Hi everybody! Deep Purple has finally released a new studio album. It's one of our very best, produced by the legendary Bob Ezrin. We'll be on tour starting in a few days, playing some of the tunes. It is being released in late April, and is called 'Now What?!" You've got to check this album out, everybody is very happy with it, and was well worth all the time we put into it.
Also, in a few weeks, Flying Colors will be squeezing in some recording to go along with our writing sessions, which have been done conference call-style. This will be for our 2nd studio album. Also, the new live DVD will be out soon. I just heard it for the first time, and am very pleased.
And, on top of everything else, Steve Morse Band will be special guest opening for Joe Satriani in the USA. That's right, the actual continent that I live on will be where an entire tour is happening! No details yet, and this is preliminary news, subject to change......but it's supposed to start end of September. Very exciting, very busy year!
Holiday Time is here. The reason I know that is that I'm home and can see all the traffic in town. Before any greetings, let me voice all of our sorrow for the tragic murder of all of those children and staff in Connecticut.
Deep Purple's new album is officially in April. I've just listened to some of the mixes and it's a great sounding album. Flying Colors will be doing a live DVD and apparently, CD of the same performance around that same time, but no official date that I've heard.
This is the time of year that I most look forward to as far as actually seeing family members that are scattered all over the Country. Everybody at my house knows that I'm generous, but a Scrooge as far as waiting in long lines in stores, so remember, it's the thought that counts. And to me, even more than our Thanksgiving Day, it's a time to give thanks for what we have, and help those that are truly in need. Merry Christmas, Hanukkah, or whatever holiday you're celebrating in December, and Happy New Year!
Whew! I'm still not believing all the things that have happened recently. Our Flying Colors tour went very well. Everybody got along great, and it was always fun performing. What a band! One of the shows was recorded for a live DVD, so those people that couldn't make it to one of the shows will be able to see it. The tour went by quickly, and just as quickly, Dave and I started thinking about getting our own set in order for the G3 tour.
To make things even more interesting, Dave put in a few days with John Petrucci to rehearse some new material that John wrote for this G3 tour. So, they've been very busy, too! John's stuff sounds amazing, as well as his playing, which started at 'virtuoso' and has kept adding more and more versatility and control. Joe Satriani played his soulful, immaculate best, even on the first night here in South America, when he was not feeling well at all. I've felt comfortable, while deeply admiring all the musicians on this tour.
I'm getting more accustomed to being around incredible musicians lately, but, like I've said before: Work with the best players you possibly can, it will, in turn, make you a better player. And judging by the quality of these guys, I must be on my way to getting better!
Any direction you look or listen, from where I've stood the last few months, I've seen talent that truly amazes me. This is the best part of my career, being able to hang with some of the seriously great players. Traveling, though, is what I'm going to be doing most up until Christmas week, since I'll have 71 hours at home between now and then. But, I love all my musical comrades, and look forward to each night that I get to change from a professional 'waiter' (waiting for van rides, flights, baggage, customs, immigration visas, more rides, checkout lines, etc.) to 'musician'.
Wow! The G3 tour was so intense, all in a good way. The other 2 guitarists are phenomenally good, and really had a lot to show me. We had fun every night on the jam at the end of each show. Without exception, everybody was super easy, friendly, and welcoming. Joe and Steve's families were there, as well, and we all got to know each other much better. I envied their close, unbroken, relaxed family vibe that allowed them to travel together. Most of our opening shows went very well, we had a couple of weird moments at 2 shows with some things that didn't work (and equipment always works perfectly at sound check...), but the audiences were friendly and things seemed to fit together well.
I took the entire tour as a golden opportunity to learn, and I wasn't disappointed. Phil patiently listened to me, and he and Erik showed me how the pros hit the fat part of the beat, Jem showed me control and grace of a master, while Dave W showed me his great ears and improv skills. Allen showed me how to play with fire, like my son does, in this video I found today: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S5Kt7WP2kkM. And Jeff even talked mechanical things with me after playing his rock solid studio quality performance.
Dave L always shows me his consistency and incredible soloing skills, and Dru taught me how subbing for Van should be done; with lots of patience and the most steady approach. The crew was so cool, also. They treated everyone openly and cooperatively, and Mick, Joe's manager, showed me how a relentlessly hard working, hands-on manager can set the tone for a can-do touring entourage.
I especially learned that Joe and Steve are amazing players with vision and constant pursuit of perfection in tone and execution. Both were such mighty soloists that it felt a little overwhelming during our first sound check jam, but their personalities were so open and matter of fact, that it quickly became comfortable. Joe's franchise of G3 has had some similar effects on a few other guitarists that have done it, so it's sort of like a guitarist's vision quest: demanding and taxing, but ultimately very rewarding.
Next, Flying Colors! I can't wait to hear everything together live! And to see that guitarist in the clip above! See you soon.........
Hi, everybody. I'm in Nashville with Deep Purple. We've been all over the place with this album project, writing, writing, rehearsing, changing............finally, we're working with Bob Ezrin, our producer. There were some scheduling delays, but finally everybody is in the same room making the final changes to the material. Lots and lots of great stuff, in fact, too much to put on the album, I think. We'll be working here until the moment I leave for G3, and they'll go on with keyboards, bass and vocal overdubs. Somehow, I will get in synch with Bob to finish or redo any solos or overdubs on my end.
The G3 tour is almost here! Luckily, thanks to Dave (LaRue), we got in some rehearsal just before I left a couple of weeks ago. It has been interesting to have such a professional organization take us in and treat us as part of the tour, instead of expecting us to figure everything out on our own. My manager, Frank (Solomon) has a great relationship with the other managers, so everything has gone so easily. Somehow, Tommy (Alderson), was able to get a break from some guitar playing gigs in order to help me do this tour with all of his setup expertise and patience.
