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While the band was supposed to put an end to its legendary career, Deep Purple is back with a new album, "Whoosh!", as successful as unexpected, that guitarist Steve Morse came to present to us.
DARIALYS - 04.12.2020 -
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Interviewing an artist is always an exciting time for a columnist. Beyond the simple meeting, having the opportunity to exchange around various subjects and to spend a privileged moment is an absolute chance. But this meeting should never have happened since the album that Steve Morse came to present to us should never have seen the light of day. And for good reason, in 2017, the English released what was to be their ultimate opus with "Infinite". Life will have decided otherwise, and that's good for the fans of the legendary combo and for us who had the immense honor to meet this monument of the six-stringed.

We had already asked you a question during our first meeting but we wanted to know if you had changed your mind since then, what is the question we asked you too often?

Steve; (Laughs) Good question! Well, let's see... I've been asked a lot: "So Steve, you're in Deep Purple, how does it feel?" (Laughs). It's not easy! But in reality, I like this question because it's very open, I can answer what I want...

Yes, you have to be creative, like in Deep Purple?

Steve: Yes, exactly! Otherwise, I'm often asked: "When are you going to come back to play in this city? But I don't know, that's all I can answer!

And even more so today with the coronavirus! There is another news which animates us these days, I want to speak about the disappearance of Eddy Van Halen. I guess you knew him personally since you are two guitarists of two of the greatest hard rock bands of all time. This news saddened you a lot, I guess?

Steve: I knew him before I played in Deep Purple actually. We played a series of gigs together. There was also Albert Lee, John Ferraro and Jimmy Cox. It was very nice! We went out together, we even went to his house! These are very good memories.

Let's talk a little bit about Deep Purple's last album. If we are not mistaken, "Infinite", your previous album, was supposed to be the last one. But finally, you're back in a rather unexpected way with this new record, "Whoosh!". What made you want to record another one, finally?

Steve: I think the band decided quite suddenly that it would be a shame to stop like that, even though that was the original goal. That's why we played our "The Long Goodbye Tour". But now we're going to have to play the "Very very long and never ending tour". 

And that's interesting because the first song on your first album, "Shade Of Deep Purple", released in 1968, was called 'And The Adress'. Now, the last song on your last album is a cover of that song, revisited in a more modern way with a better production. Was it a way to say officially that all this is over ?

Steve : Well... For me it was exactly that, a way to come full circle. I thought it was a very good idea. But looking ahead, we're all healthy and I'm not sure we're really determined to stop. We have a new tour coming up. I think everybody wants to give it their all while they can. I heard someone say in a documentary that rock'n'roll is like the blues. BB King played until very late for example. I think if you're in shape, you can keep playing and expressing your art. The more experience you have, the better! We might be less inclined to play the fastest music in the discography with double pedal at 220 bpm!

You can do that with Mike Portnoy (Steve Morse playing alongside him in the band Flying Colors, editor's note)!

Steve: That's right! He can do it without any problem! (Laughs).

The album title "Whoosh!" seems to suggest that everything happened very quickly and that you couldn't get through those 52 years. Am I right? (Laughs).

Steve: Generally speaking, it's more about the time that passes in our civilization. It seems like we've been on Earth for so long, but compared to the age of the universe, that's nothing. And it's the same for our lives! You enjoy the moments and hope that they will last forever, but one day, suddenly, it's over. "Whoosh!" is about this relationship to time. We didn't really discuss it with the band, but each of us has our own interpretation. 

Concerning this return in studio, Ian Gillan (the singer of the band, editor's note) told in an interview that he didn't want to retire after the album "Infinite" and that he wanted to continue releasing albums for his own pleasure. Was this state of mind shared by all the members of the band, or was it necessary to convince some of them to prolong the adventure?

Steve: I think everyone was in agreement with the idea of releasing a new album. We had in mind the idea of doing a huge world tour, and it's always easy to go on tour when you have a new album to promote. It gives a lot of energy.

But since you are part of such huge groups, people come to see you to hear your classics. Do you think there will be room for some new songs in your next set-list ?

Steve : Usually on the first three shows we play, we play 4 or 5 new songs. And at the end of the tour, we added 2 more. During the "Infinite" tour, there were 3 songs that we played very often. I'm pretty sure we'll play 5 this time, but it won't necessarily be the same songs from one night to another. We'll see! Since these are songs that we recorded recently, it will be easy for us to play them on stage.

In any case, it shows that you took a lot of pleasure to record this album. It's very fresh, even though it's your 21st album as we said earlier. How do you manage to keep this freshness and enthusiasm after all these years?

Steve: Music is like that! To eat, you wait until you're hungry, and then what you eat tastes great and you enjoy it. It's the same with music! If you don't play for a day, you'll survive! But if you don't play for two days, you will start to have music coming to your head! I think we all felt that way.

"Infinite" was a little bit darker and a little bit darker than "Whoosh!" which is more direct and maybe a little bit simpler. Was it intentional of you, to end your career with a fresh and optimistic album ?

Steve: I did, anyway. I wanted this album to show people a good time. Deep Purple was basically a cover band! The musicians chose fast songs so that people could dance to them and be happy! And then they started to write their own music, and even if some lyrics were sometimes a little bit nuanced, overall the energy was very positive. I think it was important to keep that aspect on this album. The ballads and the less playful passages are not very frequent.

