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Ritchie Blackmore sits down with Guitar Player for our May 2016 cover story to talk about his upcoming Rainbow gigs in Europe, where the British guitar icon will make his return to playing rock.
Blackmore announced in September 2015 that he would play a few rock shows in 2016, performing a set based on tunes from his days with Deep Purple and Rainbow.
“It will be [the best of] Rainbow and Deep Purple,” he said. “It’s just having fun but it’s only four dates in Europe. I don’t want to do anymore because I take what I’m doing now much more seriously.”
Blackmore quit playing rock in the mid Nineties and since 1997 has been working with his wife, Candice Night, in the medieval folk-rock group Blackmore’s Night. The lineup for his Rainbow shows includes Lords of Black singer Ronnie Romero, Stratovarius keyboardist Jens Johansson, and Blackmore’s Night drummer David Keith and bassist Bob Nouveau.
In our interview, we talk with Blackmore about the upcoming gigs as well as his guitar technique, greatest riffs, gear, guitar modifications—including his self-scalloped fretboards—musical inspirations, and of course Deep Purple, Rainbow Blackmore’s Night.
In this excerpt from the issue—which goes on sale April 12—Blackmore talks about preparations for his upcoming rock shows.
You’ve said that you wanted to “get back to some rock and roll” with the Blackmore’s Rainbow dates. How did it feel to musically revisit those Rainbow and Deep Purple songs?
RITCHIE BLACKMORE Interesting, because I now have to relearn the songs that I have completely forgotten about. Some of them have a lot more in them than I remembered, so I am listening to a lot more of the riffs that I used to play and relearning. I haven’t played these songs in 20 years.
Given the passage of time, did you feel like rearranging or reinventing any of the classics?
BLACKMORE No, I haven’t changed hardly anything. We’ll be playing the old songs the way that I played them 20 years ago.
How did you choose the current members of Blackmore’s Rainbow and how do they inform your playing?
BLACKMORE The drummer [David Keith] I played with before, and he knows how to groove. I am a fan of drummers that keep a tempo rather than do drum solos. The bass player [Bob Nouveau], I played with before. Great musician and very good guitar player as well. The keyboard player, Jens, I used on Under a Violet Moon on Blackmore’s Night and he was always an incredible keyboard player. Apparently one of the best in the world. I told him he would be playing more of a supportive role, which he loved because he said that’s how he was brought up. But he would still be doing his solos.
Ronnie Romero—Candy picked him up on YouTube just as I was going to bed and I really had no interest in hearing a vocalist. But then I heard him and thought, Who is this guy? He’s really good. He’s the reason I thought it would be a good idea to do some dates, because he was really good and not known. I love to introduce new people to the public. It always makes me feel good to discover someone.
Are there any other exciting, nostalgic, or musical elements regarding stepping onstage to rock these songs again?
BLACKMORE A lot of nostalgia involved. I love nostalgia too, and often listen to the old people I grew up with: Duane Eddy, Hank Marvin, and the Beatles’ early stuff. Nostalgia is within all of us. I just don’t want to play it every day of my life. We have get together at the local pub where we have all nostalgic songs and have a good time.