I've always wanted to do the G3 tour. One of the biggest perks for me is just getting to know Joe, Steve, and John better by touring together. Playing wise, there's so much great stuff going on that I can't really catch it all, but I really like the chance to see how outstanding people handle everyday things. For instance, does a guitar virtuoso freak out when the rooms aren't available after driving all night in a bus, or do they anticipate it in advance and have an alternate plan? Do they really practice every day? Etc.....I've seen, so far, that people like them generally treat others well, plan in advance, are well prepared, and patient enough to get past problems. Those are also some of the building blocks to becoming great at anything.
I will see some of you very soon on tour. Thanks for the support!
Hi everybody! We are wrapping up the endless details involved with doing an album. Flying Colors is the name of the band/project. It has some amazing music from some amazing musicians. Neal Morse and I finally got to work together, (remember, we're not related, but we can work together very easily), smokin' Mike Portnoy, of course my man Dave LaRue, and our very talented Casey McPherson singing. Bill Evans spent a lot of time and millions of emails, but we finally got together, did it, and it's a very, very good album. Check it out soon on Mascot Records.
Hi everybody! Merry Christmas and happy holidays, whatever you celebrate this time of the year. I missed Thanksgiving this year, but I'm always home for Christmas, so far! See you at the NAMM show and at our California shows soon!
This disaster is sobering and heart breaking. Having been in Japan and admired their earthquake preparedness, who could have imagined so much tragedy from a Tsunami in Japan? Those folks who are helping others in the face of unknown risks are true heroes. Let's hope and pray that the suffering is mitigated as much as humanly possible.
Mexico, at the least the major cities we're playing, have been warm and friendly. In most Spanish speaking countries we have gone to, they use a lottery system to decide whether to hassle you at customs or not. As a result, when there is actual random choice (you press a button and every 8th person, approx, gets a red light and searched luggage) I find that I get searched a lot less. For instance, Germany, I am almost always stopped to be searched, with special attention paid to getting explosive traces from my guitar (?!). Anyway, I arrive in Mexico as a strange individual and I have the same chance as anyone else to be searched, so I usually don't get searched.
The people are always gracious in person, but driving in Mexico City is intense, because there are over 21 million people in the metro area, and they mostly seem to be on the roads. Anyway, the people are nice in person, but like most places, get more aggressive while driving, so wear your seat belts! I just met again with some of the reps from the Hermes foundation, a charitable organization that works with helping indigenous people down here, and was presented with some outstanding handmade art work on an acoustic guitar....in return, I plan to contribute something for their next fund raising CD. Lately, the hours in a day seem to be getting shorter and shorter, as humongous expenditures of time spent on the computer cut into the day. With this economy everybody is doing more, asking more, trying more things, and figuring that if there is nothing on the 'tour dates' section, that I'm home twiddling my thumbs. I've never been busier in my life!
Anyway, time to practice, which falls under the category of finally getting off the computer, to relax by actually playing my guitar! Tonight is Guadalajara, then on to uncharted locations for DP preproduction of the next album. See you soon!
Well, it's been a long time on the road. I've been able to use up every minute of every day without ever catching up on all the things I should get done. This tour seems like 2 lifetimes ago that it started, and indeed it's close to 2 months gone by the time I get home.
Musically, things have been great, we started with a different set list, with a lot of different songs in reserve to change around. Most everybody liked the list that we settled on in the first 2 weeks, so it's sort of stayed that way. For the first time I can ever remember, I have been able to get online, in some fashion, almost every day, albeit sometimes unfathomably slowly.
We have had a lot of really good bands playing with us, and had Marillion with us for all of Germany, as well. In Eastern Europe we had a very musical trio, and currently, a great rock trio of Americans headed by Phillip Sayce (OK, he's Canadian, but close enough to feel like home to me) with some seriously smoking guitar work! We have had some wonderful backstage comraderie.
On a trip of this length, many band and crew get sick 2 times, instead of the usual once, on a winter tour. I will be glad to be home and well. I actually got excited and happy that the worst part of my 2nd time was during a 'no travel' day off, followed by a nearby gig. The theory is, in my mind anyway, that there is a chance that I will have gotten every Country's virus antibodies by the time I go home, and maybe won't get sick there. On the road, I lose the work callouses from my hands, since I'm only playing guitar, and not doing any rougher work with my hands. Now, to replace it, I have the dry calloused hands of somebody who actually washes their hands every time they blow their nose, in order to not spread whatever it is......
Christmas shopping? Some by internet, but I can't really seem to do it very well from a distance, when I don't know what I'm looking for. Oh, did I say Christmas? It is not politically correct to say Christmas, is it? I heard that if I say it, the Wikileaks guy is going to release all of the embarrassing performances I've ever done...............oops, looks like he's already done it, and called it "YouTube".
Have a great holiday season, and remember to let those you love know it.
I haven't known how to write this for several days. T Lavitz is dead. He died peacefully in his sleep, I heard. We don't know much since we haven't heard from his family.
T was the keyboard player with the Dregs since the late 70's. His life has been up, down, and all around, the last few decades not easy for him by any stretch of the imagination. He and I wrote together for his "Storytime" album, and we all got together every year or two to do a Dregs/SMB tour in America.
T and I always rode in the same car on tour, usually with Rod. T and I, (mostly T), would talk the entire drive, every day. We always did a sort of a group therapy session on ourselves, discussing the stresses of life, the hopes for our kids, and lots of funny stories from him. He would exaggerate every frustrating or negative thing for our amusement........at least, I hope he did. We rode in that car initially because we were the non smokers, but I came to feel like he and I had a lot more in common than we thought.
Despite all the ups and downs of his life, he always talked of having a happy family and loved his daughter Dylan very much. He also loved playing music, and hanging out with the band on tour.
People close to me keep dying, as I'm sure has happened to everyone reading this. Once again, the lesson is to share as much good as you can with those around you, they won't be there forever.
