Gillan: Why I played the Postman Pat theme to Richard Branson
Deep Purple released their album The House Of Blue Light on this day (January 12) in 1987. It marked the studio swansong of the reconstituted Mk II line-up of the band… until Messrs Gillan, Blackmore, Glover, Lord and Paice got back together (with inevitable bouts of acrimony) for The Battle Rages On… in ’92/’93, that is.
A bookworm, author and armchair sports fan, Purple singer Ian Gillan loves messing about in boats, talking to fans on his website and, he tells Jerry Ewing, chewing the fat with pals in the local…
“One of my favourite hobbies is writing. I spend a lot of time writing in my studio. I write short stories, essays, I’ve just finished one book; I spent five years working on another project which I’m about to finish. I think it’s good to express yourself. I liked English at school, although I failed all my GCSEs cos I’d gotten into bands. But I started writing when I was in Episode Six. I was always good at writing letters, then with Roger [Glover] in Episode Six.
“We were on the tour bus the other year, and [guitarist] Steve Morse is a man who practices guitar six hours a day. He asked me: ‘Ian, why are you always doing those crossword puzzles?’ I said: ‘I’m doing exactly the same as you, Steve, I’m practising.’ Ritchie [Blackmore] once said to me: ‘You shouldn’t do any writing until it comes to doing the record.’ It’s like telling an athlete not to train but to save up for the race. It doesn’t make much sense.
“We’ve run out of space for all the books I’ve read. I read everything from the classics to every one of Patrick O’Brien’s books. I read every day – the Telegraph and the Guardian, the Mirror and the Mail.
“The internet continues to amaze me. We dumped the guestbook from my website because you occasionally get some fascist come in and destroy it by saying something stupid. I started this Q&A thing with a promise that I wouldn’t avoid difficult subjects. We’ve had tens of thousands of queries since then. That’s a great way of interacting. There’s been a lot of work gone into that.
“My mother was from a long line of Victorian Conservatives, and my dad worked as a shop steward in a factory – a raving left-winger. So I grew up with these two different ideologies, and always thought fifty per cent of one made sense and fifty per cent of the other, but never all of it.
“I love watching sport on TV. I love cricket, and can quite happily ignore my work and waste away five whole days watching a Test match. At that level it’s brilliant. I’m a huge rugby fan, although again only – like most other people – since England got a great team. I’ve got more and more disenchanted with the game I loved since I was a kid, which was football. I support QPR. I’ve written a lot about football. All that diving, shirt-tugging, spitting… That’s not sport. Football’s not an honourable game any more. I’m also interested in Formula 1 and boxing. I like playing chess, too, one of my favourite games.
“I go to the pub once or twice a week. I generally go with a couple of mates and solve the problems of the world. Sometimes I like to go in the afternoon, especially in winter when the fishermen get in, and sit and have a pint and chew the fat. That’s normally from four o’clock till seven, and then I’ll roll home for dinner.
“I’m a brilliant short-order chef [laughs]. I do great breakfasts and really good pastas – I make sauces for pasta. I like cooking when people are around, making the food and just plonking it on the table and everybody helps themselves – a big bowl of pasta and a big bowl of whatever’s taken my fancy in the supermarket. Generally the sauces and the spices are the key to it. I make a wild fondue – a true Swiss fondue. But no, I’m not a good cook. I do it when I have to.
“I walk a lot, for two hours every day along the cliffs with my dog. A mate and I bought an old fishing boat and I get out on that whenever I can. I was out on it yesterday – came up like a lobster. When I first went down to Lyme Regis I met this bloke while I was pootling around the harbour in my own six-foot dinghy. He had this locally built wooden boat. I ended up having a pint with him and we became friends. We stayed in touch, and when I moved down there we hooked up and bought another boat. And here we are all these years later, back where we started.
“I was out with HTV recently doing a documentary along the coast. It was unbelievable, the cliffs and little towns nestled back there. When I come back from tour I’m straight back out on the boat. He says I’m pretty weird when I first get back, cos I don’t say anything, I just stare straight ahead out to sea.
“My wife allows me two days to transfer from being a rock singer to a husband and father. On the third day there’s the list of chores! I do a lot of building and repair work. I like messing around with things. I fell off the roof of my studio because I didn’t secure the ladder. It slid away and I fell through the greenhouse. I managed to break my fall but it was pretty terrifying, and I went straight down the pub. My wife had a real go at me.
“The very next day I was back up the ladder, trying to finish the roof off, and I’m coming down and I miss the step and fall through the ladder. I’m hanging upside down, I’ve fallen through the bay tree opposite and I’ve done my other leg. I managed to get free and get down the pub again. I didn’t tell her for three weeks because she would have hurt me more!
“I’m generally up pretty early and working on the computer. I’ve got hundreds and hundreds of cassettes from years ago, generally from the monitor mix. And I’ve got this gizmo that I can plug into a cassette player and digitise anything. So I’m transferring all this stuff to wav.file and whatever, and sending them over the internet to my mates. It’s amazing the amount of stuff you find that’s not what it says on the box.
“I remember when we did Perfect Strangers I was still signed individually to Virgin, and I went to London to play Richard Branson my new solo album. I went in and he and his team were all there in a playback room. I gave him this cassette with all the tracklisting on it and he put it in the deck. There was all this feedback, and then you heard ‘Postman Pat, Postman Pat, Postman Pat and his black-and-white cat…’! My daughter had recorded over the thing. Un-bloody-believable!”