On October 3 1998 I met guitarist Steve Morse in Stockholm, Sweden as he toured Europe with Deep Purple on the “Abandon” tour. I did the following interview for my DEEP PURPLE FOREVER magazine and this was printed in issue 22 (see cover – all pictures by Michael Johansson). Steve Morse is certainly a very nice guy and we chatted for about 20 minutes at the Sheraton Hotel downtown after the concert. We had a nice chat but I aborted the interview myself since I knew that he was going to call his family at a certain time. Enjoy the interview, it feels especially good to post it when the world awaits another brand new Deep Purple album (due out in April 2013), still with Steve Morse 15 years later.
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Do you have plans for a solo album at the moment, after this tour or…
– Yeah, actually, we started to work on it right before this tour began, but our drummer got injured so we really couldn´t start recording, but we got the music worked out.
When was this?
– A few months ago.
I think that the “Stressfest” album is wonderful.
– Thank you.
The first song on it is very energetic and I was wondering when I heard that song why you didn´t do that with Deep Purple?
– (laughs) Well…
Did you present it to the band or did you want to do it as a solo song?
– Actually, the band was pretty open for me to do things like that, because when Joe Satriani was with them they played “Sutch´s Boogie”. Because of that they thought that they should be polite and ask me if I wanted to do one of my songs. I could always say that it´s a Deep Purple show you know. If it had not been a Deep Purple show it would have been different. I just didn´t feel right doing my material since there are so many songs that people would like to hear of Deep Purple that we are not doing. So, there are only so many songs that we can play. We can only do 13-14 songs.
Yeah, in the live set, but I think that a song like that would have been perfect on a Deep Purple album.
– Well, it´s a group…the way that the material is chosen is that the band decides on what the band is going to sound like and…
But you have a sense of freedom?
– Yeah, definitely. My function normally is to throw out lots and lots of ideas in different directions. The ones that the band hear that they like they say “Yeah, lets work on that”… So that´s…I am not so much a person that chooses direction as much as a person that just throws out a lot of possibilities.
You (Deep Purple) did a tour of America with ELP and Dream Theater. Two very good bands ofcourse, and I was wondering if you could tell us anything about that tour? Did it go down well?
– Yeah yeah, it was very good. Very good tour. John Petrucci is a very good friend of mine. He is the guitar player with Dream Theater and I have known the guys from Dream Theater for years. I think they have always been a great, really… really intense progressive band, you know.
At the moment I think that Deep Purple is pretty much an underground band in America, what about Dream Theater and ELP? Is it the same for them?
– No, people have heard of them too. I think in terms of recognition people know Deep Purple and ELP in a similar amount and Dream Theater a little less.
What sort of support do you have… do you have the radio in America behind you or is it…
– Not so much. That´s pretty normal. Wherever we go there´s not that much radio involved. It is kind of an underground band wherever we go, but it´s a Big underground band (laughs).
Do you have any sales figures for the last two albums? (“Purpendicular” and “Abandon”)
– No, I have no idea. I know in terms of sales for concerts someone said… one of those magazines that shows the box office sales wrote that we´re in the top 20.
– Yeah, of the U.S.
Do you plan to do anything more for America with this album or are you going to finish off in Japan or South America?
– Well actually… this tour, as far as we know right now, is ending in Romania, East Germany, Russia and those kind of things.
How about ideas for the next album… do you have any ideas in your head already?
– Oh, I have all kinds of stuff in my head (laughs). But like I said, since it´s Deep Purple, it´s whether or not the band identifies with it or not. If they like it, we´ll do it and if they don´t like it I will just think of another one just like that (Steve snaps his fingers in the air!). It´s no problem (laughs).
Do you think you will use an outside producer this time?
– That´s a good question because I think Roger (Glover, bass player and sometimes also Deep Purple´s producer) might have got burnt out on that last one because he was down for so long in Florida and I know he was missing his family and things were going slowly. I don´t think that the band can work with an outside producer myself, but for Rogers sake I hope we do so he doesn´t freak out, you know.