OK, we've been in Italy for awhile. As I knew from the tens of millions of Italian Americans, they are naturally friendly people. Every show is a warm reception, but we usually have amazing audiences almost everywhere, so it's a subtle difference. At every city we've had different drivers shuttling us around. There are 3 common characteristics that they all seem to share:
I was waiting outside the airport check in for our tour manager, and my driver was speaking pretty good English, as many of them do. I remarked that this 5 Euro bill (note) that I had just tried to spend was refused because it wasn't brightly colored enough. I guess it had been through the wash in somebody's pants pocket. I had been told that if I took it to a bank, I could exchange it. Well, the chances of me getting to a bank during banking hours for a small note like that were pretty slim, so I was going to just forget about it. He immediately offered to change it with one of his, which I couldn't accept, but I was impressed with how genuinely helpful they all were. And this was after his gig was over, and they were free to go.
By the way, regardless of a recession, there are plenty of tourists around the typical destinations in Italy. Although the actual beaches in some cities are virtually deserted, since there is a charge of up to $130 to simply sit on the beaches, which seem to be owned by hotels, not public. So on these coastal cities, there are people everywhere but not on those privately owned beaches. Some days get very hot here, and with the crowds, I would plan a different part of the year to vacation here if I was able to pick and choose. Last night, up until 1am, they had some fireworks display going near one of the summer city festivals for the better part of an hour, and it was spectacular. So, in the cooler months you probably wouldn't stumble across something like that.
Today, we saw some very skillful driving through the tiny town roads up a steep, winding alley that would challenge a Smart Car driver. They put these full size Mercedes vans around some of the tightest corners I've seen in a while, all of them on the first try. Except for the luggage van, I imagine, which is truck width.... which might explain why we haven't seen our bags for a long time today!
Anyway, great gigs, great people, long, long tour. Situation pretty normal!
Just want to take a moment for a personal message to my wife, Janine Happy Birthday....
I'm spending the day and night sitting in an airline seat, looking out the window, or trying to focus on the same paragraph I've read several times in an article, or thinking, or hoping to stay interested in a movie that I've seen before. Over the decades, I have slept a few times, briefly, while on a passenger flight. This will not be one of those nights. This little diversion that I took to be home during a small hole in the tour was a small window of opportunity, and I could only be home for about the same amount of time as I spent in travel to get there.......
But, I'd do it again. To have some control over my life, to be around family and the things that I normally do during the day, is revitalizing. Nothing will ever replace the need that I feel to express myself with music, but this tour has been so long that the little bit of time we get to play music doesn't seem often enough, sometimes. Occasionally I need to remind myself how lucky I am to be able to tour. The concerts have been great, the audiences fantastic, and I'm struck with the realization that I have an amazing position. During this economy, many musicians find it difficult or impossible to tour at all. I can't stop wondering today: "Why can't it be easier for all musicians to play and find audiences to play to?".
What fundamental shift happened to prevent people from running businesses that feature live music everywhere? Live music always attracts people's curiosity, brings them together. TV, internet, video games, cell phones, all of these have changed our focus from outside to inside, I imagine. What if it shifted from a few people winning the talent/reality shows to everybody everywhere with a band finding places to play? Instead of reality shows, we could have reality!? Instead of a very few stars being huge, outstanding music from all over is available in 'regional' outlets.
A lot of Countries that we visit have more live music on the television than I'm used to seeing back in the USA, and that would be a start. But, instead of only doing huge sponsored music channel concert specials with existing headliners, what if every city had it's own music channel, too? Austin City Limits (live music taped for broadcast concerts) style, but emphasis on local talent, in every city. I know a few cities utilize public access cable channels, but I'm imagining something that's actively managed, with a talent picker that can only see possibilities, rather than a threat to his job if the ratings aren't high enough.
With governments going in debt as fast as they can write checks, there would most likely be no help from those empty coffers. If I owned Google or Microsoft, I would put money into things that actually would promote interaction and rebuilding of our community spirit. Like music! I really like the fans that I meet, because they all have a real passion for music which drives musicians to play better. When musicians, or any people, have more expected of them, they do more. Cultural change.
Speaking of cultural things, I have seen positive changes happen from the TV! If you live in the States, you have too, like the commercial where the new kid in school tries to sit down and have lunch, but the 'cool' kids sneer and leave the table as soon as she sits down......but one brave soul bucks the trend and moves over to greet her. It's non political, but positive, and yet, it's on t.v.! Please don't let me find out that the foundation that sponsors those is some crazy group, in my mind it is people actually going out of their way to use mass media to help things. Imagine if everybody who had a microphone, or an op-ed column, or a t.v. show did emphasize positive changes, real heroes, excellence, and living in a manner that wouldn't piss God off. Ratings may not be as awesome as showing people in anguish, but it could educate (in a positive way), the generations that are growing up with less public interaction, less positive role models, and more stress from not being able to depend on the durability of family, job security, and safe places to simply be.
For example, what if there was a nationwide movement to stop people from blocking the passing lane on the highway by going slow and not caring who's behind them? What if it was actually not cool, at all, to do that? There would be less of it. Positive change. And please, let's start that one right away, since I'm probably going to have a heart attack while I'm driving and getting upset at drivers that seem to have no clue or concern about others. Pretty far off-subject rant? Well, yes. I told you I've been up for a long time in an oxygen deprived state!
When you fly Eastbound, in the summer, at northern latitudes, the night only appears to last a few hours, whereas it's 20 hours long on the ground. Westbound, if you fly at night, you sometimes never see the sun even if your flight is 14 hours long. It's all due to the amazing speed at which we travel in these jets. As I get older, I feel like my life is getting faster and faster between each year, almost as if I'm flying Eastbound.
This tour has been going amazingly well. I am consistently surprised at how many places we find young people mixed with older in the audience. If we keep going, it may be possible to meet a lot of 3rd generation fans. Actually, we already have met some. Anyway, the sheer number of Countries, time zones, and hours of traveling have made this all seem like a hazy dream to me. We have done longer legs, but this really seems like a long one!
