Coming to Fantasy Springs Resort Casino Special Events Center Saturday, August 15th, 8pm
By Lisa Morgan
Deep Purple’s world renowned keyboardist, Don Airey had aspirations of becoming a classical player. Inspired by his father, he began training in classical piano by age seven, and he continued to feed his love of music through a degree at the University of Nottingham and a diploma at the Royal Northern College of Music. “I think my parents had high hopes for me going to the music college and all that,” Airey shared in native, Sunderland, England timber. “I had aspirations to be a classical player. I was quite a hot jazz player too, doing a lot with big bands and trios. One Friday night, I went to see Deep Purple. They were playing down the road from my college. I came out thinking, ‘Actually, I want to do THAT!’ All these years later, here I am. It’s all kind of strange.”
The indelible mark left by Deep Purple launched the music scholar on a path that would lead him to play with artists on the cusp of legend, such as Gary Moore, Ozzy Osbourne, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, Jethro Tull, Whitesnake, Steve Vai, Rainbow, Empire, Thin Lizzy, Brian May and Living Loud, to name a few. He even worked with Andrew Lloyd Webber before coming full circle in 2002, and joining the band that changed the course of his music.
CVW: “Does your head spin when you think of all the experiences you’ve had and the people you’ve played with?”
Airey: “Well, you kind of look back in amazement. It’s a ‘What was I doing there?’ kind of thing. It’s nothing that I planned. You go through a series of tangents and before you know what’s happened, you’re rocking away as hard as you can.”
CVW: “How did your father react to your change in direction?”
Airey: “My parents had expected I’d be a composer or concert pianist, but when my dad came to see me with the band Rainbow, I could see he was quite impressed with what was going on.”
CVW: “What were your expectations when you joined Deep Purple?”
Airey: “I thought it might last a couple of years. But it’s just gone from success to success, as far as the touring side of it goes, and we’ve made some pretty decent albums. The last one (What Now?), in particular, has done very well for us all over the world.”
CVW: “The world has changed tremendously since you started playing, as has the music industry. How has that affected things for you?”
Airey: “It’s not like it was when you were younger. The wildness has gone out of it a bit, and you have to pace yourself a lot more than you used to. Essentially, the same thing still stands – we’re still full-on when we go out there. I think we’re the busiest rock band in the world. We do 140 gigs a year sometimes. One year we played in 52 countries. In 2005 we did a month in Russia, and we were in Siberia for two weeks. That’s an experience! That does things to your head that you don’t expect.”
“The industry has collapsed more or less, which has been to the benefit of bands like Deep Purple, who can actually go out and play live. The support structure that you used to get from the record company isn’t there anymore, so you’ve pretty much got to be self sufficient. As a band, you can’t rely on the guy smoking a cigar back in an office in New York to bail you out of any trouble you get into. You’ve got to sort it all out yourself. You’ve got to do the job properly and give value for money. I think that’s been the secret of Purple’s success over the last few years.”
CVW: “Do you all get along well with all the touring that you do?”
Airey: “It’s never been an easy job, being in a touring band. As you get older, you get a bit wiser. It’s very easy to fall out with people on the road. You’re stuck together 24/7, and there’s a pretty pressurized psychological thing about it. But it’s something I’ve learned from Purple. They just deal with all the various things that can go wrong so beautifully, and the show goes on no matter what.”
CVW: Your last album, What Now?, was released 2 years ago. Can we look forward to another album any time soon, and what is the band’s creative process?
Airey: “We have a new album on the back burner that should come out next year. With Purple, the way it happens is the way it’s always happened, since day one in 1968. Everyone sits down together, Ian (Paice) sets the pace, and we’re off. That’s just how it works. We do 8 hour days when we’re writing and rehearsing.”
CVW: “Now, I don’t want to start your morning off grumpy or anything, but Deep Purple has been nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice, but never inducted. Do you want to speak to that?”
Airey: (laughs) “I don’t think there’s a chance of that ever happening now. That should have happened over the last ten years. But nobody’s really that bothered about it. What bothers me is why hasn’t Ian Gillan been knighted by the Queen of England yet? He should be Sir Ian Gillan! It’s something of a scandal in my opinion (tongue in cheek)!”
Deep Purple, is considered by many to be 1/3 of the “unholy trinity of British hard rock and heavy metal in the early to mid-Seventies” along with Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. They made the 1975 Guinness Book of World Records as “the globe’s loudest band” thanks to a 1972 concert at London’s Rainbow Theatre, and have sold over 100 million albums worldwide.
This band will bring rock and roll to Fantasy Springs Resort Casino as only true legends can, Saturday, August 15th, starting at 8pm. No self-respecting rock enthusiast would allow themselves to miss it, and that’s not just me blowing “Smoke On the Water”. Tickets can be purchased at www.fantasyspringsresort.com or call (800) 827-2946 while they last.