Dear Friends

DF 37 - Poland, Gillan's Inn and all points in between

April 2005

Dear Friends,

We went to stay with my pal Tommy Dzuibinski in Poland over the New Year. The first day was spent in Crakow, exploring the salt mines, the castle and the cathedral. We lunched at Schindler's café, in the Jewish quarter. Then spent five days in Wisla (pronounced Viswa) in the mountains near the Czech border.

Hiking through the mountain snow. Mad, vodka-fuelled sleigh riding - a moonlit spree on New Year's Eve, galloping alongside the river, jingle bells keeping some sort of frenzied beat. Eating delicious barbecued somethings and jumping across the fire followed by an even more demented ride home. The driver was too drunk to handle the horses but more than drunk enough to sing gloriously. We lost a guy who fell asleep and dropped off the back of the sleigh - he wouldn't have lasted an hour in that temperature - it was minus quite a bit - had he not been spotted by someone who noticed the chill as he went missing from a shared blanket.

There was more of the same over the next few days and nights. Drinking hot beer in a shed and then dropping in to visit neighbours in the forest and sharing their soup and zeppelins before walking home to start all over again back at Tommy's modest four storey, six bedroom log cabin - or chateau more like.

Emerging later from the sauna to sit naked at the bar in the glow of a blazing wood fire, swapping road stories with our gracious host, who is the proud possessor of the finest pair of cajones north of Madrid.

Yes, Poland over the New Year is definitely the place to be.

Relative to a movie I have never seen - possibly called the Twelve Commandments - I was asked by my daughter Grace…. If I had the opportunity - i.e. a loaded gun in my pocket - would I put a bullet in Adolf Hitler's head, had I met him when he was nineteen years old, knowing full well what he was going to do later in life?

I told her no I wouldn't, because that would be the same as killing her, and myself for that matter. Had I killed Hitler, then there might not have been a war; almost certainly my English mother would not have met my Scottish father, who would surely not have joined the army in peacetime.

I would not have been born and nor would Grace etc etc.

That, in the short term, would probably have been of no real consequence, but then again who would ever have known. This is the essence of Chaos theory.

If I had shot a bullet into the young Hitler's head, then most would agree it would have been a good thing to put the mad dog down; knowing what he had in mind for later.

However you have to assume that most of the heinous acts that were to follow weren't actually in his mind during his early years; just the dull aching horror of it all festering in his diabolical belly. Visions of Mussolini and Ceausescu flash up on the wall - dangling by their giblets as a warning to all - ah, but that was later.

But that's not all we did in Costa Rica, we didn't just talk about Hitler and Chaos theory. Our second and longer family holiday was in Punta Islita on the Pacific coast. Three weeks in paradise. There was great excitement during the first night. What's that? Ch ch ch ch ch WAAAAAAAAH!!! A lizard that's all - we found out the next day. Gradually we became familiarised with the creatures around us, into who's world we had arrived with a sense of wonder and respect.

What to us were exotic species, existed in normal abundance in this undisturbed part of the world. No high rise hotels here, no discos or jet skis; but howler monkeys and leaf insects, humming birds and vultures, squirrels, parrots and spiders and bugs that crawled all over me - but were generally benign. Everywhere you looked there were lizards and snakes, stingrays and spiny normans (that's B-speak for sea anemones). I didn't see a crocodile but met a man that had.

Grace put out a small offering of fruit to entice the mystery monster back to the gap in the hedge and we were excited to see what was described to us later as a common opossum. Wearing a grimy T-shirt and a pair of manky flip-flops, he looked over and said 'Alright mate - Ah's it goin?' through a mouthful of apple whilst stashing the rotten remains into his bumbag - that opossum truly was common.

'Nothing Compares To You' by Sinead O'Connor was put on high rotation by the local radio station. Probably as a warning of an impending disaster - certainly people were running away in all directions. But nothing happened until everyone returned thinking it was safe - only for the horror to be repeated. How she got past the auditions at the village hall for the heats in an earlier version of the X-Factor is completely beyond me - she's flatter than Holland; and I should know, I go skiing in the Dutch Alps every year - first week in July.

Earlier the vodka froze, which is unusual. The coffee froze too and the ice cream was vanilla granite. I tried to adjust the thermostat but the knob was frozen. So we all took turns blowing on it and after a while everything was cool again.