Everywhere we go, people have been very hospitable, and I think that being a musician is something that everybody knows of in every country. If I go into a fancy hotel, they may wonder what I'm doing there, but when they know that I'm a musician (with any traveling band), they smile and remember that every touring band is a little weird looking from time to time. Despite the horrible problems and bad news across the World, people are still going out to see our concerts, and seem to be having a great time. South Africa was just getting ready for the World Cup onslaught of tourist/fans, and had built lots of new infrastructure, but I imagine that there could end up being more people than places to park, rooms, rental cars, etc. simply because soccer, (oops, I mean football) is such a big deal. Janine and I got to do a few tourist activities while we were down there and we were very glad to get a tour guide that was so friendly.
Right now, we're in Russia. We had a very nice visit of the whole band with the Ministries of Culture and Natural Resources, while touring the Volga River. They told me of an entire city that had been flooded, (with advance notice) when a lock and dam project went forward. I asked how deep, and I think he said it was over 200 feet! In a river. Our last show before a very short break at home, then full speed ahead in Europe. Hope to see you all on the road!
Ronnie Dio was real musician. He was a guy that everybody liked, and always sang loud, in tune, and strong, with that famous voice. I watched him patiently deal with fans at the stage door, and patiently deal with me when I was lucky enough to back him up on our orchestra tour,(Deep Purple and Orchestra with special friends). We backed him up doing a couple of his tunes, and he was tactful and precise with his constructive comments. He could tell if I played one note wrong. I recall him telling me that he used to play trumpet, which might explain his very good ears.
In the photo, with Craig Goldy, his guitarist, he was graciously signing autographs at the NAMM show, and taking time to say Hi to friends, as usual. Everybody that ever met him will miss him, as well as anybody who ever heard him sing.
This is unreal. We’re flying only 20 degrees of latitude from the North Pole. We just finished an outdoor show in extreme northern Norway. I have no idea how long the people here must have drove, but it had to be a good ways. It looks like just melting tundra and glacially carved mountains everywhere, with plenty of spots of snow still.
It’s almost 2 a.m. and the sun is bright, well above the horizon. The constant sun up here must allow the bugs to get really well developed, because I’m covered in bites from the gig. I hate the greasy feel of the bug repellant, and now I’m paying for that. Great crowd, weather, very unusual gig.
We have the unimaginable luxury of a chartered flight for this tour leg, since merely getting to this gig, for instance, would have taken two days of strange connecting commercial flights. It was odd to see our plane be the only one ready to go at 1:30 a.m. after the gig, and then have a full security staff x-ray everything and question every little bottle of water…….for a private charter. Oh well, it seems to be more and more popular to go overboard with this stuff. Can you imagine having to unload your pickup truck for inspection every time you want to leave your driveway? Nobody would stand for it, because there are too many voting drivers. Many pickup trucks have been used by terrorists, no private charters ever have, so it makes no sense.
Back to the gig. We could have easily used sunglasses for the whole show. I never get tired of seeing the bizarre juxtaposition of late night and light. I’m a nightowl anyway, and it suits me fine. Now, a few weeks later, the tour leg is ending as I’m 20 hours into my homeward trip. Every gig has been a fantastic audience. In Turkey, the crowd was one of the loudest, ever, even to the point of being louder than the band. Both Greek shows were close to the same, with great weather. I got to do a little flying in a small private plane in Greece, thanks to a friend, and it was a nice change of pace from being at the hotel wishing I was flying.
In Lebanon, we said goodbye to our great charter crew and jet, and began some heart-stopping driving sessions. The gig was at an ancient Roman Acropolis………really. It had the gigantic columns everywhere, and the stage was set in front of what, presumably, was the temple. It looked like we set up an outdoor concert at the Greek Acropolis, and then added a bunch of huge stone walls around it. The stage was slightly offset to the center of the crowd, but by and large, we were facing a big ampitheater of people. It was amazing to see, and it must have looked pretty cool from the top of the ampitheater looking towards the stage, with the gigantic columns behind it, lit from the bottom up to the top.
But none of that was as exciting as the ride there and back. About 2.5 hours of stressful driving there, and a little less than 2 hours of adrenaline pounding, wonder-if-we’ll-make-it-back driving on the return. Both drivers knew the way, drove with skill, and knew the customs, but the customs generally did not match our expectations. Two way streets with two lanes total would often have 4 vehicles across. Sometimes we would fly towards oncoming traffic, in their ‘lane’ with the hope that they would move over enough to let us by. Sometimes we would be on a slightly wider road, and be on the far right, overtaking cars, of course, and a local car would come barreling towards us, going the wrong way, with no way to get to the right side of the road. Apparently, they would drive like that indefinitely, based on the assumption that, once again, others would move out of the way.
None of this has anything to do with what a great audience they were, I’m just saying that if you drive there, make sure you have a seat belt, which I didn’t for the first leg. On the way, we saw evidence of the bombing of the recent war with Israel, including a massive bridge over a gorge being rebuilt, that forced a big detour into the canyon and back out. All in all, it has been a very busy few weeks, with generally excellent weather and gigs.
There's all of the sudden too much to tell you. I've been so weighed down with external pressures that I haven't had time to write. The one after this will give some details about our Japan/Russia trip that we just finished.
We just got back, and I mean, JUST got back from our gig in Poland. It was so unusual in so many ways. The crowd was basically sold out, solid from the stage to as far as we could see, outdoors. And it wasn't raining! Our opening act, Leszek Cichonski feat. Stan Skibby, was incredibly good. I had a great time reminscing with Stan, who does a Hendrix-like set with them, singing and playing. Everybody played so well, and was so down-to-earth.
Earlier today, I played onstage with them at a town square, for the Guiness book of World records. The most guitar players playing "Smoke on the Water". For sure, if they don't get the world's record, something is seriously wrong, because there were 6,000 people in front of us, with guitars, playing it! At the end of the song, they all held up their guitars, mostly acoustic, and it looked like we were in a forest. Nothing but guitars for as far as you could see. We also played "Hey Joe", which Stan sang, and everybody played along with that one. Last year, they had 1800 plus people playing along with that song. In the middle of the song today, they brought the volume way down, and you could only hear the background singers and the thousands of acoustics playing C,G,D,A,E.......
