Deep Purple's Steve Morse Says, 'It Would Be Nice to See Closure': Interview

Jim Rakete
Deep Purple

Apparently, the time has come for Deep Purple to call it a day. Or at least a day from the big treks around the world, very much like their classic counterparts and fellow Brits, Judas Priest and Black Sabbath, have done. To that purpose, they have embarked on what they've dubbed The Long Goodbye Tour with at least 65 dates around Europe, North America and South America.

To guitarist Steve Morse, it has been quite a journey. The American shred-master effectively took over founding member Ritchie Blackmore's slot in 1994, after the debacle that followed when the reputedly moody guitarist left mid-tour a year earlier prompting the band to provisionally replace him with virtuoso Joe Satriani.

Since then, Morse has clocked more years in the group than the "man in black" himself. His first record with the band was Purpendicular, which also happens to be one of his favorites. "There were no preconceived notions of anything. It was so natural," he shares in a phone interview with Billboard.

Since those days, however, Morse has had to deal with the backlash of fans who want Blackmore's return. And now that the man himself has been quoted saying he'd like to play one last show with the group, "for nostalgia reasons," those angry voices, amplified by social media are screaming now more than ever.

It's not the first time Blackmore has requested to play a one-off. He suggested that the band's manager had blocked him from joining them onstage during the <a href="articles/news/7326479/rock-roll-hall-of-fame-2016-induction-10-moments">2016 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame</a> induction ceremony, and for that he had decided not to attend. The band denied that any previous animosity had anything to do with it, but rather the desire to have "the living, breathing Deep Purple" perform.

That said, the affable Morse is not intimidated by the request: "I am a fan of music. I think a lot of people would love to see this. But it is like the ice has to be broken. I think that once that's done, they'd all have a great time." He does admit however that he doesn't "know how to go about doing that."

In the meantime, his focus is in Purple's parting gift to their fans, which has come in the shape of <a href="articles/columns/rock/7702301/deep-purple-time-for-bedlam-video-premiere">Infinite</a>, their latest studio venture. They laid it down with producer extraordinaire Bob Ezrin, whose credits include working with Pink Floyd, Alice Cooper and Kiss. Ezrin had helmed the group's previous effort, Now What!?, and was up for the follow up, which crystallized as Infinite.

"Bob is a strong guy," Morse shares. "He wants all the music to suit the song. He has an incredible, amazing, computer-like mind. He can remember anything, and he's got really good musical instincts."

This might be the last record for Deep Purple. In what ways do you think you've matured musically since Purpendicular, your first album with the band?

I don't really know if we've matured as much as we evolve. I think the lyrics keep getting better and my guitar playing is more sensitive to the music, the song. Maybe I fit in better. And we have an awesome producer, Bob Ezrin, who we didn't have before. It was just the band and Roger [Glover, bassist]. However, Purpendicular was our first album together, and so there were no preconceived notions or expectations about anything. It was great because it was so natural. Coincidentally, that one and this last record are my favorites.

They are extremes. Purpendicular had no expectations, and in appearance had no outside influence except us guys. Infinite has the best producer we could've got.

You've mentioned in a previous interview that when it comes to soloing, Ezrin doesn't like much what you called your "normal style." Was it difficult to switch?

Bob is a strong guy. He wants all the music to suit the song. So, if I start playing in my normal style, he goes, "No, no, Morse, that sounds like your solo album. C'mon, give me something more melodic or something more simple." He'll challenge me to go differently than I normally would, and he's like a military drill sergeant. He's hard on me, but he also has an incredible, amazing, computer-like mind. He can remember anything, and he's got really good musical instincts. So because of that, I put up with him (laughs).

Ritchie Blackmore has mentioned his interest in playing one last show with the band. How do you feel about that?

Well, he's one of the founding members of Deep Purple. Fans would love it. It would be nice, I think, to see closure with everybody involved, and the bad feelings put aside. I think they'd all get a kick out of it if they could get past the psychological barriers. I am a fan of music, I'm a musician. I am not a politician.

Now, a lot of people would feel intimidated, to have somebody come who's likely to play over them, standing in front of them and stealing the spotlight or whatever. But I thought, a lot of people would love to see this. And at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I thought Ritchie Blackmore was going to show up. He could've played three songs, but I ended up doing them, because he didn't. That was up in the air.

There have been a lot of bad things said and done amongst the guys, and anyhow, it is like the ice has to be broken. I think that once that's done, they'd all have a great time. But I don't know how to go about doing that. Anyway, as far as I am concerned, all members, past and present and future (laughs) of Deep Purple, are welcome.