I was canoeing one day, a squadron of pelicans passed overhead and I lay back on my kayak to watch them. Wondering at the implausibility of these scraggy chevrons in flight - if you watch the way they feed all day it's hard to imagine them being so graceful in the air. The technique is something to behold - hovering twenty feet above the surf they will spot their target, fold their wings and plunge like stones, face first into four inches of water - legs and feathers everywhere, quite amazing really and very funny.

Before dinner one evening I backed out of my shower cubicle with foam in my hair and rinsed off in the basin, out of respect for a Costa Rican arachnid that had been caught in the torrent and was drowning. What am I doing? I thought to myself, the whole thing's a mess - poor little eight legged blighter struggling for life whilst I kneel dripping on the tiles praying for its salvation. A wiggle of a leg and a wretched shudder gave me hope and I shut the door - my past experience with a dragonfly encouraged me to let fate take its course.

Next day the room was wiped clean by the maid and Jeff had gone; I hope he escaped back to his loved ones, down the drain into whatever labyrinth exists under there in Spiderworld.

There was horse riding too and the great experience of sliding down the zip lines through the canopy of the forest. I will return to that place.

Holiday reading:

A Short History of Nearly Everything - Bill Bryson
The Complete Short Stories of - Ambrose Bierce
Millennium People -J.G. Ballard
His Dark Materials (the trilogy) - Philip Pullman - (Introduced to me by my friend Sarah Cross and devoured by us all).
The Curious Incident of The Dog in The Night-Time - Mark Haddon
Wilt in Nowhere - Tom Sharpe
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas - Hunter S. Thompson (I was going to say R.I.P. but I doubt he will, and nor will anyone else down there now - I can't wait to meet the man).
Love All The People - Bill Hicks
The Sense of Being Stared At - Rupert Sheldrake

So we waved goodbye in San Jose and I went to the North Pole, well it seemed like that as I landed in Toronto, little knowing what to expect a couple of hours later when I got to Buffalo NY - it was even colder. My friend R. Bruce was right; my nipples fell off and shattered on the ground the moment I reached the southern side of the Peace Bridge.

The purpose of this trip was to start work on my new record - Gillan's Inn. The early decisions had been made - we knew what tracks to record, who was to be the producer, which musicians to invite as guests etc. Since 5th November 1965 when I signed my first record contract (Pye Records) with Episode Six, I have recorded quite a lot of material and written over three hundred songs.

My manager Phil Banfield suggested I did something special for my anniversary year. I have a birthday of some kind in August and I've been on the road for forty years - a bit more than that to tell the truth.

The idea developed, and I started selecting songs from over the years, starting with The Javelins (in 1962). We never made a recording in a studio or otherwise - not until many years later - so I chose 'Can I get a Witness' an old Marvin Gaye record that we used to cover.

From the Episode era I opted for 'I'll be your baby tonight' the Dylan song that we used to do live.

After that we move into the self-penned, co-written songs that came to life in '69 and onwards.

I decided the project would be called Gillan's Inn after the infamous pub sign that hangs over the piano in my poolroom at home - and occasionally takes to the road.

I called my buddy Michael Jackson (Michael Lee Jackson, MLJ), who lives in Buffalo NY and he came on board as my creative manager. He's a pretty mean banjo player too, and that turned out to be a wee bonus, as you will hear when the record's out. Michael rehearsed some great musicians in preparation for recording the basic tracks in Toronto (Mississauga actually) at Metal Works Studios, and also at a studio in Buffalo that was to become known as The Nipple Farm - it keeps me amused. The phrase 'wild and crazy' doesn't do justice to the night visions I had during that week. I don't know if it was the music or the blizzards, or possible even the embracing room in which I was sleeping.

It seemed that my three alter egos - Papa G, Libido Galactica and Garth Rockett - had conspired to raise their profiles and create some sort of spiritual troilism against which it seemed futile to resist... and why would I?

During our time in Buffalo I got to know a great bunch of people who were generous and friendly. We found our local - a few actually, but one particular place to where we repaired most nights after work. It is known as 'The Old Pink' (don't ask); there was good music, good company and good beer to be had there every night, until late. This establishment is going to be the image for Gillan's Inn, as it has all the necessary ingredients. I must mention Bob Mussell for his inspiration and brilliant photographs. He has other skills too that are essential to the well-being of a project such as ours.

