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This page last updated September 19, 2003

Jon Lord press conference in Hell

Hell Station, Norway - September 13.9.03 - 14.01pm
photo © Rasmus Heide

Transcription by Rasmus Heide

For his press conference on the platform of Hell railway station, Jon Lord arrived in an open Cadillac. The assembled crowd of journalists experienced a relaxed Jon Lord, who offered witty, insightful and high spirited answers to questions about his visit to Hell, his departure from Deep Purple, his future recording plans and much more.

Jon Lord travels Cadillac style - photo © Akiko Hada

Festival founder and PR chief Knut Morten Johansen compered the proceedings.

Jon Lord: Hey everybody. It's very lovely here, isn't it?
Knut Morten Johansen: I don't know if you've all been told about the time limitations we have. Jon has to be back at the rehearsal room at three o'clock.
Jon Lord: Well, [looking at clock] we've lost one minute! [laughter]
Knut Morten Johansen: Who's the first?
Jon Lord: Sorry, let me just make it go quiet. [fiddling with his mobile phone]

The dream
Metal Express Radio: I planned a couple of warm up questions but there's one thing that would interest our listeners the most. After you left DP you talked about planning a reunion with past and present members of the DP family. Do you have any good news on that?
Jon Lord: It was very interesting. It was a marvellous example of how the internet can blow a glass of water into an ocean. It was an idea. Somebody asked me in an interview, "Would you ever play with these guys again?", and I said I'd love to, of course.
Most of them are my friends and no one's an enemy, and I said, "Wouldn't it be fantastic if..." And that was the construction I put on it. It would be marvellous if we could all play together again. Five minutes later it was, "This is Jon's plan..." I can't take responsibility for it.
It seemed like a good idea. I think the one who will get it to happen is Ritchie. He'll be the one that calls everybody up and says, "Let's do this, guys."
Metal Express Radio: So it won't happen now?
Jon Lord: I think not, no. It's interesting because of the way it goes around the world so quickly. I've already had David Coverdale call me and he said, "I'm in! I'll do it." Glenn Hughes said, "I'll do it." Ian Gillan said, "Not in a million years!" So I think it's already been shit upon from a very great height. I don't think it's going to happen, but it's a nice dream.

photo © Rasmus Heide

Playing at the House of God
Metal Express Radio: You played in many different places from hangars to stadium arenas and now you're playing tomorrow on the 14th of September in a catholic cathedral in Norway. What does that man to you on a personal level, playing in the house of God?
Jon Lord: It's actually quite a nice thing. I played in churches before. I suppose I am a reasonably spiritual person. I'm not "a Christian" [forces point] although I wear a cross [in a chain around his neck]. I don't go around preaching, I just have my beliefs and I keep them reasonably quiet, so to play in such a wonderful space is...
The great thing about cathedrals and churches is the space talks to you. There's usually hundreds and hundreds of years of people's hopes and dreams and sadness and happiness, and it's where people go to to get comfort or to get in touch with something that they might not be aware of.
And that's something in the same area that music can do. Music has that spiritual quality as well. Even the heaviest rock music can touch people in a way that mere talking can't. So I'm really looking forward to it and it's a privilege to be in such a beautiful space.
Metal Express Radio: There'll be a lot of people there only because you are a former member of Deep Purple, and they probably don't have a lot of classic records in their collection. What do you think about that?
Jon Lord: Well, they're missing something. [laughs]
This is not classical music. This is part of me that is the other part. I've said this before, I'm a very schizophrenic musician. I'm a Gemini and it shows in everything I do. I love rock music, I always did. I love orchestral music, always did. When I found one it didn't push the other out and vice versa. Then I tried to put them together and occasionally succeeded and sometimes failed, but I had fun doing it. Now I've left the band it's time to pursue that side of my career.
So I would say to them, "So long as you have open ears..." It's an old saying, keep your ears open, your heart open and don't come with any preconceptions. It's not Smoke On The Water, but then not everything is.
Metal Express Radio: It seems you're enjoying what you're doing now, but did you enjoy playing Highway Star and Smoke On The Water the last 100 times you did these songs?
Jon Lord: I don't honestly believe that there's been a single time I haven't enjoyed playing Highway Star. That's a great song to play. It's got a marvellous organ part - I don't know who wrote it! [laughter] Smoke On The Water occasionally got a little tiring because it's not very interesting to play. [mimics playing riff on edge of the table] It's a damn fine guitar riff, it's one of the best. But occasionally that one got a little old. I can't honestly believe that there's anything else I played in Deep Purple that I didn't thoroughly enjoy. I had the best 35 years a man could get. [a train horn interrupts] Same to you! [laughter]

