Dave Thompson
Author: Smoke On The Water

An Exclusive Interview

Q] - You mention in the beginning that your introduction to Deep Purple was on Top Of The Pops. What was it that drew you to the band at such a young age and [obviously] kept you interested over the past 35 years

To be honest, it was probably the combination of noise (we didn't get a lot of that on TOTP at the time), scruffiness (ditto) and a very catchy chorus.  As for staying interested... well, you know what they say about first loves.

Q] Did you see the band in concert much throughout the '70s and '80s, and what were some of the most memorable gigs you attended?

Apart from the thrill of actually being there... the earlier Gillan shows were the best; once Coverdale went, I think I went more out of habit than anything else (oops, should I be admitting that?)

Q] What are you personal favorite Purple eras or albums, as well as any underrated recordings?

Favourite - obviously the In Rock/Machine Head/Made In Japan period, although I do have an inexplicable soft spot for "Come Taste The Band".  Under-rated - most of the post-reunion albums deserve more fans (outside of the Purple fanatic universe) than they've actually received. 

Q] When did you begin writing and gathering interviews on the band?

That's been on on-going affair for the last 20-odd years - whenever I talked to someone with any connection to the band, I'd make sure a few questions went in. Then it was just a matter of saving them all up somewhere safe.

Q] Can you share some of your memorable interview experiences? Was there any difficulties or anyone who refused to talk DP over the years?  Anyone you would've liked to talk with, but were unable to for whatever reason?

Ritchie Blackmore refused... so did people involved with the "fake" Purple.  Some of the best interviews were generally the ones that I originally thought were completely peripheral... people like Bernie Torme, Ray Fenwick... and Roger Glover, of course, who is one of the most entertaining people I've ever talked to.  Memorable experiences - interviewing Gillan for a fanzine I was writing for back in 1980, being kept waiting around some ghastly little club in London for HOURS, and finally stomping over to the road manager to complain bitterly, at which point Gillan walked over and was the Nicest Person In The World.

Q] What were a few of the most interesting revelations or tidbits you learned while researching for this book?

The formation of the band was fascinating, I thought - especially once I discovered that the guy who put them together had tried to involve the future Mott The Hoople first.  The fake Purple is an intriguing tale, as well... and bag up to date, the band's relationship with the shuttle astronauts.

Q] The one particularly interesting chapter i found was the bogus DP of 1980. How were you able to find so much on that line-up, baring in mind very little has been mentioned of this dark period in the past?

Ah, good.  A lot of digging, and seeking out friends-of-friends-of-friends who knew someone who was somehow involved.  There was also a surprising amount of detail published at the time, in places the band visited; and, of course, the court documents filled in a lot of gaps.

Q] How did you approach writing and editing everything down, seeing as your's is a very detailed history of the band, minus a lot of dirt or rumours?

Well, the dirt and the rumours were the first thing to go... after that, my main concern was (a) to keep it chronological; and (b) keep it relevant - the idea was to tell the story of an era, as much as that of a band, cause-and-effect is a very underrated factor in a band's development, so I mapped that out in my mind first, then filled in the gaps.  If that makes sense.

Q] How has feedback been to your book from DP fans as well as current or past bandmembers [any responses from the band]??

Fans have been generally supportive - there's been a few grumbles that there's too much about the peripheral bands, at the expense of (as one person put it) analysing every song, but they're a minority.   Haven't heard a word from the band, past or present....

Q]  How do you feel about the present day DP [w/ Morse & Airey] and how it stands up against the band's 70s line-ups, which generally still get more credit in rock history?

To be honest, I've only seen the current line-up once, and wasn't especially impressed - Airey's great, but he's a different style of player to Lord, and I was surprised at how much difference that made.  The band have always been able to get over that in other instrumental departments (vocals, guitar, bass)... it's only when you lose Lord, I think, that you realise just how integral to everything he was. 

Q] Have you or are you writing any other books these days?

Just finishing up a biography of David Bowie; and just starting on a guide to/history of rock management with Andrew Loog Oldham.

Q] What's been the most satisfying experience of writing Smoke On The Water?

Actually getting it written and published, after two decades of simply wishing I could....


Interview: Kevin J. Julie / Universal Wheels, Fall 2005