Ritchie on Rainbow 2016
Ritchie was interviewed for the January edition of the Dutch rock magazine Aardschok.
You’ve put together a group of new musicians for the new Rainbow incarnation. Why not a more famous singer for example?
Ritchie: The whole idea was to find good musicians. Of course there were many familiar names around, but this idea didn’t appeal to me. Unlike many others, I prefer to discover new musicians who can add a fresh approach to my music. It’s great to present new musicians to the public. The singer Ronnie Romero is complete unknown. He’s 34 and I’m sure that he’ll have a great career in this scene. He is orginally from Chile, but lives in Spain. Bassist Bob Nouveau is from Connecticut, and Jens is a known and respected keyboard-player. It’s very easy to work with him, because he’s so experienced. With drummers I always tend to be very selective. For instance, I do not like to work with showmen. On stage I need a groove and a lot of these so called ‘famous’ drummers often rely more on the show element than on feel. I know many guys who can make their sticks fly and use sixteen bass drums, but who are mediocre when it comes to music. David Keith however has a great feel for rhythm.
Are you surprised about the big hype about it in the media?
Ritchie: It’s always nice to know that people are interested in what I do for a living. I have always taken this interest with a grain of salt. In my career I have played the biggest venues and festivals, but also played in the tiniest clubs for selective crowds. Intuitively it is all about the playing. My own effort is what counts most, not publicity or sales.
At one time Rainbow was one of the most famous bands in hard rock. About twenty years ago, the interest for this music died away, but now the demand for classic rock has aquired unprecedented dimensions. Currently, the name “Rainbow” seems to be bigger than ever before. What do you think about that?
Ritchie: I never think about how good or bad things are going in a group. I’m just trying to create music of a high-quality standart. My music never really got into the charts. I think the most important thing is to believe in yourself. I think that Rainbow made some memorable albums, which aren’t less appreciated than any Deep Purple album. Both groups were advanced for their time. The nostalgia aspect certainly has a role in the upcoming shows. Some people will use this project to check if I can still do it, while others will probably see it as an opportunity to see me on a bigger stage once again. I don’t want to sound morbid, but I do believe that thoughts like these come with the age that I have. I turned 70 and that has its disadvantages. Have a sore back or stiff fingers on stage is no fun. However, all this comes totally from myself. There were moments, a few years ago, when I thought of how much fun it would be to play some of the old songs again. However, the longer I thought about it the less appealing it all became. It was not until I found out about Ronnie that the whole idea came back again and when I started realizing the idea. He has a great voice and his fresh input is what gave me the final push. I am quite demanding when it comes to singers, but with Ronnie is absolutely feels good. This guy has a great future in the scene. He sounds like a perfect fit for this job because he has a voice that reminds of Dio but is versatile enough to also handle the Gillan songs well.
How did you get in touch with the musicians?
Ritchie: Ronnie was contacted by my wife, Candice, and she briefly told him about my plans. Then the manager took care of all the business matters. Before we spoke to Jens, we had been negotiating with David Rosenthal, because of his past in Rainbow. But he was unavailable due to his work as a musical director for Billy Joel. I was offered to work with a variety of well-known names, but, as I said, I refused all the offers. I deliberately decided to choose fresh blood. However, due to the fact that all the musicians come from all over the world, we have to develop a strategy for our rehearsals. Our next rehearsal session will be held in April or May.
What can you tell us about the set for these shows?
Ritchie: The setlist will be Rainbow songs for about 70% including Stargazer, because appearently that’s a song everybody wants to hear. About 30% will be Deep Purple songs. We will focus on the best known songs. The Dio-era will be a central part of the show, but we will also play songs from the Joe Lynn Turner- and Graham Bonnet periods. As far as Purple is concerned; we will play the Gillan-era but will also play something from the David Coverdale period.
But why only 3 concerts?
Ritchie: I deliberately chose to only give three concerts, to see if I’m still able to do this. Of course, there have been a lot of attractive offers, especially from Sweden and Finland. However, we must remember that I have already planned a German tour for Blackmore’s Night in July. As you know, after I suspended the activities of Rainbow, I became very interested in playing Renaissance music. To move back to the electrics from the acoustics, won’t be easy. I’ve rarely played rock music in the last years, and before these shows I have to cut my nails short. Because when I play this other music, I need long nails. Five days after the last Rainbow show, there’ll already be the first Blackmore’s Night show, so it’s unclear if I will have enough time to grow my nails back. If it won’t work so fast, I have to rely on false plastic nails. I never had this problem before, but I’m glad that I can help me out.
How big are the chances for more Rainbow shows?
Ritchie: Hard to say. If we enjoy ourselves and the audience gives us a positive vibe back, then I won’t rule out the possibility of continuing. However, the second round of dates will probably take place in 2017. But the crucial factor will be the chemistry between the musicians and the audience reaction. These shows will be recorded on video, so that we can release it later on. But my heart will always belong to Renaissance music.
You are considered as an explosive and aggressive person. Are you really like that, or is just a mask you put on, when you’re in public?
Ritchie: Not really… The whole Rock n’ Roll scene is largely based and driven by stress and aggression. Renaissance music, on the other hand, is based on passion and melancholy.
How would you describe the old Rainbow singers?
Ritchie: Ronnie James Dio had a very powerful and strong voice, and because of his experience of playing the trumpet, he also had mastered the art of phrasing. Graham Bonnet had a very large range. I was always amazed of his singing in “Only One Woman”, his world hit in 1968 with The Marbles. Joe Lynn Turner had a commercial voice. We became very succesful in the US because of his voice. His voice is suitable for romantic ballads, but he could also handle all the hard rock songs very easily. Joe sounded like the singer of Foreigner, and I think that because of this, Foreigner sold a lot more records (laughs).
What do you think of the endless series of reissues of Deep Purple and Rainbow albums?
Ritchie: It infuriates me constantly! Of course, it’s true that I get a lot of money from these releases. But I believe that this is pure robbery! Every time they release the same record under a different name or with a different cover, I’m starting to get angry. My management can’t do anything against it. When possible, we try to prevent it. But most of the times we don’t have the rights to do so. We simply have no way to control it.