Once or twice we slipped across the border to Fort Erie - for the ballet!!

You may have noticed that we have opened a new section here at Caramba to keep you up to date with information about Gillan's Inn. There is much more to come in that section.

The next stop was deep in the English countryside at Jacobs Studios, Nr. Farnham in Surrey. We took up residence for a week and went through the schedule. All the musicians arrived at the right time - and most of them on the right day - amazing.

It was a thrill and an honour when these friends turned up to play on my record: Janick Gers, Steve Morris, Don Airey, Dean Howard, Cliff Bennett, Michael Lee, Ian Paice, Roger Glover and Jon Lord. And then there was the guy from the pub…

Nick Blagona (my producer: A on P, Perfect Strangers etc. - see notes in the GI section, go back to front page) MLJ and myself were having a bite and a beer in the local pub, when we heard this violin turn into Hendrix. There was a duo (Kindred Spirit) playing in the corner of the bar - an interesting mixture of folk and rock. The guy's name was Sim Jones (orchestra leader, teacher and violinist extraordinaire). MLJ asked him if he would like to come back to the studio and take a pass at 'Smoke'. Well he did - one take - and you will hear the result eventually. Fortunately he had a car, it was Easter and we couldn't get a cab until 11.30pm, so he gave us a lift back to the studio - thanks Sim.

I noticed that Steve Morris cut his finger during the session. During 'Smoke', when he saw me looking at his dripping neck, he said nonchalantly 'Look, I'm bleeding for you now Ian.' A week or so later I was on the phone to him and said 'Did you manage to get all that blood off your guitar?' He said 'I put on three coats of varnish, it's there forever mate!'

Jeff Healey in Toronto, later at Metal Works, recording 'Blind Man' as well as 'Smoke' - almost everyone is on Smoke - made us all shiver with the realisation that we were witnessing something very special. Jon Lord had already recorded his part in England and now we were hearing the guitar complete the magic. The two together were very moving and already more than we had dreamed of when we pencilled in the idea of putting together Jon and Jeff on that track.

After the first and second takes there was a spontaneous expression of approval and I remember saying something like 'Jeff, that is just fabulous'.

'That is much appreciated' he replied, then - after a small pause for effect - 'I'll let you know when I agree with you.' Sure enough he delivered the perfect solo on the next take.

Nick and Michael still have some more sessions - Joe Satriani and Ronnie James Dio - in the USA, and we're waiting for some other promised parts - no pressure boys.

Now I am in Los Angeles with the rest of the guys commencing work on the new Deep Purple record. Ian Paice has figured out why Ritchie was so grumpy for so many years - it was a pre-minstrel thing apparently. Ah, the usual banter as we search for places to do our laundry and fill our fridges with snacks.

It's always a good feeling to be at the start of a new project and back in the studio with my Purple mates.

The Idiocracy: Yes I hadn't forgotten.

One day whilst we were working at Metal Works Studios in Mississauga ONT, putting down the bed tracks for Gillan's Inn we nipped out for refreshments to a supermarket called Bob Lobslaw (not really).

I spotted a basket of healthy looking brasil nuts that prompted me to mention the fact that entire brasil nuts like these were now illegal in the EU.

'Why?' said Nick Blagona
'Because the shells are supposed to be toxic - according to the regulators.'
'Oh, we don't eat the shells in Canada' explained Nick
'Neither do we' said I.

In reply to Akiko Hada (who does such a brilliant job with our Japanese translations here at Caramba!) when she questioned the tense of a French word that I'd used in a previous DF, I replied to her…

… 'I am sure you are right about the Anglais(e) as my Franglais(e) is crepe.'

The other day I read in The Times about an Englishman who has become an expert - and something of a pedant along the way no doubt - upon the gender of French rivers.

Now I enjoy a bit of 'Ou Le La!!!' the same as everyone else, but the constructive suffocation of a proscriptive language is just one more reason to enjoy the freedom while it lasts. Have you noticed how, in the world of common everything - fishing, agriculture, currency etc. - there is very little mention of a Common Language. Now why haven't they thought of that? We know they have of course; it's just that those who can only see grey in the spectrum of life, those who should be ripped from office and cast penniless on to their streets of no fun, don't envisage that language being English.