After that, I don't know how the gig could be any more intense. But, it was. The crowd was totally into everything, and when they sang along on "Smoke" it was the loudest ever. A lot of them were at the town square earlier, and they knew it for sure! Fantastic crowd. Don played some Chopin, which they all seemed to recognize, and knew he had Polish roots.
My new guitar tech, Tommy Alderson, has had the worst thing happen. His son, Thomas Jr., was riding as a passenger with some other high school kids and were in a high speed loss of control collision with a tree. Thomas Jr. is now in intensive care with internal injuries that seemed to almost mirror the nightmare that my wife, Janine, went through several years ago. Halfway through our set, I couldn't get it out of my mind, since my own son had been in a couple of low speed accidents as a passenger, and it very easily could have been me freaking out, trying to concentrate on my job, thinking about my son, also a senior in high school. I wholeheartedly agreed with the idea of sending Tommy home to be with his son during this trying time. I will miss having Tommy, but I am glad he will be next to his son during this struggle for life and health.
Ironically, just a few moments ago, I was remarking at how out of control the driving was as we left the gig. We were doing a 'runner'. A runner is basically when you walk off stage straight to the van because the roads will be impassable for hours, or because the flight schedule, or whatever, deems it must be so. We were leaving a packed outdoor concert with one road out, so there was a police escort. As we were careening left and right, I remarked one more time that we will all probably die being driven to the airport, as opposed to a plane crash, or from old age. Within 2 minutes of saying that, my head was snapped back as were hit from behind. Our van stopped at a red light, but the police in front, and the van behind us didn't.
If I only would have been leaning back relaxing, it would have been
nothing much. I guess the reason that I'm bringing all this up is to remind everyone to
buckle up and consider driving reasonably. I know that some people will never drive
reasonably, but watch out for them, let them go by you, let them get out of your way, it's
not worth it! People such as some of our drivers. I've been in 3 minor collisions just in
DP. Luckily, only minor, but it wouldn't take much to make it a high speed multiple
fatality. Most of our rides don't have shoulder harnesses, or even seat belts, etc. So, do
what you can with your loved ones to protect them.
Next one will be about our last tour leg, unless some more intense drama happens on our charter flight tomorrow!
We're about to finish the tour leg here in South America. It feels like it's been a while since I've seen home. In a week after being back, I begin a multi-day trip to U.A.E. to do an equipment soundcheck with my new guitar tech., Tommy. Michael is leaving to work in a more normal environment, so we had a farewell dinner for him in Brazil the other night. I've been lucky to always have overqualified people setting up everything for me and taking care of the guitars, but eventually they do move on. I will surely miss Michael, but Tommy knows this kind of stuff inside out, too, since he's been a steady gigging guitarist.
The gig in Florianopolis was the hottest show I can remember recently. Still, the audience was collectively jumping up and down and showing no signs of being affected by the heat. It was one of those shows where you can't grab the strings because your fingers are too wet, even after just wiping off your hands on a towel. The temperature reminded me of those red heat lamps at the fast food places, with the stage lights beating down. The other guys are a hardy bunch, and didn't seem to be too bothered by it, though.
This luxury hotel we're in right now is literally next door to some favellas, or shantytown neighborhoods. Driving by, I was fascinated by the order that came out of some of the chaos, as people scavenged building materials, signs, rocks, bricks, and made homes out of them. Unfortunately, I saw one two story homemade place that had obviously collapsed, hopefully with nobody home. Traveling around the world constantly reveals stark contrasts in conditions, but people somehow remain willing to survive and have families.
This trip has so far been 90% traveling time. Nearly a full 24 hour day going to the hotel in Czech Republic, then on the gig day, several more hours of driving to and from the gig. The landing of the long flight was at minimum visibility in a driving snow. Airline travel, or really, any modern aviation travel, still amazes me with the ability to deal with so much in the way of weather. The gig was the opening of their winter games competition, and we played in a hockey arena. The whole time we were there it was snowing, which made a stark contrast to our next gig, 21 hours of travel away, in Argentina. Our northern hemisphere winter is their summer, so it was record breaking heat when we arrived, after boarding the first flight in the snow.
Buenos Aires shows are always hot, but this seemed incredibly so. During sound check, the entire band was dripping with sweat just talking about the order of the songs, before we had even started playing. But the sold-out crowd made everybody forget about the heat. They were singing along to almost every song, with more volume than we were putting out onstage. Amazing energy, and it shows that people can adapt to any climate and be fine. Them, not us! We were pretty hot, but had a great time.
Now, a few days later........nearly every single human traveling with us has been somewhat sick or getting sick with some variety of virus. Seems like everyone I know in the States is, also. I sing a few background vocal notes, and it was funny to hear me try (only once) to sing a high G note, after which I quickly switched to a lower note. It sounded like somebody trying to learn to yodel. Anyway, lots of interesting gigs....one was at midnight outdoors in the rain, with tens of thousands of people still on their feet! Amazing audiences always.
So far, South America has been progressively easier to travel in, as far as the hotels go. Internet is working much better, and there are often t.v. channels in english. The people we interface with all seem to speak quite a bit of english, so it's pretty easy going.
Get back to you later! On with the show!
Some notes from a few days ago:
Today brings back a little reality, we're in an airport waiting area for an airline flght. We've had a wonderful week or so traveling to Siberia and back to Moscow in a Tupelov 134. In the last notes I wrote about the flight attendant sternly saying 'ticofi' to let you know that you are being offered tea or coffee. This time she came up to me and said 'nowcockpit', which is something I always enjoy, as long as I feel like I'm not distracting the guys up front from flying. They were very warm and friendly, and even though we had very few words in common, they more or less understood my general comments. They more or less insisted that I sit down in the first officer's seat and get some photos. It was very warm and smoky up there since there were always several cigarettes going. Without getting anyone in trouble, I can only say that now I have a much better idea of what it would be like to do a takeoff and climbout in a plane exactly like that. After af while when the autopilot was on, I asked if I could see the navigator's station. You see, the Tu-134 has a glass nose, made up of lots of small windshield pieces in the very front part of the nose, about where we would expect the weather radar and radome to be. People instantly assume that the glass nose (on an airliner!) is for a bombardier or something like that, since the flying fortress of WWII looked that way for the nose gunner. But the navigator is a dedicated crew member that does nothing but navigation, like on a submarine. So he can look down for deduced reckoning ("ded" reckoning........not dead reckoning) waypoints, look up for basic celestial navigation, and he has a dedicated workstation down there with access to all the controls, as well as the 1st officer's directional gyro, as I found out!