photo © Rasmus Heide

The string tingler's future
Monster Magazine: What is Boom Of The Tingling Strings?
Jon Lord: Ah! Good question. It's a piece I wrote for piano and orchestra. I was asked a few years ago whether I would write something for the Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra to play. But because I'm not the quickest musician in the world when it comes to writing stuff down - it takes me a long time, I like to take my time - the deadline came and passed. But I had these ideas and I read a poem by an English poet called D.H. Lawrence called Piano, which was about remembering being a young boy and listening to his mother play and a lot of other things like that about the past. That affected me very deeply and in the poem is the line: "Sitting under the piano, in the boom of the tingling strings", describing the sound you would get sitting under a big black grand piano. That sort of shaking.
That's what the phrase means I think and it sounded like a good title of a piece of music. So I took what I had been writing for Luxembourg and made into a piano concerto - which I can't play. It's my revenge on concert pianists, to make them work hard. It got its premier in February in Brisbane with the Queensland Orchestra and it was played in Luxembourg in May. Short question, long answer.
Rasmus Heide: Will there be a recording of it?
Jon Lord: Yes. I'm negotiating at the moment with a couple of record companies to find their good young lions. Young 24-year-old piano players who are so good it makes me sick [laughter] to play it, so yes, it will be recorded.
Rasmus Heide: So is that your next recording project?
Jon Lord: No, not really. That's a kind of a side thing. Now I've got the time which is something I had been asking the band for for the past few years, but that's not what they wanted to do. Their vision was different to mine. They wanted to tour. Ian Gillan doesn't ever seem to want to go home! [laughter] I don't know why that is... But now I've got the time that I didn't have. I have a little more time to pick and choose the... I'm very lucky because Deep Purple's given me a... excuse me... [clears his throat] ...has given me a cold! [laughter]
Deep Purple's given me a reputation and a name - of sorts - which I'm able to use to open a few doors. It makes me very lucky. And as long as people remember that and have that in their minds I intend to open those doors, and to shout at people to get things done that I didn't have time to do before.
Rasmus Heide: What would that be?
Jon Lord: I want to go on holiday, Rasmus, so I'm opening the door of a travel agent! [laughter]
No, I want to make another solo CD which I've written most of and should be in the studio with before Christmas I hope.
There's a possibility that I might also use the Trondheim Soloists on two or three tracks because we've talked about that and that seems like a reasonable idea. So I'd like to make another CD. Perhaps a little bit less melancholy than Pictured Within. It was very deeply felt music. I intended every note of it but it came from a time of my life when that's what came out.
I think I'm a little happier now than I was then so maybe the music will reflect that.
And I want to continue to write for other people. I'd love to write more songs. I want to write more with Sam Brown because she writes great lyrics - and I don't. It takes me forever to write a set of lyrics. The ones I'm most proud of is Pictured Within and that took me about four years before I was absolutely convinced that I had a decent set of lyrics. So there's quite a lot of things that I'd like to do.
I'm sorry I'm talking a lot - you stop me with a question.

photo © Rasmus Heide

Ring modulator
Carl Alvin: You know that black box you used to have on top of your Hammond?
Jon Lord: Yes.
Carl Alvin: In the beginning of the 70s.
Jon Lord: Yes.
Carl Alvin: Which you don't use anymore.
Jon Lord: Right.
Carl Alvin: Can I buy it from you?
Jon Lord: If you can find it! I think it's at the bottom of the Hudson River just outside New York City. It fell to pieces and the people who made it stopped making it. It was a ring modulator made by a company called Gibson. Not the guitar manufacturers but a small electronics company. It was a great thing and I bought three and they all died. Rest in peace.
But I can't find... I mean, there must be a digital ring modulator, but digital's not got that oink that this had.
That's what it was. But as I say, if you find it, you can have it. Come look in my attic.
Journalist: It's strange to hear this story because you always treated your equipment so nicely.
Jon Lord: Of course I did. I was very gentle with the Hammond organ. [laughter] I think the Hammond organ was very, very happy when I started to get older. [laughter] "Thank God he's left me alone now!" [laughter]

Full circle
Journalist: You started with classical music 15 years old...
Jon Lord: Five!
Journalist: Five. Then 35 years with Deep Purple and now you play classical music. Do you feel that you have come full circle?
Jon Lord: [thinks] It's a thought, isn't it?
No, because in a way the circle's still open because what I tried to say before, what Deep Purple did for me was immeasurable, beyond price, beyond any dreams that any young man might have had. It took me around the world, it gave me a great living and as I said, it opens some doors.
So no, there's still work to be done. It's a nice thought, but I'm not ready to retire yet. Everybody's said, "Oh, Jon's retired," but I haven't retired I just left the band and there is life after Purple. Well, I hope there is, touch wood. [laughter] [looks for wood] Any wood about? Yes, there you go! [knocks side of own head] [laughter]
Journalist: Are you still going to write rock music?
Jon Lord: If it comes to me. I was never a great rock writer, you know. I write well with other people. I enjoyed co-writing with Ian and Roger and Ritchie, but you leave me alone with a piano and a mind and I won't come up with a rock song, I don't think.
I would never have come up with the riff to Smoke On The Water in a million years, because it doesn't sit well. Well, it didn't until I found out how to play it. That was one of the most fascinating parts of my life, trying to make the Hammond organ sound like a rock instrument rather than sound like a jazz and blues instrument. And I think I did in the end. I got there.

