Gillan smoked first joint at 38
38 special: Ian Gillan
Deep Purple singer Ian Gillan has revealed he smoked his first joint at the age of 38.
And he believes his band’s pub-rock roots are what’s kept them safe from drug addiction issues – with the tragic exception of guitarist Tommy Bolin, who died in 1976 after an overdose.
Gillan tells 100 Percent Rock that the traditional image of a rock’n'roll lifestyle doesn’t apply to everyone. He says: “it’s not all like that. I can tell you with a completely straight face that I smoked my first joint when I was 38 years old.
“That was with some buddies because I really was intrigued to see what the effect was. I thought it was great, to be honest – but it’s never been my cup of tea.
“We grew up as a pub band so our poison was beer, basically. We used to drink beer and whisky. That’s a good thing because you wake up with a bad head, you don’t drink for a few days, and so we grew up with learning to measure that fairly well.
“We enjoyed a drink, for sure. We were served a few too much without any doubt. But I didn’t think it was really going to hurt us too badly or put us in rehab.
“We watched it happening to a lot of friends and a lot of buddies but it never crept into us.”
Deep Purple recently completed tracking their 19th studio album, due out later this year. But Gillan insists fans won’t hear any of those new songs during their live sets.
“You can’t, can you?” he reflects. “You play one song, it’s out on YouTube in five minutes, so you can’t do it. That’s the whole bit that spoils it for everyone. But no we won’t.
“The new stuff we play every night is contained in the improvisation. The band is jamming – there is still a lot of jamming going on.”
And the vocalist reveals he’s a little less resentful of the label “classic rock” than he used to be.
“It’s a bloody tombstone round your neck, isn’t it?” he laughs. “We didn’t like any of the labels that were given to us. It started with ‘heavy metal’ then you get all the insulting ones like ‘wrinkly rockers’ and ‘dinosaurs’ and stuff like that. And eventually they settle on ‘classic rock’.
“I realise now it has become a broader term but at the time I didn’t like it much at all. If you’re a ‘classic rock’ thing in the States, for example, they’ll only play anything up to the 70s. There’s no point in making records – they won’t play them.
“So yeah, it did irritate me quite a bit. I’m not fond of the title, although I’ve got over it now.”
Meanwhile, audio samples of the remastered 1975 album Deep Purple Live In Paris 1975 can now be heard at Amazon. The double-disc set – recorded during guitarist Ritchie Blackmore’s last appearance with the band before forming Rainbow – is released on January 28.