John Lord
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Interview - Jon LORD - Friday 24th June 2011
Blues en Bourgogne Festival

(c) Copyright Jon Lord
(c) Blues à Jarnioux
(c) Blues à Jarnioux

  1. Today we are pleased to welcome Jon Lord at the Blues en Bourgogne Festival in Le Creusot. Nice to meet you Jon.
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    Thank you very much. It's good to be here.

    AM : What is your first impression about this festival ?

    It seems to be run by people who are very enthusiastic and it's 20 years going, that's a pretty good record. I don't play a lot of Blues festivals of course, I play a lot of rock festivals in my time. It seems that the man who runs this is an enthusiastic man and a very friendly man, he seems to know what he is doing, and it's a beautiful position, a beautiful area.

  3. What do you think of the venue ?
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    It's wonderful, it's a very long history. One of the great pleasures of being a traveling musician is that we get to see great places, we get to play in unusual places, such as this, and to spend a couple of days in lovely places, so it's a blessing to be a musician!

  5. You are a piano player and an organ player and many people called you the Lord of the Hammond. what is a Hammond Organ ?

  6. It's a miracle. (laughing). Just briefly, the story of the Hammond organ is that an american gentleman, I believe, in the 20s or 30s somewhere around there, I'm not quite sure of my dates, he was a church member and the church at which he worshipped was in need of an organ but they couldn't afford to buy one of this pipe organ, (c) Copyright so Mr Hammond who was a clockmaker by profession said that he would try to make one. His idea was to make an electronic simulation of a church organ sound, and he did this by having these things called drawbars, they are the things that go in and out on the top of the Hammond and the idea was that each one of these, the more you pull it out, the louder it would be, but each one would be a different sound, like the different sounds on the pipes on an ordinary or a regular church organ. He made the sound and the reason it's so unique as an organ, as a concept, is the way the sound is made. The sound is generated mechanically by little wheels that spin around very, very quickly and produce an electronic signal that is then converted into sound by the magic of the whatever goes on inside, that is much as I know about it, but it created this wonderful sound and if you wanted to sound like a church organ then of course it can, but then it found its way into jazz and then into popular music and then a couple of really great players discovered it, first of all a guy called Wild Bill Davis and then of course Jimmy Smith and Jimmy McGriff and so on, great jazz, blues musicians, who discovered that it makes this really good sound for jazz and then people of my generation, we discovered it and I certainly discovered that it makes a very good sound for rock music too, so it's a very clever organ.

    AM : Compared to the piano, is the technique very different ?

    Yes, for example without having to be able to show you, but to try to describe it, if you hit a single note on a piano just like this (imitating the sound, bump) it would ring in the air (imitating the sound, bump) if you do this with a Hammond it goes (bup), it's just bup, so if you want to play legato smoothly on the piano, you use your fingers of course but you also have a pedal which will sustain the sound for you, whereas with the organ you don't have a sustaining pedal, so it's a different way of fingering and a different way of playing. I must say that when I started playing the Hammond in the 60s, it destroyed my piano technique and then when I started playing the piano again more seriously in the mid-90s I went back to the piano and I discovered that my technique was compromised, so I had to work very hard to get my piano technique back, and now I think I have a way of playing both, without one hurting the other, but the techniques are very different.

  7. You were the co-founder and member of Deep Purple (from 1968 to 2002) and also a member of Whitesnake (I think from 1978 to 1984).

  8. 1983 I think.

    AM : 83, sorry OK, what are your best memories with these 2 bands ?

    There are two great periods for me with Deep Purple, maybe three, but the two great periods to me are 69,70,71, these first three years with Ian Gillan and Roger Glover in the band, when we invented something, (c) Copyright we discovered something very real and very exciting and I think very good, I'm very proud of it, so that period to me is very important. Then the reunion 84-85, those two years were also enormous fun to be back together with these five guys in the same room, smiling at each other, this was wonderful, so those two periods I think were the best. My time in Whitesnake was really, it was like being on holiday, I didn't really have much of a role, not much of a part to play in Whitesnake, I was just a keyboard player, and it was David's band and I was really only suppose to stay for a couple of years, but two years went into three years, and three years went into four years, then five years. I was in the band and I got a phone call from Ian Gillan, after I had decided to leave Whitesnake in 1973 I had had enough, I didn't think I was adding anything, I didn't like the direction that David was taking the band into this more American rock style, I love the original style of Whitesnake, the white rhythm'n'blues style which I found very exciting, very interesting, very humorous, good fun, because that's the music I started to play when I was a young man, my first band was a rhythm'n'blues band so you know this kind of music is in my blood, so when Whitesnake started to change I started to lose my excitement with the band, then I got a phone call from Ian Gillan which changed the whole world, he said would you like to reform the band and I said when? Now. yes, come on, let's do it!

  9. Are you still in touch with them ?
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    Oh yeah. I've got a lovely e-mail from them on tour because it was my birthday last week or the week before, and I got e-mails from the two Ian's and a phone call from Roger.

    AM : If they ask you one day to be their guest for a show, will you accept the invitation ?