The size of the fish Jon caught last weekend?
photo © Akiko Hada

Why Nidaros Cathedral
Journalist: When you chose the Nidaros Cathedral to play in, why didn't you choose the church in Hell?
Jon Lord: We were going to do it but it wasn't big enough. If you put the Trondheim Soloists in the church in Hell there's no room for any audience. [laughs] The original idea was to play here in the church [in Hell], and then - I'm not going to say whose idea it was to go into the cathedral because he's standing just over there [points at Knut Morten Johansen] [laughter] and he can explain it for himself. But it was a wonderful idea I thought because, as I tried to explain before, it's a beautiful space. It has an amazing feeling and I'm very much looking forward to doing it.

Deciding to leave Deep Purple
Rasmus Heide: Was it a tough decision to leave Deep Purple and how long did you have to think about it?
Jon Lord: Again, if you believe the internet you might find that I've been thinking about it since 1967. [laughter]
But not really. I actually first had major thoughts about it just before the Concerto Tour at the end of 1999. I wrote a letter - because it's easier with that lot to write letters, because then it's in black and white. Although as an Gillan sang, "It ain't right just because it's in black and white," but I wanted it on the record that I really believed that the band could tour less and diversify its members' activities more.
I misread the situation as far as the band is concerned. They honestly didn't believe that and that's fine. There were no fights about it.
We haven't really had a fight since 1986. It's quite boring really. [laughter] No more spaghetti in the face, none of that. It's gone very quiet.
So, that's when I first started thinking about it. And during the tour with the Concerto at the end of 2000 I had a moment where I was sitting in a bar taking to Bruce, our manager, and I said, "I really got to think about moving on at some point." At some point! [stressing]
Ian Gillan and Roger were sitting on the other side of the bar without me knowing and they saw this and they must have read something on my face and they rushed out: "Jon's leaving! He's leaving! Aaah!" And it all sort of went pear shaped and stupid and there was 24 hours where it was crazy.
We managed to get that back down to earth, but at that point I said I really, really want to leave, but I want to do it warmly, with friendship, with love, and with timing - at exactly the right moment.
And that's what we were going to do and it was all going very well. Until we all got the flu and we had to cancel my swan song tour, which confused the issue even more. And you know the rest.
That's why we decided when we came back to redo those concerts that Don Airey should not step out again. He was like he was on elastic going in and out so that's why we came up with... I think it was Ian Paice who came up with the idea of Don playing the first part and then me sort of popping up like a magic puppet halfway through the set. [mimics puppet popping out of box] [laughter]

photo: Jennifer Stokes

Ipswich 2002
Rasmus Heide: What are your feelings about the last show in Ipswich?
Jon Lord: I don't think there's been a more emotional night in my life.
It was, err... [thinks] I could even burst into tears now thinking about it. It was very, very, very difficult indeed. It's been my life, you know. Every second from 68 to 76 and then from 83 until last year. So it was hugely difficult.
But very warm too. Because the audience were fantastic. Wonderful, wonderful warmth came from that audience. I can't tell you. If I could bottle that and sell it, I'd give you all the formula and we'd all be millionaires. If you just knew how to recreate that feeling. It was fantastic, Rasmus. It was wonderful. Very, very happy.

Jon Lord's opinion on Bananas
Metal Express Radio: You've written a couple of the tracks on the new Deep Purple album, but have you listened to the rest of it?
Jon Lord: Yes I have, yes.
Metal Express Radio: What do you think?
Jon Lord: It's not what I expected, to be perfectly honest, because it's not what we were writing when I left.
I think it's very good, but I'm not... You see, it's not my job to criticize that but I will give you an opinion if you remember that it's only an opinion.
I don't think the sound is very good to be perfectly honest. I thought Roger would have done a better job producing it, but there you go. That's just me, and Michael Bradford is a rather large black chap and he's going to sit on my head now, I know that, and hurt me. [laughter]
A couple of the songs surprised me. Err, I can see why they put it on, but... Never A Word, is it? It's lovely but it just starts to get going and it stops, so that worried me slightly. But it's in the same area I suppose as The Aviator and Fingers To The Bone and that kind of thing.
I think the opening track's fabulous. Obviously I like the two that I was involved in writing because I was involved in writing them. [laughter]
Generally speaking I don't think it's the best Purple album ever, but I think it's better than Abandon, which to me had no sense of direction. I don't think it's as good as Purpendicular, which I thought was probably the best Purple album along with In Rock, Machine Head and Perfect Strangers. I thought Purpendicular was right in there. I was immensely proud of that album and still am immensely proud of that album.
But I've got a feeling in my bones. These old bones of mine are telling me that this is going to be a successful album. The time feels right for them.
And it's really strange to say "them" and not "us".

