Ian Paice Interview – by Travis Marc – 2010.
Ian Paice needs no introduction, he is one of the greatest rock drummers of all time and has toured the world many times over as the solid groove master for Rock legends, Deep Purple. Here’s what the drumming legend had to say in a recent interview…
Hi Ian – well you’ve more than likely been asked numerous times throughout your life, but what was it about the drums that initially attracted you to the instrument, and how did your drumming career begin?
Like many musicians who are what you might call natural players, we have an affinity with the instrument we choose, I understood immediately why the notations of time keeping had to be that way, I understood why one hand was playing the cymbal, why one was playing the back beat and what the bass drum had to do. No-one had to show me. I think it’s the same with many other musicians, Gary Moore once told me that once he picked up the guitar he sort of inheritably knew why certain shakes/chords had to be that way. So for me it was something i found very natural…. Not easy necessarily, but i understood about the basics and it gave me a chance to follow it through and get better.
Having such an long and amazing career do you find that you still practise drumming away from the band and if so, what do you generally practise?
I never really did practice, I never had the time, I got my first kit at 15 joined a local band and played 2-3 shows a week. I had a regular job in the daytime, turned professional at 17 and was working 6-7 nights a week. Everyday was a travel and work day so there was no time to sit and practice. When i was 19 I joined Deep Purple, which was always by that time. If i did have a free 1/2 hour period, I would always have a practice pad and drum sticks and I would just go through basic rhythm while watching TV or listening to music. I’d just play along with stuff. Practice was never a great part of my learning career, I’m very lucky in one way that i can hear things or watch things in the same way that a parrot can learn to mimic, I learned how to mimic what I would hear and see when I would watch other drummers play. I still have no regimented practice routine, when i feel like playing my drums i go into my studio and play, if i don’t feel like playing i don’t.
If you have one, what would you say is your typical warm up routine before a big show?
I usually do just do singles and doubles for four or five minutes, I feel it’s usually enough to loosen the muscles more than anything else.
If you had to choose one Deep Purple album that you feel best represents your drumming with the band, which album would it be and why? Also, which (if any) would you say has been the most enjoyable to record?
Obviously “Made in Japan” is a very important record for both Deep Purple and for me personally because it captured a pretty good drum solo, probably the best solo i played that year and we were fortunate enough to get it down onto tape so that was great. I always like try to find something on a record which is not just a drum part, its a piece of music and so on every record I try to do something which I think is different or new, that’s what i go for. On that level, every record I make I try find something to make it important to me.
You must have some amazing drumming stories, from sharing the stage with legends like Black Sabbath to hanging out with RHCP drummer Chad Smith. What have been your highlights within Deep Purple and away from the band?
Drummers are strange creatures. We’re not like any other musicians, we talk to each other, we tell each other stories – sometimes funny, sometimes rude, but always entertaining. With any conversation or any connection in life, you’ve got to have 2 people who make each other spark, with Chad Smith (who is an amazing, funny and bright guy) it’s easy to have a lot of fun. There are so many guys that I’ve worked with, not in the same band but been on the stage with, and most of them are really intelligent guys that are easy to have that rapport with. we often entertain each other with things that we’ve seen, things we know how to do and even things we’ve heard. I wouldn’t be able to pick one story out of the bunch because they’re all so memorable and have been shared with so many great guys.
What would you say has been the key to the longevity within your career, and what advice would you offer up and coming drummers on how to stay ahead within such a competitive industry?
Obviously one thing is being involved with a band which has proved itself to be timeless. Many bands that came out in the late 60′s into 70′s did there thing and left, a lot of their music tended to stain the period that it was created in and didn’t seem to connect with future generations. For some reason what ever Deep Purple does connects, it connects with 15 year olds the same way that it connects with guys who are now 55 years old. Being involved in the band gave me the chance to have a long a career. The most important thing that I can try and pass on to other players, is don’t try and be number 2 to anybody, just try be be number 1 yourself. Try stamp your identity on what you play and how you play it and it sounds, don’t limit your influences, take as many things and as many different drummers, that way you can mix them into own style, and create your own sound whereby making yourself different from everyone else. That way you have a chance of being noticed and remembered, it’s not easy but you got to try.
What advice could you maybe offer our readers on how to stay sane while on the road? What do you generally do on tours to try and stay healthy as well as make the time away from home enjoyable?
That comes down to the characters and the age of the characters involved. When you’re a kid life is a big party and if you’re going to get screwed up that’s generally the time you’re going to do it. The great thing with kids is that they’re resilient and can generally get through 4-5 nights of parting and still function. Later in life it becomes a little more difficult, but you change what you need to in order to keep yourself happy on the road. There are some guys you see and think to yourself, this guy will never see 40 years old, the energy is flowing out too quickly. Most of us get through it, have a great time and enjoy our lives and live to be a sensible age.
Staying healthy – well I think if you’re blessed with general good health that’s usually about it, there a people who are strong and there are people who are not strong, really nothing you can do about it.
You have been fairly active on the clinic scene during your career. Do you ever get nervous before doing masterclasses or clinics, and what is your general approach towards doing such events?
Usually not because i don’t do a lot of serious clinics. I cant do it, I feel that I don’t have enough information, technique, or desire to be a teacher. I know when i do one of my “little get togethers ” that for every 10 people watching there’s usually only 1 drummer and 9 fans. For me it’s the connection with the people who want to see what I do and have a personal contact. When I do these things everybody is there because they like me, not because they hate me so there’s nothing for me to be nervous about. The only time I really don’t want to do them is if I get booked into hall which has really bad sound, the way I play is dictated by the sound I hear, if I’m in a really dead room with a flat drum sound I play crap and I cant do anything about it, I like to hear what I need to hear from the drums. If I’m booked into a room which has a great drum sound I tend to play ok and everything seems extremely easy.
How do you feel the music industry has changed with the use of the internet? Do you feel it has made things easier or harder for bands trying to get noticed?
When I looked back to when we started out, it’s almost like the music industry was a little industry for the musicians we knew, it wasn’t known as a massive business industry, and seemed small and controllable. Now it seems rather big and impersonal and not as good as it was because of that. When the internet came along and the digital age hit us, the record industry was pretty stupid, they thought that it wouldn’t change anything, but of course it did, instead of 10 people buying a record, 1 person now buys a record and 9 other people copy it. Making records now is different to, it’s a lot easier and you no longer have to be any good. The digital recording devices we have can take a track to pieces frame by frame and put it back together to make every drummer the best time keeper with the best sound in the world, it’s nowhere nearly as good as far as I’m concerned. When you used to get those glorious pieces of musical freedom which came with the way we used to make records, that was how it was meant to be. Music should come from the heart, the feeling must move the way your life moves. Life doesn’t go along to a click track, it’s not perfect, it has little mistakes in it, and it’s those little mistakes that usually make something really great.
For more info on Ian or Deep Purple please visit www.deep-purple.com
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