Anyway, I had a blast, they gave me a gift of a "Russian GPS" which was the time/speed sliderule that the navigator used, and one of pilots gave me his flight officer's uniform hat. All Russian uniform hats are huge, and I hope this one makes if home looking similar after being bounced around in my suitcase for 100 or so handlings. I sure do feel right at home with most every crew we have ever had the pleasure of hanging around with.
These russian gigs have really been going well. Last night was a sold out show in the garguntuan arena, so big that there is a wall dividing the arena in to two halves. One side is the backstage area, which you could play soccer in, and the other side is the gig. As you look at the audience, there are tiers that go up so high and so steep, that it requires leaning back a little to see them all. Amazing stuff, and a very energetic audience in the perfect arrangement of standing in front, seated in back along raised tiers. That way the ones that want to endure the conditions in front can, and the ones that want to sit there with their arms folded and simply watch the show, can also do it without having their view blocked. Most of our shows here have had the front rows seated, (obviously premium priced tickets) and the absolutely energetic fans back in the distance, nearly out of view. Problem was, the people in front would just sit there with arms folded....which is no problem, but 100 yards behind them were the rabid fans, waving, jumping up and down, cheering, applauding, whistling. So, for a classical guitar concert, seated works great, but for a rock concert,.....uh.....well.....er, uh....it sure is nice to get some signs of life from the crowd. In reality, they were very successful gigs, it just turns out to be a lot more fun to play with people in your field of view who are bursting with energy to have a good time. I've heard critics put down performers who were 'playing to the fans in the front rows' as if that's a bad thing. When you're up there with spotlights in your eyes, that's what you can mainly see, so it's just a natural thing, that's all.
This is a long tour leg, and it's hard to believe that we have an entire german tour coming up following all this. I heard that Pyro's (photographer who died suddenly) family will be coming to Frankfurt, and I look forward to telling them what an enjoyable personality he had, as well as turning out great photos. Time after time of seeing a family's grief has made me savor each day of life that I have left. More and more, I ponder the finite moments of life, especially at my age, which most men used to not live to see, until modern medicine and advancements. I wish I had figured out at a very young age how precious every minute of life is. Not sure what I would have ended up as, but it probably wouldn't have changed much of what I like to do..........just changed the importance that I attached to little problems that shouldn't have had much impact on my life.
We're driving in the pouring rain, coming back from the gig. On the way here from our hotel, the 2 hour drive took almost 4.5 hours...You never know! Although we have had some flights that are technically charter flights, it's really an airline that is adding some unusual routes just for us, in exchange for $$$. We still check in at the desk, wait through all the security etc., get boarding passes, and wait for the bus to take us, but there's usually only a few strangers on the plane, the rest are from our tour entourage.
I had the distinct and very grateful pleasure of being able to watch one of my favorite shows, "Junkyard Wars" in English while we were in Kiev. They get clever people on two teams and give them an assignment to make some sort of machine from the junk they can find in this salvage yard....then they later have a contest to see which team's machine performed the best. Most people I know wouldn't like it and would be bored, but to me it's fascinating watching the design ideas and compromises that must be constantly made to get some functionality in the relatively short time limit. I wonder why nobody else has the Discovery channel in English on the entire continent...........
Anyway, the shows are going pretty well, since we have all our own equipment, with a little different sound system, but I have my familiar guitars and Engl amps, and it's pretty easy for me to enjoy the show.
Now, it's a few days later, and we've just completed our flight to Siberia. The Russian lady on the plane had the perfect, low pitched, accent. She would come up to each person in a strict posture and say "Ticofi". All syllables with the same accent, and a very guttoral 'O' vowel sound. What she was asking was, "Would you like tea or coffee?". It brought a gentle smile to each band member that heard it, and illustrates the little differences in culture regarding delivery of a simple offering. Very few of the people my age seem to speak English outside of the bigger cities here, but they are all friendly, like pretty much everywhere in the World. People tend to be pretty easy to deal with for anybody that tries. Having said that, we don't actually go into active war zones where we might get shot simply for looking like foreigners. I should have said we don't 'yet' go into those areas, because DP is always trying new places to play to music lovers.
I heard a disturbing report last night that one of only a few photographers that consistently take good shots of us died recently. He was known by his nickname of "Pyro" and he was a warm and friendly man who was always generous with his work, as well. If this is true that he suddenly died, we will miss him, but his work will live on.
Here's one that I meant to send on the last long trip, but it got overlooked until now! This was written during the amazing tour leg where we had the fantastic luxury of the charter plane.........
We're doing a night flight after the show, on our way to Finland. The airline quality service is incredible. Who am I kidding, it's way better than the airline service we normally get. Here in Scandanavia they've not put us through the futile exercise of going all the way through the terminal, printing boarding passes, passport control, x raying everything, taking away all our bottles of water, and waiting for a bus to get out to the plane..........No, it's just like the USA, where we drive up to the plane and walk on. This is the reason business aircraft are selling better than ever in a down economy. Businesses would rather make a little less money than to stand in line for an hour barefoot waiting to get on a plane.
Great shows this trip. A couple of nights ago the band called Europe opened for us. They sounded very good and the guitar player, John, sat in with us on Smoke. He's got a very polished rock and roll feel with the guitar. I recently got my signature ENGL amps in absolute stock, production form, delivered from the factory. Now I can truly say that I love the amps, since they are straight off the factory assembly line and really sound fantastic. Looks like we are doing lots of jumping around from here on out, so I'm glad we're flying charter as much as we are.
