For over five decades, through multiple different eras, Deep Purple has remained constant. And that is not going to change anytime soon, guitarist Steve Morse says.
Deep Purple's 'Long Goodbye' Tour wrapped up last fall. While it was originally conceived as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band's farewell, by the end of it Morse was the only one who was still looking forward to retirement.
"I have since discovered that the other band members of Deep Purple are actually from an alien civilization and they took human form," he says. "They have a lifespan of 300 years or so, so they're not even middle-aged yet (Laughs)."
It's the travel that tires out Morse, not the music. The music might be what keeps him going.
It's a creative motivation made abundantly clear on Deep Purple's new album, Whoosh!, its 21st studio album and third in seven years. Deep Purple presses forward with Morse and keyboardist Don Airey, continuing the thread of 2017's Infinite, while staying grounded with classic-era members, Ian Paice, Roger Glover and Ian Gillan.
Deep Purple had a full year of touring booked this year, before the pandemic pushed it all to 2021. Morse says he's staying as health and fit as possible to be ready when its time to stop doing yard work and get back on the tour bus.
Read the full conversation below.
How are things with you down in Florida?
Yeah, I think people are getting tired of this. As the virus mutates or changes targets and is more selective about who it gets, people are changing their behavior for sure.
Two summers ago, you said you were ready to retire at the end of that Deep Purple tour. In January of 2019, you told Lee Anderton that you were working on new Deep Purple and Flying Colors albums. Have your bandmates refused to accept your resignation?
Well, there's lots of things. One thing is, at the time that, the 'Long Goodbye Tour' was supposed to be the end. I have since discovered that the other band members of Deep Purple are actually from an alien civilization and they took human form. They have a lifespan of 300 year or so, so they're not even middle-aged yet.
That's a problem for me because I'm not from that. So I don't know if I can live long enough to keep up with these guys. We'll see.
I'm working hard on my physical limitations and practicing everyday and working on different ways of playing, you know, where the bad bones in my wrist are not stopping me. But I have had to change technique over the last several years. That's bought me some more time, for sure.
I eat differently too. I'm on a non-inflammatory diet. I'm eating healthier than I ever thought I would.
Interesting My wife and I just got into turmeric tea, and we're feeling pretty good.
Yeah, that's pretty neat. I've always thought that I'd be eating stuff that came from Dow Chemicals, where it would never age and you could eat it 30 years later and it would be exactly the same (Laughs).
Your bandmates in Deep Purple really never want to stop touring. What about your bandmates in Flying Colors? Did you ever tell them that you were done.
They're the same way, but they're younger, generally. Dave [LaRue] isn't, but the rest of the guys are. I think musicians — their identity is so tied into the writing, recording, touring cycle that they don't know what to do with themselves.
A lot of musicians over the years that died early seemed to either harmed themselves too much when they were in the party mode on tour, but more ... the ones that have gotten depressed and even suicidal [seems to happen] off tour.
When you think about your own retirement, do you expect to continue playing and writing music?
Yeah, I don't think that's ever going to stop. Partly because it's therapeutic to do it.
Like during this COVID thing, ever since I stopped making an income, I've never been more busy because I have so much to do that I can't come up with any excuses for it.
I've got big projects, chores outside and my friends have given me lots of work to do in the studio. And just my normal computer work with emails with interviews and detail things — you know, can you just send these tracks? Just doing that is three days work. The stuff adds up, so yeah, I've never been more busy. So it's a nice little preview of retirement, where you have no money coming in and no official job, but you're just busy.
When did the band put Whoosh! together?
I don't remember the exact dates, but I think it was about a year-and-a-half from the first writing session to the time we finished recording our parts. Then there was some gap of time. Bob [Ezrin, producer] waited till he was ready to mix it.
Deep Purple albums always sound like they're recorded from the live room floor. Were you guys all in the same location when you were recording?
Yes, we always do everybody in a circle looking at each other. So we have cues and hand signals.
For instance, a lot of times I rely on Roger [Glover, bass] for cues. We keep changing arrangements, slightly. Although I could remember the music, just remembering the arrangements and stuff like that, it's comforting to see Roger and [drummer Ian] Paice and Don [Airey, keys] and Ian Gillan is in the vocal booth, isolated for sound, but he can see us.
We each have a mixer where we can set the volume of everybody according to our taste. That works out well. That way we can get a complete picture of the song. The goal for those sessions is to at the very least have the drums done.
We'll come home and change some things. A lot of times Don's organ parts can be used from the initial sessions or the rhythm guitar can be. But I like to have lots of tries at a solo, so I can see what comes along. Occasionally I've gotten a solo from just the one take that I love.
What can you tell me about the classical motif from the song 'Nothing At All'?
Well the guitar answer to the vocals is just kind of my idea of what a violinist would play. Kind of a light thing. I remember our manager saying at the time that it was a little too light when he heard it. I just would say, 'Well, I don't know. Ian Gillan loves this.' He's got great ears for music.
When I play that, it's followed by a kind of arpeggiated and melodic thing on organ. Then the middle section is a real feature of it where Don takes a piece by Bach and changes it to give it a different time signature than it was originally intended to be.
I think that's cool. It's in a different key, different time signature and a slightly different arrangement. I don't know. I like it. It's really unusual and it's got powerful moments as well.
I like songs that have dramatic differences between parts and Ian Gillan liked the fact that it was relaxed and it gave him room to sing.
What was the touring plan for Whoosh!?
Oh yeah! Right now we're in the middle of our summer tour. We've done our first leg in Greece, Russia, Germany and now we're just finishing some summer festivals in Europe (Laughs).
The whole year was booked. Now it's really messed up because it's [been pushed] to 2021 and nobody even know if their gonna have the business recovered.
We don't even know what venues are still going to be around.
Can you imagine being — not just a musician — but a music promoter right now. What do you do? How do you support your employees?
Photo: Ben Wolf