Puzzled and angry at the failure of Esperanto - yes it's the same idiots who devised that vacuous hybrid lingua futile - now they are working on some obscure Walloon dialect that will become the template for the new and compulsory language - or Europrattle as it will be called. It is already working its way through the system and will be upon us before we know it.

The English will take to it like a duck to pate whilst the rest will ignore the regulations; as they always do when those regulations provide even a moment of inconvenience.

As I was travelling through Russia last autumn I saw an immediate way to help bring that country's economy in from the cold. Just check out the price of mistletoe these days, it became quite a rare commodity not long ago - almost endangered I've heard. Well the Russian and Ukrainian trees are groaning with the stuff, and all easy pickings along the roadside. Hundreds of tons of mistletoe; must be worth billions.

A similar theory fell flat on its face some years ago when I tried to exploit the over-abundance of oxygen plant in my pond. I took a Volvo full of it to the local pet shop where they were charging a pound for a single strand. I told them I'd discount the load at fifty per cent if they took the lot for 25 grand. They gave me a short lecture on the effects of supply upon demand - then told me to bugger off.

Oh yes, the (contract) rider as we call it and some recent snide criticisms from the unenlightened. The rider (there are many) referred to, is the list of extra items that we need to have in our hospitality and dressing rooms. These are things that we can't carry around with us - in the category refreshments.

We make no demands from anyone - least of all our beloved promoters and we pay for every single item; our management does not encourage profligacy.

I remember some young oink reporter coming to my undressing room for an interview.

'Wot! Is all this for just you??' He remarked upon spotting the deli spread.

'Er - no' I replied, somewhat taken aback with his nastiness. 'We normally like to offer some hospitality to our guests, including media types' - getting back into my stride - 'but as you are no longer welcome here it might last five minutes longer when the other gannets arrive; there's the door.'

He left with a scowl and an aggravated hatred of all things beyond his comprehension.

What ever happened to EMI?

Financial Times, Tuesday 8th Feb 2005

Headline on the front page of the Companies and Markets Section

EMI shares fall 16% on profits warning.

EMI's shares lost 16% yesterday, after the world's third largest music group said music sales for the year to March 31 would be 8-10 per cent down on the previous year and pre-tax profits before exceptional items would fall by about 15 per cent.

The announcement prompted Standard and Poor's, the credit rating agency, to place EMI on credit watch for a possible downgrade to junk status...

Fact: Deep Purple sold around 150,000 tickets in the UK alone, at the beginning and end of the 'Bananas' tour that covered about 38 countries in 18 months and played to millions around the world. EMI, in the UK, pressed - and sold easily - 18,000 copies. They refused point blank to produce any more.

I couldn't in all fairness even paraphrase the reasons they gave to our management and - even more insultingly - to our friends in Cologne, because those reasons are beyond my comprehension. But I do wonder if they have ever had to explain this sort of thing to the shareholders, who might be baffled at the decision to pass, on - at a conservative guess - the potential of half a million pounds worth of gross sales in one territory, and that from a band that has generated in excess of one billion pounds of income from the public into the coffers of the industry as a whole over the last thirty five years (not that we've seen much of it you understand).

One other thing - I think most of us on the creative side were appalled at the rejection by our industry of the Internet potential when it emerged quite a few years ago. That's what happens when you fire your bright people and rely upon your suits. Had IT been embraced instead of being seen as a threat then…ah, what then? We are back to the bullet in Hitler's brain - we'd probably all be dead, so thank you EMI. What's done is done.

Enough, we move on. DP is no longer with EMI and - if the silly grin on Bruce Payne's face is anything to go by - the future looks very bright indeed, in the category - new record company; but that's for him to announce. (BP is our beloved manager).

However I would like to say a great big thank you from me and I'm sure on behalf of all of us who have had the privilege of working with some wonderful and enthusiastic music people over the years, within EMI and others. Not only in England but especially in Germany and also in all the other territories. To all of our mates there may I say, cheers…it's been fun, and you're always welcome backstage.

I think it's fair to say that my opinion is no more important to me than yours is to you. An opinion is something you can develop after years of consideration or it can be something you just 'have' - like students do; I never met a student without a firm opinion.

And there's nothing wrong with that.

Ian Gillan

Copyright © Ian Gillan 2005

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