Tonight Ian Gillan finally told me about this one note in a song that he wished I would play differently. Since I was totally unaware of this, it was the easiest thing in the world to change. So, when I played the note straight instead of bending it, he fell on his knees in a mock bowing position, as if to thank me. I was laughing out loud, and could only wonder why it took so long to remember to bring this up. I think I was doing it the previous way for over a decade! There's always something to change and improve, and here's a toast to letting the people you work with know what you think might need looking at.
Now, I'm jumping ahead to our last, shorter leg. It started with an outdoor gig that a region in Russia was celebrating a milestone of their production of a commodity in high demand, and put on an outdoor show, with bands, fireworks, and some cold rain. Luckily, the rain stopped when we went on, but it was plenty cool with some wind. The crowd was fairly tired, since we played late and they had been rained on, so it went pretty well, considering. Afterward, I was upset to learn that some bloggers had chosen to politicize, or criticise the band's show being in Russia, forgetting that we play pretty much everywhere in the World for people. Generally, we just like music lovers, that's all we ask for, doesn't much matter geographically where, just as long as there are human beings who want to hear our music.
Then, we went to Israel for 2 shows, where I got so sick from some kind of food poisoning, which may have come from the quick trip from Russia, or locally there in Israel, I don't know. A kind doctor gave me some pills and medicine that allowed me to get through the 2nd show in Israel. The people that we worked with were very nice, and we had great crowds at all the shows there, eventually playing 4 shows in all. Our opening band was very good, and sang rock and regionally flavored music in Hebrew, even.
In between the first 2 shows and the last 2 shows there, we went to Spain. It doesn't really seem like it when you're looking at a globe, but it's a long way to Spain from where we were, especially with long connections in a major city. Two 14 hour travel days....oops, I mean days off......got us to and from the always loveable Spanish gigs. It's almost not necessary to learn any Spanish now, I notice so many English tourists and expats that it's sort of like going to California: beautiful topography and everyone understands some English.
Well, we just finished playing at the 42nd, I think, Montreux Jazz Festival. It was a very intense show, not just because the stage temperature was in the triple digits. As all Montreux gigs, the crowd was there to enjoy the music, and always with us. Claude (Funky Claude, as he signs some autographs, referring to the 'smoke on the water' lyrics) got up and sat in on our very last tune on his harmonica.
Earlier in the day, as we just arrived, I had a phone call from Steve Howe. Yes, THAT Steve Howe from 'Yes' and 'Asia'. We got to hang out and talk, and went together to Claude Nob's Chateau, way up the mountain that flanks Montreux. I am a fan of great views, and most of them seem to come from an airplane cockpit, or high on a hill. But Claude's place has the most incredible picture-postcard view I've ever seen from a private property, (Not including the Grand Canyon in this comparison, since it's not privately owned). Anyway, this is the place where he invites the performers, local friends, and dignitaries to visit before the nightime show begins. Steve Howe and I got to renew our acquaintance of several decades ago, and both got to try out Claude's guitar that was just sent to him by John McLaughlin. It was John's original Shakti guitar, with sympathetic strings mounted across the soundboard at an angle, a little bit like a sitar. It was acoustic, with heavily scalloped frets, to give a similar feel to the sitar.
Claude presented us with a book of the history of Montreux, filled with previously unpublished pictures of artists, candid shots, descriptions, etc. It is the heaviest book I've ever looked at, literally. It's in 4 volumes, weighing a total of 22 pounds, they said!
The shows have really been going good, we're trying some new things in the set list, and morale is very high. A few days ago, I met one of my long-known, very interesting guitarists, named Tommy Emmanuel. A wonderful guy, and hopefully, we'll get together sometime in the future, since I didn't make it in time for us to play together. Another old friend, that just keeps getting better, played right before us with an amazing performance, Andy Timmons. He's a very likeable, great player from Texas, (via Indiana, I think), doing a trio performance.
A couple of nights ago, I was able to hear Steve Lukather play with his solo band. He apparently decided to get the best players in town (L.A.) to tour with! Really good playing, from everyone. Steve is the master of building a solo, and every single thing he plays is musical, so it's a treat to hear him do his own thing. Wow, what a week this has been as far as hearing great players!
Well, I've got to get ready to pick up and travel, so I'll try to write some more later.
Well, it's always an adventure. Starting with my 3 flights to get to our first gig in Spain at the Monsters of Rock festival. The 2nd, overwater flight was delayed due to weather....they said it was because of lightning. Being from the lightning capital of North America (really), I wouldn't have judged distant lightning a threat while working around structures much taller than myself in all directions, but they sure did. Some time after the rain had gone, they finally opened up our ramp for a pushback, and we joined the ridiculously long conga line to wait for takeoff. In Madrid the fun really began. My bags were already lost, and the next plane that they could put me on the waiting list for was 36 hours away........but if I stayed at the airport for 10 more hours, I could see if there were massive cancellations or no-shows and get on the standby list for that one.
At the rental car counter, they suggested the train as a possibility. In the USA, train travel is almost always slower than car, except in big cities, because of the stops and limited schedules. Here, if I could get to the station in the city center from the airport, I could travel on a new train that cruises at 186 mph. I wondered why anyone would wait around at this airport for 10 to 36 hours when this option exists. I bought a ticket and noted that it is a reserved seat that you get. The taxi to town was more than my kid's college fund, and I had a limited number of Euros coming from the States, so the subway was the deal. After 2 trains, I was in the general vicinity of the high speed train, realizing that I still would be beating the drive time by an hour! The high speed train was fast, comfortable, and really did cruise at 186mph (300 kmh). I always prefer being in the air, but this was the best choice for this leg of the trip!
Arriving without luggage is always a bad feeling, knowing that you're soon leaving the hotel address that you gave the lost baggage office....and the possibility of your luggage chasing you around Europe, never quite catching up, (ask me how I know). Luckily, (or unluckily), I got my bags 29 hours later, right before we left for the show. Ted Nugent was on, and he was great. Our friends from Thin Lizzy had just played earlier, and Saxxon, Pretty Maids, and Twisted Sister and others were there. The wind was howling from an approaching shower, and pretty soon it became a gale. The backdrops were pulled down as the wind threatened, the light trusses and sound cabinets that were hung were swaying like kids on a swing. Then, the rain came. Any covers over the equipment was blown away, the audience disappeared, the stage crews abandoned any hope of keeping things dry as the rain came down in torrents completely sideways. Our monitor man saw an empty mike stand topple over from the wind. There is no table of reference for that amount of wind officially, but it was really bad.