There's a song called 'Nothing At All' which is quite unique in your repertoire. It shows that you can still reinvent yourself even after 50 years. Was that the purpose of this piece, to push the limits?

Steve : Actually, I started playing the guitar phrasing that forms the basis of the song, and Don would respond to me on the keyboards with a pretty similar phrasing. Everybody liked it! It's a new writing approach for us, in that sense it's an experiment!


In this very colorful album, there is a more mysterious and a little more progressive track. The title 'Step By Step' is our favorite track of the album. Was it you who wrote it ? And if yes, wouldn't there be a little Flying Colors influence on this song ?

Steve : Yes, I'm involved in the writing of all the songs. If I can't contribute to the writing, then I leave the band. I can't help it, it's just the way it is! I don't want people to come in with a song already written, I prefer them to bring an idea, a starting idea. I'm one of those people who always come up with a different way to play it and approach it. My job is to bring as many ideas as possible and to see with the band which one fits Deep Purple universe the most. But that doesn't stop me from having ideas that are sometimes jazzy or progressive. Ian Gillan likes blues rock songs, but he can surprise you! He loved this song which is far from it. When I want to bring an idea to the band, I don't set myself any limits. I play everything.

At the beginning of the interview, you were talking about a new tour. Is there already something concrete planned? But I imagine that given the current health situation, you don't really know when it will start?

Steve: I don't really have any info at the moment, but on May 26, 2021 we are scheduled to play in a big stadium in Moscow and then we have to go on tour in Europe in the summer of 2021.

Speaking of touring, you have some inevitable standards like 'Highway Star' or especially 'Smoke On The Water'. Do you still enjoy playing these songs? Or are you more or less forced to do it because that's what people want to hear? What's your opinion on this ?

Steve : For us it's always a pleasure to play these songs every night. I think of it as an athlete doing high jump for example. You're going to say, "You've jumped a million times before, why is it still interesting? ». He will tell you that he will have managed to improve more and more with time, he will have managed to refine his technique, he will have gained in grace when he jumps, he will tell you that he manages to jump even higher without missing to the bar as it was the case before. For us musicians, even when we play something as simple as 'Smoke On The Water', it's the same thing. We're not just going to play it right. You have to really feel the groove, find the right tone, find the perfect attack. All these little things, we try to do them the best we can. We have to pay attention to the smallest details, even if nobody else but us realizes it: we do it for us. A song like 'Highway Star' is a song that goes all over the place. Playing it is an outlet, so it's not a problem. Every night I try to find a way to play these songs better than the night before.

It's very interesting! And as we were saying, you've been active for 52 years. What could be the next step for you ? If this tour was the last one, would you have other projects that you would like to favour, like Flying Colors for example ?

Steve : Everybody has projects. With the confinement, everybody started recording music because there was nothing else we could do! I'm not supposed to talk about but there are a lot of things that are in the making! I'm not going to retire yet! (Laughs).

There's a question we asked in the first Music Waves interviews. It's not every day that you have the opportunity to talk to a musician as emblematic as you are. We would like to know what is your best memory as a musician, or at least one of your best memories?

Steve: Oh! (Thinking). It's a very big question. I would say... Playing on stage for the first time with your band, feeling the energy of the band, feeling like you're a team, it's huge. I was very young when I discovered this, and I loved the power that comes from playing in a band. That's why I fell in love with rock. I've had some incredible moments throughout my career. There's one in particular where we played in the middle of the monsoon in Asia. People had been waiting in the rain, a very hot rain, as if you were in the shower. People were soaking wet! We were playing outdoors and the stage was sheltered, but the rain was coming from the side because of the wind. People were asking us if we were going to cancel the concert, but we wanted to play it! Dream Theater had played just before us, but it wasn't raining at that time. But now we were in the middle of a typhoon, it wasn't going to stop. I said: "Let's do it! Let's do it until the equipment breaks down! ». I was told, "but aren't you afraid of getting electrocuted? ", but no, I wasn't afraid! I knew that it was safe to do so. So the technicians brought us towels and protected our equipment with plastic. My guitar was so wet that I couldn't play! When Don was playing keyboards, I could see waves being thrown from them! Same with the drums, every hit on the toms, the water would spurt out, it was super cool! My pedal was protected by a plastic bag, but then I couldn't really see what I was doing and the plastic was very slippery. I couldn't bend the strings because it was too slippery, my fingers didn't hang on the strings! We played most of the set. The organ finally stopped working, all the guitars were dead. It was a massacre! But people loved it because they were ready to go home, they thought it would be cancelled!

It's funny because in terms of the show, it was a disaster, but at the same time, it's still a good memory for you. It's a completely crazy story! Are there any videos online of this concert?

Steve: I doubt it, or the cameras died in the rain!

We wish you all the best, and we hope you can tour next summer, we keep our fingers crossed!

Steve: Thanks, we hope to see you at one of our concerts in France! We have a very special relationship with France. We've played a lot there, in a lot of different cities. We feel at home there. The people are friendly and there's a very nice atmosphere there.

It's great! Thank you Steve and see you soon!

Steve: Thanks a lot, see you soon!

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