photo: Jennifer Stokes

Deep Purple's future
Metal Express Radio: For how long do you think they will continue?
Jon Lord: Until the battery runs out.
I know Ian Gillan's views on this, which are very strong, and I endorse his views. There is no reason why rock music shouldn't be played by people as they get older. It's the music that belonged to them when they were kids and why shouldn't they take it with them as they get older?
You wouldn't say to a jazz musician or a blues musician or a classical musician that they couldn't play it because they were getting older. So I don't see any reason at all why they shouldn't go as long as the intent is there.
I hope they keep the faith. We always used to say that when we didn't believe what we were playing anymore then we'd stop. And I hope they remember that, because no one understands the fact that a band doesn't have its heart in it better than an audience. An audience knows like that. [snaps fingers] So long as they remember that then they'll do just fine.
Metal Express Radio: Will they survive another lineup change?
Jon Lord: I wouldn't have thought so and why would they bother? If they're not happy with what they've got now... If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
Steve is an astonishing guitarist and has done just the most generous job I can think of. It's been misunderstood in some quarters. People say, "Why is he playing Ritchie's thing there?", but he meant to do that.
For example, the parts in Highway Star, people say ,"Why doesn't he do his own thing?" It's because that's part of the song now. It's down in musical history, that's part of Highway Star.
He's a very generous and wonderful player and I miss playing with Steve enormously. He was great to play with.
Metal Express Radio: Will it never happen again?
Jon Lord: Well, if Don gets sick, you know... [laughter]

Nidaros concert
Knut Morten Johansen: There's five minutes left so why don't we have some words on what you're doing now in the cathedral?
Jon Lord: Well, thank you, Mr. PR Man, that's... [laughter]
Do you have anything to do with the festival by any chance? [laughter]
It's the kind of music I've played before. I did a small tour in Germany three or four, five years ago. It's much of that plus some few new bits and a much bigger string section, that's about it.
It's music very close to my heart and it's music that I genuinely believe has a home. And it's the kind of music that is very difficult to get people to understand unless they come and hear me do it.
And again, the reason we have music and those little dots is so that I don't have to sit here and explain what it's all about. [smiles]
I play it to you and then... I'm not getting at you all, I'm just getting at the world in general. It's difficult to explain music. Music makes its own case. It gives you its own argument. All musicians would ask, is that people come with an open heart, an open mind and open ears - and an open wallet. [laughs]
I can't resist it. It has to have a joke at the end. [laughter
I think... [train approaches platform] I think I'm going to get drowned out by this train is what I think! [laughter] [long freight train slowly rolls up the platform]

photo © Rasmus Heide

Knut Morten Johansen: This is our answer to Jean Michel Jarre's backdrop. [laughter] It happens every year. This is the only time of the year we see this train! [laughter]
Jon Lord: This is what I want to do with my life, so I'm going to keep doing it, and the only hope is that I can convince people that there's more to life... [train brakes to a screeching halt] than the sound of a train! [laughter]
There are many kinds of music and I'm really trying hard to take the labels off. Let's just have a nice big spectrum that says "Music" and you can dip in anywhere you like.
You can go in here and find Thaikowski, you can go in here and find Jimi Hendrix, you go here and find me, you go over there and find Ken Hensley. It's a huge playground and people should be encouraged. I'm going to do my damnedest to encourage people to keep this open mind that I keep talking about. Enough said.
Thanks for some good questions, I appreciate that.

photo © Rasmus Heide

Autograph session
Knut Morten Johansen: [holds his plastered arm and a pen out towards Jon] Shall we start the autograph session?
Jon Lord: You cheeky bastard! [laughter] [signs plaster]

Looking at a photo from the 60s taken in a bar of himself with the other members of The Artwoods, Jon ponders:
- Bloody hell. Who were those young men? It's a strange thing being in a position where you've been photographed all your life. It really does bring it home to you about the passage of time, I tell you.

photo © Rasmus Heide
Carl Alvin who asked for Jon's ring modulator plays Hammond with The Elements, a Norwegian DP tribute band. He has brought the reverb box from his Hammond for Jon to sign. Someone else has brought two keys from a piano.

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