    Yeah, I think so, I mean it depends what they invited me for, if it's just for a little bit of fun, yes, that seems a good idea. I've done it because I've played with them a couple of times, twice in London, once in Tokyo, and I'm playing with them again in a couple of weeks time, we're playing on the same stage. I don't know if I will be playing with them, they will have to ask me.

  11. You left these two bands I guess to discover something else, to work on other projects, to see what you could do in music ?

  12. Very much so, when I was walking back from the soundcheck, just a few minutes ago, I was thinking to myself you know, how lucky I am to be able to really play what I want. I think I've earned it, I've been performing, a traveling musician for over 45 years, (c) Copyright it's a huge long time and a lot of work and a lot of stress, a lot of good times and bad times, a lot of mediocre times but mostly good, and I think what I thought when I left at the end of 2002 that I would first just sit down and think to see what I could do with my life, I knew only this, that for me continuing with Deep Purple was a law of diminishing returns. I was getting less and less from the music and it was costing me more and more energy, so the return was not right and also I think the most important thing that maybe my performance certainly had begun to slip down a little bit, certainly not far enough to be bad, but to the point where I thought I'm just doing this by numbers in a way, most nights were just repeating and it seemed that the element of improvisation was going a little bit out of the band, what we had when we made Purpendicular in 94 with Steve Morse, it was just fantastic. By 2001-2002 the feeling for me, I'm not blamig the band, this is not their fault, this is my fault, I really thought that I needed to do something else, and I wasn't quite sure what it was but I knew there was a lot of music I wanted to write, there was a lot of things that I had to say no to, when I wanted to really say yes, so it was an opportunity to say yes a little bit more.

  13. You work with rock bands but also classical orchestras, so two different kinds of music and two different worlds and people. Are these two worlds very different ? People very different ?
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    Well the answer is basically the same, the answer is both yes and no. Yes on some levels and no on other levels. Let's deal with the no first. People in an orchestra are still performing musicians and they still have hearts and souls and beliefs and the desire to be as good as they possibly can be. They are playing mainly, 99 percent of what they play is written down, so they are trying to make the music live off of the page, to take it off of the page and make it live, and of course their way of arriving at their position is different, they study normally several years at the conservatoire or music school or university, whatever it may be, and the competition for places in orchestra is huge and so these are just as emotional and strong feeling musicians as a rock, blues or jazz musician, it's just obviously a difference in style and in content of course, but in the end, what we are doing as musicians is trying to convey emotion to get to you, inside you, from my heart to talk to your heart not so much from my mind to talk to your mind, and I think that it is the same if you are a violonist in a symphony orchestra or a guitarist in a rock band.

  15. You are working on the definitive studio recording of Concerto for Group and Orchestra, can you talk about it ?

  16. Yes. What I wanted to do, I've done so much work on it, in the last four or five years. I've played it now sixty, seventy maybe eighty times in these last eight years, ten years. I've worked really hard on the score to make it the best I can to take the advantage of how much better a composer I am now, than I was when I was 28 years old, I know much more (c) Copyright about the orchestra, how to make it sound, how it works and I thought, forgive me for sounding a little immodest, but I think it's a good piece, I think it has work to do, it says something very definite, it's very much a love letter from me to two musical loves of my life, the orchestra and the rock band and it's very much me saying we can play together, we really can, if we forget about our differences, and of course these days is much more normal to play much more than it was in 1969, when I wrote it. So what I wanted to do was to have the definitive recording in a studio because it has two live recordings but I wanted to do it in studio conditions so that I had complete control over the sound and the performance. We did it and now I'm working on finishing it and I am going to use different guitarists for each movement. We want to use a more bluesy one for the central movement and several people have said they would like to play on it, so I'm waiting to see which is the best, not the best three but the three that are most right for it. Then maybe when I do know then is that after I'm gone this recording would be there and the score would be there and it would say exactly what I wanted there, so people in a hundred years time if they want to play it, they would know exactly how it is supposed to be played, I wanted very much to have this definitive recording and I was very lucky to be get it done this summer.

  17. Jon, you are a composer and you have a long experience in this field, so could you explain how do you manage to compose a song, how do you find the inspiration, how does it work ?

  18. Well, if you find out, perhaps you let me know! (laughing). I have no idea, you know, sometimes it comes to me in the middle of the night, I wake up and think, oh what was that, just rattling around in my head. So it's very annoying for my wife, because I try to be very quiet to find a little bit of paper, and she says : Put the light on! you know, and I write it down, or when I'm walking with the dog or on my own in the fields, or improvising playing the piano, sometimes it's just a good idea that comes on its own, and other times it's just maybe "un morceau" and you have to work on it, to make it grow, to make it live, and refine, so there's inspiration and there's perspiration, they both go (c) Copyright hand in hand. I love the process, I adore the process of you know sitting with a piece of blank paper and a pencil and then suddenly, oh that's an idea let's see where this goes, I love that, it's one of the great joys of being a musician.

    AM : What do you think is the most difficult thing for a young musician and a composer ?

