Don Airey (Deep Purple) - interview

Tomasz Kudelski, Don Airey (Deep Purple) - interview

Tomasz Kudelski: Hi Don, first of all I wanted to thank you for the new album I just heard yesterday for the first time and it sounds fantastic. At first when we heard rumours of cover album I was bit disappointed but in my case, it all changed when I heard 7&7 is and other singles.  They sounded to me like new Deep Purple tracks.  What are your impression of the album?

Don Airey: Well, it was funny thing to do. It was done during lockdown and we all recorded separately. So that was difficult. One thought, if it’s really gonna work.  As soon as we got demos around and Ian Paice put the drums on it, it was like, this is really gonna work. Ian Paice said he was on the one of the best sessions ever had, as no one was telling him what to do or to hurry up. He just did what he wanted to. Its tremendous amount of energy and some great ideas, arranging ideas.  Of course Deep Purple plays, which is never a bad thing.

TK: You said you made the demos. Which songs, which made the album were proposed by you and what demos you did.

Don Airey: Yeah, I did the Medley, Jenny Take a Ride, Let the Good Times Roll, Boogie Woogie Flue. I also did fantastic version of Chest Fever by the Band, but when it came down to Ian (Gillan), he said “I can’t sing those lyrics.  They are terrible”… and they are terrible.

TK: Yes, I wanted to ask about this particular track, as I heard interview with Ian Paice, where he said you made 8/9 rhythm pattern and it took him two days to learn and record the drum part for it.

Don Airey: He never told me that (laugh). Its fantastic news.  Thank you for telling me that.

TK: I also heard from Jon Lord, that this song was main inspiration for Might Just Take Your Life from Burn album…

Don Airey: I think chest fever had enormous effect on every rock keyboard player, you now it was different level. And I Know that Garth Hudson playing had enormous impact on Jon. Of course on everybody, but Jon Lord in particular, that’s why I picked Chest Fever. It’s a shame it never came out. It’s beautiful it’s such a beautiful song except Robbie Robertson made up the lyrics.

TK: So it's Gillan to blame?

Don Airey:  Well he is not to be blamed. It was not for him. Its important thing, if the singer does feel he could sing otherwise he could not be doing. I mean poor Ian he did not even has one of his choices on the album.

TK: Yes, it’s my other question, as I already heard Gillan ideas were all rejected.  But there is a lot of rock & roll songs which are perfect for Ian Gillan?

Don Airey:  Yes, he and Roger are all of the same mind, about that period of rock & roll, Little Richard,  Elvis, Ray Charles.  They know all about it, they know so much more than I do. So anything what Roger picked, you could see would be a Gillan choice too.

TK: So what were Gillan choices, which were rejected?

Don Airey:  I can’t remember the awful ones.  But I suggested for him Let the Good Time Roll that’s a good one.   

TK: Yeah I think Ian Gillan sang it perfectly.

Don Airey:  Yes fantastic.  When I heard the mixes, I send him an e-mail -  to sing Oh Well and to make it your own it’s a very hard job and that’s what he has done. It’s like hearing it for the first time.

TK: Yes I am big Deep Purple fan but I only knew Cream and maybe couple of other but majority was new to me. I never heard 7and & is before.

Don Airey:  I did not either.   

TK: But the songs sound like Deep Purple tracks now.

Don Airey:  Yeah, we put our stamp on it. I like the thing like Shape of Things.  Steve Morse arranged that, and what he did took two versions.  He took the Yardbirds and then Jeff Beck version on Truth & Beck Ola with Rod Stewart singing it - and he kinda married them together.  Its very clever. So you get the best of both worlds.  Its one of my favourites.  I love the drum break on it, love Steve solo what a fly past seventies.

TK: What’s your favourite song on the album?

Don Airey: I like Let the Good Time Roll very much.  Just the fact that heavy rock band can do the jazz swing number and do it convincingly. Its hard think to do.  Oh Well I like very much. That’s one of my favourite songs anyway.

TK: There is also the bonus track I am a road runner. I believe there is sort of Hammond solo underneath the sax solo.

Don Airey: I believe I did there mini moog solo. I thought road runner was not a great choice. I think you know it’s such an amazing track and I don’t think we did it a justice really. Bob tried to solve it with some “saxism”.

TK: It was the first time you recorded separately, but the songs sound very live and in my opinion there is no big difference in  the sound comparing to the previous album recorded all in the room.  Will it change your thinking about future way of recording?

Don Airey:  It depends what the future holds. I mean this album was forced by the pandemic.  That’s why we did it.  We had to do this that way,  there was no choice. My choice is always to go to the room together. That’s recording for me. But who can say.  I mean looks like we maybe we are getting  better with the covid virus,  but who knows what’s gonna happen next year. Fingers crossed.

TK: It may seem as strange question, when you are promoting the album which is not yet out,  but are there a plans for Deep Purple album with own stuff.  Is it  already in the works?

Don Airey:  We made a bit of the start, but not much of.  Once we wait till are back on the road, on tour,  we will see how we feel. When we get back to normal. That’s what creates good music.  So everybody are waiting for that. There is god chance there will  be one more album but I am keyboard player not the fortune teller.    

TK: You said in the interview for Classic Rock, that you wanted to recreate the magic of early Jon and Ritchie interplay. How do you feel about the solos and the way you improvise.