As the sky cleared, the sad news came. We were dressed and literally waiting to play, but none of the equipment such as the lights and sound could be operated, having been deluged with water. We played one time in a monsoon until our guitars shorted out, then switched to other guitars until we had nothing left to play, but we had no choice on this one. We and the other groups were told that nobody is going on. Ironically, there was no sound system to tell the remaining audience of that, so I can't imagine that everyone understood the problem. From their standpoint, dripping wet, seeing the moon above after the rain, they were probably thinking, "Why don't they just play?". It was so devastating to load up and leave. Roger reminded me that our last show in Zaragoza was cancelled due to floods and rain! By the way, rain is just not normally a problem in this arid climate!
As I'm typing this, I am enraptured by the unspeakable luxury of not having to endure all of the commercial flying obstacles. We have another beautiful charter jet to travel in. The pleasant crew is Danish, and we are living "high on the hog" to coin an American phrase. I have a sneaking suspicion that once the fuel bills are added up after this trip, it may be back to reality........but, the fuel cost per seat of this very efficient plane compares well with large commercial jets, so no need to feel guilty.
Tonight we're in Italy, and we'll try a few changes in the set list. Everybody's looking forward to playing, especially after being shut down last night.
This trip was supposed to be all in Central and South America, which would be the first time a Deep Purple trip would begin for me with less than the usual 15-25 hours of travel. I was, therefore, not too surprised to find out that a gig IN Moscow was added to the front of this trip. Oh well........... Many hours later, I arrived in Moscow and we ended up going to the Kremlin for the gig! This was unusual to do a televised show at the Kremlin, I thought, with all the security that was involved, but that's exactly the way it came down. Since the backstage was actually way offstage, I only got to hear Tina Turner sing through the monitors in the dressing room, but she still sounds great.
The first time I met the majority of Deep Purple, I was in Mexico, shaking hands in the dressing room before we did a quick run through of the set before my first gig with them. 14 years ago, and many, many tours ago, it still brings back memories to go there. As an American who doesn't live in a bordering state to Mexico, I find the food is quite a bit different in the heart of Mexico than what we normally get in America at a Mexican food restaurant. It's good, though! Everything was very pleasant in Mexico, with the usual gracious people that we would find all through Central and South America.
On our arrival to one of the Brazilian shows, we found out that our equipment didn't make the long journey with layover that we had taken. It wouldn't be there in time for the show, so we got try some more rental stuff. They even found a local Brazilian player that had a whammy bar version of my signature guitar for me to borrow. That was something I sure wasn't expecting, so the gig was different but not bad at all, although we found that the Hammond organ was in a slightly different tuning as the generator outside had a subtley different frequency, just enough to make for some grimacing moments between Don and I. We were relieved to get back to our own equipment with a phase regulator for the organ, also.
Our rides to and from the airport and the gig assured me, once again, that there's a better chance of me kicking the bucket on a wild airport drive than of old age at home. Although the drives were very exciting, there proved to be a lot of patience by the public in general for all sorts of things. Things like: never, ever signalling a lane change, passing from the shoulder of the road, going completely off road to get around a slowdown, cutting people off, blocking, running lights, and more. The bottom line is that amidst chaos, the people remain civil to one another, during driving events that would be perceived as punishable by justifiable homicide on an L.A. freeway.
Also, while I was struggling to find some Spanish or Portugese words, the folks in the town shops consistently showed patience and gracious hospitality. Most everything I tried to eat tasted good, except for one incredibly salty pizza, but I once again watched as my overly generous supply of Imodium began to get used up throughout the tour. Not as bad as the first time through, but it still does happen to me and some of the group....
Flights in some Countries have been delayed in a very scary, relaxed way for multiple hours, but as I'm typing this, we're on a LAN Chile flight that is right on time. Flight attendants are universally patient, also, even when accidentally showing up in the wrong boarding group when it is called out in a distorted speaker in Spanish. I know most of the numbers when they speak it slow and clear, but not when it's spoken 100 miles per hour through a distortion pedal.
We have to have passports to work. In the USA, I apply for considerable dollars extra, an expedited passport with extra pages. I have seen ALL of my empty pages used up on this trip, as they literally thumb through the entire book to find an empty page to put a stamp on, bypassing all of the partially used pages that could easily fit that stamp. The rest of this trip still has some more visas to be put in, and I have to get a new passport now. Problem is, if a gig comes up while my passport is being processed in government land, I can't go. I still don't know why I can't have a duplicate to cover me while the replacement is being slowly processed by the government. Imagine if whenever you drove your car, every state you pass into could remove part of your drivers license, until at some point that you can't predict, you can't drive anymore and have to sit for 2 weeks after spending a day in line at some government office. If it affected more people, enough to have a big voting presence, it would definitely be different. End of rant.
The land is beautiful below me, and I see the attraction of this part of Argentina, especially for ranching and farming. We have a show tonight, our second one in Buenos Aires, so I better start filling out the endless forms for entering the Country, including a special form for having a cell phone, asking for it's year, model, and description, including accessories in order to not be guilty of smuggling!
One last thing....this should be understood without saying, but I'll say it. Deep Purple plays music to people that want to hear us. As a group, we all agree that there should be no political message or endorsement of the band, expressed or implied. I personally will take the ever unpopular pro-American stance, but there are different opinions within the band and crew. In other words, if we play some place, we're playing for the fans and whoever wants to hear it, not for any strategic publicity or political end.
Enough of this. It's soon time to head for Ecuador! Volcanoes? Check! Floods? Check! Brink of war? Check! But the real question is, "When do we start?" See you soon!