Best known as Deep Purple's frontman, Gillan says he's been preoccupied with infinity since a moment in childhood when he felt struck with anxiety after trying to picture the boundaries of the universe. The Pitch caught up with him on tour in support of his latest album, Gillan's Inn. (The following is an excerpt. Read the whole, mind-bending conversation at Pitch.com/blogs, and then read Gillan's hilarious blog at Gillan.com).
What's bothering you about infinity?
Well, insofar as it's very difficult to think about infinity without including boundaries. It's such an easy word to use but almost impossible to conceive. When I was 8, I realized that infinity had to be looked into a little further. I realized infinity goes in and out. Something can be infinitely small as well as infinitely large.... When we disappear from the planet as we inevitably will, given the unsustainable rate of expansion of the human race and if you look at the forecast of population figures for a hundred years' time, it'll make your knees tremble. When people die, they fall to pieces, but the atomic-molecular construction doesn't die.... So there's no reason at all, in my mind, why we can't get our minds straight and start thinking of mutation.... I think it's about time we started gathering like-minded souls so that we can make that metamorphosis from a caterpillar to a butterfly. Then we won't need those little tin cans that they're building to try and explore the universe which is a futile attempt anyway, given its size.
A lot has been documented about the relationships in Deep Purple, specifically your differences with Ritchie Blackmore. What common ground would you say you had?
I used to room with Ritchie. I had no problems with him when we were kids. He was a great showman, fantastic guitar player. Came up with wonderful riffs. He wasn't adventurous musically. He would play the same notes every single night and get furious if somebody tried to improvise, just go nuts. And all his solos were worked out. It was at the point where we started developing and moving on that Ritchie, in his frustrations, started developing that control-freak tendency. It was probably nearer to megalomania, really. He was a very insecure guy. And it all came out with banging his fist around and demanding attention.... But don't get me wrong! I was just as much of an asshole as Ritchie was in the early days. We were badly behaved. We were poor kids suddenly living in fancy hotels, had money in my pocket, which I'd never had in my life. You'd ask someone, "Who are you?" And they'd say, "Oh, I'm your new girlfriend." And you'd say, "Oh, OK." But, as far as I'm concerned, the divorce with Ritchie is final. The day he left the band which was approaching terminal velocity suddenly the clouds disappeared and the sun came out. Joe Satriani saw us through a very difficult year and held us together, and we fell in love with each other again as friends, as musicians. Gillan's Inn. Wednesday, September 20, at VooDoo Lounge, in Harrah's Casino. Ian Gillan has a lot more on his mind than monster metal riffs.