Because he has been working on these “25th Anniversary” albums as well…
– Yeah, he does a lot of stuff, Roger. He works hard. And he put together the tour program, you know.
Is there any producer you would like to work with? Is there someone you worked with in the past, or…
– I have worked with a lot of good producers. The thing is, how…
Deep Purple is special working in the studio, right?
– Well, the band… I mean these are guys that have spent their whole lifes playing. It´s not like they are a bunch of eager kids that want to be told what to do, you know. I think there´s the challenge right there, OK? (laughs).
OK. Did you record any songs for the “Abandon” album in the studio that weren´t used on the album?
There were a few on the first album you did.
– Yeah, actually I wanted to do a song from the first album for this album. It used to be called “The Stallion”, but for some reason they decided that it belonged to the record company before even though it was never released. So we got screwed out of that. I think that is just silly.
Have you recorded any concerts on this tour?
– No, the shows are so similar. The same set practically.
You are not interested in doing a live video? Any talk about that?
– Are you kidding? Deep Purple are releasing a Greatest Hits album in just a few weeks! I don´t think they need another one! (laughs).
I know, but people like me are crazy. We´re really looking forward to new livestuff with Deep Purple.
– I am the guy who doesn´t know that kind of stuff, you know. I am not really part of the catalouge of the band so I pay no attention to that stuff.
OK. So have you bought any airplanes since you joined Deep Purple?
– (laughs) Well, I got a Russian airplane, a JAK, about a year ago.
And you can fly it?
– Yeah, it´s great!
How many planes do you own at the moment?
– Four, but I mean I had planes… When I was starving and living in a trailer I still had two airplanes. I borrowed money to build a hangar, then a studio, before I had a house. I still don´t live in a house. My priorities are different than most people (laughs).
What types are the other three planes in the collection?
– I have a two engine Cessna 310, one Cessna 180 and a CASA from the Spanish Air Force. The JAK 55 is an airshow type plane.
Were you a pilot in the military originally or is this just an interest that you have gotten into anyway?
– It´s just a passion. The Cessna 180 is a good plane to take up the family in.
Do you have your eyes set on another plane now? Something that make you go “I´ve got to have that! “.
– I just want to pay my bills, that´s my goal today (laughs).
Do you have a home studio?
– Yeah, it´s very simple. It takes time and effort to have one. It takes some money to build the space, but I´ve always thought it´s important to have a place, you know. Just to work on stuff.
Have you talked about recording in a particular studio for the next album?
– No actually.
Or will you stick around in the same place as before? Do you like it there? (Deep Purple recorded several albums in Florida in a row, ed)
– I hope so because I can drive there in two hours from where I live, so of course I like it.
The rest of the guys live in England and the U.S and all over the place…
– It´s quite a big deal to everyone together, that´s for sure.
How long into the future do you think that the next album is? Is there anything at all planned?
– Oh no. We don´t even know if or when we´re going to Japan and when we´re going to South America. The only thing that is scheduled is when we´re going to France, Romania, East Germany, Russia… that stuff. That´s in november. Then there should be a Christmas break and then probably a few wierd gigs that couldn´t be booked.
You have done more than 200 shows now with Deep Purple, right?
– I guess. I don´t know.
What´s it like? I mean, you are not a new boy anymore. How would you like to describe being a member of the band?
– It´s very easy. I have actually no complaint. Well, I have one. I wish the tours would be shorter. I would like to tour more often but with shorter legs. The same way I like to eat several times a day rather than eat it one time for the whole week, you know (laughs). To eat ten pounds of food in one day for the whole week is too much for me.
But do you feel that the management are listening to you when you talk with them about this?
– No, not when we are discussing this. But I´m trying my best to make everyone aware that it´s a really important thing. And I think that everyone in the band performs better on shorter legs too. You know, I think it´s the kind of band that needs to work often, but not on these five, seven, nine weeks legs. That´s ridiculous! Those are the kind of legs you do when you are drug addicts and you don´t have a home. That´s just ridiculous!
