Ritchie Blackmore Kraus Interview

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In 1973 Guitar Player magazine interviewed Ritchie Blackmore, guitarist for Deep Purple. Here are my answers to the questions they asked him.

GP - How long have you been playing guitar?
K - I have been playing for 12 years.

GP - Did you ever have lessons?
K - No I didn't, but for about the first 2 years I practised intensively and read a lot of music theory.

GP - Besides getting to use your little finger, has classical training affected your playing in any other way?
K - I'm not classically trained. I did read the book "The Segovia Technique", but it made my thumb and little finger sore. It would be nice to have that extra finger sometimes though.

GP - How do you rate Steve Howe (Yes), as far as putting almost strict classical stylings into a rock context?
K - Probably a bad idea. Medieval styles would be better I think.

GP - When you were first starting out were you influenced by anyone in particular?
K - My favourite guitar players were Scotty Moore and Luther Perkins. I learnt by playing along to the Johnny Cash at San Quentin album. I love 50s music but I don't think it comes across in my recordings. That is because country music, and all pop music, is based on people singing, it's vocal music. Instrumental music presents a whole other set of problems, particularly if you are modern like me and reject functional harmony - you may notice my music has no chord progressions, it's all modal. I'm taking it back to the 14th century. I don't know what modal rockabilly would sound like, I may try it at some point.

GP - Did you ever do much work in record sessions?
K - I do record music, yes.

GP - You use three Stratocasters on stage. Are they mainly for break-downs?
K - I like the Statocaster sound, and I feel physically comfortable playing it, which is important to me now.

GP - Are they modified?
K - I don't like the 5-position switch, the in-between positions sound disgusting, so I modified that. And I wound the middle pickup right down because I never use it and it's in the way. I can't believe anyone would be interested in that.

GP - When do you use your Gibson?
K - Well I don't have a Gibson. I have a Teisco, which is my other main guitar. It has a bass-cut control, which gives a good trebly, 60s sound.

GP - How did you come to use your tremolo bar so much?
K - I don't use it very much at all, the Teisco tremolo keeps falling out onto my foot.

GP - You do a lot of hammering-on, and frequently put your pick in your mouth and play with your fingers.
K - Yeah. That's not a question.

GP - How did that light touch come about?
K - I think I am a pretty unsubtle guitarist really, I tend to snap a lot of strings. I don't think dynamics have any place in rock guitar, that's a whole dimension that you should just leave alone.

GP - How loud is your amp setting?
K - The amp is turned up high, and it goes pretty loud, but I put the speaker and mic into a sealed box to keep the noise down.

GP - Does that happen often?
K - Yes, every time I use it.

GP - But you can't get that power rumble without big amps.
K - No but you can get a cheap fizz, which is also good.

GP - What's that thing on the drum case behind your amplifier?
K - Do you mean the Copicat echo? I have only just got that working, I use it quite a lot now, so maybe the 50s guitar sound will appear more in my future recordings.

GP - Does the band use all of your stage gear in the studio's?
K - Don't have a band.

GP - When playing live do you stick closely to your recorded solos?
K - It depends, some of them I could repeat but others would be impossible. I would try to improvise, or rather, vary what is on the record.

GP - What sort of things affect the quality of your performances?
K - Watching TV is bad for it. Also if you are depressed that can be unhelpful.

GP - When do you feel you play best?
K - When I am very calm and not agitated, the phone is off the hook etc.

GP - You don't like leaping around on stage?
K - No, my arthritis makes it painful to do high kicking, or indeed any extraneous movement.

GP - Townshend, Page, Hendrix, Beck and even Dave Davies in the Kinks all are supposed to have been the first to use feedback, fuzz-boxes, etc. Who do you think was the first to really start getting into electricity in a big way?
K - I don't know, I am a rocker, I don't care about those Mods.

GP - When did you get your first fuzz-box?
K - Ina had a great no-name red fuzzbox, and a Roland Bee-Baa, those were the first ones that I used I think...around 2001.

GP - Who first used feedback?
K - I don't know, Chris Heazlewood?

GP - Why do you suppose groups like Grand Funk are selling millions of records when there other bands that are doing the same thing only much better?
K - Yeah, like Chris Heazlewood! I know, it is a shame.

GP - What do you mean by "chance music"?
K - You mean like John Cage? I am not interested in that.

GP - How do you like touring?
K - I don't think I would like it.

GP - Does listening to solos performed on other instruments than the guitar help the beginning guitarist develop a personal style?
K - I think playing the drums has really helped me with the guitar. You realise that you can play a whole song on just 2 or 3 notes, by just varying the rhythm and phrasing. Also listen to Pablo Casals playing the Bach cello suites.

GP - What advice would you give to a person who wanted to become a good rock guitarist?
K - It is easy.

27 October 2007.

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