Magazine article Guitar Player

Classic with a Twist: Steve Morse Still Loves Dropping Musical Surprises into the Deep Purple Sound

Magazine article Guitar Player

Classic with a Twist: Steve Morse Still Loves Dropping Musical Surprises into the Deep Purple Sound

Article excerpt

TESTED BY THE GUITAR PLAYER STAFF

EARLIER THIS YEAR, DEEP PURPLE RELEASED ITS 19TH STUDIO ALBUM, NOW WHAT?! [earMusic]--which was kind of a surprise to Steve Morse, who assumed releasing singles to promote upcoming tours was the way of the modern music-business world. But the "senior members" of the band (as he likes to call singer Ian Gillan. bassist Roger Glover, and drummer Ian Paice), along with current keyboardist Don Airey, were anxious for the old-school approach--especially as it had been eight years since Purple's previous release, Rapture of the Deep.

"They told me that recording and releasing albums was what the band does," says Morse. "So let's do another great one."

Of course, chasing those elusive possibilities of greatness can be a much less unsettling task when a genius is at the helm. and Now What?! was produced by Bob Ezrin (Alice Cooper, Kiss, Pink Floyd). Here, Morse discusses the process behind the album, working with Ezrin, spending 20 years in Deep Purple, and some of his favorite solos on the new release.

The album is pretty awesome.

Best production we've ever had--that's a big difference.

What was the writing process like?

We like to work on things together, rather than somebody bringing in a completed song. The preferred option is to bring in an idea or a germ of a song and hopefully no more--so that everybody puts in their two cents. Also, Bob Ezrin was not shy about getting involved and ordering a rewrite on something. He did plenty of that. He has the most amazing mind, and he's not shy about telling people what he likes and what he doesn't like.

I was going to ask about that. You generally tend to produce a lot of your own material, so how was it working with Bob? Did he push you in new directions?

Definitely. For instance, one of the songs has a slow slide solo that he pushed for. I sneak a few in here and there, but I'm not really a slide player.

That one is beautiful. I think you're talking about the solo on "Blood from a Stone"?

Yes. Thank you. I had a couple of different takes already done for that solo before I left to do a G3 tour. When I got back, Bob had lots of notes, and he'd say, "Do this over, or do that over." I would do the retakes in my studio, and for some reason, he wanted that particular solo a certain way, and I was having a lot of difficulty managing what he wanted. I think I did eight different takes before he finally said, "There we go."

I remember reading that for solos, you tend to improvise three realty different takes, and then pick the one that feels the best. Is that correct?

Basically. I feel like in the first few takes you're going to get your best overall compositional ideas. In other words, with repetition, instead of reacting instinctively, you start to think more about constructing the solo. Reflexive reaction seems to be more appealing to me, anyway. So within those first few takes, I'll often find something I can work with, and then I just go and fix the parts that need it.

The solo in "Hell to Pay" is realty beautifully built. It has a very off-the-cuff feel, yet it has some great melodic components. I was curious if that was something you crafted.

It was during the guitar sessions that I found out Jon [Lord, former Deep Purple keyboardist] had died. So, on that solo, in particular, I was thinking at the end how I really wanted to take the approach Jon had on "Highway Star"--kind of like classical arpeggios over rock. So that's me channeling Jon Lord's vibe. It was so shocking that he was dead. I thought he was responding well to the treatments. So I was put out of the loop there. I mean, we kept working, but I was really distracted, and I couldn't stop thinking about him.

You and Jon had some realty great creative chemistry, I take It?

Definitely. He was great to write with, and great to improvise with. …

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