Ian Gillan on Deep Purple’s emotional tribute to Jon Lord: ‘His spirit is very much in the record’

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Deep Purple’s new album will be both a departure and an opportunity to pay tribute to fallen co-founder Jon Lord, frontman Ian Gillan says.

The band has been recording in Nashville, the home of producer Bob Ezrin (perhaps best known for his work with Pink Floyd), and is in the mixing stages now for what will become the band’s 19th studio effort. The album, Deep Purple’s first since Rapture of the Deep in 2005, will be released in April 2013.

While Gillan says the project has a “new tone,” there were moments when the loss of Lord was keenly felt — even though the keyboard legend had been gone from the band for a decade. After all, Lord was in Deep Purple already when Gillan and bassist Roger Glover — still band stalwarts — joined in 1969.

Together, they would alter the course of rock music by combining heavy metal and progressive rock, creating an entirely new sound. “Smoke on the Water,” the band’s signature hit, was co-written by Lord — and prominently featured his organ.

Lord continued until Deep Purple’s initial breakup in 1976, then joined again when Purple rebooted in 1984 and remained until 2002. A decade later, drummer Ian Paice had confirmed Lord’s cancer diagnosis.

The keyboardist continued work on his long-awaited Concerto for Group and Orchestra, but it would ultimately be released after he’d already passed. Lord was 71.

Fast forward a few months, and Gillan says he could feel the presence of his old friend as Deep Purple reconvened.

“When we got the news,” Gillan tells 100% Rock’s Shane Pinnegar, “we were in Nashville in session there and we kind of expected it but it was still a terrible blow. And so it all went quiet for a while, needless to say, and then we started recalling the good times – as you do. His spirit is very much in the record; in the music. In fact I remember writing a line at the time: “Souls having touched are forever entwined.” And that got into one of the songs and so he’s there in the music.”

At the same time, though, Gillan says the album is anything but nostalgic.

“It’s a new tone, it’s a new direction,” he tells Pinnegar. “It’s fresh stuff.”

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