Ian Gillan on Deep Purple’s legendary lineup changes: ‘Our career was decided by tantrums’

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Deep Purple’s comings and goings are the stuff of legend, as every shift and split is examined for clues as to just what wrong. Ian Gillan says there’s often been a very simple explanation.

“Our career was decided by tantrums, mostly,” Gillan tells Classic Rock.

And Gillan isn’t forgiving himself for playing a role in Deep Purple’s ups and downs, saying he regrets “behaving like an idiot and falling off the rails. My judgment was bad, my attitude was bad and I got a little bit too big for my boots. But I wasn’t the only one,” Ian Gillan adds. “Humans are all quite complex and we’re all subject to influence. Let’s be more succinct and say I was definitely an arsehole for quite a while.”

These tectonic shifts seem to have stopped in more recent years, as Deep Purple’s lineup stabilized in 2002. Still, the band has displayed a remarkable ability to survive — and even thrive — through the arrivals and departures of well-known figures like David Coverdale, Jon Lord, Glenn Hughes, Tommy Bolin and, most critically, Ritchie Blackmore. “I think that’s entirely due to the roots that were set down in ’68, ’69,” Ian Gillan says. “The people who set Purple up in the first place need to take the most credit.”

In a way, he adds, losing Blackmore has stitched together current set of Deep Purple collaborators that includes founder Ian Paice even more tightly. “It was a very difficult time when we recruited Joe Satriani for a year, to get us over a tight spot when Ritchie buggered off,” Gillan says. “It was the sheer grit and determination of the guys in the band to make it work. You come out of it stronger. Plus you’re determined not to let it happen again, so when future crises loom you anticipate them and deal with them better.”

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