    The most difficult thing for a young musician is to find acceptance, because there are so many of us, and the most difficult thing is to remain patient and to keep working and hoping that something will happen, I think that must be the most difficult. I was very lucky, I mean I work for nearly five years as a musician before Deep Purple. It was hard work and nothing happened, I had a moderate bit of success with the first band, we had one record, just went in to the charts one week and then went down again. When I wrote Concerto for Group and Orchestra I was hugely lucky that it had actually got performed, otherwise it could just have been an idea on a piece of paper in a drawer and it could have stayed there forever. Luck plays an important part, but it's very difficult to say to a young musician maybe you'll get lucky, so what you have to say is that all you must do is be ready for when your moment comes, in other words, you work, you work, you work, you practice, you practice, you parctice, so when your moment comes, if it comes, you are as good as you can possibly be, that's really all you can hope for.

    AM : It is also maybe to create a sound, your own sound.

    Absolutely, certainly in the world of popular music, such as blues, jazz and rock, it's very important to be seen as an individual, but you can't just look in the mirror and go, okay I'm going to be an individual. So this again is all part of the work process, I think you have to work hard in order to discover something about yourself that you think is different to somebody else.

  19. You're in France for a unique show. Could you please explain the concept of your tonight show, Jon Lord Blues Project ?

  20. It all started last year. Pete York the drummer called me and said look I have been asked, there's a Blues festival, where was it ? Somewhere in Germany in the Rhineland, and they would like us to play, you and me, and I said what ? Well he said that, it's a Blues Festival, because we had played Blues gigs before Peter and myself (c) Copyright in the eighties and the nearly nineties, we did a few, and he said would you fancy that ? I said sure. So we decided we will ask Miller Anderson, Colin Hodgkinson, Zoot Money, and Maggie Bell and it would seem like a good idea, so we went to this Blues festival near Koblenz in the Rhineland in Germany, and we absolutely thoroughly enjoyed ourselves we had the most marvellous evening, just playing the music that he and I and all of us in this band had played since we were first musicians, you know this good, old-fashioned, honest rhythm'n'blues, with no pretention, no show, it's just six musicians who love each other, love each other's music and who want to play together and want to say to the audience listen we think you'll like this, come on, come inside. So we dit that and then we were asked to do another one, so we did that, then there are promoters around calling my agency saying would Jon do this for us ? And suddenly you know If you put my name on the poster maybe more people would come down, more than if it was just Miller on the poster or Pete, only because of my previous success. I'm happy about that, and it's really revisiting my past, I love it, there's no hassle, no stress, there's just pure enjoyment, it's hard work of course, you have to play and sweat and make it move, make it happen but my goddess me I'm having fun, I think by the end of this year I would have done eighteen or twenty of these concerts and next year, people are already calling, so maybe I have to become a R'n'B musician again for a couple of years before I can go back to being a composer.

  21. When you don't tour and don't write music, what are your hobbies, what do you like to do ?
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    Hobbies, I don't know whether you call them hobbies, the boring answer for you is that unfortunately music is not just my life, it's my hobby too, I love it, you know, I love to read about it, I love to read history of music, the life of the composers, to learn more about this style and that style, so that in a way is a hobby, I love to read. I love to ski, but not as much as I used to, I can't go as fast as I used to, I can go as fast as I used to, but I don't want to go as fast, because I am a little worried what will happen if I fell over, once you get to my sort of age you don't particularly want to be falling over at sixty kilometers an hour you know, but I do love to ski.

    AM : Do you ski in France ?

    I have skied in France, I've skied in Les 3 Vallées, several times, but my normal skiing takes place in Zermatt in Southern Switzerland in the valley.

  23. I think in the 60's you intended to be an actor ?
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    AM : You did a Drama School.

    I went to, two and a half years, at a drama School. I loved acting, but you know when I left drama school I was one of maybe 500 actors looking for 50 jobs, so I didn't get to do much acting, I get a couple of things in a historical play I stood with a spear or said something like : Ah...the king is coming, you know, but one line. So I was playing the piano to earn a little bit of money to survive, and here I am.

  25. What are your plans or wishes for the future ?
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    Plans, really just to continue to play where people ask me to. For the foreseeable future I have requests to play my orchestral shows, to come to play Concertos, to come to play the Sarabande suite, to come to play with the Blues Project, to play the smaller shows that I sometimes do with just piano, violin, cello, percussion and a couple of voices, just maybe in a church, that sort of chamber, crossover. I don't know what you would call it, so my wishes are that I wish and hope that people continue to ask me to play. I hope I stay healthy, I am healthy, so let's hope, I touch wood that I stay healthy, that my family stay healthy, that music doesn't go crazy, that people still remember that it's a performance idiom. Of course you record it, of course you play it on your computer, you play it on your Ipod, God knows what you'll be playing on in ten years time, maybe you'll be playing on your spectacles, who knows, but it's still, good music is about performing, about touching the hearts of an audience, so I hope that I can continue to do that for as long as possible.

    AM : Thank you very much for your time.

    It's great pleasure.

    AM : We wish you a great gig tonight, in this beautiful venue.

    Thank you very much, you're welcome.

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(c) Copyright Jon Lord
(c) Blues à Jarnioux
(c) Blues à Jarnioux