So you are a little bit tired of the touring?
– No, I am never tired of playing with the band. Not at all.
I meet a lot of people and a lot of them are very happy about you being in the band.
– Well, I am too (laughs).
It´s nice to see all the smiles on stage and that the band is alive again.
– The band is definitely alive. I just wish that we could stay at home long enough to open the mail and pay the bills, before leaving for the next tour (laughs).
You better have a talk with Bruce about that…
– Oh, I will. I´m sure Bruce is tired of listening to me go on about it.
Have a band meating without him then.
– Well, the rest of the band doesn´t necesseraly share my opinion about the lenghts of the tours. I don´t know, it may change now that the tax situation changes in England, which means that they don´t have to spend six months outside the country every year anymore.
If Deep Purple have sold over 100.000.000 albums, wouldn´t it be a natural thing to mention this in ads and stuff every now and then, just to make the point?
– I´m not so aware of the figures, but it certainly sound very good.
It´s not about numbers, but it is quite an achievment to pass that 100.000.000 mark, not many do it.
– That´s true, it sounds very good.
Hopefully Deep Purple will exist in this lineup for a few more years at least.
– Oh, I think it will.
I hope you will stay for the rest of the journey.
– Thank you, I hope so too.
There has been so many upheavals in this band over the years and we have seen a few lineups. So it would be nice if this version could exist for a while, say maybe for four or five albums. OK, here´s a question, if you are tired about touring, would you see it as a possibility to release studio albums but not to tour?
– The band works very well, very instantly together, but for some reason… ummmm, I don´t see us as a studio band because everyone lives in different places. Because of that. The cool thing is that the band can come up with new stuff real quickly and very naturally and that´s a good sign for a studio band.
I think the new material was great tonight.
– Thank you.
Would you say that the riffs are usually yours and that the band kind of takes it from there?
– Yes, it´s a riff based band, so sure.
I think the guitar riffs worked really great on stage. I mean, far better than on the record. You know, I believe in being honest and I think the production could´ve been slightly more on the… aggressive side and more powerful. That´s why I was asking about the producer before.
– The mixes was actually done more than one way, and someone… maybe the manager, or someone at the record company or who knows who, decided that they would just have the mixes with more of the vocals turned up or something. No one gets it their way in the end, except maybe a producer, but I was there with Roger when he was mixing it. It was like “Well, this is like I think it should be”, you know. And then somebody like Jon didn´t like it and Ian Gillan didn´t like it. So, you know… you can´t win. Roger were in a position where it was impossible to make everybody happy. I have been a producer myself and the way you know you have a good mix is when everybody in the band hates it equally! Then you have a good mix (laughs).
I think that the drums on your album sounds better. Do you think that one could get “blind” regarding the overall situation in the studio if one stays there for too long?
– Yes, that certainly happens to me. In my studio we just put up the mikes, record it and mix it within a day. The next day at the latest. That´s how I do it.
Are you happy with the “Live At The Olympia” album?
– I thought that was pretty good. The idea was to have at least one live album that sounded like the band. After hearing some of the bootlegs it was like “Oh shit, this is horrible”.
It was interesting with a horn section as well.
– Yeah, that was cool. Just something different. I think it was the last day of that theater before they changed it to something else so they made it a little more special. There´s so many live albums so that´s why we did that.
You do some very good things on stage, for instance during the intro to “Highway Star” when you do these noises. That´s fantastic. They send chills through my whole body.
– Oh yeah? (laughs). I am just trying.
It´s something new in an old song.
– I am just trying. Some nights it works better than other nights (laughs).
Were you happy about tonights concert?
– Yeah, I thought it was great. The audience was maybe a little bit reserved, but we did expect that.
I think the Swedes likes to listen.
Yeah, that´s OK.
Anyway, it´s been a nice chat, thank you very much.
– Thank you.
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Michael Eriksson (c)
(No part of this interview may be copied without permission)