Don Airey: Its very important part of being in classic rock band. You have to be able to improvise.  You can’t go hide away behind the guitarist all the times. You have to come out be open and show yourself.  I mean Steve and I.  Steve background is jazz rock, my initial background was jazz rock.  We are both used to soloing. Its really enjoyable part of the band where we try licks competition I can do better than that,  no I can do better than that.

TK: I think there is tendency that the song are getting shorter and solos at highlight are cut short.  There is spectacular solo on Birds of Pray, which is ending wonderful solo on White Room and  in its best moment its just fading away...

Don Airey: Exactly it hits the nail in your head.

TK: Also Oh Well…

Don Airey: I said to Bob when I heard the fade.  It’s so wonderful, so emotional its going out of your life and ain’t not coming back.  It makes you sad.  I think he did that one beautifully. I like fade outs. In Deep Purple there is little of policy no fades on this album Ian Gillan always goes like that.  But I like fade outs they are again some wonderful parts of pop music.  There used to be a thing,  there used to be a DJ called Kenny Everett,  I don’t know if you have ever heard of him, he was a very funny guy. He used to dig around and something that was a hit that  fades. He had the section how the record actually ends, he somehow got access to the original recording and he played original ending and he played these things that could kinda go on and on. And he made people gone mad  oh that’s enough they said and It kinda collapsed.

TK: Oh Well video was very fanny and there is scribble face man whose face is not shown and there was big discussion between the fans that its allegedly was David Gilmour.

Don Airey: Who?  

TK: David Gilmour.

Don Airey: Really? It’s charmin.g I don’t think he is.  Why it could be David Gilmour?

TK: He just looks very similar.

Don Airey: Ah now I see it.  No its definitely not David Gilmour.

TK: Set list is always discussion between the fans and now you have two albums to promote how will you deal with combining new material and classics?

Don Airey: I mean a band policy, when we were touring France once, there was a thing coming from the fans we’re not playing enough of the new album.  They were complaining about it so we learned a lesson. We have got to do the old ones but they wanna hear the new material as well. What we are doing as a band, its quite exacting. So its 40 % of the old material and 60 % percent of the new materiel more or less.

TK: Are there any Deep Purple songs which you would want to play live but they never made the set list.  

Don Airey: One of the songs we used to do when I joined,  was Fools,  which I loved,  but we did not do it ever since, that’s the song I like.  What’s the thing from Who Do We Think We Are? A smooth dancer?

TK: Rat Bat Blue?

Don Airey: I love the whole album.   

TK: You said its your favourite early Deep Purple album.

Don Airey: Oh yeah.   I think it got out wonderful.  It reminds me Abbey Road. Groups always sounds like that before the break up.  They sound absolutely perfect.

TK: I loved your Going Home solo album.

Don Airey: Oh, that one.  

TK: Do you have any plans for solo album or other collaboration?

Don Airey: Yeah I am in the studio tomorrow finishing off solo album with the band.  Don Airey band -  yeah the young guys.  I am gonna do another piano album, which I have half sketched out.  So I will do that soon.  

TK: Lots of my favourite Deep Purple songs are those who do not sound like classic hard rock songs.  Never a word or Surprising,  Man Alive. Do you consider something doing more progressive?

Don Airey: Surprising was big part of the show our 2017 tour. But its funny with our songs they have this life.  They go up like that (Don shows starting plane) and suddenly it’s just it stops and you never play them again. The same is with Birds of Prey.  They do not come back to the set list and nobody knows why… It’s weird thing. 

TK: One question about Ritchie Blackmore. He was important person and you played with him in Rainbow before. Certainly there was some bad blood but recently Ritchie said he is open for some one off show or performance.  Do you consider it? Or like Ian Gillan its out of question?

Don Airey:  Well, I had not heard that and I have very much doubt, if he really have said it.

He trades his own path and he is verry happy doing that.  Its part of his greatness he does not compromise.  He does not look back very much. I don’t think it will ever happen.  People might say it’s nice idea, but I think it will just remain as an idea.  You know the band has an guitar player.  I mean with Deep Purple its like with any other band.  I mean who is in the band? Steve Morse is an guitarist and he has been for a long time.

TK:  I really liked Don Airey and Gillan and orchestra tour. There were some obscure tracks like Anya or Razzle Dazzle during that tour. Do you consider putting any of these songs to the playlist.

Don Airey: Ehhh… Probably Not. Razzle Dazzle its Ian Gillan favourite song ever.  It does not appeal to everyone but he really loves that song.  I don’t know.  We do really pay attention to what people tell to us. We are not blinked We are not shut off from the  the fans or record company, or people close to us. We do listen. We ask what you think of this what you think of that? Its good to get people’s opinions. 

TK: Do you have any say what a live shows are put on record. What is your favourite show you remember in Deep Purple.

Don Airey:  The show in Verona – Orchestral one from Verona. It was magical night we played the Colosseum.  We did play in between Aida opera performance, so everything you looked was this Egyptian scenery. We moved in did a gig. It was just magical.

TK: So Don, thank you as our time just run out, but one last question. You were writing a biography book and you probably played in more bands then anyone else?

Don Airey: I am always half way through.  My carrier just keeps going.  I hopefully will finish it next year and it should be ready for the next Christmas. That’s my goal.   It should be funny.  When I look back, I am amazed by how many funny situations you were in and crazy things just happened.

TK: Thank you for the interview and I hope to see you live next year.

Don Airey: We will be back. 

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