IAN GILLAN: SIMON MCBRIDE Is 'One Of The Best Things That Could Have Happened' To DEEP PURPLE

May 24, 2024

In a new interview with Made In Metal, DEEP PURPLE singer Ian Gillan was asked how he feels about the band's current guitarist Simon McBride performing songs that were originally written and recorded by Ritchie Blackmore. Ian responded (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "Oh, first of all, Simon is a genius. He's absolutely fantastic. He's got all the energy and articulation and musical skills and creative skills that you could ever dream of. You can't compare Ritchie with Simon or with [former DEEP PURPLE guitarist] Steve Morse or with [ex-PURPLE touring guitarist] Joe Satriani, the players that we've had in a band. And I think that Ritchie has to have all the credit in the world. He's a genius. He was fantastic. I thought he was brilliant. And he was my roommate and we partnered and we shared a lot together. And then things, for some reason, went wrong later on. And I'm sure half of it was my fault, so those days were dim and distant. But as far as the guitar is concerned, Simon interprets these songs very, very brilliantly."

He continued: "For a start-off, when you're playing… Steve Morse had this same difficulty. When you're playing a well-known solo or a well-known guitar part, or any part for that matter, the thing you have to do, the trick is to play the recognizable parts, the parts that everyone knows that are significant in that solo, and then you can freeform in between. But you've gotta pick up and show respect for the song and the original record, because that's how people like it. If you meander around a bit in the solo, that's also fine, but you've gotta start and end and do the bits that people know. Apart from that, Simon's approach to every song has just been to throw himself at it.

"Steve Morse said a good thing when he joined the band and somebody said, 'How does it feel like stepping into Ritchie Blackmore's shoes?' And Steve said, 'I think Ritchie took his shoes with him when he left.' And that, that applies to everyone — that applies to Simon now."

Gillan added: "Simon's unbelievable. We're so lucky to have him. He's just amazing."

Asked if there is any possibility of Morse coming back to DEEP PURPLE, Ian said: "No, no. Simon is our permanent guitar player now. And we've just finished making a new record, which will come out later in the year. But Simon is a fantastic contributor to the band. It's one of the best things that could have happened."

McBride spoke about how he landed the much-coveted DEEP PURPLE gig in an April 2023 interview with Colombia's El Expreso Del Rock. He said: "I know [PURPLE keyboardist] Don Airey very well. I played with Don for [about] 10 years now. And I also know Ian Gillan very well, and I played with him off and on. I also know Roger [Glover, PURPLE bassist] and I know Paicey [PURPLE drummer Ian Paice] as well. I've known them all, I've played with them all, but never at the same time. And I get on very well [with them]… I think I was kind of the natural fit for the band because… as I know Don and played with him and played with Gillan and I know the rest of the guys. We all get on very well. But, yeah, it was still… When I got a call to do it, it was just a bizarre feeling. I think I was jumping for joy."

Regarding how he feels being a member of such a legendary band, McBride said: "It's a great thing to be part of DEEP PURPLE. The name DEEP PURPLE is just iconic, and I'm very lucky that I can put my name through that, as being a part of it. But, yeah, the guys are great, and all the crew. It's like a big family on the road. And we all have a lot of fun and we all get on very well. Yeah, I'm very honored to be a part of the whole thing."

Simon previously recounted the initial call he received to fill in for Morse in an October 2022 interview with Andrew Daly of Vinyl Writer Music. At the time, he said: "Well, there was talk of me stepping in for Steve temporarily towards the end of 2021, but I never really thought much of it. I never thought much of it because it was always a case of, 'It may happen or it may not happen,' because it depended on Steve's wife's condition as to whether he would be able to tour. But it just got to the stage where Steve decided enough was enough, and he needed to look after his wife, which is an amazing thing he's doing. So, I knew it was possible, but I didn't know for sure; I only really found out recently that I was being confirmed as a permanent replacement."

McBride went on to say that the chemistry was "immediate" between him and the other members of DEEP PURPLE. "We had a few days of rehearsal in May [2022], and that's all we needed. And then we did a few shows in Israel, and places like that, which were my first shows, and all we had was those few days of rehearsal. I know Don very well, and I've played with Ian [Gillan] and Roger for a long time, so it clicked quickly. But yeah, it was a funny thing — we did the three or four days of rehearsals, but we really only needed one. After the first day, we all looked at each other and said, 'Well, we think it sounds pretty good. We don't really need two extra days.' We got to work straight away, and everybody was very happy. It helps that I'm a very easygoing person, and I get on well with everybody, I think. So, there was never an issue or a thought about if I would get on with them or not. And as I said, I've met them before, knew their personalities, and knew what to expect, so it's been a great atmosphere."

In August 2022, 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 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 [45], 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 2022, Morse officially left PURPLE to care for his wife, Janine, who was battling cancer. She has since passed away.

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 first studio album with McBride, "=1", will arrive on July 19 via earMUSIC.

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