be taking a hiatus from the band, in the hope of rejoining his bandmates once his wife's health improved. He was then replaced on the road by McBride.
Morse effectively took over Ritchie Blackmore's DEEP PURPLE slot in 1994 and had since been in the group longer than Ritchie.
McBride, who is guitar player, singer, songwriter and a band leader all in one, hails from Belfast in Northern Ireland —a place that resonates of the best music traditions like Gary Moore and Rory Gallagher, as well as bands such as THIN LIZZY, STIFF LITTLE FINGERS and obviously U2. His biography tells many stories — from his band touring with no sound engineer, driver, or roadie, playing 30 shows in 35 days, to him regularly sharing stages with Gillan and Airey.
DEEP PURPLE's latest album, "Turning To Crime", came out in November via earMUSIC. The LP contains DEEP PURPLE's versions of great rock classics and musical jewels — including songs originally recorded by Bob Dylan, FLEETWOOD MAC, Bob Seger, CREAM and THE YARDBIRDS — carefully chosen by each member of the band.
Photo credit: Ueli Frey